Democratic Rep. Denny Heck will leave Congress with a sense of gratitude and privilege for his time in office, but he laments that politics has become a lot more ugly and filled with vitriol in recent years.
"There's way more hate in this business than there ever used to be," Heck said in an interview with CNN this week.
Heck has represented Washington's tenth district in Congress since 2013 and before that served as a member of the Washington state House of Representatives. The congressman has been on the front lines of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Not long before the House voted to impeach the President, Heck announced plans to retire after serving out his current term. He said at the time that he felt "weary," and would "never understand how some of my colleagues" were able to "ignore or deny the President's unrelenting attack on a free press, his vicious character assassination of anyone who disagreed with him, and his demonstrably very distant relationship with the truth."
The Washington state Democrat believes that President has contributed to what he describes as a "completely debased civic discourse," though he argues that Trump is not so much the root cause of rising animosity in politics, but rather a symptom of broader problems afflicting American public life.
"His behavior amplifies and accelerates certain trends," Heck said of the President. "He has no capacity for a sense of shame or even an ounce of humility to acknowledge when his actions or words may have hurt others."
Referencing Trump's attacks at this year's National Prayer Breakfast targeting Democrats and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney who voted to convict Trump on an abuse of power charge in the Senate impeachment trial, Heck called it difficult to "imagine anything more profoundly inappropriate" than the President using that forum "to demonize his political opponents," asking, "Is nothing sacred?"
The partisan divide may have grown deeper in Washington in the wake of a contentious impeachment proceeding -- and tensions were on full display when the President delivered his most recent State of the Union address to Congress. At the beginning of the night, the President appeared to snub House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by ignoring her attempt at a handshake, and Pelosi later ripped up her copy of the President's speech after he concluded the address.
Heck says that both Democrats are Republicans are "violators" when it comes to how partisan politics have become, adding, "I wouldn't even exempt myself on occasion." The congressman said, "I don't pretend to be perfect," and said that he asks people back in his district to hold him accountable "for not demonizing people with whom I disagree."
He goes on to talk about people he likes personally but disagrees with on policy.