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“Donald Trump And The End Of Civility”: Rejecting The Virtues Of Teamwork, Common Courtesy And Civility

For a decade we have seen article after article, study after study, comment after comment on the death of civility in our politics. Politicians, pundits and academics worried that gridlock and the paralysis of Washington was heavily due to the nastiness of the political culture and the vitriol inherent in today’s politics.

Well, as Donald Trump might say – you ain’t seen nothing yet!

My friend, Ira Shapiro, wrote a terrific book, “The Last Great Senate,” about the accomplishments of the civil and functional U. S. Senate that we were both privileged to be a part of a few decades ago. Whether it was the Panama Canal treaties, passage of environmental legislation or social security reform, Republicans and Democrats actually worked together, forged compromises and got the people’s business done.

But as Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann chronicled in their book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” published in 2012, the rise of tea party extremists and hard-right ideologues has polarized and paralyzed our constitutional system of government.

And now in 2016, we have Donald Trump, who would make Ornstein and Mann’s world of just a few years ago look like patty-cake. Trump, and many of his colleagues in this race who have followed his lead, has debased the dialogue and engaged in trash talk that would make a pro football player blush. It has truly spiraled out of control.

Facts and logical argument are cast to the wind like confetti; nasty statements about body parts are common and invective like “stupid,” “idiot,” “lightweight,” “choker,” “loser” are used by Trump in nearly every speech and press conference.

No one is writing about a return to civility so long as Trump has seized the stage, forcing a dialogue that has taken American politics even further down into the gutter. In fact, Trump has left many people who should be speaking out speechless instead. Now Republicans and conservative columnists are shaking their heads and wondering why the other candidates and Republican Party leadership have kept their heads in the sand for so long. A flood of pieces by the likes of David Brooks and George Will spell it out perfectly: talking about “the governing cancer” and Trump’s “demagogic cynicism and anti-constitutional authoritarianism.”

But I fault those Republicans and conservative pundits who clearly should have been focusing on this transformation from a government that governed and legislators who legislated into a collection of talking heads whose constant desire is to be on gladiator-TV. Or to give a speech that incites a crowd. Many of them embraced the tea party and chose demagoguery over dialogue.

What has happened to words such as thoughtful, wise, substantive, open-minded and even educated, learned and knowledgeable to describe those in the arena of politics and government? Why are those not the standards we use to judge our leaders?

I am left with the enduring cover image from The New Yorker a number of weeks ago, showing a television set with Donald Trump raging and Presidents Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt looking on in horror.

This is no longer amusing nor something that should be passed off as entertainment. This is not “The Apprentice” or some reality television show. This is real.

If we allow a person like Donald Trump to capture the Republican Party, let alone the country, the price we will pay will be lasting, and the damage will be serious and permanent. This is so far from anything we have experienced; that it has no parallel in our history. He is not, as he says, building a new expanded Republican Party. This “movement” is based on fear and loathing, racism and prejudice, xenophobia and hatred. It is based on our basest instincts, not on our best instincts. It is destructive, not constructive.

With a Trump ascendancy, common courtesy and civility will be considered weaknesses and the politics of irrationalism and fear will triumph. That must not happen.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, March 3, 2016

March 5, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, GOP Presidential Candidates, Governing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basic Civility: Who Will Teach Congress to Behave?

To make sense of the  vitriol, lack of cooperative spirit and just bad manners being displayed on  Capitol Hill, look no further than Massachusetts.

It’s not that the Bay State is unusually mean or even  rude. Visitors flocking to the Cape, the Berkshires or Boston’s North End will  surely find friendly people. But recent news in Massachusetts demonstrates just  how high our tolerance for—even celebration of—bad behavior has become.

The Boston Globe informs us  that the Boston School Committee is drafting rules for basic civility  at its  public meetings. This is not a response to shouting and  disruption by children,  who by definition are still learning how to  behave in public and how to  adjudicate disagreements with honor and  mutual respect. No, the school  committee’s actions are a sad response  to the heckling and all-around disrespect  shown by adults—parents and  teachers—who have been unhappy with school closings  and other matters  before the committee. Disruptive students have been at the  meetings,  too, which makes it worse, since the lesson they are learning at the   meetings is that it’s acceptable to shout and be rude to display one’s   unhappiness with a public policy. One protestor last December yelled  “liar”  at Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. Was this individual merely  parroting the  behavior of Rep. Joe Wilson, who yelled, “You lie!” at the President of the  United States during a live, nationally-televised speech in the House chamber?

Remarkably, some of the adult activists have not been  shamed at the  fact that they must be treated as recalcitrant children. The Globe  quotes the teacher’s union  president, Richard Stutman, jokingly  comparing the decorum rules to Stalinist  Russia. That’s not only an  insult to the people who lived in the brutal  dictatorial regime, but an  insult to public education. Surely, teachers do not  instruct their  students that self-control and civility are akin to  totalitarianism.

But if the school meetings aren’t distressing enough,  Massachusetts  can look to its professional football team, the New England  Patriots.  The team recently signed Albert Haynesworth, whose behavior, on and  off  the field, was so poor that the Washington Redskins couldn’t stomach  him  anymore. In sports, the bad boys are often given a pass if their  on-field  passes are complete. But Haynesworth—who was paid $35 million  to play in 20  games and didn’t always show up for practice because he  didn’t like the coach’s  defense strategy—became just too much for the  ‘Skins, who traded him to the  Patriots for a fifth-round draft pick. At  least Haynesworth won’t be a double burden to the Pats, since Randy  Moss, another behavior problem, left the team last year and announced  Tuesday he would retire from the sport. Defenders note that Patriots  coach Bill Belichick whipped Moss into shape. Haynesworth could be a  heavier list; at one point, he was juggling four different legal cases  against him even as he feuded publically with his coach.

We should expect more from members of Congress, who have  been  through campaigns and theoretically should know better. But the  public—even  as they deride the dysfunction and bad manners in the  Capitol—are enablers,  rewarding malcontented lawmakers with campaign  contributions. Republican Wilson  and former Democratic  Rep. Alan Grayson, who famously accused Republicans of  wanting people  to die as a way of saving on health costs, were two of the  biggest  fundraisers last election cycle, with much of the cash coming from out   of state. Grayson lost, but the message was clear: acting up is  profitable. And  both Democrats and Republicans are raising money off  the recent uproar over  Republican Rep. Allen West, a Tea Party movement favorite who sent an email to  a colleague, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,  calling her “the most  vile” member of the House. Wasserman Schultz had  criticized West’s approach to  Medicare, although she did not name him  in the floor speech that led West to  accuse Wasserman-Schultz of not  acting like “a Lady.”

The Boston School Committee may be able to teach civility  to adults  who apparently never learned how to sit still and listen. And perhaps   Belichick can control Haynesworth. Who will do the same for members of   Congress?

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, August 2, 2011

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, GOP, Government, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right Wing Can’t Survive Without Stoking Anger

What’s going to be fascinating to watch in the weeks and months ahead is how the Right adjusts to the new “kinder, gentler” rhetorical environment everyone – but them – is demanding.

If you have been a student of the new Right you understand that the gains they’ve made in American politics have come in direct proportion to a rising level of anger. Some of that anger was there just waiting for affirmation, but much more of it has been ginned up by rightwing talkers like Limbaugh, Beck and FOX News.

The anti-government mantra now hammered home 24/7/365 by these demagogic forces provided both cover and opportunity for rightwing politicians in Congress. It did so by rounding up the lower-common denominator types at the grassroots level by affirming their unease and distrust of a changing nation and world they simply cannot understand, much less accept.

Money and votes followed; money from corporate sources that always fund efforts to neuter government regulations and regulators, and votes from a class of voters only Barnum and Bailey could appreciate.

But, what if now the voices stoking all this rightwing blind fury are forced to clean up their acts? And, gasp, forced to stick to provable facts rather than the ones they manufacture to fuel more anger? What then?

Of course no one gives up a “good thing” if they can avoid it, and initially the Right will try blunt any trajectory towards tolerance and moderation.

Then there are the genuinely loony members of Congress who rode the Right’s Anger Express to elected office. You know – like this one.

What I expect to see and hear in the days and weeks just ahead is a new — and frankly jarring — argument from the Right; civility in politics is a liberal plot. A plot against who? Well against the Right, of course. There’s nothing a zealot likes more than to claim the cloak of persecution. It’s always the last refuge of scoundrels, be it demagogic politicians or Christians, Jews, Muslims or Scientologists. Call them on their nonsense and they scream “persecution.”

In this case the Right is going to be forced to take a position that unmasks them once and for all. Without their patented violent, hate-inciting rhetoric, the Right has nothing to offer America. Nothing.

Which explains why they’re going to fight — not for civility — bit for more incivility.

Imagine that.

By: Stephen Pizzo-Guest Columnist; The BuzzFlash Blog, January 13, 2011

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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