Incivility in Politics

The rhetoric employed by the left and the right in political discourse is far too vitriolic. Because they have been so much more successful in the broadcast media, it seems that the Right is most guilty. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly are noticeable examples. Both of them, IMHO, live and operate in the world of theatre and not in the world of politics. (Bring back Will Rodgers.)

Is it no longer possible to be both political and civil? Was it the ouster of Richard Nixon that ended political civility? If political incivility is counterproductive, how do we end it?

It never really was. One thing to remember about the Good Old Days: They never existed. That said, I think presently the vitriol is both more accessible, and, because we have essentially a one-party govt., more free-flowing. There are no negative consequences for Reps. to demonize Dems., because the Dems. can’t do anything about it, and hence this tactic makes more sense for a broader range of issues. Yeah, the partisan sniping may be more prevalent, and the news media never tires of a fight, so we’re constantly bombarded with it. Lets not forget our history, like the fact that some pols not only beat one another senseless, they even settled disputes with a duel. I can’t imagine anything more uncivil than killing someone over a political argument. And then there was that Civil War thing, as I recall. Periods where Red Scare mania took hold helped elevate bastards like Joe McCarthy, who could ruin people with a word. Politics? Civility? Where does this myth of a Golden Age of Statesmanship come from?

Nah, nastiness has always existed in politics. Andrew Jackson blames his opponents and critics for hounding his wife, Rachel, into the grave. He even had these lines carved into her tombstone: “A being so gentle and so virtuous slander might wound, but could not dishonor.” Thomas Jefferson had his Sally Hemmings controversy. There was even a popular song about it. Poor Mary Lincoln was accused in the media of being a spy for the southern states, and viciously criticized for every move she made.

Today, I think the nastiness is simply a way of getting ratings. Fewer people tune in to watch/listen to a polite discourse, but an argument is exciting, especially if spiced with insults and dire warnings of the damage a politician will do if elected.

Of course it is. But what fun would that be?!

And this is nothing new. Do some reading about some of the shit that went down between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (one might argue, between their factions), during the first and second presidential administrations. Not to mention, some of the loose anti-Washington rhetoric during his second administration.