Democrats and the media are positively giddy over the seemingly successful effect the civility campaign is having on dampening Republican opposition and spirit. A search of "civility" in Google news over the past week yields thousands of results. It's showing no sign of slowing.
Word is the President will beat the civility drum again in the State of the Union address next week. He touched upon this theme in his speech on Wednesday, saying our political discourse had become "sharply polarized."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) concurs. In an editorial this past weekend, the Senator called the President's memorial speech "terrific" and asserted that we all bear some responsibility for insufficiently civil discourse. (The mainstream media's favorite maverick also wove in his belief that the President "is a patriot sincerely intent on using his time in office to advance our country's cause" and the he rejects "accusations that [Obama's] policies and beliefs make him unworthy to lead America or opposed to its founding ideals.") The increasingly mercurial Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) seconded those emotions on a Sunday news show, saying he was "pretty well disgusted with all the media, right and left, after this episode[.]" Asked by the host if he rejects "those who believe that the president wants to injure the country and that that will deny Americans liberty," Sen. Coburn responded, "Of course[.]" Stated or implied in most of the appeals for greater civility is an apparent longing for the good old days, not further described. Historically speaking, is the state of our current "public discourse" significantly worse than in times past? In a blame-America-first article on liberal Salon.com, Glenn LaFantasie admits, well, no:
In reckoning with the extremity of the political rhetoric of our own time, a longer view of American political hyperbole and violence suggests that as bad as the dialogue between Democrats and Republicans is right now, it pretty much pales in comparison with the virulence that has characterized American political language since the nation's founding. That rhetoric, more often than not, has been accompanied by violence.
On the American Enterprise Institute blog, Jay Weiser writes that the golden age of civil media discourse in this country, from liberals' perspective, was the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, the media was "more oligopolistic than at any time before or since." Most cities had one or two newspapers and television news was broadcast once a day by just three main networks. No Internet, no blogs, no conservative talk radio. The result?
Two decades of assassinations and assassination attempts against major political figures, starting with JFK just two months after the 30-minute newscasts started, and continuing through Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, George Wallace, and Gerald Ford, until culminating with the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt in 1981. The no-vitriol news age featured widespread civil unrest, often politically motivated, including Southern white violence against African-Americans during the civil rights era, African-American riots destroying neighborhoods in major cities, and leftist political violence including future Barack Obama associate Bill Ayers's Weather Underground bombing campaign.
On The Hill blog, Sabrina Schaeffer writes that gripes about the current tenor of our political dialogue, mostly from the American Left, reveal "a serious lack of self-reflection or historical perspective." I'd add that it contradicts the axiom that true civility means refusing to acknowledge the incivility of others.
It is hypocritical, to say the least, for liberals to accuse conservatives of incivility on the heels of maliciously alleging complicity to mass murder in Tucson. Looking back over the past decade, to claim that Democrats have exhibited superior social graces is silly. While more decorum is always desirable, the Left's complaints about the current condition are lacking in historical grounding and the repeated admonishment about manners by a president smacks of Big Brother. But this isn't really about manners, this is about the sting of defeat after the November elections. Civility, in this context, is a pretext to squelch opposition and free speech. It's a ploy to pressure the populace into submitting to the administration's European-style socialist agenda.