Skip to comments.Does America Need a "Civility Institute"?
Posted on 02/28/2011 4:36:42 AM PST by IbJensen
Fred DuVal, a friend of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, has proposed a Civility Institute to promote compromise among opposing political parties and views.
He believes the best way to start is by attempting to define best practices and corrosive practices in public discourse. DuVal puts it this way: How do we nurture robustness on one hand and not in any way chill speech, and keep it in bounds that are not destructive to democracy? Will it change the nature of dialogue? That will be a tall order.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren will sit on this new board. She believes the institute can calm partisanship, and observed on her blog: "I jumped at the chance. I was flattered to be asked and eager to do whatever I can to help and serve. Count me in!" Former Presidents George H. Bush and Bill Clinton will serve as co-hosts of the institute, presumably to enhance the non-partisan nature of its activities. Brint Milward, who will be director of the Civility Institute, informed the New York Times that it would focus on political disagreements from the grass roots all the way to the top.
Will this work? Should it work? Samuel Huntington, in his book The Promise of Disharmony, has noted some inherent problems with such an idea. America, he observed, is "individualistic, democratic, egalitarian, and hence basically anti-government and anti-authority.... The distinctive aspect of the American Creed is its anti-government character. Opposition to power and suspicion of government as the most dangerous embodiment of power are the central themes of American political thought."
Anyone familiar with electoral rhetoric in American history knows how seldom and how superficial civility has been in political campaigns. Abraham Lincoln was described by his own generals, notably McClellan, in vivid and ugly terms. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams each voiced uncivil descriptions of the other. As just one example, Thomas Jefferson hired James Callender to attack John Adams as a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman. Even George Washington, revered by many of his countrymen, faced harsh personal assessments by some while in the public arena.
There have been very few periods in this country during which politicians were unstintingly "polite," but the Era of Good Feelings, as one example, was noteworthy because historians point to those eight years in which James Monroe was President as a time without much partisan rancor. This short hiatus from normal American political life ended abruptly with the particularly bitter election of 1824, which no one would have described as a time of "good feelings." John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson all engaged in some fairly intense accusations and declamations during that period.
Anyone deemed on the Far Right, such as the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, has been the target savage incivility relentless, unfair, and dishonest. McCarthy, who volunteered to serve in a combat role when he could have avoided service altogether, who campaigned for black votes in Wisconsin when other politicians shunned these constituents, and whose factual errors (as is now known) were only in underestimating the depth of Communist infiltration in the U.S. government, is still vilified, half a century after being hounded to his death. (Perhaps a united effort to rehabilitate the reputation of this good American would be a worthy test case for the new "civility.")
Governor Scott Walker, another Wisconsin politician, is being compared by the Left to Hitler for trying to limit the bargaining power of public employee unions. Perhaps his reaction is the best answer to the Civility Institute. He is ignoring the silly and hateful propaganda and, instead, allowing his political opponents who truly go over the line to reveal themselves as mean and foolish. Ad hominem attacks, when phony, often backfire.
But would civility require ignoring Bill Clintons ill treatment of women including, according to Juanita Broaddrick, violent rape? Would it impose softness in describing how Ted Kennedy committed an act that, for ordinary Americans, would have been manslaughter? Is it uncivil to observe Barack Obamas attendance at Jeremiah Wrights church or his private mockery of American religious values? Is a scrupulous reporting of the facts, if those facts are damning, somehow uncivil?
Perhaps the problem is not in the hearts, minds, and mouths of Americans, who by and large are good-natured and honorable, but instead can be found in the ever-intrusive growth of government. In people's private lives, they know that incivility carries heavy costs. A salesman who is rude will soon be out of work. A young man or woman who is obnoxious may find it very hard to get dates. Although Obama may have found Jeremiah Wright civil, the vast majority of Americans would have gotten up and walked out of his church when he began spewing hatred toward America. Along with a proper upbringing of boys by parents at home, the Boy Scout Law, which explicily enjoins Scouts to be "courteous" and "kind," has proven masterfully effective for decades in producing civility in boys and men in American culture.
When government runs and allocates medical care, however, that invites anger and bitter words. If some bureaucrat tells an American citizen that his mother or father or wife does not fall within the government parameters of official need, and so must die, he will raise a stir. When environmental policing leads to farmers losing their livelihood, and perhaps even their liberty, for innocently interfering with surreal Wetlands mandates, Americans will say what is on their minds. When their children learn in public schools a bogus history of the nation, along with myriad other oddities of pseudo-education, then they will vent their sadness and anger.
The marketplace of commerce, of friendships, of ideas left free and unchained by government operates as a magnificent and natural regulator of manners, decency, and honor. People know that from their church picnics, their daughter's first effort to sell Girl Scout cookies to the neighbors, and the nervous adolescent phone call from a hopeful boy to a pretty girl. Americans dont need government or foundations to teach them courtesy. They need government to leave them alone.
Idiocy does not exclude Fox News.
Civility can be over-rated. There are some issues where hard-hitting, in-your-face confrontation is called for. I applauded Joe Wilson for crying out, "You lie!" during President Obama's State of the Union address last year. I was saddened to see him don the cloak of civility afterward. In America today, it's not civility we're lacking, it's conviction and courage.
Civility Institute to promote compromise among opposing political parties and views.
Compromise is just another word for losing.
If your view is one based on sincere principles then compromising only means you lack a spine.
What would the outcome have been if we had compromised with Hiltler? Never forget that many wanted that. What would have happened if we compromised with the Soviet Union? Many people thought that was thew way to go..
As Andrew Wilkow stated the other day, everyone knows it will just be the “Conservatives Are Nazis Institute.”
If anything, parents are the civility institute of America and if there should be ANY official word on the matter ... they should be charged with the responsibility to teach civility and manners to children.
But the gummint has pretty successfully taken the responsibility of children away from the parents that birthed them.
I wish I hadn't've said that ...
The usurper bastard in the White House comes to mind.
I don't want to promote "compromise" between constitutional government and the rogue regime we have now. A compromise between good and evil is guaranteed to be evil. What we need is to promote limited government, a ruling class that spends within our means and only issues laws to restrict our actions and only spends our money on the specific governmental roles enumerated in the Constitution. Splitting the difference between Obama's communist redistribution of our wealth and the freedom we were given by God just leads to socialism as a slower transition to slavery. No thank you.
Yeah, thats all we need, more institutes to make every one compromise every thing away they believe in and except things they don,t believe in, a little world of puppets, just another point for satan and the new world order.
You are right. Other things we're lacking include public honesty, forthrightness, accuracy and clarity.
And especially an intelligent sense of humor like Reagan had that points out the failings in the thinking of those that are tearing down this republic.
Shut up all you damn rightwingers!!
Shut up shut up shut up!!!!!!
LISTEN TO ME!
LISTEN TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“... define best practices and corrosive practices”
“Best practices” is a phrase used a lot in education, and
in the new Obamacare legislation. Basically it means we (experts) will determine what is best.
This type of thinking necessarily leads to a top down command and control type of leadership.
Banning liberalism in America would be a good start!
Start every political discussion with “We’re judging the content of his character”.
“In America today, it’s not civility we’re lacking, it’s conviction and courage. “
Most excellent observation.
Yep, let’s talk around the issue.
If our democracy is that fragile, it has no future
Oh, sorry. I forgot that leftists cannot tell the truth without offending 75% of the country.
Democrats lie, it's what they do.
Why is it necessary to reinvent manners and abandon honesty in dealing with others? I guess because it doesn't work for marxists so they want to find another way.
Reject their re-invention of America.
“You lie!” is perfectly civil when it is true. Facts cannot be uncivil.
“You are a poopy face.” is always un-civil and is what libtards resort to because they have no facts.
So how much money is it going to cost taxpayers to support this farce?
Only for stupid and ignorant liberals.
I think we ought to have it out right now and get it over with! Civility my a** It’s this PC crap that gags the conservative- play by the rules- right!!
Fox News is not to be trusted BTW!