What Has Happened to American Civility?

 

Yes, I know deep down civility is still there, but it seems to be gone now. Recently, data was released that compared the views of each major political party member about the other political party and the lines were almost flat … until 2000 when the Democratic party jumped with negative views of the Republican Party. Why?

Was it the result of Bush v. Gore, where one party feels that the Supreme Court selected Bush and not that Gore had been cherry picking his recount requests to certain counties rather than statewide (until it was too late)? 9/11 unified the country but not for long. 2008 came along, Democrats didn’t seem to mind graphics depicting John McCain as a bloodthirsty vampire and Obama was elected. With that election, the Republicans’ view of the Democratic Party took a major plunge and our modern age of hyper-partisanship was officially born.

Twenty-plus years ago, shouting at senators while they are getting into an elevator, or disrupting them or other government employees while they are dining at a privately owned establishment would be rebuked by the media and the public at large. Now it seems to be encouraged by the vocal public and is not rebuked by the media, probably under the guise of “all is fair in war when you are on the right side.” Maybe that’s it. Before, we never used to really feel like our own side was so right that anything you did to the other side was allowed. (Yes, there have always been those on both sides who felt that way but they used to be marginalized).

One example was the so-called War on Coal. Yes, coal is not the best source of energy and was on the way out due to market forces. Unfortunately, instead of waiting for natural market forces to act, more and more regulations were added under the guise of protecting the environment (diminishing returns be damned). When those impacted by the regulations complained, they were told to learn how to code instead of working in such an environmentally unfriendly job. Ordinary Americans trying to make a living that just happened to be in the same building as media companies on the “wrong side” were faced with aggressive protests just to get to work.

We are better than this. I am former first responder – while I was paid to do critical care transports, I volunteered as a paramedic with well over 3,000 911 calls under my belt. I interacted with people at their worst. They don’t need someone to tell them they are on the wrong side of history or it’s their fault that something happened. A pregnant woman shoots heroin and goes into labor at home; we arrive moments after the baby is born and is not breathing. At that moment, what happened before is not as important as the now: Getting the baby to breathe and oxygenated so by the time we get to the hospital both mom and baby are alive (and pink instead of blue). I didn’t care about berating the mother about the circumstances. From that call to holding the hand of a young woman frightened and scared after being hit by a car while crossing the street as we travel to the hospital, letting her know that she will be fine (she was). I didn’t act this way because that was the required way to act – I did it because that’s who I was and it was the right way to act for people in need.

I know these feelings are still there. Last year when Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast, other Texans outside the hit zone left their jobs and went door-to-door helping people do emergency repairs to their homes to prevent further damage (like tarping rooves) until proper repairs could be done. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana came to help those trapped by flooding. Citizens scrounged up supplies and donated them to create refugee packs so that our fellow Americans who had to flee their home would at least have the basic supplies needed for hygiene and clothing.

This is what America used to be. Not getting upset over a Halloween costume. Not getting upset over a baseball hat on an airplane. Not yelling at someone while they are eating dinner and disrupting other diners. Not aggressively yelling at ordinary people as they try to get to work in peace. We need to help each other not just by being more civil, but treating each other with respect. Respect that most everybody deserves.

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  1. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    The civility is still there. You hear about the incivility because it sells papers (or clickthroughs) and benefits Democrats. It’s a deliberate tool of manipulation. Keep people riled up all the time, even though by every measurable index we are better off than we were 10 years ago.

    • #1
  2. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    The civility is still there. You hear about the incivility because it sells papers (or clickthroughs) and benefits Democrats. It’s a deliberate tool of manipulation. Keep people riled up all the time, even though by every measurable index we are better off than we were 10 years ago.

    This is my sense, too. I read about these nasty, uncivil encounters on a daily basis, presented by the media as if they are endemic to the United States. Then I walk out my door and have nothing but pleasant encounters with people.

     

     

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The difference is that for decades the left establishment was able to dish out gratuitous insults with impunity. Now they’re getting back some of what they’ve been dishing out, and worse, their hegemony is being challenged at election time. They are responding badly, so they think of it as a breakdown in civility.

    • #3
  4. Robert Langdon Inactive
    Robert Langdon
    @RobertLangdon

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    The civility is still there. You hear about the incivility because it sells papers (or clickthroughs) and benefits Democrats. It’s a deliberate tool of manipulation. Keep people riled up all the time, even though by every measurable index we are better off than we were 10 years ago.

    I know it is with most people.  It just seems like uncivil behavior that used be rebuked and shunned is now being rewarded by the media and elected officials.  Heck locally we have city council members being uncivil (like participating in protests that block access to public facilities) and they will be rewarded with reelection.  

    • #4
  5. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Robert Langdon (View Comment):
    It just seems like uncivil behavior that used be rebuked and shunned is now being rewarded by the media and elected officials.

    Yes. They’re working to divide us, hoping to benefit from the divisions. Thankfully most of “real America” (did that trigger anyone?) ignores them.

    Heck locally we have city council members being uncivil (like participating in protests that block access to public facilities) and they will be rewarded with reelection.

    Oh. Don’t you live in Austin, though? That’s like Madison, except with some culture.

    • #5
  6. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    The year 2000 seems important. I remember saying, in the lead-up to the Bush-Gore vote, that the press was now openly committed to the Democratic party, and that any pretense of objectivity had effectively been jettisoned. Sure, they continue to pay lip service to it, a la CNN’s apples and bananas balderdash, but we’re deep into implausible deniability territory, and everyone who’s paying attention knows where they stand.

    Things have gone downhill from there, and the public’s opinion of the press along with it. That latter is probably a good thing.

    • #6
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I think when the Reagan Administration deep sixed the Fairness Doctrine that was the turning point. That allowed people like Rush Limbaugh to get on radio and explain that it wasn’t that what the news media was telling you was necessarily non-factual, it’s how they were distorting reality by what they weren’t telling you. 

    That helped the Republicans end the Democrats’ 40-year stranglehold on the House. Then in 1996 Rupert Murdoch launches Fox News. And then came Drudge and the rise of the Internet. Remember, Drudge didn’t do any actual reporting of the Monica Lewinsky affair, he reported on Newsweek’s killing of Michael Issikoff’s story. Again, it was what they weren’t telling us.

     

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    The year 2000 seems important. I remember saying, in the lead-up to the Bush-Gore vote, that the press was now openly committed to the Democratic party, and that any pretense of objectivity had effectively been jettisoned. Sure, they continue to pay lip service to it, a la CNN’s apples and bananas balderdash, but we’re deep into implausible deniability territory, and everyone who’s paying attention knows where they stand.

    Things have gone downhill from there, and the public’s opinion of the press along with it. That latter is probably a good thing.

    1987. The Bork Hearings changed everything.  Or, rather, they made us aware that things had changed.  

    • #8
  9. Robert Langdon Inactive
    Robert Langdon
    @RobertLangdon

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Robert Langdon (View Comment):
    It just seems like uncivil behavior that used be rebuked and shunned is now being rewarded by the media and elected officials.

    Yes. They’re working to divide us, hoping to benefit from the divisions. Thankfully most of “real America” (did that trigger anyone?) ignores them.

    Heck locally we have city council members being uncivil (like participating in protests that block access to public facilities) and they will be rewarded with reelection.

    Oh. Don’t you live in Austin, though? That’s like Madison, except with some culture.

    Yes I do. Culture. Lol.  The Austin culture of the past is being uprooted for the sake of progress and even one of the council people is trying to say that the voters shouldn’t have the right to vote on the council’s vision of progress because it would slow them down..they dont get it but the voters dont seem to care  

    • #9
  10. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Don’t any of you drive on the public roads?  Incivility and discourtesy are everywhere.  Civility only exists face to face.

     

    • #10
  11. Jason Obermeyer Member
    Jason Obermeyer
    @JasonObermeyer

    Pure rambling speculation to follow:

    There have always been examples of incivilty and political violence (if you don’t like domestic terrorism now, you would have hated the seventies), but that seemed confined to fringe groups punching above their weight.  Now it seems even “normal” people are divided.

    I don’t think that we fundamentally like each other.  We might show a common humanity by pulling one another out of a burning building and we might exchange pleasantries here and there, but day to day we all have certain contempt for one another that grinds away at people.  I have friends who are liberal, but even I find myself contemplating the cognitive dissonance inherit in sharing a meal or conversation with someone who, based on my perspective on abortion for example, is a homicidal maniac  (or at least supports finding homicidal maniacs).  

    Two things unleashed this: Ronald Reagan and the end of the Cold War.  Before Ronald Reagan was elected president, everything had worked out pretty much according to the fascistic vision laid down by Woodrow Wilson and FDR (throw Teddy in there too for good measure). While not perfect, Reagan changed the course, not only of policy but how we perceive government; Democrats have fundamentally never forgiven him and some Republicans were inspired to become essentially reactionaries, wanting to build a bridge to the Coolidge administration. 

    The end of the Cold War caused a situation similar to what happens to a married couple who don’t really like each other and the last of their kids have moved out: they look at each other an realize there is nothing to distract from their mutual dislike until one of them dies. Before the end of the Cold War, Americans had gone from on crisis to another (the Great Depression, World War 2, the Cold War).  Only during the 90’s were we able to breath, take stock of things, and figure out that we just aren’t that into each other anymore.  There is still a strong contingent of people who want everyone to be chill to keep the gravy train rolling (consider the person on Facebook who is a big supporter of “conservative” government but also posts memes about how Social Security is a “right”), but even they are more agitated than normal as one side (Democrats) propose expanding their beloved programs in ways that will expose their inherent idiocy (Medicare for All) and Republicans who – ostensibly at least – want to cut, reform, or end those programs.  I have no solutions, but it seems to be were we all are.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Was America more or less civil in the period from 1968 to 1972 when there were literally thousands of domestic bombings per year?

    The vast majority of “incivility” today is limited to speech.  A lot of it is incredibly obnoxious and harassing speech, like yelling at Republicans when they’re having dinner in a restaurant, or spraying graffiti on the outside of places of worship,  but that’s still a far cry from thousands of domestic bombings per year.

    The increase in the amount of news media that people have access to, thanks first to cable news and later to the Internet, greatly exaggerates the impression of how much “incivility” has increased.  In reality, IMHO, rates of “incivility” have at worst remained relatively constant over time, and maybe have even decreased over time.

    At the current moment, there is a slight uptick in the number of incidents because of the temporary demographic bulge in the 18-to-35 age cohort (even though the severity of those incidents is way, way less than previous periods of political “incivility”).  Kids, particularly affluent kids who’ve been supported by their parents their whole lives, have always been loud and self-righteous, and when you have a bulge in that cohort you always get an uptick in obnoxiousness.

    But it passes.  The protesters of 1968-1972 became the yuppies of the 1980s.  The revolutionaries of 1774 became the federalists of 1788 (and the consolidators of the 1790s and 1800s).

    I have seen no evidence that the same phenomenon will not repeat itself this time around.

    • #12
  13. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    Jason Obermeyer (View Comment):
    Now it seems even “normal” people are divided.

    According to a great amount of political science research, this impression is largely unsupported by the data.  The political class (including politicians, activists, bureaucrats, academics, and mass media practitioners including the unpaid online commentariat) is divided.  But that is actually a highly self-selected and tiny minority of the American public.  It’s just that they have the most access to the means of communication.

    • #13
  14. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Robert Langdon: This is what America used to be. Not getting upset over a Halloween costume. Not getting upset over a baseball hat on an airplane. Not yelling at someone while they are eating dinner and disrupting other diners. Not aggressively yelling at ordinary people as they try to get to work in peace. We need to help each other not just by being more civil, but treating each other with respect. Respect that most everybody deserves.

      These incivilities don’t come from lack of politeness, they come from an ideological assault.  We’ve been treating them civilly for decades and it just gets worse.  It’s a civil conservative Neville Chamberlain approach to the totalitarian assault and it is not uncivil it’s essential.

    • #14
  15. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Incivility, like crime, is greatly exaggerated by the press. We know that violent crime has been dropping for years and continues to decline.

    I assume that “incivility rates” are dropping as well.

    You wouldn’t know that if you followed the news on the Interwebs.

    So the question, as always, is cui bono? Who benefits from this exaggeration?

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    That all being said, the degree of imbalance in how the mass media reports on political violence is incredibly troubling.  There has definitely been massive coverage of violence against Democrats while coverage of violence against Republicans is muted (if not non-existent).

    This article does a pretty good job listing the incidents which have received the most coverage and the incidents which have received the least coverage:

    https://fee.org/articles/the-danger-in-media-telling-only-half-the-story-on-political-violence

    • #16
  17. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Incivility, like crime, is greatly exaggerated by the press. We know that violent crime has been dropping for years and continues to decline.

    I assume that “incivility rates” are dropping as well.

    You wouldn’t know that if you followed the news on the Interwebs.

    So the question, as always, is cui bono? Who benefits from this exaggeration?

    The ruling classes want to be honored and obeyed, as in the old wedding vows. But they can hardly say that aloud, so they instead complain about incivility. The same has happened before in the history of our country. 

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    We know that violent crime has been dropping for years and continues to decline.

    Actually, the decline has largely plateaued since 2010.  However, it is holding steady at a very low level (historically-speaking) and it’s certainly hasn’t been going back up again.

    Much of the plateau can be explained by the same demographics phenomena as the uptick in “uncivil political speech”. When the current bulge in the prime criminal age cohort (i.e. the 18-35 cohort) ages out of their “youthful criminality period”, the rate should start to drop again.

    • #18
  19. Misthiocracy, Joke Pending Member
    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending
    @Misthiocracy

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    So the question, as always, is cui bono? Who benefits from this exaggeration?

    “If it bleeds, it leads.”

    • #19
  20. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    So the question, as always, is cui bono? Who benefits from this exaggeration?

    “If it bleeds, it leads.”

    I’m more tempted to say that “If it bleeds, people demand that the government do something!” Music to a politician’s ears.

    • #20
  21. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Civility requires civilization, which requires a critical concentration of civilized individuals. For an individual to be civilized means he has learned to place his intellect first in charge of his emotions so that others are safe around him, and second in charge of itself so that he may shape the world accurately in his mind and therefore behave with reason.

    You see where I’m going with this, right? Civility is breaking down now because networks of civilized individuals are breaking down under  the continuous assault of the children of the left and the barbarians they’re importing – precisely, the uncivilized.

    • #21
  22. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Civility!

    If Democrats take over the House in the midterm elections, Maxine Waters has some scores to settle.

    The California congresswoman told a group of constituents what’s in store for her enemies, should she gain the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee.

    “We have an election November 6th,” Waters said. “This is big. This may be the most important one that you’ve ever had to experience.

    “This is the midterm election and often times people only vote in the presidential election because they don’t think this is important enough. But this is absolutely important,” she lectured.

    “First of all, if we take back the House, most of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be chairs of the committees of the Congress of the United States of America,” Waters said, waving her fingers as the audience applauded.

    “I will be the first African-American, the first woman to chair the powerful Financial Services Committee.

    “That’s all of Wall Street. That’s all the insurance companies, that’s all the banks. And so, of course, the CEOs of the banks now are saying, ‘What can we do to stop Maxine Waters because if she gets in she’s going to give us a bad time?’” she said.

    “I have not forgotten you foreclosed on our houses,” she warned.

    “I have not forgotten that you undermined our communities,” she continued with the tone of a preacher.

    “I have not forgotten that you sold us those exotic products, had us sign on the dotted line for junk,” she yelled, “and for mess that we could not afford.”

    “I have people who are homeless who have never gotten back into a home. What am I going to do to you?

    “What I am going to do to you is fair. I’m going to do to you what you did to us,” she vowed.

    Governance by retribution. What could go wrong?

    Maxine’s mob loved it, bursting into cheers.

    “These are my people! I have worked tirelessly to keep them ignorant, badly educated and dependent. But I am the one who gets to take advantage of them!”

    • #22
  23. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Civility!

    If Democrats take over the House in the midterm elections, Maxine Waters has some scores to settle.

    The California congresswoman told a group of constituents what’s in store for her enemies, should she gain the chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee.

    “We have an election November 6th,” Waters said. “This is big. This may be the most important one that you’ve ever had to experience.

    “This is the midterm election and often times people only vote in the presidential election because they don’t think this is important enough. But this is absolutely important,” she lectured.

    “First of all, if we take back the House, most of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be chairs of the committees of the Congress of the United States of America,” Waters said, waving her fingers as the audience applauded.

    “I will be the first African-American, the first woman to chair the powerful Financial Services Committee.

    “That’s all of Wall Street. That’s all the insurance companies, that’s all the banks. And so, of course, the CEOs of the banks now are saying, ‘What can we do to stop Maxine Waters because if she gets in she’s going to give us a bad time?’” she said.

    “I have not forgotten you foreclosed on our houses,” she warned.

    “I have not forgotten that you undermined our communities,” she continued with the tone of a preacher.

    “I have not forgotten that you sold us those exotic products, had us sign on the dotted line for junk,” she yelled, “and for mess that we could not afford.”

    “I have people who are homeless who have never gotten back into a home. What am I going to do to you?

    “What I am going to do to you is fair. I’m going to do to you what you did to us,” she vowed.

    Governance by retribution. What could go wrong?

    Maxine’s mob loved it, bursting into cheers.

    “These are my people! I have worked tirelessly to keep them ignorant, badly educated and dependent. But I am the one who gets to take advantage of them!”

    Good lord! A Black Supremacist!

    • #23

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