So, how’s that whole “new civility” thing going? You know, the “new political tone” we were promised after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot by a lunatic at an event she was holding outside a Tucson supermarket?
In reality, it lasted no longer than it took for the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, to be branded a right-wing extremist simply because he shot a Democrat — a partisan jump to a conclusion that fell apart once personal details about Loughner emerged. But in case you had higher hopes, here’s what last week brought us:
Krugman’s column referred to President Barack Obama’s speech the prior week. Obama invited House GOP budget chief Paul Ryan to sit on the front row of a talk ostensibly about the budget. He then proceeded to give a campaign speech demonizing the Wisconsin Republican’s “Path to Prosperity” as a plan that would, among other evils, leave “families who have children with autism or Down syndrome … to fend for themselves.” (Against the likes of Wonkette, one wonders?)
Now, I’m certain that some people on the right have said some intemperate or outright disgusting things during the past week, too. Incivility isn’t one-sided, even if the demands for civility after Tucson were loudest on the left.
Nor do I think politics really was beanbag once upon a time. But the Krugman and Obama examples are particularly relevant to the bigger picture facing us right now.
For a Nobel-winning economist-turned-political-columnist to suggest it’s “a bad idea” for the president to “treat his opponents with respect … and work out a consensus” — as if either economics or politics were ever so neatly settled — is a truly bad idea.
Krugman is right that voters should “choose between [two] differing visions,” but I’ll take his implied bet that one of the visions will be a clear winner, obligated to brook no dissent, after 2012. And no one believes Krugman and his allies would simply hang ’em up if they lost next year. So, then what?
Another thing happened last week: Obama’s “Let’s Not Be Civil” speech was met with a warning of a bond-rating downgrade from Standard & Poor’s, which decried the “increased [political] risk” that Washington won’t get our fiscal affairs in order. Given the ratings agencies’ tendency to arrive late to the scene, S&P’s negative outlook adds to fears a divided D.C. isn’t up to the task.
The practitioners of the old incivility have been at it for decades. They, and we, don’t have that much time left.
– By Kyle Wingfield