Welcome to the new civility, same as the old (in)civility

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:

  • A professor at the University of Iowa, Ellen Lewin, responded to a campuswide e-mail sent by the school’s chapter of the College Republicans with this message: “[expletive] YOU, REPUBLICANS.”
  • An unidentified counterprotester at a tea party rally in Madison, Wis., screamed “Who the [expletive] are you to lecture me, you little brat!” while a 14-year-old girl — that’s right, a 14-year-old — gave a boilerplate speech about the Constitution and American liberty.
  • Wonkette, a generally left-leaning political satire website, ran a piece (since removed and replaced with an apology) mocking Sarah Palin’s son Trig, who has Down syndrome, on his birthday.
  • Lest there be any doubt on the topic of civility, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, one of the first pundits to blame Giffords’ shooting on a right-wing “climate of hate” — a charge he never withdrew — authored a column titled “Let’s Not Be Civil.”

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

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241 comments Add your comment

MarkV

April 22nd, 2011
7:43 pm

Kyle, you should tell us what is your definition of “civil.” Forget Krugman and tell us what specifically in your opinion was not “civil” in Obama’s speech.

northbeach Scott

April 22nd, 2011
7:49 pm

Well done article, Kyle. I have followed Krugman for many years, but he has just fallen off of the cliff of rationality. I suppose he is so far up in the ivory tower that he just does not comprehend how real people are motivated and think. His Marxist slant on econonmics is just plain wrong and is a recipee for disaster, just like his master Obama.

The liberal folks do not understand that those of us that create wealth will simply not stand by and let them destroy America in the European model. I think Messrs. Obama and Krugman may get a little surprise in the 2012 elections, since they did not seem to learn anything from 2010.

MarkV

April 22nd, 2011
7:52 pm

Calling Krugman’s or Obama’s ideas a “Marxist slant” on economics is a clear evidence that the writer has no idea what Marxism means.

Bart Abel

April 22nd, 2011
8:51 pm

Paul Krugman wrote the following in his “Let’s not be civil” editorial:

Which brings me to those calls for a bipartisan solution. Sorry to be cynical, but right now “bipartisan” is usually code for assembling some conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution.

SO LET’S NOT BE CIVIL. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/opinion/18krugman.html?ref=paulkrugman

Light on Policy

April 22nd, 2011
8:53 pm

“Now I’m certain that some people on the right have said some intemperate..things” Do you think you can use your google search feature to look something up to give an ounce of credibility to an otherwise repub slant to this piece

Liberal Pariah`

April 22nd, 2011
9:04 pm

News for Mr Krugman… they did take it to the voters in the last election and the voters said that Liberal ideas and policies are nonsense. Slightly more complicated than that but not by much.

The Moderate Right Guy

April 22nd, 2011
9:08 pm

Atta boy Kyle! That just bought me several hours of “looking up” these facts on the net. Poor example set by the professor, awful sabre rattling out of New York and mudslinging at a 14 year old girl,…. nice. This only hardens my resolve to vote EVERY election. I see America fracturing and in say 100 years, possibly splitting because of political differences. People are not as tolerant as we think we are.

freda

April 22nd, 2011
9:27 pm

Sad state of affairs. You could have at least referenced one example of incivility from the right to appear “fair and balanced”….

Mad as Zell

April 22nd, 2011
9:42 pm

Kyle, Kyle, you’re so cute and sweet. Didn’t you get the memo? Civility is a quaint old-fashioned custom, much like manners and integrity. They’re so 20th century. Get with it boy. You’re either with us or agin’ us.

Bart Abel

April 22nd, 2011
9:52 pm

Kyle Wingfield gave four examples. One apologized, one was talking about being frank about the Republican plan to convert Medicare into a privatized voucher program, and for all we know, one was a plant by Scott Walker or the Americans for Prosperity people. That leaves us with one professor using the f-word. Big deal.

Recent years complaints about incivility had nothing to do with bad words, frank discussions, or bad jokes. It had to do calls for violence from Republican politicians and pundits. No comparison.

Want an example of incivility? Republican Congressman Allen West said this the other day: “What you continue to see is a third world dictator-like arrogance, that’s what I saw in that speech [by Obama] last week…I’m starting to believe that a community organizer is nothing but a low-level socialist agitator.”

http://nation.foxnews.com/politics/2011/04/19/rep-allen-west-obama-displays-third-world-dictator-arrogance

That’s from a congressman. Not a little known blogger. Not a person in the street. A CONGRESSMAN.

mike

April 22nd, 2011
10:50 pm

Hey Kyle, why didn’t you mention the phrase “we have to get some blood on the streets” from the democrat in boston to the unions????? He had just made a speech in DC about everyone needed to be more civil in our speech and then he said that like 1 – 2 weeks later.

Jefferson

April 23rd, 2011
12:14 am

When you write like this, you don’t like your country and sound like a traitor. We have a system, your people should abide by it. Poutage.

Cliff

April 23rd, 2011
1:28 am

The last time I checked, the on ramp to the high road was still open. Until the folks on the right stop parroting “socialist”, “Marxist”, “communist”, “death panels”, “birth certificate” and other nonsense, complaining about a lack of civility from the left is just the pot calling the kettle black. For each of the examples in this post, we could easily find similarly “uncivil” comments from a right-wing profressor, columnist, tea partier and politician. I know I am tired of the endless tit-for-tat and wish both sides would act more responsibly more often.

Guy Incognito

April 23rd, 2011
5:56 am

@Cliff,

Your queen from the looney left said this….
“Yes, we need “death panels”
2:31 pm April 20, 2011, by ctucker

Ooooo, burn

Road Scholar

April 23rd, 2011
6:00 am

Cliff: Good post! Can’t we just discuss the facts ( now there’s an argument based on each person’s memory and ability to process) and work towards solutions?

Road Scholar

April 23rd, 2011
6:01 am

Guy: She’s not ‘mine” or a “queen”!

MiltonMan

April 23rd, 2011
6:12 am

Expecting Democrats to act civil is comparable to expecting Jesse Jackson to spend quality time with his illegitimate child.

Just look at the liberals that pop-up on this thread & the juvenile name calling that they seem so proud of mastering.

MiltonMan

April 23rd, 2011
6:14 am

Liberals it was taken to the voters last November & look what happened.

MiltonMan

April 23rd, 2011
6:16 am

Cliff , get you head out of the sand pal. Your queen bee – Cynthia Tucker just did an OP on Democrats & their death panels.

Government decides who lives & who dies – exact same thing done to the Jews by the Nazis.

MiltonMan

April 23rd, 2011
6:17 am

Obama – Republicans – get to the back of the bus comment. Let a white republican say this to the moronic Democrats & see the fall-out.

Ayn Rant

April 23rd, 2011
7:07 am

Are Republican politicians the only victims of “incivility”? How can the Fox News propagandists not be given honorable mention in an article on incivility?

Krugman used “incivility” in the refined sense, as a columnist writing for New York Times readers. The hysterical screaming rants of the Birthers and the Tea Party activists are unhinged, not uncivil, and should be ignored rather than responded to.

His point is that rational people should not compromise with irrationality just to be civil or politically correct. President Obama and the Democrat members of Congress have been too willing to do so on issues of health care and the federal budget.

Joel Edge

April 23rd, 2011
7:38 am

Here’s your “new civility”, Kyle.
http://www.wbay.com/story/14499316/2011/04/22/school-district-employee-disciplined-for-political-phone-call
I’m as civil as people will let me be. Doesn’t seem there is going to a lot of opportunity for that.

Jeff

April 23rd, 2011
7:44 am

Good job Kyle!

Jay Freeman

April 23rd, 2011
7:54 am

Neither the Right nor the Left has the answer to our economic woes because there is no answer. That is why they are so angry with each other. The only time both sides are correct is when they say other side does not have the answer. The unfortunate truth is the USA has seen its best days and is on the road downhill and nothing can stop it. The deficit and the national debt are too wide to bridge requiring draconian actions which no politician is prepared to endorse.

poison pen

April 23rd, 2011
8:24 am

Guy Incognito

April 23rd, 2011
5:56 am
@Cliff,

Your queen from the looney left said this….
“Yes, we need “death panels”
2:31 pm April 20, 2011, by ctucker

Ooooo, burn

Actually Guy, they don’t, the way they kill their babies there won’t be anyone left for the death panels.

carlosgvv

April 23rd, 2011
8:36 am

Kyle, I am going to assume you never believed for a second there would actually be any “new civility” in American politics.

freda

April 23rd, 2011
8:49 am

How do you take a conservatives seriously when they want to simulataneously force women to bear children they don’t want while stripping both the mother and unwanted child of healthcare?

MrLiberty

April 23rd, 2011
9:10 am

In our country there are parasites and hosts. Those who live off the forced takings of others for their employment, food, welfare, etc. are parasites. The others who produce goods and services in the voluntary sector of society (meaning that their incomes come from the voluntary exchange of goods and services for money) are the hosts. The hosts, courtesy of our government’s complete lack of adherence to the constitution, are being victimized by the parasites. We are now at a point in which the economy is on the brink of collapse as a result of this relationship and the never-ending spending habits of our elected parasites. The time for civility has passed. The hosts are facing their own demise at the hands of the parasites.

There are always calls for civility, but in this current relationship, the parasites come to every meeting, every gathering, every interaction with guns ready at hand. By that I mean that they come with the full force and backing of the government and its guns (laws, prisons, police, fines, courts, etc.). They ask for civility but the relationship is clear. If they really wanted civility, they would be working to end the parasitic relationship they have with the rest of us, work to end government monopolies on services, work to end taxation of income, and work to restore the economy to one in which they competed with others to provide their services (as government produces no goods) on a VOLUNTARY basis rather than through the forced manner of taxation.

Buzz G

April 23rd, 2011
9:12 am

If you want to see civility on the left, look at this.

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ec0_1303444048

the red herring

April 23rd, 2011
9:15 am

Nice report kyle!! Obama using Paul Ryan as a whipping boy on TV was wrong. Ryan had taken on the task Obama was supposed to have been doing for 2 1/2 years but he simply (like every other choice he’s made) decided to vote “present” until Ryan’s plan was made public. Then he comes up with his own plan to cut 4 trillion in 12 years which actually turns out to be 2.5 trillion. His fuzzy math and lies are catching up to him and all his lies will be used in the coming campaign. Most democrats I know aren’t capable of defending him. Rational people will not vote for him again. 2012 should change things—you can’t stop drilling for oil and print tons of worthless money then blame the gas prices on speculators—you’re policies are what drove them to speculate prices have nowhere to go but up. Democrats should be enjoying their taxes on oil and food—but then Obama says there is no inflation so it must be so. Tell that to the cashier at the gas station….. better run protect your poor, your old, your young—the republicans are coming, the republicans are coming… what a joke but that’s all democrats have to run on now are lies. Ryan’s plan increased dramatically what would be spent on medicare but just put that money into hands of people more qualified to deal with it. All of this administrations lies will be brought out—how’s that third middle east war going for you dems now?

Arrogant B@st@rd

April 23rd, 2011
9:26 am

Civility and self-respect in Washington were murdered by Newt Gingrich.

And Milton and Mr. L need to look up the definition of hypocrisy.

Monty

April 23rd, 2011
9:30 am

MrLib, parasites living off a host? You mean like people that do no work and produce nothing, getting rich off of the labor of the real producers in this country? And worse, the government is rewarding this leeching being done by granting the parasites much much lower tax rates on the money that was leeched than the high tax rates on money the hosts get for their labor. Thanks for clearing that up.

Congratulations Mr Lib! You’re just qualified for membership in the real Marxist party! Labor needs to throw off these moneyed parasites. Viv La Revolution!

freda

April 23rd, 2011
9:34 am

Republican mantra: Selfishness is a virtue. Altruism is a crime against human excellence. Self-sacrifice is weakness. Weakness is contemptible.

saywhat?

April 23rd, 2011
9:40 am

Bart Abel- You made two excellent posts that expose Kyle’s right wing victimization mentality. According to the right wingers, life is not fair in America, the richest and most religous country in the world, because of the non-stop persecution of the rich and religious. Makes great sense, doesn’t it?
I read the Krugman piece the day it was published, and despite the title, there is nothing “uncivil” in it at all. One wonders if Kyle actually read it. Congressman West’s comments on the other hand are all too typical of today’s Republicans. It is as if they are all channelling Glen Beck trying to be the most outrageous buffoon on television. But don’t worry about West, because IOKIYAAR.

freda

April 23rd, 2011
9:41 am

Mr.Liberty,

Here’s Jesus’ take on people you call parasites:

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Michael H. Smith

April 23rd, 2011
9:51 am

This is going to be a fun weekend.

A thought to pass along as intemperance prevails, as surely it shall: Free speech, according to Larry Flint, is when all of the things you oppose, dislike, in fact hate, can be said.

In a discussion with a co-worker this week these exact same sentiments were expressed as he told me of his first reaction/feelings towards those who burn the U.S. flag. He of course, didn’t like the fact that anyone could burn the U.S. flag. Felt it should not be allowed to happen and those who would do such thing should be publicly denounced to no earthly end and punished most severely. While in his heated anger it dawned on him that what he really wanted was the right to censor all the things and the views of people he didn’t like, didn’t want, refused to embrace and would silence forever.

Don’t we all at some point want the right to censor?

Free speech is allowing all the thoughts and even those incivilities Kyle, we hate the most in life to be expressed within the limits of our inalienable rights.

MarkV

April 23rd, 2011
9:56 am

The most laughable sentence so far: “Ryan’s plan increased dramatically what would be spent on medicare but just put that money into hands of people more qualified to deal with it”
Not only Ryan’s plan has no place for Medicare, but much of the money would go to the pockets of the insurance companies, and we know how qualified those people are.

Michael H. Smith

April 23rd, 2011
10:09 am

Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialists is someone that though his politics and philosophy I abhor, not once have I ever questioned his unyielding patriotism to America after he stood-fast against the illegal and unconstitutional importation of labor where no clear economic need and reason can be established.

Our differences are plain and simple, no need to hate each other or make much ado rather than to simple state, that he wants America to be a Socialist country, as I prefer America to remain a Capitalist (under limited regulations) country.

So there we have it, the liberal socialist on this blog simply need to have the guts and honesty of Senator Sanders: You guys want America to be a Socialist country, while I and my compeers would have America remain a Capitalist country, as prescribed in the articles of the U.S. Constitution.

Rafe Hollister

April 23rd, 2011
10:13 am

After reading all these comments, it is just plain as day that the “socialist” and “marxists” tags just absolutely get under the skin of the lefties. What is that saying, the hit dog barks.

The lefty protestors openly carry the signs calling for “socialism” and “fairness” and worker rights. Obama says he wants to live in an America where “Fairness” exists. What is this but socialistic envy.

You never see the left with signs calling for Freedom or Liberty. Barry never uses the terms Freedom and Liberty. So, being a simple direct person, if they get what the want the Left wants socialism and the right wants Freedom and Liberty.

republican hater!!!

April 23rd, 2011
10:13 am

civility??republicans started incivility..remmember the bozo that screamed you lied during the presidents speech???

Rafe Hollister

April 23rd, 2011
10:15 am

Got in too big of a hurry there, should read.

If they get what they want, the left wants fairness and socialism, and the right wants Freedom and Liberty. Doesn’t seem that either cares much about civility.

eatmotacos

April 23rd, 2011
10:16 am

On a Christmas Eve afternoon, 1832, the notorious editor of the “United States Telegraph”, General Duff Green, casually strolled down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. Suddenly without warning, James Blair, a congressman from South Carolina, approached him from behind, raised his walking stick, and clubbed him. A huge man of three hundred and fifty pounds, Blair delivered a staggering blow that hurled the editor into the gutter. Blair again attacked with his cudgel. Although Green managed to deflect it, the second blow broke his arm severely. The South Carolinian then hurled his entire weight onto the stunned victim, breaking Green’s collarbone and several ribs and dislocating his hip. The General would spend a painful holiday season recuperating in bed.
Such was the fury that Duff Green evoked from others. He had, on prior occasions, engaged in several duels and brawls, and the Blair assault would certainly not be his last physical confrontation. The attack came as a result of the passions engendered by the nullification crisis that gripped the nation during the early 1830s.

“The invincible Duff Green: Whig of the West”

Kyle may want to study a little history. Duff Green, who can be given most of the credit for founding Kyle’s hometown of Dalton, experienced a lifestyle not atypical of a journalist in that era. Green and most of his immediate family, including grandchildren he shared with John C. Calhoun, are buried in the former North Georgia town of Dalton.

Michael H. Smith

April 23rd, 2011
10:17 am

Not only Ryan’s plan has no place for Medicare, but much of the money would go to the pockets of the insurance companies, and we know how qualified those people are.

No one is better qualified than you to determine how best to dispose of your money to protect and benefit you and yours. For neither Government or Corporations have your best interest in mind, as do you.

Real American

April 23rd, 2011
10:26 am

Pathetic neocons.

WillieRae

April 23rd, 2011
10:32 am

The left, including a couple of writers on this paper used the Gabby Giffords attack to attack conservatives for being uncivil and for inciting the attack. Upon examination, it quickly emerged that the left has been more hateful, more violence inducing and quicker to invoke thug tactics than the right in the US.

Of couse there were no similar demands from the lefties for definitions when the progressives launced a coordinated campaign of faux outrage after the Gifford shooting.

But, I define civility as not questioning the motives of people who disagree with you and focusing on the policy or world view differences, not calling names or resorting to personal attacks. In that context calling Cynthia Tucker a hypocrite for taking different positons depending on who is in office is perfectly fine but calling her ugly is not.

The rhetoric of the left is naturally and inherently uncivil. Unions, which are increasingly one of the remaining bastions of progressive support use uncivil, personal verbal and physical attacks as a matter of course. The left seems unable to disagree about policy without attacking motives or savaging individuals.

fair and imbalanced

April 23rd, 2011
10:35 am

seriously, no examples of Republicans acting poorly….very objective.

Michael H. Smith

April 23rd, 2011
10:40 am

As long as the “Safety Net” is held by the federal government it shall remain unsafe.
What truly remains pathetic are the people who have more confidence in the federal government than they have in themselves to manage their personal affairs.

thomas

April 23rd, 2011
11:51 am

Who cares what the Tea Party thinks?

By and large, it is made up mainly of the same idiots who thought George W. Bush was the Greatest President Ever.

You can’t fix stupid, but you can ignore it.

The Austrian Brotherhood

April 23rd, 2011
12:10 pm

Stand strong, Mr. Liberty.

Sheeple like Monty are clueless about the role of capital, savings, honest money,investment, entrepreneurship, risk, time preference in the economy and society. Since Sheeple like Monty are cause for the downfall of us all, as you stated, the time for civility is over.

This is about life and liberty. Progressive intent is inherently flawed and inevitably authoritarian and is a direct threat to MY freedom of choice and MY natural rights and MY voluntary association.

F the gloves. It’s bare knuckle time. Bring it on Progressives. Bring it on.

Left wing management

April 23rd, 2011
12:10 pm

… 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.

And yet you had posters on forums such as this one claiming up and down that Loughner was a Leftie simply because Communist Manifesto was among the titles listed on the shooter’s MySpace page. That’s some civility.

By the way, it’s funny that you omit in a discussion of civility in our current politics the outrageous “monkey” family portrait circulated by the Orange County Republican official.

You also omit the destructive effects on civility of antics like those of Mr. O’Keefe, of the recent NPR scandal.

But that aside, I’ll concede that there is a tendency on the Left to view the concept of civility in somewhat blurry ways. They would help themselves by not confusing the issue. There was an important issue at stake in the Tucson tragedy that has everything to do with the state of our current political discourse, but to attribute it to “civility” is a mistake, since that’s addressing the symptom, not the root causes.

That said, Krugman is absolutely right about the civility issue in the present context and that’s simply because it’s a trap being pushed to cow opponents. What we need is a gloves-off fight, not some false notion of civility. As one of your own esteemed ideological compadres put it just last October:

Nothing wrong with that until you begin to equate civility with the absence of partisanship, as though there’s something wrong with partisanship. We have two parties for a reason. We have different political sensibilities. People tend to cluster. We call them parties, and we have arguments, and that’s called politics.

Yeah, exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself.