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Fuck Civility

Linked by Paul Ciano on July 4, 2018

Alex Nichols, The Outline:

After a long week of sincerely pleading with President Donald Trump to reunite migrant children with their parents, the brave men and women of our country’s newspapers and cable news shows deserved an opportunity to pull out some old-fashioned low-stakes contrarianism. Fortunately for them, the new hot-button issue is whether employees of the reigning administration should be able to enjoy a meal in public without their constituents loudly reminding them of their own shittiness.

There have been several restaurant episodes in the past month for self-appointed arbiters of civility to sink their teeth into. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who became the public face of the Trump administration’s policy of separating mothers from their babies at the U.S.-Mexico border after she defended it in a press conference last week, was heckled during an ill-advised trip to a Mexican restaurant, as was adviser Stephen Miller.

These confrontations prompted a level of concern from the D.C. media class that we typically only see when someone questions John McCain’s flying ability or dares to disrespect Charles Murray. Ari Fleischer, former Press Secretary under George W. Bush, tweeted “Do the fools who threw Sarah out, and the people who cheer them on, really want us to be that kind of country?” Matthew Dowd, chief political analyst for ABC News, tweeted that “If a hateful person makes you hate, they win. If a bully makes you bully, they win. If a vulgar person makes you vulgar, they win. Let us meet hate with love. Let us meet bullying with an embrace. Let us meet vulgarity with civility. This is how our country and world win.”

The editorial board of The Washington Post also felt that these mundane restaurant stories about evil people getting lightly scolded were evidence of a disturbing pattern. In the unsigned editorial “Let the Trump team eat in peace,” published June 24, they argue that these confrontations, however well-intentioned, will open a Pandora’s Box of rudeness. “Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many [conservative] Americans might find their own special moment,” they wrote, somehow forgetting about the recent upswing in far-right violence and literally everything Trump has said and done.

…the idea that shouting “shame” at a Trump cabinet member in public will violate an unspoken truce between liberals and conservatives is completely ahistorical; the best evidence for this is that Trump, a hugely stupid man, believes this truce to exist. The president has apparently forgotten that he repeatedly called for his political opponents to be “locked up” and has incited his crowds to violence; recall the February 2016 incident in which he encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protestors and promised to pay their legal fees.

This kind of boorish behavior greatly pleases the GOP base, and avoiding it on principle opens incumbents up to far-right primary challengers. This incentive to eschew civility has existed for at least a decade, and it will continue to exist regardless of how Democrats choose to behave.

Paul Ciano

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