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Posted at 4:04 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Is civility out of date?

By Jennifer Rubin

My former Commentary colleague (and co-author, along with The Post's Mike Gerson, of a splendid book on the intersection of religion and politics) Pete Wehner provides an eloquent defense of civility in the public square. He cautions that "civil" is not the same as "wimp":

Civility is not a synonym for lack of principles or lack of passion. They are entirely separate categories. Civility has to do with basic good manners and courtesy, the respect we owe others as fellow citizens and fellow human beings. It is both an animating spirit and a mode of discourse. It establishes limits so we don't treat opponents as enemies. And it helps inoculate us against one of the unrelenting temptations in politics (and in life more broadly), which is to demonize and dehumanize those who hold views different from our own.

We can possess civility while at the same time holding (and championing) deep moral and philosophical commitments. In fact civility, properly understood, advances rigorous arguments, for a simple reason: it forecloses ad hominem attacks, which is the refuge of sloppy, undisciplined minds. "Before impugning an opponent's motives," the philosopher Sidney Hook once said, "even when they may rightly be impugned, answer his arguments."

On this one, I think conservative politicians could use some introspection. Conservative activists, TV cablers and the like use rhetorical flourishes and insults to garner attention, but candidates and office holders need to subscribe to a higher standard. You can be for border enforcement without dubbing opponents "pro-illegal alien." You can lambaste the president's foreign policy results without ascribing ill-motives to his decisions, as foolish as you think they may be. Conservatives complain that this White House has been among the most rhetorically partisan in memory. Yes, the White House has gone after critics from Rush Limbaugh to Fox News to the Chamber of Commerce, sometimes with zero factual evidence for the attacks, as was the case in the "foreign money" smear against the Chamber. But the "White House did it first!" isn't justification for Republicans to return the barbs.

Pete reminds us that civility also amounts to enlightened self-interest. Those independent voters and swayable conservative Democrats like pols who stick to the issues and don't mimic the antics of characters such as Allan Grayson. If, for no other reason, practicing good manners is a winner at the polls.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 1, 2010; 4:04 PM ET
 
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Comments

The problem is clearly - at some point in the last 15 years - the liberals have joined in with the uncivil behavior.

So, it has become a free-for-all.


The liberals have a knack for refusing to listen, refusing to compromise - so hence the present situation has emerged.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Ha! A WaPo right leaning column promoting civility. Jenny, your addressing the wrong group. Read through the commentary on almost any issue and you will find the most vile, rude, disgusting comments flow from the Left.

Partially, one would think, is because WaPo allows anonymous commentary. But, if that were the problem, their would be equally vile comments from the Right which is typically not the case.

Methinks WaPo doesn't care about a balanced opinion page at all. The vile, rude and disgusting reflects their own feelings about Conservatives and candidly a well reasoned, civil, even tempered comment doesn't sell.

Posted by: 2012frank | December 1, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Civility is never out of date

Being polite is always required.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Republicans will need to put a lot of attention into appearances as they court independents in 2012. Maybe if you put on enough lipstick, we'll all forget about your tax cuts for the rich.

Posted by: fzdybel | December 1, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

2012frank is correct


An even-handed reading of the comments sections - and the blogs archives will reveal much about each side.


Go back to the 2008 campaign if you really want to see the insanity of the liberals.


The Washington Post has allowed a great deal to go on - and requests for even-handedness have not gone very far.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

fzdybel | December 1, 2010 6:00 PM


Why would anyone want to increase taxes $700 Billion in the middle of an Economic Crisis???


Obama has already caused health insurance premiums to increase by $700 Billion this year - placing a drag on the economy just like a tax increase would.


Your statement simply does NOT put the economic health of his nation first - instead it places some partisan rhetoric in front of jobs.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Que lefty freakout and ALL CAP rants on hypocrisy.

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | December 1, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I want to thank everyone who weighed in with a comment today. I do agree that, like pols, readers who name call and CAPITALIZE everything probably aren't winning converts. But, that's ok! Dennis Prager likes to say "Clarity is more important than agreement."

Posted by: Jennifer Rubin | December 1, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

"Why would anyone want to increase taxes $700 Billion in the middle of an Economic Crisis???"

These tax cuts were worthless as economic stimulus when they went into place, and they are worthless now. If letting them expire bothers you, it would be better to transfer the tax savings to the other end of the income scale entirely. That would directly produce the customers that business needs in order to expand. But that's not what you're proposing.

Posted by: fzdybel | December 1, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Que lefty freakout and ALL CAP rants on hypocrisy.

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | December 1, 2010 6:09 PM
========================

Right-wing projection, yet again.

The civility boat sailed years ago, when hate radio jock Rush Limbaugh became the de facto Republican party boss.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | December 1, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations Jennifer! You're the final piece. A newspaper that was once a bastion of liberalism is now another completely reliable conservative voice.

Posted by: johnhouse | December 1, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

The problem is clearly - at some point in the last 15 years - the liberals have joined in with the uncivil behavior.
So, it has become a free-for-all.
The liberals have a knack for refusing to listen, refusing to compromise - so hence the present situation has emerged.
Posted by: RainForestRising

My reply...
You have got it backward; it is the Republican'ts that is the Party of NO and the Democrats who can get no cooperation from the Republican'ts.
It is the Republican'ts who are burning down your rain forest, stealing from the poor and giving to the rich.
Get your story straight before we end up with a Republicorp Oligarchy and a dictator for president.
Dave

Posted by: OckamsRazor | December 1, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

2012frank wrote:

"Ha! A WaPo right leaning column promoting civility. Jenny, your addressing the wrong group. Read through the commentary on almost any issue and you will find the most vile, rude, disgusting comments flow from the Left."


You must be selctive in reading posts. So far RFR has accused Obama of being a Marxist and a Nazi, and on this page accuses liberals of insanity; and it's only the first day!

Knowing him as I do, he will do even better tomorrow.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 1, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

OckamsRazor at 7:10 PM

Obama is the one who ran around the country and said he could get everyone to compromise -

That was a 4 year commitment which Obama didn't even try at.


Obama reached for the poisoned apple of 60 votes - and after throwing in a good amount of arrogance - Obama destroyed his career.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

54465446 at 7:31 PM


You know perfectly well that isn't true.

The Nazi reference was an analogy - stating that government officials stating Nazi views would be outside acceptable maintream views in our country.


The Karl Marx reference was about Obama's Christmas ornaments - if you remember, last year there were some questionable Christmas ornaments on the Obama trees.


AND the reference to insanity was actually a reference to statements and actions on the part of liberals... which can only be described as insanity.

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

54465446 at 7:31 PM

This is why it is so difficult to have any conversation with you.

Instead of showing the entire quote or sentence, you twist things around until they do not mean what was CLEARLY originally meant.


Why don't you simply comment on the point posed to you - the wiki-cables which referenced 20 operational missiles which went to Iran - all capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads.


The time is here - the Iranians already have the capibility.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Wehner is right that strong arguments crowd out name-calling and insults. But politics is often branding and, when you have 2872 characters remaining, you can't construct the most airtight of arguments. It's easy to see, though, that liberals and leftists don't understand conservative arguments at all, and have no interest in doing so. They don't accept the basic political legitimacy of conservatives--they should have laid down and died after 1964, but they keep coming back.

The same is not true for conservatives, who understand the logic of statism: uncontrolled private interests domestically, and national interests internationally, led, in the early 20th century, to massive inequality, economic irrationality and war. Individual freedom, traditionally understood, are inadequate for advanced industrial and post-industrial society in which an individual's actions have widespread and uncontrollable effects on others who haven't participated in the choices made by that individual. Hence, public power must step in, and and step in, and regulate social interactions. It's easy to see why people would see WWI & II and the Great Depression through that frame.

Regardless of the previous legitimacy of either argument, it is now obvious that the interconnectedness and complexity of modern society means that the state is less and less capable of regulating social action--it cannot know nearly enough about the consequences of action to do so. Rather, increasingly complex agreements between private individuals and freely associated groups must provide the order necessary for a free society, and, internationally, the government should seek to facilitate such free exchanges across borders. The Democrats show no sign of grasping any of this, while the repiblcans display glimmers of understanding on occasion--but, at least, the Republicans can be primaried on these points.

I hope that was sufficiently civil.

Posted by: adam62 | December 1, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

" (Civility)establishes limits so we don't treat opponents as enemies."

That only works when your opponents aren't actual enemies to our traditional form of government.
That's not the case, anymore.

We live in a very real bizarro-world, where Bush and Cheney are criminals who should face trial and be hung for starting wars for oil, or the Jooos, or whatever...while the left, and Obama are allowed to pass and sign law after law that expands their power, and makes their dark lord Soros richer, while stealing from this country in wide-open sight of everyone. And the only people who actually bring it up, even in a stupid WAPO comment section, are lumped in with Bush/Cheney/Teabaggers/Beck/Limbaugh/Palin as enemies of the world.

It's pretty easy to be civil when you're watching the actual battle from above

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Rather, increasingly complex agreements between private individuals and freely associated groups must provide the order necessary for a free society, and, internationally, the government should seek to facilitate such free exchanges across borders.
....
I hope that was sufficiently civil.

Posted by: adam62 | December 1, 2010 7:51 PM
===========================

I'd substitute the word 'obtuse'.

Your massive experiment in conservative governance and deregulation was a massive failure in the years 2001-2009. So you just rebrand the movement, pretend something else happened, and substitute jargon for facts.

Republicans don't believe in government. Make the mistake of putting them in charge of it, and they'll prove just how bad it can be.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | December 1, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

adam62 |
they should have laid down and died after 1964, but they keep coming back.

I hope that was sufficiently civil.
___________________________________

Wishing death on those who do not agree with you is not civility.

Dividing the world into black and white political camps is not realistic. The complexities you mention lead to a spectrum of political positions, not merely some binary choice.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 1, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer,
I've read your stuff elsewhere, some of which was not civil. That isn't the point. Ideology is the point, and it's what rightwing conservatives feed on. Civil discourse is not the end they have in mind. It's propaganda. Once said, they move on. Worst kind of thinking and saying.

Posted by: dudh | December 1, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans don't believe in government"

Strictly speaking, this is not uncivil, but dialogue is certainly impossible here. Fine with me.

"adam62 |
they should have laid down and died after 1964, but they keep coming back.

I hope that was sufficiently civil.
___________________________________


Wishing death on those who do not agree with you is not civility. "

I wasn't wishing death on anyone--I was presenting the way progressives think about conservatives.

In principle, and sometimes in fact, there is a spectrum--all politics has a tendency to reduce to binaries, though, because positions ally with each other in order to gain power. There may be no necessary reason why libertarians have tended to cluster with social conservatives, but there's a logic to it and both groups now need each other.

Posted by: adam62 | December 1, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations Jennifer! You're the final piece. A newspaper that was once a bastion of liberalism is now another completely reliable conservative voice.

Posted by: johnhouse | December 1, 2010 6:47 PM
===================================

I believe it was a commenter at Roy Edroso's blog that made this observation:

The WaPo's business model is to turn itself into the Washington Times, at which point Donald Graham and company will sell it to Rupert Murdoch.
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | December 1, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

We live in a very real bizarro-world, where Bush and Cheney are criminals who should face trial and be hung for starting wars for oil, or the Jooos, or whatever...
______________________________

Mr Meaner, have you no decency?
...and on a post about civility no less?!

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 1, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Don't make the charges, and I won't have to repeat them.

Have I no decency?

Why don't you ask some of your comrades that question?

You're either an idiot, hypocrite, or both

How's that for civility?

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

I vote IrenePollin most civil post today:

This isn't a football game. This is real life. It's not about your side vs. my side. It's about every one of us. And attitudes like yours hurt us all.

Also, when you say the American people have spoken, you act like the most recent election was the last one we'll ever have. The balance of power shifts back and forth, and always has, and always will. The country is in trouble. Childish boosterism helps no one.

Posted by: IrenePollin | December 1, 2010 12:14 PM |

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 1, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Don't make the charges, and I won't have to repeat them.

Have I no decency?

Why don't you ask some of your comrades that question?

You're either an idiot, hypocrite, or both

How's that for civility?

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 8:44 PM |

Excuse me? You've obviously mistaken me for someone else. I have no comrades here.
Those are your words I quoted. No one else here said anything remotely like that. Just you.
How is it for civility? A far cry would be a generous assessment.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 1, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Well, then you're certainly brand-new to WAPO, if not Earth
Around which sun does your planet orbit?

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't wishing death on anyone--I was presenting the way progressives think about conservatives.
____________________

OK. That is less not civil, but still...

How about we let each person represent their own position instead of pretending those not ideologically aligned with us are demons?
How about we address what people actually say here and not misattribute something someone you once disagreed with said to you as being spoken by someone here?
Do these not seem like reasonable foundations for hearing each other out? Can we agree on the difficulty of any dialogue where we can simply confront and condemn people for outrageous things they never thought much less expressed?

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 1, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Nobody on this thread beats you, Mr Meaner. You're a true uncivil dog. I like your cynical thinking, oh yes I do. I'd follow you to Hell. No wait, I can't, I have to rake leaves. You go ahead.

Posted by: dudh | December 1, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

"I'd follow you to Hell."

You're already headed there. I was the guy waving the trouble ahead sign, that you just passed.
Enjoy the trip, it's one-way

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

How about we let each person represent their own position instead of pretending those not ideologically aligned with us are demons?
"How about we address what people actually say here and not misattribute something someone you once disagreed with said to you as being spoken by someone here?
Do these not seem like reasonable foundations for hearing each other out? Can we agree on the difficulty of any dialogue where we can simply confront and condemn people for outrageous things they never thought much less expressed"

Fine with me, especially since I haven't done any of those things, except, perhaps, present an extremely non-demonological account of the Progressive viewpoint. Which anyone is obviously free to challenge.

Posted by: adam62 | December 1, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

RFR in your own words:

"Obama is showing his White House decorations.

I wonder if the Karl Marx Christmas ornaments are on the trees this year"


"Obama can't claim Freedom of Speech if he starts saying all this Nazi stuff, can he?"


"Go back to the 2008 campaign if you really want to see the insanity of the liberals."

I answered you on the other thread. The Iranians don't have nuclear warheads yet, that anyone has acknowledged. The Israelis have done a good job with stuxnext and by killing Iranian nuclear scientists one by one. They got one of the heads of the program just the other day. This might be enough.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 1, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

That part was just addressed to all here, not to you personally. Only the "but still..." line was addressed to you specifically, Adam62. Although your nondemonological account had people you disagree with wishing your death apparently. That seems fairly demonological to me. Also, somewhat pathological. But only when taken literally. Which would be a mistake.

Posted by: veritasinmedium | December 1, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Meaner,
Let me just finish raking the leaves, take a small nap, golf on TV, then we'll see. Invite you and your Special Other over for a martini.. chat, then we'll see about civil discourse. What you think?

Posted by: dudh | December 1, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Civility is what those who have the upper hand insist on and rarely practice themselves. That is all we need, yet another champion of the status quo and elitist hypocrisy masquerading as 'faux' populism and taking umbrage at truth.

Posted by: chris_holte | December 1, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight.
We're supposed to read threads full of comments that range from calling for the public hanging of a former US president, to personal insults in place of debate, or the absolute refusal to consider, or even acknowledge any evidence presented, even when it proves the point being made...and then play nicey nice games when someone does a thread on civility?

I'm sorry, but I live in the real world 24-7

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Wow. dudh, were you hitting on me?

(cold shiver)


Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

The liberals have a knack for refusing to listen, refusing to compromise - so hence the present situation has emerged.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

##########################################

Rubbish! It isn't the liberals who are threatening to hold up all senate legislation unless all the Bush tax cuts are extended.

Posted by: maggots | December 1, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

The liberals have a knack for refusing to listen, refusing to compromise - so hence the present situation has emerged.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Rubbish! It isn't the liberals who are threatening to hold up all senate legislation unless all the Bush tax cuts are extended.

Posted by: maggots | December 1, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

The liberals have a knack for refusing to listen, refusing to compromise - so hence the present situation has emerged.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Rubbish! It isn't the liberals who are threatening to hold up all senate legislation unless all the Bush tax cuts are extended.

Posted by: maggots | December 1, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Amen.

Elton Trueblood, a professor of philosophy and regligion at my undergraduate college (Earlham) -- and a political conservative, had a relevant dictum: "Be hard on issues and tender with (respectful of) people."

How can civility and good manners be restored? An approach is needed for general application.

Posted by: jimb | December 1, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Miss Demeaner,
I thought you was a gentleman. My abject apologies..on the other hand, my wife says, tell her to bring a date. Civil discourse ain't limited by who you brang to the discussion, long as you go home with the same person. We'll keep the conversation limited to Sarah Palin and what to do about that darned deficit.

Posted by: dudh | December 1, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Civility and good manners are not part of the conservatives operating plan. They don't want to look like wimps, and they don't care, because the American public has become so stupid that they will soon be demanding fight cages on the floor of Congress. The current crop of Republicans lack the ability to comprehend the meaning of the word "compromise". They think it means that they can spew out their ideology and the other side must go along with it.

We are doomed, thanks to the Tea Party and its sycophants in the Republican party....most of which never had any sense anyway.

Goodbye, democracy. Goodbye, freedom. Hello, serfdom, to our Chinese capitalist masters, who just happened to play the game better than our corporate CEOs!

Posted by: Chagasman | December 1, 2010 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Why, you're a card, you.
I suspect shenanigans.

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Why you card, you.
I suspect shenanigans.

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 11:35 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I only meant it the second time.

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Chinese Capitalists

See?
Bizzaro world

Posted by: MrMeaner | December 1, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

The Department of Health and Human Services is running commercials aimed at seniors - to remind them to sign up for Medicare plans in a yearly window.


HOWEVER, the commercials throw in some comments about the new health care law - one is talking about the donut hole. It appears to be to be a BLANTANT political ad - funded by the Federal government. The ad is designed to build support for Obama's health care plan - not to solely remind people to sign up for the Medicare program in the yearly window.


This is just another example of how Obama and his people are abusing the Federal government for political purposes.


Is there anyway you can look into that?

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 2, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

54465446 at 9:54 PM

Exactly you have misrepresented what I said.

Specifically, I was making an illustration of the limits of Freedom of Speech of public officials with the Nazi comment - I was not calling Obama a Nazi.


And I was recalling the Obama's ornaments from last year - was Mao on one??? Look it up, please, and tell us about those ornaments from last year


But you know all this

___________________


The "insanity of the liberals" was in the context of requesting that someone read the archives of the blogs of the Washington Post - as to what the liberals were saying about Obama in 2008 - that is what I was referring to as insanity.


So, please go back and read some of those archives......

The point on mischaracterizations is valid

_______________________________


Jennifer Rubin


It appears there has been a "disruption campaign" on your blog tonight


The liberal cabal has come on - mischaracterized what people have said - in order to sow nonsense.


When they ran out of opportunities for that, they decided to stage a fight amongst themselves - all in order to disrupt the blog launch and make the blog seem to lack seriousness.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 2, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Civility in public discourse? What a great idea! How about holding a rally for it on the National Mall and have the media seriously undercount the number of attendees?

I've got some signs I can bring and everything.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 2, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

When they ran out of opportunities for that, they decided to stage a fight amongst themselves - all in order to disrupt the blog launch and make the blog seem to lack seriousness.
Posted by: RainForestRising

My Reply...
You come on loud and strong RainForest.
It is to bad that you are a conservative.
The conservatives are doing their best to dismantel our nation with their lies and deceit. By definition, conservative means do not change anything no matter how bad it happens to be. Lately, it has also included torture, preemptive war and corruption of words to create fear and confusion. It also includes blame the other person for what you are doing.
Killing innocent people, undermining national security and making terrorism work for the terrorists has been a conservative function not to mention add trillions of dollars to our national debt.
Dave

Posted by: OckamsRazor | December 2, 2010 2:09 AM | Report abuse

Too much of the Right is just composed of people too stupid to argue with. They have trouble holding one idea in their heads, much less many more at the same time.

I'll debate people who are willing to make rational arguments about issues. It's hard, and in some cases impossible, to argue with people who don't understand logical fallacies. When someone literally can not tell the difference between a true and false argument, debating with them is at best enormously painful, and usually isn't worth it.

When reading comments, no matter where, it's often difficult to wade through the thickets of obviously deranged people.

Posted by: Nymous | December 2, 2010 2:34 AM | Report abuse

Civility, what Jabotinsky called "Hadar"

(here: http://betar.org.il/en/content/view/10/6/1/8/)

Posted by: yisraelmedad | December 2, 2010 5:21 AM | Report abuse

Why exactly is the Post printing this shrill rant by somebody whose only qualification is that she was an employment lawyer? We already have Krauthamer and Will pushing the rightwing's agenda and Heaven knows we have enough uncritical support for Israel from both of them. Furthermore, are we meant to take seriously the views of someone who is "critical of Keynesian economics"? Does she even understand what is is?

Posted by: ianstuart | December 2, 2010 5:43 AM | Report abuse

Boy, the comments are overflowing with civility!

Unfortunately, just what would be expected from the Post's erudite readership.

Posted by: asdf2 | December 2, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Pretty much all the conservatives I meet are from severely alcoholic families. It used to be more evenly divided among liberals and comservatives. The "dry drunk" style is accuse, accuse,accuse, accuse. What's needed is not civility, what's needed is Al-Anon.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | December 2, 2010 6:25 AM | Report abuse

OK, for starters, the GOP could kick out the Holocaust deniers.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | December 2, 2010 6:32 AM | Report abuse

Republicans play the "equivalence" game over and over again: "If we're doing the wrong thing, they must be doing it, too." But in the matter of long-term, chronic incivility,Republicans take the cake. It's gotten seriously bad since Newt Gingrich's era. One can be a conservative oneself and admit that, outrageous though the left can seem, incivility -- indeed gross incivility -- has been province of the Republican party. So okay, let's do something about it and not try, once again, to get away with it crying,"They're doing it, too!"

Note: In 1994, the Republican party gave up the privilege of being called "conservative" and became increasingly radical. Genuine conservatives don't hold the same political beliefs as contemporary Republicans and they are much, much better behaved. The current radicals in the party fail to convince the world that they're conservatives. A little self-knowledge will take them a long way towards civility and respect.

Posted by: texassideoats | December 2, 2010 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Wow. The Left really says nothing--they just recirculate familiar commonplaces and stereotypes: conservatism, the stupid, pro-torture party! This will be a fun blog--I haven't observed the Left in their natural habitat for years. So much for civility! It was a nice try.

Posted by: adam62 | December 2, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

So for a conservative voice, the WPO comes up with a younger and female David Broder, who has spent his very long career moaning for policitical compromise and civility. On the subject of civility, maybe the citizens could have some respect for their political leaders if they were not lied to, and dissembled from time to time.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | December 2, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

It was in 2004 that the GOP really went all "Radio Rwanda" calling for violence against the supposedly terrorist loving liberals. I used to listen to AM radio on long distance drives and they would queue up dozens of callers urgeing violence while Lara Ingraham would say "Thank you, next!" The host couldn't call for violence, but her screener could line up 20 callers in a row that would. That's how they get away with it.

Google "the Eliminationists" about the mantra of conservative demands for violence and the SPLC about how it has escalated to almost weekly shootouts, murders, and bomb plots that go largely ignored by the national media. Then browse some conservative web sites about the constant fantasies of race war.

Posted by: BurfordHolly | December 2, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

"It was in 2004 that the GOP really went all "Radio Rwanda" calling for violence against the supposedly terrorist loving liberals... "

Fascinating! What a world you leftists live in! Weekly, and unreported, shootouts and murders, huh? Incitement by right wing talk radio? Laura (not Lara) Ingraham isn't on when I'm driving, but I listen to Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity--not the slightest hint at encouraging violence, not from the host, not from the callers. I think you're lying, or believing someone who is, about Ingraham as well.

Keep it coming, you reality-based smarties.

Posted by: adam62 | December 2, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

but I listen to Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity-
...
Posted by: adam62 | December 2, 2010 8:06 AM
===============================

The CA cop shooter and Glenn Beck: Here's what we know

http://mediamatters.org/blog/201007230022
~

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | December 2, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Well, if that's what we know, then we know that Beck doesn't encourage violence, because not one statement of his quoted there did so.

But it's very good that Media Matters obsesses so compulsively about all these conspiracy theorists on the right and their enormous, unseen effects on violence prone individuals.

Posted by: adam62 | December 2, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Yikes, Canadian political 'manners' have invaded America! Get the hockey sticks and drop the gloves!

Posted by: postbail | December 2, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

During the '08 campaign we heard cat-calls of "kill him" refering to then candidate Obama at rallies for McCain/Palin, we saw disturbing and historically frightening signs there and later at the TP rallies, subtle and not so subtle racial epithets, a GOP lawmaker calling Obama uppity, a GOP lawmaker refering to an escaped ape as a relative of FLOTUS...etc...and during the campaign when Obama mentioned McCain or Palin's name and some people would start boooing, he would say, don't boo, go vote! He said after the announcement of Bristol's pregnancy that children were off limits, leave them alone...etc. Then we have Palin insulting FLOTUS's campaign to bring awareness of the dangers of childhood obesity epidemic as government intervention, which is the perfect irony since the RED states that support Palin and the TPers are typically the ones with the highest obesity rates, the highest teen pregnancy rates, the highest high school drop out rates, the most FED dollars received, etc...then we have the likes of GOP media personalities like Beck calling for Pelosi to be poisoned by wine, O'Reilly talking about beheading wapo columnist Milbank, Rush wanting Obama to fail, and lets never forget that shortly after the Nov/08 election , a candidate for the chairmanship of the RNC releasing the "Barack the Magic Negro" cd. and the total lack of respect by Joe Wilson's "YOU LIE!!" at the State of the Union.
Jennifer, you remind me of that proffesor from I believe UofVa, who had a chat here at wapo last year I think, insisting that there were no examples of the GOP saying horrible, racist, or untrue things in the media. I sent in many examples, as I'm sure did many, and he ignored them, just as you are ignoring the clear cut examples I have offered up. I would suggest you take the 2by4 out of your party's eye before refering to the sliver in the Dem's eye.
obviously wapo has no access to Dem lwmakers, cause all we have heard since Bush43's inaugeration in '01, is GOP cheerleading with very little counter balance of Dem side. Reporters like Froomkin were fired. Just look at how many op-eder's at wapo, "analyst's", bloggers, etc... are Conservative. Cillizza claims to be unbiased but his statement that he's known Chip Saltzman, the distributer of the magic negro cd, a long
time and is the furthest thing from a racist shows how blinded by idealogy he is. If he had acknowledged that the cd was offensive to millions, and an ignorant thing for Chip to do, I'd be fine, but his unquantified defense of Chip was insulting, and definitely disrespectful of millions of people who voted for Obama.
A conservative blogger talking about civility without acknowledging the overwhelming evidence of disrespectful, violent imagery rhetoric, untrue and disgusting statements by the GOP and TPers is just absurd as CC saying Saltzman is the furthest thing from a racist, unquantified and injurious to any real efforts to have civility return to public discourse.

Posted by: katem1 | December 2, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

"The liberals have a knack for refusing to listen, refusing to compromise - so hence the present situation has emerged."

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

In the spirit of civil discourse, I will ask politely; Please advise of any single time that conservative politicians have engaged in trying to seek common ground in the past decade. Not situations like the fillibuster comprimise, which was bipartisan in nature, but any time when Republicans have said, "this is what we feel should happen, but we'd like to engage our Democratic colleauges and carve out a workable plan, agreeable to both parties"

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 2, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

the right wing showed its views on civility in public discourse back in the 1960s and 1970s when attempts to impose civility in the South toward ALL citizens in public discourse became rebranded as "politically correct" by southern racists.

I think its a bit much for those who label civility as being "politically correct" to point fingers at anybody else.

Posted by: hohandy1 | December 2, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"Before impugning an opponent's motives," the philosopher Sidney Hook once said, "even when they may rightly be impugned, answer his arguments."

What is the argument to the 42 signature letter saying, "If we don't get what we want we're taking our ball and bat home, so go f* yourselves"?

Posted by: daweeni | December 2, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Civility has declined as the public appetite for incivility has been fed. Our media reflect those debased appetites.

Incivility works as long as the voting public continues to support it by returning incumbents to positions of power.

Posted by: Over-n-Out | December 2, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Civility and good manners are not part of the conservatives operating plan. They don't want to look like wimps, and they don't care, because the American public has become so stupid that they will soon be demanding fight cages on the floor of Congress.
Posted by: Chagasman |

===========================================

When it comes to civility I think not holding people with different opinions in utter contempt would be a good start.

Posted by: bbface21 | December 2, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Well, Ms. Rubin, I guess you can see from the many posts here that your call for civility fell on deaf ears. I'm afraid it will continue to be that way until the public at large repudiates those who shout, scream, disparage, and just lie about people with different views. When the public says it's had enough, you can bet public officials and those wishing to be will take the hint.

Anyway, I'm enjoying your columns, so please keep up the good work.

Posted by: panamajack | December 2, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

In politics civility is a sure recipe for failure, a tried and true road to loserville, a mamby pamby place unvisited by the likes of Harry Truman and Theodore Roosevelt.

Hey Obama, want a simple and effective strategy to save the country? Here it is:

Pick a fight and fight it to the bitter end, taking no prisoners, giving no quarter, holding no rhetorical weapon unused, no bold idea uncultivated, no deserved insult unsaid, no tough vote untaken. Hit hard, hit fast, and show your teapublican opponents for the shameful, incompetent liars that they are.

I think fighting for a middle class tax cut is just the issue to kick off this strategy. Win this one and the rest will follow, like slaughtering the fattest hog first, like shooting ducks in flight starting at the rear of the formation.

Posted by: RoyFan | December 2, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Calling for civility makes the assumption that people of differing points of view want to talk to each other and compromise, all for the mutual benefit of the body politic. When was the last time that happened in DC?

For the past ten years (perhaps longer) a person has been able to walk into a bookstore and choose from multiple books that only serve to reinforce his worldview. The same thing happens with radio, television, and the internet content that people consume.

The new axis of evil is: newstainment + unrestrained campaign spending + too much power and money concentrated at the Federal level.

Posted by: bikes-everywhere | December 2, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Well, civility (or the lack thereof) in the world of politics certainly makes many cynical. In fact the oracle of all things cynical has this to say about civility:

http://www.cynical.ws/definition/civility

civility, n. The last refuge for the unarmed.

Posted by: GuySmith | December 2, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

JohnDinHouston asks: "Please advise of any single time that conservative politicians have engaged in trying to seek common ground in the past decade."

If you look at the voting record, you will find that most of the legislation passed during Bush's first term passed with bipartisan majorities, including the Kennedy sponsered No Child Left Behind Plan, the African AIDS initiative, the prescription drug entitlement, and even the tax cuts and the war authorization. The PATRIOT Act was nearly unanimous.

In short, Bush sought legislation with bipartisan support. And he was stabbed in the back for it repeatedly, with Dems later attacking him for legislation which they supported at the time. To paraphrase John Kerry, "I voted for the bill, before I vilified it."

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 3, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

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