News flash: Leading Democrats are calling for an end to civility.
Yes, Hillary Clinton, who we can’t miss because she won’t go away, was only the latest to weigh in this past week. "You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," declared the former presidential candidate who fervently hoped to destroy what conservatives stand for and what they care about.
Hilariously, she added that when Democrats regain power, “that's when civility can start again.”
Because what’s even more hilarious is that for both parties – very much including Democrats – there is no civility to end. It ended a long time ago.
And being in or out of power has had nothing to do with it.
Here’s a brief, somewhat representative list of statements from what Clinton apparently thinks was an era of civility that now must end until people do as they’re told and vote only for Democrats:
- Anne Lamont, author and political activist, during the 2004 presidential campaign, speaking of Republicans John McCain (just recently laid to rest with Democrats endlessly praising him as a courageous, moral beacon and hero) and Sarah Palin: “…lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people ….”
- Frank Rich, liberal columnist, on GOP consultant Karl Rove: “A Rovian political strategy by definition means all slime, all the time.” Or, on Palin: “… she's a new low in reptilian villainy ….”
- Professor Susan J. Douglas, chair of the University of Michigan’s school of education, in 2014: “It’s OK to hate Republicans.”
- Hilary Clinton in 2016: “… you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it.”
- Actor Peter Fonda, on President Trump’s young son, Baron: “(He should be) put into a cage with pedophiles.”
- Actor Robert De Niro: “F--- Trump!” For which he received a standing ovation from the Tony Awards audience.
- Late-night TV host Steven Colbert, to a wildly cheering audience: Trump’s only usefulness is to (much more graphically expressed) perform a sex act on Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
- U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.: “If you see anybody from (the Trump administration) in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! … Tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere!“
- Former attorney general Eric Holder repudiating former First Lady Micelle Obama’s already fanciful “When they go low, we go high”: “When they go low, we kick them.”
And that doesn’t even count the millions of hits you’ll get if you search the web for “BushHitler.”
Nor does it count the multiple instances of high-profile celebrities openly wishing for Trump to be assassinated, or urging any useful, violent idiots out there to “take one for the team.”
Beyond that rhetoric, there was the outspoken supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders who unleashed a fusillade of more than 200 bullets last year at a baseball practice of congressional Republicans, critically wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
Contrast that with this past week, when the mainstream media had the collective vapors over President Trump simply calling those who became profane, abusive and violent in their efforts to derail the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh exactly what they were: an angry mob.
And after all this, people like Clinton and Holder want us to believe that the Democrats’ problem is that they’re just too darn nice.
Yes, I can hear howls of indignation from Trump haters who say he is the one who has sown division and discord, that he is the one who has undermined civility.
Only partially true. Yes, far too often the president’s unhinged Twitter habit is coarse and antagonistic. But the Dems were just about as obscene about President George W. Bush and he remained civil – much too nice, in fact – in the face of it all. It’s not about Trump, it’s just about being conservative.
And Trump isn’t the one claiming he’s been civil all along.
This is not a call to end criticism or arguments – even intense, emotional ones – as long as they’re actually arguments.
But insults or labels tossed at another person are not an argument. By now the list of terms is both tiresome and familiar – racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, patriarchal, privileged, misogynist, nationalistic – which all generally fall under the umbrella term “hater.”
None of them makes a point, defends an opinion, documents a claim, or makes any effort to persuade. They simply call somebody what the user hopes will shut the person up and eliminate the need for an argument.
You know, as Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said to all men amid the meltdown over Kavanaugh, “Just shut up and step up – do the right thing.”
As in: Don’t talk. Just do what I tell you.
Think for a minute if a male senator had said that to all women. The demands that he resign would echo from sea to rising sea.
Civility won’t magically end government dysfunction or the long list of social ills that plague us. But it would be a start toward becoming a functioning democracy again.
Keep in mind that while we may not all be on the same team, we’re all in the same league. We are opponents, not enemies. We will corrode from within if we lose that distinction. That’s the way countries descend into civil war.
Our ancestors did that once. It’s hard for me to believe that today’s most implacable political opponents think it would be a good thing to do again.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org