Civility in Politics?

Civility in politics has received some attention in the past two days.  During his inaugural address, President Obama briefly, but accurately, described the current state of American politics when he said that “We cannot…substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”  The day after the address, Clive Crook wrote and article about the “Tragedy of American Politics” in which he argued,

“The tragedy of American politics is that the parties representing these contending
principles now find it impossible to see anything of value in each other’s worldview.
Rarely does either side rise above attacking a brainless caricature of the other’s
opinions. This mutual intolerance is worsening and has reached the point where it
rules out the everyday give-and-take that the American system of government

Perhaps I am naive or idealistic when it comes to my government and the people who are supposed to represent me.  For example, I was disappointed in the response by the WI Democratic Party of WI (DPW) after the first of the debates between Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson.  During the debate (if one could really call it that, but that’s for a different post), Thompson referred to himself as one who helped to build Wisconsin during his time as governor.  Instead of focusing on the issues and having a mature response, here is what the DPW posted to Twitter:

Tommy the Builder DPW

For those of you who don’t know, that is Gov. Thompson’s head pasted onto Bob the Builder’s body.  That was their response.  Apparently, this is what politics has been reduced to in the United States.

On the topic of name-calling, I might be a bit old-fashioned when it comes to elected officials- you call them by their title, even if you disagree with their politics.  Name-calling has been prevalent in WI politics the past two years, with opponents of Gov. Walker resorting to names like “Scotty” and “Scooter” (a reference to his first name, Scott).  On a national level, leading up to the presidential election, we heard names like “Mittens” (for Gov. Romney) or “Barry” and “Nobama” (for Pres. Obama).

It is unfortunate that the American political system has become prone to circus-like antics (see my previous post on the Wisconsin State of the State) and childish behavior as exhibited by both the parties and its supporters.  We, the electorate, deserve better than that.  I hope that my representatives at both the state and federal level will rise above their peers and set the standards for others to emulate.


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