Sorry, no, I won’t suffer lectures about civility from members of a party led by a swaggering, unrepentant bully who relentlessly attacks his detractors with schoolyard insults.
The GOP was revived in the furious swamps of tea party rallies starting in 2009 and sustained by a campaign of hatred and lies against President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It found its champion in Donald Trump, who mocked the disabled, insulted a Gold Star family, derided prisoners of war, fanned the flames of racism and suggested those who protested at his rallies be beaten.
His supporters in the 2016 presidential campaign wore “[expletive] your feelings” T-shirts directed at Democrats and peddled campaign ephemera bearing vile misogynist insults at his opponent.
Among the literally thousands of falsehoods President Trump has spouted during his reign have been poisonous attacks on the justice system and the mainstream media, accusing them — the nation’s last, best hope of keeping his autocratic impulses in check — of treasonous intent.
Trump and his enablers recently took hostage thousands of immigrant and refugee children as a gambit in their hate-fueled effort to secure tens of billions of dollars for an unnecessary border wall and rile up their voting base.
So, again, no. I refuse to listen to their pleas for decorum.
And neither will I be scolded by the let-us-reason-together caucus in the Democratic Party that’s promoting a dignified response to the increasingly disturbing transgressions of this administration.
Don’t be rude! Don’t make powerful people uncomfortable in their daily lives! Don’t stoop to their level!
These Chamberlain liberals seem to suffer the delusion that the American political realm is some sort of debating society in which good manners and the best arguments ultimately win out.
Then-first lady Michelle Obama gave this delusion a slogan during her speech to the 2016 Democratic National Convention: “When they go low, we go high.”
It sounded pretty, but even then it was a naive prescription for success. From the American Revolution on, the spoils of freedom, fair treatment and equality have not gone to the patient and polite. The spoils have gone to those who are incensed and determined, unafraid and unashamed to raise more than a little hell.
The spoils have not gone to those who fret that insulting their opponents will solidify and possibly increase their resolve. They have not gone to those who fear that disruptive displays of their passion will be off-putting to fence-sitting moderates.
I admired President Obama’s cerebral cool even as I despaired of it. Corrosive lies about the Affordable Care Act, the environment, economic policy and even Obama’s place of birth took root in part because he failed to fight back with sufficient vehemence.
Are base Republican voters energized by the taunting and public shaming of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller?
Are middle-of-the road voters inspired to side with Trump because the owner of a Virginia restaurant asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave the establishment Friday night?
Perhaps. But civility has a poor track record in politics, particularly lately — the nastiest, crudest, most dishonest primary candidate won the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 over a host of more qualified, more restrained contenders. He then marched through the rhetorical sewers all the way to the White House.
Whether or not Trump supporters are deplorable — which Clinton defined as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic [and] Islamophobic” in her famous accusation, as those who wear that badge proudly should recall — most of them are certainly unshakable. The task for Democrats isn’t to try to win them over with niceness or compromise, but to try to fire up their own base with attention-getting demonstrations of fury and resolve.
Note: I’m talking about peaceful protest, not violence. In public spaces, not at the homes of opponents. Nielsen’s detractors went too far by demonstrating outside her residence. Our nation’s ongoing incivil war must have at least a few rules of combat.
But as for the feelings of those who brag about drinking liberal tears, who repeat Trump calumnies against a free press and who enable his dictatorial impulses with a shrug, yet who also take umbrage at being lumped in with the haters and twist their hankies when profanities are directed at their dear leader well … sorry.
I can think of a T-shirt that applies.
Eric Zorn is a Chicago Tribune columnist.
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