Since last Saturday’s tragic events in Arizona, the media can’t seem to stop talking about political civility. Commentators, columnists and political personalities alike have driven the subject into the ground. Most of the argument has focused on “returning” America’s political dialogue to a more calm, cool, collected and civil tone — as if such an atmosphere ever existed. Further, the left continues to place blame for last week solely on the Tea Party and the conservative movement. Perhaps it is time to remind America of the history of its political dialogue and how far the country has come since the days when dueling was the norm and to remind the left of the crass, vulgar and despicable political rhetoric the nation became accustomed to during Republican control of Congress and the executive branch.
America has never been a land of flowery and kind political discourse. On the contrary, the country’s origin is one of revolution and violence. Today, there is a foolish tendency to reminisce as if historical discourse was full of compassion and mutual understanding. One of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was slain in a duel, the product of a messy election for the governor of New York in 1804. Such an example wasn’t a rarity. Today’s media may call for a more civil tone, but don’t be fooled; we’ve never had one and today’s “uncivil tone” is a huge improvement from the days gone by.
In addition to calling for a more civil tone, commentators have placed blame for the attack on Gabrielle Giffords and the rhetoric of the Tea Party and the SarahPAC Web site. Democrats and Republicans have been using the concept of war to describe political battle for generations. If the rhetoric of the Tea Party, composed of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, opposing government mandated healthcare, outrageous spending and bigger, more intrusive government has crossed the line, the left better look at its own radical base. History shows hateful trends towards Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes. Where was the left’s call for civility when Hollywood came out with its mock assassination of President Bush in Death of a President or when Ed Schultz stated he wanted to “rip out Dick Cheney’s heart?” Why wasn’t the media outraged by President Obama’s quip “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun?” As long as rhetoric furthered their agenda, critics remained silent. However, now that opposition has remained relentless and uncompromising in their principles, the tone is “uncivil” and “disturbing.”
Civility has come a long way in political debate. In time it will move forward into new territory, just as our nation has. In reality, while radio shock jock Mark Levin occasionally calls the president a jerk or a media pundit a schmuck, when have him, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh depicted an assassination attempt on camera? Perhaps a more civil approach to politics is admirable, but given people’s deep-seated political beliefs, such a wish is ultimately unrealistic because we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.