My education in politics and government began in earnest working at the White House and mostly on Capitol Hill in the generational orbit of Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush 41 and Congressional leaders Rhodes, Michel, O’Neill, Foley, Wright, Baker, Byrd, and Dole, all of the “greatest generation.”
Seven of them served in the military during World War II, three of them—Dole, Michel, and Bush—had harrowing experiences in combat that shaped the rest of their lives.
What distinguished them from generations to follow was that most of them—but not all—had in common a strong belief that governing could only be effective in an atmosphere civil enough for opposing sides to reach consensus. They relished vigorous and contentious debate, but never let it get personal, and they engaged in tactics that would have passed muster with the Marquess of Queensberry. They knew when to put down the swords and lift the plowshares. Continue reading →
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
Bible, (Matt. 7:12)
It was taught to my siblings and me by my mother back in the 1950s, but the Golden Rule or versions of it have been a lantern for life’s journey for 2000 years or more, a version of which was propounded by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, according to an Internet search. I am not sure if my mother read Aristotle. She was probably introduced to the Rule by Catholic nuns who schooled generations of us back in South Dakota, but who often let it lapse in their own behavior in the classroom where weapons-grade yardsticks were always close at hand. Continue reading →
People are not sure what to call it—excessive partisanship, bad behavior, negativism, gridlock, polarization, stridency, intolerance, ideological extremes.
It is collectively, incivility and it is, arguably, worse now than it has been in American history.
Something must be done about it.
Pundits such as the Washington Post’s George Will and the Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone have argued otherwise. Barone, for example, recently bemoaned the bemoaners of what he called ‘hyperpartisanship’ in American politics, suggesting that the problem is not as bad as it may seem and attempts to rectify it in the past have just made matters worse.
The weeks and months following the September 11, 2001 attacks were extraordinary, filled with anger, revenge, heartbreak, sadness, patriotism, national unity and spiritualism. We were America again, all for one and one for all. That was the good that rose from the ashes of tragedy. Survey researchers said we had changed forever.
It wasn’t just the high degree of patriotism, but the spirit of civility and common cause that permeated both political thinking and behavior. President Bush threw his arm around a retired firefighter when he visited the twin towers site, reflecting how strongly Americans felt about working together and uniting against a common enemy. There were pledges and promises to keep that spirit alive, to work together and treat each other better. It was even evident in Congress.
What I saw of the Iowa Republican Presidential primary debate, and it wasn’t much, brought to mind two unsavory aspects of American political campaigns that politicians, the press and the public ought to try to temper before we go full throttle into the 2012 races.
The first was incivility. The media carnival barkers and fire-breathing partisans were anxious for the candidates to brutalize one another, particularly fellow Minnesotans Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty. From news reports of the debate—again, I missed some of the exchanges, they got some of what they wanted, but not much. I am told the two Minnesotans went at it, dropping the Minnesota nice persona—isn’t that special—but they really did not beat the bejesus out of each other.
rerprinted from Loose Change, Twin Cities Business
What a shame that it takes the attempted assassination of a public servant and the murder of six people, including a federal judge and a lovely little girl aspiring to be a politician, to divert our attentions from the polarizing political climate we’ve created.
My Facebook page receives three or four hundred posts a day, and over the past year it has been populated mostly by political grinding of one sort or another. Because my Facebook friends lean mostly to the left, you can well imagine what the general rant du jours are. The “righties,” however, are no less virulent—and often move the dial well past reason. Both sides—and isn’t that really the problem: “sides”?—are terribly polarized, a condition brought on by the flashpoint issues of the past few elections. Continue reading →
The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration last month turned an official hearing on a serious issue—migrant farm labor—into a 3-ring circus starring comedian Stephen Colbert. Colbert didn’t even testify, he performed a comedy routine as a character from his television show, mocking farm workers, immigrants and the U.S. Congress.
The Colbert comedy performance left absolutely no doubt why the American people are disgusted with Congress and some of those who serve there.