In a speech earlier this month, Joe Biden talked about politeness and lowering the temperature of national discourse. “It’s time to get rid of the harsh rhetoric, cut the temperature, meet again, listen to each other again and make progress. We must stop treating our opponents as our enemy,” he said. He added: “We are not enemies. We are Americans. “
Some Democrats seem surprised that Republicans don’t believe he means business, but it’s really not hard to imagine why. If you look around, there are plenty of Biden voters out there already asking him to drop courtesy and fight. About a week ago the Guardian published this piece by a Princeton professor named Jan-Werner Mueller. It is entitled “End the odes to political courtesy”. Do you really think the Republicans will return the favor? “After accepting Biden’s statements about politeness, Müller quickly switches to the conclusion that the problem is not partiality but disrespect:
Violent partisanship is not in itself a symptom that politics went wrong. On the contrary, we would not need democracy if we did not have deep differences of opinion and divisions – which are inevitable as long as we live in a free society. The problem arises when disagreement leads to disrespect. Disrespect isn’t just about being rude. it means denying the reputation of certain citizens – and as a logical next step to actively try to disenfranchise people. Republicans have been working towards a situation where a combination of electoral repression and what philosopher Kate Manne has termed “trickle-down aggression” – acts of private political intimidation tacitly approved by Trump – holds political power and relevance many Americans in a country reduced way favorable to the interests of the Republican Party.
We had the highest turnout ever this year. The disenfranchisement clearly did not determine the result. If you follow that second link you will see that this is a piece from 2016 that is mostly about abortion policy. In particular, the piece argues that pro-life politics is really just a form of misogyny. One way to punish women. And I think you can already see why Mueller’s argument is really an argument against politeness.
If pro-life is considered disrespectful, we must all clearly be pro-choice in order to have any hope of getting along. And the unspoken consequence of this idea is that some people who refuse to be up for the election refuse to get along and deserve no respect. That’s exactly what an opinion piece released today by NBC News is about. It is entitled “Trump, Covid-19 and racism have taught me not to be nice anymore and to accept my anger.” In the play, the author describes how a silent protest against abortion infuriated her and yelled at a nun:
On a Tuesday last month, while walking up the main street of my little suburb of Cincinnati, I passed a scene that sparked a hot anger: Several hundred little white crosses sat in the courtyard of the large Catholic Church on the corner with one Schild They depicted abortions that were performed in the United States.
Each year these crosses appear on the first Sunday in October for what US Catholics refer to as “Respect Life Week,” and every year I am appalled by the exhibition …
“Sister!” I yelled at the nun who happened to be crossing the street as I ran past …
“That is shameful!” I threw my hands to the crosses.
“Where are the crosses for the 220,000 coronavirus dead while Trump – whom I know this church supports – does nothing?” I continued. “Where are the crosses for blacks who have been lynched by the police? For the children who died at the border and for the separated parents and children? “
You have the idea. If the Church and everyone else only agreed to the progressives on all hot button issues, there would be no need for the left to yell at strangers. Ironically, this is the excuse of the abusive husband who blames his wife for his own violent and abusive behavior: See what you got me to do ?!
After yelling at the nun for a while, the author finally calms down and later apologizes at a chance meeting. Even so, the point of the piece is clear that it is right to embrace this anger and try to direct it more often at the people who deserve it. Anger is good when people refuse to agree with you. When they offend you with their different opinions. Anger is good when people show disrespect.
What is striking is that the people who make these arguments never seem to notice that there is an enormous amount of disrespect from the left. Recently, the Mayor of Longmont, Colorado suggested that hospitals in his city should consider refusing to admit patients from a neighboring county that voted to refuse to respond to the governor’s shutdown orders. In essence, he suggested that anyone who got sick should go without treatment and potentially die for their sin not to obey the government if some companies refused to close. That is disrespect.
The mayor eventually went back and said he had managed to shed light on the subject. However, one liberal citizen wrote to a local newspaper warning of the danger of the mayor’s smug demeanor:
Smug clouds, like those emitted by the Mayor of Longmont, pose just as much of a threat to our well-being as the coronavirus and global warming because they keep us from actually speaking civilly.
Although I am liberal, I understand the anger of so many of my red-voting neighbors very well. They have felt belittled and condescending by the progressive elites.
I sincerely hope Mayor Bagley did not speak for most of his town and county citizens when he expressed his contempt for his Weld County neighbors.
In a column published today, Ben Shapiro pointed out that the left appears poised to return to an era of complacent superiority where the left and the media work hand in hand:
The media suggested we had to go back to the old “normal” – by which they meant a system where the media and Democrats worked hand in hand to lie to the American public about the content of politics (“If you like yours) Doctor, You can keep your doctor! “(Former President Barack Obama); where conventional wisdom was treated as gospel truth, no matter how false it was (“Without the Palestinian process there will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world” – John Kerry on Israel); and where cozy corporate-government relationships were seen as de rigueur.
They meant a system in which all difficult political questions were postponed for another day; in which scandals were eliminated without a second thought; in which even anti-journalistic efforts by the Democrats were deemed out of control. It was a system in which constitutional boundaries were routinely overridden in the name of left political priorities. was written off in the evil rhetoric of the Democrats as a natural by-product of the innate evils of the right; where alternative news sources were treated as conspiracy agencies.
This is the “normal” that the media and Democrats wanted.
Again, the people on the left who advise Biden and Democrats to be less civil seem to believe that their lack of courtesy is well justified. It never seems to cross their minds that the people on the right side feel the same way and for good reason. Instead, many of them reduce the right to a group of cartoon villains whose main problem is that they don’t show enough respect for the left. I think this is easier than dealing with real disagreements on issues like abortion, defusing the police, immigration policy and, yes, how to deal with COVID-19 without destroying the economy. These are not resolved issues, and the left’s smug condescension to the right will not resolve them for the next four years.