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Originally published by Defining Ideas. The presidential election has started with a bang. A dislike of political rancor is at heart a dislike of democracy, and a misunderstanding of the Constitutional structure and its purpose.
Starting in ancient Athens, democracy has given the vote and equal participation in policy deliberation to citizens regardless of wealth, status, or knowledge. Sordid sexual practices, disreputable parentage, and taking foreign bribes were standard charges. Political debate in early America seldom reached Athenian sexual coarseness, but still was brutal, reflecting a similar diversity of interests and religious beliefs existing in the thirteen colonies.
Particularly when political parties began to coalesce in the second term of George Washington, political rhetoric was as personal and insulting as the comments we decry today. The tumultuous decades leading up to the Civil War saw an explosion of such invective sparked by the intense conflict over slavery.
Every decade of American history has been filled with political speech of the sort we now decry. Jingles about Warren G. This fierce verbal combat would not have surprised the Founders.
The primary aim was to protect freedom and autonomy by keeping any ambitious factional power from growing strong enough to tyrannize the people. As for the tone and quality of public discourse, if the citizenry comprises multiple factions free to seek their interests and express their passions, one would expect political speech to be spirited, angry, and brutal, for passionately held beliefs in fundamental principles, which seldom can be reconciled with conflicting beliefs and principles, frequently form the substance of political speech.
That seemed to be the conclusion of Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in during the flourishing of Jacksonian democracy. It is a constant fact that at the present day the ablest men in the United States are rarely placed at the head of affairs; and it must be acknowledged that such has been the result in proportion as democracy has exceeded all its former limits.
Often there is not a distinguished man in the whole number.
But in the end, that is not as important as maintaining the Constitutional mechanisms for protecting individual freedom from the encroaching power of a hypertrophied federal government. After all, the First Amendment does not protect merely decorous or genteel speech, but as the political rhetoric of American history shows, all manner of speech no matter how rude or uncivil.One of the civility move ment's most frequent refrains is that incivility in political life is driving away from public service talented people who are unwilling to fight with unmannerly bullies.
This is a matter of major concern to Deborah Tannen in The Argument Culture. Essay on Political Incivility: the Decline of Decorum in America Political Incivility: The Decline of Decorum in America William Trumpler Gareth Euridge ENC February 27, Political Incivility: The Decline of Decorum in America Today, as I watched CNN’s headline news, I listened to Speaker of the House John Boehner tell the members.
In this context, trying to moderate or police, based on some subjective notions of “civility” or decorum, the clashing expressions of passionate beliefs often is an attempt to limit the freedom to express those beliefs, and a way to benefit one faction at the expense of others.
Mouw added that neither the left nor right is immune from the decline in civility. tearing away at the last vestiges of decorum," Bybee said. .
Civility "is more than toleration," said Richard J. Mouw, a professor of Christian philosophy and ethics who served for two decades as the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. In as this nation stood on the brink of civil war, President Abraham Lincoln implored Americans and their political leaders to think of, "the better angels of .