In Defense of Incivility
Beware the press and politicians who bemoan the 'tone' in politics
Jeb Bush was at an event in the Hamptons this past weekend and was introduced by one of America’s donor elites as someone who would bring “civility” back to American politics.
Please. May I say, civility is overrated? Bush clearly agrees with his fellow elitists, recently calling for “reweaving the web of civility” in American politics while decrying the “incivility” of conservatism.
The elites always talk about civility in politics. That is a way to control the citizenry, by shaming them into silence when focused anger would serve the Republic better. It’s too bad there was not more incivility over the bailout of Wall Street.
Wouldn’t at least a few show trials of the thieves of Wall Street have served as an example to the people and our children of the sins of ill-gotten wages? There is something to be said for incivil righteousness.
Anger begets debate and debate beget change. This is Donald Trump’s real contribution to the 2016 presidential contest.
The last thing we need in American politics is more civility. What we need is more focused anger. Anger begets debate and debate beget change. This is Donald Trump’s real contribution to the 2016 presidential contest.
Patrick Henry did not say, “Give me civility or give me death!” Liberty is often messy and yes, uncivil. Freedom is supposed to be disorderly. Nathan Hale’s hanging was anything but civil. The shot heard round the world was uncivil. Christ’s martyrdom was uncivil.
Liberalism is built on order, often masquerading as justice. It is liberals who most often deride the incivility of talk radio and conservative commentators.
“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process,” said Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, founders of the Institute for Civility in Government.
How gentle. How sweet. How un-American.
This is another way of saying, “To each, according to his needs, from each, according to his abilities.”
American conservatives believe in the free exchanges of ideas — both civil and uncivil. The gulag was civil in a fashion, as were the re-education camps.
Barack Obama is too calm, too cool for many people’s tastes. Collectivists are often that way. Talking calmly about civility while stealing your wallet and your freedoms. It is anti-intellectual, but it is civil.
A Planned Parenthood abortion factory is also civil in a way. After all, the unborn children murdered in the most inhumane fashions only scream in silence.
Would we have had the American Revolution without incivility?
Would we have had the American Revolution without incivility? Would we have had the war to free the slaves without incivility? We weren’t civil to the Empire of Japan nor the Third Reich in World War II. We weren’t civil in arming indigenous revolutionary forces fighting the Soviets in the Cold War.
All of these initiatives came from uncivil conservatives, not civil liberals. Ronald Reagan understood this with every fiber of his being, best articulating his view in 1964, when he told listeners that they could “surrender” to the Soviet threat and thereby gain civility, if also slavery. But he said “You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.” Freedom and the struggle for freedom is often loud.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said of the elites, “They think, deep in their hearts, they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”
Sounds like somebody we know whose initials are Hillary Rodham Clinton. The rules don’t apply to her. The same can be said for Michelle and Barack Obama, as well as John Kerry, but also many Republicans. The essential difference in American politics today is between the insiders and the outsiders. Ronald Reagan was an outsider but his vice president, George H.W. Bush, was an insider. Thomas Jefferson believed in a “natural aristocracy” where men and women of ambition could climb to their highest level of achievement, without the heavy hand of nobility nor bureaucracy aiding them.
This is the essential difference in America today and 200 years ago. It is not where you came from. It is where you are going. It is the revolutionary belief in upward mobility and no one is preordained into a class or sect.
Thus, American conservatism—uncivil and intellectual, all at the same time—is the ultimate expression of Americanism. As Reagan said, “Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
Three cheers for American incivility.
Craig Shirley is the author of several Reagan biographies. His new book, “Last Act: The Final Years and Enduring Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” is due out in October.