Where’s the civility in this age of political rage?
Basic courtesy at a political rally, as Barack Obama called for recently, feels like a big ask at a time when actual violence and threats of actual violence are being perpetrated in the name of politics.
As Paul Pelosi lies in a hospital bed in San Francisco, recovering from a horrific attack in his home by a conspiracy-obsessed, pro-nudist drug addict who wanted to break Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps, former President Barack Obama was in Detroit, begging for “civility.” Heckled by a pair of Donald Trump supporters, Obama first tried pleading. “Sir, sir…come on. This is what I mean, I mean we’re having a conversation.”
Then, ever the professor, he attempted to teach them a lesson.
“There is a process that we set up in our democracy,” he said. “Right now I’m talking, you’ll have a chance to talk sometime later.”
Then he tried another approach, pointing out that shouting people down wasn’t productive. “It’s not a good way to do business,” he said. “You wouldn’t do this in the workplace…”
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Finally, one last exasperated effort: “Just basic courtesy and civility works.”
All evidence to the contrary. In the days after the politically-motivated attack on Pelosi, Don Trump Jr. posted a disgusting joke about a Paul Pelosi Halloween costume.
Two days after promising the Twitter platform he now owns will not become a “free-for-all hellscape,” Elon Musk posted (and later deleted) a right-wing quack conspiracy theory about Pelosi’s sexuality.
On Monday, Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake joked about the Pelosis’ lack of security in San Francisco, to laughs from the crowd.
“Basic courtesy and civility”? What are those things?
Too few seem to know or care these days, and Obama’s words feel sadly anachronistic, of another era, like vestigial organs we’ve left behind.
Basic courtesy at a political rally feels like a big ask at a time when actual violence and threats of actual violence are being perpetrated in the name of politics.
Just to name a few:
A federal magistrate judge has faced a barrage of death threats from Trump supporters after signing off on the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago for classified documents.
So too have FBI agents, law enforcement, Department of Justice and government officials in the wake of executing that search, after Trump and his surrogates blamed the so-called “deep state.”
Congressman Adam Kinzinger released a compilation of voicemails and phone calls to his office that threatened him and his family, including his newborn baby, all because he sits on the committee investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said her office cannot keep up with the “astronomical” number of death threats she receives.
Officials are warning of a shortage of election workers this year due to a rise in threats against people performing those jobs since Trump targeted election workers in 2020.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of public health officials resigned due to threats from Trump supporters over mask mandates and vaccines.
Several men were convicted in connection with a kidnapping plot against Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, motivated by her handling of the pandemic.
And more than 900 have been charged in connection with the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
It would be wrong to say there’s no violence on the left-wing fringes, but there’s no mystery as to what ties all of these cases together: Trumpism and right-wing extremism. The steady flow of conspiracy theories, election denialism and violent rhetoric spewing out of MAGA world, right-wing media, and even members of Congress has turned jobs like lawmaker, judge, intelligence officer, poll worker, public health official, Capitol Hill staffer and journalist into life-risking endeavors.
Conspiracy theories like the ones Pelosi’s attacker posted online are promoted not only by Trump-supporting QAnon, but regularly by Republican candidates, media personalities like Lara Logan and Trump himself.
Violent rhetoric is coming not just from basement-dwelling, anonymous online cretins but from the highest of places, from Rep. Paul Gosar’s post of a video depicting AOC’s assassination to Fox News host Jesse Watters’ attack on Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Election denialism isn’t a fringe idea anymore, but a hallmark of the Republican Party and right-wing media. It’s what drove hundreds of Trump supporters to storm the Capitol yelling “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Where’s Nancy?” — the same thing her husband’s attacker would ask nearly two years later.
This fetid melange of right-wing hate is radicalizing Americans in every corner of the country, and Trump is counting on it to keep his supporters loyal, angry and vengeful.
By all accounts, it’s working. According to one recent poll, 30% of Republicans believe that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” Among people who believe Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, it’s 40%.
This is terrifying, and there’s no sign Republicans are willing to abandon Trump and jettison the conspiracy theories, violent rhetoric and election denialism that comes with Trumpism any time soon.
So I’m afraid “basic courtesy and civility” will have to wait.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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