Political Civility isn’t just about the Tone of Rhetoric

Clete Wetli, Contributor

As the nation mourns the loss of a hero and public servant, Sen. John McCain, there are many who have lauded his willingness to work in a bipartisan manner and his civility in public discourse. His passing in the age of Trump certainly highlights the importance of civility in political rhetoric, especially due to Trump’s prior disrespectful and boorish remarks about McCain’s time as a prisoner of war. In fact, Trump is not even welcome to attend McCain’s funeral and that speaks volumes about the despicable character of our current President.

America has seen tremendous change in the political landscape since McCain first ventured into politics in the 1980’s. It seems that in these last few decades, that our politics have become meaner, dirtier, more corrupt, more cynical, and dangerously personal. Since the media tends to focus on that trend, we’ve accepted it and we’re increasingly numb to it even when confronted with an ill-mannered, crass, ignoramus like Trump.

The focus always seems to be on the growing incivility of the rhetoric, but it’s the increasing incivility of conservative and Republican policies that should really concern Americans regardless of party affiliation.

Go ahead and pick an issue. Whether it’s trade or healthcare or civil rights or the environment or education, the new message of conservative Republicans is that you’re on your own and that unless you’re making some significant coin, you better get used to working a lot harder for less. Hell, they’re ready to turn space into a battleground so that they can exploit the natural resources of other planets simply to make more money. They are systematically rolling back civil rights and consumer protections and defunding public education. Their policies are atrocious, and some are downright evil.

Republicans used to have some positive core values and their policies, although arguably myopic, were somewhat digestible. Now, they are rotten with cruelty, racism, entitlement, and unquenchable greed at the deliberate expense of the unfortunate. Their brand of social Darwinism, Machiavellian ideology, and willingness to cheat, has polarized the country. They have proliferated a dangerous virus of propaganda that has infected their followers to the point that they don’t believe basic truths or understand what is happening right before their eyes. It is cultish and powerful. It is terrifying and absurd in our high-tech culture.

McCain seemed to be the last Republican that owned a moral compass or a backbone. That’s why he voted against the travesty that his colleagues attempted to pass off as a health care bill. It’s why he fought for campaign finance reform. It’s why he was not a party to those who bigots would disrespect Obama. McCain saw what the corruption was doing to his party and, sadly, he saw the culmination of its effects when Trump was elected. McCain realized that vitriolic rhetoric was only symptomatic of a far greater problem. The problem was that the Republican party platform and its leadership had been taken over by self-serving extremists. Folks who cared more about their own selfish enrichment than in the ideals that formed our country and kept it strong. Trump simply emboldened and empowered them.

Yes, the rhetoric is disgusting, but it’s Republican policies that seek to ensure that poor children have no healthcare. True, the rhetoric is vulgar, but it’s conservatism that would deny gay marriage and allow legal, institutional discrimination. Sure, the rhetoric is inexcusable, but it’s their policies that are sodomizing the American Dream.

Someone recently described the political polarization in America as a “cold civil war” and that’s fairly accurate if you can ignore the actual casualties caused by Republican policies. It’s not their unhinged rhetoric that should scare you anymore, it’s what they are doing and accomplishing.

As they continue to embrace Trump, they really should be forced to change their name. It does great disservice to men of character like Sen. John McCain when they call themselves Republicans. They all truly have become Republicans in name only.

The incivility of their language wounds us deeply, but it’s their policies that may kill the American Dream.

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