Where Did Civility Go?

Lack of civility and compromise in ou government is contrary to our history as a country.

In only a few weeks we will finally no longer hear “I am [insert name] and I approve this message” – regardless of political affiliation, you have to be looking forward to regaining control of your TV from, candidates, PACS ,Super PACs and special interest groups or individuals.

There was a time when even in the heat of a campaign civility between candidates and their minions was the norm not the exception. An old friend, (and in truth we disagreed on many issues but really respected and more important liked each other), former Rep. Joe Knollenberg told me, take away the cameras and microphones and we do really like each other and do work together. Think about who the first person to reach Ted Kennedy was when he collapsed at the Inaugural Luncheon in 2009. A Conservative Mormon from Utah and a Liberal Catholic from Massachusetts. they fought like mad on the Senate floor but had one of the greatest friendships in Senate history.

Why have we lost that ability to be civil and respect each other’s views, whether we agree with them or not. Have ideologues totally captured our political system? And I mean both right and left since both extremes are guilty. 

While I have views on candidates and certainly will let you know them over the next few weeks, I am extremely concerned about the tenor of the political debate in the media and more important how we are treating each other where we disagree. The Presidential and Vice Presidential debates may have sounded rancorous but in fact, there was a degree of civility to them, though at points, they did get awfully close to the limits.

While not intending to give a history lesson, we can go back to the Constitutional Convention to see how civility and compromise among people of different views  came to play an important part in the formation of the government we still have – the very establishment of a bi-cameral legislature and how it was organized is an example  of compromise and throughout our history, till recently.

The respect and civility that has been a hallmark of our system of government, no longer exists and without it we have more serious problems than even opposing views; without it the ability to work together and yes, to compromise with each other for the best interests of the country or state is lost and with that the hallmark of our system of government is in jeopardy.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

D Padalis October 19, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Why do people try to characterize current campaigns as being the nastiest? Really not true. The Constitutional Convention is unique in tenor, not characteristic. For example, in the 1828 race between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Jackson was accused of being a murderer and being a cannibal. And his mother was accused of being a prostitute. Clearly beyond what is currently said. Heck, when JFK ran it was said that the Pope would run the country. There are plenty of examples in history. No it is not worse now, probably just more publicized.
Dick Jaeger October 20, 2012 at 01:08 AM
The point of my comments was not the tenor of the campaigns but the inflexability to compromise by both the right and left in Congress and state legislatures. Which diasgree if you must has been a tenet of our system of government since the Constitutional Convention. I do agree that the negative aspects of campaigning do get much more publicity today and hopefully most voters see them for what they are and seek out the facts before casting a ballot.
Bryce October 20, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Dick: In recent years, common courtesy and civility is lacking in society in general. Election campaigns are a reflection of the electorate in general. Seldom does one hear, "Pardon me" or Excuse me" these niceties are replaced by "Hey!" Our entire culture has been "ruded down" and what was once unacceptable has become the norm. Why should our politicians feel the need to act differently? For if they do so, someone will assign an unflattering label to them.
Dick Jaeger October 20, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Bryce, I understand completely where your coming from but would ask you to consider two points. First, that fact that we as a people are losing some of the niceties of social interaction that we had does not make it right. It may be a fact of life but not necessarily a good thing. Second, the point of my comments was not the current campaign, though i certainly see how it could be taken that way, but the way our legilators at all levels have become so ideologically polarized that the ability to reach a concensus or compromise is becoming more and more difficult and the tone of debates - in Congress and State Legislatures more and more lack the civility that was a hallmark of our country's history. Much as I have enjoyed sitting in the gallery of the House of Commens in London, their approach to debate, is not what you and I would what to see in Congress, with catcalls and booing from the opposite bench in a hardly decorous manner.


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