What happened to civility?

Kenji Sugahara

Dick CheneyWith the Vice President saying "go fu#$ yourself," what happened to civility in the political process? It seems like long ago when politicians of opposing parties could be friends.

I miss the time when people could heatedly debate issues, but then go out for a beer. Politics should be like rugby- a fight on the field, but friends off the field. A lot of people think if you disagree with them, you don't like them. They take disagreement as a personal attack. Politics lost its professional edge and turned into a vindictive, juvenile, and often spiteful process. You see it in extremist ideologues who refuse to engage in intellectual debate but instead call people "unpatriotic" for disagreeing with them.

In Oregon, we shot ourselves in our proverbial foot when we passed term limits. We lost a lot of veterans who had forged relationships with the people on opposing sides. With those relationships lost, and with hordes of new ideologues being elected, the political process became divided. Even when terms limits were overturned, many of the veterans chose not to return to political life. You see the division in the ballot process. You see it when one party engages in unethical conduct to get another individual on a ballot in order to siphon off votes from another candidate. You see it in a population where people are divided on issues. Even on a national level you see politics losing focus on what really matters- jobs, healthcare, and education, and instead focusing on divisive issues such as religion, abortion, and gay marriage. Individuals now see politics as a vehicle for their own personal beliefs, instead of a vehicle for forwarding the interests of every Oregonian.

We need to look at ourselves and realize that we're all in this together. Sometimes, we need to laugh at ourselves. I hope that blogs like Blue Oregon can change this toxic environment and return us to civility.

  • Kitty (unverified)

    It seems like long ago when politicians of opposing parties could be friends.

    This is a common sentiment, but I'm afraid you're longing for good old days that probably never existed. Ask Alexander Hamilton.

    Jefferson himself started the mudslinging around, oh, Washington's second term in office. Early party politics were every bit as polarizing as they are today--perhaps moreso.

    About every four years, we hand the reins of power to a completely different set of people, and we do it without bloodshed. So far, so good. I completely agree that we could do better, but that's an opportunity to look forward with new ideas, not look backward to the old.

  • (Show?)

    Kitty- I agree with you 100%. Friendship might be stretching it, but a professional, cordial relationship shouldn't be.

  • brett (unverified)

    There's a difference between politicians themselves being friends, and citizens who hold opposing views being civil to one another. I must have read 100 of these "we're polarized, everyone hates everyone else" articles, but I don't see it in real life. Sure, there are nutjobs on both sides who refuse to be constructive, but I find that even the most virulent Bush-haters are usually open to reasonable conversation. Otherwise, I'd never be able to have a political discussion.

    Kitty's point is well-taken:

    About every four years, we hand the reins of power to a completely different set of people, and we do it without bloodshed.

    Think of the number of countries in the world where that isn't true.

  • Chris Bouneff (unverified)

    It's more than historical, as Kitty suggets, at least that's my theory. Politics has always been ugly and hits periods of polarization. See Civil War, for example.

    We're in a period where power is split pretty evenly. The percentage of the electorate that gives a rip is shrinking, a percentange I find myself identifying more with each election. The thrust for both parties is to raise as much money as possible to gain power and hold power. And to do that, you have to rip the other side (See Tom Delay on the right and Randi Rhodes on the left as examples). And you have to make your money people happy, which generally excludes compromise.

    That's a recipe for the type of polarization that we have today. One day, we will emerge only to fall into that trap again.

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