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Civility? Whatever. Capitulation? No Thanks.

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Civility in politics is -- pardon the anti-pun -- all the rage nowadays.

Go figure. I guess assassinating members of the ruling class tends to have that kind of sobering effect.

So everyone's talking nicey-nice, certain members of Congress will be sitting together during this week's State of the Union despite their differing party affiliations, and most (but not quite) everybody has avoided calling each other Nazis for a week or two.

That's cool. You know, I'm all for civility in politics. I've been disgusted and sometimes horrified at what has become of our national discourse these last decades. sh*t like a multi-draft-deferral war-avoider, for example, running for the US Senate by branding a triple-amputee Vietnam vet as weak on national security, an' all. Like that kind of incivility.

So yeah, can we and should we disagree more politely in American politics? How does whatshername put it? "'You betcha."

What I'm not down for, however, is civility that is actually a mask for capitulation.

Check out this sampling of headlines, from just one page (the front), of one newspaper (the New York Times), on one day (January 22, 2011):

"Obama Names G.E. Chairman To Fiscal Panel: A Pro-Business Signal by the White House"

"Tiny Species at Heat Risk, From Tropics to Peaks"

"Across Country, Lawmakers Push Abortion Curbs"

"In Tucson, Solace From Relatives of Past Killers"

"Olbermann Quits 'Countdown'"

"CUNY Professor Threatened"

Get the picture, here? If the right is all of a sudden feeling more inclined toward civility in their conduct of American politics, maybe it's because they've won every battle they've engaged in these last decades.

And if the "left" continues its pattern of "civility" in their conduct of American politics, maybe it's because that's the name they've given to what is in fact just capitulation to the right.

Well, strike that. There's no maybe about it, actually. That's precisely what's happened.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), (more...)
 
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