Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Small Step for Civility

With all the (deserved) attention being paid to Barack Obama's victory speech, I was glad to see Tim Dickinson take note of John McCain's concession speech in his National Affairs blog for Rolling Stone. As Dickinson put it, "that concession speech was all class;" and I think one of the reasons is that, left to his own devices, McCain believes in the value of civility and takes his belief seriously enough to put it into practice. Realizing that he had nothing left to lose, he knew he could tell his political campaign "handlers" where to go; and I assume he did just that. The ironic result may well be that McCain's speech may have been the closest to "words from the heart" that we experienced in the entire campaign, because he was willing to put aside all trappings of suasive oratory (regardless of the objective of the suasion) to let us all know how he has come to terms with the outcome of the election.

Having said all that, however, I should also recognize that "Kristy from Louisiana" reminded Dickinson about those McCain supporters on the other side of the podium who booed just about every reference to the Democrats. It seemed as if McCain was the only one at that massive gathering willing to honor the phrase "loyal opposition;" and this led me to wonder if the general level of civility at Democrat gatherings was significantly higher than among the Republicans or if this distinction was just a bias of my own perception. On the other hand an observation less susceptible to bias showed up in Seth Bornstein's Associated Press report on the high voter turnout. He interviewed Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate at American University, who observed that party membership seemed to correlate with turnout level:

Breakdown by party voting also shows that Republican turnout rates are down quite a bit, while Democratic turnout rates are up, Gans said.

Republican states, such as Wyoming and South Dakota, saw turnout drop. "I think they were discouraged," Gans said.

Bearing in mind Obama's injunction to put aside cynicism, I still have to wonder if the motto of today's Republican party, as reflected by both civility in public gatherings and participating in the electoral process, is "I believe in democracy, as long as things get done my way!" This could well be the party that is already laying out plans for Sarah Palin to stand in the next Presidential election. If such is the case, then Obama would to well not to discard all cynicism and start watching his back, even before Inauguration Day!

1 comment:

Wes said...

Given that most of the moderate Republicans are gone, either forced out in primary battles by entrenched right wing ideologues (Lincoln Chaffee and Wayne Gilchrest come to mind) or defeated by a Dem as was Gordon Smith; given that Obama has chosen Rahm Emanuel, the House enforcer, for his Chief of Staff, I predict a more poisonous mood in Congress than ever.