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OPINION: Civility in local and national politics

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Athens mayoral candidates Damon Krane (left) and Steve Patterson debate at Bentley Hall. Photo by Tim Zelina

Opinion writer Zach Richards, a sophomore studying education, argues that civility in politics isn’t that important most of the time, but it should not be disregarded entirely.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

Ever since President Donald Trump’s campaign — and subsequent win — a lot of people have noted and criticized his rhetoric.

His rhetoric seemed to be the tipping point for a lot of anti-Trump conservatives who denounced the uncivil nature of his campaign and the name-calling that was prominent throughout the 2016 Republican primary and his presidency.

One of the key talking points against him has been his uncivil nature, leading to a broader discussion about what role civility should play in politics. However, many on the far-left think it should be ignored entirely.

People like Damon Krane, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist challenging Mayor Steve Patterson in the Athens mayoral race, has generally disregarded civility for civility’s sake. This is part of a larger trend some have referred to as the dirtbag left, with the most prominent example being the figures behind the podcast “Chapo Trap House.” The dirtbag left consists of far-left figures who eschew civility and attack Republicans for being evil and the center-left for being too spineless to stop them.

The pamphlet handed out by members of the Krane campaign refers to the Republican party as a fascist nightmare, and Krane has repeatedly attacked Patterson for attracting Republican and landlord support even if he’s not a Republican himself. 

A more moderate person might praise Patterson for attracting bipartisan support in a polarized climate. However, from the point of view that Republicans are literal fascists, attracting bipartisan support means courting the votes and support of fascists.

Many people on the far-left, and even some on the center-left, agree with Krane that Republicans are a fascistic party, and compromising with them is essentially granting legitimacy and power to the evil far-right. In their minds, people trying to find a middle ground between good and evil are still doing evil.

That’s why Krane has eschewed civility, and on his Facebook page, he doesn’t have reservations on attacking those who disagree with him.

For example, no one would argue that Ellen DeGeneres is a right-wing person. Proponents on the center-left and center-right have praised her friendship with George W. Bush on the idea that, in partisan times, it’s great to see these two get past their political disagreements and be friends. However, Krane doesn’t hold back against the center-left either and criticized DeGeneres for forming an upper-class solidarity with someone he perceives as a war criminal. 

In case you thought that moneyed liberals eagerly throwing their professed values under the bus and aligning with…

Posted by Damon Krane on Thursday, October 10, 2019

 

He doesn’t hold back against Patterson for courting Republican support, writing on Facebook, with an attached picture labeling Bob as a Republican and Sally as a Democrat, “Bob and Sally live in Athens and are both voting for the same mayoral candidate. Many other Athenians are done with Bob and Sally’s bulls–t and are voting for the independent left candidates for Council & Mayor.”

 

Bob and Sally live in Athens and are both voting for the same mayoral candidate. Many other Athenians are done with Bob…

Posted by Damon Krane on Saturday, October 19, 2019

 

He has also attacked Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg, a candidate generally supported by the center-left of the party. “I like Buttigieg much more on those occasions when he doesn’t sound like a complete right-wing bootlicker,” Krane wrote in a Facebook post.

 

I like Buttigieg much more on those occasions when he doesn't sound like a complete right-wing…

Posted by Damon Krane on Friday, October 18, 2019

This is just part of a larger question: Does civility matter? Many on the far-left have given up on civility, thinking that defeating fascists at all costs is more important than treating them with respect. However, it may be foolish to give up on civility entirely.

About 46% of the electorate — over 60 million people — voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Whether these people are evil fascists or not, they’re here to stay. The partisan gap is widening between the two parties. Trust in institutions is at an all-time low. 

The electability argument, that Democrats need to be more civil to avoid turning off moderate voters, is questionable at best. After all, Trump, the epitome of uncivil behavior, won the election. Democrats shouldn’t be civil to win elections. Democrats — and Republicans — should be civil because it’s the right thing to do, and it follows a fundamental rule of treating others how you’d like to be treated.

At the same time, though, the far-left has a point that civility for civility’s sake is the wrong way to look at things. It’s unreasonable to expect a persecuted minority to act civilly towards a group that is taking away their rights, for example. 

The far-left also has a point that civility isn’t even that important in the grand scheme of things. While civility is preferable to nastiness, a dedicated person could probably list hundreds of things Trump has done that are more worthwhile of criticism than the mean names he calls people he disagrees with.

It’s important for people to act with respect and civility toward the people they disagree with. At the same time, there are issues like healthcare and climate change where the wrong approach will actually kill people. These issues are far more important than bipartisan friendship.

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