Driving home tonight, I heard part of President Obama's speech at the memorial service for the victims of the Tucson shooting and liked what he said. He called for a new era of civility in American politics.
Nate Silver, one of the most savvy commentators on politics and current events, wrote:
President Obama’s speech in Tucson tonight seems to have won nearly universal praise. I suspect it will be remembered as one of his best moments, almost regardless of what else takes place during the remainder of his presidency.
...Mr. Obama’s decision to focus in some detail on the victims of the tragedy — not just Gabrielle Giffords but the others, and not just in a perfunctory way but in one that seemed heartfelt — showed a lot of dexterity for the emotional contours of the moment. And at times, his speech showed an intellectual dexterity as well. This passage, in which Mr. Obama refocused the discussion about civil discourse without trivializing the tragedy, struck me as especially strong:
"And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud."
l'm not a religious person. Still, I'll say Amen to that.
Here comes my But, though:
But it'll be interesting to see how strongly each opposing camp in our nation's warring political factions supports Obama's call to civility. My suspicion is that progressives will find it much easier to embrace "a more civil and honest public discourse" than Tea Party types and ardent right-wingers will.
After all, progressives haven't been bringing guns to political rallies and talking about Second Amendment remedies if governmental actions don't turn out as they desire. Insurrectionist violence, or the promotion thereof, has been a right-wing thing.
And progressives haven't done much, if any, disruping of meetings held by Congressional representatives, shouting down their elected officials and preventing a courteous discussion of public policy issues (such as how to deal with our health care problems) from taking place. Tea Party types have been guilty of this.
Nor have high-ranking Democrats been casting blatantly untruthful aspersions on the character and motivations of Republican party leaders. It has been Republicans who have calling Obama a "socialist" or "communist," denying that he is an American citizen, and asserting that he is a Muslim rather than the Christian that he is.
Finally (though I could keep going in this vein), it wasn't Democrats who were responsible for PolitiFact's Lie of the Year. It was dishonest Republicans, who termed the health care reform bill "a government takeover" when it wasn't that at all.
By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.
The phrase is simply not true.
Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: "The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.' "
As a progressive, I can confidently speak for my comrades (uh oh, now some rightie is going to think I'm a communist) on the left side of the political spectrum.
We're ready and willing to leave all mention of guns out of political discourse (along with political meetings), forego name-calling, and demand that domestic and foreign policy decisions in Congress be made on the basis of truthful facts and courteous open dialogue.
Are Republicans and Tea Party'ers willing to do the same? We'll see.
A good beginning next week would be for John Boehner to embrace the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office finding that repealing the health care reform legislation would add several hundred billion dollars to the deficit.
Honestly admitting that human-caused global warming is real, as some 98% of the world's leading climate scientists agree is true, would be another step forward by the Republicans toward "a more civil and honest public discourse."
I'll agree that both sides of the political spectrum have been guilty of incivility and lies. But I don't believe that the left has incurred the worst offenses. Regardless, Obama has correctly urged the nation to look forward, not backward.
Let's progress, with Democrats and Republicans equally committed to forming a more civil and honest United States.