The Dirge Of Civility

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|| by Will Galloway ||

Clemson, S.C. – Seldom in the history of our country have we experienced such political turmoil as we are experiencing now. Admittedly, we have not had the ideological assassinations that plagued the 1960’s, and no members of congress have attempted to kill their colleagues on the floor as happened on the 22nd of May, 1856. What we are watching, however, is unrestricted warfare between our three branches of government, our two parties, and our ideological groups.

In Federalist No. 10, James Madison argues at great length that few phenomena are as dangerous to the health of the Republic as the faction. There is no greater danger than a group of individuals willing to sacrifice the rights of another group to advance an agenda. The Founding Fathers, Madison writes, were keenly aware of this and developed a series of safeguards to prevent factions from achieving real political power in America. Unfortunately, it seems that these safeguards are crumbling. And it is our own fault.

The undercurrent of opposition to republicanism in favor of direct democracy has existed throughout American History. Andrew Jackson and the Democrats of the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s as well as the progressive Republicans and Woodrow Wilson Democrats of the early 20th century. Trump, Sanders, Avenatti, Ocasio-Cortes, and Bannon are the ultimate heirs of this populism. While divided in style, aim, and policy, they are united in their opposition to traditional republican institutions in favor of directly democratic institutions (note: the systems of government of a Republic and a Democracy have nothing to do with the ideological differences of the Republican and Democratic parties).

We have crossed the Rubicon. The leadership of both parties now appears wage open war on the republican institutions that have held this country together as we faced Civil War, reconstruction, two World Wars, the specter of Soviet communism, massive internal strife, and Islamic terrorism. The Senate, the Supreme Court, the electoral college, separation of powers, and the Presidency are all under siege. As a country, we have left behind our admirable desire to drain the swamp of corruption to the reckless bloodlust for the destruction of our institutions.

When we despise our institutions, it is only natural for us to despise the individuals in office. The argument to “respect the Presidency and not the President” carries precious little weight when one does not believe the Presidency is an institution worthy of respect.

It’s all too easy to sing the funeral dirge of civility. We’ve had far too many rehearsals for far too long. It’s in the solution that the difficulty comes. We like to say that there aren’t simple answers for these questions, but in this case, there is a simple answer.

We must demand ethical government. We must demand statesmanship. We must demand decency. And we must not tolerate anything less. The standard must be made to be the standard. When a leader deviates from the standard, we must not let it pass. That is our solution, and we must apply it fully and faithfully.

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One comment

  1. It was so good to read this and have a refreshing sense of optimism towards our government. One comment I would add is your use of the word populism. Err on the side of caution with this label! It is continuously argued and contrastingly defined by political theorists and philosophers. One definition I have come to accept with evidence and support from his book, “What is Populism?”, is established by a German political theorist and professor at Princeton. His name is Jan Werner Mueller, and he defines populism and populists as a movement or group of people who seek to overpower perceived elites through the means of antipluralism against those who don’t prescribe to the accepted ideology or cause of “the people”. “The people” here is being defined as people who deem themselves morally superior to all others excluded from their movement, populists. Hope this helps!

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