The Morning After: Searching for Civility in Politics
After Governor Romney conceded, President Obama gave a
speech encouraging Americans to be civil to each other. Unfortunately, civility was in short supply
in the hours preceding that speech. In a
tragic turn of events, disputes on election day progressed into violence.
- In Detroit, an Obama
in a voter in the face.
- Also in Detroit, a Republican poll watcher in Detroit was threatened with a gun.
- 75 Republican election officials in dozens of wards throughout Philadelphia were physically assaulted by Democrat election judges to remove them from polling places. (So much for the ‘city of brotherly love.’)
In those cases, the disputes could not be resolved peaceably between the two parties. Other avenues had to be pursued, and law
enforcement was needed to restore civility.
The aggressive campaigner was arrested.
The Republican poll watcher called 911.
Lawyers went to court to get an order to reinstate election officials
with police security to protect them.
Hopefully Americans actually listened to what Obama said
later that night. President Obama thanked
those “held an Obama sign or a Romney sign.” He said he would speak with Romney about how
to work together. In calling for cooperation
across the aisle, he did recognize the divisive state of the country by saying:
Democracy in a nation of 300
million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each
of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make
big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up
Those on the left talk a lot about civility as if only those
on the right are uncivil. This is not
the first time Obama has called for civility.
In the wake of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, Obama said,
“a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges
as a nation.” In August, a Georgetown
Law student was invited to the ABA’s Annual Meeting in Chicago to discuss “a
Law Student’s Encounter with Incivility” when conversations about the HHS
mandate disintegrated into ad hominem attacks. It soon became Democrat talking points to slam Republicans for not being civil.
As Obama observed last night, politics is passionate. But being
swayed by one’s passions is not how a lawyer, a Supreme Court justice or a
president should act. Judge Michael
Mukasey wisely told
law school graduates, an attorney must engage in “dispassionate and reasoned
During the most divisive time in our nation’s history – The Civil
War – Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican lawyer said, “We are not enemies,
but friends. Though passions may have
strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”
On November 6, some let their passions run amok. Let’s not let November 7 be the start of our next