Caprio: The final death knell of political civility?
It's just days until the election, and we've reached that inevitable point in the cycle when every American, Democrat or Republican, red or blue, left or right, longs for a little bit of peace.
Candidates' vicious attack ads blanket the airwaves and their negative comments at campaign stops takes on a fever pitch. Voters' online comments, already a vehicle for hate, boil over with poisonous bile. Many in the media, guilty of focusing too much on the biggest fights, ratchet up such coverage even more.
The apex of this biennial bout of incivility was reached Monday--though with six more days until the election, it may yet be topped--when Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio said President Obama could take his endorsement and "shove it." Or actually, his lack of one. Caprio, the White House maintains, asked for an endorsement, but Obama chose not to give one to any of the candidates, out of respect to Caprio's independent opponent Lincoln Chafee, who has supported Obama in the past. As a result, Caprio was roundly criticized in last night's gubernatorial debate by his opponents--even those who oppose the president.
As he should have been. No matter how fight-hungry the media may be, no matter how vicious voters' comments can get, no matter how ugly the attack ads--long an accepted, if despised, forum for incivility in the electoral process--most people expect a certain amount of decorum from their leaders, even as it continues to dwindle in supply.
Caprio, who Republican opponent John Robitaille called out for behaving like a "petulant little child" and not respecting the president, is hardly alone in such behavior. The list of offenders is disturbingly long, though incidents like South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie" (cried during the president's 2009 address) comes to mind as the most notable. And lest we forget, similar outbursts are not a one-sided phenomenon; such behavior toward George W. Bush was all too commonplace.
I am hardly the first to mourn the loss of civility in the political sphere--its absence has become so expected, so complete, in our democratic process that bemoaning it feels trite and almost comical. Forgive me. I believe there is a line that Caprio and others like him cross where the attention they receive will hurt them and, ultimately, all of us as the process becomes further denigrated. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think it's too late to expect elected officials to meet a now very low bar of respect, civility and courtesy in order to be named leaders. If they aren't able to reach it, they don't deserve to be called one.
October 27, 2010; 11:55 AM ET |
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