Lincoln, Civility, and Reality TV
Would we be better off if members of Congress abandoned all vestiges of civility, and instead went after each other with a cruel barrage of insults?
This goes against our modern sense of how politics is supposed to function. In 2009, when a South Carolina Congressman shouted, “You lie!” as President Obama spoke, people were horrified. What has happened, we bemoaned, to civility in American politics? It’s bad enough that commentators are screaming at each other on Fox News, but now, in the House of Representatives?
But then, this past weekend, I went to see Lincoln. And to me, the most fascinating part was watching the Congressmen debating each other in the circa-1864 House of Representatives. These weren’t just any debates. Out of the mouths of these distinguished gentlemen came personal attacks and painfully clever barbs, which were followed by partisan roars of approval. Along with the cigars and spittoons, I almost expected to see these guys with frothy mugs of lager. They may as well have been at the pub.