Civility Is Not the Way Through

Civility Is Not the Way Through

As a shell-shocked nation slides toward next week’s election, heart-felt cries for a return to “civility” represent wishful thinking in the face of a proto-fascist revival that grips the Republican Party.

Civility misses the mark; it would normalize conduct that must be condemned.

Resistance is showing success. In Florida and Georgia, Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams are strong candidates for governor. Win or lose their elections, they have shown that African Americans leaders in the Democratic Party can make convincing challenges to Republican domination in the South. They support LGBTQ rights and the broader civil rights revolution that Trump wants to roll back. They are open-minded about adult use of marijuana.

In Texas, Beto O’Rourke, an Anglo who grew up the border city of El Paso and speaks fluent Spanish, is leading the rebirth of the Democratic Party in that state with his run for the Senate against Ted Cruz, a reactionary Republican icon. His running mate — for the governor’s office — is Lupe Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas County and an out lesbian.

This is the stuff of transformation. Historically, Southern Democrats have pushed the party in a conservative direction, but these candidates are as progressive and urbane as their Northern counterparts. A unified and progressive Democratic Party can arise out of the ruins of the Trump administration.

Trump remains the same — open-air rallies of cheering enthusiasts repeat his crowd-tested rhetoric. His near complete focus on his pledge to “Make [White] America Great Again” shows that after nearly two years in the White House he has learned little.

The anti-Semitism in his coalition is now in the spotlight in the wake of the atrocity in Pittsburgh. California Republican Congressmember Kevin McCarthy last week tweeted, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA.” McCarthy’s reference to these big Democratic donors — each Jewish — was deleted the next day after a bomb was delivered to George Soros’ Westchester County? home. But McCarthy is no Tea Party kook; he is the second-ranking House Republican and a prime candidate to replace Paul Ryan as party leader when he exits Congress in January.

The 11 dead in Pittsburgh were shot with an AR-15, a military weapon that is sold to the public in the US only because the Republicans believe the Second Amendment stops the government from regulating fire arms sales. It would be a mistake for Americans — in the pursuit of civility — to stifle their anger about the GOP’s obstructionism on gun control. Since 1966, the Washington Post reports, 12,101 have been killed in US mass shootings where four or more people died. If robberies, gang battles, and family murders were included, the number would be much higher.

If the Obama administration proved anything it was that compromise with Republicans happens only sporadically and, even then, often with unproductive outcomes.

All the signs point to a new era. Where civil rights — including full equal rights for the LGBTQ community — are honored. Where health care is a right and some colleges are free, and the government works to keep housing affordable. Where a war on drugs is replaced by legal and regulated sale. Where police are required to respect black and brown residents. Where money for education increases and expensive foreign military interventions are rejected.

This is the path of progress and we can’t be certain a week out that this election will be our deliverance, but the signs are there. Even if the Democrats lose, they will keep fighting. Resistance requires that we persist.

Recent horrifying events — letter bomb mailed to ex-presidents, worshippers gunned down in a synagogue, the murder of two black senior citizens in a Kentucky grocery store, efforts to define transgender Americans out of legal existence, and a proposal to curb demonstrations in front of the White House — demonstrate there is no guarantee that progressives will win, but so far the good guys are looking formidable enough to bring justice back to the US.

The Pittsburgh slayer and the Florida bomber are drawn from a seething underground of racist bigots that the Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked for years — white terrorists who come from all walks of life and emerged from their underworld in the notorious 2017 Charlottesville hatefest. They have their own way of viewing the world and their own websites that feed their devotion to the cause of white Christian supremacy. SPLC takes exception to interpretations of events like Pittsburgh as the solitary act of a “lone gunman.” These men don’t operate in a vacuum, they have their social ties and their intellectual leaders who work to inspire group loyalty.

The SPLC website warns that the “slaughter of 11 innocent people” won’t halt this “vile rhetoric”; in fact what some will see as race-defending heroics will “stoke” their passions. Robert Bowers may face the death penalty for his alleged crimes at the Tree of Life Synagogue, but he will inspire his comrades. Being nice in the face of these proto-fascists won’t be a winning strategy.