While gnashing their teeth over the silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor, people are ignoring a speech that Sen. Marco Rubio made shortly thereafter.
Writing in the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza applauded Rubio’s call for basic civility and deliberative debate. Looking at it from a different angle Conor Friedersdorf argued in the Atlantic that it was the opening salvo in Rubio’s 2020 presidential campaign.
If so, Rubio has a point. Truth be told, the Republican presidential nominating process was not an exemplary instance of public decorum and political civility. It was quite the opposite.
Cillizza and Friedersdorf extract some relevant passages from Rubio:
Turn on the news and watch these parliaments around the world where people throw chairs at each other, and punches, and ask yourself how does that make you feel about those countries?” Rubio said. “It doesn't give you a lot of confidence about those countries. Now I’m not arguing that we're anywhere near that here tonight, but we're flirting with it. We're flirting with it in this body and we are flirting with it in this country. We have become a society incapable of having debates anymore.
I don't know of a civilization in the history of the world that's been able to solve its problems when half the people in a country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.
We are reaching a point in this republic where we are not going to be able to solve the simplest of issues because everyone is putting themselves in a corner where everyone hates everybody.
What's at stake here tonight … is not simply some rule but the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before it.
In this country, if you watch the big policy debates that are going on in America, no one ever stops to say, “I think you're wrong, I understand your point of view—I get it. You have some valid points, but let me tell you why I think my view is better.” I don't hear that anymore. Here’s what I hear, almost automatically, and let me be fair, from both sides of these debates. Immediately, immediately, as soon as you offer an idea, the other side jumps and says, “The reason why you say that is because you say you don't care about poor people, because you only care about rich people, because you're this, or you’re that or you’re the other.” And I'm just telling you guys, we are reaching a point in this republic where we're not going to be able to solve the simplest of issues because everyone is putting themselves in a corner where everyone hates everybody.
No one will doubt that Rubio is directing his criticism against Donald Trump. Call it payback, if you will. Most politicians do not use the Trump scorched earth approach to presidential primaries. They understand that it's best not to vilify a senator whose vote you might need. To be fair, some of us recall that Rubio himself was not entirely decorous during the Republican debates.
Republican senators are voting for the Trump administration cabinet members, but some of them have not held their fire when it came to attacking the new president. Payback, anyone?
Nothing requires Democrats to play the same game. And yet, playing it they are… by obstructing anything they can obstruct, by harassing and trashing cabinet appointees and by promoting and supporting non-violent and even violent resistance. Now, progressives are invading the town halls of Republicans to shout them down.
Having declared themselves the sworn enemy of hatred, today’s Democrats have turned into a band of haters. Trump beat his political opponents soundly in the last election, but they still control the courts and a very goodly part of the federal bureaucracy. No one expected the 9th Circuit to do anything but rule against Trump, but the fact that the executive branch has been leaking like a sieve suggests that many of its employees do not feel loyal to the president or the nation.
How did we get to the point where the nation is divided by political party? True, some of the blame falls on Donald Trump, but he has only been in office for a few weeks and has only been in politics for some eighteen months.
We got to this point through the Age of Obama. If the nation and especially its political class is divided against itself, to the point where no one can respect the loyal opposition, the reason must be the cultural climate that was created by eight years of Barack Hussein Obama.
The Obama administration divided the nation by race and gender and ethnicity and sexual orientation. It diminished and demeaned the nation around the world, thus reducing national pride and also individual pride. The basis for civil debate is patriotism.
Obama atomized the nation and made white males the enemy. We cannot have a civil debate when the nation is at war with itself, when Jeremiah Wright’s vision of a race war has become everyday reality.
True enough, Donald Trump bears some responsibility. It comes with the office. And yet, ignoring the role that Obama played in producing this state of affairs bespeaks a political and cultural myopia.