The cane attack of 1856
Mourning the death of civility in Washington — it's expiration date is olderthan you think
What has happened to civility?
It seems that commodity is in very short supply these days. Both Republicans and Democrats have been fighting it out over the oil spill, immigration, the economy and who Ali will choose on The Bachelorette. (OK, I made that last one up to see if you were paying attention).
Lack of manners is nothing new in Washington. Back in 1856, Preston Brooks, a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina, confronted Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts saying, “You have libeled my state and slandered my relation. And I feel it to be my duty to punish you.”
Brooks then went on and struck the seated Sumner across the head with his heavy cane. He continued to deliver blows on Sumner with the cane, who tried to fend them off with his arms. Sumner finally broke free and ran down the aisle of the Senate. Brooks followed him, breaking the cane over Sumner’s head.
Makes today’s rhetoric seem tame doesn’t it?
Here’s the thing I don’t understand: 32.9 percent of Americans now say they are not affiliated with either party, but consider themselves independent. (35.1 percent say they are Democrats while 32.1 percent identify themselves as Republican according to a survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports.)
So who exactly are the parties trying to reach? There are many disenfranchised voters in the middle that are watching and listening to the rhetoric, but where will their votes go? That’s an important question for Democrats and Republicans as they continue to fight in the political sandbox known as Washington.
One thing is for sure: Neither party seems to be making in-roads with endless bickering, threats and backroom deals. The number of independents continues to grow and the lack of civility cannot be discounted.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle should take a lesson from the movie Harvey in which Jimmy Stewart plays a delusional Elwood P. Dowd whose best friend is an imaginary six-foot-tall rabbit.
In the film, Dowd quips, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me”.
And I do.