An "Other Views" piece headlined "It's worth giving civility a try before embracing extremism" in last Monday's Reflector argues for a stop to political incivility in favor of persuasive speech. The piece is part of the commentary spurred by several recent incidents of Trump administration officials having restaurant meals interrupted. But, from my view, the current wave of political incivility started long ago, in the early 1990s.
That was when Rush Limbaugh launched his dogged and dishonest trashing of President Bill Clinton. For his work, Limbaugh was named an honorary member of the Republican Congressional freshman class of 1994. And talk radio became laden with Limbaugh and his like, spewing misinformation and incivility across the land.
Later, anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist came along to harden D.C. Republican positions against health care and any other government programs that broadly benefit people. And when he was done with D.C., he turned toward the states. "We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," he said.
That all has led to today, when in the land's highest office we find the very embodiment of incivility — President Donald Trump. Commentary can hardly keep up with that fountain of insult and false statement.
But, in those stories of interrupted restaurant meals, we can find at least one example of civil — and perhaps even persuasive — speech. At lunch time July 1, a woman walked up to then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. With her young son in her arms, she said to Pruitt: "This is my son. He loves animals. He loves clean air. He loves clean water."
She then cited Pruitt's slashing of fuel emission standards, and his approval of a dirty tar sands pipeline in his cut-rate condo scandal.
She went on, "We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children. I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out."
Four days later, Pruitt resigned.