Rad­i­cal Dems loosen ties to ci­vil­ity

Boston Herald - - OPINION - By RICH LOWRY Rich Lowry is ed­i­tor of Na­tional Re­view.

It’s doubt­ful that a former Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date has ever for­mally en­dorsed in­ci­vil­ity be­fore, but Hil­lary Clin­ton is ever full of sur­prises. In an in­ter­view on CNN, the erst­while ad­vo­cate of “If they go low, we go high” switched around to un­apolo­get­i­cally call for go­ing low. “You can­not be civil with a po­lit­i­cal party,” she ex­plained, “that wants to de­stroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that if Democrats re­take a house of Con­gress, well, then, “that’s when ci­vil­ity can start again.” Clin­ton’s state­ment is yet more con­fir­ma­tion of the rad­i­cal mood of the cur­rent Demo­cratic Party, not just in bless­ing tac­tics that once would have been anath­ema to the main­stream, but ques­tion­ing the le­git­i­macy of core el­e­ments of our sys­tem. The party’s base is just a few steps from be­gin­ning to give up on our com­mon na­tional life. Ci­vil­ity is a rather fun­da­men­tal thing to throw un­der the bus. It is the ba­sis of our po­lit­i­cal life, as­sur­ing that dis­agree­ments are set­tled within cer­tain bounds and don’t es­ca­late into blood feuds. This doesn’t mean that there can’t be in­tense ar­gu­ments, harsh con­dem­na­tions, pas­sion­ate con­tro­ver­sies and par­ti­san don­ny­brooks. Th­ese are all en­demic to a free so­ci­ety and very healthy things. It does mean that there are cer­tain widely ac­cepted guardrails. Yet this is now thought to be a sucker’s game from the at­tor­ney-provo­ca­teur Michael Ave­natti to the opin­ion out­lets of the cen­ter-left. Vox ran a piece that ar­gued, “Ci­vil­ity is not an end on its own if the prac­tices and be­liefs it up­holds are un­just.” In the Brett Ka­vanaugh de­bate, the nor­mal pres­sure points of the demo­cratic process (ral­lies and demon­stra­tions, phone calls to con­gres­sional of­fices, on­line, print and TV ad­vo­cacy) were deemed in­suf­fi­cient — se­na­tors had to be be­rated in the hall­ways, chased out of res­tau­rants and ha­rassed at their homes. By the way, none of the peo­ple treated this way were Don­ald Trump, who does so much to cre­ate raw feel­ings with his rou­tinely crude and in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric. The tar­gets were elected of­fice­hold­ers who serve in what is still the most dis­tin­guished leg­isla­tive body in the na­tion, and rou­tinely call each other “friend” and “col­league.” Asked on CNN if the ac­tions against her fel­low se­na­tors went too far, Mazie Hirono stood by the ha­rass­ment: “I think it just means that there are a lot of peo­ple who are very, very much mo­ti­vated about what’s go­ing on.” There has even been re­sis­tance on the left and in the me­dia to call­ing th­ese groups of ac­tivists by their proper name, “mobs,” be­cause it is con­sid­ered too pe­jo­ra­tive. But when you an­grily con­front some­one, es­pe­cially as part of a group, it car­ries an in­escapable whiff of phys­i­cal in­tim­i­da­tion. When you shout Ted and Heidi Cruz out of a Wash­ing­ton restau­rant, you aren’t try­ing to con­vince them of any­thing, you are merely abus­ing them. When you yell at Se­nate hear­ings and floor votes, you aren’t in­flu­enc­ing the process, but dis­rupt­ing it. Our sys­tem of gov­ern­ment is in­creas­ingly held in low re­gard on the left. The 2016 elec­tion was some­how stolen, and the mech­a­nism that gave Trump his vic­tory, the Elec­toral Col­lege, is il­le­git­i­mate. The Se­nate, which con­firmed Ka­vanaugh and gives small, red states the same rep­re­sen­ta­tion as large, blue states, is also il­le­git­i­mate. Fi­nally, the Supreme Court, now home to two Trump-ap­pointed jus­tices, is il­le­git­i­mate as well. That’s a lot of il­le­git­i­macy, all stem­ming from one lost pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Imag­ine if Democrats lose an­other? The fact is that if you be­lieve an in­sti­tu­tion is le­git­i­mate only if you con­trol it or it works in your fa­vor, you never truly be­lieved in its le­git­i­macy to be­gin with. Per­haps the Demo­cratic fever will pass if the party gains some power again, as Clin­ton sug­gested in her re­marks. But it’s no­table enough that one of our ma­jor par­ties is show­ing signs of con­tem­plat­ing a di­vorce from our sys­tem as it cur­rently ex­ists.

ALEX BRAN­DON / AP

OP­PO­SI­TION: Former Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton chal­lenged the le­git­i­macy of cer­tain parts of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

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