Trump needs lesson in political politesse
Gov. Greg Abbott finally distanced himself recently from President Donald Trump in two very distinct ways.
First, he bristled against Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs, noting that such a move would hinder oil and gas production in the state.
Second, and perhaps even more importantly, Abbott reportedly voiced his dissension in a “carefully worded letter.” Careful wording does not normally exist on our president’s palette.
Of course, when the preponderance of his thoughts are transmitted via Twitter, maybe Trump doesn’t have space for such lagniappe as politeness, syntax, grammar, NOT TYPING IN ALL CAPS or expressing clear, contemplative thoughts.
Trump seems to care little about civil discourse, and he’s far from alone. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters inflamed many people when she urged a crowd to harass any members of the Trump administration spied trying to act like a normal person (e.g. getting gas, eating dinner, talking on a burner phone to a Russian operative). “Tell them they’re not welcome,” the famously demure congresswoman insisted.
Trump, with his usual aplomb, responded by calling Waters “an extraordinarily low IQ person” in an awkwardly constructed tweet.
The new rally cry of the socially retarded comes from former Trump Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, with his sardonic “womp, womp” game show pastiche in describing opposition to separating illegal immigrant families. Another man, obviously skilled in the art of persuasion, tried to shout down an Alabama protest on immigration policy June 30 by hollering “womp, womp” during a benediction.
The man, former high school teacher Sean Ryan Sealy, was arrested — not for First Degree Jackassery, but for the gun tucked into his cargo shorts (much like the idiot after the shootings in Santa Fe). Guns and cargo shorts being the latest in prêt-à-porter for unbalanced simpletons, replacing Crocs footwear.
Waters’ call to confrontational arms, of course, was inspired by the defenestration of presidential spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders from a Virginia restaurant. The next day, Sanders called out the owner of the place, claiming the expulsion said “more about her than about me.”
At least Sanders responded in a passive-aggressive manner. One man’s passive-aggressive behavior is another’s politeness. The name-calling and lowbrow attacks of current political theater almost makes that genteel.
Disagreement, of course, is the lifeblood of politics. And the discourse in the country is not quite as vitriolic as when Preston Brooks smacked fellow Sen. Charles Sumner with a walking stick 162 years ago.
But the current war on dignity rages on many fronts. It’s not just name-calling, but a lack of basic human respect for others who happen to disagree with us. The current fashion, though, is simply juvenile and counterproductive. And unfortunately comes from the top down.
Trump is an extraordinarily visible and egregious offender. His oafish demeanor on Twitter and on the stump engenders no respect and belies any description of the man as a statesman. Picking your audience is the essence of effective discourse. When that audience is the whole of America, maybe err on the side of caution.
Trump’s absence of decorum has seeped into all levels of political discussion and commentary. There are multiple incidents nowadays that should make Americans clutch their collective pearls while murmuring “I don’t believe I’d have said that.”
Instead, we all seem to get on board with a lack of discretion, especially in the somewhat anonymous (though not to the NSA) online sphere. The shortterm society of the internet has been abuzz recently with this topic of civility. But like many other facets of modern life, by the time you read this, the online ether may have already reset to a playground where everyone eventually calls each other “Hitler.”
Anger, our current default political milieu, often can be helpful but just as easily cloud a message. In any debate, the first person to raise their voice loses.
There are ways to disagree without being disagreeable. And there’s a certain expectation of civility when considering Texas, named after the Caddo word for “friend,” and etiquette lessons learned at the fence post rather than from Emily Post.
But then, it wasn’t that long ago that Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s own Twitter feed called Hillary Clinton an unrepeatable and extremely bad word (blamed on a third-party vendor, implying that Miller can’t fake his own tweets). Also West University Place Councilwoman Kellye Burke, who felt it appropriate back in April to spout vulgarities at teenage girls over a MAGA T-shirt.
We seem to be losing our collective composure in an accelerating fashion.
In that regard, it was refreshing to see that Abbott took his time to parse his words in disagreeing with the president. Not to mention that the governor’s tweets are blissfully free of déclassé insults and an overuse of exclamation points.
Given that the recent Texas Republican Convention offered up rhetoric about fealty to the president, maybe we should have been surprised that Abbott was willing to express dissent in the first place. But our governor was correct, if a little narrow, about the harmful impact of anti-free market tariffs. It’s also not exactly “running the country as a business,” as some unduly give credit to Trump.
Perhaps Abbott should disagree with Trump more often. And not just to teach him how to do so like an adult.