At the time, did anyone realize how quickly the idea of decorum and civility would itself be hooted down? GOP debate audiences cheer executions, resembling a thumbs-up/thumbs-down crowd in ancient Rome. Country singer Hank Williams Jr. — known as much for rambunctious behavior as forhis music — at least got canned for thinking it would be a good idea to reference the president and Hitler in the same line.
You expect more from the folks charged with being our leaders and the long list vying for the job. Instead Herman Cain calls unsupportive African Americans “brainwashed” — like the guy who tells the girl who rejects him that he didn’t like her anyway. (Now Cain’s having his own “girl” troubles.)
The only winners are the comedians. Jon Stewart’s job is easy these days. When GOP politicians bent over backward to praise the takedown of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi without giving an ounce of credit to President Obama, the clips said it all and got plenty of laughs because of the ridiculousness of it all.
I recently asked Jim Clyburn if he’s seen the tone change for the worse. An African American who lived through segregated times and fought to change them, the Democratic South Carolina congressman saw images of nooses faxed to his office and heard threats that weren’t kid stuff during last year’s vote on health care legislation.
“Of course it’s different; the whole world is different,” he said. “We didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have 30-second sound bites. People sat down and talked about things, people discussed things. Today everything is driven by the sound bites … We’ve redefined civility in this country, and we might as well admit that.
“There’s an old adage that you must fight fire with fire,” he added, “and that’s why I think that as long as people get away with it, then they’ll keep doing it.”
And that brings us back to Kaine and his Virginia race. His probable GOP opponent next year is George Allen. Remember, he’s the guy who lost his sure-thing Senate seat in 2006 after uttering an insult that left him persona non “macaca.”
According to the polls, he and Kaine are running neck and neck.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to The Root, Fox News Charlotte, NPR, Creative Loafing and the Nieman Watchdog blog. She was national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.