The Need For Civility In Politics

Paul Schwartzman’s August 17th article “Presidential long shot pitches consensus in a bellicose age” falls short in its analysis of Rep. John Delaney’s campaign. As the only declared candidate of any party there seems to be dubious evidence that Delaney is a long shot for the presidency. If that was the sentiment at the Iowa State Fair then Schwartzman might have offered a quote to express what is clearly an opinion and not an objective statement about Delaney’s campaign. That said, Schwartzman does do a good job providing context to presidential ambitions by referencing then-Governor Carter’s 1976 campaign. Indeed it could be rather easily argued that most successful presidential campaigns have some quixotic element to their endeavors early on in their campaigns. Reagan was not assured victory in his first race, nor Clinton, nor W. Bush, nor Obama, nor Trump.

The article again could benefit from more context around the highlighted quote from an Iowa voter that calls for more “extremism.” Undoubtedly extremism and controversy sell more newspapers and increase advertising pricing for publications such as The Washington Post but it is irresponsible of journalists to play into increased popular ideological division that is in large part a product of the coverage that traditional media provides. It appears as though the individual occupying the White House arrived there in large part owing to billions of dollars worth of earned media coverage of his extremist, sensational campaign. It could well be argued that our nation would be less extremist and less divided had there been less front page real estate devoted to the hateful rhetoric of Mr. Trump; indeed there likely would be a different occupant of the White House had journalists given equal weight to measured, albeit more boring, discussion of policy ideas by responsible candidates.

The context provided by Schwartzman sometimes leaves more to be desired: he refers to Delaney’s quest as “fanciful” owing to his current position in the lower chamber instead of the upper chamber of Congress (omitting that as recently as Barack Obama has a sitting member of Congress successfully run for president) and then proceeds to place a defense attorney for a porn star on equal footing. The article later insinuates that Avenatti might be a more serious candidate than Delaney on the basis of inflammatory and bellicose language. It seems as though this article was written with a conclusion in mind and that the story was written to illustrate Schwartzman’s pre-determined conclusion. Delaney has attended many Meet & Greets in packed houses with audiences exceeding 50 people, of which it may be assumed Schwartzman either attended or at least was aware of, yet he chose to report on one low turnout event with six attendees to indicate that Delaney lacks support or momentum, giving further fuel to the “long shot” pre-determined conclusion espoused in this article.

Our country is in dire need of responsible politicians and responsible press. According to Delaney’s newly released book, The Right Answer, “the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans [is] wider than ever… [having] increased from 15 percentage points to 36” (p. 139-140). Delaney goes on to write that “In the past Republicans and Democrats differed on how to fix problems, but at least we could usually agree on what the most important problems were… we can’t even agree on that anymore.” The implications are profound. Weakly stands a house divided. Already America is losing ground to China as our 20th century super power status has devolved due to our own disruption of the Pax Americana with our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, to our increasingly isolationist policies, our reluctance to stand by our allies, and the aggressively populist overtones emanating from the presidential bully pulpit. America’s position in the league of nations is diminishing as we trade substance for misleading, subjective headlines.

Our great nation is in dire need of a responsible adult who can focus on attacking corruption head-on by opposing gerrymandering, who can stabilize the economy by fulfilling one of government’s primary roles: making sure that public services and infrastructure work, he offers solutions to our national debt crisis, and he is willing to engage in the act of governing without simultaneously engaging in demagoguery. The great enemy of the early 21st century is not constituted by external authoritarian actors in North Korea, Iran, Russia, or Turkey; it is domestic authoritarian tendencies, complicit profit-driven, sensationalist media coverage, and an increasing unwillingness to engage in dialogue with other Americans who disagree with us, Americans who we too often inaccurately portray as the enemy, that poses the greatest danger to our republic. America needs adults in the White House and in Congress who are willing to place our nation ahead of party politics and who are willing to lead. To date Delaney is the only candidate to have thrown his hat in the ring and he deserves our consideration as a thoughtful candidate with the courage to take a stand against the dominant narrative of hyper-partisan polarity that is plaguing our nation.