Civility in Politics Today

Does incivility raise the question of declining political success in the United States?


Many of Donald Trumps hateful tweets have gone viral across twitter since his presidency started.

“Civility is the baseline of respect that we owe one another in public life,” says Keith Bybee, author of How Civility Works. The political views of the American people have often been divided, rarely more so than today. Has the dislike for the opposite ends of the spectrum gone as far as incivility?

Many of Donald Trump’s tweets provide examples of ignoring the rules of common decency and professional conduct when criticizing others.

“There’s a hatred between two sides to the point where you cant talk about politics at family gatherings, America is way to polarized as a society,” Lafayette history teacher Sean Smith stated. Many point to President Donald Trump’s tweets as examples of the death of civility in United States politics. “Trump’s tweets are 100% unpresidential, the way he communicates with the American public,” Smith states. Each end of the political spectrum has a strong dislike and distrust for the other side, which raises the question of political success in the country.

Donald Trump’s social media presence is easily seen through his 46.3K tweets.

A Lafayette teacher who wishes to remain anonymous, but whose experience in teaching history demands respect, defines civility in politics as “the ability to have an actual conversation with the other political side and actually listen.” Although he provides numerous counter-examples of this basic decency, a few of Donald Trump’s tweets make the point.  In August 2012, before he became president, he tweeted “@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.”  During his first year in office he tweeted, “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my button works!” and “Why would Kim Jung-un insult me by calling me “old” when I would never call him “Short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend- and maybe someday that will happen!”

Social media makes it easier to spew powerful anger all across the world in a short period of time, reaching everyone from world leaders and average citizens, leading us into conflicts within our country as well as with the rest of the planet.

Trump stated, “In recent days we’ve had a broader conversation about the tone and civility of our national dialogue. Everyone will benefit if we can end the politics of personal destruction.” A fine sentiment, but one not upheld by his daily tweets.  In stark contrast was former president George W. Bush, who stated clearly, “And I ask you to join me in setting a tone of civility and respect in Washington.”

Is this a time or restore civility or be uncivil? For many people, civility has different meanings; if we were to restore civility as a whole, who would redefine it? Would we have win-win solutions for both parties if we had rules of civility? New research indicates that incivility destroys public approval ratings for politicians. A prime example of this is the fact that the more Trump insulted others, the lower his approval ratings went, even with his conservative base. If our leaders provided more examples of civil conduct in politics it could help the general population that is now so polarized.