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What’s Civility Got To Do With It?

In today's election to replace Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, civility will reign only if the Democrat wins -- according to the usual suspects.

By 6.12.12

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Today, voters in Arizona's 8th Congressional District choose a new Representative to succeed Gabby Giffords, who stepped down in January to take further time to recover from the injuries sustained in the shooting that nearly took her life a year earlier. Former Giffords' aide Ron Barber is favored to win the vote over Republican Jesse Kelly, who mounted a tough challenge against Gifford during the 2010 mid-term elections. Barber was among those wounded in the attack, which claimed the lives of six people.

I was struck by the following headline from CNN concerning this special election:

Is civil discourse possible in race to replace Giffords?

The end of the lead paragraph states that today's election is being viewed as "taking the temperature of the nation's political discourse."

Well, let me answer a question with a question. What's civility got to do with it?

In the wake of the Tucson shooting, the mainstream media fell all over themselves casting the Tea Party and Sarah Palin's electoral map with gun sights as public enemy number one. This despite the fact that the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, had no involvement with the Tea Party much less was a supporter of Palin or any other Republican. But since when does the mainstream media let the facts get in the way of a narrative?

Then there was President Obama's address at the University of Arizona, Tucson. "It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds," said the President. Of course, this was before his re-election PAC accepted a $1 million from Bill Maher. Those words of wisdom came with a waiver.

But those words of wisdom were also utterly meaningless. Gabby Giffords wasn't shot because of the level of political discourse in the United States. She was shot because of the deranged thoughts of a madman who, had he resided in a neighboring district, might very well have set his sights on a different elected official. If Loughner had shot a Republican Congressman would the President have even bothered? Would the mainstream media have asked about civility?

They certainly didn't ask about civility when it came to the recall referendum in Wisconsin. If the mainstream media truly wants to take the temperature of political discourse in the United States, it ought to have set it sights 1,800 miles east of Tucson. Where were the calls for civility from the mainstream media when Jesse Jackson compared Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to the late segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace? Where were the calls for civility from the mainstream media when one Wisconsin union leader likened Walker's budgetary reforms to the attack of September 11, 2001? Where were the calls for civility from the mainstream media when an angry recall activist slapped Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett across the face after he lost to Walker? And where were the calls for civility from the mainstream media when liberal activists took to Twitter to call for Walker's assassination following his victory? 

As it stands, if Barber wins as expected then the mainstream media will proclaim this election a triumph for civility and how it represents everything that is good about America. Speaking of good, they will also try to spin Barber's victory into good news for President Obama in terms of public acceptance of his policies and how he might have a chance to carry Arizona in November. However, if Kelly should upset Barber then we will be treated to stories on the divisiveness of his campaign and how his victory has sullied civility and set it back half a century. Of course, the only thing that would have been sullied is the mainstream media's hopes for a Democrat victory in Arizona's 8th.

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.