R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Let me preface this thesis with an acknowledgement that the origin of two-party politics in the U.S.wasn’t all tea and cucumber sandwiches. In the 1790s, for instance, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, and Adams, in various groupings, would just as soon shoot each other rather than compromise. That is to say, the oft repeated notion that Washington (DC) and the nation are now more acerbically polarized than ever before may not in fact be true, and is likely just typical punditocratic hyperbole. That said, in terms of the last fifty or sixty years, it’s hard to imagine it being much worse than it is presently. There seems to have been a palpable change in the quality and quantity of vitriol coming from the Right, beginning with the election of President Clinton and advancing throughout President Obama’s tenure. Sure, most of us on the Left weren’t too kind when it came to W.  But we had good reason: he sanctioned torture, wiretapped citizens and started an illegal and immoral war…never mind stealing the election from our guy. The difference is, they hate our guys with the same vehemence even when they are doing the right thing.

There is something akin to a kindergarten sandbox scuffle about today’s GOP that makes one ashamed to be an American. The difference in character between the founders’ principled skirmishes over the ideological direction our fledgling republic would take and today’s hate-filled negation of one’s political adversaries, no matter the facts, seems to be the absence of respect. Among right-wing leaders and institutions, there has been an endemic breakdown of decorum. That is what this post is about…

…As such, I will not address the GOP’s incessant and shameless assault on the poor, especially during the last week or two; specifically, I am not interested in their attempt, with Mitt Romney’s endorsement, to cut the deficit by slashing Medicare and Food Stamps instead of eliminating corporate welfare and tax cuts for the rich. Likewise, I will not mention Mitt’s, Paul Ryan’s and the broader Republican Party’s utter lack of empathy for the human condition. Again, the objective of this post is merely to point out that the Right Wing in this country is being led by a bunch of disrespectful miscreants (Did I mention their lack of empathy for the human condition? I hope not, because that’s not what I’m writing about ;).

So…GOP leaders seem to gravitate toward the sensational and the lowest common denominator when referring to their opponents. The reason for this is clear: they don’t have the facts on their side, so they resort to character attacks. For instance, just last week, Rep. Allen West, R-FL, said that there were “between 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party” in the Congress. Apparently, according to West, the term Progressive is a euphemism for Communist. Ted Nugent, a rock musician who sits on the NRA board (and can therefore be characterized as a Republican leader) said on the air that come November, if the President gets re-elected, he (Nugent) will either be “dead or in jail.” There is really only one cogent way to interpret that statement, and it’s too offensive to further clarify herein.

Several weeks ago, and likely every other day since in some way or another, GOP mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh attacked the character of a young woman for speaking up for her right to have her health insurance, for which she pays a significant portion, provide her with low-cost contraception. Limbaugh immediately attacked her character instead of debating the merits of her position. Of course, that sort of thing is expected from such an egregious blowhard. But the truth is, he speaks for the Republican Party.

The examples I have described are admittedly extreme, but they are of the same character as more innocuous sounding instances of disrespect coming from the Right. Like the time House Speaker John Boehner wouldn’t let the President address Congress on the day he wanted, or the time that moronic Congressman Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar during a speech on healthcare. The reason why political adversaries Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan could spar all day over legislative matters and then share a drink at night was because they didn’t attack each other’s character, or dis each other publicly. They didn’t question each other’s patriotism or faith, or call each other a slut for that matter. I guess the take home is this: Once you call someone a slut, all bets are off and constructive discourse becomes impossible.