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Incivility in politics

Posted: January 24, 2012 12:01 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Voters here in Kershaw County and across South Carolina were subjected to an endless diatribe of political poison in the days and weeks leading up to Saturday’s Republican presidential primary. This endless vitriol is nothing new, of course, as the entire process seems to have degenerated into an endless bout of mud wrestling. If you need evidence that not many people in Washington are concerned about the direction of politics and civility, we’ll pass along an item that we discovered not long ago.

Mark DeMoss, a Republican businessman and political adviser who was concerned about the increasingly harsh tone of public discourse, launched the Civility Project three years ago this month. He and Democratic lobbyist and former Clinton aide Lanny Davis wrote to all 100 U.S. Senators, all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and all 50 state governors, asking each to sign a pledge promising, “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.”

Of the 585 people who received the message, exactly three replied. Three.

Two years later, DeMoss wrote to those three -- Independent Sen. Joseph Lierberman of Connecticut, Republican Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina and Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, also a Republican -- to inform them he was closing the project. “You three were alone in pledging to be civil,” Demoss told them. “I must admit to scratching my head as to why only three members of Congress, and no governors, would agree to what I believe is a rather low bar” to establishing better conduct in politics.

That is a sad commentary on where we are today, and on where we are headed.


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