Needed in Politics: Our Better Angels

In a commentary about the current state of the Democratic Party, Fox New politics editor Chris Stirewalt writes, “Democrats have come in for a great deal of mockery over a silly promotion in which supporters were asked to vote on their preferred slogans for campaign stickers. One of the options was, “I mean, have you seen the other guys?” This is some undeniably weak sauce right there. It probably only reflects the foolish, stale snark of some poor intern tasked in finding a way to flog the same donors for another $5.”

Stirewalt later writes, “One of the main drawbacks to “have you seen the other guys” as a campaign strategy is that eventually you might succeed and then you are the “other guys.” And unlike more positive campaigning of the past, you arrive with no mandate other than not being as detestable as someone else. Moreover, it’s hard to really show yourself as the less detestable one if all you do is carp.”

Although Stirewalt specifically mentions the Democratic Party, he could easily be talking about the Republican Party.

I shake my head whenever political partisans proclaim, “Our guys may be bad, but the other guys are worse!” It is as if each side believes that it is somehow morally superior to the other.

When it comes to claims of moral superiority, I keep in mind two passages in the Tanakh (a.k.a. Old Testament):

Psalm 14:2-3: “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Ecclesiastes 7:20: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.”

According to these Tanakh passages, it isn’t false equivalence to say that Democrats and Republicans are morally equal. So, I reject a holier-than-thou attitude coming from either Democrats or Republicans. Such an attitude is foolish and does nothing to promote civility in political discourse.

Regarding civility in the current state of American politics, David Plazas writes the following:

“Civility is in decline in the United States and Americans know it, but few think they can — or want to — do anything about it.

Surveys and polls taken over the last few months show that people are facing a harder time having polite political conversations with those who disagree with them.

Further, they are concerned that the growing incivility in politics — the screaming, the name-calling, the social media confrontations — leads to bullying, intimidation and, worse, violence.

The June 14 tragedy involving a former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign volunteer who shot and seriously injured people, including a member of Congress, at a House Republican baseball team practice outside Washington, D.C., is a manifestation of that concern.

A few days later The New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote: “For more and more Americans, the other side isn’t merely misguided in the extreme. It’s evil in the absolute …”

Efforts hoping to turn the tide face an uphill battle as people are increasingly growing comfortable in their echo chambers or retreating from discussing politics all together save for when there is a tragedy.

These stances are dangerous for democracy, which is sustained by active participation in governance at the local, state and federal levels, and that often requires conversation, compromise and cooperation.”

Plazas’ observation about the state of American politics is echoed in this statement by the bipartisan network Better Angels:

“We’re becoming several Americas, each a stranger to the others and each increasingly hostile to the others. Each America today views its political adversaries as enemies whose ways of thinking are so harmful and alien as to be incomprehensible. This degree of rancor and mistrust threatens our democracy.”

Better Angels also states “Surely in our increasingly and dangerously fractured nation – liberals and conservatives detesting one another, the upscale minority increasingly isolated from the majority, and the ruled holding the rulers in growing contempt – we all need to be touched by something “better” within us and within the institutions that we build together.”

This appeal to one’s better angel comes from the ending of President Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Even if we have failed to use our better angels when discussing politics (as I know that I have certainly failed), it isn’t too late for us to do so.

Weekend Caption Contest™ Winners Week of July 7, 2017
  • Retired military

    Needed in Politics: Our Better Angels

    Here let me fix that for you

    Needed in Politics: Moderates who are honest about what they are. Democrats who don’t want to be called liberals.

  • Wild_Willie

    The lack of civility begun in the sixties and have gotten increasingly worse with each decade. Work ethic. Morality. Integrity. These things are in the past of today’s generation. ww

  • Those were the old rules, formerly observed by the Republicans and ignored whenever they proved inconvenient to the dhimmocrats. These are the new rules. We punch back twice as hard.

  • jim_m

    Please. Political violence is almost exclusively the province of the left. After the Baseball shooting the left erupted in accusations that the repulicans deserved it, more than one dem has come out saying that they wish that Scalise had died.

    There are no comparisons from the right. NONE.

    This is not: look how bad the other guys are. This is simply pointing out that the left has been fully taken over by fascists and the few who are not are more than happy to go along with the black masked thugs in the streets rioting in their name.

    Your whole article minimizes political violence from the left and excuses it completely. You should be ashamed of yourself. I really don’t care what the excuse is of your medical condition, it doesn’t cut it.

    • Indeed. If it were the Right / Republicans indulging in political / street violence it would be self evident from the stacks of bodies. Keep on peddling this brand of tripe, David, and you will see.

    • Scalia
      • Walter_Cronanty

        Look on the bright side – at least they’re not guilty of “cultural appropriation.”

      • Paul Hooson

        It’s certainly true that the old Southern Democrats were often racists and many were KKK members, however very few of the street anarchists vote or belong to political parties. The small number that did vote often split their votes to leftist candidates such as Jill Stein or others. Hillary no doubt did somewhat better for sure than Trump among these voters, but they are hardly Democratic Party voters. Local news surveyed 103 anarchists arrested in Portland and very few vote or belong to a political party.

        • Scalia

          Yeah, Paul, at least you stay true to your form. By the way, 103 isn’t enough to blow the fuzz off a peanut.

  • If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

    The Federalist #51 – Constitution Society

  • Paul Hooson

    Needed in politics? Not having sons like Donald Jr. or Eric…

    • Retired military

      or Chelsea

    • Walter_Cronanty

      or Trayvon Martin

      • Jwb10001

        Good one!

    • Jwb10001

      So now people’s sons and daughters are relevant to a person running for office? Or only the sons and daughters of politicians you dislike? I know you think your being clever and making jokes but it’s always a one way street with you. Take a look at some democrat families like the Clinton’s and Carter’s both have really bad seeds, let’s joke about them for a change. Would you call Hillary’s brother Hugh a brainiac?


        I can’t remember anyone else having their children involved in the campaign and/or having positions as “senior” advisers. Heck, they even had meetings in an attempt to gather opposition research. I suppose we would have to back to Kennedy to find a brother in a position of power.

        Let’s not kid ourselves, there is no way this ends well. These Trump children suffer from the same malady as their Father; woke up on third base and think they hit a triple.

        • Vagabond661

          will you vote for Chelsea?

          • He’ll vote for whoever the dhimmocrats nominate.

          • WHO’S THE BUSTER

            Why would I vote for Chelsea? Additionally, I was unaware she was running for office.

        • Retired military

          Did you forget that Carter had Amy as his nuclear war advisor?

        • Retired military

          From Politico


          Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found…

          …the [Ukranian] embassy also worked directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions….

          …Andrii Telizhenko, who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy under Shulyar [Urkanian Diplomat], said she instructed him to help Chalupa [DNC’s consultant] research connections between Trump, Manafort and Russia.

          …sources familiar with the effort say that Shulyar [Urkanian Diplomat] specifically called Telizhenko into a meeting with Chalupa to provide an update on an American media outlet’s ongoing investigation into Manafort.

          Telizhenko recalled that Chalupa told him and Shulyar that, “If we can get enough information on Paul [Manafort] or Trump’s involvement with Russia, she can get a hearing in Congress by September.”

          So if a republican agrees to meet with someone who says they have oppo research on a democrat it is bad.
          But per democrats Hillary can get aid, assistance, oppo research and anything else from a foreign govt and it is okay because ummm she is Hillary.

          Also didn’t Obama promise Putin that he would have more flexibility after the election? Gee sounds like Putin would want to help Obama get reelected there.

          Hillary was more easily compromised than Trump. Hillary wanted a weaker military and more immigration than Trump yet somehow the dems expect us to believe that Russia wanted to help Trump over Hillary.

          Also the dems seem to forget about the Russian influence on the environmental front which only serves Russian national interests since it hurts US energy production. But no mention there in the MSM /DNC talking points.

      • jim_m

        There are a couple dozen Kennedy relatives we could add to that list.

        • When gangsters (rum runners) try to go legit…

        • Paul Hooson

          Indeed, that’s a messed up family…

      • Paul Hooson

        I was going to joke about Billy Carter, but he was a brother and not a son. All kidding aside, Donald Jr. has created a huge legal mess by his own hand, and I don’t think his father is very happy about that right now.

  • Needed in Politics: An Electorate willing to throw the bums out.