Perhaps most annoying has been the call for a return to civility. Well, no, I don’t feel like being civil. I like being rude. The problem with the rudeness in American political discourse is that it’s often so stupid, not that it’s so rude. The idea that politics can be civil is a fantasy for elite technocrats and the well-heeled. I’m reminded of something that Adolph Reed once said to me, characterizing a mutual acquaintance as the kind of person who thinks that if you could just get all the smart people together on Martha’s Vineyard, they could solve all our social problems. Obviously they couldn’t.
Margaret Atwood once wrote that politics is about “power: who’s got it, who wants it, how it operates; in a word, who’s allowed to do what to whom, who gets what from whom, who gets away with it and how.” There’s no way that could be rendered civil. The field of politics is constituted by vast differences in interests and preferences. Much of the time, we don’t talk about those things directly or explicitly. We talk about them in caricature or euphemism, or take it out on scapegoats.