The nation's political press and corresponding media outlets have for years now been running a “radical right,” “hardcore conservatives" and “evangelical Christians” political narrative.
The theme is simple enough: As American society becomes more polarized, make sure the stage is set to blame the Republican Party as a whole and its members specifically. Those stupid rubes are unwilling to enter the age of enlightenment, unwilling to surrender their personal liberty and God-given rights to an all-knowing, all-controlling federal government. How dare they “cling to their guns and religion” when they should just get in line with their socialist brothers and sisters. How pathetic that they'd rather continue to rot away in a basket with their fellow “deplorables” than join the glorious march to a government utopia.
The election of Donald Trump to the presidency was a godsend for the left. His in-your-face attitude, inability to refrain from punching down and tweet storms from hell gave Democrats and their allies in the press unlimited ammunition to drive him down.
But our great divide began deepening long before Trump entered the political arena. I personally peg the beginning of the current chasm back to the infamous “war room” that Hillary Clinton and George Stephanopoulos set up to protect Bill Clinton from the multitude of “bimbo eruptions” endangering his run for president. That's when the attack-the-victim model went from an occasional one-off sleaze tactic to mainstream political practice.
But no matter your point of beginning, these past few months have certainly put the term “civil society” on the endangered phrase list.
After watching Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her partners, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, punt all precedent and due process in her self-decreed “impeachment inquiry,” I admit I didn't think she could sink any lower. Yet as happens all too often these days when it comes to Pelosi's ability to drag down the House to an even lower level of political hell, she proved me wrong again.
Knowing that her impeachment scheme to force the Senate to do the House's work had failed and that the man she absolutely loathes was going to be acquitted the next day in that Senate, I certainly didn't expect her to cheer on the president. But I did expect her to behave as every other Speaker of the House has behaved prior — with respect and honor for the office and the historical significance of the moment. I expected wrong.
In the final moments of the speech, as the president was delivering his closing remarks, Pelosi took to ripping her official copy in half. And not just once, but pages upon pages until her last act was to stand up, extend her arms as close as possible to the back of the president's head and rip once more, as if over all the applause he would hear that paper rip.
After the initial shock of her behavior, the immediate impulse from networks and pundits supportive of the Speaker was to blame the president for refusing to shake Pelosi's hand after he presented the official speech documents. Never mind that further review from the side angle shows that by the time Pelosi extended her hand, the president was already turning to the podium. Any other president and the video would have put it to rest, but this was Trump.
And so it was that rather than admonish Pelosi for her petulance, her supporters cheered her.
Not all are cheering though. Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, constitutional scholar and self-described non-Trump voter, wrote in The Hill: "Her drop-the-mic moment will have a lasting impact on the House. While many will celebrate her trolling of the president, she tore up something far more important than a speech. Pelosi has shredded decades of tradition, decorum and civility that the nation could use now more than ever. The House speaker is more than a political partisan, particularly when carrying out functions such as the State of the Union address. A president appears in the House as a guest of both chambers of Congress. The House speaker represents not her party or herself but the entirety of the chamber. At that moment, she must transcend her own political ambitions and loyalties."
That act was more important to Pelosi than preserving the tradition of her office. In doing so, she forfeited the right to occupy that office. If Pelosi cannot maintain the dignity and neutrality of her office during the State of the Union, she should resign as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
We all know she won't, but that doesn't change the fact that she should.
Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin. He can be reached at email@example.com.