Brent Hill the past President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate is a good man. The few times I have had the privilege of interacting with him he has treated me with dignity and respect. He announced yesterday that he was going to Head an organization called “The Next Generation Program” which is sponsored by the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Apparently these organizations put on workshops for members of state governments to help them learn civility,
I believe today that the words politeness and civility are oftentimes misunderstood. Both words describe a means to an end. Politeness is showing respect for those you are dealing with and to respect others you must first respect yourself. At its best civility requires the exercise of virtue(s). In my Catholic Catechism there are 7 basic virtues identified faith, hope charity, courage, providence, justice, and temperance. The moral virtues form the foundation of a Christian life and are outward manifestations of the inner man. The moral bases of civility is the Golden Rule. Without this moral bases there can be no civility politeness-maybe, civility, no. It is this distinction that allowed the ancient philosophers and Hebrew fathers to understand that teaching civility was pointless unless there was a fundamental understanding of the virtues. For an example of civility in practice I would recommend to you “Googling” Senator Risch’s Senate Committee interrogation of Jim Comey.
Sometimes understanding the fine points is important. C. S. Lewis opined that “people exaggerate their differences because they have not distinguished between differences of morality and differences of fact” Most of us intuitively distinguish between prudential and providential truths. The difference between issues of fact and process and issues to which we are asked to apply tenants of our faith for me right to life is such a providential issue and a tenant of faith, is an important distinction.
Divisive words like liar, fascist, leftist are used in just about every imaginable fashion. How does the term racist make sense for those advocating for reasonable immigration policy? The improper use of words is often a cheap and circuitous way of framing an argument by lazy people. In this day and age of virtue signaling and virtue narcissism I have been accused of both which always gives me pause that we must be suspicious of words and pay attention to the actions of those using words.
In this regard I am reminded of two incidents that happened during the last legislative session in Idaho. The first happened when there was a groundswell movement by Republicans in both Houses to file a resolution of support for President Trump during the impeachment proceedings. Over two days a large number of legislators came to support such a position until leadership from both Houses and maybe from the second floor decided that this wasn’t a fight they needed to be involved in. Several other State Legislatures proceeded with such a resolution and it was a wonderful time for the States to exert some political influence reaffirming in a Federalist fashion our support for our President. No Courage No Virtue.
The second incident occurred at the very end of the legislative session when the Senate Leadership specifically the Pro Tempore blindsided our Lt. Governor taking over traditional responsibilities of the Lt. Governor and placing them back into the hands of the majority party leadership. If this was in fact reestablishing a constitutional principle it should have been done at the beginning of the session and not at the very end on the heels of an announced retirement. Civility requires confrontation many times even when it is uncomfortable.
So is acting in a clandestine undercover fashion to consolidate one’s own power within a single party outside the constitutional construct of propriety a virtuous action? Is it even civil? Is speaking in a civil fashion but acting in an uncivil way demand a “civil response”? Cannot passionate words and actions also be civil?
I personally feel that many politicians hide behind the cloak of civility because they don’t have the courage to confront many of the evils that are present today. As Barry Goldwater reminded us “moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue”. No virtue=no civility. Think Mitt Romney. I can get uncivil very quickly when discussing abortion, or the loss of due process for Judge Kavanagh.
The way the Republican special interest lobbyist establishment has treated our Lt. Governor has not been courageous. It has not been virtuous. It has not been civil. Our Lt. Governor finds herself in the same position today that Mr. Trump was in 5 years ago. She is fighting”deep state cronyism” and as Mr. Hill proved at the end of the legislative session these fights aren’t civil. It is a shame that such a good man left on such an uncivil note.