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It’s doubtful that a former American presidential candidate has ever formally endorsed incivility before, but Hillary Clinton is ever full of surprises.

In an interview on CNN, the erstwhile advocate of “if they go low, we go high” switched around to unapologetically call for going low.

“You cannot be civil with a political party,” she explained, “that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that if Democrats retake a house of Congress, well, then, “that’s when civility can start again.”

Clinton’s statement is yet more confirmation of the radical mood of the current Democratic Party, not just in blessing tactics that once would have been anathema to the mainstream, but questioning the legitimacy of core elements of our system. The party’s base is just a few steps from beginning to give up on our common national life.

Civility is a rather fundamental thing to throw under the bus. It is the basis of our political life, assuring that disagreements are settled within certain bounds and don’t escalate into blood feuds.

This doesn’t mean that there can’t be intense arguments, harsh condemnations, passionate controversies and partisan donnybrooks. These are all endemic to a free society and very healthy things. It does mean that there are certain widely accepted guardrails.

Yet this is now thought to be a sucker’s game from the attorney-provocateur Michael Avenatti to the opinion outlets of the center-left. Vox ran a piece that argued, “Civility is not an end on its own if the practices and beliefs it upholds are unjust.”

In the Brett Kavanaugh debate, the normal pressure points of the democratic process (rallies and demonstrations, phone calls to congressional offices, online, print and TV advocacy) were deemed insufficient — senators had to be berated in the hallways, chased out of restaurants and harassed at their homes.

By the way, none of the people treated this way were Donald Trump, who does so much to create raw feelings with his routinely crude and inflammatory rhetoric. The targets were elected officeholders who serve in what is still the most distinguished legislative body in the nation, and routinely call each other “friend” and “colleague.”

Asked on CNN if the actions against her fellow senators went too far, Mazie Hirono stood by the harassment: “I think it just means that there are a lot of people who are very, very much motivated about what’s going on.”

There has even been resistance on the left and in the media to calling these groups of activists by their proper name, “mobs,” because it is considered too pejorative.

But when you angrily confront someone, especially as part of a group, it carries an inescapable whiff of physical intimidation. When you shout Ted and Heidi Cruz out of a Washington restaurant, you aren’t trying to convince them of anything, you are merely abusing them. When you yell at Senate hearings and floor votes, you aren’t influencing the process, but disrupting it.

Our system of government is increasingly held in low regard on the left. The 2016 election was somehow stolen, and the mechanism that gave Trump his victory, the Electoral College, is illegitimate. The Senate, which confirmed Kavanaugh and gives small, red states the same representation as large, blue states, is also illegitimate. Finally, the Supreme Court, now home to two Trump-appointed justices, is illegitimate as well.

That’s a lot of illegitimacy, all stemming from one lost presidential election. Imagine if Democrats lose another? The fact is that if you believe an institution is legitimate only if you control it or it works in your favor, you never truly believed in its legitimacy to begin with.

Perhaps the Democratic fever will pass if the party gains some power again, as Clinton suggested in her remarks. But it’s notable enough that one of our major parties is showing signs of contemplating a divorce from our system as it currently exists.

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Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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(10) comments

oldhomey

Good Lord! Lowry tells us that the "left" increasingly holds our government in low regard. Has he noticed that it is the GOP that is working overtime to dismantle the government? He tells us: "But it’s notable enough that one of our major parties is showing signs of contemplating a divorce from our system as it currently exists." Yes, and that party is the GOP as it is presently constituted, a party hijacked by tea party extremists, trying to re-install the government of plutocrats that ran the nation for their own pleasure and benefit a century ago. It was a government that bankrupted the nation and left a tiny middle class and massive working and underclass struggling constantly for mere survival. No thanks.

crank

The liberal hissy-fit which began the night Hillary lost continues. Bi-partisanship and civility must go both ways. For years Democrats have demanded bi-partisanship which seems to mean Republicans must compromise but never the other way around. Civility and decorum are imperatives to Democrats but that standard only applies to the other party. When Democrats lose, all that goes out the window. We've seen it.

I particularly enjoyed this line from Lowry. "The fact is that if you believe an institution is legitimate only if you control it or it works in your favor, you never truly believed in its legitimacy to begin with." #notmypresident

I recall the trib-libs here gleefully declaring the GOP would be dead. EJ Dionne wrote a column every few weeks on the theme of what the GOP must do to survive or win elections. Since 2016, the liberal melt-down has resembled that of a collection of toddlers having a temper tantrum. Dionne should probably write a few about what Democrats must do. Maybe he could start with... "Democrats Should Stop Listening To Hillary" who couldn't even manage to win against Donald Trump.

The radicals running the DNC have doubled down on their failed strategy. Disruption, abusing those on the other side using tactics like doxxing them or chasing them from restaurants, smear campaigns, expression of actual hatred... These displays of irrational hatred and the condescending attitude directed at those who do not share liberal's opinions has galvanized the conservative opposition. “Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it." sums it up nicely.

martian2

" smear campaigns, expression of actual hatred... These displays of irrational hatred and the condescending attitude directed at those". Gosh you described the campaign of Trump perfectly. And now with the governor and senate campaigns you can see it all again with the republicans using the same old fear smear and hate tactics over and over again. "the institution is only legitimate only if you control it" taken right out of the far right play book. that is why we have voter suppression, gerry mandering, and foreign interference with our elections, to keep the GOP in power. Soon though it may all change.

oldhomey

Well, crank/Holmen, I will give you this: You are finally unfurling your right wing feathers more forthrightly for all to see. Your reasoning is just as skewed as all of the others who defend Trump and the radical right-wing tea part conservatives who have hijacked the GOP and -- temporarily, I hope -- the government.

"Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it," seems to me to be the words of a person not interested at all in our electoral system and bi-partisanship. I frankly don't recall Democratic pundits predicting the death of the Republican Party. Perhaps a couple did, but that would be about as moronic a statement that any good analyst could make.

The GOP, however, IS doing its best to solidify a arch-conservative regime in our government despite not being able to do so with the majority of voters on their side both on the national and state level. It is doing so with absolutely undemocratic means of voter suppression and gerry-mandering. There is no argument about that. It is there, it is in the open.

The GOP will eventually severely wound itself with these tactics, I would think. It won't put them out of existence, but it will put them out of power, and probably for a far longer stretch than we normally see in swings of electoral moods in this country. That, I hope, will finally put the radical brand of tea party extremist conservatives out of business, or at least cornered and bottled up for decades.

crank

Finally unfurling my right-wing feathers? I've never hidden my political leanings any more than you have. Wag your sanctimonious finger at someone who places any value at all on what you say, oldpompous. Your words have never been the sort to make anyone believe you are interested at all in our electoral system and bi-partisanship. Nope! Never!

The DNC is doing its best to solidify their own regime in our government and have been failing. Your bellyaching and claiming your allegiance to the DNC is somehow superior to my conservative beliefs doesn't change the fact you are a bitter partisan who will insist, "I'm not a Democrat! I am a progressive." (Whatever)

You continue your dismal whining and toss petty insults at anyone who disagrees with you, insult their spelling or whatever. I hope you keep it up because this tactic has severely wounded liberals. You're unhinged. You point at what you call radicalism of the other side without considering the incessant shrill from you and other leftist radicals in your own party has made you look like an unhinged band of lunatics who blame the GOP for driving you to this level of crazy. I'm laughing at you, oldhomey.

martian2

"The 2016 election was somehow stolen, and the mechanism that gave Trump his victory, the Electoral College, is illegitimate." Lowry forgot to mention Russian interference on the election in 2016, making the whole thing suspect. And doing away with the electoral college has been talked about for many decades, its not a new topic of conversation. Why don't we hold elections like our first founding fathers did, and the second place winner gets to be VP. OUr election process continually needs to be revamped and adjusted to serve society justly and fairly through the ages. The electoral college has given us two minority elected presidents in the 21st century and they have turned out to be the worst by far.

new2Lax

There is no need for an explanation when it’s right in front of you. The explanation I have is how anyone could miss what’s happening. Describing this type behavior as a mob falls short, especially when this behavior is condoned by Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder and a majority on the left.

Jobaba

He forgot to mention that trump is not legitimate as president through his own words. If there were over 3 million illegal votes cast...hmmmm, yep illegitimate. I also notice once again that a conservative is explaining how liberals feel, think and act. I would ask a liberal to explain that.

Climatehoax

I’m sure the 3 million didn’t vote for Trump, imbecile. So that puts Trump WAY ahead of Hil Liar y.

Jobaba

Only fools are sure. It would still be an illegitimate election if 3 million people were voting illegally, not matter who they voted for. Go back to reading your cereal box.

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