A Republican senator’s letter illustrates the disintegration of decency in U.S. democracy.
There is no law that says members of Congress must be respectful of their colleagues or constituents, no regulation codified anywhere, no whip cracking for boorish behavior.
But there was once a time when they and their staff members showed respect for everyone, even if it was feigned. They communicated in a manner that was befitting their high offices, not to mention the democratic institutions they represented.
It was simply understood.
Back when I was working for a member of Congress we were deferential to everyone, especially constituents. That was true regardless of what we believed their political affiliation to be, how rude they were to us on the phone or how abusive of our boss or his policy positions in their letters. We never spoke ill of other members of Congress in draft letters, either, individually or as a group. The focus was always on the Senator and the positives related to his positions and actions.
Apparently the days of those types of formalities and niceties are long gone, scuttled with the integrity of so many of our democratic institutions.
Attack of the Red Rubes
I don’t contact my state’s three members of Congress very often. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, Sen. John Hoeven and Sen. Kevin Cramer, all Republicans, have proven time and again they’re not going to change any of their positions based on comments from people like me.
Besides, their language has shifted from merely abrasive to insulting. A recent missive from Cramer is representative; here are a few choice passages (click on any of the text boxes to read the juvenile letter in its entirety) –
An Indecent Degradation of Democracy
I would have been fired for using words and phrases like that in a draft letter for the Senator’s signature. There is zero doubt in my mind.
I have no idea if Republican members of Congress from other states speak to their constituents in this manner or, for that matter, if Democratic congresspeople from anywhere do, either. The few times I’ve tried to get around the three Trump-bootlicking buddies by contacting their colleagues in other states there’s been no response. Can’t blame them; they have their own constituents to worry about.
Maybe it’s just a case of elected officials in a state so heavily Republican/Trumplican that they think they can say anything they want in any way they want and still get elected next time around.
Even so, there’s no reason to debase the institution, the specific office or the citizens of a congressperson’s state.
That Cramer behaves boorishly is a surprise to absolutely no-one, however. He is but a symptom, an embodiment of the disintegration of decency in our supposedly representative form of government. Clearly this is much bigger than any one ill-mannered senator. If the people we elect to office cannot at least treat each other and their constituents with dignity – even if it’s contrived – the chances of ever getting anything done disappear.
It’s more than just a shame. It’s a dishonor to democracy.
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Featured image by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call