When is Uncompromising Uncivil?

Longtime Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has become the especial target of a group of conservative activists.  In a rather snide open letter the collective–dominated by local editions of the Tea Party–urge Alexander to retire with his dignity intact ere some true conservative rises to crush him and expose his lack of true conservatism. I paraphrase.

But the striking part of the letter (read it here) is that the brunt of the brief against the conservative Senator amounts to this:  that according the the activists "our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous."

Now though this letter to Lamar seems to represent a case of at least incipient incivility, it does seem that an uncompromising position can be held civilly; in theory at least even with utmost politeness and respect for the opposition.  And the facile linking of civility with a propensity to compromise can be merely the partisanship of the centrist, or moderate; or of an opposing partisan who's being frustrated by an uncompromising stand.

The question lurking then is when does impeccably civil uncompromising become uncivil… just by being uncompromising. Or does it? If it does, do we know it when we see it? And who is the we that prevails in the adjudication? 

I find this all disturbingly problematic…like a flirt with the abyss.


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