Judd Gregg: Making America civil again

In addition to his famous pledge to make America great again, President Trump might want to put more effort into making America more civil again.

There seems to be a downward spiral in the attitude and language of the leaders of our nation — as well as on the part of the interpreters of our leaders, also known as the media.

It should not be necessary to be crass and mean-spirited to make a point or to express an opinion — even when doing so on some issue that sparks intensely-held views, or with someone with whom you strongly disagree.

Interestingly, there are numerous days or months that have been named, designated and proclaimed by past presidents and Congresses to celebrate one cause or another.

We have Pan American Day, Cesar Chavez Day, National Good Neighbor Day, National Mentoring Day, National Ice Cream Month, Country Music Month and Malcolm X Day, to cite a few.

The president might want to consider declaring a “Let’s be Civil Day.”

Just one day seems a reasonable starting point. If we actually got through it without anyone of note expressing vituperative views of others or disparaging opposing views, perhaps it could be expanded to a week or maybe even a month.

In fact, if it caught on, it might even be extended for a year.

This would be a pleasant change.

Think about the potential.

The leaders of the media who put together the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner would tell Michelle Wolf to leave the podium when her diatribe crossed the line of civility and moved into meanness.

Laura Ingraham would not mock a young person who is trying to deal with the pain of having his friends murdered at his school.

Gloria Borger would have to give up on her snide asides that question the president’s intelligence in a tone that drips of elitist sarcasm.

The president would have to wake up in the morning with a smile on his face and tweet out thoughts that were positive and uplifting, getting the nation’s day started with good feelings.

Is this asking too much in this time of social media excess? Probably.

Political cheap shots and intentionally misrepresentative hyperbole have become the essence of our national discourse.

It is a time of “gotcha” politics.

It is a time when governing — as in, passing bipartisan legislation that puts the nation on a constructive path to the future — has essentially been stomped down by the desire to not only defeat but to destroy.

The goal of the players who dominate our political stage — whether it is the president and his people or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her people — is to replace those whom they oppose.

This, they claim, is governing.

But they are degrading the institutions they were elected to participate in and lead.

One would think that, at some point, someone would want to step forward and say “enough”.

Making America more civil again does not require that the various forces at work in this arena surrender or adjust their views, even if those views are passionately held.

It would simply be helpful if these various purveyors of political debate would take a break from vitriol.

They could, for a day or so, express disagreement, opposition or support in language that is at least somewhat thoughtful and balanced.

If the president, hypothetically, proclaimed that he was replacing “National Tartan Day” with “National Mutual Civility Day,” this would be good.

Of course there are probably those who will be affronted by the suggestion that we rid ourselves of National Tartan Day. I have Scottish ancestry myself but, really, “National Tartan Day”? It is expendable.

By doing this, the president would be putting forth the challenge of all challenges: Be civil.

Could he himself stick by such a proclamation for even a day?

Could Pelosi and her numerous clattering caucuses do the same?

Could the media follow suit?

It is possible.

These are, after all, just people. They are somewhat like the rest of us. They must also be tiring of the constant backbiting and bickering, even if it does generate attention, enliven their base and, for the media, sell ads.

The Senate used to have a seersucker day. All the senators were suppose to wear seersucker suits. And many did.

If they could undertake something so foolishly self-defining as seersucker day, they can obviously do something as simple as being “civil” for a day.

What a refreshing event it would be.

The president could take pride in kicking off a day of good feelings and substantive discourse. It might even give his poll numbers a bump. The Congress could have a day of being seen as worthy rather than being viewed within the context of its eight percent approval rating.

Even CNN and Fox News might find an improved perception of themselves and their viewers.

It might be brief.

But it would be good to show the strength that has always underpinned our nation.

It would also show that we are a nation led for the most part by good people, both elected and in the media, who want what we all want: a better nation that is fundamentally strong…. and even civil.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

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