Friday, July 21, 2017

Even this Snarky Blogger Agrees With This Author That We Need a Return to More Civility

Jeff Coleman. With All Due Respect. Harrisburg, Pa.: Churchill.

The author, a former Pennsylvania State Representative, is sad to see a decrease in civility between political partisans. The author calls for a return to civility in our political discourse.

The author was elected at age 25 to the State House of Representatives by defeating a five term incumbent, Tim Pesci. The author had observed lots of negative attacks in previous local elections. He ran a campaign where he refused to engage in negative campaigning. He won with 52% of the vote as a Republican in a district where there were twice as many registered Democrats than there were registered Republicans.

The author urge politicians to be humble. People want leaders with virtuous characters who demonstrate wisdom and maturity. The author argues that character is a good predictor of how a person will serve in office Everyone has flaws, so it is best to always be humble and never lose that humility. A Virginia legislator warned that as legislators “we are treated as gods. People live that way all year long. Eventually you get to think you are that good.”

The author praises decorum. He highly regards Pennsylvania House of Representative Parliamentarian Chancy Myer for maintaining order on the House floor. The Speaker, working with the Parliamentarian, work to preserve the right of legislators to be heard through traditions protecting that right

The author observed how some legislators whose votes were needed by leaders would receive larger grants for local projects, known as “walking around money” or WAMS. (Side note: This reviewer worked for the legislature at a time when it was announced that any staff person using the term “WAMS” or “walking around money” would be fired as we were told no such thing existed. I suspected such things existed.) Many voters did not object and instead were glad for the local rewards legislators produced.

The author write about the “the last of the old-school leaders” Bill DeWeese and John Perzel. Both were “characters and deal makers”. A new type of leadership has since replaced the, according to the author. The new legislative leaders are “management types and policy wonks.”

The author has special praise of for House Majority (Republican) Leader Dave Reed. Reed, the author observes, puts people ahead of politics. Reed is idealistic and believes in public service.

The decline of investigative reporting and independent newspapers is creating problems, the author warns. He notes we are seeing the rise of biased media and fake reporting.

Pennsylvania state government reporters are see by Scott Detrow of NPR in this book as “chummy and collegial…more like wartime bonding in a foxhole. New reporters are shown the ropes and mentored.” This is in contrast to what Detrow sees in New York and California state government reporters whom he describes as “sharks” who sometimes are most interested in the personal lives of politicians. Pennsylvania reporters tend to only consider personal lives of politicians when their “lives violate the public trust.” As

As for the national media, a NBC/Wall Street Journal in late 2016 found 55% of those surveyed lacked with in the mainstream media. The author warns that “the framework of American civility cannot survive without the common language and understanding that a free, independent, and trustworthy media provides.”