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Toddler tantrums

“The toxic acrimony of national politics is seeping down to the local level — and the consequences look ever more ominous.”

This is Niall Stanage (bio here), an Irish journalist looking at America from the outside in, writing for The Hill where he’s an associate editor. Read the entire column here.

He talks about attacks on America’s democracy. We all know that’s happening, and where it’s coming from — the political right. So, too, is most of the rising incivility in this country.

Stanage points out two groups in particular who are now on the getting end of rightwing rage: School boards and election workers. He says,

“In recent weeks, school board meetings across the country have descended into screaming matches, often over mask mandates.

“Meanwhile, election workers are still reckoning with the forces unleashed in last year’s presidential election …. In many places there is fear … for the safety of the low- and mid-level officials who do the unglamorous work that keeps democracy knitted together and fear for what happens if they decide it’s just not worth it.”

He cites the example of a Colorado school board meeting disrupted by unruly protesters, many of whom appeared to be from outside the district. They were pounding on windows and doors, reminiscent of the Capitol riot.

A school board leader in Virginia told him, “the behavior she is witnessing from adults is teaching their children that they can do whatever they want,” and also worried about extremists taking over school boards “and other local institutions” if fear drives away people who are more representative of their communities.

In Pennsylvania, “an aspiring Republican politician” threatened to “oust his local [school] board” by “going in with 20 strong men.”

There seem to be two issues driving rage against school boards right now — masking policies, and race (under the rubric of “critical race theory,” which in specific terms is an academic subject taught in graduate schools, but the term seems to have become a label for the wastebasket into which racists and white supremacists throw all their grievances spawned by the fact America is becoming a more diverse society).

The anger and incivility isn’t limited to elections and school boards — “and it can’t be wholly attributed to the prolonged stresses of the pandemic either,” Stanage argues. He says “American politics has been becoming more venomous for at least a couple of decades. The factors driving that are numerous and complex. They include the self-reinforcing power of social media, the decline of community institutions and the willingness of cable news outlets to stoke outrage for ratings.” He mentions Trump, but says it doesn’t “begin and end” with him.

Some of this is free speech. Some is disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor. Threatening public officials is a serious crime, and assaulting public officials and workers for carrying out their job duties should result in prison time. For example, in Arizona a father is in jail after showing up at a school principal’s office with two other men carrying zip-ties and threatening her with “citizen’s arrest” (see story here).

But all that aside, at bottom, this is juvenile behavior. These are people who failed to grew up. They’re screaming, having fits, and throwing tantrums because they don’t get their way. They’re freakin’ babies. Often their children are more mature than they are, even their first-graders do better. And thank God for that.

Photo below: Stupid people have free speech rights, too, and apparently nothing better to do (such as remedial spelling classes)

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