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Keith Bybee Explores Political Civility on CBS Sunday Morning

Posted on Monday 7/23/2018
Keith Bybee

Will Politics Be the Death of Civility?

(CBS Sunday Morning | July 22, 2018) Just how rude has today's life become? And just how much is the tone of our politics to blame? Our Cover Story is reported by Martha Teichner:

Does it sometimes feel as if our politics has us all backed into our ideological corners? Does it seem as if insults and name-calling have taken the place of civil dialogue – that incivility has gone viral?

Whether it's coming from the President of the United States or somebody in a restaurant, you may be disturbed by it all. But should you be alarmed?

Even that's a touchy subject ...

... Keith Bybee, a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law and author of "How Civility Works" (Stanford University Press), says what we are seeing now is a revolution in manners. "But maybe a better way to describe it is a gerrymandering of the boundaries of polite society," he said.

"Any period of American history where there's been intense political conflict, you can find severe breaches of etiquette."

If you think it's bad today, consider the incident in 1856, when pro-slavery South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks went into the Senate and beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, an ardent abolitionist, with his cane, nearly killing him.

Now, consider the civil rights movement more than a century later.

"The civil rights movement, in a fundamental way, led to the revision of our understanding of what constitutes appropriate behavior and the baseline of respect," said Bybee.

The peaceful protests, often met with violent push-back, upended notions of civility and incivility as a means to an end … as good or bad ...

Watch the full segment.