Because, of course, the party of a man who bullied and name-called his way to the White House has no standing from here till the end of time to complain about anyone being impolite. And Gingrich? Being lectured on civility by that guy is like being lectured on virginity by Stormy Daniels.
But the buzzword is not simply wrong. It also misses the point.
Once upon a time, if the press secretary sat down at your restaurant for a meal, you fed her. Now, maybe you don’t. Once upon a time, if someone asked you for a photo, you obliged. Now, maybe not.
Is that just a sign of eroding public decorum? Or is it not, rather, a sign of a great national unraveling, of a country pulling itself apart, of the social covenant — the unspoken agreements between us that allow a society to function — dissolving before our eyes?
Politics defines us now, ideology is identity now. Things you once took for granted, you no longer can. Things you didn’t think political suddenly are. And routine no longer is.
Championship sports teams used to visit the White House. Now they don’t. The president used to participate in the Kennedy Center Honors. Now he doesn’t. Nor is the unraveling limited to this presidency.
Congressmen used to refrain from heckling presidents. But one did. A birth certificate used to be considered authoritative. Now it isn’t. The opposition party used to govern in good faith. Now it doesn’t.
But the roots of this moment go deeper than the Obama presidency, too. They date to at least the mid-1990s, when the GOP weaponized congressional investigations and — through their talk radio and cable news affiliates — lies.
Facts used to matter. Now they don’t.
What we have been learning since the ’90s is that the social covenant we once took for granted is critical. It is part of what made a great country good — indeed, part of what made it possible.
The GOP ripped that covenant in the name of political expedience. For proof, look no further than our chaos president. And if last week is any indication, the left is now prepared to shred what remains. It is possible to both support these protests, this necessary public shaming, yet also lament the fact that apparently, we are now the kind of nation where going out to dinner or pumping gas is a political act.
This is who we are now, and one wonders how much more we can take.
When the social covenant is torn, can the country be far behind?