Civility isn’t for wimps. It has become so burdensome that some public officials are opting for the ease of thoughtless behavior, outright lies or digital threats if they serve their interests.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, is one case in point.
With a 49-19 vote on Monday, the Idaho House censured Giddings for “conduct unbecoming a legislator” and removed her from her seat on the Commerce and Human Resources Committee. It was tepid punishment, but a nod to civil behavior nonetheless.
Giddings had shared a far-right blog post on social media and in a newsletter that identified a 19-year-old legislative intern who had accused another representative of raping her.
The representative claimed that the two had a consensual encounter.
The ethics committee that investigated Gidding’s actions also unanimously determined that she had lied to the committee and behaved disrespectfully toward its members.
During debate on her censure on the House floor, Giddings maintained that she wanted to support “due process” for her accused colleague and that she would not have done anything differently. She missed the entire point.
She committed an unnecessary, uncivil and injurious act when she inserted herself into the matter and identified the intern.
The representative accused by the intern is now facing felony criminal charges of rape that will be heard in the proper venue, a court of law where “due process” is well defined.
Disturbingly, Giddings’ uncivil behavior may be becoming normalized.
This week, another legislator used social media to “warn” a business leader not to come to the capital where bills to restrict what companies can do to protect operations from the disruptions of COVID-19 were becoming controversial.
According to the Associated Press, Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, is known for carrying a weapon. In a social media post, he told Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry President Alex LaBeau to stay away or limit his visit to the governor’s office. LaBeau had said he would oppose restrictions on businesses.
The post was subsequently deleted.
It’s easy to be uncivil, offensive, rude or threatening. It’s easy to call names and throw out wild claims with the click of a button.
It’s far more difficult to muster fact-based arguments and to remain polite and courteous when faced with opposition. Few people will retweet a post in which elected officials refer to one another as “my esteemed colleague.” Yawn.
Yawns or no yawns, that’s where lawmakers and citizens need to go.
It takes strength to refer to an arch rival as “my colleague” or “my good friend across the aisle.” It takes strength to resist posting pique-filled diatribes or sharing crude videos.
Idahoans should repudiate rudeness and not stand for lies. Taken to the limit, uncivil speech and behavior produce what the nation saw on Jan. 6 on the steps of the U.S. Capital: violent insurrection.
Better to stifle a yawn from time to time than to reap the whirlwind of despotism or anarchy.
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