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Civility and Respect: The Trump Factor

Trump Lacks the Decency to be President of the U.S.

Donald Trump has excused himself for his offensive comments about women by saying, “I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.” However, the country must have time for civility and good manners, qualities that Trump lacks and, in fact, his behavior illustrates the opposite.

What kind of a leader makes statements such as threatening to run as a third-party candidate if the Republican National Committee and others do not treat him the way he wants to be treated, according to the narcissistic values he holds so dear?

What kind of a person uses the “Respect” card so freely as justification for his potential actions while making demeaning comments about women, vilifying illegal immigrants, and slamming John McCain because he was a POW – therefore, the ant-hero?

After challenging Trump about his disparaging comments about women in the first Republican debate, Trump went on the offensive and said to Kelly, “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me.” Then, after stewing about her question for hours, Trump lashed out at Kelly in a pre-dawn Twitter rant. In one tweet he called her “totally overrated and angry.” Then, during an interview with CNN, he declared that she had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her — wherever” during the GOP debate. Trump later insisted that he meant her “nose.”

Trump’s tasteless behavior and constant stream of insulting comments would, in another time, disqualify him to be a candidate for President of the U.S. But, we do not live in “normal” times anymore. Our society has morphed into exhibitionism to feed our egos and get 15-minutes of fame. So it’s no surprise to me he still appeals to a segment of our population who place no value on civility and good manners.

Incivility in society is on the rise. Every day we witness inconsiderate behavior, ‘in your face’ interaction in communications with others, and other forms of rudeness. There are many causes of incivility not the least of which is the explosion of social media as a way to communicate, including rants on Twitter. The anonymous nature of postings on the Internet feeds into such disrespectful behavior.

Civility is an integral part of ethical behavior. Civility represents the quality of our behavior with others in our communities. This is important because how we treat others signals who we are and what we value. Civility requires restraint, respect and responsibility in everyday life. Without these, we can never act ethically.

A Public Agenda Research Group recently reported that nearly 80 percent of respondents consider "lack of respect and courtesy a serious national problem." Civility cultivates a civic code of decency. It requires us to discipline our impulses for the sake of others. It demands we free ourselves from self-absorption. By putting ethics into practice in our day-to-day encounters, civility is that moral glue without which our society would come apart.

How can any person of good will support Donald Trump given his continuous boorish behavior? I get it that people are mad and don’t want to take it anymore and that their support for Trump is a protest statement. I get it that Trump is a successful businessman and some falsely believe he can channel that success to running the government. What I don’t get is how people can be so naïve as to think his skills in business can translate into success in government.

Folks, running a government requires consensus behavior. It requires convincing others, especially opponents, to understand your point of view and be willing to adopt it even when countervailing pressures exist to do otherwise, such as those from one’s political party. There is no way Trump can be successful in such an environment while treating others contemptuously.

I have blogged before about the issue of civility and pointed out that by age sixteen, George Washington had copied out by hand, 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first rule is: 'Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.'

Trump fails on all counts with respect to civil behavior. It matters because you can’t bully people in Congress and be effective at governance. I doubt his approach would fare well with Putin, the Chinese, or even the Mexicans for that matter. The sooner voters realize this, the sooner the real debate about the issues facing this great nation of ours can be dealt with by the Republican candidates.

Blog posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 18, 2015. Professor Mintz teaches in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at:

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