From Herald Tribune.com October 23, 2018
Opinion Piece by Keith Fitzgerald, Associate Professor of Political Science at New College of Florida
Edmund Burke, the first real conservative thinker, highlighted the importance of a particular class of traditions he called “manners.” Manners are what we would call “norms” or unwritten rules, and following them partly makes up moral character. Manners and norms may seem trivial, but they are a big deal.
Manners enable us to have disputes without becoming enemies. I saw the impact of the decline in political manners in my two terms in the state Legislature and in my congressional campaign. I see the fall of norms as a significant problem nationally. When politicians replace restraint with nonstop personal, dishonest aggression, they grind our institutions to a halt and make us weaker.
Here is a notable recent example. As we Floridians all know, hurricanes are matters of life and death. Recovery is sometimes even harder than surviving the storm. Everyone has to work together. If there is anything conservatives and liberals should agree on, it is that government has a unique role in public safety and disaster management.
One political tradition has held firm here in Florida. When a hurricane is bearing down on our friends and neighbors, we don’t launch political attack ads. We don’t use TV and radio time to smear our political opponents. In fact, campaigns go on hold so that officeholders can do their jobs.