Response to Schulman’s attack on civility: putting reason over emotion


Protest march near Trump Tower in New York City. Photo by Anthony Albright.

Jared Bauman

Max Schulman’s Jan. 6 opinion piece, “In the age of Trump, civility is overrated,” argues that civility and respect should no longer be priorities for progressives in the modern political climate. For Schulman, President Trump and his Republican supporters are so racist, so ignorant and so dangerous that opposing their policies at every turn is more important than finding common ground. His article is filled with exactly the type of moralistic non-arguments that college conservatives like myself have come to expect in this day and age from our liberal peers.

Evidently, I find this argument both ungrounded in reality and detrimental to our political system. Nevertheless, I’d like to highlight some places in which Schulman and I do agree before I respond to some of his more egregious claims.

Primarily, I laud Schulman for stating that we need to reduce our current level of political polarization. It seems as though far too many Democrats and Republicans are comfortable with increased partisan fighting, and I’m glad to hear someone say that “we need to foster honest discussions that place policy outcomes ahead of tribal allegiances.”

Unfortunately, Schulman fails to live up to his own standards. Instead of searching for common ground with his ideological opposites, Schulman goes on to employ the tactics of name-calling and gross oversimplification that are now commonplace amongst leftists.

“Today,” Schulman declares, “Trump and his Republican party are doing things that are abjectly immoral.”

Of course, nuance has no place here: in the left’s world, President Trump and the GOP are unequivocally, irredeemably evil, and anyone who supports their policies is no better than “the American family’s racist uncle.”

Americans were sick and tired of being called stupid and hateful by their “enlightened” leaders

It doesn’t matter that 13 percent of people who voted for Trump also voted for Barack Obama in 2012. It doesn’t matter that Trump’s policies of lower taxes and fewer regulations continued the ongoing decline in unemployment rates to historic levels for Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. It certainly doesn’t matter that Trump’s supporters roar with applause when he touts these statistics at his rallies, because, as the left’s logic goes, all Republicans fit into Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.”

To be completely honest, however, I don’t care too much that the left keeps calling people like myself immoral and ignorant. This is because such name-calling validates what conservatives have been saying since the 2016 election. If you think for a moment that Donald Trump was elected president for any reason other than the fact that average Americans were sick and tired of being called stupid and hateful by their “enlightened” leaders, then you are sorely mistaken.

According to many on the left – which includes a sizeable portion of our student body – it is now racist to want your country to enforce its own border laws. Separating children from their lawbreaker parents is also now somehow the worst possible thing in the world, even though A) the Obama administration also separated families at the border and B) this is literally how the justice system works when it imprisons citizen lawbreakers.

Also, according to the left, it is now cruel and inhumane to look towards free-market solutions for our healthcare problems. Never mind that socialized medicine has been shown time and time again to both ruin economies and lower the quality of healthcare.

It doesn’t take a degree from a prestigious university to notice that these leftist talking points are convoluted and illogical. In fact, it probably helps not to have one, since many people from those institutions seem to eschew reason: far too many of our nation’s “intellectuals” are no more than over-privileged elites who hide their disdain for Middle America behind nice-sounding yet empty platitudes about diversity, tolerance and acceptance. Leftists would rather appear morally superior to their opponents than actually engage them in debate.

I have no doubt that some Vanderbilt students will label me a whole variety of ugly terms for writing this piece, but as I said before, I welcome this criticism. I know in my heart that I harbor no hate towards anyone, and if my fellow students want to attack me for loving my country and all her citizens, no matter their race, gender or religion, then so be it.

I’ll close with this thought: although some of my closest friends in the world are also my fiercest ideological opponents, I know that at the end of the day we can not only still get along, but also actively love each other. Such is the beauty of this country, and such is the beauty of humanity.

I sincerely hope that most of you don’t heed Schulman’s call to abandon civility, and that instead, you actively attempt to treat each other with respect and real tolerance.

I know I won’t give up.

Jared Bauman is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]