A Brief History of US Presidents Who Snubbed Their Successors
Most likely, Trump will not congratulate President-elect Biden – or he will do it, eventually, but begrudgingly.
It’s beyond dispute: Donald Trump won’t go down in history as a . Examples of his bad manners abound. When he gave his first , the president craftily avoided any nod to his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, or to the other half of the electorate.
Then, he started embarrassing foreign leaders . “Time after time, diplomatic niceties fell by the wayside as the president contradicted and undermined his hosts,” the Associated Press reported in mid-2019.
Most likely, he will not congratulate President-elect Joe Biden – or he will do it, eventually, but begrudgingly. It’s also possible that he will not attend the inaugural ceremony in January.
Trump is not alone in his transgressions of civility. In reality, the shredding of etiquette by politicians and public officials, including presidents, has long been a feature of American politics. Ungraciousness is bipartisan: The public has not forgotten House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , in full public view, the text of President Trump’s State of the Union speech.
Ripping Off the Toupee
American politicians have long treated one another with disrespect. Trump shunning the president-elect may seem extreme today, but in 1801, at the presidential inauguration ceremony of Thomas Jefferson, the outgoing president, John Adams, was nowhere to be seen – he was not even invited.
For his part, Adams had appointed to high office several anti-Jeffersonian men. And he had done that just before leaving office.
In the years before the Civil War, breaches in etiquette . On 22 May 1856, with a walking cane. The scene took place on the floor of the US Senate. Brooks was “outraged” by an anti-slavery speech Sumner had given a few days earlier. He stopped short of killing his enemy only because the cane unexpectedly broke.
The floor of the US House of Representatives held ominous scenes as well. On 6 February, 1858, at nearly 2 am, as members were discussing the admission of the Kansas Territory into the Union, South Carolina Democrat Laurence Keitt and Pennsylvania Republican Galusha Grow exchanged volleys of insults, arguing over whether Kansas would be a free or a slave state.
Founders Knew Incivility’s Risk
No matter the occasional jeers and laughs; when political leaders treat each other with disrespect, the nation suffers.
Civility is neither frivolous nor a matter of private behavior only. As economist Friedrich Hayek said, civility is a “method of collaboration which requires agreement only on means and not on ends.” The lack of civility, obviously, decreases the chances of finding solutions to urgent common problems.
The founders, perhaps better than any other generation, were acutely aware of the political risk of incivility. Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the others . They looked back at the tyrants and all the reckless commanders of the past, like Attila or Caligula. They knew that brash leaders such as these could, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, burst asunder “.”
And they looked forward, with anxiety, to the moment when a new barbarism would come back in full swing. Ominous signs were already looming. , an attorney who had accused him, of all things, of cheating on a horse race bet. This event did not put a stop to Jackson’s career. He was a brawler and a committed duelist. He snapped easily and showed no respect for his opponents. But “Old Hickory,” as he was known, kept gaining national notoriety.
President Jackson is , although the two have . Just like Trump, however, Jackson represents a straightforward, low-brow style of unapologetic and ungraceful leadership. Jackson bore exactly those personal attributes which left the founders aghast: “,” Thomas Jefferson said about Jackson in a 1824 interview.
The founders were passing through the short-lived age of . From the 1750s to the early 1800s, American leaders set for themselves an ambitious goal. They wanted to trigger an anthropological revolution and promote a new type of individual – polite, civilized, kind and collaborative.
A modern nation, for them, relied on politicians who talked a certain way (with a lower voice), dressed a certain way (with less aristocratic pomp) and were able to forestall any boorish posturing.
In this respect, history has proven the founders’ expectations misplaced. These men, slave owners though they were, valued civility as at once liberating for the subject, and as an effective strategy of survival for the community at large. But “,” as George Washington hoped, “the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment,” did not come about.
Joe Biden, once president, will not reverse the course of history. He cannot restore an age of refinement and politeness. He is not the vaccine. But in the eyes of many, he can be at least an against Trump’s lack of grace.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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