Here is a worthy piece by Rick Sincere, Jr., illustrating Coolidge’s graciousness and civility, even toward those who ran against him for office. A mutual respect existed not merely because of Coolidge’s heartfelt kindness for others but also because his opponents still cherished the virtue of forbearance. It is that self-restrained tolerance, that allowance for disagreement without plummeting to personal vilification that exemplified the ideal that we are Americans first. The Kennedy who defeated Coolidge would not have recognized his Party today. Were Coolidge, or Kennedy for that matter, able to witness politicians today exchange the vitriol we hear for this or that fellow Representative or Senator they would find it a reprehensible and disgusting perversion of the noble duty of public service. The mentality that impugns and mocks our common foundation as Americans is why politics, no less lively and spirited in Coolidge’s day, now shamelessly mislabels opponents “terrorists,” “legislative arsonists,” “hostage-takers” and as virtual “enemies of the human race,” the last label being virtually ascribed by the Supreme Court majority in United States v. Windsor this last summer against those who support the Federal Defense of Marriage Act.
While the case can be clearly made that one side is predominantly given to such childish name-calling, the personal attacks against those who are simply trying to do what is right, represent the people and work faithfully come from opponents in both parties. These conscientious public servants among us deserve no less the civility Coolidge displayed.
Americans have never entirely agreed on every point. What made peaceful co-existence possible in the past came down to a healthy respect for those who believe and think differently. We may disagree but we are still Americans who love our country, our institutions and our liberties. The tone has changed not because opposition to Administration policy is new, unjustified or “all opposition is uncivil” but because that respect for others and commitment to America first is no longer paramount in the actions and words of certain politicians.
Civility never muzzled Coolidge from taking clear, controversial or principled stands. Each time he did so, he ran the risk of offending someone. He kept to ideas, not personalities. He campaigned for principles, not against people. He championed convictions that met with partisan opposition but demonstrated that civility did not mean surrendering the fight. He led the way back toward a kindly forbearance to be shared by all, Republican, Democrat or otherwise, made possible by an abiding sense of obligation to America’s people, institutions and morals.