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What Should Progressives Be Willing to Sacrifice on the Altar of Civility?

Even during the Civil War, there were those urging civility at the expense of justice, as this famous Thomas Nast cartoon explains. Illustration: Thomas Nast

Last year’s so-called “civility debate” revolved around the extent to which it was acceptable to protest the presence of Trump administration figures pursing private pleasures in public places, like the restaurants where Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders found themselves excoriated.

But in the Washington Post this week, Eve Fairbanks addresses a more difficult and important issue: How much of their own moral capital should progressives expend by accepting the grievances of “reasonable” political opponents who want them to turn their backs on vulnerable allies and constituencies in the name of peace? It’s one thing to stretch out the hand of fellowship to angry MAGA folk who would just as soon see you in prison or a reeducation camp. It’s another thing to come to grips with Never Trumpers, center-right pundits, and other non-deranged folks who suggest they could become allies if only progressives would throw those people —whether it’s campus leftists, minority-rights activists, socialists, or proponents of radical reforms — under the bus. It can be tempting, particularly to political actors who are weary to the bone of constant warfare at every level of discourse.

with his slogan: “If you want peace, work for justice.”

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