Decorum Is a Thing of the Past, Even in the Senate

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Nowadays even senators are stooping to freely using profanity.

Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic senator from New York, recently used the f-bomb to describe President Trump in one of her speeches.

Gillibrand hit the President hardest on his accomplishments since getting elected. “Has he kept any of his promises? No, f*** no.” said the Senator. Later in her speech, Gillibrand dropped the f-bomb again when she said, “If we aren’t helping people we should go the f*** home.”

This is an unprecedented step away from traditional political discourse as we know it. Gillibrand’s comments may resonate with many democrats. However, it is clear that Gillibrand is breaking longstanding tradition.

The Senate decorum – a set of rules which dictates discourse in the Senate – strictly prohibits foul language and instead promotes what is known as decorous language. Decorous language is both dignified and proper, and it has long been the golden standard for American politicians.

Political discourse is certainly not at its all-time low point – see the Civil War – however, the increasing use of foul language to describe political matters is worrisome.

Gillibrand, a potential Presidential hopeful in 2020, cursed at the sitting President of the United States. This is something that is almost unprecedented for a politician of her stature and should bring some pause regarding the direction political discourse has taken.

Widespread distaste for American Presidents has occurred before, but politicians have mostly conducted themselves civilly. By stepping outside this precedent Senator Gillibrand not only jeopardizes her future as a leader of the Democratic party but as a leader to the American people.

President Trump is nearing levels of unpopularity only rivaled by Nixon. However, his stature as President of the United States demands respect from all lawmakers. If these individuals set an example of using foul language to describe the President, they are ultimately telling the world that is acceptable to address our President in the same way.

As President Trump’s term continues, it will be interesting to observe the transformation of political discourse in America. Social media has certainly enabled a newfound fascination with buzzwords and has rendered political debate socially divisive. Whether this cultural trend seeps into Congress and other political bodies remains unseen.

Regardless, Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues should continue discussing and fighting for the issues they, and the American people, believe in. However, she should carefully craft her arguments in the future to avoid de-legitimatizing her movement and her country’s leaders.

Joel Gillison is a student the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill studying public policy.

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