All right, let’s take this slowly. First, my post had nothing to do with decorum or polite manners, either of the slave plantations of the old South or of the chi chi dinner parties of the Upper East Side. My elementary example of poll watchers and precinct workers should have made that clear. I was talking about the norms that attach to and guide countless bureaucratically defined roles and functions, in the judicial system, in corporations, in hospitals, in universities, in labor unions, in Department of Motor Vehicle registries and unemployment offices. I was talking about the norms that are expected to guide the actions of FBI agents and House committees and police departments. I was talking, rather more significantly, about the universal assumption that after the votes have been counted and certified, the losers will quietly vacate their offices and make way for the winners. If you don’t think that last is an important norm, take a look around the world at all the countries where that quiet transition of power cannot be counted on. This has nothing to do with decorum, as that word is customarily used. Furthermore, laws by themselves are not sufficient to ensure the requisite behavior, either in a capitalist democracy dominated by the rich and powerful or in a socialist democracy responsive to the will of the people. In addition to laws there must be a widespread acceptance and internalization of norms of expected behavior. If textual references will help, spend a little time reading Max Weber on bureaucracy.
My point was that when one spends so much time and energy, as I have, calling out and fuming against those who sanctimoniously celebrate these norms while secretly or even openly violating them, it is difficult to keep in mind that the better world we desire would depend essentially on the enactment and maintenance of those very norms. Hence it is important to embrace them and repeatedly celebrate them even while condemning all those who violate them.
As for the insult. Here are the words: “Is it possible the decorum and demeanor you appreciate and revere is tantamount to the charm of the slave holding South?”
Let’s not be naïve or disingenuous about this. Those words accuse me of embracing a Gone With The Wind ideal of proper behavior, with all that implies. That is what in other circumstances would be called a blood libel, and I took offense. I accept the apology.