Welcome to the Party: How Professional Behavior Alters Modern Political Discourse

Welcome to the Party: How Professional Behavior Alters Modern Political Discourse

Just hours into her first day in Congress, Dem. Rep Rashida Tlaib proclaimed that she had a goal of impeaching President Donald Trump, specifically saying she would work to “impeach that mother-f****r.” Tlaib’s use of a swear word generated controversy across media platforms, as it was seen as unprofessional.

Professional norms, or norms that place an obligation on politicians to act as symbols of respect and civility, have been valued for centuries, with political theorists such as Edmund Burke writing passages describing how politicians ought to act in the 18th century.

The media frenzy following Tlaib’s comments was not a unique phenomenon. Such attention has surrounded politicians at various places on the political spectrum, ranging from articles about Trump’s frequent and inflammatory tweets to leaked footage of Dem. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing on a rooftop in college. These events have put into question whether politicians are maintaining standards of professionalism.

Emmanuel Zilber ’19, who identifies as a liberal, said he believes that politicians should uphold a certain standard of professionalism.

“I believe the job demands that a person honor the stored history of [Congress],” Zilber said. “Those who come in now ought to hold reverence for our institutions as others have done before.”

History teacher Dave Waterhouse said he thinks there has been a decrease in professional behavior among politicians recently.

“Increasingly, [politicians] act primarily to protect their seats and their party’s power and not to promote the general welfare,” Waterhouse said. “Their partisanship, unwillingness to compromise, and sometimes vitriolic language probably has affected the general public, including our students… [Trump] has certainly lowered political standards with his constant attacks, name-calling, lying and ridiculous hyperbole. “

Jaya Nayar ’20, who also identifies as liberal, said that Tlaib’s statement about Trump was justified given his own unprofessional and sexist comments.

“From the stuff Trump has said about women, it is appropriate for someone to come out and demean him similarly to how he has been able to use swear words, like calling women inappropriate names and addressing them in inappropriate ways,” Nayar said. “It’s so unprofessional for him to do that, so why hasn’t somebody called out Trump?”

Will Berlin ’19, who identifies as libertarian, said that Tlaib’s use of swear words in her job was unprofessional, disagreeing with Nayar.

“When [Tlaib] cursed in front of a large audience, I think that is starting to cross the line,” Berlin said. “Politicians should be someone that children can look up to, and they should speak professionally when discussing political matters. Dancing is an appropriate thing for a human being to do, especially in college, but cursing in front of a large audience while giving a political speech is not and undermines the value of the statements.”

As Tlaib was criticized for swearing in a speech, GOP Rep. Steve King was stripped from his committee assignments after questioning the use of the term “white supremacy” in reference to certain political views and movements.

Zilber said that the fact that Tlaib’s use of a swear word received much more coverage than King’s racist statements, indicates flaws in current understandings of professionalism.

“[This media coverage] is completely ridiculous because one is a slur against the president who has said many other vile things, but Steve King’s comments were direct statements of hate,” Zilber said.

In a Chronicle poll of 263 students, 95 percent of respondents said they thought politicians should behave professionally.

Footage of Ocasio-Cortez dancing leaked prior to Tlaib used a swear word in her speech. The footage was leveraged by conservatives to cast a negative image of Ocasio-Cortez.

Nayar said she believes that these criticisms of Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to be sworn into Congress, are flawed.

“I think that it’s obviously a good thing to maintain professional standards, especially in context of discussions on the House or Senate floor because you should treat colleagues with respect,” Nayar said. “I think things like the critique of [Ocasio-Cortez’s] dancing, even if not the most professional, was wrong since it shouldn’t have been as politicized as it was, and it shouldn’t have been weaponized against her since Congress members deserve to have fun too.”

Berlin said he felt the dancing controversy was irrelevant.
“She danced in college, so what?” Berlin said. “Now she’s a politician, and I care more about what she says now, which I’m not a fan of.”

Ocasio-Cortez fought back against the criticisms. In response to the leaked dancing footage, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted footage of her dancing outside of her Congressional office and laughing. The tweet’s caption read, “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!”

Nayar said that she believed Ocasio-Cortez had a valid and respectable response to the negativity placed on her dancing footage.

“I think [Ocasio-Cortez] stood up as a great model to fight back against the ways in which men constantly put down women in society, and her response in making a meme out of it and brushing it off was the appropriate way to go about that,” Nayar said.

Berlin said that while he thought Ocasio-Cortez’s response to the scandal was not professional, he also did not think it was particularly newsworthy.
“[Releasing her own video now] was getting into the territory of a bit much, but at the end of the day, I really care more about her policies rather than her dancing,” Berlin said.

Overall, Nayar said she was concerned with sexist double standards surrounding the ideal of professionalism.

“What I don’t understand is why it has only been the women who have been called out, like [Tlaib] or [Ocasio-Cortez],” Nayar said. “I think all of that goes to show the very sexist nature of our political system. Because Trump is a man and because men hold a dominant position in society, it means they’re able to get away with more ‘unprofessional’ comments than someone who is a woman since there are so many more obstacles to overcome to get into politics.”

As a response to the manipulation of professional standards, Nayar said she encouraged others to expose double standards.

“I think not participating and spreading those kinds of messages is important,” Nayar said. “If you’re going to call out one side, call out both sides. Trump shouldn’t have said horrible things about women. Exposing those falsities created by the media is important.”

of professional standards, Nayar said she encouraged others to expose double standards.

“I think not participating and spreading those kinds of messages is important,” Nayar said. “If you’re going to call out one side, call out both sides. Trump shouldn’t have said horrible things about women. Exposing those falsities created by the media is important.”

Nayar said she believes that these criticisms of Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman to be sworn into Congress, are flawed.

“I think that it’s obviously a good thing to maintain professional standards, especially in context of discussions on the House or Senate floor because you should treat colleagues with respect,” Nayar said. “I think things like the critique of [Ocasio-Cortez’s] dancing, even if not the most professional, was wrong since it shouldn’t have been as politicized as it was, and it shouldn’t have been weaponized against her since Congress members deserve to have fun too.”

Berlin said he felt the dancing controversy was irrelevant.

“She danced in college, so what?” Berlin said. “Now she’s a politician, and I care more about what she says now, which I’m not a fan of.”

Ocasio-Cortez fought back against the criticisms. In response to the leaked dancing footage, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted footage of her dancing outside of her Congressional office and laughing. The tweet’s caption read, “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!”

Nayar said that she believed Ocasio-Cortez had a valid and respectable response to the negativity placed on her dancing footage.

“I think [Ocasio-Cortez] stood up as a great model to fight back against the ways in which men constantly put down women in society, and her response in making a meme out of it and brushing it off was the appropriate way to go about that,” Nayar said.

Berlin said that while he thought Ocasio-Cortez’s response to the scandal was not professional, he also did not think it was particularly newsworthy.
“[Releasing her own video now] was getting into the territory of a bit much, but at the end of the day, I really care more about her policies rather than her dancing,” Berlin said.

Overall, Nayar said she was concerned with sexist double standards surrounding the ideal of professionalism.

“What I don’t understand is why it has only been the women who have been called out, like [Tlaib] or [Ocasio-Cortez],” Nayar said. “I think all of that goes to show the very sexist nature of our political system. Because Trump is a man and because men hold a dominant position in society, it means they’re able to get away with more ‘unprofessional’ comments than someone who is a woman since there are so many more obstacles to overcome to get into politics.”

As a response to the manipulation of professional standards, Nayar said she encouraged others to expose double standards.

“I think not participating and spreading those kinds of messages is important,” Nayar said. “If you’re going to call out one side, call out both sides. Trump shouldn’t have said horrible things about women. Exposing those falsities created by the media is important.”

was the appropriate way to go about that,” Nayar said.

Berlin said that while he thought Ocasio-Cortez’s response to the scandal was not professional, he also did not think it was particularly newsworthy.

“[Releasing her own video now] was getting into the territory of a bit much, but at the end of the day, I really care more about her policies rather than her dancing,” Berlin said.

Overall, Nayar said she was concerned with sexist double standards surrounding the ideal of professionalism.

“What I don’t understand is why it has only been the women who have been called out, like [Tlaib] or [Ocasio-Cortez],” Nayar said. “I think all of that goes to show the very sexist nature of our political system. Because Trump is a man and because men hold a dominant position in society, it means they’re able to get away with more ‘unprofessional’ comments than someone who is a woman since there are so many more obstacles to overcome to get into politics.”

As a response to the manipulation of professional standards, Nayar said she encouraged others to expose double standards.

“I think not participating and spreading those kinds of messages is important,” Nayar said. “If you’re going to call out one side, call out both sides. Trump shouldn’t have said horrible things about women. Exposing those falsities created by the media is important.”

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