We’re generally not happy when political leaders are booed and heckled while trying to give a speech. Our society is supposed to be grounded in civil discourse. That free exchange of ideas is hampered when listeners boo and heckle a speaker. The true test of civility is being able to give a speaker a fair hearing — even a speaker with whom we might disagree.
That’s why we were so dismayed when President Barack Obama was heckled during a 2009 speech before Congress. That’s why we’re equally saddened by how GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was treated during his speech before the NAACP. Romney was booed and heckled while he addressed the audience.
We understand that the NAACP has typically been more receptive to Democratic presidential candidates. We know that many members of the organization have a special fondness for President Barack Obama.
But that was no excuse to heckle and boo Romney when he criticized Obama’s policies and proposed alternatives. We suspect that the NAACP would have criticized Romney if he had chosen not to appear before the national organization. But why should any speaker appear before a group that acts in such an uncivil manner?
If those who booed and heckled Romney hoped to dim his political appeal by treating him so dismissively, they probably failed. One possible benefit in Romney’s appearance before the NAACP was its suggestion that he’s trying to be inclusive, a message that might appeal to swing voters. In booing and heckling Romney, his opponents made him seem sympathetic. They, in turn, seemed intolerant.
The heckling and booing was beneath the dignity of the NAACP. This isn’t what civilized debate is supposed to be about.