A list of 110 rules of civility became associated with the nation’s first president, George Washington, through a notebook that he assembled as a 13-year-old in 1745. At the time, it was common for students in the colonies to copy lists of social rules and morals. Recent presidents, despite the inevitable divisions in society on their watch, have tended to be conciliators rather than agitators. Donald Trump was an agitator from the start, experts said.

Cornell Clayton
Cornell Clayton

“Beginning with his behavior in the Republican primary debates, continuing through the general election, and now in the White House, Donald Trump had not just ignored but delighted in breaking the norms of civil political behavior,” said Cornell W. Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University and author of Civility and Democracy in America: A Reasonable Understanding.

Examples of Trump acting outside of shared norms for modern presidents include his taunting nicknames for political opponents (“Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted”), his chants of “lock her up” against defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and his consistent exaggerations and falsehoods, scholars said.

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