Door County Civility Project: Civil Political Campaigning

What would it look like?


This month I’m focusing on the divide-and-conquer strategies that political campaigns in our country have been increasingly using. Although opposing parties have always made negative comments, now we are constantly bombarded courtesy of the vast amounts of money spent in the increasingly available media choices. This results in a mixture of negative emotions. 

First we become exhausted by the number and repetitiveness of the messages, and we long for the election to end. Then comes confusion. For each race, so much of what we see are contradictions, name calling, misinformation, threats and blame – lots of blame. It becomes overwhelming – and none of it helps us decide which candidates should receive our vote.

Maybe we don’t know which sources offer accurate information or don’t have time to research them. Maybe we also become frightened. One side becomes the enemy, which may result in seeing friends who favor the other side in a different light. Maybe we can no longer trust them, and perhaps they, too, become the enemy. 

Finally, we get angry because we want people to serve in government who are actually going to do their job. 

We become divided when the choices are for or against, good or bad. Civil campaigns would be very different because the focus would be on letting the public know who the candidates are: their background, experience and reasons for running.

Next, civil campaigns would list the major concerns we’re facing, some description of the complexity of the problems, and some views of possible solutions. There would be more debates during which all candidates would respectfully present their views and acknowledge their areas of agreement. 

In the end, all of us would gain a better understanding of the problems and solutions. Candidates’ promises would be to present these ideas, listen to other ideas and work with all to ensure the best for all. 

In such an environment, voters would not have those negative emotions but would feel instead that we could vote for the person who shares more of our views and would work with others until there are solutions. We would have a working democracy.

As citizens, we can ask this of our candidates, media providers, political parties and ourselves.

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