As we enter a new year we are also entering another Presidential election cycle as the primaries come thick and fast and before we know it is November. I think it is time we all find a dose of civility during this election season compared to the last couple of times.
More and more people are viewing elections as a zero-sum, no holds-barred fight. That if you are on the losing side then your voice does not matter. I feel it is time to move on from that type of thinking, on both sides of the aisle, and move towards a more conciliatory approach with not only our friends and neighbors, but everyone overall.
Before the rise of social media, and having to be always on and connected, the internet was a much different place.
Growing up in Oregon in the mid-1990s I was one of the first people to get a computer at my elementary school, when I was in the fourth grade. Chat rooms, and message boards, were in their infancy and there was a sense of anonymity of the early internet. People did not know my real name, where I lived, or anything else about me, and vice-versa.
That might have been a double-edged sword, but it did allow for frank discussion and debate of hot-button political issues at the time without having to be worried about people knowing where I worked, lived, and recreated. Instead I found it refreshing that debate could happen and the focus was on the issues and disagreements at hand, and generally did not get personal.
I remember a long time ago when the Oregonian online had a message board function, where people could comment and debate the news of the day. One time there was an article about the possibility of closing the open range in eastern Oregon, closing off the wide-open lands that many of us take for granted. A gentleman and I held a wide-ranging debate about the importance of open-range land and whether it was still needed or important to maintain in Oregon.
Even though we disagreed with each other and often pointed out flaws in our argument, we never went low against one another. We remained civil and respectful of each other’s opinion, even though there were others that chimed in that were often mean about either one of us. We agreed with each other that no matter what our views were, we were not going to go low and leave it at the facts and our beliefs.
I knew I was not going to change his mind, no matter how hard I tried. He knew he would not change my mind as well. Our debate was an open forum to show others how to have a civil political debate.
In the last couple of election cycles I have seen that civility go away and communication break-down. I believe there are many factors and it is not just social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram that is to blame. I honestly think the rise of cable television news channels, where they need to have 24/7 programming and the lack of in-depth reporting, are the main factors.
No longer will you really get news if you tune into a cable news channel, it is mostly talking heads interviewing experts, columnists and others in a rapid fire who-can-get- the-last-word-in situation. The rise of 30-second sound bites have not helped either.
I wish to see a more civil electoral process, by the candidates and the public at large.
— Kevin Winter