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Op Ed: A Return to Civility

  • Thursday, October 24, 2013

  • Updated Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:18 pm

By Robert Maslowsky

“We are losing sight of civility in government and politics. Debate and dialogue is taking a back seat to the politics of destruction and anger and control. Dogma has replaced thoughtful discussion between people of differing views.”

These words spoken by a former governor are spot on in describing the state of national politics and, unfortunately, many local politics.

None of us hesitates to criticize the lack of civility on display in Washington. We decry the extremist views and vitriol of politicians on both sides of the aisle, and demand a return to civility and compromise.

Unfortunately, civility and compromise no longer seem to be part of Washington's political toolbox, and we, as citizens, are the worse for it.

Like their national contemporaries the politicians of Georgetown may be losing sight of their civility, as well.
Despite calls for a 'return to civility' by several of the candidates during the recent GBA sponsored debate, civility appears under siege in this year's campaign.
No, the candidates are not being directly uncivil to each other. No one is calling anyone a bald face liar or questioning his or her lineage.

In fact, it all seems rather civilized… upfront
It's behind the scenes where it gets a bit murky.
It appears groups supporting both parties did not get the candidates' memo stating that civility is being restored to local politics.

Instead, these groups have either distributed flyers and postcards containing selectively edited quotes or erected signage that directly attacks individual candidates.
One only needs to open their mailbox, drive down any number of streets in the historic district or accept a flyer from a 'campaign worker' to see that civility is on a slippery slope in this year's campaign.

If these groups would utilize their resources to better explain their own candidates' platforms and positions, then they would make a positive contribution to the political process.

What's a candidate to do?

First, call off the hounds. If these groups or individuals are controlled by you, then throttle them back. If they will not respond to your request to cease their attacks, then publicly denounce their tactics. You will look the stronger candidate for having done this. And, you will strike a tangible blow for civility.

Also, it will reassure the middle-of-the-road voters that if elected, a special group will not control you.

Second, advance your cause on its merits. If your ideas are sound, and are presented with clarity and conviction, then they will resonate with the electorate.

When we wake-up on November 6th, we will still be neighbors, and we will need to work together to address our city's challenges-a difficult undertaking on the best of days.

However, if in the process of supposedly making our city better either party alienates a large percentage of its citizens or creates a schism that cannot be repaired, what have we gained? How have we moved forward?

In these remaining weeks of the campaign, let us focus on the issues and engage in thoughtful discussion. Let candidates differentiate themselves by their ideas, and not by personal attacks on their opponents.

Keep it civil.

Bob Maslowsky lives in Georgetown, S.C.   Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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