It seems like every election cycle I hear people saying that things are getting worse with respect to civility. Well, that may be true in the short term, or maybe people just forget over time the experience of prior elections. Let me share some quotes from a prior election (the names were changed to give you a moment to try and figure out who the participants were):
- "Mr. Smith [is] unfit and incapable as President, [and is] a man whose defects of character are guaranteed to bring certain ruin to the party."
- He berated [the President] in nearly every way possible - for his "great intrinsic defects of character," his "disgusting egotism," weaknesses, vacillation, his "eccentric tendencies," his "bitter animosity" toward his own cabinet. He deplored [the President's] handling of relations with France, the "precipitate nomination" of Mr. Jones, the firing of Mr. Johnson, the pardoning of Mrs. Williams.
- Mr. Jones called [the President] a "repulsive pedant," a "gross hypocrite," and "in his private life, one of the most egregious fools upon the continent." [The President] was "that strange compound of ignorance and ferocity, of deceit and weakness," a "hideous hermaphoditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."
- "The historian will search for those occult causes that induced her [America] to exalt an individual who has neither that innocence of sensibility which incites it to love, nor that omnipotence of intellect which commands us to admire. He will ask why the United States degrades themselves to the choice of a wretch that has neither the science of magistrate, the politeness of a courtier, nor the courage of a man?"
One of my favorite Alexander Hamilton (Federalist #1, fourth paragraph) quotes seem apropos, “… nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution." From the example above, it seems Alexander still had a bit of fire and sword in him. I admire Hamilton for his courage in admonishing himself as well as others with his own words.
If we elect politicians without seeking to understand their views then we are short changing ourselves and helping perpetuate the cycle of negative campaigning and meaningless sound bites. Most delegates are able to share their views via e-mail, blogs, Facebook, and precinct meetings. But even if these mechanisms aren't used we should know who they are and can simply ask them. After all, they are our neighbors and friends.