OUR TURN: Let’s return civility to politics

Observers of the human condition noted long ago that politics can be a dirty business.

But it doesn’t have to be so.

Sadly, that message seems to have gotten lost during the recent campaigns for various elected offices.

The distasteful rhetoric and negative messages only seemed to increase the closer the candidates got to the primaries May 29. In fact, the tone reached such a corrosive level that it bothered even some veteran political campaigners from days gone by.

Many old-timers agree they can’t recall ever seeing such vitriol in political races.

Where is the civility that characterized the campaigns of the past? What happened to those dictates of polite discourse, reasoned disagreement and even respect that marked races from previous years?

The dirty tricks of Decision 2012 started with an anonymous smear letter circulated last spring when attorney Robert Klaeger announced he was seeking the Republican nomination for the 33rd state District Court bench.

And since then, many campaigns have taken an uncharacteristic ugly turn, with tempers flaring among candidates and the war of words getting as hot as a fuming volcano.

The anger and pressure prompted by the recent races might have even boiled over the night of May 29, when — according to police — a Republican Party leader struck a reporter because the GOP functionary wasn’t happy about an article.

Brawling in a parking lot over political coverage? Really?

This is not typical of the Highland Lakes and its people. This is not the way we conduct ourselves in the home of bluebonnets and the shimmering Colorado River.

In this part of the world, values and good manners still count — as old-fashioned as that assertion may sound. Mothers and fathers in this cradle of the Hill Country have always raised their children to be polite. They have taught the youth that if you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all. And most children have learned in Sunday school and in the classroom to practice the Golden Rule.

Does this claim sound naive? Perhaps. But ask yourself: What other kind of example should we set for our children?

This campaign season in particular reeks of something alien to the Highland Lakes and the generally tolerant temperaments of its people. It’s almost like some bitter wind blew across the land, poisoning the races with malice.

These attacks and counter-attacks, claims and counter-claims and charges and counter-charges seem opposite to the agreeable and usually friendly attitudes of candidates in past races.

In those days, even when the office-seekers privately couldn’t stand each other, not an objectionable word was uttered in public. Or at least very rarely.

And now we’re headed into Round 2 — the runoffs on July 31.

But that doesn’t mean there has to be a fresh slew of negative politicking.

From the state level to grassroots movements, there is still time for the remaining campaigns to cool down, regroup around facts and figures while leaving innuendo and negative messages behind and stick to the high ground by focusing purely on the issues and talking points central to the public’s greater good.

Politics is about serving the people. That doesn’t mean it has to turn into a blood sport.


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