Bickering, name calling, accusations and mudslinging are standard in American politics but a group of politicians and an Ohio newspaper editor on Thursday explored paths to bring back an old fashion idea to the 2016 campaign trail: civility.
“Revive Civility” is a nationwide campaign, with roots in Arizona and Ohio, that calls on candidates and officeholders to lead by example, citizens to demand civil behavior and political journalists to focus on issues instead of soundbites.
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“I think we’re all Ohioans, we’re all Americans and we should work together to solve problems. That to me is what this whole civility thing is all about,” said state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley, who pledged to run a positive campaign even though he serves in a politically competitive district.
In recent years, the incivility and personal attacks has “almost become like a reality TV version of governing or like a WWE match or something like that. It’s cheapened or coarsened the discourse to the point where we’re not able to do our jobs as well as we could,” LaRose said. More civility will lead to better government, he said.
LaRose and former state lawmakers Ted Celeste, D-Columbus, Gerald Stebleton, R-Lancaster, Denise Driehaus, D-Cincinnati and Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus, are among Ohio leaders who have been spreading the civility message in Ohio and in other legislatures in states such as Idaho, Maine and Washington.
The National Institute for Civil Discourse, a non-partisan organization focused on promoting healthy and civil political debate, sponsored a conversation at the Ohio Statehouse about how to restore manners, decorum and substance to elections. NICD, housed at the University of Arizona, was established in 2011 after the Tuscon shooting attack on then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and members of her staff and the public.
Doug Oplinger, managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, said journalists should play a role in restoring civility in political discourse by focusing on issues that matter to voters and holding candidates accountable. Voters, however, increasingly don’t trust journalists.
“We have a problem in the news media: the public thinks we are the problem,” Oplinger said.
Oplinger helped spearhead an effort by Ohio media outlets to drill into what issues voters care about. An extensive poll conducted by the University of Akron Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics shows that Ohioans are stressed and worried about the economy and they have a 1,000 different ideas on what could be done to fix it, Oplinger said. Details of the poll will be released Sunday.
Ohio is ground zero for the 2016 presidential campaign, which is already setting new bars for mudslinging, name calling and personal attacks.
Republican Donald Trump refers to the former Secretary of State and former First Lady as “Crooked Hillary.” And Clinton called the billionaire businessman and reality TV star the “King of Debt.”
Ohioans are sure to hear more from the two and their allies. Clinton made three stops in two months in Ohio and has a fourth scheduled for Monday in Cincinnati. It is unclear whether Trump will campaign in Ohio before Cleveland hosts the 2016 Republican National Convention July 17-21.
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