As nasty as this 2016 election has been, it almost makes us forget Thanksgiving is in late November to celebrate the end of the harvest instead of the end of the election.
I know you’re thinking of the presidential race, which saw scorched-earth tactics to try to excite supporters, if not win over the opposition. But there were a lot of nasty tactics in other races, too.
The problem with all those harsh attacks is after the election is over, the winners need to try to build unity. Governing is about building consensus, not bullying others. Bringing people together is hard to do when you’ve used so many, and so severe, mean-spirited words during the campaign.
For Americans, it’s going to be a difficult four years if the political battles are as fierce as I expect.
The good news is there’s no election next year. Once every four years, there’s a reprieve.
The bad news is the 2018 campaigns already are beginning.
To those 2018 candidates, I have to suggest they remember the Golden Rule. Different religions learn this with different wording, but it all boils down to this: Treat other people the way you want them to treat you.
That applies to daily life, including campaign ads, and not just when you’re in a house of worship.
In Northwest Indiana, we take civility seriously. The Community Civility Counts campaign applies to politics as well as other aspects of daily life. The movement is growing, too. Candidates for public office should take notice.
I understand when candidates for public office are tempted to go on the attack and hit hard. Negative campaign ads are effective. But remember the end game isn’t winning the election but governing. Candidates who succeed in the election — but at great cost to civility — will find it difficult to govern.
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels made it a point to be positive, and he served two terms in office. He was a popular governor. Daniels sold himself throughout his campaigns, telling voters who he was and what he planned to accomplish. He took pride in not going negative in his campaign ads.
Sun Tzu’s classic, “The Art of War,” advises readers, “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.” It’s good advice for candidates for public office.
Sun Tzu also advised warriors to use deception, but campaigns should ignore that advice. There are so many fact-checkers that deception is tricky. In fact, deceivers have shifted tactics to accusing the fact-checkers of deception. That’s another danger.
Campaigners who criticize the government too much are undermining our faith in the institutions we rely on. It stirs up the base, but it causes long-term problems. Stirring up anger is a dangerous thing.
Our nation, our state and our communities rely on the consent of the governed. Let’s not jeopardize that consent with campaigns so bitter that hatred lingers long after the election returns are in.