EDITORIAL: Don’t let the political conflict alienate you from the election

Illustration by Rob Gebelhoff/ robert.gebelhoff@mu.edu

In two weeks, voters will head to the polls to cast their ballots. Just 14 days from now, the attack ads and campaign phone calls will cease, and normal life will resume.

Because let’s face it: after the election, the majority of the political bantering and bickering filling your social media feeds and classroom conversations will stop. Maybe not immediately, but it will begin to dwindle significantly. People’s attacks against each other’s political beliefs will likely also become less frequent … at least for another four years.

As we all know, this election has been filled with animosity, possibly even more than those in the past. Looking back at this year’s presidential debates, it’s fair to say both candidates have displayed a total lack of respect for the debate moderators and each other.

Here we have two men competing for the leadership of the free world. They have issues like war, the economy and the future of our nation in front of them, and yet they argue like petty children about how much time they’ll be given to speak.

Not only was the discourse between President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney somewhat uncivil, so were their physical actions. The candidates were moving uncomfortably close to one another, especially during the second debate.

These two men were supposed to show how they respond to people, but they spent a lot of time talking over, pointing at and attacking each other instead. The candidates’ proximity and hostility made the second debate historic. Never before had a town hall debate been so confrontational.

We think all of this hostility really defines the political nature of the election this year. There’s a lot at stake for both political parties.

But the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, held during every presidential election season since 1945 and most recently last Thursday, made it seem like all of this animosity never existed. In a campaign notable for the contempt candidates hold for each other, the dinner allowed Romney and Obama to be more civil toward each other; they were even on the verge of being friendly. Smiling and making jokes (sometimes at the other’s expense), the two looked like completely different candidates from the ones we’ve seen in the debates.

“In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case against their policies without any ill will,” Romney said in his speech to the dinner guests. “And that’s how it is for me. There is more to life than politics.”

We agree. Surely people can disagree politically, and it doesn’t have to become a matter of life and death.

By no means do we condone the lack of respect and yelling by the candidates, but if it does one thing, it shows that politicians are people, too. We sometimes forget that.

Sure, most people don’t walk around with security guards or have their own planes to fly wherever they want, but they do get upset and are (hopefully) very passionate about the issues that are important to them.

Every four years, voters tend to wind up in the same hostile battle of politics that the politicians are fighting themselves. That’s because all people, no matter who they are, can – and probably will – disagree.

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