A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Civil Community, Most of the Time (Except When it Matters)

Civility. Nothing like it. The Sarasota Civic League is against negative political advertising and features a pledge for candidates to take. USF Sarasota Manatee hosts forums about civility in politics. In fact, one is coming up November 4th. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice has a major initiative called "Because It Matters" that includes a webpage Civility in Democracy. Sarasota County has a Civility Code. So one might expect Sarasota to be a hotbed of civility. And I suppose most of the time it is. But during election season those strong voices for civility are drowned out by invective, distortions, and downright lies.

For all their well intentioned efforts, none of the above organizations actually calls anyone out for being uncivil. As a result, candidates can devolve during a campaign with no real fear of being confronted by anyone other than their opponent. The Civic League lamely proclaims that "the community and voters should assess whether a candidate kept their pledge during the conduct of their campaign." So they are willing to decide whether a candidate is qualified or not, but unwilling to decide if they can keep a pledge. This is roughly analogous to Consumer Reports warranting that a blender is made by a reputable company but being too timid to reveal if the blades are likely to cut your fingers off.

I should think voters would like to know if qualified candidates can keep their word for the duration of a campaign.

Its easy to advocate for civility when everyone is being civil. But when the discourse heads into the gutter no one seems to want to get their hands or shoes dirty.

This community would benefit from some organization willing to speak out when things turn uncivil. To be fair, the press does weigh in at times and has spoken up when candidates hit below the belt. But wouldn't it be valuable for another, independent, non-partisan group to render opinions on the civility of political campaigns? Because this is when it really matters.

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