It has become increasingly clear that the political parties, elected representatives, and candidates are unable to police themselves when it comes to civility and respect in public discourse. When our current President can behave like the worst 2nd grade playground bully and no "leader" in his party will call out his behavior as unacceptable, then perhaps it is time for the majority of Americans who are not blindly committed to a particular party or individual to call for change.
I wonder what might happen if candidates in the next two election cycles--2018 and 2020--would take a pledge like the one below and if the voters, media outlets, and debate hosters would hold them to the pledge? Perhaps a pledge like this:
I [Candidate Name] commit that I will run a campaign of integrity that will be marked by debate on the issues, not personal attacks. That will focus on why my ideas are good for America, and not on why my opponents' are not. That will be driven by a desire to create the best America for the next generation, and not for the short-term benefit of the privileged few. That will pursue common ground, and not seek to divide. That will tell the truth, and not shade the facts for my own political advancement.
I will respect my opponents, and by respecting them, I will respect those whose votes we all hope to win. I will respect my opponents, and by respecting them I will be able to provide leadership for all of my constituents--not just those who voted for me. I will respect my opponents, and by respecting them I will never need to look in the mirror (or my grandchildrens' eyes) and be disgraced or embarrassed.
I ask the media, please do not accept any advertisements from my campaign, or from anyone else on my behalf, that denigrate or disrespect my opponents. No one who engages in personal attacks against my opponents speaks for me. I ask those who host debates or town halls; if, in the heat of the battle, I engage in personal or disrespectful attacks against my opponents--turn off my microphone.
Rest assured, I am in this race to win, but not to win at all costs. I affirm that there are values that are more important than winning an election and I will not sacrifice those values for my own political success.
Those of us who are disgusted and disheartened by what we see today in the realm of public discourse, and who do not wish to pass on to our children and grandchildren the country that we are becoming, we cannot merely throw our hands in the air and lament the sad current state of affairs. We must make our voices heard. We must write. We must speak out. We must vote. And in the midst, we must not stoop to the level of discourse being modeled in Washington D.C. and in many statehouses across this grand and glorious country. The possibilities for America's future are worth striving for.
Because if we do not, the light of hope grows dim.