Does Political Discourse Need Geneva Conventions?
My DVR's ability to zip past political commercials is the only thing standing between my television and a big rock.
Living in a swing state in an era of poisonous politics means never having to say to yourself, "Gee, I wonder how the guy running for president will destroy the country today?" Just turn on the TV, and the answer appears in neatly packaged 30-second spots. Apparently the attack ad accusing President
No matter one's political leanings, it is easy to become cynical. Yes, Obama's stance on welfare is relevant, but lying outright about it is not. And, yes, Romney's overseas tax shelters are fair game, but the use of embarrassing lounge lizard video sure isn't.
We are in another presidential election cycle where persuading the electorate using facts, evidence and reasoning is lost to emotional manipulation and lies.
You have to wonder if that was always the case. I got my answer on a recent trip to southern
Lincoln was deeply opposed to Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the law that allowed new territories to elect to become slave-holding. This locus launched these road-show debates, a seven-town, 21-hour spectacle that addressed a national disagreement so deep and divisive it could only be decided by a civil war. Even with emotions so high, the political adversaries focused on the issues and persuaded through rational discourse.
Could some reasonable facsimile of these debates happen today? That question was put to
She's right about new rules. We need a set for civil discourse. Not new laws -- that would violate the First Amendment -- but a set of culturally enforced standards. I believe it could happen even with America's take-no-prisoners politics. Think about war, the most horrendous acts human beings do to one another. Yet, the civilized nations of the world have adopted the Geneva Conventions to regularize wartime conduct. If we can agree on rules for war, we should be able to do the same for political campaigns.
Here are mine:
Rule One: Identify yourself. Reputation is a powerful civilizing force, while anonymity exerts the opposite push. The role of anonymous money for vicious political attack ads coarsens the debate. The people giving would never affix their names to what's being said. Stop the cowardice, and lower the temperature.
Rule Two: Be factually accurate. It's the most fundamental element in honest debate, according to
Media organizations like the
Rule Three: Stop the hypocrisy. Don't accuse your opponent of doing evil if he's embracing your own policies. Obamacare and Romneycare, for instance, are essentially the same approach to health care reform. Admitting the obvious leads to voter clarity.
Only voters can hold politicians to a new set of normative values that would make for cleaner campaigns and a stronger democracy. Otherwise, our only choice is to gear up those DVRs and tune out the clatter.
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Does Political Discourse Need Geneva Conventions? | Politics
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