Well, it's been a rough week below the fold on this blog. Hard feelings telegraphed in epithets and all-cap shouting greeted the end of the closest contest in modern national primary politics. Despite the high heat, I did not delete a single comment. There are a couple of reasons for this: for one, I can tolerate a bit of cussin' and vitriol. It doesn't necessarily bother me and it shows readers have a bit of passion, even if some of it is directed in anger towards me. And secondly, this is a historic moment and I think that blogs in this totally-wired primary have become historical documents. Oh, I don't mean to suggest somebody ought to burn this thing on a disk for the National Archives. But I do think there's value in presenting (and preserving for a while) an honest record of what people thought in the moment.
That said, I'd really like to invite a return to comity herein. So, a few firm observations:
- You will convince no one of the merits of your argument by belittling their position. Versions of "Clinton lost, deal with it, fool!" or "Nobama! He's a shyster, you jerk! or "If you go for McCain, you're an idiot!" are poor writing and they bring no value to the conversation. More likely than not, these smack-downs in comments merely harden the positions of those being ridiculed. Note: I do not use actual comments as examples here, wishing to call no one out in particular. Indeed, I have sinned through my own fault, through my own words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do.
- The candidates themselves are tough, professional politicians. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Each combines vanity, venality and ambition with vision, commitment and policy. It makes no sense at all to impart an imagined purity on your candidate, while defining your opponent as some combination of the great villains in political history. Again, this will convince no one.
- A secular, bloggy version of "turn the other cheek" is amazingly effective in these heated back-and-forths. Maintaining a calm and unperturbed virtual visage will impress your friends and unnerve your enemies. Pour your vitriol (and this being politics, I realize that's the fuel) into good research and writing. Back up any assertions with links whenever possible.
- Praise your opponents freely. There is no way the candidate on the other side is evil through and though; therefore, it stands to reason, the supporters of that candidate have some inherent good in them. At the very least, they care enough about the political process to show up and argue about it. Now and again, they'll make a decent point. Be quick with praise.
- Lastly, generosity is a lucky charm. We have limited campaigns of our own on this planet, election day comes soon enough to everyone, and there's just not enough time to settle every score. Besides, improvement is the idea - of ourselves, our communities, and our country. So cool out, people. Cool out.
To celebrate these new, purely voluntary guidelines, here's a great comment from Mr. Mobi, who walks the talk in fine fashion:
I'm an Obama supporter from Illinois, so I've known about him for quite some time. As an older man, I'm not especially given to fawning admiration for any politician (I'm from Chicago), but in the case of Obama, I find his story and his experience both compelling and inspiring.
Today, Hillary Clinton showed all of America how a great candidate concedes a vigorously fought election with eloquence, style, and class.
I've said before, and I'll say again now, these are the two best Democratic candidates I've seen in my 61 years. During the course of the campaign, both candidates were subjected to, and, in some cases used, racist and sexist attacks. That said, this was one of the mildest, most congenial political primaries I've ever seen.
Think about it. We had two candidates whose positions on the issues were, at most, millimeters apart. They fought and scraped for 16 months, and we now have a winner. Hillary today asked her supporters to "not go there" with regard to rehashing the real and imagined slights of the campaign, but to stay focused on how important this election is. It's good advice, and we ignore it at the peril of our freedoms, because the alternative is John McCain.