A Call for Civility in American Politics
The United States faces daunting challenges as we approach the close of the 20th Century. Those challenges include an urgent necessity that we as a nation find better ways to talk with and about each other. Too often in politics and government, we have relied on stereotypes, slurs, and innuendo to make our points more memorable, more “news-worthy,” more striking.
Indeed, as people of faith and goodwill we know that incivility can often be an effective political weapon against ideological opponents. When religion and politics intersect, we see vividly the growing trend of many to baptize a political stance in the language of religious doctrine. Elevating partisan positions to a form of non-negotiable religious convictions in a manner that makes civil interaction difficult threatens the sanctity of religion and undermines the ideals of our democratic society.
Voters in this election cycle are looking for a change. They seek candidates whose demeanor leads away from the politics of destruction. The American people, the common good, and our democratic ideals demand constructive campaigning and civil debate from those who would be our political leaders.
The Framework of Civility for Political Candidates presents a basis for civil debate and exchange among candidates for office as well as among their campaign organizations and institutional and individual supporters. It is built on the principle that a candidate for office must uphold the public trust in the context of the campaign. That public trust demands of candidates integrity, a sense of fairness, respect for the political process and for others, and a profound sense of personal responsibility. This framework delineates the application of those central characteristics to a political campaign.
Call To a Faithful Decision 2000
Framework of Civility for Political Candidates
Integrity in Making Your Cases to the Voters
- Talk honestly about your beliefs, motivations, and purpose in running for office.
- Endeavor to present clear, accurate proposals regarding issues that are based on the facts as you understand them without attempting to mislead voters regarding your public record.
- Welcome and seek to optimize opportunities to present in open forum your platform, policies, and issue proposals.
Fairness in Addressing the Issues and Your Opponent
- Refrain from using deception, half-truths, falsification, or innuendo in describing your opponents.
- Immediately and unilaterally repudiate any such actions conducted to your benefit by other individuals or organizations.
- Insure that your campaign organization has in its possession documents supporting factual claims about you or your opponent’s record or background.
Respect for the Dignity of Others
- Seek to heighten the level of discourse presented to voters with the intent of increasing their knowledge of the issues and your positions on those issues throughout all aspects of the campaign.
- Reject degrading, disparaging, or demeaning descriptions or visual images of your opponent.
- Reject personal attacks, innuendo, or stereotyping in describing or referring to your opponent.
- Avoid all references, characterizations, or suggestions intended or likely to demonize or dehumanize those holding opinions different from yours.
Responsibility for Your Words and Actions
- Conduct all aspects of your campaign using as guiding principles the betterment of the democratic process in this country and the desire to increase the integrity of the electoral process.
- Assume full responsibility for the words and actions of your campaign staff, volunteers, surrogates, and other individuals and organizations working on your behalf or seeking to influence the election in your favor.
- Publicly and unequivocally reject words, images, and/or actions that incite hatred or fear against others.
- Refrain from using the rhetoric of civility merely for political effect, opting instead to incorporate the meaning and goals of civil discourse into your actions and statements.
QUESTIONS FOR THE CANDIDATES
1. Do you support the principles outlined in this framework?
2. Will you agree to conduct your campaign in accordance with this framework (these principles)?
3. If you are not willing to sign this particular framework, what are the principles you have set in place to insure the integrity, fairness, respect, and responsibility of your campaign?
4. Who on your campaign staff bears primary responsibility to you, the candidate, for insuring the principles you’ve established are carried out?