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Posted: November 5, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Politicians deserve a time-out

Let’s say your side or candidate won or lost last Tuesday. Aren’t you just a little bit embarrassed by what it took to win or lose this election?

Blessedly, it’s over. Small children, dogs and grannies shouldn’t have been exposed to what we saw in ads every day on television, but the incivility, rudeness and blatant ugliness of attack ads couldn’t be avoided. Professionals say negative campaign ads work, a sorry comment on our common psyche. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who responds to negativity, but maybe I’ve got a small circle of friends.

Neither winners nor losers should take pride in what transpired in state and national campaigns. However, one of the major newscasts went back in history to prove that our Founding Fathers indulged in even lower tactics, not only impugning the character, origins and motives of their opponents, but also that of their wives and mothers. Maybe it’s just the American way.

Surely one lesson of this election was captured by Atlanta Journal-Constitution cartoonist Mike Luckovich on Wednesday. It showed GOP elephants in party hats peering from the Capitol Dome at a protester continuing to march outside. He’s bearing a sign that reads, "Throw the bums out!" An elephant calls out to him: "The Midterms are over. Why aren’t you leaving?" The protester responds: "Gearing up for 2012." In other words, we Americans have short attention spans, and what goes around will come around.

Perhaps we are most comfortable with a divided Congress, but isn’t that essentially what we’ve labored under for the past 22 months: Two parties unwilling and not much able to find ways to work with each other to advance a semblance of a common American agenda (if such a thing actually exists these days).

If this was a marriage, I’d have to recommend divorce for the sake of the children. Some researchers say children prefer their parents to part ways rather than for them to live in households filled with constant fighting, name-calling, disrespect and abuse, not far different from what campaigning has devolved to.

Former Gov. Joe Frank Harris told me recently he remembers the time when a candidate would never deign to speak of an opponent by name, but only refer to him or her as "My esteemed opponent." Oh for those days.

It’s easy to invoke the axiom "all’s fair in love and war" to deflect criticism of the unseemly, but would we actually employ, or could we afford to employ, that philosophy in our personal and daily lives? Could we really live with ourselves or each other if anything goes?

Of course not.

In order to survive and thrive, we have to make ourselves seek places where we can compromise, to concede on some points while pressing others, and then to find ways that both points of view on an issues are taken into account in the final resolution. Instead, it seems that in politics these days, someone has to be taken down, disemboweled and tossed on the trash heap so someone else can claim victory.

Is this a lesson any decent parent would teach a child? Of course not. Using bad words, acting out and plain ugliness would demand that the perpetrator get sent to timeout or is grounded. I’m calling for time-out folks, on plain old bad behavior on the public stage and how-low-can-you-go, win-at-all-costs political posturing. Some will say I’m whistling in the wind. We may be too far gone down the road to put this house back together, but let me dream.

 

Barbara Morgan is a resident of Covington with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. Her column appears on Fridays.

 

 

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