By Margaret Gorski, Stevensville
Who doesn’t support faith, family, and freedom?
When I tell someone I am running for public office, the first question that is often asked is, “Are you running as a Democrat or Republican?” I often reply: “Both, there are good ideas on both sides of the aisle.” Sadly, many times this is followed by a statement about Democrats just being a bunch of freeloaders and leeches. What should I say after such a blatantly biased and one sided view of issues?
My father served his country for 25 years in the Air Force. When he retired in his 40’s, he moved my family to live next to a military base so that we could still use the commissary and hospital and to go to school on the GI Bill. Did that make my father a leech? When I left home, I earned a degree in Forestry at the University of Washington where my parents could afford the tuition because most of it was paid for by the citizens of the state of Washington. Did that make me a leech?
Labelling all Democrats freeloaders and leeches is about as illuminating as me accusing all Republicans of being concerned only for themselves, aka “selfish” or “greedy.” What is the point of name calling and why has our political dialogue come to this? How we talk to each other has been eroded by relying only on emojis, sound bites, tweets, and disappearing Instagrams. Using symbols, slogans, labels, stereotypes and words where the writer projects his or her own meaning (not to mention the meanings inferred by the reader) is not only misleading, it clouds our intentions and is harmful to our political debate.
Candidates for the 2018 Montana U.S. Senate race have raised $23 million so far to pay for campaign expenses that include sending out mailers, Facebook ads, and running television spots. And the election is still five months away. Democrats and Republicans often use language that is either meaningless or implies something evil. They reveal almost NOTHING about the candidate’s experiences, priorities, ability to listen or think critically. Rarely do they give a real indication of the candidates’ position on complex issues. How do these actually help inform voters to make intelligent choices? Just think about what we could do with $23 million in Montana?
I saw another example recently while marching in the Corvallis Memorial Day parade. One of the Ravalli County Republican candidate’s big banner shouted in capital letters “Faith—Family—Freedom.” Who isn’t for that? Are they sending a message that Democrats do not have faith, do not cherish their families, or will not fight to keep our nation free? No, we all support faith, family, and freedom. But, as the saying goes, the devil’s in the details. How do buzz words and slogans translate into policy and budget priorities? Is it really impossible to communicate the policy details and long term implications of the choices we make in ways we all can understand?
As a candidate, I have thought long and hard about how to get my messages across in ways that are respectful of “the other side” and give readers some idea of my values and why I think I would make a good representative and legislator. But the election environment we have created for ourselves forces me to consider using the same name calling tactics. Career politicians and their marketing professionals have made name calling and sloganeering standard operating procedure for campaigns.
I strongly believe that citizens need to demand better of our political system. Not only does this kind of rhetoric fail to inform the voter, it violates my basic Christian belief in honesty.
We must figure out a way to change how we talk to one another to be more effective and respectful. The future of our nation depends on it.