As the 2012 campaigns settle into a pattern of personal attacks, voters need not be passive, or even resigned. The can demand civility.
For voters tempted to ignore the 2012 election because of too many passionate, personal attacks by candidates, here’s a bit of advice – and it comes from someone who saw it first in American politics:
“In causes of passion, admit reason to govern,” wrote George Washington in his “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior.”
Public debate, said President Obama in 2009, must be done with “friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love.” And earlier this year, Mr. Romney said, “Poisonous language ... has never softened a single heart nor changed a single mind.”
Obama rose to national prominence in 2004 with his appeal for civility. In his 2008 campaign, he promised to change the capital’s caustic tone, or what Bill Clinton called “the politics of personal destruction.”
But on Thursday, Obama said the “most important” lesson he has learned as president is that “you can’t change Washington from the inside.”