Sentiments From the Swing State: An Ohioan's Appeal for a Civil Election

Every year that incivility in politics increases and is showcased and exploited by political parties and the media, average, every day Americans become more "in your face."
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Dear Mr. President and Mr. Romney,

Both of you have kicked off your campaigns in the Swing State, Ohio, so I know you are aware that how Ohioans feel reflects the feelings of many throughout the nation. I am writing as one Ohioan, but I believe that I reflect a sentiment widely shared here in Ohio and around the country.

Yes, Ohioans are concerned about jobs, 401Ks, and the economy. Many of us, however, are doubtful that a President or government can do much about this in the current, highly polarized political environment.

Somehow, the people, leaders, labor, government and business need to get on the same page about what's important and our collective responsibility to the Greater Good. Without a commitment to our Greater Good, we will never make progress as a nation. We need a president who is able to bring these sometimes disparate groups together with a common vision for our country. This vision can't be hammered from the top down -- it must be solicited from the grass roots based on the values we share, on our collective DNA.

Because this is so important, many in Ohio are also concerned about how we talk to each other. How can we have a common vision if we can't discuss things, if everything in America is seemingly a fight? I don't want my children to be in a perpetual political battle here at home -- it's bad enough that we're fighting terrorists here and abroad.

We all have seen a marked decrease incivility across our nation since the 2000 election and the onset of hyper-partisanship in Washington. The past few elections have more than exaggerated the divisions between Americans. This incivility -- which both of your parties have perpetuated and exacerbated -- is damaging to all of us, and especially to our children. Children absorb conflict in the adult world the same way they absorb divorcing parents. So when each of you takes aim, we the people become the targets.

There are lots of issues that will define this presidential campaign, but perhaps the most defining characteristic will be the billions of dollars that will be spent and the barrage of attacks that you -- as well as PACs associated with you and your parties -- will throw at each other.

I don't have to tell you that attacks, like any war, have consequences to the civilian population. That's us and our children. The more you both turn the election into a war, the more you will negatively affect American culture and the more divided we all will feel.

Both of you profess to love our country, but you will not show it by turning the election into a war between Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, Upper Class and Middle Class, Rich and Poor. Most of America doesn't reflect these divisions, which are the fodder for media sound bites, attack ads and talk show rantings. Most of America generally gets along and appreciates whatever civility we have left, hanging by a thread.

A negative election can further fray that thread. When America becomes meaner it affects business, families and all of our society. In civility in the form of bullying in schools, the workplace and on the airwaves costs America billions in dollars, productivity and emotional fallout every year. Every year that incivility in politics increases and is showcased and exploited by political parties and the media, average, every day Americans become more "in your face." This process corrodes and sacrifices the soul of America.

The differences propagated to win elections really don't reflect the beliefs of most Americans. When you ask Americans about what is important, we largely believe in the same set of core values that have been shaped by our founding documents and the opportunities and trials of a free nation. Both of you have had opportunities that you would not have had in other countries. Both of you reflect and were shaped by the values of opportunity, freedom, faith, family, equality, community, giving back, love and respect, and doing the right thing. When either of you panders to special interests and extremes, you disrespect the values that shaped you and that are the hope for holding us together.

So I challenge you both to lead the rest of us by example. Ignore the advice of your handlers and consultants and wage a respectful "battle of ideas." Stop the negative ads and the character-bashing before they escalate any further. Frame your discourse on the values that connect us and allow this presidential campaign to be about how your different policies better reflect those values.

Mr. President and Mr. Romney, for the sake of our future, please set the example for how Americans can get along. If you don't, there will be more conflict bubbling over in all aspects of American life, and both of you will be to blame.


Stuart Muszynski

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