Letter: Workshop’s goal: civility in politics, campaigns

Thu, 2018-09-06

For the past six years I have been leading a program called Next Generation, which includes a half-day workshop for state legislators across the country. Having served three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives and witnessed the extreme partisanship firsthand, I worked with the National Institute for Civil Discourse to create and facilitate the workshop “Building Trust through Civil Discourse.”

After holding 23 workshops in 16 states with more than 700 legislators, our organization found that many legislators, once elected, were frustrated trying to work toward civil discourse after having just been beaten up in nasty and negative campaigns. That fact and the already-negative tone of the 2018 campaigns led the institute to develop a training program for candidates wishing to run positive campaigns.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse was pleased to have sponsorship help from the Columbus Partnership and The John Glenn College at Ohio State University. In two sessions over the summer, 14 candidates from seven states came to Columbus to learn some tools, hear from political pros, do some role-playing and set out an action plan. One of the highlights was the participation of two local candidates.

We should applaud all these candidates and encourage them to fulfill their goal of keeping their campaigns positive and let them know if we feel they stray from this course. However, as is often the case, the political parties, the House caucuses, the many special-interest groups and campaign consultants will be urging them to do whatever it takes to win. We have all seen the nasty negative ads which include grainy photos and many misrepresentations.

Readers can help positive campaigners maintain their objectives by letting them know how much they appreciate their willingness to help change the tone of our campaigns. They can also help by rejecting the negative ads and calling out our parties and outside groups when they take that course.

Keep the narrative on the issues and policy differences and we will all be better for it. Join NICD in our effort to #ReviveCivility.

Ted Celeste, director of state programs, National Institute for Civil Discourse, Columbus