This week's Letters contains a submission that deals with a topic that might easily be considered "political" and that is and always has been a hot topic. I looked at it carefully to see that it did not endorse or malign one party over another. Meeting those qualifications, I allowed it to run this week.
Next week, it would not have run. The reason? We begin something that I started 12 years ago, and which I've come to decide is the most civil approach to discussing sensitive issues of a political nature during campaign season.
Several weeks ago, I contacted the Republican County Chair (Robert Owens) and the Democratic County Chair (Lynn Reichenau) and asked them for lists of topics they wanted to see as discussions for this year leading up to the November election. They responded with their ideas. I then worked through those lists and developed topics for seven weeks of point-counterpoint debates by various authors.
Last week, I sent out the list of topics to Robert and Lynn. They, as County Chairs, will contact the respective members of their parties and solicit authors for each week. There are deadlines that MUST be met. There are submission guidelines that MUST be met. The Chairs are responsible for passing along the information about these points; I am responsible for making sure they are followed and then getting the articles into print.
Here are the planned topics and their publication sequence, starting on September 19th:
Week 1 Explain how the Republican/Democratic Party views the role of government in private life, business and social issues.
Week 2 Health care has been a topic of frequent discussion by both parties. What would the Democratic/Republican Party like local voters to know about this issue?
Week 3 There is no doubt that partisanship in government exists. Explain how your party would work with the opposition to get things done.
Week 4 Many politicians refer to the Constitution; but, are usually just looking at one or two items. What is your party position on a) Freedom of religion; b) Right to bear arms; c) States’ rights.
Week 5 What does your party feel about the influence of money upon the electoral process; and, what changes would they promote to avoid undue influence upon elections?
Week 6 Describe the reasons the readers should vote for Mitt Romney/Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
Week 7 A party is more than just the Presidential candidate. Why should Mason County voters support Democratic/Republican candidates for all the other spots on the ballot, and why should they support Republican/Democratic positions?
For the last three presidential elections, I've used this format to moderate the discussion of issues in the News. It has worked well, and it has helped to keep the tone of debate civil and professional. I would offer that, if it has worked in the past, there is no reason to feel it will not work during this cycle.
The News will not accept letters during this period that endorse one candidate over another, or that attempt to subvert that intention by attacking one candidate while avoiding discussion of the competitor. After this week, I won't allow letters that offered thinly veiled endorsements of one party over another by discussing a topic on which the two parties have clearly identified differences. A forum has been offered and accepted, and that is where the discourse will occur.
Let us set an example for others of how the system can, and should, work.
It’s all just my opinion.