There have been times when it appeared some of the participants were ready to come to blows. Much of it, I suspect, has been spurred by misinformation, either by well-meaning but ill-informed folks trying their best to look out for their own interest, or in the case of at least one national personality, flat-out wrong information she used simply to inflame emotions on the debate.
What a contrast Thursday morning’s candidate forum was at the Good Life Cafe in Mount Airy. There, mayoral candidate Deborah Cochran held court with about two dozen local residents who questioned her on all sorts of subjects, including adding bicycling lanes to public highways, the possibility for expansion of recycling efforts, her view on public debt, and even a few questions about the recently approved city manager’s contract.
The forum was one of four being put on by Good Life, with Teresa Lewis set to be there on Sept. 17, Paul Eich on Sept. 24 and Gene Clark scheduled for Oct. 1
In attendance Thursday was one of her opponents, Eich. Yet nary a cross word was exchanged during the informal question and answer session.
Some of the queries lobbed toward Cochran were, admittedly, easy ones with no controversy attached. Others were not so much so, particularly when the subjects of needed water and sewer improvements, and airport expansion were broached.
Even then, however, the session had a certain respective tone that was once common in politics.
I don’t know how many of you ever watch C-Span, but I can recall over the years watching broadcasts from the floor of the British Parliament, specifically the House of Commons, and it looked to me for all the world like a riot was about to break out. People would scream out invectives aimed at the speaker or his subject, and others would shout their replies. All the while the speaker continued on, as if he were alone, reciting his speech.
I suppose if that’s what one is used to, then it’s okay, but I was raised, at least in large part, on a more respective form of politics. Yes, back-stabbing and underhanded conspiracies to derail an opponent have always been a part of American politics, but at least publicly citizens and politicians by and large show some level of civility to one another in public.
That’s not been the case in these healthcare town meetings. Last week such behavior took on another twist when President Obama addressed Congress. South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson shouted out “You lie,” during the president’s speech.
It’s well and good for Wilson to say he believes the president is being untruthful when he makes his own speeches and writings, but to call that out during a presidential address to Congress — that just seems to take this idea of disrespect to a whole new level.
And that brings me back to the upcoming Mount Airy elections. What I saw at Thursday’s forum was a candidate — Cochran — speaking to city residents, and another candidate in attendance willing to chime in when asked. The two of them have very definite opinions on how local government should be run, but they would not criticize another person.
As these next few weeks unfold there no doubt will be differences of opinion among the candidates, but I hope they continue to focus on the issues and refrain from personal attacks or so-called dirty politics.
That would be the type of leadership city residents deserve in a mayor, and the election process is a great audition to show just what sort of a city representative each candidate would be.
John Peters is the editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 719-1931.