Let’s talk about nuance and civility

Let me start this piece by admitting my bias. I’m on the left of the political spectrum, and I’ve been staunchly left for the majority of my life. I like to think that in the right race, with the right candidate, I’d vote for a moderate to moderate-right candidate. And in my previous home state of Chicago, I would. And if I had lived in Brian Shiozawa’s district, or Ray Ward’s district, I might. But the fact is, I’m a pretty cut-and-dry progressive. Ok, that’s out of the way.

Something has been gnawing at me lately that really hit me the day I went to the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention. At that Convention, I heard our County District Attorney, Sheriff, County Clerk, members of our Salt Lake County Council, and our County Mayor, talk about how they wanted to fight for a set of values — a set of values that, one presumes, are a set of values shared by most Democrats. Can they argue at the margin? Sure. But their point, wrapped in different words, was that we – Democrats, Utahns, Americans, humans – share a set of values and they want to stay in office to fight for those values.

Maybe I wasn’t listening. Maybe I wasn’t hearing. But what I didn’t hear was how the world would come to an end if their opponents were elected. I heard why they believed they were the better candidates, but not why their opponents were the worse candidates.

And then this past weekend I watched Representative Mia Love’s speech at the Utah GOP convention where, within just a few minutes, she equated Mayor Ben McAdams to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and continued by saying, “Do we want a 4th District represented by a candidate who supports unrestricted abortion and is willing to use your money to pay for it?” She continued, “Do we want someone who said they would have voted no on tax reform and denied you the ability to use your own money so that he and Nancy could use it for more government programs?” Her conclusion after these and other questions: “I don’t think we can live with that.”

Let me return to my bias – maybe because of my bias, I’m just not listening. Or maybe I’m just not hearing. But Ben McAdams is campaigning on a set of issues. Agree with him or disagree with him, but I have yet to hear him say anything false or hear him suggest that we somehow can’t live with Mia Love as a representative of the State of Utah. I challenge Rep. Love and anyone else to find me a reference to Mayor McAdams stating he supports “unrestricted abortion.” Find me those words. Seriously.

There are those on the right that color their words and actions with calls for civility. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. But if you’re going to call for civility, then don’t just call for it; practice it, too. Be truthful. Rely on facts. Argue honestly. Understand that compromise isn’t a dirty word, and that the devil is in the details. Nuance matters, and usually doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker. I’d prefer Ben McAdams to Mia Love for a host of reasons, but my world won’t come to an end if she wins reelection.

It’s said that Utahns don’t like negative campaigning but, unfortunately, it proves effective over-and-over again. Nuance, unfortunately, usually doesn’t win elections. But it should. Civility, unfortunately, doesn’t win elections. But it should. And despite my bias, maybe that’s why Democrats keep losing. But they shouldn’t.


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