Unexpected Civil Discourse

When Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and law professor Chris Peterson ran against each other for governor of Utah earlier this year, they recorded a public service announcement together reminding voters of the need for decency during elections. They theorized that it was probably the first time two candidates had engaged in such a move, and they pointed to the core American values of decency and democracy as the drivers for the message.

“We can debate issues without degrading each other’s character.”

Chris Peterson, Democrat

“We can disagree without hating each other.”

Spencer Cox, Republican

In an opinion piece they wrote for USA Today, they pointed to the fact that running for office typically means baseless personal attacks, insults, and threats, and a general degrading of our humanity.

They also pointed to the fact that this kind of “tribalism” leaves Americans behind, while civil discourse will move us toward a more perfect union.

Ultimately, they acknowledge that, while kindness won’t solve real problems like Covid-19 or financial struggles, it will help us develop meaningful solutions…

“Not as Republicans and Democrats or liberals and conservatives, but as Americans.”

Peterson and Cox in USA Today

If the two men who were competing for the job were able to overcome partisan politics in the name of civil discourse, there’s hope for us all.

It’s worth noting, too, that the ad garnered more than 628,000 views in its first five hours, suggesting that there’s a fair amount of interest in this kind of political activity.

Perhaps decency is exactly the kind of disruptor our political system needs.

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