Sarah Stultz: Can you commit to being civil this election?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

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Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

As I got into my car last night to venture across the border to Manly to cover the caucuses, I let out a sigh.

Election Day is still about 11 months away, but thanks to our proximity to Iowa I feel like we get an extra dose of elections. Presidential candidates stop at some of our neighboring communities, which in many ways is great, but in other ways it adds on months to an already too long election season.

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And from here on out, things will only be ramping up more and more.

While I mostly enjoy learning about the candidates, in recent years elections have shifted, and they’ve become something that has been frustrating for me to cover.

For all the reasons that I love the Christmas season — people go out of their way to be kind and everyone just seems nicer — the opposite is true of why I now dislike election season. In the last few elections, people have been coming out of the woodwork — which in and of itself is great — but many of them are vicious. Any spirit of goodwill and civility is out the door, and neighbors are pitted against each other — or at least that’s how it has felt to me the last couple of presidential elections.

I’ve covered numerous reports of yard signs that are stolen, and then there’s the angry people posting on social media on both sides of the aisle — and then of course the ensuing arguments that follow in the comment threads.

I don’t mind the local elections as much because they don’t seem to get as ugly, but often the state and federal elections can get downright mean.

Most every election season I get angry calls from people who disagree with one policy or another that the Tribune has surrounding election season, and instead of explaining it civilly, the individuals on the other side of the phone start shouting.

I don’t mind healthy criticism or suggestions for change, but there’s a difference between respectfully presenting an opinion and being confrontational.
Why can’t people just explain their thoughts calmly and respectfully?

As we enter what is now officially election season, I hope we can each keep in mind the value of treating people respectfully, no matter what their opinion.

I hope this will apply not only in words and deeds but also in written letters and columns in this newspaper.

As John F. Kennedy once said, “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.