The Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary is under the state’s belt.

While the final democratic candidate had not been chosen as of the time I am writing this column, Virginia’s part, at least for now, is not as front and center. That means there is likely to be a little bit of a respite from the political campaigning before it really kicks into gear in the months ahead of the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

In talking with the average person, I generally hear only negative things about elections and campaigning. Part of it may be disillusionment with the performances of past elected officials. Part of it comes from disdaining the way we are inundated leading up to elections with candidates telling us why they are the best or their opponent is the worst. The ugliness some campaigns sink to can be unbelievable.

Many of us can remember clearly how bad the atmosphere surrounding the 2016 presidential election became, and, depending on your age, you may remember some far more sordid campaigns in the years before that. In 2016, whether I was observing people in my personal acquaintance or the larger population through different media representations, the behavior became downright spiteful and disheartening to watch at times. The meanness that abounded on all sides in that particular election left a bad taste in my mouth for months, and it makes me cringe when I think about what we may be in store for in 2020.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you might notice that I rarely criticize what people stand for in their personal or professional lives. I believe in the right to free thought, no matter how different it is from mine, as long as it doesn’t involve hurting others or breaking the law. I do, however, sometimes take issue with the way people represent themselves or act when it comes to their beliefs. On general principle I don’t believe that treating other people with basic human dignity – even if they hold different views – is the same thing as saying you agree with them.  

Let’s give an example from last week. With only a democratic primary taking place on the ballots in Powhatan, generally the only campaigners outside the polls were representatives of the democratic party. If one of those campaigners greets you with a simple “welcome to the polls,” here are some examples of some responses I have no issue with: “hello,” “thanks,” ”Trump 2020,” “not interested,” “windy today, isn’t it,” or plain silence. “F*** you” is unneighborly and uncalled for.

We have 237 days until Election Day, and it’s only going to get more heated from here. That is the nature of the beast that is political campaigning. The ugliness of this campaign is inevitable even here in Powhatan County, right?

Unless you remember that while politics matter, so do people. That heated, open, strong, and even angry debates about issues don’t have to turn into intolerant, hate-filled diatribes. That a person who has a different political view as you may be just as likely to stop and help you change a blown tire as one who checks all the same boxes on a ballot.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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