EDITORIAL: Let's bank on decorum this campaign season

·4 min read

Aug. 9—On Sept. 11, about 65,000 fans will pack U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to watch the 123rd battle between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.

If history is any indication, tens of thousands of Packers fans will manage to get tickets, and they won't be all in one block. Vikings fans and Packers fans will rub shoulders all over the stadium.

While the stadium's security team will be prepared for a higher-than-usual number of alcohol-fueled tussles, the vast majority of fans will behave themselves quite properly. They'll cheer for their heroes, boo the bad guys and yell at the refs when a call doesn't go their way. When Aaron Rodgers gets sacked, Vikings fans will gloat. When Kirk Cousins throws an interception, Packers fans will return the favor.

But during commercial breaks, many fans will chat amiably with people who are wearing the "wrong" colors. And at the end of the day, while one group basks in victory's glory, the other will file out, glum but defiant, eager for the rematch on Jan. 1, 2023.

It's a game. You win some, you lose some, and the rematch is seldom far off.

If only this attitude could regain some traction in our nation's political landscape.

Today is primary day in Minnesota — which means that we now have begun the official countdown to the general election on Nov. 8. For the next 80-some days, potential voters across Minnesota will have a seemingly endless array of opportunities to listen to and interact with the candidates whose names will appear on the ballot.

Debates, candidate forums and townhall meetings will bring opposing candidates and their supporters into close proximity with each other at a time when ideological divides seem to get deeper by the day. Abortion, gun control, climate change, critical race theory, inflation and voting rights are just some of the topics that can cause shouting matches — or worse — at any public gathering. Civil debate has become the exception, rather than the rule.

This trend saddens and worries us. Decorum, tolerance and common decency, which once were part of the backbone of American democracy, now seem to have given way to vitriol, intolerance and grandstanding.

Think back to Sept. 9, 2009, when South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson shocked the world by shouting "You lie!" at President Obama during a joint address to Congress. Members of both parties immediately condemned this unthinkable breach of decorum, and before the evening was over, Wilson extended a direct apology to the president, who immediately accepted the apology.

Today, such an outburst would barely be noticed, and the very idea of apologizing to a wronged opponent — or of graciously accepting such an apology — would likely be taken as a sign of weakness.

How did the divide between our political "camps" become so deep? And why, we have to ask, are so many people so angry about so many things? We can't answer those questions, but we'd like to suggest a way to avoid further fanning of the flames between now and Nov. 8.

It's fairly simply, actually: Resist the urge to make yourself part of the show.

Unless your name will be on the ballot in November, the number of people who care about your political views can likely be counted on one hand. Despite the hours you spend doing "research" on your topic of choice, you don't know better than everyone else. You are not the smartest person in the room, and at any given moment, the people around you have somewhere close to zero interest in your thoughts on the Jan. 6 hearings, green energy or the latest round of COVID boosters.

Keep that in mind when you attend political events this fall. Forums and debates give candidates the opportunity to explain their views and their plans if they are elected. While some of these events offer voters a chance to ask direct questions, they are neither the time nor the place for members of the general public to pursue their 15 minutes of fame through speech-making, shouted interruptions or other forms of attention-seeking that serve no purpose other than wasting everyone else's time.

That lost time is precious, because believe it or not, some people attend or watch such events because they are undecided and actually want to hear what the candidates have to say.

Let that happen. Let the candidates keep the spotlight. Even if the person you oppose says things that make your blood boil. Even if you think a candidate needs your immediate help to defend himself/herself against an outrageous claim.

Trust us — they don't. There's a reason they are on the stage, rather than you.

Believe it or not, the sun will rise on Nov. 9, regardless of how Nov. 8 plays out. Some of the candidates you like will win, others will lose, and the only certainty is that we'll do this all again in two years.

So don't be the political equivalent of the fan who runs onto the field during the Packers-Vikings game. Those idiots usually get leveled by a linebacker and spend the night in jail.