In the great civic exercise of electing a United States president, the candidates in the 2000 primary campaigns are becoming very uncivil.
Take, for example, the debate between the two Democratic contenders in New York on Feb. 21. Both Bill Bradley and Al Gore threw adjectives at each other that they would not have done as Senators during debates on the Senate floor. Why should a campaign be any different?
On the Republican side, too, the language and tactics have become too personal. This gloves-off style just chases away would-be voters who see nothing but circus-like "gotcha" campaigning - which just plays to the media's worst tendencies.
Why so much political sleaze now?
Perhaps it's because the US has an excess of "politics of entitlement."
Candidates are competing over promises to deliver goodies from the federal government, whether it's tax cuts, medical coverage, or education dollars. To win voters who feel dearly about these interests, candidates resort to low punches, hoping to score points with those particular voters.
Such behavior only undercuts the purpose of government: to unify the country in common purpose. Campaigns should not be waged on how to divide up the federal pie based on who has the biggest political knife. They should be showcases for statesmanship and a calm contest of ideas.
If candidates were more civic-minded, they'd likely be more civil.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society