In an age of seemingly endless political bickering, name-calling and worse, calls for civility have become increasingly common in America — and rightfully so.
During a Thursday night panel discussion at the University of Wyoming, former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, a Republican, and former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan, a Democrat, once again spoke on the topic of civility. As recounted by the Laramie Boomerang, Simpson told the audience that discussions about civility go well until someone mentions Republican President Donald Trump or Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — then it ends in chaos.
That seems especially true for interactions on social media, which can quickly turn ugly as conservatives and liberals often relish in disparaging the opposing side.
It’s certainly easy to find examples of incivility in America today. But what about moments of kindness, courtesy and respect, even among political opponents?
In last week’s primary election, we saw civility on display in a local race that ended with the defeat of a longtime legislator.
Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, lost his Senate District 19 seat to R.J. Kost of Powell after serving in the Wyoming Legislature for 13 years. On the morning following the election, Peterson spoke highly of Kost, saying he has integrity and will do a good job in Cheyenne.
“I’m comfortable with giving that seat [to him] and saying, you know, we’ve got a good man down there that will represent us,” Peterson told the Tribune.
Kost similarly commended the senator for his dedication, saying he has the “utmost respect” for Peterson and his service.
During the primary race, it was clear that Peterson and Kost had serious disagreements on policy, but it was refreshing and rare to see political opponents speak so highly of one another. We can only wish more politicians follow suit.
On the topic of civility, we’d be remiss not to take a moment to recognize the late Sen. John McCain, who died on Saturday at the age of 81. The Republican will be remembered as a war hero, a maverick senator and a political giant. He’ll also be remembered for how he treated others, including his opponents.
In October 2008 — just a month before the presidential election — McCain famously defended his rival Barack Obama on the campaign trail. At a town hall meeting in Minnesota, audience members called Obama a liar, a terrorist and an Arab.
McCain countered the angry crowd, calling Obama “a decent family man [and] citizen.” McCain told his supporters he would be respectful and that he admired Obama, according to Politico.
As the crowd booed, McCain said, “I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity. I just mean to say you have to be respectful.”
Political divisions in this country have only worsened since McCain ran against Obama 10 years ago. But Americans should take McCain’s words to heart, especially in today’s political climate: Be respectful.