Common ground

There seems to be one thing people can agree on politically this year — many races for elective office descended to new lows for meanness, unfairness and a conscious and willful abandonment of facts.

This seemed particularly bad in the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In Maine, though, perhaps the worst example of this in memory was in the 2nd Congressional District race, the rematch between Republican Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain.

In many local races, however, candidates took the high road and refrained from personal attacks. Good examples include the earnest campaigns waged by Republican Sen. Brian Langley and Democratic challenger Moira O’Neill, and Democratic Rep. Brian Hubbell and Republican challenger Joe Marshall. Both sides showed true class and stayed on the issues, refusing to descend into the dark canyons of character assassination and unfettered hyperbole.

If there was a whiff of negative campaigning, it was generated by political action committees and outside interest groups that increasingly are becoming the bane of decency in our political process.

No small measure of the anger and venom reflected by the electorate this year comes from the bombardment of negative advertising, falsehoods and fear.

If anything, the public mood surrounding the election and unfair questions surrounding the integrity of the electoral process show just how harmful to the reasoned conduct of public discourse — and to the health, welfare and well-being of the nation — the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has been in allowing basically unlimited outside money from corporations and wealthy individuals to flow into any race or referendum.

Upon reflection in these days after the election, perhaps there is one thing on which people who were disheartened by the metaphorical ashes of this year’s election can agree. We need to get the shadow influences and corruptive weight of unlimited money out of the system.

In this election, many spirits succumbed to the relentless onslaught of negativity. It will require just as pervasive an effort to ensure that people on both sides of these races and issues return their hearts and minds to more moderate, thoughtful and constructive dialogue.

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