The chairmen of South Carolina’s Democratic and Republican organizations often appear together on the same stage, illustrating that civility is still possible in our public political discourse. “It’s the Matt and Jaime traveling road show,” said Republican Chairman Matt Moore, his arm around the shoulder of Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison, at a voter education symposium in Florence.
Their appearance together was far from unusual. The moderator of the Florence symposium asked how often the two had shared a stage and Moore responded, “A thousand times.” Their amiable approach was reported by Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press in an article published (Page 1A) in The Sun News last week.
Kinnard’s report is particularly timely, as a few weeks remain in the nastiest presidential election campaign in memory. No two presidential candidates candidates in modern times have been as unpopular with U.S. voters as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Voter dislike of both is well documented. Independents, Democrats and Republicans have said they cannot embrace either major party candidate and may not vote.
Libertarian candidates are polling better than one might expect, although better numbers at this point in presidential elections are not unusual and some analysts expect third party numbers to shrink by election day. On the other hand, 2016 clearly is not your father’s election year – or your grandfather’s. So the Libertarian Party may do better at the polls than many expect.
At least some of the disenchantment surely can be attributed to the lack of civility in U.S. political discourse in general and the 2016 presidential campaign in particular. Trump’s campaign, especially, has used demagogy and name-calling to an extent that sometimes chills one’s sensibilities.
So the “Matt and Jaime Road Show” is welcome relief for everyday citizens who hunger for civility and decency in politics. Of course, Moore and Harrison disagree on partisan matters, Kinnard wrote, “but they keep it far more than just civil.” In Florence, “a crowd of a few dozen listened enrapt ... as Moore and Harrison tackled a variety of issues, in one moment discussing political evolution and division that, both men said, is affecting both Republicans and Democrats. ... on many issues there’s more common ground than one would think, particularly in a year with a vitriolic presidential race.”
Harrison and Moore are bona fide political professionals; Harrison worked for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn in Washington and directed the House Democratic Caucus and Moore worked for U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and was executive director of the state party. They are illustrating for all S.C. citizens, campaign workers and candidates for public office that political discourse does not have to be mean-spirited.
We have no illusions that their example will change the nature of the presidential campaign, but they can and should have a positive impact on supporters – especially the most ardent ones – of candidates at all levels. All should strive for decency, civility and the ability to agree to disagree.