Being civil because it’s the decent way to act isn’t enough for some people. So how about being civil because it’s counterproductive not to be?
Case in point: A forum for candidates for North Charleston City Council districts 5, 6 and 10 on Wednesday was ended abruptly after incumbent Dorothy Williams blurted out that her opponent, Jesse Williams, was disrespectful. That set off shouting and angry accusations from some in the audience of more than 100.
Councilman Todd Olds used his cellphone to film the wife of one of his opponents as she pointed a finger in his face and called him pathetic.
If others in the audience wanted to hear more from the candidates, they were out of luck.
Granted, there is often tension between political opponents. If they agreed on everything, there would be no need for both to run.
And the candidates at the forum had been answering questions without incident for almost two hours. They might have been tired.
Not to mention that they might be picking up cues from presidential candidates — especially Donald Trump, who has called his opponents out publicly as having a face no one would vote for (Carly Fiorina), as demonstrating low energy (Jeb Bush), as being short and chirpy (Rand Paul), as being “an OK doctor” (Ben Carson) and as being generally “stupid” (all GOP candidates — but himself).
Some local candidates might even see the lead that the un-civil Mr. Trump has in the polls and decide to try his tricks. They’d be wise to reconsider.
So there are numerous possibilities why the fracas broke out in North Charleston, but there’s really no excuse. And with 28 candidates for North Charleston City Council, there’s simply no time for the distractions. Who wants to make a roomful of voters angry?
Realistically, if candidates want to be effective in office, they need to earn the respect of others — and to treat others with respect as well.
They should hope that voters are listening to their messages, not to their zingers.
So as tempting as it might be for candidates — and audiences — to lapse into behavior unbefitting the situation, it’s better for everyone if the dialogue remains civil.