Before we lob another vicious criticism at a Republican or Democrat in the final days of this election, and before we chastise others about the circus their candidate has created, we’d like to remind everyone who is contemplating a letter to the editor to keep one over-arching concept in mind: civility. Even if candidates don’t always display it, we can.
With less than one month to Election Day, our newspaper pages will be filled with hundreds of valuable letters to the editor. Some may even influence how others vote. But for your letter to have a purpose, and potentially an educational component for those who are truly looking for insight, your best approach is to carefully consider why you are writing a letter in the first place.
It is easy to troll the shallow waters and point out everything that is wrong with a candidate. But there should be room for noting what a candidate brings to the table and what possible new ideas or concepts he or she may provide that could improve a climate at the local, state or federal level. Yes, there are times when it’s important to point out the missteps that a candidate has made or if they are a proponent of something that could harm a community. But there are ways to share that without resorting to the first option, which for some is character assassination. All too often we vilify an opposing candidate because we simply can’t bear the thought of “that” person being in office.
If a candidate presents a set of challenges that the public needs to know about, we want to hear your thoughts and we want to know why the candidate you support might be a better option. But the full-frontal character assault is not necessary and should not be the go-to approach. Honestly, those are the letters that readers typically do not read because it’s obvious what the writer is attempting to achieve. Those letters rarely enlighten. And often they are written in anger, which usually does not translate well for readers.
The thoughtful letter writer will identify the key issues and explain why one candidate is better equipped to represent a city, school district, legislative or congressional district. If letter writers are trying to educate the public, then pointing out important differences and why they matter is key. It is a given that any candidate willing to accept the responsibility of public office, whether that’s at the school board or congressional level, understands there is a tremendous time commitment and will include much personal sacrifice. None of these jobs are easy. But they are all important. It may be helpful to keep that in mind when crafting a letter. Candidates are people, not objects.
As we all make this final push to Election Day we understand this has been a difficult year for everyone. As a voice that can start positive change, we ask that you please be civil, considerate of all candidates, and help educate your fellow citizens with information and thoughts that can benefit us all. — Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota
(Editor’s note: The last edition of the Star News for political letters to run before the Nov. 3 election will be the one dated Oct. 24.)