Viewpoint

Ryan’s appeal for civil debate

From an editorial Friday in the Raleigh News & Observer:

Paul Ryan, U.S. House Speaker and the Republican candidate for vice president in 2012, has issued a timely call for Republicans, and all candidates for that matter, to engage in a meaningful, civil debate as this contentious campaign proceeds. He is right, and his words are true even though they seem clearly aimed at his party’s front-runner, Donald Trump.

He didn’t utter Trump’s name, but the words clearly were intended for the candidate and some, not all, of his supporters.

Said the Speaker: “Instead of playing to your anxieties, we can appeal to your aspirations. Instead of playing the identity politics of ‘our base’ and ‘their base,’ we unite people around ideas and principles. We shouldn’t accept ugliness as the norm. We should demand better from ourselves and one another.”

Ryan, himself certainly a tough and unbending conservative, nevertheless understands an old maxim of partisan campaigns: Dividing people may be a way to stir up supporters, but once an election is over, the task of governing requires unity and a leader who can deliver it.

Rhetoric about Democrats destroying the country, or about “taking our country back” may appeal to extremes. But it is destructive.

Republicans — and yes, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — would do well to resolve that from here on out, the campaign of 2016 will now find a focus on foreign and domestic issues and ways to deal with them, not using them to divide the electorate.

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