Few political candidates have been spared or, conversely, spared their opponents of disparaging comments, distortion of platforms and false claims in this fall’s lead-up to the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Political campaign advertising across the media landscape — from newspaper, TV and radio to social media and text messages — accelerate the tinderbox of political division and should be sanctioned for the detrimental effect on the common good. More than ever, we, people of faith, must exercise our faithful citizenship.
The Rev. Susan Hendershot, president of Interfaith Power & Light, said in a statement to supporters that she believes “elections are a referendum on the values that will shape our future. Voting is a sacred duty — however, too many Americans of faith and conscience are unlikely to vote in the midterm elections in November.”
The Center for Rural Affairs calls for civility before, during and after Election Day. In a blog on its website, Johnathan Hladik wrote, “The divisive politics of Washington have made their way to our main streets. A recent poll from the Institute of Politics and Public Service found 72% of voters are concerned about the level of polarization in the country. This ‘us versus them’ mentality has damaged relationships, harmed businesses, and affected our children.”
“While technological advances have brought the world together in ways our forefathers never imagined, those same changes have also torn us apart. Showing support for a candidate or issue on social media is often met with personal attacks. This will only accelerate as the Nov. 8 general election draws near.”
“Rural America is better than this. Here neighbors help neighbors in good times and bad, band together for school and civic events, and have lively discussions about the news of the day that always end with plans to meet again tomorrow. This sense of community is what rural America is all about. Healthy debates and differing opinions aren’t wrong. But it is time to rise above the heated discourse. This is our chance to show the rest of America how to set aside differences and work together toward a strong and vibrant community” (http://bitly.ws/vAGo).
Our antidote to the corrosive political campaign advertisements begins with education, continues with prayer and a willingness to listen for understanding rather than for reacting.
It is a message that bears repeating, just like advertisements, which persuade through repetition.
• Read Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics, which contains a message from Iowa’s bishops, bullet points on a properly formed conscience, a list of legislative principles and information on voting. The Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of Iowa’s bishops (iowacatholicconference.org) produces this non-partisan and useful resource available in English and Spanish on its website, Facebook and other social media. The resource also provides a link to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (https://tinyurl.com/yc6ux4tp).
• Visit the Iowa Secretary of State website general election page (https://tinyurl.com/3auwrre7), which provides a list of candidates for federal, state and county, nonpartisan offices and judges standing for retention.
• Take time to read candidate profiles in your local newspaper and other media platforms that provide balanced viewpoints of the competitors. Many media outlets are publishing endorsements of candidates. Read the endorsements, which can shed additional light on the strengths and weaknesses of the competing candidates.
Pope Francis says, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern” (2013 homily). He “also reminded Catholics of the Church’s social teaching that politics serves the common good and is ‘one of the highest forms of charity’” (Catholic News Service, 10-19-22).
Another form of charity? Tune out the political campaign advertising.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor