Announcing Campaign Civility

June 27, 2011

Last week, Jon Huntsman officially announced he is running for president (the picture is one I took of him earlier this month at the conference of the Faith & Freedom Coalition). The former Governor of Utah and former U.S. Ambassador to China brings a unique perspective to the Republican presidential field. While the other candidates toss out red-meat rhetoric with strong attacks on President Barack Obama, Huntsman continues to say nice things about the man who was recently his boss. During his campaign announcement speech last week, Huntsman spent time calling for more civility in politics. He argued:

For the sake of the younger generation, it concerns me that civility, humanity and respect are sometimes lost in our interactions as Americans. Our political debates today are corrosive and not reflective of the belief that Abe Lincoln espoused back in his day, that we are a great country because we are a good country. You know what I mean when I say that. We will conduct this campaign on the high road. I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the Office of President. Of course we'll have our disagreements. That's what campaigns are all about. But I want you to know that I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the President of the United States. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help a country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who's the better American.
Huntsman's appeal to civility is a refreshing perspective that is urgently needed in American politics. The problem is that it likely will not be an effective political strategy. Huntsman, who is starting the race with less name recognition and support than most of his Republican competitors, also faces questions about his Mormon faith (see earlier post here). Over the weekend, Huntsman said he did not believe his faith will be an issue for voters. Although that is probably not the case in our age of confessional politics, he did explain well why his faith should not matter to voters:
I'm not running for guru here.
He is absolutely correct with that statement! Unfortunately, his faith will likely be an issue. Hopefully, however, he is correct that religion will not be the deciding factor in the election and that civility in politics is still valued and rewarded.

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