A Call for Civility Amid the Election Campaign Tumult

July 7, 2008 - 7:22 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The intensity of the presidential campaign and the prospect of more legal battles in the aftermath of the voting has some citizens taking action to promote civility.

Andrew Deal, a web developer in Vancouver, Wash., has been conducting a "Vigil for Civility" for the last week in an attempt to reduce or eliminate incidents of vandalism, voter intimidation and voter fraud, all of which have been reported in the past and were seen as potential problems in the final days of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Deal's website allowed citizens nationwide to pledge a personal "act of vigilance" in the days leading up to the election. Members have created their own profiles on the site, have posted their acts of vigilance or interacted with other members.

Such activities noted on the website included individual and group prayer, fasting, meditation, and group meetings. Members described praying for a fair and decisive election. Deal said in a press release that he hoped the project would attract "Americans of all faiths and backgrounds."

Deal claimed to be an undecided voter and said he was carefully avoiding the appearance of partisanship in order to further the goal of civility. Messages posted on the website that either supported or opposed any particular candidate were not being displayed.

His challenge was presented to "all the political candidates" as well as to media outlets, unions, and 527 groups, Deal said, in hopes of minimizing negative campaigning and press coverage as well as voter intimidation.

Deal's effort came on the heals of a string of reports of vandalism, burglary, and other acts of violence related primarily to the presidential election, as tensions rose among a bitterly divided electorate.

The most common of these occurrences was the destruction of campaign signs on personal property. Reuters reported on last week that both Republican and Democratic leaders are calling such vandalism unprecedented and rampant.

Reuters reported that lawns signs across the country, mainly in swing states, were being stolen, and in worse cases, burned, chopped down, spray-painted, or torn to pieces. Bush and Kerry supporters alike have been victimized with increasing frequency, the news service stated.

In one case in Wisconsin, a swastika was burned into a lawn displaying a Bush-Cheney sign. In Ohio, two men were videotaped urinating on a Bush sign. Democratic voters were themselves so frustrated that some in Pennsylvania were threatening to use itching powder to deter sign thieves.

In addition to the yard sign activity, a number of Republican offices and campaign headquarters have allegedly been vandalized or burglarized this month, according to news reports.

The Seattle Times reported that someone on Oct. 10 broke into the Spokane, Wash., offices containing the Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters, kicked a hole through one of the walls and stole a television and computer. The computer contained information from a Republican get-out-the-vote program.

In a similar incident in Bellevue, Wash., according to The Seattle Times, computers with the Republican get-out-the-vote database were stolen in a burglary at the Republican headquarters.

Three drive-by shootings have been reported in the last two months as well.

In Huntington, W.V., The Herald-Dispatch reported that a bullet hole, thought to have originated from a pellet gun, was found in the window glass of a Republican headquarters building, apparently having been fired during President Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention.

In Orlando, Fla., according to WKMG Channel 6, a group of 100 AFL-CIO protestors stormed another Republican headquarters office on Oct. 5, injuring two people as a part of series of coordinated protests throughout the country.

On the same day, Reuters reported that two bullets were fired into a Bush-Cheney campaign office in Knoxville, Tenn. Two glass doors were shattered, but no one was hurt. The shots were thought to be fired from a passing car.

At this point, no charges have been filed in any of these instances, and no suspects have been named.

Some political scientists, like Richard Valelly at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, believe this is typical American politics. Valelly told Reuters that "People really care about the election and this is one way to show it."

But for Deal and those involved with the Vigil for Civility, the level of violence seen in this campaign season is a danger to democracy, and he said he hopes his efforts would enable the "proponents of civility [to] have their way."

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