EDITORIAL: Political decorum makes all the difference

York Dispatch

American voters have had the opportunity this week to see Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in town hall-style and debate forums.

What strikes us is the level of respect and the absence of flippant and insulting banter at the Democrats’ debates. Conversely, the insults are prevalent in the GOP debates, largely due to the presence of Donald Trump this cycle. And not only during the debates

For example, following the Iowa primary, after saying how happy his team was with the outcome in a speech (he came in second to Sen. Ted Cruz), Trump accused Cruz of a misdemeanor and demanded a rematch.

"Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified," Trump tweeted Wednesday.

“This is the Cruz voter violation certificate sent to everyone, a misdemeanor at minimum,” he tweeted on Thursday, along with a photo of a piece of paper titled “voting violation.”

Is this the World Wrestling Federation or the democratic process of electing a president of the United States of America? The voters need to make that decision, ultimately, because if they vote for someone who displays this type of behavior, they will reinforce and encourage this type of political strategy in the future.

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump  speaks with the moderators as Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas,  looks on during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Sanders and Clinton also differ on many issues. And in Thursday night's debate in New Hampshire, they mixed it up a bit and added some fire to their debate. Still, it was issue-based fire and didn't include personal attacks. Sanders even refused to politicize an investigation into the use of a personal email server by Clinton when she was secretary of state.

Clinton is seen as a political insider, connected and very much a part of the mainstream – and not without personal and political baggage. Senator Sanders is tapping into the desire of the electorate for a change from business-as-usual in Washington.

Trump and Sanders are tapping into the same frustration with opposite approaches. Trump uses vitriol and immature name-calling and Sanders takes a more mature approach. Trump was a sore loser after Iowa; Sanders celebrated his hair-breadth’s second-place finish.

Sanders and Clinton have remained largely respectful and kept their debates focused on issues that affect us all, including health care and Wall Street regulations – issues on which they differ significantly.

The appeal of “outsider” candidates should send a message to entrenched politicians that the tide will, eventually, turn against them. This is evidenced by the fact that Congress has an approval rating of 16 percent in the most recent Gallup Poll.

Voters are frustrated with special interests, the 1 percent, stagnant wages and growing taxes. Voters are frustrated that government seems to believe the people work  for it and not the other way around.

Elections are a good way of sending a message that that is not the case. And while for many years, the voting public has been patient, its patience has indeed reached an end.

Trump is proof of this. He has zero public service experience. He is a very wealthy man appealing to the desire of a good number of people to have the kind of prosperity he has.

Moderators at some of the televised GOP debates added fuel to the fire by asking candidates to respond to insults levied and propagated in the media. If those moderators call themselves journalists, they should check themselves – and their career goals – on that type of behavior.

The Internet age has allowed us to be anonymous and as vicious as we can be. But just because that digital megaphone is available, doesn’t mean we have to shout into it, or reward those who do so with our attention.

To grow and prosper, this country needs leadership and vision. Not a slick-talking, reality television show that appeals to a lower, more basic human instinct to fight dirty.

Whether you agree or disagree with their policies and political ideology, the Democrats have conducted themselves with better manners, plain and simple. It has been easier to watch and easier to glean issue-based information from their debates.

And for those Republicans who have been able to stay largely out of the fray, such as Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, such behavior should be rewarded, as opposed to ignored. And it has been largely ignored – Kasich has about 7 percent of the vote and Carson about 3 percent going into New Hampshire, according to recent primary polling data from the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Public Opinion.

The folly might seem fun to watch – if you enjoy reality television.

But reality TV is a guilty pleasure, not the foundation for our American political system — and it’s certainly not the basis on which we should choose the next president of the United States.