With the November elections right around the corner, we wanted to remind people about the deadline for political letters to the editor. The final day we will print letters to the editor focused on the current campaigns and candidates is Tuesday, Oct. 27.
There’s a reason we stop running those letters earlier than Election Day. While the percentage of people who cast their ballots on that day has fallen as absentee ballots and early voting have become more popular, it still represents a substantial number of voters. Stopping the letters in advance of Election Day lowers the temptation to try using our paper’s pages for a last-second accusation to which an opponent has no time to respond.
We’ve received quite a few letters over the past couple months. Many, perhaps most, have been supportive of the writer’s candidate rather than attempts to tear down the other candidates. That’s completely different from what you tend to see from the endless campaign commercials, and it’s a welcome change.
There have been a few we haven’t been able to run, though. A handful have pushed discredited conspiracy theories about COVID-19 or continued to hype quack therapies. Others were simply too vile. The writers have the right to hold their opinions, but we’re not inviting a lawsuit against our paper by publishing those. But such screeds are by far the exception.
In some ways, many of the letters were a throwback to less vicious elections. They really weren’t that long ago. No one doubted that Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale strongly, passionately disagreed with each other during the 1984 campaign. But when Reagan vowed during a debate not to make Mondale’s comparative youth an issue, even Mondale laughed.
American politics has always had its less than palatable moments. About the only thing our nation’s founders agreed on was independence from Britain. It took remarkably little time for them to divide into squabbling cliques once that was achieved.
Rumor, innuendo and scandal have long been used as weapons against political opponents. That’s not really surprising. After all, gossip is a vice in which very few of us can truly say we do not indulge. If politics is often just the body politic writ large, it means our flaws are magnified.
We cannot believe that the space that existed such a short time ago for cordiality and mutual respect, if never agreement, has been extinguished for all time. The letter writers are one reason why. Yes, there are those who would prefer to draw blood (we hope metaphorically), but a substantial number of writers remain committed to support their candidate rather than sabotage the other.
The letters we run are one of several ways we offer people a chance to consider the elections as they make up their minds about who to support. We continue to run profiles of the local races as well as national stories about the campaigns. They all have their place in the effort to become a well-rounded voter, as do items from other news sources.
The letters also serve as a reminder for us that our job is, on the Opinion Page, to protect it as a forum for public discussion. It is the one place in the paper in which a writer’s opinions are acceptable. It’s the one place in which anyone, regardless of whether they write professionally, can put their pens to work.
We’re sure there will be additional letters received in the coming days. We hope so. And we hope the writers who take the time to put their thoughts on paper do so with the same respect and civility as so many others who have already done so.