By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — In an effort to bring respect back to the local political discourse, the Wood County Democratic and Republican parties are co-sponsoring “The Marshfield Civility Project.”
The project will consist of a series of meetings leading up to the November elections that aim to discuss political issues fairly, honestly, and without the animosity that can accompany political debates. People of all political affiliations are encouraged to attend.
The issues discussed will be decided by citizens, and there will be speakers from both ends of the political spectrum. Typically, meetings will break down into small groups so that citizens may discuss issues together, and professional moderators will oversee each group to help guide the dialogue.
The first event will be Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the UW-Marshfield County Campus Theater. In the initial meeting, the goal is to find out what matters the most to local citizens so organizers can better plan the topics for future gatherings.
Chair of the Wood County Republican Party, Dan Wald, and former Chair of the Wood County Democratic Party, Chris Jockheck, have been working together to organize the project.
Jockheck said he hopes that it will benefit voters to hear both sides of an issue at the same time and place. In addition to promoting a feeling of mutual respect, Jockheck said he hopes to improve voter education regarding the issues.
“I had an idea for about three years, maybe longer, of trying to get both parties working together on voter education,” Jockheck said. “I felt it would be better if we could provide that education for people to hear both sides of an issue at the same time. So, they aren’t just getting a Republican or a Democrat knocking on their door. They aren’t just listening to an ad on TV, which is how most people get their information.”
Wald said the current political culture has gotten out of hand, and he hopes the project can help refocus the political conversation.
“You see the online articles. You see on Facebook the posts that people put on there. It gets pretty ludicrous, pretty ridiculous. People are just hammering on each other, and if you just step back and look at it, you think, ‘What are you guys doing?’ In some respects if we’re going to demand that we have civility in our government, in our political systems, well people (need to) behave civilly towards each other,” Wald said.
Both Jockheck and Wald said they feel that politics has gotten more divisive over the years. Jockheck blames the growing political discord on increased money in politics as well as the desire for power and said that both the Democratic and Republican parties are at fault.
Wald hopes the project can help calm some of the disrespect between parties.
“I think there’s always been a time where we’ve always gotten along. Over the past couple of years, decade, or whatever, things have really gotten divisive, and it’s gotten very personal. Family members won’t speak to each other over some political issue, but I think that we definitely can get back. It’s just that we have to sit down and talk,” Wald said.
Wald added that he thinks it’s hard for people to get truthful information on political issues, and he hopes that this project can help inform voters so that they better understand what they are voting for.
Jockheck and Wald both said they have gotten positive feedback regarding the project, and they believe people are open to idea.
More information is available at: http://www.wipps.org/civility/. Chris Jockheck can be reached at (715) 573-8022 and Dan Wald at (715) 676-2363.