Congressional candidate forum at Furman focuses on civility in politics

Tim Scott
In this Nov. 5, 2015, photo, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks about the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate is poised to pass a bill on Nov. 10, that bans moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, something Barack Obama has been trying to do since he was sworn in as president. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA-TV) – South Carolina’s most visible Congressional leaders and their Democratic challengers met at Furman University, Monday, to discuss civility in the modern election. This was the focus of a candidate forum set up to prove that respect still has a place in politics.

Congressman Trey Gowdy, his Democrat challenger, Chris Fedalei, Senator Tim Scott and his Democrat challenger, Thomas Dixon, were joined by moderator and Furman professor, Dr. Danielle Vinson.

Politicians speaking civilly to each other may seem like a thing of the past as we charge closer to Election Day, with some political mouthpieces calling candidate behavior this election cycle “unprecedented.”

Vinson said her political science students have been shocked by what they’ve seen and heard this election cycle.

“We are used to candidates going after each other and personality and character sometimes being a part of that, but to the levels we’ve seen it this time? Not in the modern era,” said Vinson.

Vinson said she has given up on presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, treating each other with civility.

“You see candidates not shaking hands with each other because they don’t have respect for each other,” Vinson said.

On a mission, whether foolish or brilliant, Vinson decided it was time to prove that civility can still exist in the modern election. She made it the central theme of the forum.

“I’m asking them what they would do to solve the dysfunction in Congress. [We will be] getting a sense of HOW they would do their job, not just what they are interested in,” said Vinson.

Congressman Gowdy and Mr. Fedalei started off the evening in a 40 minute moderated discussion, focusing heavily on immigration reform.

“This nation was founded by immigrants. Trey’s family and my family all came from somewhere else,” said Fedalei. “For us to turn our back on our legacy and our values at this point because of fear and division is not who we are as a country.”

“So, for all the folks who did it the way we asked them to, for you to subvert them and subrogate them and put them behind people who broke the rules and came unlawfully, I’m not going to do it,” Gowdy replied.

Next, Senator Scott and Mr. Dixon had their turn, spending much of their time hashing out gun violence and laws to prevent it.

“If we don’t do everything in our means to stop the violence in order to stop people from dying at the hands of those who shouldn’t have their hands on guns anyway, we’ve let our American public down,” said Dixon, vowing to close gun show loopholes like he’s seen in Charleston.

“The truth on the Charleston loophole,” said Senator Scott, speaking to the Charleston church shooting last summer, “was that Dylan Roof was a prohibitive person. It was already against the law for him to get a gun. He got one. So, there’s no way to close the loophole in the Charleston case that was already closed. It was illegal. He shouldn’t have had a gun. He should not have had a gun.”

The forum ended with no mudsling and each man getting their points across, causing Vinson to claim victory that political civility is not extinct. Vinson said she hopes this opens a door for substantive change and reflects a necessary reminder for our leaders.

“We are going to model this for everyone out there that’s not having civil discussions,” said Vinson. “If we are going to have any sort of solutions on policy in this country, we’ve got to be able to talk across party lines, rather than just yell at each other.”

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