We need a return to civility in our political discourse: Jay Hughes



Jay Hughes, Guest columnist

Published 3:56 p.m. CT June 23, 2017 | Updated 5 hours ago

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On June 9, 1954, U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy’s constant personal attacks and character assassinations of many good Americans were brought to a screeching halt when Mr. Joseph Welch asked him a single question: “Have you left no sense of decency?”

Unfortunately, the tactics used by McCarthy in the 1950s have come roaring back in 2017 from both sides. The internet, cable TV and talk radio, all in an effort to sell ads and increase profits, have unleashed a similar pattern of personal attacks and character assassinations. This has led to keyboard cowboys and call-in guests on radio shows who will say anything, no matter how untrue or hurtful, to argue that those who do not agree with everything that they believe are the enemy. We have begun to type things online and say things on air that we would never say to another person’s face, or to someone at work or church. So I ask, too, “Have we left no sense of decency?”

As a husband, father, neighbor, legislator, American and proud Mississippian, I wish for a return to civility. It requires both sharing and listening. So I would begin this civil journey by sharing what I believe is best for our beloved state of Mississippi instead of relying on personal attacks or hollow party sound bites. These beliefs guide my votes.

Foremost, I believe the future of Mississippi definitely starts with a great education for all of our children equally and that a quality public school system is the biggest economic driver of any state. When we embrace that reality, Mississippi will move up from last place in all categories.

I believe it is far cheaper to educate a child for 13 years from K-12 than it is to pay for the incarceration of an adult for 20 or 30 years.

I believe Mississippi has great potential to be amazing in public education. However, we must understand that being 50th is what happens when we pay our teachers less than 48 other states and spend less per student than 46 other states.

I believe critical government services — such as mental health, public health, public safety, and roads and bridges — are tremendous benefits to society and should be fully funded before we give tax cuts to foreign corporations and large campaign donors.

I believe every law we pass should embrace the idea that all men and women are created equal. Period.

I believe people and local businesses are far more important to the function of Mississippi government than political parties, foreign corporations or political action committees.

I believe no child gets to pick his or her parents, zip code, or mental or physical health.

I believe our elected officials should be true public servants and 100 percent transparent at all times. There should be no room in our government for self-serving politicians who put themselves before the people. It is wrong that the highest campaign donors control our state government. Public service should never be for private gain.

I believe we must live within our means. But I also believe we must stop giving away our means to the highest campaign contributors and then shifting the tax burden to the poor and the working class.

I believe in being fiscally responsible instead of fiscally conservative. Fiscally responsible means spending all money efficiently. Fiscally conservative means spending on programs you like.

I know many of you reading this agree with me, regardless of political party affiliation or regardless of whether you are from the Coast, the Hills, the Delta, the Pine Belt or the Jackson area. Let’s remember that there is far more that unites us than divides us. Let’s begin to focus on common bonds and goals, instead of tearing down our fellow Mississippians. My simple hope is that we return to a sense of common decency and treat everyone with basic respect, even those with whom we disagree.

Now I’m ready to listen.

Jay Hughes is a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from Oxford. He is a Democrat.

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