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Decency displayed: Havenstein's nice start

In announcing his candidacy for governor, former BAE Systems CEO Walt Havenstein set a most welcome tone of decency in his race. How many will follow his example?

Politics has always been a nasty business. Today it is no nastier, though it might be more childish at times. Social media and 24-hour cable television have unleashed hordes of partisan bomb-throwers whose only objective is to do as much damage to their targets as possible. Honor? Decency? Those values are distant memories. The only value today is winning.

In political rhetoric, opponents are not Americans who disagree about what makes a just society and a good government. They are dark figures with shadowy connections and wicked designs they dare not speak. They are self-interested malefactors aflame with foul intent. Good men and women avoid electoral politics rather than subject themselves to the inevitable calumny.

So it was notable when Havenstein launched his candidacy for the corner office by saying this of the person he hopes to unseat this fall: “Governor Hassan is a good person….”

Havenstein has to know that he will receive no such treatment from the other side. Mitt Romney and Ovide LaMontagne said their opponents were good people, and in turn they were vilified as wicked men who wanted to inflict pain. Shortly after Havenstein’s announcement, former state Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan tweeted that Havenstein “may not know women have the right to vote in NH.” The New Hampshire Democratic Party tweeted that he “wants to unceremoniously rip health care away from 50,000 NHers.”

And so we see how this race will go. Though he won’t change the other side’s behavior, he can take pride in the tone his own campaign sets.

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