Please choose one of these options:

A. Relate to others in a high state of constant confrontation, bitterness, and rancor.

B. Try to build bridges, assuage misunderstandings, and find common ground.

The choice might seem obvious (one would hope so). In opting to cooperate with the League of Women Voters in upcoming candidate debates, The Sentinel believes it is selecting option B.

Sasha Bentley, a former candidate for Legislative District 14 who lost to Chris Corry, approached us a few weeks back about the idea. Our immediate concerns, which we voiced, were two things: ensuring there would be no ambushing of candidates—we would not, will not, participate in any event that surprises a candidate with sudden hostility and blatant agenda —and we would need to see and vet all potential questions to candidates from the League, as the League of course would have the right to do with ours. In short, the process would have to be even-handed and fair to all. Sasha agreed, and we began moving forward.

We got some pushback. Some people felt very strongly that the League was heavily weighted with Democrats and didn’t have the capacity to work fairly and in good faith.

Well, there certainly are a lot of Democrats in the League; it also has some Republic members from around here, though from what we gather, some of them joined primarily to be able to keep an eye on the organization.

But here’s the thing: someone needs to take a step toward building bridges and reaching understanding and do so with trust and honesty. You know, like Republicans and Democrats used to do ages ago, before severe polarization established a no-man’s-land of intractable opposition to each other.

We’d like to believe that polarization doesn’t have to be, and we want to move toward common ground where possible. That doesn’t mean we’re dewy-eyed about all sides gathering around a campfire and singing “Weave Me the Sunshine” hand in hand. It just means the ability and willingness to meet with a view toward meaningful, respectful engagement over the issues. We made our conditions for participation in this process, and they were met; if the League were to surprise us by violating that agreement—something hard to imagine —The Sentinel would immediately withdraw from all activity with them. That would be the natural consequence of broken trust, but very honestly, we have every confidence trust will be maintained. Our view is, why participate in anything if you don’t start on a basis of trust?

The national political landscape is awash in the very thing we’re trying to avoid here in little Klickitat County. We look to civility and good will. John McCain eloquently said to Barack Obama when he ran against him: “I cannot wish you luck. But I do wish you well.” Whatever you thought of his politics, his was a high-road stand. Don’t we all miss that?