Debate lacks civility for both sides


Out-of-town construction workers Ryan Baltz and Ken Stohler talk politics on the job site of the Youngstown State University sports field. Stohler, a 60-year-old conservative business owner, and Baltz, a 26-year-old liberal college graduate, both agree that Ohio’s political atmosphere is unlike any they’ve seen. (Doug Livingston/

Published October 18, 2012 in The Vindicator(Link)


Wednesday morning, Ryan Baltz and Ken Stohler shared a coffee and fluorescent yellow vests at the Fifth Avenue McDonalds. Tuesday night, they shared a hotel room at the Comfort Inn in Austintown, where they watched the second presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

“I don’t think anybody could make up their mind after last night,” Stohler said.

Baltz nodded in agreement.

That’s where the agreement ends.

Baltz of Boone, N.C., is a 26-year-old liberal and recent college graduate. Stohler of Johnson City, Tenn., is a 60-year-old conservative and business owner.

Baltz works for Stohler, who has owned and operated Track Drains Inc. for the past 30 years. The two travel the country, installing drains for running tracks like the one under construction at Youngstown State University, just north of the McDonalds.

Employment brings them together, but politics sets them worlds apart.

Stohler says the election hinges on the economy and jobs. Baltz said most conservatives would like the focus to be only on those issues.

Both men find the number of ads airing in bellwether Ohio to be staggering.

“We travel all over the country,” Stohler said. Iowa was “crazy” with political advertising; Florida, too. However, he has one word for the amount of ads he’s seen in Ohio: “Whoa.”

The ads, like the debates, present only a fraction of the truth and do little to advance a substantive discussion, they said.

A seven-day Gallup national tracking poll has the candidates tied with 47 percent of registered voters. In Ohio, Real Clear Politics, which aggregates polling statistics, has Obama ahead by 2.2 points as of Oct. 16.

This was before the debate.

President Obama won the majority of the exchanges in the debate, said Paul Sracic, chairman of the political science department at Youngstown State University. That doesn’t mean the polls will reflect that, however.

“I think the undecided voters are going to be upset with both candidates after last night because they really don’t like the sort of squabbling and bickering we saw so much of last night.”

Deborah Mower, philosophy professor at YSU and co-editor of “Civility in Politics and Education,” said the idea of promoting civility in political discussion is becoming increasingly important.

“It’s only when you have conditions for civil discussion and civil debate that you can actually consider ideas and policies and evaluate and consider facts and evaluate facts.”

Mower said Tuesday’s debate featured a lot of arguments that were directed at the people and not the policy or facts surrounding the discussion. When that happens it is easy for voters to get loss in the mix.

“You’re not meeting the purpose or the goal for which you are there, which is to analyze the position, arguments and policies,” she said.

Doug Livingston contributed to this report. is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator, The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio, both of Akron.