Editorial: A lesson in civility (Rutland Herald)

Questioners at times raised voices. The answerer at times kicked it up a few decibels more.

He's been know to do that.

Insults weren't tossed out. No one called anyone a bad name.

It did get heated inside and outside the Unitarian Universalist Church on West Street in Rutland for Sen. Bernard Sanders and the overflow crowd attending a town hall-style forum on health care reform held Saturday morning.

Mostly that was due to the temperature hovering around 90 degrees outside.

A large crowd that couldn't fit inside the church sat sweating in chairs under the blistering sun as others found more comfortable space beneath the limited shade provided by nearby buildings and trees.

They listened over speakers broadcasting the debate taking place only a few feet away.

The lack of air conditioning didn't make it any more hospitable inside the building where about 200 of those who showed up early enough got a seat on the benches or stood along the walls. They fanned themselves with leaflets passed around by interest groups attending the event.

Police stepped up security for the event. Several uniformed officers stationed themselves outside the church.

A few more Vermont State Police detectives dressed in plainclothes also attended. They weren't hard to recognize, dressed in sport coats and ties among the crowd more causally attired mostly in short-sleeved shirts and shorts.

For roughly two hours, Vermont's independent senator spent an equal amount of time shuttling himself along with a microphone inside and outside the church answering questions from those who showed up both early and late to the forum.

Some questioners wanted the government to do more to change the current health care system. Others wanted the government to do less. Some wanted no change at all.

Some spoke out for wholesale changes. Others argued for tweaks.

Lack of insults and name calling shouldn't be mistaken for a passionless debate.

Many questioners remained adamant for their positions despite Sanders' responses. One man remained convinced his taxes were going to go up to pay for his health care and pointed out that they had already increased under President Barack Obama. Sanders disputed that contention.

In the end, they loudly disagreed.

Other town hall forums on health care hosted by congressional members across the country had made national news in recent days. Cable news networks showed replay after replay of contentious exchanges requiring the assistance of police to break up.

"You've all seen the TV and the meetings and the people trying to shout down other people, but that is not what the state of Vermont is about," Sanders said at the start of the forum Saturday morning in Rutland as he tried to set a civil tone.

The crowd in Rutland on Saturday proved Sanders' view of Vermont correct.