A veteran Missouri Congressman says political campaigns have become toxic.

Kansas City Congressman Emanuel Cleaver says it’s still exhilarating to file for re-election, but daunting to consider campaigning, which he says has become a very, very toxic experience.

“Because campaigns have become thermonuclear,” Cleaver tells the Missourinet. “We are all, I think, getting hurt as a result of it, but that’s where the country seems to be moving.”

Cleaver says campaigns are no longer about issues. Many of the voters will never make a decision based on a candidate’s position, according to Cleaver, but rather on who can trash their opponent the most. Interestingly, Cleaver says bi-partisanship isn’t the answer. He says a democracy has to have partisanship. Cleaver says what the country doesn’t need is the hostility and name-calling that has been growing the last decade.

Cleaver predicts that historian will not recall this period of America with fondness. He adds that though voters say they don’t like negative campaigning, they are influenced by it.

Part of the problem Cleaver tells us, frankly, is us.

“I think in some ways the media, trying to get exciting stories for their readers, or viewers or listeners actually will gravitate to the highly toxic races,” Cleaver says.

Cleaver, a Democrat, says he runs, because he still has work to do for his district. He says members of his family have asked him not to run.

Cleaver faces no primary opposition. Five candidates have filed in the 5th District along with one Libertarian and one from the Constitution Party.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:60 MP3]

AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Congressman Cleaver [7 min MP3]