Jul 9, 2018

How We Can Restore Civility

Dialogue and civil discourse are the pillars of our democracy, and the ability to share and discuss ideas shapes our political culture. However, this foundation is under threat: A majority of Americans believe that political debate is increasingly uncivil. Nearly 9 out of ten Americans believe that this incivility is affecting the United States’ reputation, and 7 out of ten feel that because of this, America’s losing its stature as a civil nation.

Despite this danger, there’s hope. 95% of Americans still want civility in politics, believing that it’s a crucial component of a healthy democracy. More than that, 85% of Americans believe there should be more cross-party friendships and that our elected officials should prioritize cultivating relationships across-the-aisle.

Because of this, change must start at the national level, and we’re already seeing some movement in Congress, particularly among the House Freshmen Class with their pledge, authored by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) and signed by a bipartisan group of freshman members, to commit to civility. In July 2017, bipartisan legislation, H.Res.400, was introduced by Reps. Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Mike Johnson calling on members of Congress to serve as civic role models by maintaining collegiality in their public and private actions. It also designates July 12 as an annual National Day of Civility.

In honor of this national commitment to reviving respect in American politics, here are 3 things you can do to restore civility—and 5 examples of civic partnerships throughout history.


What You Can Do to Restore Civility:

  1. Call on your member of Congress to commit to civility by supporting House Res. 400
  2. Listen to friends and neighbors you don’t see eye-to-eye with—to get started, here are ten tips to have a civil conversation.
  3. Ask questions when conversing with someone you disagree with to identify areas of common ground. Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas.


Examples of Civil Partnerships Throughout History:

Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill:

 We can learn from this iconic pair, known for their affable banter, who rarely saw eye-to-eye politically but knew how to work through their differences.

(Photo courtesy Reagan Presidential Library)

Ted Kennedy and John McCain:

This Senate duo worked together to defeat gridlock and find compromise on one of our nation’s most divisive issues, immigration reform. Despite their political disagreements, the colleagues prioritized bridging their differences.

(Photo courtesy Getty Images)

Darin LaHood and Dan Lipinski:

Hailing from opposite parties, these representatives have struck a bipartisan partnership by launching the Congress of Tomorrow initiative and calling on members of their own parties to reform Congress.

John Boehner and Barack Obama:

Despite being leaders of opposing parties during a divisive political time, these two could set aside differences on a personal level.

(Photo courtesy Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Is Congress Working for You?