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What should we do to promote civil dialogue?

In the September 18, 2020, issue of The Nett Report, we asked readers to take a survey in regard to leadership. One of the questions asked was: “What should we do to promote civil dialogue? How do we return to a time when our leaders are able to rationally compromise on solutions – something that historically has been the very essence of the democratic process in the U.S.? In other words, how do we become one again?”

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This question resulted in a range of varied and thoughtful comments. Two themes stood out to me: finding common values to focus on and restructuring social media. I did note that some comments could be perceived as having crossed the line in terms of civil dialogue while trying to address civil dialogue!

While the number of respondents was small (36 respondents) and certainly not scientific, our readers submitted insights were informative, thought-provoking and worthy of additional dialogue. Please feel free to contact me directly with additional thoughts or comment on this blog. Thanks to all who contributed!

Here’s what our readers said we should think about in promoting civil dialogue:

  • Were we ever one? Jefferson and Adams were opposed on basically the same grounds we differ today. How democratic are we, and how significant is the unified country?
  • This is really the most important question to be answered by the general electorate. As you discipline a child so must we discipline the politicians and the media that we no longer will support them nor listen or view their news reports unless we get fair comparisons of the two party system’s positions on the important questions of our times. Of course this will be the most difficult Time for all of us, since we want to get real news reporting in an unbiased fashion. It will be very difficult to get a large portion of the population to resist the temptation to keep on supporting by viewing and listening and buying the products that are sold on those outlets.
  • Free speech, the press has lost its American way of independent thinking. Our freedom is being taken over by politics.
  • I would focus on the similarities, the issues that are important to people, and not so much on the policies they are seeking to implement to address those issues. Everyone wants good paying jobs, a safe place to call home, for their kids to be healthy, good schools. start at the points they all agree.
  • It is time to educate the American public about truths and facts and to hold media outlets to greater account to share legitimate and truthful news. It is way past due to establish civil dialogue and discourse in public. We must re-learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. It is not acceptable for attitudes to seek to win at all costs and to destroy personally and professionally our competitors. We need to stand united for the good of the country and for the people in our community. We must make available opportunities for success including access to education, healthcare, economic freedom, and opportunity for all. God Bless America and Prayers for a change in our political culture.
  • See above. Act according to the Constitution and and rules of law. work within communities and between then.
  • Respectful and honest dialogue with the goal of coming up with decisions that are best for all of us. The leader of this country has to care about the country first and foremost. Compromise on solutions that are best for the us as a whole.
  • Nationalize the news (just joking). Not sure...maybe we've never been civil? It's just been magnified by social networks.
  • American politics have always been shrill and partisan. Over the last 20 years the US population has become profoundly unhealthy and stressed. The elite have been corrupted by hubris and money, and disconnected from reality.
  • First step has to be to elect a new President and Senate majority. Second step is to assure the Democrats do not then do what this country did when the USSR fell apart. There must be serious outreach to those who voted differently, and clear movement to policies that benefit all Americans. Of course, that is just domestically. The resumption of respect for allies and global responsibilities (political, economic and environmental) are essential.
  • Eliminate the vitriol.
  • We need to reject and unsubscribe from media and politicians that promote non-civil dialogue. I feel that they (media/politicians/political class/parties) have moved to a place where the other side of an issue or point of view is not just disagreed with but villainized. I believe that politicians in order to stay in power have used these strategies to divided and strengthen their base.
  • Social media should outlawed - it is too easy to manipulate. Someone needs to take Fox news away from the Murdoch family, but I don't know how to do that. We have to reinforce the idea that you can have your own opinions, but you don't get to have your own facts.
  • To quote a recent opinion piece in the New York Times on how to make fun of Nazis: “Humor is a particularly powerful tool — to avoid escalation, to highlight the absurdity of absurd positions and to deflate the puffery that, to the weak-minded at any rate, might resemble heroic purpose.” Cable channels on both sides that over-dramatize issues, are sarcastic towards one another, and self-importantly digest news and only provide their spin without introspection have resulted in a society that craves (and deserves) integrity.
  • Stop pandering to the extreme right and left and get back to the middle where most of the people are
  • Have candidates develop/proffer ideas/positions/solutions; listen to all sides; stop name calling and character bashing; avoid social media; take time to really think about issues/responses/proffered solutions;
  • Be respectful of one another by listening to each other, trying to understand each other, and responding diplomatically. Monitor information sources. Be willing to compromise. Avoid ideology.
  • Have national dialogue by regions which helps us to see why the 2 parties see through different glasses. We have different perspectives depending upon our political party allegiance. By being willing to listen to each other without promoting a specific agenda.
  • Vote Trump out because he divided our country!
  • In order to have civil dialogue, we need civil leadership. As long as we have rude, narcissistic leaders, that’s the type of dialogue and behavior that will be modeled. Unfortunately, there’s an element of our current polity that admires and promotes incivility. (I’m not talking about the “riots”. That’s another whole topic.)
  • We need to stress that we are all Americans. It’s OK to have different opinions, but we must find a way to come together for the common good of all Americans. Partisanship is at an all-time high, it seems the only thing that’s important to politicians now is to make sure they get reelected.
  • We have to talk about the goals we have in common with others. Everyone needs access to good healthcare when they need it. Everyone wants national security, climate security, safety for their families, etc. We have far more in common than not.
  • All candidates pass a psychological evaluation of panel of experts. Demonstrate ability to think in multi dimensions, and converse civilly before they are given a public platform such as TV.
  • I don't believe this country was ever "one," but things can be done to help. Education would help. Trump's defeat would help because he thrives on and promotes divisiveness. Maybe even more divisive is social media which is being used to destroy civil dialogue. This is a very difficult problem to solve. There has to be more oversight so that lies and unfounded conspiracy theories can be censored.
  • Pass Federal legislation eliminating unreasonable gerrymandering by either party. Eliminate Electoral College or pass legislation that the majority vote in each state determines delegates to the Electoral College. Overturn or legislate against Citizens United judicial decision.
  • If BOTH sides were to compromise more. The divide has become very wide between parties. Too wide, in my opinion.
  • The country is polarized and politicians must be expected to look after the country rather than follow party lines. Big interest group continue to control US politics which must change.
  • We need to have a balanced house and senate. otherwise, we will continue to have disorganization in D.C. assuming a Biden win, i believe that civility will be a major goal.
  • Two suggestions: (1) Stop making the past seem so "ideal". Our history includes times of great cooperation and compromise - and remarkable, steadfast LACK of compromise. Most of us didn't know as much about either of these circumstances because we had to read a newspaper account days, weeks or even months after the fact. Thankfully, the information revolution has changed that - so, the process is more transparent. We should expect difficult issues and decisions - we are a VERY complex country. (2)I think we need more institutions and groups DEVELOPING options for public policy issues - such as housing, jobs, environmental protection. I see more non-profit organizations that can explore complex issues, put together proposals and solutions, and begin the challenging process of identifying, funding and implementing policy solutions. At present, many ballot initiatives are developed by business, labor or environmental groups that have the resources to run an initiative - and that is fine. We just need to help resource the "common voter" in being able to participate in developing campaign proposals.
  • If the recent pandemic had been better managed it could have provided the catalyst to rebuild communities and bring sides closer together. It needs a radical leader with inspirational qualities. The BLM movement is possibly another issue with deep historical roots, a neutral leader might be able to heal old wounds and bring sides closer to a common vision of how life could be better for all Americans.
  • I think as Americans we need to respect our differences and get away from name calling, finger pointing, judging, avoiding personal attacks, egos, and demonizing the opposition. We need to get out of the business of the blame game and start with action items that we all can agree to a compromise on and build from there. We need to be able to trust science and not just when it's expedient or when trust only what is a minority opinion in the scientific community. We need to have a better understanding on how we each evolved into our political opinions and find some common ground through that. We need to be more open to listening and to dialogue back and forth instead of waiting for your turn to prove the other person wrong. Hold your own party accountable to the same standards you would hold to the opposing party. I also think we would all benefit if Congress go through a corporate style team building and conflict resolution exercise, before every congressional session. How one defines their patriotism shouldn't be just if you waive a flag but how you respect the freedoms it represents. We need to focus on the common ideals that bring us together, whether it be Opera like Justice Ginsburg and Scalia shared in common or fly fishing. Finally, if you want to love your country, we need to love each other first. Amen!
  • I would like to think that if we had a strong enough leader, it would happen automatically. This is not going to be the case, just from previous experiences. I honestly don't know how we get back to doing the right thing.


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