As state legislative leaders meet across the country to determine their priorities for the upcoming 2023 session, many take time to reflect on how they can find honor in the discord.
Many of these women and men schedule and engage in team building, leadership development, and civility workshops to help sharpen their communication skills as they get ready to debate critical issues for their communities. Inevitably, there will be cross words and sharp tongues, and the imploring pleas for civility will begin again. This is a never-ending political cycle, but one can hope for the best as we can resolve to enter the new year in a more civil way.
Gridlock, high tempers, and passion in politics is nothing new. There has been incivility in politics since the beginning of time. We’ve all seen Hamilton. Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton over politics in 1804. Massachusetts abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner was brutally beaten by SC Representative Preston Brook in the Senate Chamber. Politics involves real people, disagreeing about things that matter. In 1970 the New York Times wrote about civility, and again in 1997 and 2018, and most likely the New York Times will be writing about civility in 2050 and beyond. The issue of civility is perennial.
But, there is a way forward. Groups across the country are dedicated to building bridges and paving the way for a productive session – the National Institute for Civil Discourse has incredible programs for all sorts of civil discussions, and a program specifically for state legislators, for instance. The Next Generation offers an interactive, half-day workshop focused on building trust through civil discourse. Elected officials reach out to their partners across the aisle and make real connections that help them talk through deeper issues in a more productive way.
One can also hope that the future is female, and as more and more women enter the political arena, there is hope that the future can become less polarized. This is not to say women can’t be stubborn or stand their ground in something they believe in, but there is evidence that they are better at making compromises. Notoriously in the government shutdown of 2013, and more recently, women have been leading the way in Congress at difficult points of conflict. Perhaps as we have a record number of women in state legislatures heading into 2023, we will have an increased dedication to civility.
Civility is something we can all consider. You never know what someone is going through, and it is a powerful thing to understand a perspective contrary to your own.
Living Room Conversations are an impactful and fun way you can engage on any issue. Two people with differing viewpoints invite one or two others to join together for structured conversation on a specific topic. They have tons of structured topic guides to choose from, and make it easy to tackle prickly issues.
As we hope for productive policy in 2023, we send positive vibes to our elected officials and implore them to engage with one another with respect.