Mad about politics? Policies? Politicians? Political parties? It’s okay to feel angry, sad or frustrated when political decisions disagree with your beliefs or negatively impact your life or community. However, it is also important to remember that most people actually agree on most issues, and that civil conversations can lead to greater understanding, finding common ground and even the creation of compromises that serve the beliefs and needs of more people.
We contribute to extremism and hyper-partisanship if we refuse to talk with — and listen to — people on the other side of the ideological divide. Some say the strength of our democracy depends on our ability to bring civility into political conversations, as a loss of civility harms our democratic process and institutions by fueling extremism and prioritizing party above issues and solutions. While it’s easy to point to media, politicians and special interests for creating political tribalism, we all have a role to play in fueling or diminishing it.
Choose to practice civility this holiday season to be part of the solution.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Check out these articles (below) about overcoming hyper-partisanship and why civility matters to preserving and strengthening democracy.
2. Make a commitment to practice more civility in your interactions with family, friends, neighbors and even strangers over the holidays. You might be surprised to learn more about the perspectives of other who believe differently than you do and how their ideas can inform your own.
Articles on hyper-partisanship and the need for civil discourse
- The Atlantic: “How People Like You Fuel Extremism” by Conor Friedersdorf, June 27, 2017. “But for all the benefits of agreement, solidarity, and spending time with like-minded people, there is compelling evidence of a big cost: the likeminded make us more confident that we know everything and more set and extreme in our views… Conversely, if we can harness the strengths of viewpoint diversity, our collectives can reach better decisions. We can, in fact, be better off together than we would be apart.”
- FiveThirtyEight: “Democrats Are Wrong About Republicans. Republicans Are Wrong About Democrats.” by Perry Bacon Jr., June 26, 2018. “‘The danger of mega-partisan identity is that it encourages citizens to care more about partisan victory than about real policy outcomes…’”
- Unite America: “Our Lack of Civil Discourse Encourages Hyper-Partisanship” by Mike Dixon, October 21, 2017. “Hyper partisanship has become the norm in today’s society because we the people no longer are able to engage in polite civil discussions over different points of view.”
- National Review: “The Problem With Partisan Faith,” by Jim Geraghty, September 16, 2016. “It’s not a formal religion, but partisan devotion so deeply affects its adherents’ thinking, morality, actions, and reactions to world events that it might as well be a religion. Each passing political cycle makes it a little clearer that partisan faith has nothing to do with policies and issues.”
- Vox: “We need political parties. But their rabid partisanship could destroy American democracy.” by Lee Drutman, September 5, 2017. “But for years now, we’ve been retreating into our separate tribal epistemologies, each with their own increasingly incompatible set of facts and first premises. We’re entering a politics where the perceived stakes are higher and higher (“the fate of our nation lies in the balance”) that they justify increasingly extreme means. When it is a war of good versus evil, “norms” and “fair play” seem like quaint anachronisms.”
- The Atlantic: “The Threat of Political Tribalism,” by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, October 2018. “Americans on both the left and the right now view their political opponents not as fellow Americans with differing views, but as enemies to be vanquished.”