As someone who places a high value on civility in every aspect of human exchange, I was particularly happy to see “The High Ground” in USC Trojan Family Magazine (August 2016, pages 44-48). In the article, author Diane Krieger discusses recent work by USC scholars that examines the “rising incivility and polarization of American politics” and the efforts to outline possible solutions.
While our daily/hourly/minute-by-minute infusion of media may confirm our suspicions that politics has never been more divisive and contentious, Krieger points out that mud-slinging is nothing new. She traces the U.S. history of such invective back to the 1800 campaign between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and also offers a selection of salient insults spewed by more recent candidates.
In an atmosphere of increased fear, decreased trust, 24-hour news and social media, and the perceived right to say anything to anyone without self-censor, it is little wonder that incivility pervades not just politics, but every aspect of our society. While the article points out that researchers see no “neat, simple solutions,” it also offers some bottom-line advice for those who believe there’s room for improvement: seek perspective, be positive, discuss reasonably, work together, and focus on solutions.
I am proud to be a donor to the USC School of Public Policy and I support the efforts to have more civil discourse. I hope that you will read this article. As Robert Shrum (Carmen H. and Louis Warschaw Chair in Practical Politics at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences) says, “The best answer to bad speech is good speech.”