Guest Opinions

Civility project: ‘Disagree without being disagreeable’

Carolyn Lukensmeyer
Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Idaho isn’t like most of the country.

While many states might swing from red to blue, Idaho is and remains a deep red state. Because it’s solidly on one side of the political divide, Idaho has the unique advantage of avoiding much of the incivility of our electoral cycles. Idahoans can be thankful, especially this year: 69 percent of Americans agree that civility has decreased in the last few years, and two out of three voters say the 2016 campaign is less civil than other elections.

That’s why the National Institute for Civil Discourse has embarked on a national Revive Civility campaign, bringing public servants, journalists and everyday citizens together to do just that.

But just because Idaho doesn’t directly witness the fractious tactics of presidential politics, doesn’t mean it’s immune to incivility.

Earlier this year, the discourse institute was invited by President Pro Tempore Brent Hill and Speaker of the House Scott Bedke to bring our Next Generation workshop to the entire state Legislature. Next Generation seeks to build trust and develop relationships across the aisle in state legislatures, so lawmakers have the tools they need to help address their state’s most pressing problems.

Leadership in Idaho felt it was imperative for all state legislators to receive this workshop out of concern for the increase in political incivility nationally. The workshop helped to provide a counter-narrative to the rising tide of incivility sweeping our nation, which is also seeping into our states.

But Idaho isn’t like most of the country. So it didn’t stop there.

Over the past year, the Boise City Club has been embarking on a project where they seek to promote civility and civil discourse that is grounded in listening and understanding.

And just this week, the institute was proud to partner with the City Club of Boise and the Boise State University’s School of Public Service to sponsor and facilitate the Idaho Civility Summit. We discussed what Idahoans can do to counter the rising tide of incivility, and move toward more respect and civility in public and political discourse.

We talked about how we all want a strong America, and while we might disagree on how to get there, we can disagree without being disagreeable. It is in understanding our differences and the experiences behind our positions that we can compromise to find solutions.

We discussed how it’s important to teach our children the principles of civility and how introducing civility curriculum into schools can make positive long-term impacts for the state.

Importantly, civic leaders, journalists and public officials worked together to identify actions they can take to increase civility and decrease political dysfunction in Idaho.

I’m proud to announce that National Institute for Civil Discourse will continue to work in Idaho in partnership with several organizations to engage the public, media and elected officials in our Revive Civility presidential campaign. In another example of leading the way, Boise State University President Bob Kustra announced the School of Public Service will make civility a core strategy on campus and in the community.

Idaho is stepping up to make civility the standard in public and political discourse. The rest of the nation can definitely benefit from their leadership.

Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer is executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, a nonpartisan organization based at the University of Arizona and dedicated to promoting healthy and civil political debate. #ReviveCivility

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