Keith Allred and Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer embrace after a discussion of the National Institute for Civil Discourse on civilization and partisanship in Washington on Friday. Allred is the new executive director of the group, which aims to help Americans bridge the gap between partisans and civilizations. (Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post) A president slams a table and leaves a meeting. A member of Congress has long ago made regular racist commentaries. A candidate governor threatens to trample his opponent's face with golf tips. Family members no longer speak because of political differences. The struggles on Twitter seem constant. The cable news is full of screams. While it may seem that civilization has been completely lost in politics and significantly eroded in both public and private life, an organization is trying to repel the tsunami of toxicity and contention that is sweeping the country. It is a development that, according to the polls, the Americans want desperately. The National Institute for Civil Discourse is pushing Americans to be respectful again with each other. The institute and its new executive director, Keith Allred, are behind an attempt to move elected officials and citizens to civilization at a time when the speech is degrading, with the hope that people will remember how not to be d & # 39; agreement the one with the other in good faith. "It's not the difference in opinion about the politics that makes us bitter," said Allred. "But think of being a bad person." Allred created the CommonSense American group, a bipartisan organization that weighs on issues such as immigration and campaign finance reform. It is a national offshoot of a group that created in Idaho, which worked with the state legislative assembly. The group's staff creates political documents that it sends to members, who then contact their elected officials. The objective is to arm people with information on various topics and to make them weigh with the elected officials in an authentic way, without the use of chatter or vitrified glass. [What unites us? 102 people contemplate what it means to be American in a time of upheaval] The institute entered the communities to train more than 12,000 people in the civil debate and hosted more than 500 "civilization conversations" nationwide as part of the statewide initiatives in Arizona, Iowa, Maine and Ohio. "We have polarized not only our political discussion, but our personal interactions," said former Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Who sits on the advisory board of the organization. Putting together people of different opinions is more crucial than ever, said Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, the group's former executive director. As people retreat to their corners on social media and live more and more in places where they are surrounded by like-minded people, they often do not talk to those on the other side of the political agenda. Lukensmeyer said the efforts have included weekly discussions at breweries and cafes among people who have disparate opinions. The institute has filmed the interactions between people with different backgrounds and opinions to show how they can respectfully disagree and find common ground. He is looking for a streaming service to distribute the series. "Once they are in an environment where they meet, they have more things in common than expected," he said. Polls show that Americans want to see a return to civilization. Ninety-one percent of registered voters said that the lack of civilization in politics is a "serious problem", according to a survey by Quinnipiac University in 2018. Sixty-eight percent of respondents in a July Pew Research poll stated that it is "essential" for people in high political offices to maintain a tone of civility and respect in politics.
Former Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (DS.D.) Speaks to Keith Allred's family before a discussion of the National Institute for Civil Discourse on Civilization and Partisanship at the Daschle Group Office in Washington on Friday. (Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post) The former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (DS.D.), co-chairman of the school council, said that the fate of America is based on the return to civilization, both in politics and in public life. "This is about maintaining this republic," he said. To push the elected officials, the institute created a program called Next Generation, in which it shows state legislators how to work through the corridor. Despite its intense polarization, Congress even has a caucus of civilization, with members visiting the districts of others to see what life is like and learn from a different group of voters. [Steve Scalise, Steny H. Hoyer and 15 other lawmakers want to help you have a civil Thanksgiving dinner] The institute sponsored workshops on how to conduct a positive political campaign during the summer; 11 of the 18 participants actively participated in the elections. Nine of them have won. The group was founded in 2011, months after an armed man in Tucson killed six people and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). A few days before the shooting, Giffords discussed the creation of an organization at the University of Arizona to study how to make the conversations about politics more civilized. "It seems as divisive as it was in our lives," said Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband. But he said he saw people open and willing to discuss differences. He has long text conversations and e-mails with a good friend who owns a bar in Tucson and has the opposite political beliefs. Kelly and his wife created Giffords, an organization that opposes armed violence, and protesters often present themselves at events in which the couple appears. Kelly talks to the demonstrators, telling them about the weapons she has and listening to their point of view. "It's really important to listen to people," he said. While the members of the institute state that civilization seems to have achieved a nadir, they are optimistic that a request for respect will win. "The American people will be saving grace," said Allred.
Keith Allred, fourth from left, talks about civilization and partisanship with, from left, Mark Kelly, former Senator Thomas A. Daschle (DS.D.), Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, former Congressman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) Former Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) Friday in Washington. (Carolyn Van Houten / The Washington Post) Scott Clement and Emily Guskin contributed to this relationship.