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Former Legislators Work with NICD to End Partisan “War”

Recently, The Hill published a piece written by two former representatives, Republican Mickey Edwards and Democrat Zack Space – both of whom have worked with NCDD member organization the National Institute for Civil Discourse – on the current state of politics in Congress, and we wanted to share part of it here. The former reps urge us not to see politics in terms of warfare, instead calling on their colleagues to restore civility, bridge their divides, work toward solutions to national problems. We encourage you to read excerpts from their piece below or find the full original version here.

Politics Is Not War

One of the hardest things to do in Congress is to cease thinking of your opponent as your enemy.

Why wouldn’t you think of them as your enemy? You sit on opposite sides of the House chamber. You caucus in different rooms. You take opposing votes. Every two years they raise money to try and take your job.

The truth is those on the other side of the aisle are not the enemy. They are Americans, just like the citizens they represent back home in their districts.

The frame of “politics as combat” is ingrained into our society. The language of war permeates media coverage… But the difference is that these war analogies are harmful to the state of civility in our politics. Language matters. We cannot ignore the innate violence of this rhetoric, which has spurred us further and further into a place of polarization and discord. For many, working across the aisle is synonymous with “colluding with the enemy.”

…When we both left Congress, it was bad, but not this bad. The 2016 election is shaping up to be one of the most uncivil in decades, from the presidential level to the local level… Whoever lands in the White House will have their work cut out for them to put back the pieces of our splintered populace and restore civility.

If we’re to ensure a bright future for our nation, we must stop thinking of politics as war where our opponents must be defeated at any cost. Politics isn’t war, it is debate – the democratic means by which we come together to move America forward.

That’s why we are working with the National Institute for Civil Discourse to revive civility in our politics. We expect our leaders to act like leaders, not bar-room brawlers, and we hope citizens will stand up, peacefully, to incivility.

We’re not calling for a return to some “magic center” of American politics. No such center exists. There will always be liberals and conservatives, folks from across the ideological spectrum that agree on little…

But we do agree that our leaders should seek solutions, not conflict. Working together takes a mutual respect. Comedians often ridicule the tradition of members of Congress calling each other “my friend from X state,” or “my colleague from across the aisle” while giving speeches. This tradition is an important step away from the war analogies pushed by the campaigns and the media…

Treating the opposition with civility and respect is the first step toward actually getting things done and solving problems…

You can find the full-length, original version of this article from The Hill at www.thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/282698-politics-is-not-war.

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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