CEO Mike Stenhouse argues that polarized and passionate, yet civil, debate is indeed healthy for our democracy in a recent OpEd in the Providence Journal. Click on the button below now to read the full version on their website.
Following the recent Providence Journal-sponsored “Publick Occurrences” panel discussion at Rhode Island College, I’d like to share some thoughts I did not have the chance to put forth.
The premise – “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” and the polarization of public discourse – gives us two factors to consider: 1) disagreements over the role of government and 2) level of civility of debate. Most panelists agreed there have always been divisive political issues in America: the Federalist Papers, slavery, civil rights, the Vietnam War, etc.
Polarized and passionate, yet civil, debate is healthy for our democracy, no matter the topic or how deep the divisions. But sadly, our nation’s history is riddled with violent incidents – even war – over some of those debates.
Worse, there is an increasingly pernicious national culture that makes today’s debates even more divisive than yesteryear’s.
As the panel discussed, we have become a tribal nation, of sorts. Special-interest and identity-politics factions are constantly seeking special benefits. Activists-for-profit and well-funded organizations exploit divisions to stoke public rage. Social media allow hate-filled word-bombs to be safely lobbed from behind internet devices. Educational and judicial systems eschew historical and constitutional values to conform with political correctness fads. And biased media irresponsibly fan the flames.