Every conversation I am in about this year's presidential primary campaign regardless of the person's political affiliation quickly evolves into an expression of strong feeling and concern about what it reflects about the current state of our political dysfunction.
Embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated, sick of the negativity, scared, worried about how the world sees us, angry, disgusted, disenfranchised, tired of the candidates acting like children.
People who feel this way are definitely not alone. According to Weber Shandwick's recently released sixth Civility in America poll, 95% of Americans said civility is a problem. 70% of respondents said that incivility in this country has risen to crisis levels.
And as we continue to see incidents of uncivil rhetoric leading to physical violence (most recently Saturday in Tucson) one word is showing up more and more in these conversations - fear. I have heard that word from very experienced media strategists and pundits inside the beltway and ordinary citizens in communities all across the country. More and more references are being made to the August 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago expressing the fear that violence could erupt again in Cleveland at the Republican Convention in July.
In fact civic leaders, academics, elected officials of both parties and journalists in the State of Ohio are so concerned about this that they have come together to discuss what can be done by each of their sectors to take some heat out of the process and hopefully introduce some light on the policy differences and consequences for the country of the outcome of the election.
The Ohio Civility Consortium's Town Meeting: "Can We Talk? Moving from Discord to Dialogue", a day-long conference, was the product of over 20 statewide organizations seeking a way to change the political dialogue in 2016 in this critical battle ground state. The groups had been meeting for two years planning for an interactive way to highlight the need for moving from discord to dialogue. Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice, Yvette Magee Brown, summed it up best, saying, "our children are watching, we have to act". #CivilOhio
If you, too, are concerned about too much heat and too little light, don't be complicit with how off track this election season is; let your elected officials and media outlets know how you feel. No matter what your political affiliation take a stand for civil language and behavior on everyone's part.
As President Obama expressed at the annual Congressional Friends of Ireland luncheon:
"...it's worth asking ourselves what each of us may have done to contribute to this kind of vicious atmosphere in our politics. I suspect that all of us can recall some intemperate words that we regret. Certainly, I can. And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it. For it is a cycle that is not an accurate reflection of America. And it has to stop."
How do you feel and what are your ideas on how we can work together to improve the state of political discourse in our country?
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