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Job interviews aren’t easy. They require preparation, practice, and thoughtful responses. Now imagine doing a job interview in front of 320 million people with an opponent watching your every move, word, and decision.
That’s what we have here during this presidential election. And it’s gotten hot. Very hot.
Insults fly every which way. Ugly language has become commonplace. The electorate has grown more polarized than ever. We all know the sheer number and complexity of the issues facing our country, and our next president is going to have quite the challenge trying to govern in an increasingly toxic and partisan environment.
One of these issues is restoring civility to the political process.
In a letter to the next president, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue wrote:
Restoring civility to our political process will be key to progress and getting things done. Incivility has long been a problem in America, but the imperative to address it has never been more urgent. When politicians posture, insult, and demagogue, what happens? Americans tune out. Problems fester. Challenges go unmet. And our legacy as a can-do nation that embraces exciting ideas and bold solutions diminishes.
To govern, we must restore civility, and to restore civility we need to get back to the basics, including reaffirming and strengthening two fundamental values — our right to free speech and our system of free enterprise. They are by no means cure-alls. But I’m convinced affirming these values will not only help restore civility in our country but also restore opportunity and freedom. In other words, the American Dream.
Everybody deserves their right to speak their beliefs and fully participate in the political process. Unfortunately many stopped listening to each other. They not just dismiss opposing viewpoints, but also viciously attack the other side through a barrage of insults and screaming matches. Some even try to silence opposing voices through intimidation and overregulation.
All this does is let the country’s problems grow worse. People tune out of political discussion and our leaders shy away from challenges, rather than attack them.
Of course, restoring civility won’t solve every single problem that we currently face. But it will get us on the right track again. It will give people hope that there is a better way--a way defined by civil discussion and an engaged, informed society. But it will take a lot of effort. It will involve not just a single person, but everyone.
In a speech to the Civility in America conference, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue recalled the words of Mahatma Ghandi, and how we all can learn from them. Ghandi told us to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” It’s up to all of us to call on our leaders to restore civility to our democratic institutions. It’s up to all of us to listen to each and raise the level of our conversations.