Campaign season is a time that, unfortunately, tends to bring out the worst in American politics. Far too often, mudslinging and name calling are prioritized over respectful dialogue. With political polarization at a seemingly all-time high, it often appears that people would rather argue than listen to another person’s view—and with the midterm elections less than a month away, these sentiments are heightened.
Although this way of participating in the election process has become the norm, not that long ago, civility in campaigning was still alive. Take, for example, the late Sen. John McCain defended then-candidate Sen. Barack Obama against a divisive criticism from a Republican voter.
And despite today’s rising tensions and increasing contentiousness, it’s possible to revive civility in American politics. Just last year, members of the House freshmen class pledged their commitment to this principle and designated July 12 as an annual National Day of Civility. With over 75% of Americans saying that it’s important that political discourse be respectful, it’s more important than ever that we revive civility in politics. Here’s how:
Once this fall’s elections have passed, how can we help translate the concept of civility into practical action in Washington? Reforming the rules and norms that govern how Congress does business can help incentivize changes in the way lawmakers approach legislating and interacting with one another. It may not alter the atmosphere overnight, but it is a step in the right direction, and yet another reason we need to demand a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress.