Civility Is Overrated
It’s only 32 words. Yet, only two sitting members of Congress or governors have signed the civility pledge.
So what was it about civility that all the other 537 elected officials couldn’t agree to? Read it and decide for yourself.
- I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
- I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
- I will stand against incivility when I see it.
In May, Lanny Davis, my friend and co-founder of the Civility Project, and I sent a letter to all 535 members of Congress and 50 sitting governors inviting them to sign a civility pledge.
We made it easy, enclosing a response form, return envelope and fax number. I’m sorry to report, six months later, that only two responded: Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
We share a conviction about the importance of at least trying to change a polarizing, uncivil political culture that now appears to be the norm.
Call it old-fashioned, but we believe debates should be won on the strength of ideas and words — not on the volume of our voices or the outrageousness of our ads. Yet some emails I’ve received on our website are so filled with obscenities that they could not be printed in a newspaper.
Incivility is not just a political problem, according to Yale law professor Stephen Carter. “Rules of civility are thus rules of morality,” Carter said, “it is morally proper to treat our fellow citizens with respect, and morally improper not to. Our crisis of incivility is part of a larger crisis of morality.”