National Effort to "Revive Civility" is Underway, Looking Ahead to Next Elections

The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD), launched in the aftermath of the shooting targeting Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Arizona in 2011, has launched a new initiative – Revive Civility. “Incivility in America has reached epidemic proportions,” organizers point out. “Every day rudeness, disrespect and hostility sideline collaboration and compromise. Sound bites replace sound journalism. Extremes on both ends of the political spectrum stymie productive dialogue. The public, initially worn and weary, is increasingly enraged about how the lack of civility has left government helpless in the face of our nation's most pressing problems.”

The initiative includes proposed Standards of Conduct, toolkits for citizens, and suggested text messages  that emphasize how ”civility strengthens our democracy.”

Pointing out that “research found that most people think mocking or making fun of a political opponent, making disrespectful or demeaning statements, refusing to listen to arguments of different points of view, or making exaggerated statements that misrepresent the truth are all uncivil behaviors.”

In 2017, “reviving civility is more important than ever” and NICD plans to continue to champion “respectful interactions” in media, legislatures, and the public.  The organization will also educate “the next generation on the importance of civility and ways in which respectful dialogue and interaction between a variety of viewpoints can be created in your own life.”

The 2016 campaign, NICD points out, “brought political incivility directly into living rooms across America,” pointing out that candidates used “disrespectful remarks, name calling,” insulted various members of minority groups, and “the tone of the campaigns has also led to physical violence. Uncivil words have led to uncivil actions and are the direct result of the nature of the rhetoric expressed by those competing to lead in public office.”

NICD points out that:

  • 2 in 3 voters say the 2016 election has been less civil than other elections.
  • 6 in 10 agree with the statement "The 2016 election will go down as one of the most negative elections."
  • 4 in 10 voters say Americans are very or somewhat civil to each other today.
  • 7 in 10 Americans say civility has decreased over the past few years.

The honorary chairs of NICD, a nonprofit organization, are former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  Among the honorary co-chairs is former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.