Our Lack of Civil Discourse Encourages Hyper-Partisanship

By Mike Dixon on October 18, 2017

Hyper partisanship has become the norm in today’s society because we the people no longer are able to engage in polite civil discussions over different points of view.

As individual Americans we all have the freedom of expression, belief and speech.  We often hear our elected officials and media spokespersons state these freedoms in a multitude of ways.  We as Americans treasure these freedoms as rights that we possess because we are fortunate enough to live in the USA. Yet, how often do we actually use these freedoms in our daily lives?

We are discouraged from discussing political or religious beliefs in any social or professional setting because others may become offended.  Or others will judge us harshly and label us as troublemakers.  How ironic is it that most of us love to denigrate our elected officials for being too politically correct, and yet we often follow the same paths in our own daily interactions?  

One of the results of this lack of civil discourse is that there is never an appropriate setting or time to have these discussions.  As far as I can tell; the only time candid discussion/debate happens is when elected officials are trying to pass legislation.  And by that point most elected officials would be penalized by their constituents for listening to another point of view or compromising on the issue.  The upshot is that no matter how much we love to talk about wanting our elected officials to compromise we tend to punish them when they do compromise.  Or even worse we love it when the other side (left/right) breaks from their side to join our position.  We give them all of the oratory praise we can muster; but we won’t vote for them in the next election.  Again, we the people are rewarding the hyper-partisanship with our own actions. 

Does the fault lie with our politicians or with us?  I believe the fault lies with ourselves as individuals.  We as individuals do very little to expose ourselves to anything outside of our own echo chambers.  And even more to the point when we are exposed to something new, we tend to lash out at them for challenging our own points of view.  There are many examples of this in our current events.  We the people like to complain about others being too politically correct, or how others protest, or what media source others use to get their news from or how we interpret what someone else has said or done.  In short, we do not like to be challenged on our own convictions.  We, as individuals, like to be right.  And we like our own echo chambers to reinforce this concept.  And that is why we the people are at fault. 

If we truly desire our government to change; then we the people need to change first.  We need to expand our own echo chambers.  We need to reach out to other individuals who have a different opinion then we do.  We need to engage other individuals in a positive and constructive manner.  We need to show empathy and sympathy for their beliefs.  And when we can do this with each other; then our government will follow suit.  After all our government is really just a reflection of us.

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Mike Dixon is a resident of Columbia, SC where he has lived for the last 25 years. A Quality Assurance Consultant in the IT field, Mike is a political junky who enjoys following current events closely.