Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School and Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, joined elected officials and university scholars April 30 on Capitol Hill to examine incivility in politics and the increasing polarization of policy debate at the Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics. Conference participants discussed whether, in a time of increasingly rancorous political discourse, the United States is reaching a tipping point that makes incivility a bad political strategy and a worse governance strategy and whether this has implications for the 2008 presidential election. The event, held in the Hart Senate Office Building, was sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, Brookings Institution, and American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
The Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics brought U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an Independent Democrat from Connecticut, and U.S. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, together with scholars from Penn, Brookings, and AEI and with the editor/publisher of Governing Magazine to explore how incivility affects the political system and the ability to tackle the problems of 21st-century life in the U.S. "We now stand at an important crossroads in American political discourse," Penn President Amy Gutmann, a conference participant and a political scientist, said. "Divisions have grown into chasms so deep that simply getting people into the same room to talk has become difficult. That kind of contentiousness prevents fruitful discourse and hurts the deliberative process. Elected officials need to be aware that voters may punish incivility at the polls."
"Candidates, political observers and citizens alike have increasingly decried the growing incivility in American politics, the increasing polarization of the policy debate and the ever more shrill language that makes it harder for government officials to work together to solve the nation's problems," said Donald F. Kettl, director of Penn's Fels Institute of Government and a professor of political science. Dr. Jamieson spoke on "The Status of (In?)Civility and American Politics" with William A. Galston, Brookings Institution, and Peter Harkness of Governing Magazine.
The Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics schedule:
9-9:15am - Welcome by Donald F. Kettl, University of Pennsylvania, and Pietro Nivola, Brookings Institution
9:15-11am - "The Status of (In?)Civility and American Politics": William A. Galston, Brookings Institution; Kathleen Hall Jamieson, University of Pennsylvania; Peter Harkness, Governing Magazine
11am-12:15pm - "Fundamental Questions on Civility and American Politics": Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania; U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Independent Democrat of Connecticut; U.S. Rep. John Boehner, Republican of Ohio
12:15-12:45pm - lunch
12:45-1:45pm - "The Broken Branch": Thomas E. Mann, Brookings Institution; Norman J. Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute
1:45-2:00pm - closing by Donald F. Kettl, University of Pennsylvania