November 11, 2010


Is today's civil discourse productive?

"We are a deeply polarized nation in upheaval and cultural change," said Hank Klibanoff, Emory's James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism.

"Are we strengthening or weakening the all-American dream?" he asked as moderator of a Nov. 8 panel discussion on "Civil Discourse and the Politics of Confrontation in America."

Donna Brazile, political analyst and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, called the 2010 midterm elections an "electoral earthquake" from which she raises the question, "Will both parties be able to work together for the common good?"

Monica Crowley, FOX News political and foreign affairs analyst, defended today's civil discourse as nothing new − the United States has a history of verbal brawls.  We are immersed in a news cycle that exaggerates and attracts differences in political views, she said, and it is up to viewers to sort through what is being put out.

Vali Nasr, an expert on contemporary Islam and Middle Eastern affairs, pointed out that the lack of civility in our discourse goes "hand in hand with dumbing down the debate" and said the public "cares less about knowing and more about having strong opinions."

Laurie Patton, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions, said it's "when the name calling stops that exchange that we have a problem."

Kathleen Cleaver, a professor at Yale University and Emory Law, called attention to the Tea Party, which has influenced the outcome of the midterm elections. She compared Tea Party activists to "well-dressed members of the Ku Klux Klan."

In the Q&A which wrapped up the discussion, Crowley, a conservative, and Brazile, a liberal, openly shared a mutual respect and appreciation for each other's opinions, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

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