By Cornell Clayton, professor of political science and director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU
Two weeks ago five people including the Republican House Whip Steve Scalise were shot by a deranged gunman as they practiced for the annual congressional baseball game in the nation’s capital. Shocked by the violence, a rare moment of bipartisanship erupted as leaders of both parties called for greater civility in our politics. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even sat down to a joint television interview to show they could be nice each other.
Similar calls to change the tone of our political discourse came after the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011, when a national center for civil discourse was even established. Such calls for greater civility are sincere and sensible. We should be more civil. They are also unlikely to succeed absent a more fundamental change in how we think about politics.
Over the past decade the Foley Institute at WSU has hosted a series of conferences and research programs focused on political polarization and incivility. Here is what we know.