Tuesday was the second day of the 2016 session of the Idaho legislature but lawmakers did not spend the afternoon crafting policy. Instead they did a five-hour training on civil discourse. Legislative leaders participated in the training a few months ago and decided all lawmakers needed to hear it. It’s presented by the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona which works with Congress, state legislatures and the media to promote civility in political conversation.
The National Institute for Civil Discourse was founded after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson in 2011. It has trained a dozen state legislatures and held national and regional lawmaker trainings as well.
Carolyn Lukensmeyer, the institute's executive director and Ted Celeste, the director of state programs, came to Boise for the training.
Lukensmeyer says America’s political system is a mess because of incivility. She says politicians, the media and the public share the blame for that. For example, she says elected officials act in a more civil manner . . . when their constituents tell them it’s important.
“If in the state there’s polling done that actually invites the citizens into that conversation… that can become another factor that reduces the amount of grandstanding and character assassination.”
Lukensmeyer says civil discourse is a simple concept, but one that's often misunderstood. Listen below as she tells KBSX’s Adam Cotterell what it really is and hear her and Celeste talk about why civility is important and how to get state lawmakers to play well with others.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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