September 23, 2012

Lack of civility keeps Congress unpopular

I heard the results of an interesting survey the other day. Americans hold Congress more responsible for our current economic plight than they do big banks. Corporations were further down in the list of responsibility. Few thought that we the people were responsible for our current plight.

Perhaps Congress is just a reflection of us all. I lamented last week about the erosion of civility as people now converse through impersonal means like the Internet, email and tweets. In these media, the nuance of inflection and tone are lost, and sincerity sometimes is interpreted as sarcasm, or sarcasm as sincere but uncivil expression. As we de-emphasize one-on-one communications, and as we demonize those who don’t agree with us, we find civility declining.

We certainly see this in the body politic. There was a time, not too long ago, that the House and Senate were most well-mannered. Our leaders would have the great, and sometimes impassioned, debate, but they would then enjoy a round of golf or an evening together.

Our leaders have few opportunities to socialize across party lines any more. The increase in campaign costs and advertising means our leaders must devote much more time to fundraising. They do so with lobbyists in Washington and deep-pocketed constituents at home. They certainly cannot accomplish this at a baseball game with their cross-party colleagues.

This reality is ultimately divisive. When any of us spend less time with those of differing views, we fool ourselves into thinking everybody agrees with us.

In this process, we don’t converge toward the center of thought of our broader community, but rather toward a narrow community of like-minded individuals. Liberals hang around with liberals and watch MSNBC, while conservatives hang out with conservatives and watch FOX News. In the process, the traditional bell-shaped distribution of political and social views becomes bi-modal, like camels’ humps, with the vast center partitioned into the left or the right.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • colin_read.jpg Good organizations lack drama

    Groups that accomplish their objectives do so with a minimum of distraction and politics, focusing instead on creativity and a dynamic vision, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Parking fines a short-sighted policy

    Tourists should be encouraged to do business downtown without fear of getting tickets, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Technical training a key part of education

    Recently honored, Champlain Valley Educational Services offers meaningful careers for those not heading for college, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Constitution withstands test of time

    The nation's founding document is a delicate balance that we should continue to nurture, according to columnist Colin Read.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg This region helped shape a new nation

    As we celebrate our nation's history, we must also appreciate the key role the North Country played in the founding of two countries, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Diversity of views a key to progress

    With today's mobile society and 24-hour media, like-minded people tend to congregate together stifling diversity of opinion, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Local heros needed to inspire us all

    It takes individual talent and initiative to truly move a community forward to fulfill its economic destiny, according to columnist Colin Read.

    June 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Fee on carbon needed

    Creating incentives to curb emissions is critical to containing climate change, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Governor inspires renewed shared-services effort

    Tax-cap plan has provided incentives for municipalities to get together to try and increase savings and efficiency, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • colin_read.jpg Pipeline issue has no simple answer

    If Alberta oil is not transported through Keystone, it will cause more pollution to send it to China, according to columnist Colin Read.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo