David Ignatius, an op-ed writer at the Washington Post, had a terrific column today entitled "The Dignity Agenda".
It got me thinking about creating a series of posts that attempt to explore what "civil discourse" really means? People ask me, "What do you hope to accomplish with Citizens for Civil Discourse and the National Political Do Not Contact Registry?"
Aren't you actually limiting discourse by allowing voters to remove their phone numbers from politicians voter contact databases?
My answer is an empathic, NO! No, no, no! You just don't get it.
Voters today get their political information from a myriad of sources and communication channels.
There is T.V., radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, friends, email, events, the mail, and many other ways (including TEXT messaging).
In fact, phone calls are but one of many ways politicians can reach voters. They just happen to be very efficient (read cheap) and particularly easy for campaigns to execute.
It is my contention that phone calls, particularly automated or robo calls, are actually doing more harm than anyone can imagine.
Phones are considered in a different light by most voters.
T.V.'s, radios, and the Internet can all be turned off.
The phone can not. As a result many voters have told me that they consider political phone calls a violation of their home, their castle as it were.
One voter told me that in 2006 they received 37 calls in one day. Yes, one day.
Now imagine if you received 37 calls in one day.
Would you respect politicians? Would you believe that politicians actual listen to you? That they care about you? That they have solutions for you?
No. Instead, these voters (64% of whom received robo calls in 2006) are hanging up and tuning out of politics, of voting, of caring, and finally of thinking that they can actually DO something; preferring not to engage and, often, not to vote.
How does this get back to the "Dignity Agenda" by David Ignatius?
Well, I believe that civil discourse starts with giving people dignity, with listening to them rather than shouting at them. It means that people "don't' like to be told what to do by outsiders". That means the same thing in Iraq as it does in West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, California and every other one of these United States.
Civil discourse can not occur without dignity.