Some Working To Make America's Political Discourse Civil Again



This year’s presidential campaign has been described as “nasty” and “deplorable” — and those terms were used by the candidates themselves.

In that environment, keeping “civil” paired with “discourse” has been a challenge, but not an impossibility.

Coarse political rhetoric risks weakening the system and turning off voters, warn College of Southern Nevada Professor Sondra Cosgrove, who heads the Las Vegas Valley chapter of the League of Women Voters. 

Cosgrove said as more money has poured into politics and more consultants have been hired the system has become more cutthroat.

She said that money has also gone into all kinds of different media.  

“If we’re just sitting here having a civil discussion well that’s boring," she said, "Nobody wants to listen to that. So instead, we’re going to give you a reality TV show where people scream at each other and insult each other because apparently that’s what the public wants.”

She said a lot of people are sick of the negative campaigning, but she said it is up to voters to push back at the bad behavior. 

Howard Beckerman, who has produced candidate forums for 20 years, said candidates often aren't the ones doing the negative campaigning. He said third-party supporters buy ads on TV and put out mailers, which "do the dirty work" for the candidate.

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He believes candidates should take responsibility for what others are saying. 

Both Cosgrove and Beckerman are striving to reward politicians who fight for their beliefs with decorum and reason.

When the Legislature convenes next year, the League of Women Voters will monitor lawmakers’ behavior and recognize those who are the most civil to the public and their colleagues.

“We want, through social media, to highlight the people who are acting civilly,” Cosgrove said. 

Both Cosgrove and Beckerman, who this fall produced a well-attended candidate event at the Temple Sinai synagogue in northwest Las Vegas, say the idealism that propelled Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign offers hope for a more civil future.

Beckerman believes bringing people together across the political spectrum is vital to making that civil future happen. 

Still, Beckerman said, patience will be needed because, “the country doesn’t turn on a dime." 




CSN Professor Sondra Cosgrove, head of the Las Vegas Valley chapter of the League of Women Voters; Howard Beckerman, produces candidate forums

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