HNLR Symposium 2014: Political Dialogue and Civility in an Age of Polarization

The current state of political discourse and how negotiation techniques may be able to overcome challenges to civil dialogue. The conference focused on applying ADR principles to overcome the polarization rampant in today’s politics.

 

Panel 1 Political Discourse, How It Has Changed, and Why It Is the Way It Is

Moderator: Nancy Welsh
Panelists: Jim Flug, Peter Ambler, and Tom Bonier
Response Panelists: Nancy Welsh, Bob Bordone, and David Matz

This panel discussed ways in which current and historical trends have led to or precipitated polarization and uncivil dialogue. Topics explored by the panelists include how the pressures and influences on politicians have changed over time, how election laws (with an emphasis on redistricting and gerrymandering) has influenced polarization, and how political actors could help shape a new era of civility. Response panelists lent an ADR perspective to the insights and comments of fellow panelists.

Panel 2 Overcoming Challenges to Civil Dialogue

Moderator: Laura Chasin
Panelists: Francis Kissling, John Allen, and Jonathan Zittrain
Response Panelists: Bob Bordone and Amy Cohen

This panel discussed technological, geographical, and ideological challenges and opportunities that affect how we discuss political issues with one another. Each of the panelists had an expertise in a different prism of interpersonal relations and shared stories about how people relate in these different contexts to those that are perceived as the “other.” Response panelists addressed how the skills acquired in an ADR context can help overcome the challenges discussed by fellow panelists.

Panel 3 What Worked Practical Strategies for Loosening the Gridlock

Moderator: Heather Kulp
Panelists: Laura Chasin, Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, and Michael Ostrolenk

This panel discussed ways in which panelists have used their alternative dispute resolution knowledge and skill to help political actors bridge partisan divides or find creative solutions to political challenges. From their on-the-ground experience managing political conflict, they touched on many of the themes and questions that had arisen earlier in the day.

Key Note by Krista Tippett

Krista Tippett, host of the public radio program On Being and steward of The Civil Conversations Project, tied together the day’s discussions by using stories from her vast experience facilitating dialogue that addresses life’s difficult questions.