An effort to encourage civility in public discourse and behavior has gained little support from the 585 elected U.S. officials who were asked earlier this year to commit to a simple 32-word pledge.
More than a month after letters were mailed to every sitting governor and member of Congress, only one senator has agreed to make an on-the-record commitment to the Civility Pledge, according to CivilityProject.org founder Mark DeMoss.
“Given recent polls that show nearly three in four Americans believe politics have become too uncivil, I would have thought that more than one member of Congress would have been willing to pledge to be civil,” said DeMoss, whose public relations firm, The DeMoss Group, serves Christian groups including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the American Center for Law & Justice, and Prison Fellowship, among others.
“We have actually set the bar pretty low with this pledge,” he added. “And so far, only Frank Wolf (R-Va) has cleared it.”
Last year, conservative evangelical Republican DeMoss and liberal Jewish Democrat Lanny Davis launched the Civility Project, hoping that Americans everywhere would embrace the three commitments found in the project's Civility Pledge – to be civil in public discourse and behavior; to be respectful of others despite disagreement, and to stand up and call out incivility whenever they see it.
“We are not calling for an end to partisan politics, for there is nothing wrong with partisan politics,” the political odd couple clarified.
“[V]igorous debate between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, on the issues … informs and breathes life into our republic,” they affirmed.
However, the opposite – personal attack, the politics of hate and sanctimony – “not only undermines our ability to solve our problems, but also corrodes the soul of the country as much as cancer destroys the human body,” they added.
To date, “thousands” across America have reportedly taken the Civility Pledge through the project’s website and it is the hope of DeMoss and Davis that every governor and member of Congress, regardless of party, will lead by example and sign the pledge – especially with the July and November election cycles fast approaching.
“I hope constituents will begin asking their senators, representatives and governors to sign this pledge,” said DeMoss. “Otherwise, I would predict the largest bloc of disinterested voters ever this fall and in 2012.”
Davis, in an appearance this past week on the O’Reilly Factor, suggested that the reason for the low turnout among elected officials was likely because the letters were thrown away by staff and never seen by most of the officials.
He also reported that one governor, David Paterson of New York, had sent a reply to their letter, saying, “I will be happy to consider your request."
“Tells you a lot that staff finds it boring,” Davis remarked.
He later added, “Politicians you have to embarrass into responding.”
Presently, on CivilityProject.org, there is an interactive map that shows which representatives have taken the Civility Pledge.
For those representatives who have not signed on, there are links to their website, which Civility supporters are encouraged to follow in order to contact them and urge them to take the pledge.
“As we approach important mid-term elections this fall and a presidential election in two years many of us are hoping we can conduct important national business with civil discourse and debate rather than by screaming and shouting,” the co-founders of the Civility Project say.
As for any elected leaders who don’t subscribe to the pledges three personal commitments, DeMoss and Davis say they would like to hear why.
“[W]e are pledging to do better and believing that together we can change an increasingly disturbing tone in American political life,” they say.
According to a national civility survey conducted this past April by KRC Research, two in three Americans believe civility is a major problem and three in four believe the problem has gotten worse over the past few years.
Three in four further say the financial crisis and recession has made the level of civility in American worse, and the vast majority of those surveyed (83 percent) believe people should not vote for candidates and politicians who are uncivil.
Just one in four expect civility to improve, while more than one in three think it will get worse.