Politics Entering a Restrictive Phase

Dec 31, 2015

Many decry the coarsening of our political discourse. History demonstrates that politics has always been a "contact sport." But over the years Iowa's social capital has allowed Iowans to disagree without being disagreeable.

Historian Tom Morain relates a story his father used to tell about a Republican newspaper editor and the young Democratic lawyer who used to come to the newspaper office every morning to debate with him. The editor would get quite exercised during these exchanges, pounding his fist and getting red in the face. But when the attorney would leave, the editor would turn to Morain's father and say, "Boy, I like that young man."

Morain asks whether you have a close friend, whom you know has different opinions, and with whom you can honestly debate and have a free-flowing exchange? If not, it may indicate that our politics has entered a "restrictive phase," and we don't share a diversity of thought.

Former Republican Congressman and former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities,  Jim Leach says changes in political civility have been gradual. He says argumentation is a social good. It prevents dogmatism and tyranny. But, the difference is whether anyone today is willing to listen to someone else and take their views into consideration. He advises students at the University of Iowa, to find a blog with an opposing viewpoint and read it regularly. He says if you immerse yourself only in what you're comfortable with, you narrow your own mind.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about the history of political discourse and how it's changed over the 20th century.