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Incivility in American Politics Discussed (Politely) in Washington

The increasing polarization of political debate was the subject of a Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics Monday on Capitol Hill. The event was sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute.

Among those participating in the event were Penn President Amy Gutmann, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and Donald F. Kettl, director of Penn’s Fels Institute of Government. Joining the Penn scholars were U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Independent Democrat of Connecticut, and U.S. Rep. John Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

“We now stand at an important crossroads in American political discourse,” Gutmann, a political scientist, said. “Divisions have grown into chasms so deep that simply getting people into the same room to talk has become difficult. That kind of contentiousness prevents fruitful discourse and hurts the deliberative process. Elected officials need to be aware that voters may punish incivility at the polls.”