National Issues Forums (NIF) moderators have many ways of keeping in touch with the citizens who take part in their forums. Here is Gregg Kaufman's letter to North Florida citizens who attended St. John's Cathedral August, 2016 forum on The Political Fix: How Do We Get American Politics Back on Track?
Dear Fourm Friends,
Political Fix: How Do We Get American Politics Back on Track?
I would like to thank the cathedral staff and all those who participated in the August 8, 2016 Cathedral Civil Discourse event. This was the third forum of 2016 and the 28 participants engaged in a vibrant dialogue. Several people mentioned that of the three issues we discussed, the Political Fix forum reflected diverse thinking and respectful disagreement. We are blessed to have several Millennial Generation participants in the midst of our Great, and Baby Boomer Generation folk, which made for substantive dialogue. We were also pleased to welcome Dr. Linell Ajello, a professor of expository writing at NYU and journalist who traveled from Brooklyn to escape the heat of the Big City and observe the forum for an article she is writing on public discourse.
Common Ground Findings
There was significant agreement that the current political system is not working as well as it should and that people are passionate about their general despair regarding American politics. Some of the reasons for this despair include:
- The influence of large amounts of money that fuel campaigns.
- A deficit in quality information and education resulting in a lack of critical thinking on the part of the electorate.
- Uninformed voters.
- The perception of a partisan press.
- Frustration with polarized arguments.
The group identified several actions that could contribute to improving American politics, including:
- Civic education in schools and higher education institutions.
- Educational opportunities for those who aspire to run for elected office as well as those who have been elected.
- Election funding policies including limitations on media advertising.
The group exchanged views on the advantages and trade-offs of two specific ideas--term limits and curtailing lobbying. This was an enormously rich and important discussion where we wrestled with the tensions involved in solving these difficult problems.
The two previous forums we held focused on the wealth gap in the U.S., and the cost of health care. Relative to health care there was an article in the New York Times on August 22 entitled Whose Lives Should Be Saved? To Help Shape Policy, Researchers Ask the Public. With the assistance of the Carnegie Mellon University's program for deliberative dialogue, Johns Hopkins medical school faculty developed a series of public forums to engage the public in discussing critical health care decisions. In the article's final paragraph, the founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics was quoted as saying, "It's a novel and important attempt to turn extremely complicated core ethical considerations into something people can make sense of and struggle with in ordinary language." I cite this simply to illustrate that deliberative dialogue is being used around the nation to tackle some very difficult issues.
I hope that we will be able to announce the dates for several additional forums over the remaining months of 2016. Thank you so much for your support of this venture in civil discourse.
Grace and Peace,