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It's Time to Restore Civility to Political Discourse

Let's unite behind our shared goals

It's Time to Restore Civility to Political Discourse


We will do all we can to restore civility and trust to our political discourse.

En español | Now that the elections are over, it's time to welcome new President-elect Donald Trump, a new Congress, and new state and local officials across the country. Regardless of whom you supported in November, we share many of the same concerns. How can we get our leaders to put political partisanship and distrust behind them and come together? How can we, as a country, bring civility and public discourse back to our democracy? How can we disagree and still find common ground around the big issues that matter so much in our country?

If this election has taught us anything, it is that not all of us are experiencing the same America. We have to be willing to step into someone else's shoes in order to have constructive dialogue on some very serious issues facing our country now, and others that are sure to occur in the future.

The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan said, "What the people want is very simple — they want an America as good as its promise." What is the promise of America? Thomas Jefferson defined it as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Franklin Roosevelt outlined it in four freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Ronald Reagan described it as "a shining city upon a hill."

One of the great things about our democracy is that every four years we have the opportunity to unite and renew our journey toward the promise of America. While campaigns, by their very nature, focus on the things that divide us, to govern effectively we must focus on achieving the shared goals that unite us.

At AARP, our experience in talking with our members is that they care deeply about important issues facing them and their families, especially those related to their health and financial security. And they want our leaders to address them. But partisanship has reached such an uncivil extreme that it is dividing our nation and prohibiting leaders from both political parties from coming together to do the people's work. Far too often the politician's goal is not practical solutions but political advantage. When policy is debated only in terms of political gains and defeats, the American people lose. Instead of solutions, we get stalemate. And, as this election showed, the American people are tired of it.

Bipartisanship does not mean that Republicans and Democrats must agree on every issue. But it does mean that they must be able to work together to find workable solutions. Theodore Roosevelt said, "The most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency." We must replace today's political environment of suspicion and mistrust with a politics of decency, civility and trust.

At AARP, we will do all we can to restore civility and trust to our political discourse. As a new administration and new Congress prepare to take office in Washington and new legislatures and governors prepare to lead their states, AARP is ready to work with them to help find practical solutions to the issues people 50 and over care about, and to do our part in creating an America as good as its promise.

Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.