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Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics
May 1, 2007, Volume 53, No. 32

Elected officials and university scholars examined incivility in politics and the increasing polarization of policy debate at the Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics yesterday on Capitol Hill. Conference participants discussed whether, in a time of increasingly rancorous political discourse, the United States is reaching a tipping point that makes incivility a bad political strategy and a worse governance strategy and whether this has implications for the 2008 presidential election. 

The Penn Conference on Civility and American Politics—sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute—brought together politicians and scholars from Penn, Brookings, AEI and the editor/publisher of Governing Magazine to explore how incivility affects the political system and the ability to tackle the problems of 21st-century life in the U.S.

“We now stand at an important crossroads in American political discourse,” said President Amy Gutmann, a conference participant and a political scientist. “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.”

“Candidates, political observers and citizens alike have increasingly decried the growing incivility in American politics, the increasing polarization of the policy debate and the ever more shrill language that makes it harder for government officials to work together to solve the nation’s problems,” said Donald F. Kettl, director of Penn’s Fels Institute of Government and a professor of political science.

An archived webcast of the Conference on Civility and American Politics will be accessible at www.fels.upenn.edu/civility-conference-archive.ram.

Almanac - May 1, 2007, Volume 53, No. 32