Fixing What’s Broken: Uncivil War and American Democracy

THU, APR 15, 2021 (1:17:13)

Fourteen days after a mob stormed the Capitol attempting to “stop the steal,” President Biden declared in his Inaugural Address that we must “end this Uncivil War” threatening our democracy. Hyperpolarization, partisan tribalism, the politics of outrage, incivility, refusal to compromise and truth decay have led to a state of division and politically motivated violence we’ve not seen since the Civil War.

GBH News political reporter Mike Deehan moderates a discussion with U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, political scientist Lilliana Mason, and political strategist Ron Christie on what can be done to turn the temperature down, answer President Biden’s call for “unity” and focus on the urgent business of governing our nation.


Learn about partisan protest trends, here .

Look at Executive Orders organized by date and administration .

See George McGovern’s party reforms, here .

Read about the bipartisan danger of dehumanizing language .

Learn about the link between polarization and civic education in Ron Christie’s article .

Read Lilliana’s article, “Radical American Partisanship: Mapping Violent Hostility, Its Causes, & What It Means for Democracy.”

+ BIO: Mike Deehan

Mike Deehan is the State House Reporter for GBH News.

Mike was formerly the Digital Content Editor for StateHouseNews, as well as the editor of Massterlist. Mike was also a reporter and contributing editor for The Dorchester Reporter. He lives in Boston and has his journalism degree from UMass Amherst.

+ BIO: Ron Christie

Ron Christie, founder and President of Christie Strategies LLC, is a veteran senior advisor of both the White House and the Congress, brings years of government relations and media experience.

Previously, Christie served as Vice President of Navigators Global LLC - a strategic consulting and communications firm. He previously served as Executive Vice President and Director of Global Government Affairs at Ruder Finn and Of Counsel at the Washington D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, LLP. From 2002 to 2004, he was Acting Director of USA Freedom Corps and special assistant to President George W. Bush.

He began service at the White House in 2001 as deputy assistant to Vice President Cheney for domestic policy, advising the Vice President on policy initiatives in healthcare, budget, tax and other policy areas

Christie served as a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University for the Fall 2011 term. He was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University in 2014. He also teaches The Business of Lobbying at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. He was appointed last year to the advisory board of the Georgetown University Institute of Politics

+ BIO: Lilliana Mason

Lilliana Mason is associate professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity (University of Chicago Press).

She received her PhD in Political Psychology from Stony Brook University and her BA in Politics from Princeton University. Her research on partisan identity, partisan bias, social sorting, and American social polarization has been published in journals such as American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Public Opinion Quarterly, and Political Behavior, and featured in media outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and National Public Radio.

Mason received the 2017 Emerging Scholar Award from the Political Organizations and Parties Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA). Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the Facebook Research Integrity Group.

+ BIO: U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern ,D-MA-02, was born and raised in the Burncoat neighborhood of Worcester. The values he learned from his friends and family are the same ones he fights for every day in Congress: fairness, decency, respect for all people, and the idea that each of us has an obligation to give back to our community. Jim’s parents, Walter and Mindy, own a small package store in Worcester, and his sisters are both public school teachers. He is married to Lisa Murray McGovern and they have two children, Patrick and Molly.

First elected to Congress in 1996, Jim has fought tirelessly for the people of Massachusetts and has earned the respect and trust of his colleagues – including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who named him Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee during the 116th Congress.

He is a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Oversight. He also serves as the Chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and is the Democratic Co-Chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – both of which monitor, investigate and advocate on behalf of international human rights, the rule of law, and good governance.

Jim’s commitment to public service began at a young age. In 7th grade, Jim volunteered on the 1972 presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern – no relation. When Jim decided to attend college at the American University in Washington, D.C. he applied for an internship in the office of Senator McGovern. He worked his way through college as an intern, earning a BA in history in 1981 before going to work in the office of Congressman Joe Moakley, a Democrat from South Boston. While working for Moakley, Jim went back to American University to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Administration in 1984.

It was also in Moakley’s office that Jim was asked to help lead the investigation of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador following public outrage in Congress. He exposed that the murders were committed by the U.S. – backed Salvadoran military, leading to a major shift in U.S. foreign policy that made future military aid contingent on improved human rights and a negotiated peace in El Salvador.

Jim saw firsthand what strong, principled leadership looked like while working for Congressman Moakley. But with Newt Gingrich as Speaker, he also saw that too often, Washington worked for the rich and powerful instead of the American people. Jim successfully ran for Congress in 1996 and has won reelection in each subsequent term. After his first election, when Jim was on the House Floor to take the oath of office, he took his two mentors – Moakley and Senator McGovern – with him. He asked them both: “what should I know before I take this oath?”

Jim with his familySenator McGovern said: “get over the fear of losing an election, or else you’ll constantly be obsessed with polls instead of doing what’s right. Always do what’s right.

Congressman Moakley said: “get to know everyone here as a person. Get to know what they stand for and who they are and treat them with respect.”

Jim has never forgotten their advice. From principled stands on tough issues to working with Members of Congress from across the country and on both sides of the aisle, Jim has fought to ensure that every single person in this country and around the world is treated with dignity and respect.

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