These days, it is a common sentiment across every demographic that we live in an age of political polarization rarely seen in politics. The ability to reach out and communicate about daily events to any given stranger has become notably strained, boding poorly for the common American and their ability to come to a reasonable consensus. Most average citizens have expressed interest in seeing the political tension turned down, having disagreements just remain disagreements. This call for civil dialogue was championed on Monday, Nov. 5, by The Tocqueville Forum, Markets and Morality, the department of political science and Kirk on Campus. Dr. Polet, from the department of political science, served as moderator for the forum. Seated next to him, the leftmost panelist, was Rev. Doctor Denise Grier of Maple Avenue Ministries. Beside her sat Dr. Michael Federici, from Middle Tennessee State University’s political science department.
The final panelist was Dr. Elizabeth Corey, associate professor of political science at Baylor University. Shortly after 7 p.m., Dr. Polet began the panel by asking one of the most central questions of the evening: Are we really in the most divided time of American politics ever? The short answer is “no” according to Dr. Federici, and he went on to reference notable moments in American history where things were much more dangerous, such as the Civil War era. There are also numerous incidences where public opinion was much more volatile, such as the 1970s, and periods of government suppression of unpopular opinion such as anti-WWI criticisms. Dr. Federici would go on later in the panel to discuss the origins of government representation for controlling the destructive tendencies of united factions, something we neglect frequently as part-and parcel of free expression. Rev. Doctor Grier spoke about the influence of politics on church life, and how, historically, black churches seem more immune to those effects than traditionally white churches.
She also spoke about how there is a real necessity of talking about hard topics such as politics, but that this should be done with tact and a proper k n o w l e d g e of how those c o n v e r s a t i o n s should go. “Think about a man named Jesus” and “what’s your motive?” were among the impactful pieces of advice she gave the audience. Dr. Corey did much to speak to the nature of why politics in America works the way it does, including the idea that the more pressure and stakes we put on the elections, the more power and nastiness will tend to be thrown around. Corey also made the thoughtprovoking argument that we have been lulled into seeing our politicians as moral leaders and our presidents as moral beacons to the rest of society. While Dr. Corey pointed out the importance of having virtuous leaders who are honest at a personal level, they cannot be relied on to be the ethical drive of the nation.
After the panel ended, there was time for questions from the audience. Several interesting ones were posed. Most centered around the so-called fourth branch of government: the media. While there is clearly a brewing desire for conversations around politics to become civil again, the wisdom shared Monday shows that the fight for a return to normalcy is far from over. Markets and Morality will continue to discuss the political tension.