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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Cox on Civility, Bipartisanship, and the Media

Many posts have discussed partisan polarization and aversive or negative partisanship.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox was a hit at the Gridiron. He closed with more serious remarks:
In all sincerity, so much of what is truly great about America flows from a free press, embracing its sacred obligation to bring facts to light and to tell the truth no matter what. Even when that means choosing substance over clicks. Even when the truth is in conflict with your reader’s biases. Especially when the truth is in conflict with your own.

For the many committed to this ideal, to creating the “first draft of history” as it unfolds around us, thank you. We need you, desperately. Having the courage to tell the truth to each other is a sign that we hold each other in high regard.

Yes, democracy dies in darkness. But it can also die in the light of day if courageous people are not there to defend it.

I currently have the unique opportunity to serve as the chair of the National Governors Association. The NGA is one of the last bastions of bipartisanship. As chair, I launched an initiative titled Disagree Better, with the sole purpose of striving to depolarize our country and help Americans remember how to disagree without hating each other.

Sadly, we have too many politicians that act as conflict entrepreneurs. They have figured out how to use fear and divisiveness to gain power. I’m grateful for dozens of governors who have joined me in finding ways to lower the temperature and bring us back together.

I believe that each of you play an equally profound role in working to heal our deeply polarized nation. Sadly, there are some in your profession that have found that elevating the extremes, presuming bad faith and fomenting contempt are great ways to get clicks. Outrage sells. But outrage will never persuade. And it will never solve our biggest problems.

In a world full of arsonists, we desperately need some architects.

The good news is that there is a market for something different. Seventy percent of Americans — the exhausted majority — hate what is happening in politics and media today. It’s not too late to find our better angels.

I hope that we, as politicians, and you, as journalists, can find within ourselves more of that precious quality of humility — as Judge Learned Hand said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”

And as one of our greatest American leaders said in a speech that helped bring an end to the Cold War:

“What I’m trying to say is if I can change and you can change, everybody can change.”

And of course, that great historic figure was Rocky Balboa, from that classic geopolitical documentary “Rocky IV.”

May God bless you as you tell the story of our beloved country — in the year ahead and always.

Thank you for having me with you.