Civility in American Politics
Each election cycle continues to shine a bright light on incivility in American politics. We see uncivil behaviors on the debate stage, through social media and during political ads. After this upcoming election cycle, will candidates and voters put their differences aside and provide trust and respect for the winning candidates to govern? Or will we continue down the path of incivility? We must ask ourselves, what choice do we want to make?
The Partnership has brought the efforts of civility to the forefront, as we believe the strength of our community is when we respectfully work together and find common ground to enhance the Greater DSM region. The Partnership has highlighted these efforts through the DSM USA Policy HQ podcast, DMDC, with blogs and op-eds, a civility webinar series and by highlighting the “Show Some Respect Campaign” prior to each policy event. Most recently we brought the question of civility straight to Iowa candidates.
We had the privilege to host The Partnership’s Candidate Forum series this fall for our Investors and Members. We invited each Democratic and Republican candidate running for Federal and Gubernatorial races in Iowa to be featured at an individual forum and 10 of the 12 candidates participated.
The sole question we asked each candidate was about civility. Here is the question we asked them:
"The Partnership and our community leaders are taking a proactive stance to elevate civility in DSM and the state. There is plenty of polling and anecdotal evidence to show that we are facing a period of great polarization between people of opposite political parties. As an individual seeking public office, what actions have you taken, and are you committed to taking, to reverse this trend and focus on enhancing civility through your public service?"
Political Candidates on Civility
Here are how the candidates responded, listed alphabetically. Answers have been edited slightly for conciseness:
Representative Cindy Axne, Candidate for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District:
It will take more groups than just the Greater Des Moines Partnership to achieve more civility. It will take a national narrative to fix the issues since it took a national narrative to get where we are at. Most of my bills are bipartisan. I have had 11 bills signed into law and that is from my relationships from both sides.
State Representative Christina Bohannan, Candidate for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District:
The electorate needs to hold candidates accountable. No party has a monopoly on good ideas. People should talk before they tweet, and the issue of misinformation is concerning.
Deidre DeJear, Candidate for Iowa Governor:
Civility is about action. There is a difference between talking about civility and practicing civility. I plan to work with both sides of the aisle to get things done if elected Governor and show civility, not just talk about it.
Congressman Randy Feenstra, Candidate for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District:
We as Iowans have to work together. Any policy I work on, I ask, “what is best for Iowa?” I sit on the Ag and Science and Technology Committee, both bipartisan committees, and I passed four bills out of those committees as a member of the minority party.
Admiral Mike Franken, Candidate for U.S. Senate:
Politics became an eventuality when I started working for Senator Kennedy. Back then politics was more civil, I had a great relationship with Senator Orin Hatch and Senator John McCain. Back then the issues were more gray and not black and white. Senator Ted Kennedy would tell me to just move the needle on the issues. We should have more conversation and discussions and not sound bites.
Senator Chuck Grassley, Candidate for U.S. Senate:
I set an example of bipartisanship. The three things I have worked on this year are big pharma, big technology and cattle feeders of the Midwest and I worked on all those issues with the other side of the aisle.
Representative Ashely Hinson, Candidate for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District:
When the Veterans Affairs Secretary was in Iowa and came to a golf outing where I attended, I had an opportunity to speak with him on veteran issues. I may disagree on a lot with the Administration, but we were able to find a lot of common ground around veterans' issues. I also am open to attending bipartisan forums. Pushing back on certain things is important but finding common ground is great.
Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Candidate for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District:
I follow the golden rule, I treat others how I would want to be treated. I show the same respect to the opposing party whether they are in the minority or majority party.
Ryan Melton, Candidate for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District:
I am willing to ‘fight the good fight’ and know that I will try to make the best decision, not the most politically expedient one. The only way we can fix these issues is to come together, but this doesn’t mean that we must sacrifice our values and beliefs.
State Senator Zach Nunn, Candidate for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District:
Leading by example goes a long way. As Assistant Majority Leader in the House, I worked with the Democratic Senate Majority leader to find common ground on many issues such as punishment for crack cocaine compared to powdered cocaine. In the State of Iowa, we are an ag state and manufacturing state. In an effort to address the future workforce of Iowa, I worked with trade unions to find common ground solutions.
The Partnership will continue to elevate civility throughout 2023, working with all candidates elected up and down the ballot. It is up to each of us to create an inclusive, innovative, sustainable, resilient and civil region through our work as individuals and as a community. Let us commit to seeking to understand, embracing civil dialogue and working together on common ground solutions that positively impact all of DSM USA.
The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.