Obama’s civility in a polarised world

We wrote last week about political polarisation, through which we include two different-but-related things: (1) exaggerated debate about public services being the norm; and (2) the role of interest groups in polarising politics.

Then up popped a video comparing Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s ways of dealing with hecklers:

This echoed David Brooks’s piece reflecting on the civility of Obama’s presidency, and the fact we’ll miss it when it’s gone:

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

What I note about Obama is that he always plays the ball and not the player. He engages in the debate and doesn’t resort to name-calling, ad hominem  attacks or the tone someone employs.

As you would hope, he engages at the upper scales of the Hierarchy of Disagreement:

DH0: Name-calling

DH1: Ad Hominem

DH2: Responding to tone

DH3: Contradiction

DH4 Counterargument

DH5: Refutation

DH6: Refuting the central point

Our polarised political debate means Obama’s civility stands out. Perhaps we can restore civility and try to engage in what people are saying and why, rather than who they are and how they say it?

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Right now, is left wrong and right right?

Matthew Taylor on the left:

The nature of power is shifting yet social democratic organisations continue too often to exemplify a model of hierarchical bureaucracy, tending to see power as a zero-sum quantity won or lost internally in factional battles and externally in elections.

But power is dynamic, fluid and positive sum (the same team of people can be powerless or powerful depending on how they work together). It can be generated – in whatever circumstances – through creativity, collaboration, integrity and generosity. The phrase  ‘in’ or ‘out of power’ may refer to control of the Government but it also speaks to a more fundamental problem with how the leadership cadre of social democratic parties think about change.

David Brooks on the right:

The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left. Given the financial crisis, widening inequality, the unpopularity of the right’s stances on social issues and immigration, you would have thought that progressive parties would be cruising from win to win.

But, instead, right-leaning parties are doing well [because]… they have loudly (and sometimes offensively) championed national identity[,] they have been basically sensible on fiscal policy… [and their] leaders did not overread their mandate.