By Mari Henderson
It is no secret that we live in an incredibly partisan time—you don't need to look beyond your Twitter feed for proof.
Two former legislators want to combat its negative impact with a bipartisan commitment to civility. Former U.S. House members Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), who also served in both chambers of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and Brian Baird (D-Wash.), members of the Association of Former Members of Congress, came together to create the #CivilityNotViolence pledge.
The pledge acknowledges the importance of vigorous debate and disagreement in the political process but calls for an end to threats or acts of violence in politics to maintain the integrity of the legislative institution.
NCSL has centered civility and bipartisanship across issue areas since the organization's founding in 1975. In presentations, articles and briefs, NCSL has pondered the role disagreement plays in the legislative process and how civility protects the legislative institution.
And NCSL is no stranger to civility pledges. In 2011, the organization's Executive Committee passed a Civility Accord where legislators and legislative staff pledged their commitment to civility and bipartisanship. NCSL also encourages its members to participate in building relationships across the aisle knowing that understanding a fellow member as a person fosters greater civility.
The #CivilityNotViolence pledge represents much of what NCSL values. Find more information about the pledge on the initiative's website. NCSL also provides platforms for discussions about civility, including at the upcoming Legislative Summit Aug. 1-3, in Denver, where attendees can join the discussion about how to make institutions more civil.
Mari Henderson is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening.