Congressman Dan Kildee gave a lecture on bipartisanship and the importance of civil discourse in the Malcolm Field Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Kildee, a Democrat who represents Michigan’s fifth congressional district in the U. S. House of Representatives, spoke on the current state of politics and political discourse at the event. He related some of his own experiences in government and gave advice on not getting stuck in a partisan echo chamber.
Kildee was welcomed by Medical Director of the Field Neurosciences Institute E. Malcolm Field and was then introduced by SVSU President Donald Bachand. Attendees were given a card with their programs on which they could write their questions for the Congressman. Kildee took some time to answer questions after his prepared lecture.
Kildee mentioned the timeliness of the subject of civil discourse, referring to the 2016 election season and the subsequent year of contentious politics.
Kildee argued that the breakdown in discourse that the country is currently seeing results from people and politicians neglecting the proper forums of the democratic process.
“The path back to a more civil system, a more civil dialogue about these challenges, I think in many ways rests in historical documents that are living proof that we can overcome these big differences,” Kildee said. “We simply find ourselves relying on the elegance of the Constitution and the forum that document has given us to reconcile the big differences that we face.”
Kildee encouraged attendees to seek a return to the regular order, both in government and in everyday discussions of politics.
“Our system of government is actually intended to daylight those differences,” Kildee said. “To force those differences to the surface, to celebrate diversity of thought, to encourage that diversity of thought and to provide a national forum to adjudicate those differences.”
Kildee identified three primary drivers of the degradation of American civil discourse as so-called “dark money” political donations, partisan media confirmation of viewers’ biases and political gerrymandering.
“These are the systemic challenges that make it more difficult for us to get back to more thoughtful, civil processes,” Kildee said.
Kildee’s message resonated with some of the students present with an interest in politics.
“We’re so eager to talk over one another in an attempt to win the conversation, so it’s no wonder people walk away from partisan debates feeling like losers,” said fourth-year political science student Michael Flores. “So I find hope in Congressman Kildee’s promotion of bipartisanship.”