Making Democracy Work

Civil Discourse Resources

LWV is a leading voice in the call for Civil Discourse

What is Civil Discourse?

A dialogue in which all participants have a right to speak and to be heard. Such dialogue is characterized by:

  • Respectful participation

  • Sharing the time equitably

  • Attentive listening

  • Balanced discussion

Why does League need a civil discourse interest group?

  • To study the current climate of civility(and incivility) and the League's historic role as one of the most trusted organizations in America.

  • To check our own practices.

  • To promote civility in an increasingly partisan world.

Our local League dicusses Civil Discourse

The four Units of the North County San Diego League of Women voters developed responses about civil discourse at brainstorming sessions in September 2011. The chart below shows the results.

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Putting Civility into Action - Participatory Democracy

We're in this together

The League of Women Voters' mission is to promote active, informed citizen participation at all levels of government through education and advocacy. Our focus is that our hands-on work will safeguard democracy leading to civic improvement.

- After the January 2011 Tucson shootings, we undertook a study of the roots and causes of incivility and gave presentations to community groups.

- In September 2012, we joined with Mira Costa College to present DEMOCRACY IN THE BALANCE? Getting Beyond the Shouting, a 2-day free community event that featured Patriocracy, a documentary film about the dysfunction in Washington. The standing-room only crowds convinced us that the public is interested in getting beyond the shouting.

Where we are going

After study and community presentations, we see our next steps engaged in promoting dialogues in our communities. We think the deliberative dialogue process, where diverse groups come together to discuss difficult, usually value-laden issues, will generate meaningful conversations and with it, greater civic engagement.

Resources for additional information on Civil Discourse


Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert D. Putnam, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000

Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square * 10 Rules That Work, Cassandra Dahnke and Tomas Spath with Donna Bowling, WingSpan Press, Livermore, CA, 2007

Rude Democracy: Civility and Incivility in American Politics, Susan Herbst, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2010

Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, Jay Heinrichs, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2007

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, Bill Bishop, Mariner Books, New York, 2008

True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society, Farhad Manjoo, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2008

un*Spun: finding facts in a world of [disinformation], Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (founders of, Random House, New York, 2007


How to Turn Republicans and Democrats Into Americans: An Insider's Six-Step Plan to Fix Congress, Mickey Edwards, The Atlantic, July/August 2011.

The Ways of Silencing, Jason Stanley. The New York Times Opinionator, June 25, 2011.

The Daily Me, Nicholas D. Kristof. New York Times, March 18, 2009.


Arizona Humanities Council -- LWV is part of an alliance of community groups on "Project Civil Discourse" -- A non-partisan, nonprofit website that describes itself as a 'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.

Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy -- Kansas State University -

Institute for Civility in Government --

National Conflict Resolution Center-San Diego --

National Institute for Civil Discourse -- University of Arizona will offer venue for vigorous and respectful debate.

Peace First -- AmeriCorps program promoting conflict resolution and civic engagement in grade & middle schools -

Sacramento Region Community Foundation -- Community Conversations, Guidelines for Civil Discourse -

San Diego Deliberation Network -- Our local cohort moving the cause with grace and finesse -

Southern Poverty Law Center -- Teaching Tolerance curriculum -