Restoring Faith in Government: Encouraging Civil Public Discourse
Friday, June 8, 2012
8:00 a.m., registration
8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., program
Do we agree on anything? Perhaps only this: We live in polarized times, and discussion of a long list of big issues is marked by acrimony and heated rhetoric, often to the point of deadlock.
Open and unfettered opportunity to hold your own opinions and to voice them can be found among Americans' most sacred rights. But is the vehemence in our political life taking a toll on policy making? Is it possible to turn down the heat and turn up the quality of our politics without compromising our rights? Perhaps the question is not so much "Can't we all just get along?" as "Can we find ways to deal with problems in a more civil way?"
The Marquette Law School sixth annual Restorative Justice Conference will examine these issues and the cumulative effect that our heated politics have on our institutions and our lives. Are we losing faith in our ability to discuss, much less solve, problems? Is this just the latest iteration of the natural friction that occurs between competing political factions? Can we find ways to disagree civilly?
8:30 a.m. • Welcome
Janine P. Geske
Distinguished professor of law and director, Restorative Justice Institute, Marquette Law School
8:45 – 9:45 a.m.
Political Discourse 101: Why Do Campaigns Look and Sound the Way They Do? We often lament the state of our political discourse—the seemingly endless barrage of negative ads and personal attacks. But strategic reasons exist for what we see and hear in political campaigns. Our panelists, both political insiders and campaign observers, will offer their perspectives on how campaigns are waged today, their consequences, and whether change is in order.
Moderator: Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy
- Charles Franklin, visiting professor of law and public policy, Marquette Law School, and director, Marquette Law School Poll
- Ken Goldstein, professor of political science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and president, Campaign Media Analysis Group for Kantar Media; nationally recognized expert on political advertising
- Mark Graul, Republican political advisor, strategist, and experienced campaign manager
- Joe Wineke, former Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman and former state lawmaker
9:45 – 10:00 a.m. • Break
10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Civic Participation or Recreational Hostility: Policing the Blogosphere?
The Internet is a powerful venue for spreading news and for allowing millions of people to express their views publicly. But anyone who has read comments posted about political stories on websites of news organizations knows that the Internet also is a venue for anger, hate, insults, and often-anonymous personal attacks. News organizations have worked hard to keep comments inbounds. Martin Kaiser, a leader in the news industry, and Steve Johnson, an astute observer of what has gone on, will share their perspectives, with Professor Lynn Turner looking at hostility on the Internet from an academic standpoint and Gregory Helding describing how politics at the local level are sometimes shaped by Internet attacks.
Moderator: Steve Goldzwig, professor and chair, communication studies, Marquette University
- Gregory T. Helding, alderman, Racine, 11th District
- Steve Johnson, reporter, Chicago Tribune
- George Stanley, managing editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Lynn Turner, professor of communication studies, Marquette University Diederich College of Communication, and president of the National Communication Association
11:00 a.m. – Noon From Demonizing Rhetoric to Respectful Difference: Suggestions from Public Policy Mediators
The panel members, all with decades of experience in mediating public policy conflicts throughout the United States and internationally, will describe policy mediation and other public engagement processes that provide productive discourse where incivility and polarization might otherwise frustrate progress and problem solving. Panelists will offer their observations regarding opportunities for, and challenges to the application of, these approaches to controversial issues in this country.
- Howard S. Bellman, mediation and arbitration
- Susan Carpenter, public policy mediator, Susan Carpenter & Associates
- Susan Podziba, public policy mediator, Podziba Policy Mediation
Noon – 12:30 p.m. • Lunch
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. • Keynote Address
How to Heal Polarization in America
Keynote speaker John Avlon is a senior columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrism Can Change American Politics and Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for the New York Sun. He is a CNN contributor.
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Name Calling and Personal Attacks on Candidates and Elected Officials—What Is the Impact?
Restorative justice asks this question: "How are people and institutions being harmed by negative conduct?" This panel of current and former politicians will share their insights and experiences on how the current tenor of the political world affects who decides to run for office, how they run for office, and, ultimately, how they can govern.
Moderator: Janine P. Geske
- Timothy Cullen (D), Wisconsin state senator
- Margaret Farrow (R), former lieutenant governor
- Barbara Lawton (D), former lieutenant governor
- Dale Schultz, (R), Wisconsin state senator
2:30 – 3:15 p.m. The Future: Is the Next Generation Optimistic?
Moderators Janine P. Geske and Mike Gousha talk with some of the next generation's potential leaders in this session with a student panel from the Marquette University Les Aspin Center for Government. Together the group examines the question, "Why do you want to pursue public service?"
Moderators: Janine P. Geske and Mike Gousha