Guest / Limited Access /

Mark DeMoss, concerned about the increasingly harsh tone of public discourse, launched the Civility Project in January 2009. The Republican businessman and political adviser enlisted Democratic lobbyist and former Clinton aide Lanny Davis to help him. Together the two friends wrote to all 100 United States Senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives, and all 50 state governors, asking each to sign a pledge promising, "I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it."

How many of the 585 recipients agreed?

Three.

Two years later, DeMoss wrote to the legislators who had signed the pledge, Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman and Republican Representatives Frank Wolf and Sue Myrick, informing them he was closing the project. "You three were alone in pledging to be civil," DeMoss wrote. "I must admit to scratching my head as to why only three members of Congress, and no governors, would agree to what I believe is a rather low bar."

Thousands of private citizens showed their support by signing the pledge, but others attacked the project. In an interview, DeMoss described his surprise and dismay at the hostile response he received from fellow conservatives: Some of the e-mails contained "unbelievable language about communists, and some words I wouldn't use in this phone call," he explained. "This political divide has become so sharp that everything is black and white, and too many conservatives can see no redeeming value in any liberal or Democrat."

Why were so few of the nation's leaders willing to take such a simple and seemingly uncontroversial public stand? Why did so many web users respond to a call ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedNew Executive Orders on LGBT Discrimination Don't Exempt Religious Orgs
New Executive Orders on LGBT Discrimination Don't Exempt Religious Orgs
(UPDATED) But Obama won't withdraw memo on religious discrimination.
TrendingIntroducing the Bible! Now with Less!
Introducing the Bible! Now with Less!
Delete the chapter and verse numbers. Kill all the notes. Make it one column. Make a million bucks.
Editor's PickThe Hidden Blessing of Infertility
The Hidden Blessing of Infertility
Our inability to have kids turned into an ability to do so much else.
Comments
Christianity Today
The Cure for Election Madness
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.