We need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own.
For decades I have toyed with the idea that we could use a civic forum for popular debate, an organization that would make it possible for communities to discuss the issues of the day in ways that would spark thought and reflection, perhaps enabling better decision-making come Election Day. This idea has grown stronger over the past 20 years, as the combined corrosive mechanisms of partisan tribalism, cable media and, worst of all, the Internet and social media seemed to find new and better ways of tearing society apart, making us dumber and more hateful in the process.
I broached the idea recently with friends and colleagues and their response convinced me that now was the time to give it a try. So I have founded what I’m ambitiously calling the American Civic Debate Union. Our first event will be held next Sunday here in Denver, and it will feature me squaring off with my good friend Dr. Frank Venturo over the question of whether the US ought to do something, once and for all, about the Electoral College. If so, what?
I encourage you to:
- Consider starting a chapter where you live – is a public debate group (where people could discuss important issues while drinking good beer, wine, liquor and cocktails) something you think is a good idea?
- Share this post and the link to our Facebook page with your friends. The ACDU site contains a number of informational resources that you might find useful, including details on formats, procedures and rules, although there really aren’t a lot of actual rules. Also, the site expounds on the merits of having these debates in close proximity to good food and adult refreshments.
- If you’re in or near Denver, plan on joining us next Sunday. (If you can, drop an RSVP in the comment thread so I can get an accurate count on how big a room we need.)
I feel like the ACDU is a good idea for our communities, because I don’t think the US has been at odds with itself this badly since the Civil War. We need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own. An informal national network of ACDU chapters could perhaps help move the needle in that direction a little, and if we can all work together to get it started we’ll know we did our part to make the world a little better place.
Let me know if you have questions, comments or ideas.