Disagree Better – Architects, Not Arsonists

Politicians work on policies that have real world impacts on the people they serve, and thus, political coverage tends to lead to serious people talking in serious voices. This is wholly appropriate, and occasionally exhausting. So, it is a welcome break, every once in a while, when they have the opportunity to lighten it up a little. The annual Gridiron Dinner is one such opportunity. The Gridiron Club is a collection of national media outlets and news correspondents who gather once a year to poke fun at themselves and politicians. This year the club welcomed Utah Governor Spencer Cox and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and while we won’t try to capture humorous side of it, we would like to share Governor Cox’s closing remarks:

  • In all sincerity, so much of what is truly great about America flows from a free press, embracing its sacred obligation to bring facts to light and to tell the truth no matter what. Even when that means choosing substance over clicks. Even when the truth is in conflict with your reader’s biases. Especially when the truth is in conflict with your own. For the many committed to this ideal, to creating the “first draft of history” as it unfolds around us, thank you. We need you, desperately. Having the courage to tell the truth to each other is a sign that we hold each other in high regard. Yes, democracy dies in darkness. But it can also die in the light of day if courageous people are not there to defend it.
  • I currently have the unique opportunity to serve as the chair of the National Governors Association. The NGA is one of the last bastions of bipartisanship. As chair, I launched an initiative titled Disagree Better, with the sole purpose of striving to depolarize our country and help Americans remember how to disagree without hating each other. Sadly, we have too many politicians that act as conflict entrepreneurs. They have figured out how to use fear and divisiveness to gain power. I’m grateful for dozens of governors who have joined me in finding ways to lower the temperature and bring us back together.
  • I believe that each of you play an equally profound role in working to heal our deeply polarized nation. Sadly, there are some in your profession that have found that elevating the extremes, presuming bad faith and fomenting contempt are great ways to get clicks. Outrage sells. But outrage will never persuade. And it will never solve our biggest problems. In a world full of arsonists, we desperately need some architects.
  • The good news is that there is a market for something different. 70% of Americans — the exhausted majority — hate what is happening in politics and media today. It’s not too late to find our better angels. I hope that we, as politicians, and you, as journalists, can find within ourselves more of that precious quality of humility — as Judge Learned Hand said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”

Learn more about the Disagree Better Initiative here.