on Common Ground: Balancing Debate with Dialog in Congress
Both debate and advocacy are essential to the governing process. An underlying shared framework of trust and understanding built and renewed through dialogue is also essential to effective governance. Debate enables conflicting views to be articulated more fully, throws into sharper focus the strengths and weaknesses of different positions, and enables clearer judgments to be made. Dialogue, on the other hand, is essential when people with different beliefs, perspectives, backgrounds, interests, values, or traditions must find common ground. Dialogue creates the shared language and framework, the mutual trust and understanding that enable subsequent debate, negotiation and decision-making to be more productive and effective. This selection is a report produced by the 107th Congress Stennis Congressional Fellows, a group of senior congressional staff.
Congressional Decisions through Vectors
How do Members of Congress make decisions about the votes they cast? Analogies offer a systematic and insightful way to identify and make subtle inferences about factors involved in congressional decision making. In this interactive exercise, Steve Frantzich, Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Naval Academy, uses vectors to illustrate how competing influences, such as personal preference or constituency interests, affect decisions.
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"Can We Talk?
Free Speech and Civil Discourse in Turbulent Times"
The Landon Lecture presented by Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle at Kansas State University, May 10, 2004. "There is nothing inherently wrong with partisanship. To the contrary, pride in one's party and the principles for which it stands can be admirable. But it should be principled. It should acknowledge - as Senators Dole and Kassebaum and others do - that there are things that matter more than political parties; there are lines we should not cross, regardless of the advantage we think it might give our party. Demonizing those with whom we disagree politically does not serve the interests of democracy. It does not resolve differences. It inflames passions and deepens divisions." Daschle suggests seven actions to improve the quality of political discourse.
Being a Partner
and Critic to the Congress
Former Representative Lee Hamilton speaks about the strengths and weaknesses of Congress and why it is important to understand the institution. He explains how Congress represents the people, that it is the most accessible branch of the federal government, and that its independence from the White House and the federal courts is something to value. But Hamilton is equally frank about several weaknesses in today's Congress -- that its members place too much emphasis on winning, that Congress fails to oversee the executive agencies effectively, and that Congress does not assert itself strongly enough in setting the public policy agenda.
Stephanie Larson, political scientist specializing in media coverage of politics, presents a brief overview of reporting on Congress. She explains why a teacher might tackle the subject, suggests how to approach the teaching of this information, and summarizes recent scholarship on the role of media in covering Congress. The selection includes a bibliography of major books on Congress and the media, 1980-2005.