John Rankin’s Proposal for the President: 

Healing a Toxic Political Culture 

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April 5, 2018  


Healing a Toxic Political Culture 

July 19, 2018 

In the face of a deeply toxic political culture, what can be done to introduce some honesty and charity? The need is to provide a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally for all partisans – where they all know they are being given an honest listen in the presence of opposing partisans. That is, to accomplish what is presently an oxymoron in status quo politics.

A level playing field means 1) the pursuit of an honest definition of terms on any given topic, which 2) yields the information necessary for all partisans to make informed choices on policy matters, so that 3) partisan debate can flourish to the well-being of the nation.

Truth is then free to rise to the top.

Here the President, at the national level, and indeed, governors at the state level, can do a great service. What might it look like?

First, it can be titled: Presidential Conversations.

Second, choose a specific topic for each Conversation.

Third, the President can select the most qualified partisan who strenuously opposes his stated policies on the chosen question. Then invite him or her to a prime-time televised one-hour conversation with a live audience, moderated in an above reproach manner, and only with media who are broadcasting it live and in its entirely.

Those partisans who accept commend themselves; those who refuse for no good reason disqualify themselves.

Fourth, have the opposing partisan read a maximum 150-word prepared statement on a) the facts of the debated topic as he or she understands them, and b) an interpretation of what they mean for public policy. The President will likewise give his own 150-word statement.

Both the President and his dissenting partisan can each have one or two select advisers with whom to consult in the conversation that follows.

This proposed format can be changed in any number of ways in service to the goal, which is very simple. Namely, to have each person heard as fully as possible, face-to-face, in public profile. This way, the public is best served in coming to know the real debates at hand, and thus better able to make informed choices. Any honest partisan should be glad to embrace such a face-to-face public conversation.

Such conversations across the partisan divides can become must-see television – and presidential leadership can make it happen.