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Out Of Order: Civility In Politics

Airs Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Exterior photo of the U.S. Capitol Building

Over the last generation, citizens have increasingly expressed discontent with national politics. Approval ratings for Congress are consistently low regardless of which party is in power, and many feel that the government is riddled with too much gridlock and partisan gamesmanship.

Courtesy of American Public Television

Fmr Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)

Courtesy of American Public Television

Fmr Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY).

Courtesy of American Public Television

Fmr Sen. John Warner (R-VA)

Senior statesmen and women have noted that the collegiality they shared in the past with peers of differing political ideologies has disappeared in this era of polarization. The ability to discuss issues from varying points of view and then compromise on solutions appears to be fading from the American political process.

Is the art of debate and compromise lost on contemporary politics in the United States? Is it possible to restore civility to Congress, and should we try? Was civility ever as dominant as current characterizations often suggest?

This timely documentary explores the decline in civil discourse; the news media’s role in this, including the internet; partisan gridlock; vanishing commitment to reasonable compromise; declining civic engagement; and the roles of factors such as gerrymandering, filibustering, increased showboating, scandal, and cynicism.

The documentary proposes some reforms that might restore what Thomas Jefferson referred to as “the most legitimate engine of government.”

"Out Of Order: Civility In Politics" relies on interviews with prominent academics, journalists, political observers, and senior (current and former) elected officials. The production features first-hand accounts by respected statesmen and women. Interviews include journalist Bob Schieffer (CBS News), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-MA), Fmr Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Fmr Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Fmr Sen. John Warner (R-VA).

Video

Out Of Order Trailer

Above: Now more than ever, American citizens are discontented and disillusioned with national politics, with approval ratings for Congress consistently ranking low regardless of the party in power. Senior politicians also note the disappearance of the collegiality they once shared with peers of differing political ideologies. As a result, the ability to discuss issues from varying points of view and negotiate solutions, appears to be fading from the American political process. Among many topics, "Out Of Order" addresses the decline in civil discourse and the news media's role in it, partisan gridlock, gerrymandering, vanishing commitment to reasonable compromise, the vilification of moderates and declining civic engagement. The half-hour documentary relies on interviews with a broad range of political experts and observers from journalists, academics and political strategists to senior elected officials. They include: journalist Bob Schieffer (CBS News), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-MA), Fmr Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Fmr Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), Fmr Sen. John Warner (R-VA).