I hope you'll read an op-ed I wrote today for
. You will find it below.
Senator Orrin Hatch: I Am Re-Committing to
An active shooter recently attempted to
assassinate Republican members of Congress at an
early morning baseball practice in the suburbs of
Washington, D.C. Days earlier, a man spewing
anti-Muslim hate speech fatally stabbed two
individuals on public transport in Portland,
Oregon. The month before, protesters came to
fisticuffs at dueling political rallies in
Events such as these add to the growing sense
that something has broken in our politics.
Something that once moderated our partisan
feelings and bridled our baser instincts has gone
missing in an era of unprecedented polarization.
Something fundamental to our civic culture has
been lost amid the chaos and disruption of the
The question is,
What has been lost?
In a word: civility.
Civility is the indispensable political norm.
It is the public virtue that has greased the
wheels of our democracy since its inception.
Although nowhere mandated in our Constitution,
civility is no less essential to the proper
functioning of our government than any amendment,
court ruling or act of Congress. Without it,
little separates us from the cruelty and chaos of
rule by force.
For decades, civility has acted as the levee
protecting our society from its own worst
impulses. But that levee now shows signs of
strain as political passions spill over into open
In the wake of the attack on members of
Congress, I have reflected at length on the
circumstances that led us to this point. While it
may be difficult to trace the erosion of civility
to any single factor, one thing is certain: Our
nation cannot continue on its current path.
Either we remain passive observers to the
problem, or we endeavor to act, to make the
necessary changes — in ourselves, in our
families and in our communities — that will
lead to a more civil, prosperous society.
Restoring civility to the public square
won’t happen overnight — but it
The first step is to speak responsibly.
Our words have consequences, and in an age of
retweets, viral videos and shareable content,
those words often echo well beyond their intended
audience and context. It’s incumbent on all
of us, then — from the President to
Congress on down — to be responsible for
I will be the first to admit to saying things
over the course of my public service that I later
came to regret. In the heat of an argument,
it’s easy to indulge in irresponsible
rhetoric. But we must avoid this temptation.
Whether in town halls, casual conversations with
neighbors or posts on social media, we must
likewise refrain from dehumanizing, demeaning or
unfairly disparaging the other side. And we must
resist the impulse to frame every tiny policy
disagreement as a zero-sum struggle for the soul
of the country. We must restore sense, decency
and proportion to our political speech.
The second step is practicing media
Just as the food we eat affects the body, the
information we consume affects the mind. The
daily consumption of media that presents only one
political viewpoint — whether conservative
or liberal —cocoons the mind in a safely
sealed ideological echo chamber. An imbalanced
media diet shrinks our perception of reality,
which in turn limits our capacity for empathy and
our ability to engage civilly with others.
To better understand how the other side thinks
and feels, we must make a conscious effort to
diversify our media intake. This exercise in
empathy may not heal decades-old political
divisions or usher in a post-partisan age. But it
will at least help us break free from party
groupthink and be better prepared to engage in
civil debate with friends and
The next step toward civility is to venture
beyond the comfortable confines of our social
Americans today are much
likely to marry, date or even live near
people of the opposing party. Increasingly,
by ideology and lifestyle — a phenomenon
that only increases polarization over time.
How can we expect to engage politically with
members of the opposing party if we don’t
even interact socially with one another? Like
limiting our media consumption, only associating
with those who hold our same values and opinions
distorts our perception of the other side. It has
an “othering” effect so severe that
Republicans and Democrats — freedom-loving
men and women who share the same country and many
of the same values — increasingly see each
other as enemies.
In the spirit of civility, we would all do
well to make friends with members of the opposing
party. I speak from personal experience.
When I first came to Washington, the culture
of Congress was vastly different than it is
today. There was a level of respect and
congeniality among colleagues that was hard to
find anywhere else. Some of my best friends were
Democrats. One moment, we would be yelling at
each other on the Senate floor; the next, we
would be laughing together over family dinner. In
those days, Republicans and Democrats locked
horns often, but we also loved each
I worry that those special relationships have
been lost today. In 2017, Republican and
Democratic Members of Congress seldom socialize
outside of votes and committee hearings. We used
to break bread together; our spouses used to plan
weekend trips; our children used to attend the
same schools. But today, our families barely know
each other — if they know each other at
all. In the weekly race to return to our home
states as soon as possible, we miss out on
opportunities to share with one another the more
intimate, humanizing parts of our lives. As a
result, something vital has been lost. We now
struggle to see the common humanity in the other
side, and we increasingly treat each other as
opponents rather than friends.
I’m grateful for the late Senator Ted
Kennedy, who taught me that the bonds of
friendship are stronger than any partisan pull.
When I first joined the Senate, I thought Teddy
would be an adversary. Instead, we became the
best of friends.
Teddy and I were a case study in
contradictions. He was born into privilege; I was
brought up in poverty. He was an East Coast
liberal; I was a Reagan conservative. He was a
Catholic; I was a Mormon. Yet time and again, we
were able to look past our differences to find
areas of agreement and forge consensus. Had Teddy
and I chosen party loyalty over friendship, we
would not have passed some of the most
significant bipartisan achievements of modern
times—from ADA and RFRA to the Ryan White
bill and the State Children’s Health
My unlikely friendship with Ted Kennedy is but
a small example of what our nation can accomplish
if we choose respect and comity over anger and
discord. Only by doing so can we look beyond the
horizon of our differences to find common
Today, I want to make a personal commitment to
exercise greater civility in my day-to-day
interactions with fellow Americans; I hope you
will join me in doing the same.