Discourse for Democracy

Extreme polarization–or intense division and distrust resulting from people’s opposing opinions on political issues–has become a prominent feature of our political landscape. While diverse perspectives and healthy debate are integral to a well-functioning democracy and the generation of good public policy, extreme polarization poses a serious threat to democracy. It can make us significantly less likely to talk with people who hold different perspectives than we do as we stick to our “bubbles” and end up in echo chambers.  This year, Polis’s events and programs center on the theme of “Discourse for Democracy”–centering authentic and transformative political discussions that promote unity and collaboration.  

Event Recap: Local Politics & Democracy, 11/17/21

Local politicians came to Duke to speak about their experiences as emerging leaders in Durham politics.

Photos and quotes sourced from Gautam Sirdeshmukh and Alison Korn of the Duke Chronicle.

Anjali Boyd, Bettina Umstead, and Nida Allam were guest speakers at Polis’s “Local Politics and Democracy” event, where they described their work, their different paths into politics, and their perspectives on productive political dialogue. Boyd, a Duke University PhD student, currently serves as the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor. Umstead founded educational non-profit Student U and currently leads Durham Public Schools’ Board of Education. Allam led Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential efforts in North Carolina and currently serves on the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

Here are a few of our favorite quotes from the discussion:

“A lot of it is trying to meet new people, understand what their needs are in their county, and how we can be of assistance to them and how they can be of assistance to us.” – Anjali Boyd

“I would repeat again to not listen to anyone who tells you to wait your turn [to run for office]” – Nida Allam

“If kids are spending kindergarten through the 12th grade in a public school, they should leave ready to change the world… Their lives depend on it, their family’s lives depend on it.” – Bettina Umstead

You can read more in the Duke Chronicle.

Following the event, Umstead and Boyd joined PEP fellows and Duke students for an informal discussion

Professor Abdullah Antepli on Discourse for Democracy

We interviewed Professor Abdullah Antepli on the importance of productive political discourse

Here are a few quotes from the interview:

“Never get satisfied by simple and simplistic answers to complicated problems and issues of our time.”

“If and when...productive political dialogue takes place meaningfully, people who have irreconcilable political disagreements falling in different sides of the partisan aisles gradually realize that their disagreements, as real and important as they are, do not stem from having a different or contradictory set of values and morals but they are coming from ranking and emphasizing these values differently.”

“The ideal engagement over political engagements, for me, are those done among people who deeply and passionately care about their political ideological commitments--equipped to defend their positions, yet willing to make a genuine effort to understand and make sense of their political and ideological opponents … [and who are] genuinely curious and never feel they are done learning from anyone.”
-- Professor Abdullah Antepli

Professor Abdullah Antepli is an Associate Professor of the Practice of Interfaith Relations and an Associate Professor of the Practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy

Event Recap: Chipotle Chat, 11/10/2021

On November 10th, our Polis Director’s Fellows, joined by Professor Deondra Rose, led a guided discussion with Duke students over burritos.
Topics discussed included recent elections, political discourse at Duke, and hot issues like critical race theory and the expanded social safety net.