Make America Great Again…by being nice

How can we turn down the heated rhetoric that is part of the public discourse in American politics today?

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of the new book, "Love Your Enemies," says we need to go back 2000 years and look at Jesus Christ’s message of “Love your neighbor.”

“It was the same message that Dale Carnegie had when he was trying to help knit America back together after the American Civil War,” he said on Friday. “That was the civic religion of self-improvement. It’s the American way.”

Brooks explained to “WSJ at Large” host Gerry Baker how we got to this point of soaring animosity between people of opposite political beliefs.

“Really, this has been since the 2008 financial crisis,” he argued. “That’s when populism starts, after a financial crisis.  It’s not after a normal recession but after a financial crisis where for ten years the fruits of economic growth typically only go to the top twenty percent of the income distribution.  This creates envy in a non-envious country and that changes our culture.  And that’s what we see today.”

Brooks finds the current political dialogue very worrisome.

“We have not been this polarized as a country since the 1850s, according to most political scientists,” he said. “And we know how that turned out.”

So how can things change?

“If we want to make our country better today, it starts with each one of us and a revolution in our hearts,” Brooks said.


That's perhaps easier said than done. But Brooks does have an idea for what each of us can do to make public discourse more civil:

“Get outside of the bubbles that we put ourselves in, the silos of our social media and the media that we watch to scratch our own itch, to say that we’re right and the other side is stupid,” he suggests. “Go where you’re not invited. Say things that people don’t expect. You will change your own heart and be happier and be more persuasive. That’s the guarantee.”