My colleagues and I were proud this last week to welcome Dr. David Adler to Boise State as the new Director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy. The report below from the Coeur d’Alene Press gives us just a glimpse of the rich and insightful contributions Dr. Adler will make to the State of Idaho as Boise State ramps up its efforts to fulfill the mission given to us by the State Board of Education as Idaho’s public affairs university.
Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2012 12:15 am – Coeur d’Alene Press
Constitutional scholar Dr. David Gray Adler, in his address to
citizens in Coeur d’Alene recently, put the onus of keeping our nation
great – no, making it even greater – on you.
The greatest responsibility for making this constitutional republic
falls squarely on the shoulders of its citizens, he declared, but he
didn’t leave everybody helpless in the chaotic wilderness of
political, economic and religious rancor without a road map.
Here it is. These are Dr. Adler’s five principles for rebuilding America.
1. Stop political labeling. Labeling, he said, is “the lazy citizen’s
way of behaving.” (The same can be said of elected officials who
resort to labeling their opponents.) Don’t cling to ideologies;
analyze proposals or policies using your own skills, and ask hard
questions. Rather than dismiss a proposal as merely conservative or
liberal mumbo jumbo, dissect it and look for specifics – what
specifically is good about it? What specifically is bad?
2. Listen. “Nobody has a corner on the market of political wisdom,”
Dr. Adler said. Through discussion and debate, he said, we can all
learn more. Listening is the key, he said, because it helps us learn
more about our own views when we compare them with others’. We must
ask questions, and when we have clearly heard the replies and
considered them, we can then reach our own judgments and conclusions.
3. Be fair to opponents. As popular as coercion, intimidation and
interruption seem to be these days, Dr. Adler said, they gain nothing
because they preclude healthy discussion and debate. It is the latter
that leads to informed consent, and informed consent fuels democracy.
This is where civility is so important. “We need to step back,” Dr.
Adler said. “We need to calm down.” And quite famously he concluded
the third principle with these words of wisdom: “Today’s political
opponent might be tomorrow’s political ally.”
4. Avoid the politics of destruction. The war materiel of talk show
hosts and others who have sought to destroy opponents are the words
one cannot take back. Dr. Adler cited Rush Limbaugh’s shameful verbal
assault of a college student as one example, but he said the politics
of destruction are bipartisan. “Words ought not to be bullets,” he
said. “Be tough on the issue but tender toward people,” he added,
quoting the late U.S. Sen. James McClure, R-Idaho.
5. Avoid ideological flags. When you’re in a bunker with your
ideology, Dr. Adler said, you lose the opportunity to compromise. And
compromise, he said, is “the engine that makes our system work.
Ideological hardening of the arteries… prevents discussion, prevents
compromise.” Dissent is healthy – in fact, he said, it plays a
critical role in our system – but dissent also requires respecting
those who disagree with us. “Dissenting is not unpatriotic,” he
emphasized. “It’s not a sign of disloyalty.” And he reiterated an
important theme: “The expression of opinions are opportunities to
Dr. Adler imparted these principles in the framework of our state and
federal government, but everybody listening to him clearly understood
that the application on an even more local level could reap great
benefits. Let’s put the principles to practice and see how good we can