The Dignity Index has released ratings of campaign social media. The ratings include high and low scores for both candidates in the U.S. Senate race.
When we were in the early stages of testing of the Dignity Index, a Republican woman from rural Utah said, “We want to be able to stand up for what we believe in – without getting attacked and without attacking.”
That’s a good test. For the Dignity Index to become helpful, it has to be clear to everyone that the Index is entirely compatible with saying what you believe in, standing up for justice, and holding people accountable.
We fully believe that it is. But sometimes people tell us that they have to speak with contempt when people do things they believe are wrong. That if they speak with contempt, they can keep people in line, and if they don’t speak with contempt, they’re just letting people get away with things.
We disagree. We believe that challenging people without contempt works better – because we avoid language that makes everyone angry, and we focus attention on the issue, not the individual.
But we don’t have to debate it; we should test it. Let’s ask two questions:
Question One: Which do you agree with more:
Treating people with contempt will encourage people to change their behavior and bring out the best in them OR Treating people with contempt will make them double down on what they’re doing and have contempt for you.
Question Two: When we use contempt, do we use it because it’s effective in getting the change we want, or do we use it because it makes us feel better in the moment?
If we actually question the belief that we do better when we use contempt – we may be more likely to try dignity instead – which means no name-calling or negative labels, and just focusing on decisions, actions, and outcomes.
As we see it, treating others with dignity is a patriotic duty. There is no America without democracy. There is no democracy without healthy debate, and there is no healthy debate without dignity.
Scores – Social Media Posts
Candidates for the U.S. Senate Seat
Facebook Post @Mike Lee – 10/19/2022 Unfortunately, over the last two years, Congress has been totally controlled by Democrats that have rubber-stamped Joe Biden’s radical agenda. The best way to turn that around is to ensure we vote in a Republican majority next month.
SCORE: 4 This is saying those people have a radical agenda. You can’t trust them. Contempt moves the argument from comparing policies and priorities to attacking the other side’s values, trustworthiness, without specifics. Again, to make the case with dignity – make a proposal, or make a commitment to a policy that will improve some aspect of our national life.
Twitter Post 10/17/22 @evanmcmullin Utah, I hope tonight left you feeling hopeful. Hopeful that we can protect our democracy. Hopeful that we can heal our nation’s broken politics. Our cross-partisan coalition is an example of how we move forward from the extremism and division. Thank you for being on my team.
SCORE: 6A defining feature of SIX is to cross divides and work with people on the other side to find common values and interest and use that as a basis for cooperation. The cross-partisan message is a mark of SIX.
Twitter Post @MikeLeeforUtah- 10/17/2022 Us vs. them? Not true. Senator Lee has partnered with Democrats on FISA reform, criminal justice reform, and war powers resolutions, just to name a few. #utdebates
SCORE: 6 This is a clear SIX. A factual (dignity-based) response to a charge against him (“won’t work with the other side”) by listing a series of issues where he has worked with the other side. Working with the other side to advance common aims is a defining feature of SIX.
Twitter Post 10/17/22 @evanmcmullin Mike Lee is so proud of his “no” votes. But I wonder if he’d be so proud if he met the Utahns who have been hurt by those votes? People like Ann, who pays more for her son’s prescription drugs than she does for her mortgage.
SCORE: 4 This is saying that Senator Lee doesn’t care about people, that he’s proud of doing things that make life harder for them. This is in the FOUR category – he’s not working for you; he’s working for them. (“he doesn’t really care about you.”) To make this case with dignity, the message could highlight the vote Senator Lee cast and the effects that has had on people, and then promise to vote the other way if elected. That would leave out the suggestion that his opponent doesn’t care about people.
Facebook Post @ United States Senator Mike Lee – 10/20/2022 Inflation is delaying Americans’ retirement, offsetting their wage increases, and stealing their savings. Utahns can’t afford Democrats’ reckless spending any longer.
SCORE: 3 This is a two-part charge that conveys the message – they’re the bad people responsible for all the bad things, which is a THREE. The statement that inflation is “stealing their savings” combined with the statement that Utahns can’t afford “Democrats’ reckless spending” ties Democrats to “stealing.” To make the case with dignity, Senator Lee could make an explicit link between spending and inflation, name the specific spending cuts he would make, and list other steps he would take to reduce inflation.
Instagram Post @MikeLeeforUtah – 10/25/2022 It’s time for a government that respects you. A Republican majority in Congress is the only way we can get our country back on track.
SCORE: 3 “it’s time for a government that respects you” is a way of saying “the government looks down on you.” That’s a THREE message. When he says “A Republican majority in Congress is the only way we can get our country back on track,” it conveys the message that it’s not just the government that looks down on you; it’s the Democrats who look down on you – which is just an effective way of saying: You should look down on the Democrats.
Twitter Post 9/30/22 @evanmcmullin My opponent’s campaign is being bankrolled by special interest groups, PACs, and party bosses. But mine isn’t. I made a promise to Utahns that I wouldn’t take a dime from these dark money groups. I can’t be bought-and I refuse to serve as anybody’s political puppet.
SCORE: 3 This message starts with some FOUR charges – “bankrolled by special interest groups, etc” This says, he’s not one of us; he’s working for them, not for you. But the phrases “I can’t be bought, I refuse to serve as anybody’s political puppet,” is a moral character attack, and puts this charge at a THREE. To make an argument with dignity and without contempt for the other side, criticisms should be grounded in words, actions, and outcomes.
Twitter Post 10/5/22 @evanmcmullin It is incredibly dangerous when our leaders ignore our founding principles. And that’s what @SenMikeLee did when he bowed down to Trump and worked tirelessly to help him overturn a free and fair election. Utahns deserve a leader who will protect our democracy.
SCORE: 3 This is the most complicated message to score in this collection. First, we have to make it clear that principles of the Dignity Index are entirely compatible with holding people accountable and making very serious challenges of others in society. We believe it is not only possible, but more effective, to challenge people without using contempt – because it avoids language that inflames both sides and focuses attention on actions, not on the individual or the individual’s character. In this post, Evan McMullin uses the phrases: “ignore our founding principles,” “bowed down to Trump” and “worked tirelessly to help him overturn a free and fair election.”To make these charges – and to do it in a way that is free from contempt – the message has to be sharply focused on words, actions, and intended outcomes. If the post said –in this form or in an abbreviated form — that on December 8, Senator Lee sent a text to the White House Chief of Staff saying “if a very small handful of states were to have their legislatures appoint alternative slates of delegates, there could be a path,” then McMullin would be confining himself to the words and facts, and then could reasonably ask is this not part of an effort to help the President stay in power after he lost the election? That we would score a FIVE. It puts out the facts and asks the question, but does not express contempt. FOX News raised similar points with Senator Lee on the air. But in this particular case, the message from the McMullin campaign included contemptuous phrases like “bowed down to Trump” and cited the charges without the facts, which made it more about encouraging contempt than making a case. That’s why we scored it a THREE.
Twitter Post @SenMikeLee- 10/10/2022 The government is doing things it was not intended to do. I was grateful to speak with the folks @MeritMedical about what I’m doing in Washington to keep the government from interfering with their innovative industry.
SCORE: 4 This passage encourages contempt for the government – without any argument. The government does some things most Americans want it to do: fund and train the Armed Forces, fund research for health cures, build highways and bridges, send out Social Security checks. But the language “Keep the government from interfering with their innovative industry” implies that government is a menace looking for disrupt good deeds, and that encourages contempt. (“They’re not working for you; they’re working against you.”) To make this case with dignity would require listing the actions the government might take that would affect this particular industry and why Senator Lee thinks that would be more harmful than helpful.
Twitter Post 10/17/22@evanmcmullin Mike Lee is the only member of Utah’s Congressional Delegation that isn’t blacklisted by Russia. Why? He’s Putin’s most reliable yes man in the U.S. Senate
SCORE: 3This is a THREE for the same reason the “political puppet” message was a THREE. Saying that a person is not making their own decisions, but has handed over their conscience to the control of some boss – and in this case the leader of an adversary of the United States – is an attack on the person’s moral character. If he wants to make the case that Senator Lee is not acting in the interests of the United States, he can make the case with dignity by citing specific decisions, actions, and outcomes or intended outcomes.
Twitter Post @MikeLeeforUtah- 10/21/2022 My opponent is running to keep Kamala Harris in charge of a divided US Senate. Democrats endorsed McMullin’s candidacy. Democrat consultants run his campaign. Democrat bundlers fund his campaign. His message is full of Democrat attack lines. He will vote to advance the Dems. The hardworking families of Utah can’t afford two more years of a Kamala Harris Senate. Please consider giving what you can to help me stop this opportunist, retake the US Senate, and get our economy on the right track.
SCORE: 4 This is a classic FOUR. He is not one of us; he is one of them, and he is working for them. He is with Democrats; he is with Democratic bundlers; he is with Democratic consultants, he is with Kamala Harris, he will give us two more years of a Kamala Harris Senate. It all pounds home the message: “You should not vote for him because he is not one of us.”
Twitter Post 10/24/22 @evanmcmullin I’ve said it again and again: I will not caucus with EITHER party in the U.S. Senate. I know it’s hard for folks like @benshapiro to understand, but true patriots are still ready to put country over party.
SCORE: 4This is standard FOUR material. There still are true patriots in the country, there are still people who have the right values, and that’s us, not them. To make the case with dignity, he could explain why he will not caucus with either party, and why it will serve his constituents better, and why it is a mark of patriotism – in other words, he could display his patriotism instead of denigrating someone else’s patriotism.
Twitter Post @MikeLeeforUtah- 10/07/2022 Don’t settle. Don’t settle for excessive federal spending. Don’t settle for a government that will take away your freedoms. Expect a government that will respect you and protects your liberty. It’s time, my fellow Americans and fellow Utahns, to expect more. Let’s make it happen.
SCORE: 4 The message “those people want to take away your freedoms” is a FOUR message: They’re not one of us; they’re not working for us; we shouldn’t trust them.
Twitter Post 10/23/22 @evanmcmullin We’re 16 days out from Election Day, Utah. I couldn’t be more proud of the coalition we’ve built here. Republicans, Democrats, and independents are coming together for the sake of our democratic republic. And there’s something so beautiful about that.
SCORE: 6 It’s a defining feature of SIX to take pride in working with people on the other side of a divide. This message is a clear example of that.
About The Dignity Index project
The Dignity Index is an eight-point scale that measures what we do when we disagree. The scale ranges from one — which sees no dignity at all in the other side — to eight, which sees the dignity in everyone. Each point on the scale reflects a particular mindset, and each mindset is associated with certain beliefs and behaviors that reflect how open we are to the other side. As a broad rule, if I treat you with dignity, it means that I can see myself in you; if I treat you with contempt, it means I see myself above you.
Dignity in public debate involves making proposals, declaring values, stating goals and discussing decisions, actions, and outcomes. It includes listening carefully, and asking for more information. It means debating why something worked or didn’t work, whether it will work or why it won’t.
Contempt in public debate relies on mocking others, calling them names, attacking their motives and character, ridiculing their background or beliefs, and lumping them together in large groups under negative labels, declaring them dangerous, and blaming them for bad outcomes.
When we treat the other side with dignity, we make it easier to solve problems. When we treat others with contempt, we make it impossible to solve problems – because contempt takes away our ability to talk to each other.
Powered by UNITE, a national movement to encourage Americans to reject “us vs. them” thinking and stand together in common purpose, The Dignity Index was developed in partnership with behavioral scientists and other experts, and the demonstration project is being guided by researchers at the University of Utah. Learn more at dignityindex.us.