The Dignity Index has released scores today related to candidate victory and concession messages. This is the final week of election-related scores to be released as part of the Utah demonstration project.
Today’s passages come from remarks that Utah candidates made Tuesday night.
On election night, after the votes are tallied and the decisions are announced, candidate speeches are important. Campaigns are divisive; political attacks hurt people, and the words candidates choose offer a chance to heal. That’s why a good election night speech is a humble one, and it probably isn’t humble enough unless it was hard for the candidate to say.
This past Tuesday night, after Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio lost his Senate race to J.D. Vance, Ryan said to his disappointed supporters, “I had the privilege to concede this race to J.D. Vance.”
The fact that this line made national news is a sign that — at this time in American political life – we’re amazed by grace.
We hope this won’t always be the case.
This is the final release of scores for the Dignity Index Utah Demonstration project. We launched the initiative in the first week of October to start a conversation about how we talk to each other. Our aim has been to put a spotlight on dignity and contempt.
Dignity means, “I see myself in you, and I treat you the way I hope you’d treat me.”
Contempt means, “I see myself above you, and I treat you like you’re beneath me.”
Contempt is the problem. It makes us angry and causes divisions. Dignity is the problem-solver. It calms us down and eases divisions.
We know this. We know that if we use contempt in our homes, it’s bad for our families. But for some crazy reason, we think language that’s bad for our families is good for our country. It’s not. Treating others with contempt tears apart our families, and it tears apart our country too. Contempt takes away our ability to talk to each other, which takes away our ability to solve problems together, which can take away our ability to hold our democracy together.
Most of us want to help ease our divisions, but we don’t know what to do. We hear people say that our divisions are caused by a loss of trust, or the decline of institutions, or the rise of social media, and that discourages us because those things are beyond our control. But when we see that contempt causes divisions, and dignity eases divisions, we suddenly have something we can do: Choose dignity over contempt every day in what we say, what we watch, what we hear, what we read, what we post.
As more of us choose dignity over contempt, we won’t be able to help but share it, and it will spread. We’re no longer going to be scoring political speeches, but we’re going to stay on this topic. We’ve started the conversation. Let’s keep talking.
Scores – Candidate Statements
Election Night. November 8, 2022
“Utah has spoken loud and clearly that the policies of the Democratic Party have failed us. They’ve failed us to the point that red states are having none of it. And tonight blue states don’t want much of it either. Purple states are saying no to it and I look forward to 2024 when even the blue states are even going to be saying heck no and that’s strong language in Utah.”
A defining feature of FOUR is a charge that the other side is reckless and irresponsible, they’re losers and failures. To make a general charge of failed policies, without specifics and without alternatives makes the debate not about issues, but individuals, not about policy, but about character. And that’s the approach that generates contempt and makes it hard for us to talk to each other and hard for us to solve problems together.
“It’s a spending process that for too long has locked out the American people from knowing what Congress is spending and where they are spending it. Most of the time they bring up these spending bills in the last minute so only 2232 pages long. And they say Merry Christmas, you have to vote on it, and do it now. We don’t get a chance to even get feedback from our constituents, much less amend them to become better. That ENDS now.”
FOUR tends to charge the other side with being irresponsible without stating specifics or making proposals. This passage takes issue with the “spending process,” that has gone on for far too long, which suggests it’s an institutional matter in the Senate. But then the focus of the passage shifts to “they.” “They bring up these spending bills in the last minute …” It suggests the problem is entirely on one side – the side that is being irresponsible and incompetent. And there is another side, our side, which has none of the flaws of the other side, a point signaled by the sentence “That ENDS now.” A statement that promised improvements in the spending process with dignity would include a pledge to make certain changes. That would be a FIVE. If there were a pledge to work with the other side to overhaul the process together, that could be a SIX. And an approach that expressed some humility – such as saying, “neither party has done all it could to create a responsible process; we all share some blame” – could be a SEVEN.
Twitter @ElectBlakeMoore, November 8, 2022
Serving Utah’s First District in Congress is a privilege, and I am grateful for the opportunity to return for a second term to continue bringing Utah’s values to Washington. As hardworking families struggle with historic inflation, skyrocketing energy costs, increasing crime, and weak immigration policies, I am more resolved than ever to double down on the Biden administration’s failed approach to our most pressing challenges. My congressional colleagues and I will hold the administration accountable and deliver on legislation to support our families, workforce, and next generation.
An election night statement that chose dignity over contempt could acknowledge the good will on the other side, point to some common values, and pledge to work in those areas together. Statements that chose contempt over dignity would emphasize the failures of the other side and pledge to hold those reckless people accountable. This statement chooses contempt over dignity.
“Tonight’s results are the proof of the power of unity. Although our coalition did not prevail, we’ve done something here in Utah that hasn’t been done in 50 years. We rejected the politics of division and extremism, and we united. Unity is what made this election the most competitive in nearly a half a century. Now some see our unity as a threat. An anti-democracy movement in America has tried to break the bonds we’ve built. They’ve tried to fracture this coalition, because they know our patriotic mission to bring people together is a threat to their power. We cannot allow their attacks to break us, and I know we won’t.”
The Dignity Index tries to measure what we do when we disagree, which means it’s necessary to say who is on the other side. The relevant “other side” for this passage are the people who McMullin says are part of an “anti-democracy movement,” which has tried to “fracture this coalition” because bringing people together “is a threat to their power.” This language falls in the FOUR category – “they’re not one of us. They don’t work for us. They’re trying to harm us. They don’t have the same values as us.” To make an argument for democracy with dignity, the language would have to challenge decisions, actions, and communications. The challenge has to be to “what they do” not “who they are.” As soon as negative labels are used to identify people – they’re the “anti-democracy movement” they promote “the politics of division and extremism” – the argument slips into contempt.
“The American Republic will not be preserved by just one man, or one woman, or one campaign, or one party. None of us have the votes to defend American democracy on our own. We must build coalitions like this one. We must work together. Great movements in American politics have always taken decades of hard work and sacrifice to realize change, and this time is no different. The struggle for our democracy is not just about one election, it is the defining challenge of our era, and it is what we must do together now in the coming years, that will shape every era that follows. That is why our work is only just beginning. We must continue to build bonds of trust and friendship across party lines. It is the heavy lifting of American democracy, and it is the only way we can solve problems, fix our broken politics, and move our country forward”
This passage states a set of goals, values and an agenda without contempt for the other side. That would make it a FIVE, but the sentence, “We must continue to build bonds of trust and friendship across party lines,” along with “it’s the only way we can solve problems” puts this passage in the SIX category – identifying common interests and values and using them as a basis for cooperation.
Darlene McDonald, Quotes from Daily Universe Article, November 9, 2022.
“We have voter apathy, where too many people believe their vote doesn’t matter, but it absolutely does. Do not believe people who tell you your vote doesn’t matter. Be a voter, envision the world you want for yourself and make that happen”
This is a clear statement of values, calling people to action on an agenda with no contempt for the other side. If she were calling people to reach out across a divide to pursue a common goal together, that would have been a SIX.
Burgess Owens, Fox 13 interview, November 8, 2022
I’m feeling really good. I am excited to see what is happening tonight, that the country is really waking up. I think the power of what’s happened in the last couple of years is really getting people to talk together across aisles and coming to the same conclusion. We need to give the Republican party a chance to restore what I’m going to say is back to normal.
This passage implicitly characterizes Democratic control in Congress as “not normal” or a result of people who need “waking up.” It suggests “There is something wrong with those people – they have the wrong values.” Secondly, the suggestion that Democrats and Republicans came to the conclusion that Republicans needed to be given a chance to restore us “back to normal” suggests that Democrats have no convictions or values or commitment even to their own agenda.
Twitter @ElectBlakeMoore, November 8, 2022 I will continue to put productivity over partisanship to support Hill Air Force Base, promote thoughtful stewardship of our public lands, and reverse Washington’s debt culture. My team and I are looking forward to building on our successes and fighting for Utahns in the 118th Congress.
This is a clear statement of values and agenda without any contempt for the other side. (This is assuming that Congressman Moore’s commitment to “reverse Washington’s debt culture” does not reflect a mindset that sees Democrats as solely responsible for the national debt and Republicans solely able to fix it.)
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.