Marshfield Civility Project: Getting American Politics Back on Track

A bipartisan voter education public policy forum aimed at bridging the gap between differing opinions by learning to civilly discuss political issues will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, September 17, at UW-Marshfield Wood County campus.

The kick-off forum, titled, “Political Fix: How do We Get American Politics Back on Track?” is open to residents and students living in Marshfield and surrounding communities.

Sponsored jointly by the Wood County Republican and Democratic parties, with the help of the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS), the forum will be the first in a series of “town hall” meetings over the next year. Speakers with different philosophical views will come together to discuss issues in a civil and informative manner.

“Through the process of a deliberative forum, attendees will discuss differences in underlying values and philosophies in a structured format that encourages respect for differing viewpoints,” said Eric Giordano, WIPPS director.

Using a framed issued guide from the National Issues Forum Institute, WIPPS moderators will ensure that the process provides for a “safe space” to deliberate together. The objective of the forums is to avoid politics as usual rhetoric, and to encourage healthy citizen dialogue on the issues, with the ultimate goal to become better-informed voters.

The idea for the forum came from interested party leaders of Wood County – Chris Jockheck, Democratic party member, and Dan Wald, Republican party chair. Both activists have been working together for several months to make the forum a reality.

“People are tired of the negativity and divisiveness in politics,” Jockheck said. “We want to offer a unique forum that will allow for a presentation and discussion of both sides of the issues, rather than just one-sided sound bites. While future forums will be more issue oriented, this first one will be organized to see just what is of concern to citizens and how we can be helpful in voter education for better understanding.”

While there are differences between the two parties, and the accompanying philosophies and principles, “We should be able to have a civil, rational discussion,” Wald noted.

“People often don’t hear the actual differences in principles, public policies and facts because of all the rhetoric we hear,” Wald said. “We anticipate the idea of having a civil dialogue will gain a foothold, giving everyone a better understanding of the differences between our two philosophies.”

The year-long project is being funded in part by the Marshfield Area Community Foundation.

For more information, Call WIPPS at 715-261-6368 or email

Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service is an institute of the UW Colleges and UW-Extension. It is located in the Center for Civic Engagement at UW-Marathon County, Wausau.