In Age of Trump, former NJ Gov. Christie Whitman to lead national 'civility' crusade

Wed, 2019-04-17

A deeply alarmed Christie Whitman has tried a variety of ways to stem the rising tide of Trumpism.

The former New Jersey governor made headlines (and videos) calling Trump "unfit" for office and urged him to resign. Whitman, a lifelong Republican, endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. And Whitman compared the president — an ex-casino mogul she once clashed with during her tenure as governor in the 1990s — to some of the "worst dictators in history."

Her one-woman resistance hasn't worked.

Now, Whitman has ditched the frontal assault and has embraced a long-range, grass-roots approach. Whitman has been named advisory board co-chairwoman of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, an eight-year-old advocacy and training group that seeks to reverse the deepening polarization of the body politic.

Whitman replaces former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who announced her retirement from public life last October. The group's other co-chairman is former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

The institute has a fairly simple overarching plan. It wants political foes to begin treating each other with respect. And with respect comes a tendency to listen, and maybe negotiate along a common ground — a tradition that eroded under the Tea Party fury a decade ago and has all but vanished in Trump era

"You've got to have the conversation and you've got to start listening,'' Whitman said in a recent interview.