What Is Public Discourse?

If you pay attention to American news programs, you’ve probably noticed that there is a growing divide in the US around many social and political issues. The country’s two major political parties (Republicans and Democrats) seem to be having considerable difficulty cooperating with each other. This, in many ways, is a reflection of how well the rest of the American public communicates when it comes to differences of opinion.

These big discussions that include or influence the American public are referred to as public discourse. In technical terms, discourse is a fancy word for a dialog or discussion. For example, if you are debating the value of buffalo chicken wings versus BBQ chicken with a friend; you are engaged in discourse. When discussions focus on national issues that are followed by or affect large sections of a population, they become part of the public discourse. In a very broad sense, this is how we arrive at a public opinion or consensus on issues over which people are divided.