The devolution of political discussion in the 21st century has been devastating to our democracy. The polarization has divided the country to a point approaching the division of the late 60’s, all that is missing now are riots in the streets.
Every time I hear the statement “agree to disagree” I have a short-term visceral reaction because when discussion ends this way, it only makes certain nothing will ever get done. This kind of thinking is a copout. It relies on the pseudo-certainty that there is no way forward. I think it’s simply being intellectually lazy when you decide that it’s too hard to listen and consider something you don’t like. There is always a way to continue and you should because there’s a 50/50 chance you might come out on top. Even when you lose, you learn something new that you can use in the future.
The federal government has always had ups and downs, periods of cooperation and times so bad that we fought a civil war. In the end all we have is communication and it’s how we communicate that ultimately determines the quality of life in America.
Having lived through the Bush years and the elevation of the red/blue arguments that continued through the Obama years, I’ve finally had to admit that I was sick and tire of the same old shit day after day after day. There has to be a better way. I realized to break free of the insanity of repetition I had to try new things. One thing was to try reading some conservative viewpoints if only to find bits of information to reinforce my liberal conviction. I found surprisingly, conservatives often are not opposed to liberal ideas but rather the way they are implemented. I also found many conservatives are open to discussion, you see them all the time on cable news shows.
In addition to reading new things outside my comfort zone I started trying out new podcasts like “The Argument”. It’s a three person podcast with Michelle Goldberg as the liberal, Ross Douthat as the conservative and David Leonhardt as the left of center person who is right of Michelle and sees the value in some of the conservative polices that have worked. On the whole, I find the podcast does lean to the left but that is partially attributed to Douthat crossing over like Leonhardt, because he admits his Republican Party has gone to hell and he has no other choice.
I’ve been listening to this group for a while and there has never been a shouting match, no one has ever walked off the podcast and there’s never even been an unkind word. Rather than agree to disagree, each member of the pod listens completely to the others and at the worst agrees to consider the point for later discussion. The pod is not all politics as they will toss in some social/cultural tidbits and each pod ends with a suggestion from one of the trio of things you can do to feel better.
You can find the pod everywhere and if you’re interested just click the logo above to get to their website. I don’t know if it’s behind the NYT paywall, so if you’ve burned your month’s allotment for looks, here’s a link to the pod on iTunes.