Thursday, July 20, 2017

Interview: Joe Gandelman of 'The Moderate Voice' says today's politics "are all about pushing hot buttons"

This is the final article of my discussion with Joe Gandelman, chief editor of The Moderate Voice. Read the firstsecond, and third pieces. 
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
Tolerance -- at least as far as opposing views are concerned -- is no virtue in contemporary American politics. Perhaps one could stretch this to cover society itself (Read more here)

Joseph Ford Cotto: Since the late twentieth century, Americans have chosen to reside in politically homogeneous areas. Has this been a substantial factor in paving the road to our present polarization?

Joe Gandelman: I actually don't think so. I still believe if there's a lot of research these days, it'd show the impact of course of gerrymandering, but I think changes in our media, death of the days of Walter Cronkite and broadcasting, narrowcasting, the advent of political weblogs (blogs' moments have largely passed), and the growing popularity of social media are the biggest factors. You don't always connect with your neighbors or a big chunk of your state or city; social media allows constant outreach to those who think as you do, and political entertainment shows act as town halls to strengthen existing assumptions  and spread new political mantras for partisans or ideologues. 

Cotto: Looking at today's polarized nature, are there any solid indications that moderate politics might make a comeback during the years ahead?'

Gandelman: I think in the GOP we're either going to see that party become real authoritarian  -- or slightly moderate from President Donald Trump's existing Steve Bannon Breitbart-influenced/stained presidency .... The Democrats will face a big battle in coming years between the Bernie Sanders and more centrist faction.

Cotto: Politics seem to be less and less about issues. Personalities, attitudes, and collective identities play a larger role with each passing month, let alone year. A situation such like this is inherently polarized and leaves little room for bridges to be built. Above any other factor, what drives this spirit of division? 

Gandelman: It's all about pushing hot buttons and appealing to the emotions now, far less about getting in the nuts and bolts of serious discussion of issues and how it can be proven with arguments and facts that one side is stronger. This is due to the fact that both parties have shown that they feel their best path is "mobilization" elections where they try to get their base out by ramping up the attacks warning about the other side and its candidate. Then you...again...get back to how many people and companies make MILLIONS by getting people on the right and left giving them program packages that fit their existing biases and perceptions..and how social media can now create an issue or make someone a laughingstock with lightning speed.

This isn't the US circa 1950, 1960 -- or even 1998 anymore. Too much money can be made and power can be gained by hitting hot buttons by audiences watch, listen to or read someone who they have come to feel is a trusted friend so he he/she/it says MUST be true.

Consensus, compromise and nuance have to cut through all of the noise and appeal to the mind, not just the emotions.  Can we do it heading into the 21st century? Is there anyone on our political scene who can really make a difference and Make American Politics Thoughtful Again?

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