Have Americans lost the ability to talk politics? Recent studies show the country is more divided than ever before, and it’s only getting worse. In a lively talk at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, professor Robert Reich outlines what he sees as the main causes of the problem, and how we might be able to address them.
Political fights are a staple of American history. From the Civil Rights Movement to Vietnam, we haven’t always agreed. But, we used to agree on how to disagree, Reich says. He believes we have lost our respect, tolerance, and openness to the ideas of others. And making matters worse, we no longer trust government institutions to handle our disagreements.
Reich lays out three key factors he believes led to the current climate: geographic tribalism, stagnant incomes, and the media. Our opinions are most influenced by those around us, he says. And over time, we have separated ourselves into ‘red states’ and ‘blue states,’ becoming entrenched in political identities with little tolerance for outside opinions. Incomes have stopped growing with the economy, leading many to feel the system is rigged. Reich says politicians have latched on to that feeling to gain support. At the same time, a proliferation of media outlets has left each fighting for attention. One way to catch a viewer’s eye he says, is to stoke anger.
But, Reich says all is not lost. He lays out how each of us can do our part to bring civility back to political discourse. It all starts he says, with one conversation.
Kurt Campbell, Former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, visits his Alma Mater, UC San Diego, to share some insight and some anecdotes from his political career.
Campbell, who is now Chairman and CEO of the The Asia Group, sits down with Susan Shirk, the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San Diego, to discuss US relations with Asia and how that continent has garnered more attention than it has in the past.
When Campbell worked with Secretary Clinton in writing a statement predicting that the 21st century would be largely focused on Asian countries, their piece coined the phrase “pivot to Asia.” This phrase caught the attention of the international media, with some unintended consequences.
There was plenty of excitement earlier this month when two coasts collided at UC San Diego. No, it wasn’t some strange weather phenomenon but the second annual “The Atlantic Meets the Pacific,” hosted by The Atlantic magazine and UCSD. The sold-out, three-day forum brought together some of the country’s most fascinating thinkers to talk about the future of energy, health and technology.
We’ll be premiering these outstanding discussions in November, but there was one that simply couldn’t wait. In “Predicting Election 2012,” veteran political reporter Ron Brownstein of the National Journal and Republican strategist Steve Schmidt analyze the homestretch of the presidential campaign with input from James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic; Sam Popkin, UC San Diego professor and author of “The Candidate;” James Fowler, a UC San Diego professor who specializes in the biochemistry of political behavior: and longtime pollster Dan Yankelovich. Look for some fresh insight from these lively and connected pundits as they call the fates of Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and the next Congress.
Watch “Predicting Election 2012” on October 26 at 7pm — or online now — and make sure to come back in November for more in “The Atlantic Meets the Pacific” series, including conversations with Dreamworks’ Stacey Snider, Facebook’s Chris Cox, “The Happiness Project” author Gretchen Rubin and much more.