I am a huge fan of podcasts, especially political ones. This fall I began listening to both Pod Save America (PSA), hosted by several former Obama staffers, and the Ben Shapiro Show, hosted by, unsurprisingly, Ben Shapiro, creator of the Daily Wire and formerly a writer for Breitbart. The two podcasts are, as you’d expect, radically different in their perspectives and opinions on the day-to-day issues and news of American politics. However, as I listened, I began noticing some striking similarities between the two that, I believe, at least partially explain the partisanship and outrage now prevalent on both sides of the aisle in our public discourse.
Both podcasts paint with an overly broad brush that dehumanizes and delegitimizes the opposing side. Both employ a destructive combination of straw man arguments and the composition fallacy. Ben Shapiro has constructed a caricature of “the Left” that attributes the errors and faults of all individuals left of center into one boogeyman, then further distorts them. It leads to absurd, but apparently crowd-pleasing, statements that essentially break down into some version of “How dare Obama believe Kavanaugh’s accusers when Bill Clinton is such a pervert!” PSA does the same thing with its “The worst Democrat is better than the best Republican” rhetoric. Perhaps most seriously, hosts of both podcasts routinely imply that no reasonable person could support “the other side.” According to PSA, everyone would be liberal if they would just care a little more, and according to Ben Shapiro, everyone would be conservative if they would just think a little harder. This may sound innocent, but by denying the possibility of the other side’s good faith they imply that they are acting in bad faith. And encouraging people to think of those with whom they disagree politically as bad or dangerous is poisonous to public discourse. Of course, this doesn’t mean the podcasts are useless—I often encounter perspectives or ideas I hadn’t previously contemplated. But it does mean they are contributing to the noxious political atmosphere despite their claims to be rising above it.
The Political Review aims to reject that type of rhetoric—to give you solid analysis by intelligent people with differing political views who don’t think you’re either heartless or an idiot if you disagree. We hope every article will present you with new information or new perspectives that will enlighten and challenge you, wherever you fall on the political spectrum. We hope every article will either change your mind through well-crafted persuasion or sharpen it by forcing you to refine and defend your own views.
We also hope you’ll help us improve the Political Review. When you’re done reading, check out our back cover for ways to give us feedback on the issue. You’ll find a link where you can take a short survey as well as an invitation for your own thoughts, some of which we will publish in our next issue. If you’d like to submit a full article for publication, send that our way too. Finally, we are always on the lookout to add sharp writers to our staff. If you or someone you know would be interested, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In December we’ll be looking to add people for Winter semester.
Looking forward to hearing from you,