Rating: 4 Stars
We are facing a turbulent time in politics. While I wish this generalized statement wasn’t frequently true, I don’t think it’s inaccurate. Within the past week, we have seen many lines drawn between political leaders, community members and movement organizers because of differences in beliefs. How do we fight this division? By being well informed. Not just with facts which align with our preexisting opinions and knowledge, but with the feelings and thoughts of the people on each side of the argument.
With so much information accessible at all times, it isn’t always enough to know what is happening. Oftentimes people need guidance on what it really means and how it affects our country. This is where The New York Times’ podcast “The Argument” hopes to bridge the gap.
Every Thursday, opinion columnists Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt explain a topic and address the argument from different sides of the political spectrum. From their diverse political backgrounds, each host usually contributes different information and attitudes to that week’s issue.
Douthat, a religious conservative, is not President Trump’s biggest fan but he is opposed to abortion and supports reduced immigration. Goldberg, a progressive, believes that our “administration’s callous elitism” will unravel our democracy. Leonhardt considers himself a moderate, frequently landing between his two co-hosts on issues.
In The New York Times’ “Opinion Today” newsletter which announced the podcast’s creation, David Leonhardt acknowledged that while they may not always agree, the hosts share the same goal.
“All of three us, though, share the same curiosity that many of you have. We want to understand other people’s beliefs. We want to engage with them honestly and sometimes sharply, but also respectfully,” Leonhardt said.
The moments which transfix me the most are when you can hear one of the hosts begin to truly understand and deeply contemplate an opinion oppositional to their own, or when a new interpretation of information challenges their way of thinking. You can, in real time, hear the gears of understanding turning. It creates room for a more complex understanding of society and promotes listening to others, over hearing ourselves talk.
However, while I trust and admire the hosts of the podcast, I am not encountering New York Times opinion columnists on a daily basis. Their format excludes the voice of the uninformed who, in my experience, often speak the loudest in controversial conversation. While they bring on guests on the podcast, these guests are usually authors or political commentators, not the kind of people who necessarily angrily rant on Facebook posts. This leaves me still not quite comfortable knowing how to address a large demographic of aggressive arguers.
There is also the issue of intersectionality. While the hosts all express different political stances, their reach is limited due to their socioeconomic positioning. So, for example, when they are looking at issues that require discussing racism or poverty, white voices are, by proxy, elevated in an issue that does not affect them in a universal way.
While these are two important issues, I do not think they undermine the podcast’s desired influence. They are still educating listeners on issues and attempting to deliver a politically dynamic perspective. Every week they have a new opportunity to bring more intersectional voices into the mix.
As we all grapple with determining what is right, The New York Time’s “The Argument” is too. Stream “The Argument” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on their website https://www.nytimes.com/column/the-argument.