Quaerere Press (2017)
Reviewed by Araceli Noriega for Reader Views (3/19)
In “Talking Sense about Politics: How to Overcome Political Polarization in your next Conversation” Jack Meacham writes about the current political climate in the U.S. in terms of how Americans are engaged—and disengaged—in that discourse. Mr. Meacham sets out to dispel the concept that a political dichotomy is the only way to view politics in the country. He proposes that there are in fact four perspectives from which Americans view politics. It is the author’s hope that with this book, readers will make more coherent presentations about their perspectives on political issues in conversation.
The author does a commendable job of presenting the possible viewpoints of people from every possible background. It is clear that he has considered the ideas from every angle from a neutral position. As a result, readers will see that there are in fact more than two political positions in the American political landscape. Readers will also come to understand the way in which these many different viewpoints are formed. That being said, it may be difficult to apply this information after reading the book without a little bit of practice. The reason for this is that the description of people’s viewpoints is an advanced assessment of the way in which values shape behaviors.
Mr. Meacham is an admirable writer as seen in the detailed and comprehensive explanations throughout the book. He writes with the mastery of an accomplished essayist. He is honest, fair, and consistent in his text. Here Mr. Meacham shows how something so subtle can have a real impact and how that happens in one’s mindset.
“Strong Loyal can rationalize its domination and perhaps the eventual destruction of Weak Loyal by emphasizing differences, rather than commonalities, between the two groups; that is, by building on the assumption of intrinsically defined identity. Using stereotyping and derogatory descriptions, for example, claiming that mom-a-pop bookstores are dying, can heighten the psychological impact of minor differences.”
Readers of Mr. Meacham’s book will need to have some basic knowledge of American politics in order to engage in the book. They will also need to be aware of or at least agree with the fact that the country is polarized when it comes to political conversations. Lastly, readers will find this book to be a sophisticated read in terms of the depth of information covered and the language used to describe most concepts.
In terms of political debates in real life, this book definitely struck a chord with me. It seems that on all platforms, be they social media or the dinner table, the level of political polarization is at its highest in many decades. I think that what Mr. Meacham has done is very helpful and audiences will greatly benefit from reading and implementing what they’ve learned. Even when addressing the most fragile subjects, the author is able to keep the text honest and productive:
“These differences in how we communicate reflect differences in power and privilege. Some of the differences are positive; that is, some people have more experience, expertise, and understanding than others. Sometimes the differences can be harmful, when those with power and privilege stop listening and try to impose their views on others.”
I think Mr. Meacham’s book should be required reading for political science majors. We truly are a divided country with very few people willing to see issues from positions other than the ones they are familiar with. With a guide like this one, we can come to appreciate the way in which other people form their perspectives—without judging that process. Although it can be a complicated read for some, I believe this book is a vital tool for progress for all.
Jack Meacham’s “Talking Sense about Politics: How to Overcome Political Polarization in your next Conversation” proves to be a necessary conversation guide for every American citizen. Whether one is having dinner with family or engaged in small talk at work, the concepts presented in his book will undoubtedly apply. In a world where individual fame and recognition are valued over collectivist success, this book is a refreshing ray of hope that we can all still come together as a nation, or family, and agree on how to have peaceful rhetoric together.