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Seth David Radwell: One Cocktail Party Away from Bridging the Political Divide

Seth David Radwell is the author of the Amazon bestseller American Schism, a book that examines the United States’ political divide and attempts to bridge it through the lens of enlightenment ideals. Distraught by his colleagues’ reluctance to engage in political discussions and civil debate, Seth set out to examine how we got to where we are today and how the nation’s founding principles can be used to save it. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, which informed his research while writing American Schism.

Before writing American Schism, Seth had established himself as an internationally known business executive and thought leader in consumer marketing. He previously served as President of e-Scholastic, the digital arm of the global children’s publishing and education company, and as President of Bookspan/Bertelsmann, where he developed book clubs for diverse readership. He also served as CEO of The Proactiv Company, the leading skincare brand for acne; as President & Chief Revenue Officer of Guthy-Renker, the worldwide direct-to-consumer beauty company; and as Senior Vice President, Content for Prodigy Services Company.

Transcript:

Bryan Wish: Seth, welcome to the One Away show.

Seth David Radwell: Bryan, thank you so much for having me. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

Bryan Wish: Yeah. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you as well over the last few months. 

Seth David Radwell: Thank you.

Bryan Wish: Seth, start us out. What is the one away moment that you want to share with us today? 

Seth David Radwell: Well, Bryan, as you’re aware, my life has taken kind of an interesting turn in the last couple of years as I’ve published what’s now become a bestselling book on really the state of our political discourse. I think the one away moment for me would be it’s a cocktail party event, a business networking event in, I think it was April of 2019. The reason why I mentioned that evening because the last couple of years, I had become increasingly disillusioned by what was happening to the nature of our political discourse. 

In other words, my view is that it had completely collapsed, but it was at that party when I was surrounded by many very smart people, people who I know from business, from marketing, and it struck me that nobody there was open to discussing political issues. I mean, everybody, because the political debate had gotten so rancorous and with such acrimony, really smart people had what I called, put their head in the sand. 

I realized that political conversation amongst smart professional people had become a third rail to stay away from. I thought that was really dangerous, but it was at that moment that I decided that all of the research and some writing that I had done, I was going to actually use it to write a book. That’s when American Schism was born.

Bryan Wish: Wow. I bet that was hard for you, maybe bringing up topics and maybe seeing the pushback or seeing the quiet and timid nature around people for potentially being judged or not knowing how, what they could say would be used against them. Seth, just for context, would love, you had that insight at this cocktail event that led you to the writing this book, American Schism, how did you develop that insight? Were you trying to ask people questions or engage on political topics? What made you realize that people were so shut off who were very smart, intelligent people? 

Seth David Radwell: Good. It’s a great question. I probably owe you some background on this. Look, my whole career’s been in business. I’ve been fortunate to lead some wonderful consumer brands. Most recently, I was CEO of Proactiv. I was in skincare for a long time and before that I was in publishing. I’ve had a career where through, whether it’s McKinsey networks or YP, a Young President’s organization, I’ve met wonderful people. Because I have an education and a background in public policy, I’ve always enjoyed discussing contemporary issues with smart people. It’s just been something I’ve always done. 

Of course, we discuss business issues and marketing and what’s happening in certain markets and what’s happening with supply and demand and consumers and media. All of that is, of course, part of the regular discussion at business events but I also often enjoyed debating with colleagues, political issues or who was ever in the current political climate.

Now, I recognized that political issues are often emotional but still, it was always possible to intelligently discuss them through most of my career, from the Reagan years on, through Clinton and Obama and Bush. It just seems like there was some kind of categorical change that in the last couple of years, whereas it had always been a little bit potentially lively and potentially combative because political issues are invariably. It was usually interesting and informative to get other perspectives, which I think is required in a democratic Republic. 

What I noticed when it became kind of third rail, I said to myself, “Something is different about this. There’s never been such a lack of willingness to engage on what are important issues.” My only guess is that people are afraid. There’s no upside. There’s only downside of discussing such issues because there’s a chance you’re going to enrage a customer base or get in trouble for saying the “wrong thing,” since everything’s gotten so politically correct. 

It seemed to me, there was this categorical difference and that’s what led me to say, “You know what? I’ve been doing this research. I’ve been reading about this. I’m going to embark on this journey to actually try to write this book, American Schism, which is going to explore what’s happened to our political discourse, why it’s collapsed and why very smart people don’t seem to want to engage on important topics that affect us.”

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. I love what you said about the network and that you’ve built and how they, these are established people, but they’re scared to maybe enrage a customer base in internal culture. I want to build on that…

Seth David Radwell: Sure. 

Bryan Wish: … in a minute but the fact that you’re cognizant, you’re cognizant of, wow, this is a really a treacherous topic or contemporary issues that we just can’t go into yet. To me, the irony is that these are some of the people who, if they come together can probably have some of the biggest change around these issues. One thing I want to ask you before we go on what you just said is when we first met and we were having lunch at New York, you were talking about growing up and…

Seth David Radwell: Yes.

Bryan Wish: … how you noticed the political issues and with your family and talking about things, how did your interest in public policy develop, it seems like it’s been prominent from a young age?

Seth David Radwell: That’s true. That’s true but before I get to that, one thing I just want to highlight what you said is so true, Bryan, which is that the reason why it was distressing to see this unwillingness to engage amongst smart people was, you’re right, these are leaders. These are people who potentially could help solve problems. We need smart people to engage if we’re going to move past our current impasse. 

Yes, that why it was so distressing but to answer your question about my history, I think, look, I’ve always been engaged and interested in policy for a couple of reasons: One is that I come from a very middle class family with working class roots. My ancestors were immigrants here, so my parents were born here but my ancestors were Eastern European immigrants with nothing, came here with nothing. I’ve always been impassioned and quite animated the notion of the American dream that I feel like I’ve been a product of it that America is a place where as a meritocracy, anyone could come and be successful here.

I’ve always bought into that kind of illusion if you will, and over the years, since I’ve always enjoyed reading history and political science, I’ve read a lot about how that came to be. First, I guess the first time when it struck me personally was again, knowing that I was from an Eastern European Jewish family that had fled persecution and came here. That was a big part. Having a sense of what it was like to be disenfranchised, which my grandparents were and my parents were trying to build assimilating into American life and building a life. 

Then, I guess, you know what, as a teenager, I realized I was also somewhat disenfranchised being at the time closeted as a gay person, which growing up in that point of time, it was not so acceptable to build a very professional life and be kind of not typically heterosexual with two kids in a garage and a white picket fence. I knew my life had some differences. I guess, that maybe made me inside personally sensitive to the notion of the whole concept of disenfranchisement. 

I was thus more aware of minorities, whether it was African-American or Latino, who had various forms of disenfranchisement, but still all during my early part of my life, I always believed that America was a place where the story was about moving towards a greater enfranchisement, a greater embracing of those voices, which is why I was such a passionate fan of kind of the American Story. 

It was only in recent years that I saw kind of the other side of that, not to say that America isn’t a wonderful place because I still believe it is, but I don’t think I was fully cognizant of the depth of its flaws and the degree to which a lot of what’s promised in a declaration of independence, our credos, so to speak, how we’ve fallen short of delivering on it over the course of our history. It was this awareness, as I was getting older, that I think maybe even more attached and interested in public policy. 

I did, obviously when I was in college and I was exposed to some of this stuff, it made me, it gave me interest to go to school for public policy. I went to get a master’s degree at the Kennedy school at Harvard, in public policy of economics. I thought I was going to go into the state department at that time in my career. One thing led to another and I ended up getting recruited by McKinsey and I got into business. I never actually served in a public policy role, but obviously the interest was established in my early twenties and built through my graduate school years.

Bryan Wish: Wow. It’s really just the way you were talking about your family and how you immigrated and a sense of disenfranchisement and then for you personally, growing up with your own backstory, being gay, trying to find your place in the world…

Seth David Radwell: Right.

Bryan Wish: … America was this place to come together and belong in a way that you felt you could be understood yet you’re relating it to, as your awareness is growing, maybe it’s not everything it’s all cracked up to be or it still is, but you you’re aware of the issues and the pitfalls and you’re working to bring those to light, to make things, maybe like the America that you wanted for yourself growing up. It’s really interesting to connect the story of your background too, where you are today.

Seth David Radwell: Absolutely. Well, that whole thing is I’ve gotten more into this, more research, like most issues there’s complexity here. In some ways the simple analogy would be, it’s like a glass half full and half empty. I mean, I do believe that both the political extremes today that are willing to throw out or criticize or break down the American journey as being one that’s either kind of on the left it’s often tarnished by incredible abuse and racism, et cetera, on the right it’s as if it were kind of a white foundational American story. I think both are wrong. I mean, America is a, the glass half full part is we are probably in the history of the world the best example of a model of self-government that’s ever been on the planet.

Now, I say that, but at the same time, recognizing that we have huge flaws, our self-government, which is probably the most transparent of any republic of this size, yet, it’s still not transparent enough. There’s a lot of bureaucracy that’s hidden. There’s a lot of cronyism. Again, you could always look at it from both sides. I make this case extensively throughout the book, American Schism, because besides being, I think what America has become the envy of the world for is two things is one, this notion of self-government and how we manage to do that but the other thing that we’re also the envy of the world for is often the notion of meritocracy, where a place where anyone could come and make it irrespective of their birthright. Just because you’re born into a noble family, doesn’t count as success in America. It’s what you put into it and your work ethic and what you strive to do and, and achieve. 

That itself as well, the meritocratic model is also a glass half full, half empty. In some ways it’s wonderful, but in many ways it’s full and short because our model of meritocracy in some cases is very broken. We’re not giving… A meritocracy requires, I discussed this in some length in the book, a meritocracy requires the notion of an equal starting line, an equal access to opportunity for everyone so everyone has a chance. We’ve been far from achieving that many ways, but in some ways we have been very meritocratic. Again, like democracy, like our model of self-government, our model of meritocracy is also glass half full, glass half empty. 

My notion, and what I argue for so passionately in American Schism is that unlike many who argue today that we need to change these models will give up on them, I argue that we need to try to continue to improve them, that we’ve moved in a direction of towards progress and that we have to continue to do that. We have to, we’ll never reach an ideal because they’re both American democracy and meritocracy are in fact both ideals and we have to move towards achieving them as best as we can, given the constraints of our time. That’s kind of our journey. 

In some ways, it is interesting when you look at the American history, as you know, and as many Americans know when the constitution was written in 1787, a voice in government, the right to vote was given to white men with property. That was it. To some degree, the story of our country has been this story of increasing enfranchisement of giving this voice to more people and what’s gone through phases. 

I mean, in Andrew Jackson’s tenure as president, he extended the right to vote to all white men, regardless of whether they had property or not. You could look at that, at that time when Andrew Jackson was president, we had, at that time, had the largest democracy that ever existed on the planet, but still it excluded a lot of people: African-Americans who were still enslaved, Native Americans, who weren’t considered part of the union. It was very limiting, but it was still the largest democratic experiment. It’s been this, as the great Martin Luther King said, the arc of history bends towards progress. 

I think our history has shown that, but at the same time, we have to be able to confront our problems and our issues. I find that the extremes on both the left and the right today are not doing that productively or constructively. They’re willing to the, I mean, the extreme right is basically living in a bubble of non-reality and the extreme left, which I characterized by cancel culture or this notion of denying the progress that our institutions in America have achieved are seemingly willing to throw away our institutions. That’s very dangerous. 

That’s why the combination of those different forces that I think led me to see why all my smart political colleagues, smart business colleagues, I’m sorry, didn’t want to discuss politics. I thought to myself, if that’s the State of Affairs, then we’re not going to be able to hand off a democratic republic to our children and that would be pretty horrible.

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. I really like how you are looking at that with that glass half full mindset, what is the progress we’ve made. Yes, it might have started out for people who were property owners, yet, that has expanded to so many. There’s still issues on each side making it hard for people with certain races to vote. There’s hard things on both sides, but what you’re saying is over the test of time, if we look back hundreds of years, there’s been a large amount of progress and we need to understand it but if we’re not careful, we could lose all the progress that we’ve made. 

I want to transition to something that you said in, as you were wrapping up, you said, this is why it’s hard for the business colleagues to engage. Now, my question for you, is if you were to give a speech in front of a hundred of the top CEOs and top for top fortune 500 CEOs, what would you tell them to engage in a way that was respectable and that way that it burns bridges. How would you tell someone to go about that?

Seth David Radwell: Well, the first part of what I would say to them relates to the fact that, of course, business executives are usually most concerned with running companies and maximizing their business, whether it’s, how they serve customers, how they make profit, how they grow their company. Of course the various business concerns are primary, and that’s what they focus on and it’s easy to get caught up in only seeing those.

What I’d ask them to do is have a little bit of a wider perspective and realize that the success that they’ve achieved is based on a framework of an open economy, a liberal society that has invested in educating a class of people to perform and do those functions that make their company great. That all of that, let’s call it infrastructure, physical infrastructure but also the constructs of an open liberal society with wonderful education systems, despite obvious problems in many areas that that is what has created the fruit of their success.

Of course, it’s their individual marketing strategy they came up with that year or their budget plan that they did last year or these new investments they made. I mean, those are all the close in specific activities and objectives they’ve achieved that’s led to success, but the broader definition of success is very important in understanding where they’ve come from. Therefore, as leaders, as leaders in their business, they also have a role to play as leaders of their community and leaders of the American public discussion. 

I would start off by explaining what responsibilities they have to beyond just the P&L of their business. If they push back, which they often do, I’d ask them to place that framework in the sense of what they want for their children because usually when it comes to family and children and community, it’s quite easy to see how important leadership is in all of those dimensions outside of just the business dimension. I think that’s the first conversation. 

Now, once I think people, colleagues of mine see that, they may second guess why they’ve been so silent or so reluctant or hesitant to call out things that they see that are not right. They happen around us every day. 

Bryan Wish: Yeah. 

Seth David Radwell: Every day. 

Bryan Wish: Well, one love that you talked about, because I think that there’s two sides to this or two things that were insightful in what you said, it’s be grateful or recognize the foundation that’s in place for allowing you to build the business or develop that marketing strategy because we do operate in a government that enables you to build a business and not someone else have control like in other countries. 

Then, the second part, the family part is interesting. Not to get political, but let’s just say, get rid of police fully, well would they want their kids to grow up in an environment that’s not safe? You can kind of really paint the picture from a family perspective that says, “Okay, well, how will you think about this for your family?” Through that, I think you can help them internalize of how they’ve kind of walked in the world.

Seth David Radwell: Absolutely. What you can do is also realize sometimes how our public debate has become so trivialized around symbols, like, you’re referring to this whole debate about “the defund, the police campaign,” which has become such a political football. I mean, what began as a set of true critiques about the nature of how policing was implemented in many parts of the country, was based on real problems. I think a lot of that discussion has highlighted how racist and how unfair some of our policing has been. There’s no question about it and it’s led to many deaths. Police need reform, but that led to this whole extreme left movement called, “Well, let’s defund the police,” which was then, made it sound like we were going to have anarchy. Of course, the right picked up on that and it became a political football, like most issues today. 

I mean, another one would be immigration where you have two sides, one calling for build walls and the other saying open borders, both of which tend to make a caricature of the other side, which leads to no progress at all, a counterproductive discussion. Immigration like many of these things is a complex issue. There are many aspects of the immigration landscape, many specific problems that need addressing. 

Once again, here, as I discussed in the book, history can be a guide. Over the course of our history, we’ve had many periods when we’ve had a need for immigrants for certain skills and certain jobs. Our immigration policy has been designed accordingly and there have been other times when our immigration policy has been more xenophobic and has not allowed certain types of people to come to America but the right answer is that we can have completely closed borders because immigrants are what have built this country. We also can have complete the open boarders where anyone could come in, we need a system. 

What’s frustrating, Bryan about this and I can use a concrete example, is eight years ago, the Gang of Eight on the Hill, which were a group of leaders of the Republicans and Democrats together, had come up with a very comprehensive bill on the immigration reform. That was detailed. It addressed many of the issues that are plaguing us today. Because it was a compromised coming together, it was far from perfect. In fact, people on the left were very upset because that particular comprehensive program had quotas. They weren’t called quotas, but they were effectively certain quotas and people on the right, very upset because that comprehensive plan had a pathway to citizenship for dreamers.

My point being, it didn’t make everyone happy, but at the same time it was a set of pragmatic solutions based on compromise. Now, here we are eight years later after just throwing around slogans, like build a wall and open borders and we’re much further away from a solution. We had this pragmatic framework we could have built upon and we tend now to throw it all away and take one side or the other, which is ludicrous. 

Immigration’s a complex issue. This is a good example to me of where reason debate and rational thinking and objective facts matter. We cannot discuss these problems only from the perspective of the emotional environment of Twitter or social media and throw slogans around at each other. That’s true for so many issues that we face today. 

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. Well, I love what you said. You talked about fighting unreason with reason, which I really resonate with. From the lens of, let’s just say back to the business leader, right?

Seth David Radwell: Right. 

Bryan Wish: You’re talking about, you said first, I’m just kind of think of our own system of dialogue here, right? 

Seth David Radwell: Sure.

Bryan Wish: You said, be appreciative of the infrastructure that’s in place that’s allowing you to do, internalize it with the family but once you take that step, it sounds like, yes, you might be emotionally impassioned, but you got to look at the objective and facts around things. I mean, what is that next step in that conversation though to once you have an individual kind of internalize it on their themselves, how do you move the conversation along effectively?

Seth David Radwell: Well, one of the structures that I argue for in the book is breaking out of these twin, these two bubbles that we’re in. People recognize and talk a lot about the fact that we’re often in a partisan bubble. We get our source of news from one place. We’re seeing stories that reaffirm how we think. Part of what builds our constitution of knowledge is an ability to be open to the fact that we may be wrong. We have to be able to let new information enter and adjust our thinking based on facts. 

The first part is about really questioning our source of information and how we evaluate facts, information, sources, et cetera. Then, the second bubble that I think were caught in, is it a time bubble, meaning that we think our problems today are so you unique that they’re so, what’s the worst political divide we’ve ever had. 

Well, the truth is history has a lot to tell us. Where we came from and what we’ve struggled with in the past, is often relevant for our issues today and the historical perspective can act as a salve for our wounds. It’s always good to give you concrete examples of this. I think one of the concrete examples that relates to a very topical issue is the January 6th attack on the capital, very emotional issue. You’ve got the left trying to figure, oh, the democratic party, the establishment trying to figure out what happened during the real investigation and you have many on the right who are trying to whitewash it because they fear it will undermine the big lie that Trump has been putting forth about how he won the election, which of course is not true.

You’ve got these two things going on, but yet very few are talking about understanding what happened on January 6th in the context of history. Let’s take a step back and talk about that for a second. January 6th was hardly the first attack on the government. The constitution wasn’t even written in 1787 when there was something called Shays Rebellion, which was her rebellion against the government in Massachusetts. 

There was another rebellion a couple of years later called the Whiskey Rebellion. Of course, these were very different situations, but at their core, there was a very fundamental similarity, which is relevant, which is the following. We’re a country that was born out of rebellion. We rebelled against the British crown, declared independence violently and created a new republic. If that’s the model, every time there’s a grievance, people might think they have the right to rebel violently and create independence. That’s where we came from.

In fact, when you understand, for example, in Shays Rebellion, Daniel Shays was a veteran of the revolutionary war. He was a farmer in Western Massachusetts. It’s important to understand what they were so upset about. Daniel Shays was injured in the war as many of his colleagues, which many of his contemporaries also died in the war. 

After almost sacrificing his life for American independence, a couple of years later, the Federalist plan for paying for the war was to tax a lot of the farmers. These people, people who were injured and wounded and many killed were now being asked to pay for the war and they were furious. That’s why they rebelled against the government of Massachusetts. 

Now, there wasn’t a federal army at the time, but Washington in his brilliance had to navigate between understanding their grievances and trying to solve them and address them while also recognizing that they had no right to overthrow the government, that violence had to be quashed. It’s very similar to what happened on January 6th. You have people who, and I go into this and the book at some detail, I mean, the grievances that many working class Americans have felt, especially in rural areas because they’ve been left behind by the economic globalist, capitalist kind of framework that we’ve been pursuing for 40 years. 

They have some real grievances that are worth listening to, and we better listen to them. Part of the rage that comes out of many Americans as I discussed in American Schism, is that the establishment, both political parties have ignored them for too long, have in fact shown them disdain, whether it was Hillary Clinton’s calling the deplorables or Mitt Romney talking about the takers, both, everyone in the political establishment to a large part has shown disdain for working class Americans outside of elite circles. That has led to incredible rage. 

My point being, understanding where that comes from and trying to address it, is the responsibility of public officials. At the same time, it doesn’t mean there’s an allowance or permission to attack and overthrow the government. Violence has to be suppressed. We’ve seen this in many examples, whether it was, as I mentioned, the Whiskey Rebellion, Shays Rebellion and the civil war, our history has been one of recognizing the right of protests and addressing grievances while trying to avoid and quash violence. It’s under against that backdrop that we really need to understand what happened on January 6th.

Bryan Wish: Well, you give a good context because you’re saying this is the underpinnings of how America was built. You said it was country born out of rebellion.

Seth David Radwell: Right.

Bryan Wish: Well, January 6th happened. It’s no surprise because of the past history, yet part of, even though that’s how we’ve built as a country, that doesn’t mean the way happened was right and violence should be squashed especially in the way it was handled more-

Seth David Radwell: Well, so this is the point. The point is when you look at the founders, the founding fathers of our country and all their writings that they did, this is very much explored in American Schism. They argued, they made a case regarding the grievances of the crown that was so thorough and so dependent on showing that they exhausted all measures of trying to address their grievances. They argued and postulated that violence is only permitted as a last resort after all of these other methods are pursued. 

They created, if you will, a hurdle, a criteria for when true violent rebellion is required and my point is, is that, the situation today is so far short of those hurdles, that’s why it’s kind of a travesty, because we’re not in a situation where there’s reason to overthrow the government. There could be certainly reason to protest and to vote. 

Only 60% of Americans vote. If things are so bad, why don’t the rest of them vote? Many of the folks who were willing to attack the capital on January 6th, many of them have been disenfranchised in terms of by the themselves, have dropped out of the political process. 

My point being, we could spend hours discussing the motivation behind what happened on January 6th and surely there were many protestors there who were not violent, probably the majority, but there has been over the past couple of years and I blame Trump and his administration for this an absolute encouragement and incitement of violence. That’s been part of the method, which demagogues often use to get support. It’s both, it’s very well documented in history. That documentation and that historical record is recapitulated in American Schism, in the book and it’s very scary because it has been used in ways that have been very violent and very counterproductive over the course of recent history.

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. Build on that from a global narrative, I mean, I found myself after that just almost embarrassed, just beyond embarrassed and embarrassed to be like an American because your perception to others around the world is like, “Wow, this is your government?” 

Seth David Radwell: Right. It’s a little, yeah, exactly. I can relate to that.

Bryan Wish: Something just, you’re right, it wasn’t an incitement. I think it’s the wrong way to make a message, but I appreciate you’re using the constructs of the book though to share how and the history behind it. Something I want to keep coming back to this cocktail event just so I can get, it’s so pivotal in this whole storyline. I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but I’ve thought about this a lot actually. 

I think running a business or being in business up until recently, my focus was very, let’s just say tunneled on what I could control. Business was a means of execution, a means of creation, a means of, I have a goal X, I achieve Y and that consistent wheel is it’s what creates that dopamine. I think sometimes in politics, when discussing, it feels almost as if, if you yourself can’t have that much of a difference or it’s going to take a very long time, why engage? Why try?

Seth David Radw…: Why try? Right. 

Bryan Wish: Again, that’s how I felt for a lot of years. I think the last couple years I’ve like, “Oh wow, this is a big world and these decisions have a major impact,” but it’s taken a while to get there. My question for you is what would you say to the person who’s maybe in that old state or that state I was talking about, whether they’re more closed mind, they’re in their tunnel? How do you get them out of the tunnel, so to speak, and help them open their eyes up and then say, “You know what? Progress might take a long time, but you can make a difference? How do you go about engaging someone in that conversation? 

Seth David Radwell: Yeah. It’s a wonderful question. The analogy that I use is it relates to concentric circles and you start locally. While it’s true that to change federal policy, let’s say, can seem really hard, the polis itself starts at the community at your family and in the community. I think the first thing to do is to realize how much you can get done at a more, a localized level because there your political will and skill are much more powerful than they are at the federal level.

I think the answer to that dilemma that you’re talking about is start starting local. What in your community is not working? What needs to be changed? I mean, every day there’s stories of people who take action to address issues related to their community. Often it starts in their church or their local environment, their block association. 

Again, in using, Jefferson’s model of what a democracy’s about, it’s decentralized. The more you can start with using your, addressing, let’s say, the political arena in the local environment, I think there, you’ll see that you’ll have incredible power. My model is to build out from there. Start locally and eventually, you’ll be meeting people and seeing change happen at the local level that might start expanding out to the county level and the state level. That’s how it works in concentric circles from your local environment. 

Bryan Wish: Wow. 

Seth David Radwell: I think that’s the way to think about it. I think that too many Americans, go right to the feeling that they have little say in the overall economy or overall country as a whole because it’s so vast. Of course, there’s some truth to that but at the same time, the fact that only, let’s say 65% of Americans vote who are eligible is pretty sad, I mean, it used to be in some countries that voting was obligatory. Now, I don’t think that’s appropriate. I think it should be people’s choice to vote, but I think more people have the right to exercise it. 

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. 

Seth David Radwell: Yeah. 

Bryan Wish: Well, what I think what you said about the concentric circles, people start maybe more at the state and the federal level in their conversations. 

Seth David Radwell: Right.

Bryan Wish: Right? Because they look at national global issues and then they don’t think about what can they do to engage in my own backyard first. How does that kind of move up stream? I often think about building community. It’s like the top down bottoms up, like who are the people at the top of the local level? How do you empower the people from the bottom? How do you that process to drive mobilize, change it. I’m reading a book right now called Power for All and it talks about creating a public narrative. It’s like the story of you, the story of us, when you want to drive change and then the story of why now?

Seth David Radwell: Right. 

Bryan Wish: Putting out a statement to really mobilize people, I think a layer though, is you have to do that in your own backyard first. I love what you said. Seth, I want to move, I have two outward and future facing questions…

Seth David Radwell: Okay.

Bryan Wish: … me over this call and I have one inward to kind of close this off. Then, we’ll let people figure out where to find you. 

Seth David Radwell: Right. 

Bryan Wish: Something to what you were actually, I think is a nice segue from what you were talking about, concentric circles, in business and the tech community right now, there’s a lot going on with the DeFi and let’s just say the crypto space and creating these communities that, people have their ideas in a way that they’ve never had them before. There’s some articles and things I’ve also read about how that’s going to impact politics. How does governance play a role in the future of humanity? As we look out 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 years, where do you see the role of government and how it will operate maybe different from how it does today?

Seth David Radwell: Well, the fear of course, Bryan, that I have is that there’s a tendency because things are so complex and there’s so many sources of diffuse information, there’s a tendency to move towards autocracy now. It’s almost easier to trust an autocrat to run things, like where edicts are handed down as opposed to doing the bottom up work required in a democratic republic. 

That’s what’s frightening because like in Europe, for example, you see a tendency towards autocracy. You see autocrats who, in many forms of government, whether it’s Xi in China or Putin in Russia or Orban in Hungary or Erdogan in Turkey, who, because of the chaos, in a sense, they’re claiming broad powers to run things the way that they want to, which of course, benefits people like them and those in power.

That’s the framework against which, I think we have to recommit to a democratic form of government, which is sometimes really hard. In my book, I talk a lot about the researcher, Danielle Allen, who’s written a lot about what it takes to make a democracy work. She has, and I have as well, I write about very practical things that we can do to make our democratic for a more practical, more pragmatic, things like rank choice voting, things like term limits. I mean, there are things we can fix in our system to make it function better. 

I think, the overall point I’m trying to make is that we need reform that our founders didn’t intend for the constitution to be fixed. It was supposed to be malleable. We were supposed to change it every generation, and it requires some changes and some updates. My sense is we need those things to make it vibrant again. I guess the answer to your question is we need to be able to modify, to adapt to new things and make changes. It can’t be stagnant because if the democratic form stays too stagnant, it will be replaced by other forms of government.

Bryan Wish: Well, interesting conversations ahead, which is why the work you’re doing is beyond important to get people to kind of step up from the bottom up and then maybe take action in their own backyard. 

Seth David Radwell: Right. Fight on reason with reason at the local level.

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. Love it. Well, I think that’s a key insight here. Another question I have is, let’s just say, and whatever you’re comfortable answering, the next election, we’re a few years away, what do you see happening and based on what you see happening, how do you think that’ll impact next, maybe four to eight years down the line? 

Seth David Radwell: Well, I mean, there’s so many unknowns, but we’re in a dangerous place because right now, in my view, we don’t, first of all, I think the whole two party system has been a problem. I discussed this in the book, it’s become a monopoly and I favor a multi-party system with more voices, but at the least we need two very, two real parties that are solving problems and living in the real world. 

Right now, a good part of the leadership of the Republican Party is not living in reality. That’s very dangerous. I would say that if that part of the Republican Party remains in control, all bets are off because there’s an opportunity. Trump may get reelected or it’s unclear what’s going to happen, but we need to be living in reality. We need to recognize that viruses are not a conspiracy and neither are vaccines, and that we don’t need to count the vote in Arizona for the 22nd time. We counted it 21 times and it showed that Trump did not win. 

This is what I mean about living in reality. The first question is, are we going to move past kind of the Trump Republican Party. There’s some, I mean, Glenn Youngkin, who won in Virginia as governor, he very much distanced himself. He kind of conservative, operated in reality. I think Liz Cheney is making an incredible case as now is Chris Christie that the Republican Party has to re-embrace our enlightenment inheritance. 

Those are the people that I think, if they can move the Republican Party forward away from this, amygdala driven wrath and rage that Trump has fostered, but that really started before Trump, if they can move us forward, I think we’ll have a healthier democracy. If not, I fear for the future of our Republic. 

Bryan Wish: Wow. Well, you speak beyond eloquently around these topics. 

Seth David Radwell: Thank you. 

Bryan Wish: Obviously, you’ve done, read hundreds of books on them, written a book, combining all your research, but it’s just poetic. You say it with such grace, yet, you’re like the model example. I think for teaching business leaders how to talk around these issues in a way that’s so eloquent. I just appreciate your insight and answering my questions, which could get dicey just depending on how you answer them. 

Seth David Radwell: Well, it’s a pleasure. I love to hear from listeners. americanschismbook.com, which is the website for the book, it has a place to enter questions or ask questions. I love to get in touch with listeners and readers because I like to engage on these topics. I’m doing a lot of work right now with a group called Braver Angels, which is a national organization, nonprofit that gets people together at the local level to discuss politics. I’m enjoying that work and would love to do more of it. I hope I could hear from your listeners.

Bryan Wish: Absolutely. Well, thank you. Seth, if they want to reach out to you, where would they find you as well?

Seth David Radwell: Sure, americanschismbook.com is a place where they can email me or they can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn and just message me or on Facebook. I’m on all those platforms where they can message me and find me there.

Bryan Wish: Awesome. Well, thank you for the great work you’re doing for humanity, for the governance of our democratic system. It’s been such a joy to get to know you and learn from you.

Seth David Radwell: Thank you, Bryan. It’s been a pleasure working with you. Thanks for having me.

Bryan Wish: Absolutely.

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