Brian M. Sobel spent several years working for a major corporation as a writer, training consultant and video producer, before opening his Petaluma-based consulting firm Sobel Communications.
He’s a been a candidate for the California State Assembly, a planning commissioner and vice mayor of Petaluma, and an on-air political analyst on Bay Area television.
The Business Journal asked Sobel for insight on the current state of national, state and local politics.
Tribal biases and divided loyalties seem to define the political climate of the country these days. If that is so, how bad is it, and why?
Many times throughout our history we have been sharply divided along political, geographic, ethnic and ideological lines. Policy differences and invective in the American system goes back to the Continental Congress and certainly the divisions leading up to the Civil War speak for themselves. It can be said of the Civil War we have never been so divided as a nation.
Deep divisions were also present before World War I and World War II when an ongoing debate in Congress and within the American populous concerned sending American troops overseas. Isolationists urged America to stay out of foreign wars. The famed general and aviator Jimmy Doolittle characterized it best when I interviewed him and we talked about a divided nation before World War II. His answer was, “On December 6, 1941, we were a divided nation. On December 7 we were as one.”
America also revisited a sharp divide throughout the Vietnam era as well, and so it goes. A divide is not necessarily the worst thing, although it can bring out the worst in people. At the end of the day we are a big broad-shouldered nation and we will be just fine.
Is there any way to recover a civil political discourse in the country? Or is this just more a swing of political trends, one that will shift back at some point?
Clearly, we need to be able to have a rational discussion with a person who does not share our point of view and yet, still respect the right of that person to have their opinion.
We are currently in a place where we are not being as civil to others as we should be. We often forget the bedrock of the American experiment is compromise. We have relied on compromise to pass landmark legislation and to address our most serious national questions. Compromise is not weakness and when everyone feels a little pain in the decision-making process, everyone also wins. At the end of the day, the pendulum will swing back to the middle or near middle as it always does.
Much has been made of the shift in the number of people being involved in politics – especially women. Do you think this is a sustaining trend, or something that will quickly dissipate?
First, the more people we can bring to politics, the better.
I once served on a city council where of the seven members I was the only male and to tell you the truth I never thought about it. The media were all over the story, including several national outlets, but our goal was to effectively run a city and while there were the inevitable disagreements over a range of issues, never did it have to do with gender.