On 2 March 2017, authors Joel Berg and Matt Taibbi, both experts on American politics, took the stage at Town Hall Seattle to discuss their most recent books. They then sat down for a joint Q&A session. The event, Finding Common Ground in America, was fantastic to watch. Mr. Berg delivered his points about an ailing America in classic New Yorker style – fast and unrelenting. Mr. Taibbi then shared his insights on the 2016 presidential campaign, including the media’s coverage of it and Donald Trump’s success in using that coverage as a ratings engine to drive his efforts.
Both books – Mr. Berg’s America We Need to Talk: A Self-Help Book for the Nation and Mr. Taibbi’s Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus – sound like compelling and timely looks at America’s contentious political environment. They may also be useful tools in helping to better understand how the country has arrived at what appears to be a crisis of faith and trust in our elected leaders, government institutions, journalism, and fellow citizens.
The real star of the evening, though, was Town Hall, an august, minimalist forum in which community members gather to discuss issues of the day. And Thursday night’s event was more of a discussion than it was a presentation. Granted, for the most part, the speakers were addressing a friendly, receptive audience. Criticism of President Trump’s policies and actions prompted wide-spread applause, but some audience members challenged Mr. Berg on the Hillary Clinton – Bernie Sanders divide. The discussion continued and expanded during the Q&A, with Mr. Berg and Mr. Taibbi sharing the stage and providing thoughtful responses to questions. The discussion could have used a little more emphasis on “finding common ground”, but overall it was a civil, informative evening that helped shed light on the current political landscape.