MICHAEL B. ABRAMSON
Part I: Jon Stewart, Charles Krauthmammer,
and America's Game of Political Telephone
Author’s Note: This article is the first in a series of three articles on the topic.
One of the major problems impeding movement in America’s political system is the misunderstanding and mischaracterization of politicians’ views, positions, and beliefs. In many ways, the problems in communication and understanding are similar to the children’s game of “telephone” in which many kids wind up with different versions of the same story. The problem is with both many liberals’ definition of conservatism and many conservatives’ definition of liberalism. This misunderstanding of political beliefs was showcased on the October 23, 2013, episode of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
During the show, Jon Stewart (a liberal) interviewed Dr. Charles Krauthammer (a conservative), who is a syndicated columnist and regular on Fox News. Because both are highly informed and knowledgeable about politics and current events, one would expect the interview to be about policy perspectives and plans to address the nation’s pressing issues. The interview, however, became a discussion of political labels and their definitions.
The interview proceeded as follows. Stewart outlined his problem with conservatism: that conservatism believes that government has no responsibility for people. Krauthammer took issue with Stewart’s definition of conservatism. Krauthammer stated that conservatism applauds the successes of liberalism and that conservative government wants to continue helping people. He noted, however, that conservatives want the government to change the way it helps people because the current welfare state is headed to insolvency. Jon Stewart responded: “If it [conservatism] was ever presented in that fashion, the way you just presented it, I think the conversation we would be having in this country is very different.”
Sadly, the differences in people’s definition and perception of political stances which Krauthammer and Stewart highlighted is becoming the norm in America. In contrast to the bickering in the political world, however, the interview has a positive message. After Krauthammer gave his definition of conservatism and Stewart accepted it, it became evident that the two sides were much closer in their goals that previously believed. Indeed, the difference between conservative and liberal was not whether government should help the lower and middle classes but how the government should do so. The key to arriving at this conclusion was to accurately state each party’s beliefs.
In the span of a few minutes, Stewart and Krauthammer were able to remedy a huge misunderstanding between them and pave the way for a meaningful dialogue addressing social issues. Politicians in America should follow Stewart and Krauthammer’s example of constructive dialogue and seeking out one’s true beliefs.
In Part II of the blog, I will address possible reasons for the “game of telephone” in contemporary politics and offer solutions to fix the problem.
 For instance, he noted that Social Security was created in a time in which life expectancy was 60 and now it is 80. Social Security’s monetary problems can, in part, be traced to the changes in life expectancy.