I share some of Frank Luntz Frustration after 5 years of Barack Obama, a GOP purity fight and a more progressives Democratic party. Our current political system has placed: black against white, men against women, young against old and rich against poor.
People who want you to hear them out, but will not listen.
We used to debate issues, like the minimum wage in a public forum, so the electorate could become educated on the issues. This form of public discourse has long been replaced with polarized partisan media.
From the Atlantic: The Agony of Frank Luntz
But beneath the surface, he says, is a roiling turmoil that threatens to consume him. He orders a chicken pot pie, then berates himself for not choosing something healthier. In recent months, he tells me, he has often contemplated quitting everything; he has spent long weeks alone, unable to sort out his thoughts. Frank Luntz, the master political manipulator, a man who has always evinced a cheery certainty about who’s right and who’s winning and how it all works, is a mess.
And yet, over the hour and a half I spend talking with him—the first time he has spoken publicly about his current state of mind—it’s hard to grasp what the crisis is about. Luntz hasn’t renounced his conservative worldview. His belief in unfettered capitalism and individual self-reliance appears stronger than ever. He hasn’t become disillusioned with his very profitable career or his nomadic, solitary lifestyle. His complaints—that America is too divided, President Obama too partisan, and the country in the grip of an entitlement mentality that is out of control—seem pretty run-of-the-mill. But his anguish is too deeply felt not to be real. Frank Luntz is having some kind of crisis. I just can’t quite get my head around it.
A few weeks after our lunch, Luntz tells me he’s made a move. He has changed his principal residence from Northern Virginia to a condo overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, and he’s contemplating a sale of his company, Luntz Global LLC, the details of which he is not at liberty to discuss. Las Vegas, he says, represents “my chance to be intellectually challenged again” by a place that is “the closest thing to a melting pot America has to offer.” As fresh starts go, it’s not much, but Luntz hopes it will bring some new clarity.
“I just gave up,” Luntz says.
His side had lost. Mitt Romney had, in his view, squandered a good chance at victory with a strategically idiotic campaign. (“I didn’t work on the campaign. It just sucked, as a professional. And it killed me because I realized on Election Day that there’s nothing I can do about it.”) But Luntz’s side had lost elections before. His dejection was deeper: It was, he says, about why the election was lost. “I spend more time with voters than anybody else,” Luntz says. “I do more focus groups than anybody else. I do more dial sessions than anybody else. I don’t know shit about anything, with the exception of what the American people think.”
It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him. They were contentious and argumentative. They didn’t listen to each other as they once had. They weren’t interested in hearing other points of view. They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor. “They want to impose their opinions rather than express them,” is the way he describes what he saw. “And they’re picking up their leads from here in Washington.” Haven’t political disagreements always been contentious, I ask? “Not like this,” he says. “Not like this.”
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