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Greg Salmieri on Rubin Report discussing today's political culture

The Rubin Report: Navigating Today’s Political Culture

It’s hardly breaking news that our political culture has gotten ugly lately. But what is driving this trend? And is there a way to navigate it in a more positive way? In the latest in his series of interviews with Objectivist intellectuals, Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, speaks with philosopher Gregory Salmieri, Anthem Foundation fellow and lecturer at Rutgers University, to get his perspective on these and other questions.

Salmieri agrees that our political culture has become particularly ugly over the past few years. The Left increasingly couches its rhetoric in terms of group privilege, of oppressor and oppressed, and argues, as Salmieri puts it, “not in terms of what rights people need to make their lives better, but who should be resented for our ills.” He also points to the ways in which the same kind of mentality is developing on the Right, citing the growing paranoia about immigration and the scapegoating of immigrants and the Chinese. This, says Salmieri, is just another form of resentment and grievance politics.

This country is all about the pursuit of happiness.  The reason you need the politics is to enable you to be free to pursue that happiness.
But Salmieri notes that as bad as the situation is, seen from a wider historical perspective, we are not living in any kind of apocalypse. It’s definitely worrying that the kind of mob mentality of “direct action,” of campus riots and sit-ins common during the 1960s and ’70s seems to be returning. But our situation now, he says, is not nearly as bad as it was then.

For those of us who want to think about and discuss the political situation maturely and honestly, asks Rubin, what is the path forward? Salmieri responds with three main pieces of advice:

(1) Distance yourself from the teams — from the “Right” and the “Left.”

Salmieri points out that there is more ideological diversity on either side than partisans of each are inclined to think. And although there is a set of ideas driving cultural change (for better or worse), those ideas are not the unique property of one of those sides; they are usually shared by both parties.

(2) Be more focused on the positive values you want to see achieved than on grievances or antipathy.

This country is all about the pursuit of happiness, says Salmieri. The reason you need the politics is to enable you to be free to pursue that happiness. So, when thinking about politics, keep your focus on the happiness you want to pursue and on the kind of political system you think is needed for that.

(3) Value the existing aspects of America that are good.

There is, says Salmieri, a lot that’s good about America. And, whatever its problems and shortcomings, it is an enormous achievement that must be valued. Reminding yourself of just how much is good about America can stimulate a real desire to change it for the better and recommit to it, rather than thinking, as some do, that we just need to burn it all down.

When thinking about politics, keep your focus on the happiness you want to pursue and on the kind of political system you think is needed for that. Click To TweetOther questions addressed in the interview include:

  • What is the difference between choosing the lesser of two evils and putting aside morality when making decisions about political issues?
  • Are the media more biased today, or does it just seem that way?
  • Given the present media and social media news environment, how can we become more objective trackers of the truth and better able to filter out the bias and fabrications?
  • How important is it to get good people into politics?
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To hear the full discussion of these topics, watch the embedded video below. To follow this ongoing series of interviews — the result of a partnership between Rubin and the Ayn Rand Institute — see the episode list below.


Objectivism on Happiness (Rubin Report episode list):

In this episode, Onkar Ghate and Tara Smith delve into the question of how selfishness could possibly be a good thing — and why Rand is the only thinker who has dared to challenge the basic moral premises that have animated our culture for more than two thousand years. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Onkar Ghate explains why free will matters for one’s own life and happiness, and how human free will is consistent with the Law of Causality. He and Dave Rubin also discuss the effects of genes and environment on a person’s nature and choices of actions. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Dave Rubin has an in-depth discussion with Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate about tribalism as a low form of collectivism. They examine its manifestations on the left and the right today, including “intersectionality” and “the oppression Olympics,” explaining how these are consequences of the moral code of altruism. They contrast all of that with the original American system, which was geared toward the rational, productive person pursuing his own happiness. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri join Dave Rubin to discuss the moral and practical considerations involved in achieving one's own personal happiness. They discuss the Objectivist perspective on happiness as a flourishing and successful state of life and provide guidance on how to create a happy life that is a purposeful, meaningful and integrated whole. In discussing free will, they examine what is and what is not within an individual's control. The discussion also encompasses related topics such as how a deep sense of meaning is possible in a world without God. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Gregory Salmieri and Harry Binswanger talk with Dave Rubin about Binswanger’s experience knowing Ayn Rand personally, why Ayn Rand’s ideas continue to generate the strong reactions they do — and Objectivism’s novel view of the relationship between facts and values. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Tara Smith talks with Dave Rubin about what it means to take one’s happiness seriously. Smith discusses the objective requirements of flourishing, the role of the ideas one accepts in one’s pursuit of happiness, and what it means to be self-interested in the pursuit of team goals or relationships. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher. For more perspective see the New Ideal announcement.
In this episode, Yaron Brook and Gena Gorlin talk with Dave Rubin about what it takes to live a meaningful life. Among the topics discussed: why a career purpose is so important, and how to navigate the challenges inherent in a career; why deep engagement with art can be such a powerful inspiration; and why rationality is not only compatible with romantic love, but a necessary condition for it. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Harry Binswanger speaks one-on-one with Dave Rubin about Objectivism’s view of truth, objectivity and self-interest — and why these concepts matter outside the philosophy classroom. Other topics of discussion include Binswanger’s experience hearing Ayn Rand speak for the first time, and how that lecture affected the course of his life; how to answer a skeptic who claims there is no objective truth; and why Objectivism considers self-sacrifice to be immoral. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Yaron Brook joins Dave Rubin to discuss why Ayn Rand and her ideas matter today. Brook explains the unique value Objectivism brings to today’s intellectual landscape — and how Rand’s vision of what it looks like to achieve a truly happy, fulfilling life has inspired generations of idealistic young people to gravitate toward her. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, philosopher Gregory Salmieri and psychologist Gena Gorlin talk with Dave Rubin about the psychological requirements of happiness. Among the topics discussed: what it means to treat happiness as a process, not just an outcome; the difference between Rand’s view of the pursuit of happiness and the “hedonic treadmill” notion of pursuing shallow pleasures that never truly satisfy; how having a central purpose can resolve internal conflicts; and how to find a sense of meaning in life. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, John Allison and Dave Rubin discuss the role of philosophy in Allison’s business success. Ranked by Harvard Business Review among the world’s 100 most successful CEOs over the last decade, Allison explains how a business culture built upon Objectivist virtues helped his company, BB&T Corporation, to successfully navigate the 2008 financial crisis, growing in assets from $4.5 billion to $152 billion during his tenure. Audio podcasts are available at iTunes and Stitcher.
In the final episode of the series, philosopher Gregory Salmieri joins Dave Rubin for a big-picture discussion of today’s political culture. Salmieri compares the ugly aspects of our political situation with those of the past and gives advice about how to navigate it in a more positive way. Among other topics discussed: whether it’s important to “get good people into politics,” how to think about the “lesser of two evils,” whether the media is more biased today than in the past, and how to be a better consumer of news. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
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Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in philosophy, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute where he lectures and develops educational content for the Institute’s intellectual training and outreach programs.

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