Opinion

I try to keep an open mind. So should you.

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Natasha Mayer
Political Consultant
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      Natasha Mayer

      Natasha Mayer grew up in suburban Detroit, Michigan. A graduate of New York University’s prestigious film school, she began her career working in independent film. She has worked as a news producer for Fox News Channel and Voice of America. In 2006, she left broadcast news to become a media and strategic communications consultant in Iraq, where she managed a local television station and worked directly with the Prime Minister on various media and public relations issues. In the West Bank, Ms. Mayer oversaw a MEPI-funded project to promote independent local media in Palestine. In Washington, D.C, the most dangerous of war zones, she works as a political consultant, and served as communications director for Congressman Dave Reichert.

Here’s a dirty little secret about life for politicos in D.C.: We’re all friends here. Republicans, Democrats, Hill staffers, consultants, lobbyists, journalists — we all drink at the same bars, gossip about the same people, shop at the same grocery stores. Sure, at work we’re policy wonks and experts on talking points, but off the clock we unwind over the same drinks and drunkenly deal with life’s bigger issues like our fantasy football draft picks. We’re actual people who think for ourselves.

That’s why it’s always kind of surprising when my friends from outside the Beltway bubble take certain issues or stands I write about so personally. Last week, a friend of mine sent me an opinion article arguing that Republicans are anti-intellectual and accused me of promoting candidates whose supporters can’t think for themselves. Well, in my humble opinion, Republicans (and the other 56% of mainstream voters not planning to re-elect Barack Obama) are not anti-intellectual, we’re anti-intellectuals. I’m sure you know just who I’m describing: those smarmy people who always know so much more about a topic than anyone else because they read one article about it.

The fact is that people on both sides base their opinions on what they read. (And if you think I’m talking about everybody except for you, you’re not alone.) Conveniently, they tend to only read publications that are likely to reinforce their worldviews. This holds for everything from big issues like global warming, the economy and unions, to seemingly minor ones like takeout containers or even hand soap. Yes, hand soap. Every cause has its own activists.

Just last week, The New York Times published an innocuous article about the Food and Drug Administration deciding against a ban on antibacterial hand soaps. A reasonable person would assume that’s because the agency has no good reason to think the public is in any danger. Mother Jones magazine disagreed, and railed against it, accusing the FDA of not doing its job. Mother Jones even blamed the “soap lobby” (it must be very clean there) for defending their safe products. Apparently, it’s evil for an industry to defend itself. It’s everybody else who’s innocent until proven otherwise.

Mother Jones’s source is the left-leaning National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). But are there any chemicals the NRDC doesn’t want to ban? Lemme see, nope. Any time an environmentalist wants to write an article and needs “data” to support it, she knows exactly where to look. The NRDC says a chemical in hand soaps called triclosan creates superbugs, even though evidence exists that those superbugs have actually existed for over 30,000 years.

Some advice for all my loyal readers who don’t live in Washington and work in politics: Rather than just letting Mother Jones or Andrew Sullivan or even me tell you what to think, seek out a second or third opinion and decide for yourselves whether anything, including hand soap, is safe.

More and more, when I engage in political discussions with my liberal friends, I’m accused of being a helpless idiot if I don’t agree with left-wing propaganda The Daily Beast and Mother Jones. But when everybody with a soapbox starts contributing their two bits to my well-being or calls me a partisan hack, I tell them I’ve tried my best to come to my own reasoned decisions, but I’m wide open to hearing their side.

I admit, I’ve lost friends outside the Beltway because of candidates I voted for and causes I supported, but here in the thick of it, I know Republicans who smoke pot, Democrats who are staunchly pro-life and everybody in between. We here try to live our own lives and make up our own minds.

Natasha Mayer is a political consultant in Washington, D.C.

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  • Puffynugget

    I think this goes to the point that there are extremists on both sides…

    http://www.mediaite.com/online/hey-guess-what-every-political-side-has-extremists-too/

  • Lily5152

    “Friends” who dump you because of a political opinion aren’t really friends anyway and you’re well rid of them.  People who are unable to discuss/explain/defend an opinion without demonizing an opposing view (and person) will never be able to clearly evaluate any problem or come up with a reasonable, rational solution to anything.

  • Puffynugget

    I think she does a good job of saying both sides are accountable….and I think there are many examples, this is just a current one. Look, for example at solar energy, and what the advocates for that topic have done in relation to politicians kowtowing to their demands…

  • Puffynugget

    I think she does a good job of saying both sides are accountable….and I think there are many examples, this is just a current one. Look, for example at solar energy, and what the advocates for that topic have done in relation to politicians kowtowing to their demands…

  • Seamac

    It’s always interesting when an individual advocates people having an open mind (which I’m all for) and then proceeds to criticize only one side. Hey, it’s ok to be on the right (or left or in the middle), but please don’t act like your side is the only reasonable position and that you and your pals are the only open-minded ones. If you truly want to be open minded, criticize both sides, not just the left. All in all, this is another DC fluff piece designed to pad someone’s resume. One would hope that there are better examples more suited to a serious discussion than soap.

    • Anonymous

      I think she does Seamac. Look at the end of the article. But Miss Mayer is a Republican and she writes about her own experiences on the receiving side of the criticisms.

    • Anonymous

      I think she does Seamac. Look at the end of the article. But Miss Mayer is a Republican and she writes about her own experiences on the receiving side of the criticisms.

  • Alvin

    Thanks for your article. I always enjoy to read your perspective. I agree completely that the left and the right both have their extremists, but the right tends to make that point without acknowledging that their own extremists are actually the core of the Republican party. I’m not an expert on the soap issue you cite, but my guess is that President Obama won’t be advocating that position, nor will the people competing for the 2016 Democratic nomination appear to be taking their talking points right out of Mother Jones. On the other hand, you do have a group of people running for the Republican nomination (with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman who is not a factor thus far), with positions no different than those held by the extremes on the right.  What’s the extreme right position on taxes? On evolution? On guns? On Obamacare? And who running for the Republican nomination (or in the Republican party for that matter) differ from that point of view? And when someone does fit that bill — they either need to capitulate to get the nomination (see Romney now or McCain 2008) or are rejected by the party (Guiliani).  And to your friend’s point, there is an anti-intellectual bent among the Republicans. No one likes “intellectuals” — whatever that means, but the idea that people with expertise (like economists or scientists) do not matter and that “the people” know best might make a good sound bite, but it just isn’t true in many contexts. Certain problems are complicated and require expertise to solve, and too often, the Republicans, far more than the Democrats, reject the opinions of experts with the disparaging comments about elites or ivory towers or intellectuals, and rely on the canard of their “gut” or the “common sense” of the American people. That, to me, is anti-intellectualism, and it’s not good for the country. So, when every leading economists warns that a default by the U.S. would be catstrophic, but a leading Republican like Michele Bachman disputes that without any basis, that’s dangerous — and it’s incubment upon others, especially Republicans, to call her out on that.