Talking Politics with Arden Walentowski of Let’s Get Civical
There’s a new podcast in town to teach you everything your high school civics class should have covered but probably didn’t.
Photo by Joakim Honkasalo on Unsplash
Political fatigue is something that I suffer greatly from. A while ago, I had to mute notifications from my BBC news app because I kept getting breaking news alerts about some guy causing chaos in The White House. Turns out that guy is the President.
In fact, I can’t remember a point in my adult life when the political world has felt so alienating and made me so uncomfortable. It’s not just that Trump and his band of crooks are anti-everything I stand for, it’s that I also only half grasp the jargon being spouted to describe his actions and what others are doing to combat him. (And I spent a semester studying how government works as part of my journalism degree, so I can’t even imagine how other people feel.)
Luckily, there’s a new podcast in town to teach you everything your high school civics class should have covered but probably didn’t.
Politics and Podcasting
Let’s Get Civical, hosted by political strategist Arden Walentowski and comedian Lizzie Stewart, delves into how the US political system works and applies the knowledge to the stories that are blowing up your feed on a
daily hourly minute-by-minute basis. While the topics covered can be intense, the episodes are designed to be entertaining, as well as educational, so it’s almost like your well-informed besties stopped by with a bottle of wine to talk about WTF is going on in Washington.
I recently got a chance to talk with Arden about the podcast, how she got started in politics, and what she hopes can restore some sanity to our world.
Arden got her start in politics volunteering on Obama’s 2008 campaign in Philadelphia, where she saw how excited people got about voting for a progressive. After that, she studied political science at Columbia University, before interning for Senator (and 2020 Democratic Presidential hopeful) Kirsten Gillibrand, and serving as Chief of Staff for Jonathan Lewis during his 2018 campaign for Congress in New York.
Diversity in Politics
Arden, a gay woman, feels that diversity is essential in politics because how can a homogeneous group of politicians possibly hope to address the issues that are facing the diverse American public, when the issues may not affect the lawmakers or may impact them in a vastly different way.
She cites the economic crisis that is the student debt bubble as a prime example, highlighting that no presidential candidate yet has been able to address the problem correctly because free public college and going after predatory colleges do nothing to help those currently drowning in debt to private lenders that is disproportionate to their income.
“For many politicians, they don’t understand the personal, daily impact of living under this crushing burden,” Arden said. “Many of them went to school in an era when a summer job could pay for your education and/or they had a family that was able to help them fund their education and related expenses of attending school full-time.”
And this is just one example. There are countless other topics where increased diversity in gender, sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity, and economic background would help to bring about workable solutions for everyone.
Speaking of diversity in politics, Arden notes that her political views less to do with her sexuality and more to her upbringing, citing her mother's progressive values and live-and-let-live attitude, as the basis for her moral compass.
How the podcast came to be
Arden saw that the constant scandals coming out of the White House could be “daunting” to ordinary Americans, who might not know what the terms “veto-proof majority” and “concurrent resolution” mean, because journalists rarely get a chance to dive into the topic before the next crisis hits.
She decided to help educate people as increasing understanding about politics is the first step towards increasing diversity in politics. But, because of the dense subject matter, Arden asked friend and colleague Lizzie to come on board to make it a little bit more palatable to the lay listener. Now, the pair are changing the male-dominated world of podcasting to approach topics from a different point of view and increase the representativeness of political podcasts.
Hopes for the future
I asked Arden what she hoped would change in the political sphere over the next couple of years and her biggest dream is for more pragmatism and compromise from the leftist base of the Democratic Party.
“I’m all about big ideas to solve big problems, but sometimes making those ideas a reality by passing legislation requires compromises and that’s just the way humans are,” Arden said.
She continued, “I consider myself a member of the progressive left, but I don’t think standing on a soapbox just to say you did is the best way to make fundamental change in an era of extreme partisanship.”
She explains that while not everyone in the party will agree on the best way to address the issues of our day, they tend to agree on the goals, and, for the time being, it might be best to unite the Party. However, she says that if the Democrats keep the House and win the Senate and the White House in 2020, she might feel differently.
Now, that you’ve learnt about Arden and Let’s Get Civical, you should go check it out. Arden recommends starting from the first episode, “The History of America’s Political Parties – And What the Illuminati Gave Us”, and working through in date order because they tend to refer to previous episodes as they go on.
However, she also highlights the Presidential Veto episode with actor and activist Piper Perabo and an as-yet-unreleased episode on campaign fundraising with Amanda Litman from Run for Something as ones that she feels listeners would get a lot from.
I’d like to recommend "The First Amendment - As Long As It's Not Polygamy" with bisexual writer and actor Mara Wilson and “Impeachment – It’s Not Personal, its’ Politics” with NPR’s Ophira Eisenberg.
The second of these features the interesting story about the time that the city of Berkeley, CA, voted 70% in favor of their representatives starting impeachment charges against George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the House of Representatives. Now, obviously, this didn’t come to pass, but can you imagine if that happened everywhere at once? It gives me an idea.