In a year where an election and a pandemic are taking place, political divisions have been growing during a stressful time for many Americans.
A class at Northern Kentucky University looked to change that with a podcast. Six students meet every week over Zoom to discuss the current political climate despite their differing beliefs and a generation gap.
COVID-19 has impacted the country in more ways than one.
We've had to modify our daily routines to stay safe and schools have had to implement distance learning measures to combat the virus.
Not only are we living in a pandemic, but we’re living in an election year. With political tensions at a seemingly all-time high, it made for the perfect learning opportunity for one political science class. And hey, why not make a podcast and connect with an outside audience?
Dr. Michael Baranowski is a political science professor at NKU and co-hosts The Politics Guys. He said this podcast is important because it allows for younger people to let their voices be heard.
"When you hear about politics, you know it's mostly East Coast or West Coast elites who have good solid jobs, they have Ivy League educations, and no matter what happens, they're going to be OK," Baranowski said. "But when you're in your early 20s and you're working on a degree at Northern Kentucky University, you know, that's a different situation."
Baranowski said the stakes for younger people could be higher than others during this election.
"We don't hear nearly enough of that, and that's why I was just so really thrilled to have the opportunity to do this podcast," Baranowski said.
'Not A Fight; A Conversation'
One of those younger people is Olivia Eads, a student in her 20s who describes herself as a progressive. Her interest in taking part in this podcast comes from her early experiences taking political science classes at NKU.
"Once I had the information and realized how much this matters and how much educating other people matters, there was no turning back for me," Eads said. "I just want to know as much as I can and spread that information so that hopefully my generation can actually make an impactful difference in the next 15 to 20 years."
Doc Holiday is another student in this class but unlike Eads, he describes himself as a staunch conservative. Holiday is in his 80s and he's been going to school since he retired, taking classes he thinks he would enjoy. For the record, he enjoys this class, especially the feedback he gets from the students and the listeners.
"I think maybe my personality is some kind of weird," Holiday said. "I like to throw something out there and see what I get back and start a conversation. Not a fight; a conversation."
'I Know That's Not All Republicans'
Avoiding fights is a main theme of this class. During the COVID-19 pandemic, division over the country's response to the virus has been growing, which has led to more widespread politicization. Holiday said tribalism seems to be taking the forefront when it comes to politics in the U.S. He said he doesn't know what's going to happen to America after the election, especially with radical groups that have been appearing lately.
"I was a kid during the second World War," Holiday said. "It was one enemy and us. When you contrast that to the way it is now, it really makes guys like me wonder what would happen if we had to get cohesive as a country and protect ourselves."
Eads compared the country during 9-11 - when it was united in the aftermath of a national tragedy - to today in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. She said President Donald Trump has been divisive during his term and that’s led to widespread politicization today.
"I'm hopeful that Trump is an outlier," Eads said. "I know that he's not representative of all Republicans and what all Republicans want and I'm hoping - whether he wins this election or not - I'm hoping that after the Trump era that the country will eventually be able to stop being so divided and stop being so polarized."
On Nov. 3, millions of Americans will cast votes to pick who they want to be the President of the United States going forward. Holiday said this election comes at a time where so many things are converging at once.
"You want to stand behind the fan if you know what I mean," he said. "There's just so many things going on. It's exciting. I think some people are very apprehensive about what's going to happen. I want to see what's going to happen and where it goes from there."
Eads said she hopes people are realizing how much politics doesn’t just affect them, but also how it affects others.
"I'm hoping that it's just not this year and that trend continues and people are realizing how important it is to educate themselves and vote," she said.
And just because the election is up, that doesn't mean the podcast will be ending soon. Future episodes surrounding the days following the election are planned. You can listen to them at politicsguys.com.