Jonah Goldberg with a plea for gratitude in politics

American flag at sunset.
The American flag stands in the grass with a looming sunset.
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A discussion about politics and democracy in America, from the perspective of a conservative who believes too many Americans view politics as a form of entertainment.

Jonah Goldberg says he's making "a plea for gratitude for what we've got" in American civilization. That's the "miracle of liberal, democratic, capitalism."

The fundamental unit of politics, he says, is the individual. "And one person with the law on their side is more powerful than the mob or the state."

Goldberg believes too many Americans are "retreating from institutions where we actually deal with real human beings face to face."

While he says "tribalism is natural," Goldberg says there is also a "coalition instinct. We want a sense of belonging." He urges us to resist "identity politics" or defining people by groups, and to "take people as you find them."

Conservatism, in Goldberg's view, "boils down to two things: the idea that character matters, and the idea that ideas matter."

Goldberg spoke with KQED public radio host Mina Kim about his new book, "Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy." The event was recorded May 15, 2018 at the Commonwealth Club of California.

To listen to the event, click the audio player above.