Giancarlo Sopo is a communications consultant with experience in political campaigns for Democratic Party politicians as well as Latin American campaigns. In this interview, we talk about political polarization in the age of social media and how making a living in government or politics affects a person's ability to engage productively online, even with friends and family.
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Nicolás Jiménez: Alright. Welcome to the DADE podcast. I'm Nick Jiménez, joined by today's guest, Giancarlo Sopo, who's a public relations consultant with some past work in the political sphere. We'll be talking about political discourse and tribalism in public spaces, legacy media and interpersonal exchanges among what I'm sure will be many other things, but first we've got a little bit of a milestone for this podcast—first time we have a sponsor involved.
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Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Alright, so Giancarlo, thank you for joining us.
Giancarlo Sopo: Great to be here.
Nicolás Jiménez: On The DADE Podcast. For starters, you know, for the sake of introduction, let's tell the people a little bit about what you do now and where you come from professionally.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. And also, like full disclaimer and transparency, you and I are also friends.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yes. This is true.
Giancarlo Sopo: So I think everyone listening at home should also know that.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, we've known each other a long time now. This is, what, like...
Giancarlo Sopo: Ten years, more than ten years. So, um, right. So, I work in corporate public relations now. I help companies communicate in Latin America to their audiences. I also do some public affairs work in Miami. Um, my career started out, well depends how far back we go. But when I graduated from high school, I went off to study at Indiana University. Long story short, my dad had just passed away, so I had to come back to Miami for financial reasons primarily. And I started getting into banking because I wanted to be an investment banker and I thought... I saw all these movies and I was like, "Well that's awesome. I'd love to be rich like that. That's what I want to do." But then I had a job in an investment bank and I was absolutely miserable. You know you're not happy in a job where it's like, you know, like you can't leave earlier than 5, but you're like, you're trying to sneak out like at 4:50. Yeah. Uh, so I wasn't too happy with that. And then I became involved with politics. I was always really passionate about, you know, like, political science and political activism. You know, it was part of my DNA because of my dad and his activism, as well. And I got involved.
Well, first I got involved in 2004 with the John Kerry campaign as a precinct captain. That was like my first real involvement with a campaign. Then, fast forward to 2007. In 2004, I had heard the senator from Illinois, which nobody knew, Barack Obama, deliver this beautiful speech at the DNC. And I said, "Wow, that guy's amazing." And a friend of mine actually knew him. Like, knew him on a personal level. Um, so I had been hearing about this guy, this state senator from Illinois called Barack Obama, I think longer than 99 percent of the people in the U.S. because, through my friend, I had heard a lot about him before. So I thought, "Well, wow, this guy's really interesting." And I started, in 2007, this Cuban-Americans for Obama group in Miami. This is back when nobody thought that this guy was going to win the Democratic primary. It was Hillary Clinton, maybe John Edwards, and then like, in a distant third place, Barack Obama.
And in fact, I remember volunteering and making phone calls for people to like potential donors and like speaking to secretaries, and, you know, trying to get through to people and they couldn't even pronounce the name. So, amazing experience. I get brought on by Joe Garcia to work on his first congressional race. I was, I think, like a decent writer, because I'd always taken a lot of, like, creative writing classes.
Nicolás Jiménez: For reference, Joe Garcia had been, had headed the Cuban American National Foundation, among other things. But that was, yeah, how people in South Florida knew him.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. And he was very close to Jorge Mas Canosa. Um, I think, you know, he was like another son to Jorge. At this point he was chair of the Miami Dade Democratic Party and he was running for Congress and I just, um, had reached out to him some months before because of, like some personal family issues that he was going through and I say, "Hey, how are you?" And we kept in touch and he, when he's running for Congress, he reaches out. He said, you know, he wants me to help them in this campaign. And so my first foray into politics beyond just like a volunteer but more as like a paid consultant was on this campaign. And it was fantastic. I think then, you know, after the campaign ended... Joe lost, but uh, you know, he put up a really good fight to Mario Díaz-Balart. Um, so after that campaign I went back to school for a semester and I was continuing to do consulting work from Boston and I come back to Miami and start working in a, at a public opinion research firm. That was absolutely... it was a really interesting experience, actually.
Joe was running again for, for Congress in 2010 because there was like an open seat because Lincoln Diaz-Balart was retiring and Mario had switched over to running in what used to be Lincoln's old seat. So now there's like this open, there's this vacancy. Um, and so I come down, I worked for Joe again. And, you know, that was the year of the tea party wave, so he wasn't successful a lot of time.
After that I went to, I worked in the private sector for about two years, but I was also doing some consulting in the Dominican Republic for this presidential race down there on the communication side. You know, everything from like translations work to working with researchers to put together a strategy and then holding press conferences in Santo Domingo with members of the Dominican media, and the International Press Corp, as well, which was absolutely fascinating. I learned a lot about Latin American politics from that experience, and I had also previously done some work in Peru, as well.
Just to kind of accelerate things. Uh, in 2012, Joe gets elected. He goes to, he brings me with him to Capitol Hill. I had been an unpaid volunteer on his campaign. I'm working on the Hill. When I leave Capitol Hill, by that point, I had been working with Joe for about five to six years, I go to do a teaching fellowship at Harvard on leadership and presidential politics at the extension school with Professor John Paul Rollert who was a friend of mine, also, which was a wonderful experience.
And then I go to work at this consulting firm in New York City that had done the polling for Barack Obama's two presidential campaigns. Later after the fact, like well after I had joined, I then get hired to do the same for Hillary Clinton to be the chief strategist for her campaign. Um, so I was there for a year heading up their marketing team, which was a fantastic experience. Well, I was there a year in house. I had worked with them for two years in the Dominican Republic. So the total, working together for three years. And then afterward I just, I made more of a turn toward the private sector more definitively. Um, even though, you know, I guess that firm that I was working with in New York was, was the private sector but ...
Nicolás Jiménez: On government contracts or policy work.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. They were ... Actually, most of their work was like corporate market research, but they were mostly known for the political stuff.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right. Yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: So, and you know, and ever since then I've been working in corporate communications for the last four years. Yeah, so it's been interesting and it, you know, and during that time I've been... I continued to try to stay involved with politics. It's like obviously something that I care about. I think civic engagement is important for the individual. Society has to function that way. I think, um, part of what sparked this conversation that we're having is, you know, like as I've become more detached from my day to day paycheck relying on politics, I've kind of been able to like take a step back and I've tried to look at things a little bit more objectively, a little bit more, you know, clearing my mind of as many biases as I could... as, as I can. Um, you know, I think we all have certain biases but I try to clear my mind of as many of them as I could and try to be as objective as possible. It's been an interesting experience, to say the least, and some of the reactions that I've gotten from people just because of the observations that I've made have been really interesting, just to use a euphemism.
Nicolás Jiménez: So this was sort of sparked by a Facebook post that you wrote. And I, having read the post, was like, "Oh, this would make for good discussion." So even if your post wasn't public, it was stuff that we're going to talk about here anyway.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, sure. Of course. Yeah, we can talk about it.
Nicolás Jiménez: The gist of the post was, and correct me if I'm mischaracterizing what you'd said, was something to the effect of — You were commenting on the way that either working in the public sector, or working in a way that your paycheck is dependent on people who are in the public sector, impacts the way that you engage with people on the issues for the sake of—
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, that was one of the points that I made. I think that post was about the gender pay gap. Within that context.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right. So what what has your own personal experience been with... Let's just use yourself as an example because nobody is immune to this.
Giancarlo Sopo: Sure.
Nicolás Jiménez: Everybody, everybody's got their paycheck coming from a place and it's going to impact how they talk about things that relate to their employer or their whatever. But you're in the position of having been through that where you are in a position that the way you make your living is dependent on people who, to speak in very loose general terms, are making their money by at least opining, if not actually impacting, this very broad aspect of people's lives. I mean, if you're in government, especially if you're in the legislative branch, right? Even the executive branch, maybe less so if you're like a regulator or in some administrative office or whatever, but there are parts of government that it's like, you can have whatever opinion you want, but you're also in a position where that opinion can color the way that you're actually impacting people's lives. So what was your experience being in that position where, you know, you've got that on the professional side, and then how does that impact the way that you engage with friends and family or whatever in your private life?
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, sure. So, I think that ... So, a couple of things. When you work in politics, usually a lot of your friends also work in politics, right? Just like, you know, the marketing and the advertising people who I know usually hang around with other creatives. Um, so that's, that's natural, right? So you... it creates a social environment, also, and as a part of that group identity, you start adopting certain positions. I think for the vast majority of the people, it's very genuine, right? That's a part of who they are. It's part of their identity. And so the group construct is designed in such a way where you believe certain things, right? And, um, I think after a while you start developing, it's like the classic patterns of groupthink, right, where you can tell a lot about someone. If somebody came to you today and said, "Nick, I am pro choice, I believe in climate change," and then from that, you can then deduce a series of other ... you can infer how, like, how they feel about a series of other issues. I think those patterns are... I find that very problematic and it wasn't always like that. So if you go back like 50 years to the 1960s and you look at some of the polling that was done back then, Americans had like very conflicting views on a series of issues, right? The politics were not so polarized. You had a lot of people who would vote for one party in one election and then in a different way in another and then slowly over time, I think, the political parties because of campaign finance and their ability to advertise and also because of the growth of politics as a profession, the growth of government and many jobs depending primarily on where those political fault lines were being drawn. That changed and you started having these mega identities that were along partisan lines. Um, I, by the way, I just want to be clear, that's not my theory. I heard this on as their clients show a few days ago. Yeah. So I don't want to appropriate somebody else's work. Just a full disclaimer. Um so, but that, you know, that makes a lot of sense to me when you start thinking about it that way. And so I think, so there's that cultural phenomenon. Then you also just have, if your paycheck is, depending on a, like, a certain position, you're going to be less inclined to question it per se.
Nicolás Jiménez: Or at least publicly.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, at least publicly. And that's. And that's also natural, like, so when you have those two things happening, I think that helps... That helps explain where we're at right now. And the point that I was making in that Facebook post was that I took, it was like an infographic from the DNC on the gender pay gap where it listed, uh, it set the bar so like white men $1. And then it started showing how that pay, um, you know, like decreases depending on where you are and like the pecking order, I guess, of identity politics.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, the whole intersectional pecking order of—
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. So like if you're a black man then you're, then you make these many cents under that $1. It was very clear to me that they were at least trying to imply that this disparity and outcome was a result of some kind of sexist or racial bias.
Nicolás Jiménez: Classic implicit bias thing that's cited too often.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. And this might have been something that I would have either taken for granted three years ago, like when I was working in politics, like full time professionally. I remember—more like five years ago—and been less inclined to question it just because it's like something, you know, you take as like, like doctrine, right? That's, that's just part—
Nicolás Jiménez: Well, and there are incentives built in for you to, you know, however, conscious or not you may be of it, you know, when I'm, you know, let's just for the sake of simplifying it, if the DNC puts that out and you're working for the DNC, there's a, at the very least, a disincentive to disagreeing with it publicly, if not an overt incentive to publicly reinforcing the organization's message and being an advocate for the message they're putting out there.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. Right. And, and we do that with a whole host of things, right? Like, um, if, uh, if you're a Catholic who goes to mass every Sunday, you're not going to take, um, you know, like something that the Pope says and start, you know, like making fun of it. I mean, maybe you will make—
Nicolás Jiménez: I will. I just recently tweeted... I think, I think Pope Francis, uh... For people who haven't heard this before, we're both Catholics. Although I've, uh, I can't speak for you, but I do go to church. Maybe not every Sunday, but I go to church a certain amount and I identify as a Catholic and I had no problem tweeting. What was it that he said? He said something—
Giancarlo Sopo: About the guns.
Nicolás Jiménez: It was about the guns. Yeah, it was. Oh, it was about banning all guns.
Giancarlo Sopo: All weapons should be banned, yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: All weapons should be banned. And it wasn't... What I loved was... And actually, you know, I feel less strongly about this in terms of the morality of it, but his conclusion was: and then we would have no war.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: And my public position—
Giancarlo Sopo: If only it were so simple.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah. My public position on the Pope's tweet was, and I think I'm quoting pretty close to verbatim, was, this is dumb. He says dumb things and that's my position. But even then, right, like at that point we're talking about more of a, an identification with a particular group, but you don't necessarily have some of those incentives built in because there's all kinds of dissent, especially among lay people in any religious group. This is not something that's peculiar to Catholicism. You may have a priest who was less like, especially if you're a priest with some kind of ambition that wants to become a bishop or some shit like that.
Giancarlo Sopo: Or, or if you, I think like maybe like the most accurate comparison would be if you work at a parish and you're lay person, right? If you're not part of the clergy and you work at a parish as like an employee doing whatever, like some office clerical work, or if you're an employee of the archdiocese, you're going to be less inclined to, you know, ridicule something—
Nicolás Jiménez: Some of the same incentives are built in there. I mean, they exist. You know, how many, uh, how often do you see some of the more Social Justice Warrior Catholicism, and even overtly socialist Catholicism. Uh, meanwhile, how many people know about, for instance, the Acton Institute, which I only know about because I'm a libertarian crazy person. But, you know, they're a very overtly libertarian Catholic group based in Michigan. Uh, and that's the kind of work that it's, it almost feels like, you know, you've been... yeah, let's put all the crazies over here by these lakes and hope they fall in them or something.
Giancarlo Sopo: I think lakes of fire.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Let's backtrack a little bit because I want to continue down the road that we've been going, but I want to put, you know, contextualize it a little bit for people. So, uh, let's, let's talk about, um, where you, where you come from more personally and uh, how some of that Cuba stuff... I don't want to dive too deep into Cuba policy.
Giancarlo Sopo: Sure, sure.
Nicolás Jiménez: But, uh, correct me if I'm wrong, you know, especially given that your father was as involved in Cuba policy and advocacy as he was, I imagine that played a role in shaping your positions and the way that you think about politics and policy more broadly.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: And so walk us, walk us through what that was like for you and where you landed philosophically.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. Um, so I think the best way to just describe it as like... maybe to explain the dynamics of my childhood. So my parents were divorced, so I think I'd spend like 90 percent of the time with my mom who is a political atheist until the day that I was born because she said that my birth was a miracle and whatever. So, so she was like, she grew up atheist in a communist country and was a recently arrived immigrant because at the time, well, long story short, my mom was actually born in the states but raised in Cuba for a series of family decisions. Uh, so she spent—
Nicolás Jiménez: But her parents were Cuban.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right. So she spent like 20 out of her 23 years, uh, at this, like at the time that she came back to the states, she spent them in Cuba. So for all intents and purposes, she's Cuban. And she came here speaking no English. And so, you know, my mom was like, almost like an immigrant in her own country coming back. So, so I was born to somebody who had only been in the country for five years and um, I grew up in Cuban Little Havana in the 1980s, which you might, you might get what I'm saying that with, here is what I'm saying with that is that, you know, it's like very Catholic, very Cuban. Very anticommunist, almost like the three C's. So although, like, you know, my upbringing was not very Catholic, per se, but, uh, I had a priest in the family who, uh, really I looked up to him as a position of authority and he kinda like really inspired me, I think to like become a Catholic or when I was a little kid and I thought— And I went to Catholic school, like my first two years, I went to Saint Michael's. So, um, my, watching my dad's political activism as a Republican, who's, I think he was somebody who was a Democrat up until like the Carter administration because he thought, well, these guys have really jumped the shark and they've gone too far to the left. Um, my, you know, like I, I grew up without a political, like, identification in the sense where like I wasn't, I, I wouldn't say that I was like either a Republican or a Democrat as a kid, but I certainly had a strong appreciation for, um, you know, family values in terms of like the family nucleus and how it operates. American... I don't want say American exceptionalism, but at least, uh, uh, American special-ness, if that's a word, that I grew up—
Nicolás Jiménez: A little bit of a sidebar, but to me anyway, and I've heard some conflicting explanation as to what this even refers to but I think the, the American exceptionalism idea has sort of been twisted in such a way that it's been like bastardized by the people who, uh, want something to oppose and then in this perverted, stupid way kind of adopted in its new form. But to me the exceptionalism thing is really more, in the most sort of literal sense, like the American system is an exception, right?
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: And then you've got all these people who turn it into like, oh, well, you know, that means that Americans themselves are inherently exceptional, like an American.
Giancarlo Sopo: I mean that the idea of America is exceptional and that this is a really—it's a spectacular country. I believe that. I don't. My view is not that, that America is a fundamentally unfair and cruel and racist country. I've never believed that. I think there have been people who are unfair, cruel and racist. But I wouldn't say that the country is fundamentally— I think it's a country. I forgot where I read this, but, or where I heard this, but somebody said that America was not built on racism. It's a country that was built in spite of racism.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: So that's been my... Fundamentally, this is where I've always come at. That's, those are my biases, let's say. And, and obviously the, the anti communism in the sense where I think communism at its core goes against everything that I believe in as an individual, as a Christian. Um, you know, and, and that's, you know, but look, I mean that's not the fight that we're, I think we're facing anymore where I grew up in the, like, you know, at the twilight, during the twilight years of the Cold War is coming to an end.
Giancarlo Sopo: So those are, those are like some of my sensitivities, right? So I'm someone who believes, like having set that groundwork, I think like the best way to understand my belief system is through Catholics, like Catholic social teaching. I went to a Catholic school for high school, um, and I go to mass every Sunday. Um, so, and, I'm, I wouldn't even describe myself as like, people who know me wouldn't, would never describe me as being extremely religious.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right, yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: You know, I'm like, I'm very casual in my demeanor. Um, so I do, like at the core of Catholic social teaching, there are two principles, the principle of subsidiary and the principle of solidarity. And one of the really amazing things of Catholic, not just the social teaching but of like of Catholic tradition is that it's what G.K. Chesterton described as bipolar extremism where you can have like, hold these two views at the same time, right? So we see that manifested in like doctrine, right, where Jesus was both human and both divine, not a mushy center, right? Not... it's not unipolar, it's bipolar. He was like equally both at 100 percent, right? So, um, the, the, the, like the... So like these two principles of solidarity and subsidiary— solidarity is what I guess like what in the US we would associate more with the left; subsidiary is more like what we would associate more with the right. So solidarity's a lot more about. We're all connected as one through the, through creation, right? We're all children of God. So somebody else is suffering. Your job is to make sure that, that like to help that person, right? Take it upon yourself as an individual to care for the meek, to care for the poor, to help to help others, right? The concept of subsidiary is, within Catholic social teaching is that those decisions are best made at the local and individual level that, you know. So, for example, if there's a traffic light that's broken here in Kendall on 117th and Kendall Drive, you don't appeal to the president or to the governor or to the senator, you, you know, you try to fix it yourself or you go to some local person to —
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, whatever community is closest to you until at some point you know you're going to larger institutions, which it just so happens, at least right now happen to be your municipal, state, federal governments.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. So I think within the context of, it's like one to like certainly in the solidarity camp would be somebody more like Doris Day and then in the individual and in the subsidiary camp would be someone like Paul Ryan.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: You know. So those are two beliefs, like two principals that I can hold simultaneously that do not, I think transcend the traditional context of American politics because the way that things are designed, at least now it's like you're either one or the other, you can't hold both, and that runs very counter to how I'm like hardwired, if you will.
Nicolás Jiménez: So the subsidiarity thing that you were talking about, I think is the, probably the, the side of it that's most relevant to the discussion that we're having here because, you know, in your case there's the fact that you are at least professionally or in your past professional experience most closely tied to people who might identify themselves as Democrats or liberals or progressives, at least institutionally. Right? Like, you don't identify yourself as a progressive as far as I know.
Giancarlo Sopo: No, I feel more comfortable calling myself a liberal. Yeah. Right. Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Uh, in that classical liberal sense, I assume, right? Because there's some people who would use liberal and progressivism as synonymous almost.
Giancarlo Sopo: I'd use it in like the 1960 Kennedy sense.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: Where like, we believe in strong individual liberties, a robust, um, foreign policy, but also a social safety net.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure. Which I mean frankly, those, and I'm not accusing you of intention, but those, those ideas are whether through vagueness or just the historical shifts or whatever are not all that controversial like you could walk into an RNC or DNC meeting, say that you're for those things and it might even be better received at the RNC, if you were talking about individual liberty, robust foreign policy. The social safety net is where people might like ask you for specifics.
Giancarlo Sopo: I think like Larry Elder made a point that John F. Kennedy today would be, would be a Republican.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure, sure, sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: I don't know if I agree with that, but—
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, when I say sure, I mean I've heard, I've heard the argument.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Um, so, uh, so the question is, you know, given that idea of subsidiarity where you're talking about that, you know, the appropriate way to seek solutions is to start as locally as possible and move more broad geographically as you run into hiccups or whatever you want to call them. At what point for you do you find that that becomes controversial in your corner of the, I'll call it political rather than philosophical because obviously people who share your philosophy aren't disagreeing with you, it's more people who are advocating for some of the same political teams, so to speak. And I ask because I think that has become, for lack of a better word, the federalism debate, has become very central to at least today's conception of what separatesq the two prevailing political science, right? Where you've got one side that looks for federal solutions to everything. So at what point do you find like, okay, this is putting me at odds with people who otherwise might be my political allies?
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. So I think where that most comes in conflict has been in within the past two years with the rise of race-based and like ethnic-based identity politics that I think where they place the, like these immutable characteristics that you might have with another group of people, especially if it's like intersectional race-based identity politics that where those take precedence over, um, like the, the collective takes, supersedes the importance of the individual and the individual's qualities and characteristics where you have... So say for example, if you are a like black LGBT atheist, you are somehow higher on like this victim scale than if you were like a white, Jewish, whatever, you know?
Nicolás Jiménez: I want to say, it's maybe Ben Shapiro, who's half jokingly made the, uh, I don't know if you'd call it an argument or an observation or whatever, but that if you bought fully into, into that idea of intersectionality, the goal ought to be to just go out and find the transgender, black Muslim amputee so we can make them our emperor because obviously they're never wrong. They'd make all the right decisions, is the way that he at least pokes fun at that notion of that, uh, that victimhood hierarchy.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. And I don't, um, I know friends who have what I think are very legitimate concerns about racism and systemic racism that I wouldn't put in that category of what, like, you know, people say like Dave Rubin would describe as the illiberal left or the regressive left. I think there we can, we can draw a distinction, right, between somebody who has like a very genuine concern about, uh, racial profiling by police. So say for example, like those types of practices versus people who really eat, breathe and sleep on identity politics.
Nicolás Jiménez: Well, I mean to argue that that race doesn't have certain kinds of significance is not to argue that it doesn't exist and that it's not a problem.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, I mean, yeah, I mean like there. Sure. Is there racism in the United States? Absolutely. I mean, I, it's clear, right? But it's like this is not the only country where these things happen. And um, in fact I would argue traveling in Latin America and traveling in Europe, I'd say like, we have this issue figured out a lot better than many other countries do.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: We don't often give enough or, like, we don't give ourselves enough credit. So, where I where like that comes in greatest conflict I think is with... there's a part of the left that really promotes this notion of victimhood where maybe, maybe it's not something that I could personally identify with because, like I said, I grew up in Cuban American Little Havana where, at a time where Cubans were no longer this minority group, we were almost like a majority, a very powerful ethnic, like at least—
Nicolás Jiménez: At least a plurality.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. At least a plurality and are very powerful one at that, that, you know. So, you know, that's probably baked into the equation, right? Like maybe if I was, you know, like Dominican or Honduran living in the Bronx, I'd have a very different outlook and that's fine, right? But I don't feel comfortable with this rhetoric that treats minority groups as victims. That doesn't mean we can't, we can't acknowledge that there are problems with racism and with our broken immigration system and whatever, but I would much... Like the whole notion of a safety net, right? The whole notion of what I consider like classical American liberalism is that you give those people a hand up so they could accelerate their lives.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: You don't perpetuate these psychological cycles of victimhood.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right? For, for political gain.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah. So, so I mean, you know, coming back to the question of at what point or in what way, because maybe it's difficult to pinpoint a time, but what's your experience been with that being controversial and let's tie that back to that issue of the way that people engage with one another. To me, you know, the thing that I, uh, and this is anecdotal, right? So I'm not, I'm not purporting to have done some kind of a scientific study on this or anything like that. Um, but it seems to me that there's this phenomenon of, and all of these kind of go hand in hand, the sort of increasing tribalism or polarization, uh, of, you know, not just the professional politios but people in general and also social media. And when I refer to the issue of social media, it's not so much.. You know, the problems that people like to focus on or the phenomena that people like to focus on are the pervasiveness of fake news or how quickly information spreads. What I think is perhaps more significant is how public all of these exchanges always are. And so as a proportion of your total exchanges, you know, I'll give you an example and you know, without naming people's names, but I have many friends who, you know, and at one point you were one of them, uh, although we, you know, we probably didn't exchange as much when you were actually in politics. Uh, but I can think of two people who are currently on, in opposite parties with whom I just won't exchange. I won't engage. Like if they put something online and they're perfectly intelligent people who I love talking to when I, you know, the times that I see them at a bar...
Giancarlo Sopo: With a beer in your hand, yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: ...or lunch or whatever, but I cannot talk to those people online because I know that that conversation hits a wall because they know that other people are watching.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right, right. Right.
Nicolás Jiménez: And, and they can't say the same things to me and they won't admit this to me, but I know that that's what's happening because I see the difference in those exchanges and I know that eventually you hit a wall and I think that with that tribalism, that's something that is not new. Right? Because, and I imagine that you have experienced with this having, having had that be your social circle. But like when you're out at a bar, if all those people do the same thing for a living and everybody's kinda got their antenna up for like, oh, what's this guy saying who worked for so and so? Now it's sort of, that has sort of bled into the way that lay people, so to speak, exchange with each other.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, and I think that's very dangerous and I think it's corrosive and it's terrible for democracy because, um, I mean, so first off, the rise of the political class in this country and the, the growth in the number of people who work in politics or whose jobs depend on politics either directly or indirectly because maybe their company might get some contract or something like that... that has really skyrocketed over the past few years.
Nicolás Jiménez: Cause it's not just public employees. It's public employees, it's people who consult contractors
Giancarlo Sopo: It's consultants.
Nicolás Jiménez: It's consultants. It's unions that are, you know, people who are union workers who depend heavily on whatever from the government.
Giancarlo Sopo: And that's very dangerous. Um, that, and we can talk about this later, but that puts us a lot more in the Scandinavian, like, I'm sorry, not in the Scandinavia bucket. It puts us more in the South American bucket, which I, there's a distinction there between the, like on the left, right? There's a, there's a very stark difference between the Nordic model and the populist left model in places like Argentina and Brazil. Um, so that's, I think that's very dangerous and I also think, though, that it creates a sense, um, you can't, you can't just like shoot the shit with people in a way that's like candid, right? Like you can't speak truth and beyond just like my own, like personal theological beliefs, right? In terms of like truth and what, like, you know, we're here, you know, uh, to bear witness to the truth if you will, right? And I think truth transcends political parties and we can, it's perfectly okay to feel more at home with one party or the other. I still feel more at home with the Democrats, but we have to be able to speak objectively about data without fear of social repercussions. Right? And so, I can give me some examples of that. So, well, like a year and a half ago I put up this post where I was really questioning a lot of Thomas Piketty's work where I was saying like, even if you take it at face value, that the inequality as it is like is at its all time high.
Giancarlo Sopo: Okay. What does that even mean? Is that a moral problem? Um, are there... I mean, surely I think there are some forms of inequality that we would all feel uncomfortable with, like some degrees of it, right? If it's like if things are very unequal and we might have like a really— Especially like usually when that happens, there's like something... Like that's a symptom of a deeper problem. Right? So we would feel troubled by that, but there are also forms of equity that I would feel very uncomfortable with. Right? So I started like posting on Facebook that I had like these, really, these personal problems with... I don't, I don't want to like describe it as like a personal problem. I just, I had an intellectual problem with what Piketty was putting out there and also a philosophical one, right? Because um, there was like some of the data, so for example, right, like people were comparing inequality but based on household income.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right.
Giancarlo Sopo: And I'm like, okay, do that. But unless you're controlling for the fact that there were more people living in, in like the, that the wage earners per household have changed that, that number has changed over time because of high divorce rates. There's more single people. Millennials aren't getting married, having kids until their thirties. Unless you're controlling for that. And you're also controlling for age. Like who? Like who makes up the top 20 percent here, right? Or that quintile. Like are those people, are they older or like in the prime of their careers or are like they younger like who are like, unless you're controlling for those variables just from like a statistical standpoint, like you're going to draw like some really funky conclusions. And I had read some studies that when they do control for those variables, income was actually much flatter than what you think. It's not this hockey stick figure, it's a much, it's linear, but I mean it's, it's like a linear upward progression, but it's not like the proverbial like hockey stick figures that you see in like Piketty's work. So I felt like, okay. So I just, I posted that on Facebook and I thought it was like a noncontroversial... It's like I'm arguing data. I'm not arguing. I, you know, I made some moral point like, like what I, I've used like moral points that, you know, I have a much less of a problem with inequality than I do with like poverty. We should focus on poverty. Inequality is, if anything, it's a, it's a byproduct of people make different choices and just like that we're not all born equally or with the same preferences.
Nicolás Jiménez: So you put it on Facebook and what's, what's the reaction that you get from...
Giancarlo Sopo: Oh my God. So--
Nicolás Jiménez: And for the sake of, because on, so on Facebook, what is your approach? And this is kind of the direction that I want to go from here, how we handle that, right? What is your approach? Number one, to uh, who your Facebook network is, because the reaction that you're getting carries a different significance based on, on who these people are to you.
Giancarlo Sopo: I have like, I have an interesting spectrum of friends from like really, um, right wing conservative Cuban Americans. Um, you know, like from like from those traditions—
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, and sorry to interrupt, but what I mean is more like, uh, do you have Facebook friends who you've never met and they're just kind of like, oh, I added you and okay, fine. That's what I mean by what significance it carries like or... So for example, on Facebook, like I will not accept your friend request unless we have either shake... like met in person or done some kind of business remotely, right? Like, so I have some people on Facebook who I've edited their work in a job at the magazine that's about as far removed as I get, like I won't just like, yeah, whatever, you saw me comment on somebody else's thing and you added me and so now we're friends. There's none of that.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, I mean, I usually accept everyone except people who I suspect are part of like Seguridad del Estado
Nicolás Jiménez: Okay, yeah, so Cuban spies are not welcome but outside of that
Giancarlo Sopo: I mean, I might accept them and put them on a restricted setting or something, you know. Um, but yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Okay, so with that in mind, what was some of the reaction that you got?
Giancarlo Sopo: Oh my, it was, it was, um, it's as if like, I had, uh, committed like, like heresy or something, you know, like I was, you know... if the Democratic Party is a stool with three legs, it's as if I was like knocking out one of the legs. Right? Which is like this belief in income inequality and that it's like this root of all evils in society. And I was simply commenting that, like, first from a, from a purely political messaging standpoint, I've worked on polling and seen polling that has tested this inequality message versus an economic growth message—an economic growth that, I think, is framed more like traditional democratic terms. It's got to be fair, benefits the middle class and the poor. But it's still like an inequality, like traditional SJW message versus this, like, you know, like a pro growth message. And the pro growth message always beats the income inequality with the general electorate. It's, they were more even among the Democratic primary and I would probably suspect that since that research was conducted like three years ago, it's now, it's probably inequality is, would probably beat out economic growth and as I was just like pointing this out from, A, from like the political messaging standpoint, but B, also just from a standpoint of data and pointing out these discrepancies that I found within Piketty's research and, three, just stating like my own personal moral belief that just because, like you, like if you, I, and Bill Gates were in a room and you and I vote to take away Bill Gates money, that's not a moral, that's, that... we haven't made a moral decision or it might be a dumb democratic one, but it's not a moral decision to steal Bill Gates' money. Um, so the, I mean, like the level of pushback that I received from people. And obviously we're not going to name names, but like, even like people texting me saying, oh my God, I can't believe you posted that.
Nicolás Jiménez: And they're texting. So these are people who know you personally, who, you know, you're commenting on what should be, I mean, it's a—
Giancarlo Sopo: Noncontroversial
Nicolás Jiménez: —conversation about policy and statistics. Like it shouldn't be something that like, nobody, you can't put it in this, like they have to go out of their way to like back door.
Giancarlo Sopo: We're not even talking about Charles Mary's views on race and IQ. We're talking about economic data.
Nicolás Jiménez: We're talking about line graphs here.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yes. You know, um, and like somebody sent me this, like, uh, somebody who I consider a friend, sent me like this message, like, you know, there are people who saw that who are like almost like questioning my allegiance to the Democratic Party or, or like, or like that that hurts like my professional reputation, if you will. And I'm like, my response was like, oh, for heaven's sake, that is like, that is so silly. Like, um, you know, like this is not, uh, we're not ideologues, we're just discussing economics. And you know, that, that, uh, you know, like his response was like that this would affect my credibility in those circles. And I was like, well then, so be it, right? I mean, I think we're here to speak truth.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right.
Giancarlo Sopo: Wherever that may fall. And I would challenge people to please prove me wrong, right? If somebody comes back to me and says, hey... Like, so for example, there was something that I posted once about this New York Times article about some of Piketty's research on the, uh, the growth, like economic income growth among families where somebody pointed out to me that I was incorrect and I was, I, I took it down and I recognized that I was, that I had misread something that was in the study.
Giancarlo Sopo: So I think it's fine, like, please prove me wrong, but we have to be willing to have these discussions or we're promoting falsehoods. And so that was one encounter when that happened. There was another encounter where, so a couple of weeks ago, like you said, I posted this thing about the income, the, the gender pay gap. All I said was, I— First, I'm not somebody who believes that the... So, there are people who believe that the gender pay gap is a myth. I don't believe that the gender pay gap is a myth. I think it's real, but I think about like 90 percent of it can be explained through personal choices.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right? Like, um, now there are some academics and who then would respond to that, "Well, right, you can explain it away in personal choices, but you're not taking into account the social constructs that exists that would make women more likely to go into teaching than STEM."
Giancarlo Sopo: And I'm like, okay, right, but how do you even account for that and then, like, how do you even address that issue? I'm all for, like if somebody wants to launch a girl, a little girls in STEM campaign, that's awesome.
Nicolás Jiménez: It exists.
Giancarlo Sopo: It exists and I support it. I think that's amazing, right? But short of that, how do you control for that, right?
Nicolás Jiménez: And, and also, I mean, how do you arrive at the conclusion that it's even a problem? It's one thing to say, you know, um, if, if little girls were being oppressed into not looking through microscopes, that's one thing, but does the out— if that's not happening, is the outcome of fewer women in STEM inherently bad anymore than it's bad that maybe men are not ending up in certain other fields, whatever those might be, whether it's teaching or nursing—
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, like fashion PR.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah exactly.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. So, I had, like that triggered a really interesting set of discussions. I think some of those people who, who find my, who found my comments on income inequality objectionable, they had probably, they're still my friends, but they've probably unfollowed me by this time
Nicolás Jiménez: Or muted, right? So you're not gonna appear on their feeds.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, so I had a completely different set of people chime in on this and some of them like raised some really interesting points which, you know, I thought were perfectly valid and reasonable. And then I had others. I had two people who I know who currently work in politics. I'm going to avoid saying what they do so nobody can figure out who they are.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right, right.
Giancarlo Sopo: But people who, whose careers heavily depend on politics tell me it's, you know, I think it's awesome that you posted this. A lot of people, a lot of other staffers and a lot of other operatives know that this is false or rather that the claim is false that the gap is attributed to.
Nicolás Jiménez: And this is the, again, the claim that was in that infographic or meme or whatever you wanna call it, put out by the DNC.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, right, right. That that claim is false or at least what I was trying to imply that the, that the pay gap is a result of—
Nicolás Jiménez: There's some measure of dishonesty built into that.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. Like most of like this guy, um, this guy or woman said, uh, most of us know that that's not true, but we just don't. We're not going to say it. We're not going to come out and say it and I'm like thinking, okay, so then if the messaging framework of the Democratic Party is that three legged stool, income inequality is one leg and this is another leg, right? Because that's how you form the coalitions, right? And this is one of the lightning rods, like one of the big messaging points and I am not suggesting that Democrats should not speak about disparities in income between gender. I just think it has to be spoken about in a much more nuanced and educated way.
Nicolás Jiménez: I mean not only nuanced and educated because I think it's one of those things where it's like, there are degrees of nuance and people will have different demands on how much nuance makes an argument credible and how educated you have to be before you can speak with any kind of authority or credibility. But, what is black and white, what is, you know, you're either being this or you're not, is honesty. Be an honest broker. If you want to be a stupid honest broker who's misinformed, at least then I can inform you or I can say something stupid and you can inform me and if we're being honest about it, then we're open to being... Which leads me to my, you know, the next thing I wanted to talk about was, you know, in light of that, in light of that atmosphere that we're in, and it always feels silly like talking about like how you go about social media, but the reality is that we're at a place right now where the vast majority of the exchanges that we have on these very important issues happen in that space. So you know, you mentioned earlier that you'll take down posts like I've taken a different approach.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, I do that, although like I do that in part because there are very few things that I think that I would write that I would like... where like five years or 10 years down the road, that I would still like be proud of like, oh man, I wrote this. You know, like I had just woken up and this is me like texting, like from bed at like 7:30 in the morning, right? Like if I'm going to write something that I want to be around for posterity, I like at least I want to like put some, a lot more thought into it, like this conversation that we're having now. Perfectly fine with that. So there's that. But also just because sometimes, uh, some of these posts that I have like turned into hundreds of comments...
Nicolás Jiménez: Right. And everybody's getting notifications, all day long
Giancarlo Sopo: Everyone's getting notifications and people are fighting and it, sometimes it just devolves into something nasty. So I think a 48 hour limit to have the discussion is, is fine. Although like, you know, for example, like on twitter, I'm limited to one hundred and forty characters, so I probably exercise a much more, a much greater sense of prudence in terms of like what I post. But even then like, so say for example, I tweeted last, last fall when congressmen Carlos Curbelo is trying to enter the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right.
Giancarlo Sopo: I just, I tweeted...
Nicolás Jiménez: And the issue there was that he...
Giancarlo Sopo: That they didn't let him in because he was a Republican.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right. So you're now you're ethnicity is contingent on your philosophy or your political position.
Giancarlo Sopo: Well, they said, you know, it's not just about, you're like, their response was, it's not just about your ethnicity, it's about also your, your values. And I'm like, what values are you talking about? Because if he's taking he, you know, like for example, like he voted, he's taken votes in Congress, like for example, I wouldn't have taken. Right. But I can't say because of that he doesn't share my values because two people can start from like the same set of, like from the same value system but arrive at different conclusions. So it was, i mean it was, it was very clearly that it was just for, for political purposes. They just didn't want him in because they want to maintain it to be a very partisan group, which it wasn't, I mean, you used to, it used to be a bipartisan group, I think Lincoln and Ileana where members of it back like 15 years ago or something like that.
Giancarlo Sopo: So, um, I tweeted that I thought this was stupid, that Curbelo should be allowed into the Hispanic Caucus. And I mean, the level of pushback that I got from people was, was just bizarre. Uh, you know, like, like somebody called me for example...
Nicolás Jiménez: Called you, like a phone call?
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, like a friend
Nicolás Jiménez: Based on a Facebook post.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. Well, like, based on a tweet, right?
Nicolás Jiménez: Or a tweet, yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: Because this person had seen it. It got picked up by Mark Caputo who put then put it into like a political article, or something that, that I was a former Democratic staffer who is supporting a Carmelo in this. And it, uh, it, it just became like this, uh, like a controversy, like a mini, like a little mini controversy in my personal life. Um, so I... like at the same time, I'm also willing to like come out and say, uh, I think Trump's immigration policies are horrible.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right, yeah yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: You know, like there's, there's no. But now I think we've reached a point where, um, this, the, the bipolar extremism that I described earlier of Catholicism and Catholic social teaching, it's impossible to maintain that within the current political system. If you are going to pursue a career in politics, right? It's you, you, you have to at least... you can hold those, those types of views, but then keep them to yourself and I, I find that very problematic and I think that's part of the reason why our-- I mean we have this phenomenon where everyone has noticed that like where the left has moved much farther to the left over the last few decades, but the right's moved farther to the right. Albeit, I think I've seen some studies that have shown not, not nearly as far as the leftest mood
Nicolás Jiménez: And I also think that there's a part of what confuses that conversation is like what does that even mean anymore? Right? Like to me especially the concept of moving farther to the right... because the, the left I think has maintained, you know, there's a, a, a certain consensus on what it means to be at the extreme left. Like I think very few people would argue against the idea, for instance, that like the farthest left that you might get is, you know, socialism, communism and ideas like that. Whereas the idea of what it means to move farther to the right, you know, I'm like, what do you do with, with the libertarian shift, as opposed to a shift in the direction of some kind of, of some kind of fascistic Christian theocracy or something. What direction are those things? But what I was, what I was getting at before though, you know, again, you mentioned, you know, you regularly, will just remove posts.
Nicolás Jiménez: I've sort of taken the opposite approach of--no matter what stupid thing I say or how much I--just, I will leave it there. I'll maybe edit out typos or I'll delete a tweet. I wish I edit tweets, I mean you can see edit history, but like, you know, uh, I'll do typos because so much tweeting happens on your phone and I'll delete them and repost. Yeah. Uh, but I have a very strict policy with myself. I will not delete anything. I won't untag myself in a picture where, you know, my, my gut is, especially rolly and I won't go back and delete things that I regret having said. But I also, if I'm, if I'm convinced that I'm wrong about a thing, I'll make sure not to text or call someone like I will say in as public a way as I fucked up, I'll say I was wrong about this thing.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right, right.
Nicolás Jiménez: And so the question is, what are some of the things, if, and maybe this something that you've thought about in like these explicit terms, but what are some of the things that you do to get the most, whether in terms of persuasiveness or your own personal development, uh, out of these exchanges, have you over time, are there like even if they're unwritten ground rules that you've set for yourself or procedures or like, you know, something that you, that you make sure to abide by as you, as you engage people?
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, so I think like the Giancarlo Sopo of 10 years ago would have been much more sarcastic. Much more like cocky, if you will, and probably much more willing, I think to uh, uh, you know, resort to like add homonyms.
Nicolás Jiménez: Maybe a little more Trumpy. The scope over the past was a little Trumpier.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, I think so. Well, I mean like, Trump--
Nicolás Jiménez: And we all were when we were about that age, right. This is the Sopo of his early twenties.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right, right. Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Giancarlo, early twenties.
Giancarlo Sopo: Now I'm an old, seasoned person with like four gray hairs and...
Nicolás Jiménez: Early twenties everybody's a little Trumpy.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. I don't even like--like Trumpy in the sense where I was, I was much more willing to uh, just be a complete asshole, you know?
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, that's what I mean. Not philosophically to the extent that you can even pin down his.... I just mean like, you know, I don't like what this guy says. Hey, it was dumb, tiny hands.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. So I think, so like I think over time I've developed some more, like, you know, like self awareness and I've become more sensitive to how people feel about things like up to people's feelings, uh, and more willing to do like a, you know, give and take and say to someone, Okay, like I'm willing to meet you halfway here. Are you willing to meet me here?
Giancarlo Sopo: And like kind of engaged in those kinds of like, like an exchange just like that and obviously avoid any kind of personal attack or, or, or, or do it in a way where it's like I'm clearly angry or upset. Um, so I think those, those ground rules I think are helpful in terms of guiding discussion and I'm still a young ish person. So, um, you know, um, sometimes, uh, maybe my, uh, my energy could get the best of me. And every now and then I do throw out some really sarcastic remark.
Nicolás Jiménez: But you're deleting them anyway, right, so...
Giancarlo Sopo: Like, right, like I, I, I'm going to try, like, I avoid being like as sardonic as possible. I just try to, I try to put in like arguments that are just like maybe like data driven or where I would welcome some kind of exchange or something like that. I don't want people... I have friends who I think I could, like I could describe as SJWs who I wouldn't want to lose their friendship because they had, they have that belief. I would welcome a discussion with them and I wish that they were equally tolerant of having that discussion, which is I think some of what we've lost
Nicolás Jiménez: And I think that's something that, that a lot of people go through. I mean when... I like to I was going to say joke, but it's not really all that much of a joke. I like to say that having lived in, in Madison, Wisconsin for a few years was among those things that sort of uh radicalized me, uh, into the, the anarcho-capitalist nut job that I am now. One of the people, you know, aside from the, some of the philosophy that I was reading or whatever. One of the people who I was, who I was watching was a guy, uh, he's an activist who's on Youtube and, and other other media named Adam Kokesh. I don't know if you're familiar with this guy. So he, he made news. He was probably like, where you saw him, if you've seen him, was, he did a, uh, second amendment protests where he posted a video of himself loading live rounds into a shotgun in DC and like out on the street. He hosted it and he ended up in jail
Giancarlo Sopo: Oh, oh the guy who did it on the doorstep of the Capitol or something like that.
Nicolás Jiménez: It wasn't the Capitol. I forget where it was, it wasn't the Capitol, but it was, it was some very public space. Uh, and he ended up, uh, having his house raided.
Giancarlo Sopo: Oh my God.
Nicolás Jiménez: By... it was like three different agencies.
Giancarlo Sopo: Like ATF?
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, no, I think it was the parks police because he did it at some public place that was their jurisdiction.
Giancarlo Sopo: Oh, geez.
Nicolás Jiménez: There might've been ATF involvement and then whatever, like police department. Um, but the reason I bring him up is that, uh, you know, I've been following him since I was maybe like late in college or right after graduating from college and I've seen him go through that arc of, uh... So his story is that he served as a marine in, um, uh, around that... I know he was in the first battle of Fallujah and gets back to the States and becomes involved in Iraq Veterans Against the War and sort of goes through that very angry phase that angry sardonic, like his libertarian activism for example, involved a lot of, uh, he had this recurring Youtube series that, uh, where he would get high on whatever thing he'd gotten from the Silk Road most recently.
Giancarlo Sopo: Oh, wow.
Nicolás Jiménez: And so he would do his thing, but you were like watching him trip for half an hour to two or three hours and he's gotten to the point now where you've seen him evolve into and sort of pick up some of the wisdom that you would expect someone to pick up just growing up about how to exchange with people and how to make those things more productive. But I think everybody sort of goes through that phase where it's like, you come to whatever realizations you want to come and you become briefly obsessed with being right and winning the argument.
Giancarlo Sopo: And actually, um, I'm sorry to cut you off, but there's like this experiment that was done called the, uh, the minimal group paradigm experiment. Well, it's series of experiments that have been done by psychologists and sociologists where people have a natural tendency of splitting themselves up into these dividing lines by groups and where winning becomes like this, this objective, and it becomes part of your identity, right. And if you're not winning. And I'm talking about like, I think these, some of these experiments were done by people who are wearing yellow shirts versus like blue shirts. Like that, that's where those lines were drawn. Um, so we have like this natural tendency of doing this and I think it, we really see it manifest into our politics where, you know, you saw Mitch Mcconnell say for example, like my, my point is as, um, I forgot what it was, it was like when he was Senator majority leader was to ensure, or maybe he was Senate minority leader. Then when he said that, uh, like my, my number one job is to ensure that Barack Obama is a one term president.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right.
Giancarlo Sopo: And you have it now also on the Democratic side with what's commonly referred to as the resistance. So we're winning and preventing your, like your, your opponent from having something they can take back to their base or their constituency as, as a victory that's become the goal of, of politics. And it's, uh, rather than, uh, you know, try and improve people's lives for example, right? So it's, it's, it's definitely, um, uh, it's, it's, that's, that's the stage that we're living in right now. And I don't know how it gets, I don't know how it gets better. Um, I'm, uh, I think like you might disagree with me, I, I'm, I believe that the campaign finance system plays a large role in that because I've seen from firsthand experience how this, how that plays out in real life. So the two parties are absolutely beholden to their advocacy groups on the left, large donors and corporate interests on, on the right, but also on the left, I'd say, of course let's just say call them donors, right?
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, yeah, right
Giancarlo Sopo: So originally when these groups have started, um, I can speak about like the perspective from the left just because I work in democratic politics, I'm sure we're still on the right. There started with some, you know, like some mission of where they want to see society move. Many times they achieve that mission, right? And, but the group does not go away. They, those people, they have jobs, they have payrolls, have consultants, people to feed. So then they start moving away from what was that original mission to then more extreme positions and they bring the political party along with them and they have to keep that going because otherwise what are you going to do? Like you have a staff of like
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, you gotta justify your own...
Giancarlo Sopo: Right! How do you justify your own existence, right? And I don't think people are aware that that's even happening or the degree to which it happens
Nicolás Jiménez: Or at least on a, on an intellectual level they might be, but they're not conscious of it as they're moving through whatever thought process where it might be relevant.
Giancarlo Sopo: Or whatever debate we're, like public debate we're having at the time.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah. It's sort of like its own siloed issue that you talk about when it gets brought up without accounting for the fact that it's relevant to all the other things you're talking about.
Giancarlo Sopo: Right. And the fact that we don't have, like we have a defacto limitless campaign system where you could just pump a lot of money into any election, both the right and left do it. It's nothing. Usually the, the conservatives are the ones who get the most flack for it, but it's also done by, by Labor groups, for example, in the left. When you, when you kind of like, that's like, that's like forget throwing gasoline on a fire. We were talking and just like we're like throwing gasoline, kerosene and like and like a shit ton of like of other like leaves and, and, and tree trunks into the fire. Right? Like it gets, it gets a lot worse because you're really pulling people. You're really start pulling people into like these irreconcilable positions where moderation. Forget moderation. Like just like compromise is not even possible.
Giancarlo Sopo: Um, and that's, that you see that play out right now, and I think you saw that play out, for example, in the 2016 election where 20 years ago Hillary Clinton's answer on abortion would have been very different, right? Because she was asked about this in a debate. Um, and it was the, it was on the subject of late term abortion where I think most people feel really uncomfortable with that. Even people who would describe themselves pro choice and in almost every other scenario, but most people felt like really uncomfortable with her answer and I think that might have cost her some votes in like these Catholic, like, like Midwest corridor. Right? Because she, she just couldn't come out and say, listen, of course, barring some extreme circumstance, uh, you know, I would draw the line on abortions here, right? Um, she wasn't willing to say that in part because of the Democratic Party's reliance on these pro choice groups.
Nicolás Jiménez: Even in a situation where she had, like you've been saying, right, this happens on both sides, but even in a situation where she has the, the relative comfort of having, you know, knowing that it's her up against a Trump or up against, like she could have gone there and you could still make the case that okay, well even in spite of that, the alternatives like--
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, yeah. Like, and, and look to be fair, the Republicans do it too, I think on, on, on the issue of guns, for example. You might, you might, you might disagree, but I think so if I was seeing the other day, like some of a, somebody on my Facebook feed is very, very close to Turning Point USA, the young conservative activist group and there are people commenting on this person's Facebook posts about the Second Amendment essentially arguing for uh, the right to own heavy artillery, artillery tanks and bazookas.
Giancarlo Sopo: And I'm like, geez like, you can't, like, like I think most reason even like my conservative friends who support the Second Amendment, like they draw the line there, but these people are like moving into like an like this extreme situation and this extreme scenario. And I bet you like I've seen how this stuff happens behind the scenes, right? You hire consultants who has to figure out the most incendiary message possible to move persuadable, like this, uh, persuadable universe of potential supporters to your side as quickly as you possibly can. So you develop inflammatory language and you know, things that really activated, you know, there's like, I'm sure you're like, you know, like there's like type one and type two reasoning like thinking fast and slow. Like, like all that you activate people's emotional side of their brains really quickly and like, like bring them to your side and frame the debate in your, in your terms.
Giancarlo Sopo: And that's what these groups both on the right and left what they do constantly. And it does not allow for like the kind of rational approach to politics that I think in public policy that we should be having and that cycle continues to get worse and we see it now not just on the issue of guns and on abortion. We also see it on say like immigration, right? Where... I am clearly, if you were to draw a line, I am clearly on the side of the democratic position on, on immigration, right? Like I don't, I'm, I don't look, I don't believe in merit based immigration, not because I think it's racist just because like from a personal view, like I don't, I, my family would have never been allowed to come to this country if we had a merit based immigration system. And also just like I, I believe it's good public policy to have a more flexible process.
Giancarlo Sopo: But my, I clearly remember like in some of my earliest political jobs, designing messages for immigration activist groups where the starting the tip of the spear in the message was essentially arguing for like in favor of a wall in favor of a strong border in favor of, uh, border, I think the term that was used was border security. Right? And there are even clips of Senator Obama speaking about this in the Senate, right?
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: Though that came from a focus group, like guaranteed. But that's how these things are designed. And now a wall is synonymous with racism. I'm like, how did that happen from like 10, within 10 years? I personally think that Donald Trump's wall idea on the policy merits isn't a great one, but I don't think it's, I don't think it's inherently racist.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah. I mean, to your point, I mean if the, the issue that I've had with, with that opposition to the wall as somehow racist has been, unless you're arguing for open borders where there is no mechanism keeping people on the other side of the line, what is the ob— and, which by the way is not far, if not exactly where I am. Right. Like I'm like I said, I'm the anarcho-capitalist nut job in the room. I'm all for like, you want to come over here, come over here.
Giancarlo Sopo: The Milton Friedman, uh, position on immigration.
Nicolás Jiménez: Totally. Yeah. I mean if there's demand for it, there should be, there should be as free a market for labor as for anything else, but if you're going to argue against a wall as being racist, but you're not going to argue that you shouldn't still be achieving the intended effect of the wall, whether through policy or through surveillance or —
Giancarlo Sopo: Drones
Nicolás Jiménez: Drones or whatever it is. Then shut the hell up. Right? Like if your issue is no, no, I want to keep people out and I want to, you know, measure, you know who's coming in, who's coming out, but doing it with a physical barrier is racist. No, maybe doing it with a physical barrier is unnecessarily expensive...
Giancarlo Sopo: Or stupid, yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, stupid, or, or maybe it sends a message that's easily misunderstood or what, but don't tell me that a wall is, that a stack of bricks is racist, but that hiring, uh, hiring agents to monitor a line is not. That's silly.
Giancarlo Sopo: Well, plus, we already have walls. I've been to Hidalgo, Texas right on the U.S. Mexico border there by McAllen where there's, there are walls. They're more like really high metallic fences, if you will, but they, they're, they're, they're essentially a wall.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure. Yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: So I don't think extending that by like 300 miles or whatever the magic number is—
Nicolás Jiménez: Where is it that they, that they play volleyball across the fence? Have you seen this?
Giancarlo Sopo: Right, yeah, yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: I forget where that is, but yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: But like, you know, like I don't think that's inherently racist. I think some of the other comments that Trump has made regarding race are, are much more incendiary and problematic, but I don't think--
Nicolás Jiménez: To the extent that you can take him seriously.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah. Uh, right, that's a whole other show. But, but the, I, I don't think that the wall itself. I'm not in favor of a wall. If we, if we put up for a vote, I wouldn't vote for it.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure.
Giancarlo Sopo: But I don't think it's racist. I also don't think that, in some of these negotiations that you saw and in Congress a few months ago where we were trying to, they were trying to figure out what to do with the Dreamers and DACA, um, and some, you know, some of the positions that people took. Well, you know, like a wall shouldn't, shouldn't even be on the table. We should just take this clean vote on DACA. I mean like I understand that from a democratic standpoint that you want to argue from a position of strength, right? So you're gonna like make the most extreme demand you possibly can. And then like end up at the center instead of like starting at the center and then get pulled totally into, toward the other side, from a, that's a negotiation tactic. But it seems like that's how I see it actually played out. Like they were just unwilling to compromise in any way. And I also think, I'm not gonna put that on the shoulders of Democrats that that's why DACA fell apart, but you could see why, when you, like those, those, those negotiation dynamics, right? Combined like overlapped with like this media that needs content 24 hours and then like this campaign finance system that allows these groups to move to these extreme positions more and more, how then the country could just devolve into like just becoming ungovernable and if you, if you, if you add in this like confirmation bias, political tribalism, where you don't want to allow other people to have any kind of victory whatsoever, that can become very problematic. And we just, we're gonna just keep talking about these issues for like forever and we're not going to actually solve them. And I also think that there are incentives on both sides toward like actually not really solving them.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah. So, uh, the last thing, unless there's stuff that you want to touch on that we haven't gotten at. I know I've kept you here for a while now.
Giancarlo Sopo: No, man. we can keep going. It's, it's...
Nicolás Jiménez: What, what role, uh, would you. So in your experience in, in, in the way that you've chosen to engage people or to respond to people who engage you on these things. Uh, I've found it especially useful, at least to me and to my communicating my perspective and I think that it's been at least, uh, not I think I know people have told me that, uh, that I've changed their minds on a thing or two here or there. Um, but I like to bring those discussions back to some core principle which I think not only helps me to sometimes persuade other people, but even when people are not persuaded, uh, it helps to create some kind of understanding, right? Because when, I think that we've, that we've come to a place um on not only on that and it's not something that anybody has a monopoly on it. Even on the libertarian side, I think there are, there's a flavor of libertarianism that does this, that where pragmatism is fetishized. Where you know, the measure of morality is whatever, you know, whether a certain end has been achieved or certain result has been achieved. I think the income inequality thing is a, is a good example, for instance. Um, but you know, when I say something crazy or that people think is crazy, uh, like maybe some of the things that I might have to say about guns, like I'm, I'm one of those people that I'm sure is not. I was about to say that you would place but know that anybody would place outside of the mainstream. My ideas on guns are not in the mainstream.
Giancarlo Sopo: Sure.
Nicolás Jiménez: Uh, I think that aside from the legal argument of if it is an arm and it can be born, then you have a right to bear that arm. Uh, but aside from that, I think there's the issue of, of natural rights. Do I have a natural right to own a thing? As long as I'm not being violent. Yeah. And that would include heavy artillery and it's not a new idea because the New York Times editorial staff defended the New York Times building during riots in New York City with a Gatling gun that they had like a mounted like giant Gatling gun. Uh, you know, and, and so what's, what's new is the idea that that right doesn't exist because it was an uncontroversial thing. It was like, you know, you had what today would be the, you know, uh, pacifist like, Oh my God, no, we can't do... the, when you have an editor of the New York Times being like, where's that Gatling gun at, can we bring that thing out of storage real quick? Um, but what I generally bring things back to and, and, and this question has been, uh, or, or played a big role in, in my arriving at the place where I am now is the question of what is government and I haven't had, I haven't been exposed to or I haven't come across a, a better definition than I think it's Max Faber was the first to or present this formulation or at least his version of it is the most popular of government as a legal monopoly on the initiation of force inside of a given area. Uh, and I think that, and I bring this up just as an example, for me that has helped to, at the very least, bring people to a place where they're able to say, okay, I get where you're coming from. I disagree with it, but I'm finally able to wrap my head around it.
Nicolás Jiménez: Right? Like, I, I see anything that government does, the only thing that separates government from any other institution is that it accomplishes what it accomplishes either by force or the threat of force and that that is an inherent immorality. Um, and I just, I, you know, in, uh, in terms of just the sheer logic of it, I have not been able and I've tried and I've made honest good faith efforts to seek out or formulate the arguments for myself that, that would justify that on a moral level and I haven't found it yet. So the question is, uh, have you found that to be useful for yourself? And what is it that you, uh, have have done or said or brought up that you've found, has, has resulted in some kind of understanding of your perspective and what those core foundational principles are so that you can at least have it not get to that nasty place where the conversations become productive and at the very least in the sense of an understanding, and maybe I'm wrong, but I am, and you've probably seen me make these arguments
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Nicolás Jiménez: In, in, uh, in facebook or whatever before
Giancarlo Sopo: Remember, we drove to Orlando and we talked about this once.
Nicolás Jiménez: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: In addition to, hey, uh, you know, you guys are from Miami. Yeah, we are. Do you guys listen to The Coast?
Nicolás Jiménez: It was a weird, a weird question in a weird restaurant from a weird waiter.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Um, but, uh, so yeah, the question is, and that was very long winded as I tend to be, uh, but the question is, what have you found is useful for making those conversations useful?
Giancarlo Sopo: I think the, what I always come back to, uh, it's, it's less, has less to do with, I'd say like these, uh, uh, different philosophies on like, you know, Max, Max Waivers, like philosophy on government. It's not so much about government. It's like I try to go a little more profound than that, just like in terms of thinking about objective truth and that two things can be true at the same time that may not fit these preconceived narratives that we have, right?
Nicolás Jiménez: Right. In an objective way. Not in a subjective way where you're twisting the reality to make two things true that cannot be, but
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, or, or like, um, or, or maybe two things could be true subjectively, right? Like, like people have to be more willing to acknowledge that others may look at the same situation differently within these areas that are subjective. So I think the Michelle Wolf skit was a good example of that, right? So
Nicolás Jiménez: This is her, Michelle Wolf who did her monologue at the—
Giancarlo Sopo: The White House Correspondents Dinner.
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, yeah.
Giancarlo Sopo: So I posted something where I tried just getting people to realize that a couple of things could be true at the same time. It could be true that she said things that were totally fair, funny and above board, right? It could also be true that she made some comments that fell in a gray area. It could also be true that she made, um, some comments that were clearly in poor taste and finally it, it could be true that different people would have reacted differently depending on who was the butt of the jokes and who is making the jokes based on political affiliation. All those four things can be true at the same time. And so what I want to help people realize is sort of like this Chesterton's notion of um, bipolar extremism is that like two things that may seem completely incompatible could be true at the same time and if we applied that to politics and if we're more fully aware of the role that things like confirmation bias, which we all have, different, in a different heuristics, like cognitive heuristics, like the roles that they play and like how we see things. Um, but also just a more objective understanding of data and you know, the signal and noise and how those things play out in data and longterm historical trends. If I could get like the people who I engage with, even if they end up disagreeing with me, if I can get them to come to realization that, that there are objective truths that I know that, you know, what Peterson would call the Jordan Peterson would call like the, the, the postmodern left when it's totally—
Nicolás Jiménez: Right.
Giancarlo Sopo: Um, I, I agree with him. I think that this postmodernism that we're living in
Nicolás Jiménez: Postmodern left.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: That was my best Jordan Peterson impersonation. It was somewhere between Canadian and Kermit the frog.
Giancarlo Sopo: I, I do think that's dangerous. It doesn't lead to a good place as a society, especially if that's coupled with identity politics in like the ethnic and racial sense and intersectionality. Um, if I get people to like acknowledge that several things could be true at the same time and that, at least recognize that they may not hold the truth in their hands, that they may not be right. If you're willing to be that humble as you approach discussions, I think that we could really move society forward and our politics forward in a much better way than we're at right now, just yelling at people, calling them like, you know, cucks or libtards, you know, or, or racist Islamophobes, that's not going to move us forward. We have to be able to kinda like put those things aside and just talk about facts in ways that are rational, objective, and then we can agree to disagree, but be willing to acknowledge that various thing can be true at the same time.
Nicolás Jiménez: Sure. So on that note, uh, we're gonna, we're gonna call it a day here. Before we go, let's talk about Dog Bandanas one more time.
Giancarlo Sopo: Dog Bandanas. I, you know, I'm going to write that down and get one for Jack.
Nicolás Jiménez: That's right. So thanks to this episode's sponsor, Bandoggo. You can check them out at buybandoggo.com. That's B-U-Y-B-A-N-D-O-G-G-O dot com. They offer adorable and affordable, handcrafted, reversible doggo bandanas for your fur family members. Based out of Gainesville, they handcraft and ship your favorite Bandoggo styles straight to your front door. They are available for all different size dogs. Your dog is naked. It's gross. Everybody's pissed off about it. Change that. Put a Bandana on him or her. And use promo code DADE20. That's D-A-D-E-2-0 for 20 percent off on that promo code. So D-A-D-E-2-0. And, and make sure to get your Bandoggo stuff. They actually also have ties, like necktie-looking—
Giancarlo Sopo: For dogs? Or for people?
Nicolás Jiménez: Yeah, yeah. For dogs, for do—oh, well I guess a person could use it.
Giancarlo Sopo: Jack is, is too small to wear a tie. He'd looked ridiculous with it.
Nicolás Jiménez: But those Boston Terrier legs are nice and long and
Giancarlo Sopo: No, no, no, no. He's little.
Nicolás Jiménez: As long as it's not dragging on the floor.
Giancarlo Sopo: Boston terriers are little. Like he's...
Nicolás Jiménez: I know, I know, but they, they uh, you know, he's also, you know, he's got longer legs than say a pug. A pug in a tie I guess would look ridiculous but a Boston Terrier could pull it off.
Giancarlo Sopo: Yeah, maybe yeah.
Nicolás Jiménez: Anyway, thanks for joining us on the DADE Podcast. You can find us at DadeMag.com. That's D-A-D-E-M-A-G dot com. Twitter @Dadetweets. Instagram, @DadeIG, and uh, we're also on Youtube. Look for DadeMag, all one word or I think if you just look up Dade Mag, two words, whatever. Find us all over the place. DadeMag.com. Thanks. Catch you next time.
Nicolás Antonio Jiménez is the founder of DADE. When he's not working on this site, he's the senior editor of Cigar Snob Magazine, an internationally distributed lifestyle magazine.
Nick is also a Miami native, Cuban-American, and graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.