Can We Make Government Work? With Dan Schnur & Zach Friend

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Dan Schnur and Zach Friend

Dan Schnur and Zach Friend

Winston Churchill described democracy as the worst form of government except for all the others. And it is inherently frustrating: A dictator can just tell people what to do, but in a democracy, we all have to negotiate it with each other.

Despite that, Churchill’s generation of Westerners believed fervently in democratic government. But that hasn’t held true in the years since.

In 2016, Harvard’s Yascha Mounk and the University of Melbourne’s Roberto Stefan Foa published the results of a study of support for democracy in the United States and other Western countries. They found that it had declined with each generation. In an article in the Journal of Democracy called “The Danger of Deconsolidation,” they reported that only about 30 percent of American millennials believe that it’s essential to live in a democracy. For people born before World War II, the figure is 72 percent.

The study found similar results across Western democracies. Mounk and Foa wrote that young people in the West have “become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.”

What can we do about this? In this episode we hear from two people from opposite sides of our partisan divide, who each have a lot of experience both arguing with the other side, and finding some common ground with the other side.

Dan Schnur is a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and the University of California – Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. He worked on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns as one of California’s leading Republican political strategists. He’s written for major newspapers and been a commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and National Public Radio.

Zach Friend is a public policy and communications expert who has worked for Barack Obama and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He’s currently a local elected official, serving on the Board of Supervisors in Santa Cruz County, California. Zach is also a media commentator, and the author of the book “On Message.”

Disclosure: Zach is a long-time friend of host Spencer Critchley, Zach has been a client of Boots Road Group, which produces Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good, and Zach and Spencer both worked for the Obama for America campaign and helped out with Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Show Links

"The Danger of Deconsolidation," by Mounk and Foa

"The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It," by Yascha Mounk

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts:” origins of the quotation, by Barry Popik

"On Message," by Zach Friend

Dan Schnur

Dan Schnur is a Professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications and the University of California – Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies.

He has been teaching courses in politics, communications and leadership at UC-Berkeley since 1996 and at USC since 2004. Dan has also taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University and George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. He is the founder of the USC/LA Times statewide political poll.

Previously, Dan worked on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns as one of California’s leading political strategists. He served as the national Director of Communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain and was the chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson.

In 2010, Dan was appointed Chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), where he implemented groundbreaking campaign finance disclosure requirements. Dan also was a founder and cochairman of the Voices of Reform project, the bi-partisan statewide effort whose work laid the foundation for California’s landmark redistricting reform.

After completing his FPPC term, Dan registered as a No Party Preference voter and launched Fixing California, an organization dedicated to campaign finance and political reform. In 2014, Dan ran for statewide office as a non-partisan candidate for California Secretary of State.

Dan has been an advisor to the William & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Broad Education Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the James Irvine Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stuart Foundation on a variety of K-12 education and college and workforce preparedness efforts.

Dan’s commentaries have appeared in several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. In addition, he has been an analyst and political commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and National Public Radio.

Dan is a graduate of the American University in Washington, D.C.

Zach Friend

Zach Friend is an author, public policy and communications expert who has worked for Barack Obama and John Kerry’s presidential campaigns, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). For nearly a decade, Zach was the Press Information Officer and a Crime Analyst for the Santa Cruz, California Police Department, acting as the department's spokesman and analyzing crime statistics to help design more effective prevention and enforcement strategies

With Obama for America ’08, Zach was a battleground state press secretary and spokesman handling planning, writing and media relations. For appearances and interviews, he staffed and briefed Barack Obama, Joe Biden and other campaign principals and surrogates

He has written for the Huffington Post and Business Insider and been quoted by CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, the LA Times, the New York Times, Politico and others

Turner Publishing released his book On Message: How a Compelling Narrative Will Make Your Organization Succeed in late 2013. On Message became an Amazon.com best seller in the Marketing category and won a prestigious Axiom Business Book Award in the Networking/Communication Skills category. He has lead numerous trainings and conferences on messaging, media and narrative creation based on principals in the book

Zach was elected to the Santa Cruz County (California) Board of Supervisors, representing the Second District, in 2012 and was reelected in 2016. The beautiful and diverse Second District, which is bordered by the Monterey Bay, the Pajaro River and the Santa Cruz Mountains, includes coastal communities and some of the most productive agricultural land in the country. In 2017, Zach was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Film Commission and currently serves on that commission

Zach has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a BA with Honors in History from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Zach lives in Santa Cruz County with his wife and son.

Dan Schnur and Zach Friend