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The pundits sparred over national politics, the presidential campaigns, the economy and the state of public discourse during their free-ranging point/counterpoint-style verbal showdown.
Begala, a senior advisor to the pro-Obama Super PAC during the 2012 presidential campaign, campaign advisor to former President Bill Clinton and best-selling author, told the crowd he has the utmost respect for the work HR professionals do. “I love what you do. I really admire it,” he said.
A longtime newspaper and magazine writer, Carlson is the anchor of “Fox and Friends Weekend” and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, one of the fastest-growing news sites in the country.
Carlson told the audience that, as a business owner, he understands many of the challenges HR professionals face. His news site, which he launched seven years ago, now has 75 employees. “I’m the worst HR director in the history of American business,” he said, joking that, because most of his employees are journalists, “there’s a lot of bailing people out of jail for drunken behavior.
“It takes a lot of intelligence and kindness to be a good HR person,” he added.
Both men said this year’s presidential campaigns reflect many of the contentious issues playing out in the workplace.
The stagnation of wages, especially among American workers without college degrees, has left many people feeling left out of the American dream, Begala said, recounting his own experiences growing up in Sugarland, Texas. “We have to find a way to lift up the poor and the middle class,” he said.
He chided presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump for playing off people’s fears about their future. “He loves the poorly educated,” Begala said. “Every con man does.”
Begala predicted that three groups of voters will determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election: young people, people of color and unmarried women. He said these groups are also exerting their influence in the workplace, creating a source of tension.
Carlson, who grew up in La Jolla, Calif., an affluent community near the Mexican border, said issues such as immigration reveal a deep divide among the American electorate along socioeconomic lines.
“What we, in Washington, don’t recognize is that the effects of change aren’t spread evenly. Where I grew up, and in the neighborhood where I live now, there’s no downside to immigration. People in my ZIP code are totally immune from the economic effects of immigration,” Carlson said. “The economic reality is very different if you live in Youngstown, Ohio.”
Carlson urged conference attendees, regardless of their political persuasion, to deliberately seek out opposing views and to listen respectfully when others share their concerns.
“Allow for the possibility that people who don’t agree with you are still good people,” he said. “There should be space for sincere, honest disagreement.”
Desda Moss is managing editor for HR Magazine.
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