In what ways do elites affect the dominant features of public discourse in America?
Elites model discourse. PBS’s The Newshour with Jim Lehrer models a form of engaged, accountable argument. CNN’s CrossFire models a form of verbal blood sport. If one assumes that engaging in conversation about politics opens one to the sort of personal verbal assault that CrossFire models, one will be less likely to talk politics with any but ideological kin.
I suspect that the capacity for engaged accountable talk about politics is enhanced in those who tune in to Charlie Rose’s late night discussions with authors and is crimped by exposure to verbal shout-matches and smackdowns that pass for political discussion on cable news. Of course, it’s likely that those disposed to respectful engaged argument seek out the former, while those inclined toward the gladitorial gravitate to the latter.