Interview with David Doel

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David Doel at work on The Rational National

I don’t spend a lot of time on YouTube, but when I do I check out short clips from hour-long shows like Democracy Now!, Majority Report, Thom Hartmann Program, and Democracy at Work. There is one channel, however, I religiously check out every day: David Doel’s The Rational National.

The show’s subject matter is always fascinating and Doel’s insight and the even-handedness towards his subjects is refreshing in this divisive political climate. Personally, I’m a bit of a crank and would handle some of these subjects with anger or frustration. Some of my sounding boards (wife, sons, Facebook friends) would agree my passion gets the better of me and muddles my arguments at times. That’s part of the reason why I admire Doel’s fairness and criticism.

The thirty-two-year-old has been a video editor for a national broadcast news station, a freelance writer covering the video game industry, a web marketing specialist for a tech company, and a political candidate. Doel currently runs Eleven21 Productions where he has produced a number of projects including music videos and events. He focuses most of his energy these days on his YouTube channel, The Rational National.

He was gracious enough to answer some questions via email.

Burger Scoot: What inspired you to start The Rational National YouTube channel?

David Doel: Coming off a short run as a political candidate in the 2015 Canadian federal election, I wanted to continue discussing ideas I felt passionate about. So I decided to combine my interest and brief experience in politics with my work experience in video production.

You are Canadian and yet, from most of the subject matter on your channel, you are obviously very interested in US politics. Why?

I got into politics in my early to mid-20s, spurred by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. So growing up on a diet of American politics, in some ways I felt I knew more about the American political system than that of my own country’s. On top of that, Canadian politics is less of a spectacle; most Canadians are really only familiar with their own Mayor, MP, Premier, and of course Prime Minister. Whereas being a politician in the U.S. is essentially like being a celebrity. It’s a lot more about the individual than it is about the party, and it’s discussed nationwide. So someone from Oklahoma has a better chance at knowing who Elizabeth Warren is than someone from Nova Scotia knowing who Kathleen Wynne (Ontario’s Premier) is. Because of that, the market for political discussion occurs on a much larger scale; not just in terms of population (with America having ten times more people than Canada) but also just because of the constant national political discourse occurring in America. As an outsider, I feel I have a unique perspective from a country that already experiences many of the benefits, like universal healthcare, that American will one-day have. And by offering that perspective, I hope to educate people that progressive policies are not as scary as the Republicans and many Democrats make them out to be.

You ran for Parliment in 2015 on Green Party of Canada ticket. What was it like to be on that side of politics?

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Doel debating

Running for parliament was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I naturally overthink everything, so I felt completely unprepared for the experience, but in many ways, you can never really be prepared to do a completely new thing. I jumped into it because my local Conservative MP, apart from being terrible in other ways, used cannabis as a way to try and fear-monger for votes. He was spreading lies about how legalized cannabis was ‘destroying’ Colorado and other states. Those blatant lies bothered me to the point that I felt like I had to do something, and it was the final push I needed to contact the Green Party; a party that already impressed me with their progressive platform and leader Elizabeth May. What scared me though were the debates, before this, I had only had horrid memories of public speaking in elementary, high school, and college. But to my surprise I discovered how much I enjoyed speaking at the debates once they finally got going – when you’re passionate about issues and the policies you’re putting forward, the talking comes naturally. But the days and hours leading up to them is a level of anxiety I’ve rarely had to face.

Do you have any interest in running for office again?

I’ve thought about running again, but haven’t come to a conclusion either way. I think we truly underestimate how much we expect a politician to be educated on. At least that’s one of the pressures I faced and why I dreaded the debates. You’re expected to be an expert on all topics, yet realistically, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’re well-versed on everything. In some ways, I think politicians should really just be the mediators between the people and the experts on each topic. I mean, it’s kind of supposed to be that way, but it’s rarely communicated as such. 

Have you taken part in any direct action in American or Canadian politics (aside from your MP bid)? 

For me, The Rational National is my way of taking action. I try to play to my strengths, and one thing I do understand is how people think. So knowing that, I try to take a rational approach to arguments that don’t just shame the uneducated, but actually educates them in a non-confrontational way.

You are obviously a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. Are there other American politicians that you admire? Is there anyone you would like to see run for president in 2020?

I think sincerity and genuine care for people are tough qualities to find in a politician, and those are the ones I gravitate to. So other than Bernie, Nina Turner is a huge standout. And I’m going to make a prediction here and say that Nina will become President at some point in the future. She has a passionate way with words that can communicate with people across political spectrums. I’ve seen it in the reactions to videos I’ve done covering her. She’s the only person where Trump supporters openly admit they’d vote for her. People, on the whole, are angry at the establishment, and when they see someone that really does care about them, whether it’s Bernie or whether it’s Nina, they recognize it. And like Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner has the power to unite the country.

You have been critical of American political commentators like Joy Reid. Are there any commentators in mainstream US media that you like?

I enjoy Rachel Maddow, I just wish she covered more topics than the Trump administration. I understand why she’s focused on it and why she feels she needs to focus on it, but for my own selfish interests, I wish she went into other topics like she did before the 2016 election result. She’s incredibly talented at story-telling, which is vital to educating people on topics they may know nothing about. She’s also become a little too cozy with establishment figures over the past few years, which bothers me as well. There really is no one in mainstream media that I can name who is completely indebted to objectivity like they should be.

There has always been a struggle between progressives that try to change the Democratic Party from within and those who have abandoned the party and have either registered independent or joined third parties like the Party for Socialism & Liberation, Socialist Alternative, and the Green Party. I know that I have often been on the fence on this issue, but have now decided (for now, at least) to try to change the Democratic Party from within. Do you have an opinion on this?

I think you do everything possible on all fronts. That said, I think change from within the party has the highest chance at being successful simply because the skeleton of a nationwide party is already in place – which is the toughest part of building a third party; well that and trying to convince people to vote for a third party. Many people now are aware of how corrupt the political system is and are actively trying to change it with groups like Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, who are aiming to vote out corporate Democrats. Bernie’s right when he says it requires a political revolution for change to occur, and I think we’re seeing the beginning stages of that revolution now. But we don’t need to make the revolution tougher than it has to be, and by primarying out corporate Democrats with progressives, it’s a quicker path to victory than starting from scratch with a new party.

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