The Long Game

By Jon Ward

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An investigation into the reasons why Americans can't solve big problems anymore.

Episode Date
NIH Director Francis Collins is overseeing the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and is concerned about anti-vaccine activists

Francis Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health, which is the primary U.S. government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research. It’s a giant agency, with 20,000 employees, including 6,000 research scientists, and a $39 billion budget. And this job makes him a crucial figure at this particular moment. He is leading the hunt in America for a vaccine solution to the COVID-19 crisis, leading a consortium of several government agencies and 18 pharmaceutical companies. 


“I am worried," he says, "that if we get a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of the year, current polls would say maybe 20 percent of Americans say that they wouldn't take it. And why would they not take it? Just because they don't trust that vaccines are going to be safe, and that all sort of builds upon the stories coming from anti-vaxxers in the past."

"This is a terrible tragedy. Hundred thousands of people are dying across the world. We could stop that. And 20 percent of Americans say, ‘I wouldn't want that vaccine because it might not be what I think it should be because maybe they're lying to me about whether it's safe.’ How did we get there?”


But Collins also acknowledged that establishment organizations and leaders need to engage more meaningfully with the concerns of anti-vaccine activists.


“There's virtually no human intervention, including drinking water, that is without risk for certain people in certain doses. So let's be clear. When I say vaccines are generally safe, that doesn't mean that there's not a rare instance where a vaccine does lead to a negative outcome, some sort of side effect or a secondary illness of some sort. What we ask, I think though, scientifically is how do you balance the benefits and the risks? And I think we ask every consumer to do that same calculation,” he said.


“I'm afraid we have not done a great job in terms of explaining how one makes a thoughtful, rational decision, that you have to really get quantitative about it. If somebody says, ‘Well, there's a risk there.’ Of course there is. How big is the risk? What does that mean for the individual? And how do you factor that into what's the benefit? Then you could have a reasonable conversation,” he said. 

We also discuss why Christians seem to be so vulnerable to conspiracy theories.


Please donate to the DC Dream Center, which has been giving away hundreds of free hot meals every day in one of the most needy parts of Washington DC since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Donate here.



Outro music: "The Times They are a Changing" by Bob Dylan, performed by Francis Collins, Joe Perry and Rudy Tanzi



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May 29, 2020
Religion reporter Terry Mattingly on White Evangelicals and the Qanon political cult

Terry Mattingly, founder of and a nationally syndicated religious columnist, talks about the ways in which conspiracy theories like Qanon are merging with conservative white evangelical subculture.

The Atlantic piece on Qanon is here, and Terry's responses are here, here and here.

Outro music: "Working On a Dream" by Bruce Springsteen


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May 27, 2020
Tim Miller on the need to take conspiracy theories and disinformation seriously

Tim Miller worked in Republican politics for many years but over the last few years he's become more of a writer. One of his latest pieces at The Bulwark is titled, "Taking #Obamagate Seriously: President Trump's Bonkers Theory Explained."

Tim is a veteran political communicator with a good feel for how information flow moves in the modern media environment, and he believes that you can't let half-truths and lies spread unchallenged.

He's spent a lot of time trying to unpack and explain some of the more popular conspiracy theories on the right.

We talk about the speciousness of President Trump's insinuations that President Obama did something wrong, but also about the apparent mishandling of the FBI's 2017 interview of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Some background reading on Flynn:

Outro music: "Flux Capacitor” by Jay Electronica


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May 26, 2020
The Man At the Center of the Red Hot Battle Over Voting Rights: Marc Elias

Marc Elias is leading 32 current lawsuits in 16 states to try to push for more expansive voting rights, and since the coronavirus, his workload has gone way up.

We go deep on the debate over vote-by-mail, and ballot collection, aka ballot harvesting.

Elias is chair of the Political Law practice at Perkins Coie. He was the top lawyer on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and has years of experience in election recounts, which led him to focus on voting rights and redistricting over the last few years.

"What I realized is that there was a large number at the end of every election of ballots that wind up going uncounted. So I wound up getting involved in voting rights litigation mostly through the prism of how do we look at the pool of people whose ballots get rejected and get wrongly rejected," he said. "At the end of 2016 I realized that though there are a lot of reasons you can point to that Secretary Clinton lost those close elections, some of them had to do with how the rules of elections were held. One thing I always point out to people is, no matter what election rules you use, there are going to be winners and losers … There are going to be some populations that are more advantaged than disadvantaged, so I wanted to spend time for 2020 trying to make the rules fairer for everybody."


The DC Dream Center is a wonderful youth facility in southeast DC that is serving 200 free hot meals a day right now to anyone who is in need. They’re the only location east of the river in Wards 7 & 8 doing so for all ages. Please consider making a donation to them. You can donate HERE.


Outro music: "Ladies" by Fiona Apple


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May 20, 2020
DL Mayfield on her new book, "The Myth of the American Dream: Reflections on Affluence, Autonomy, Safety & Power"

“When I was young, it was so simple. I thought God was good. I thought God rewarded those who obey the rules. I thought my good news was accessible to everyone if only they had the ears to listen. I thought my country was a place where hard work was rewarded on a level playing field, no matter where you came from …"

D.L. Mayfield's penetrating book, "The Myth of the American Dream," examines the obsession with safety, ease, affluence and power among American Christians, and how the American church may have prized things that are in conflict with the imperatives at the core of the faith. 

Mayfield's first book was "Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith."

Outro music: "All in it Together" by Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy


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May 05, 2020
Jonathan Karl on his "Trump Show" book, media as the opposition, and the "fakest thing" of the Trump era

Jonathan Karl is chief Washington and White House correspondent for ABC News. His new book is “Front Row at the Trump Show.” 

Jonathan writes in his book that Trump’s attack on “fake news” are “fake” is that Trump actually loves the press, because it is both a vehicle and a villain for him. It gives him a stage on which to act, to play out the Trump show. And as he plays out this soap opera, Jonathan's point is that he wants the press to go too far in its criticism, to move from holding power accountable to seeking to get him. He wants the press to overstep. 

And in Karl’s view, often they have.

Karl uses his long-running relationship with Trump to illustrate how fake the president’s behavior and attacks on the press often are. Karl has known Trump since the mid-90’s, almost 30 years. He first interviewed him in 1994, when Jonathan was a print reporter at the New York Post.

“Donald Trump is aggrieved,” Jonathan writes. "And arguably he has reasons to be aggrieved. But his response is to wage a war on truth that I fear may do as much or more lasting damage to America than any of the mistakes made by the presidents who went before him.”

Outro music: "I Aint Gonna Go to Hell For Anybody” by Bob Dylan


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Apr 29, 2020
The Only Things Worth Discussing: Testing, Tracing & Therapeutics, with Adam White from AEI

Adam White is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a law professor at George Mason University.

He wrote about how we are focusing too much on the president's role in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and that led into a discussion of how the only thing the president -- and the national press -- should really be talking about is doing the things that will help the country reemerge from its bunker: ramping up testing and tracing and therapeutics.

The degree to which we ramp up these three things will determine how much damage is done when we reopen the country.

You can read Adam's piece at The Bulwark here, and another piece at the Atlantic here.


The DC Dream Center is a wonderful youth facility in southeast DC that is serving 200 free hot meals a day right now to anyone who is in need. They’re the only location east of the river in Wards 7 & 8 doing so for all ages. Please consider making a donation to them. You can donate HERE.

DC 127 is a group that works to keep families together where the kids are at risk of falling into the foster care system. They provide support networks around these families and help the parents get their feet under them. They are also currently collecting and donating groceries to these families and others in need. You can donate to them HERE.


Outro music: "24.19" by Childish Gambino

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Apr 17, 2020
Sen. Ben Cardin on Why Democrats Are Holding Up Money for the Small Business Emergency Fund

Republicans are hammering Democrats for not automatically approving another $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, a fund set up to help small businesses avoid going out of business. The fund received $350 billion a few weeks ago, but has already run out of money.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, helped craft the program with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Cardin explains why he and other Democrats are holding up the next round of funding. He said businesses from poor and underserved communities have not been able to access the fund, and he wants to change that before many of them go out of business.

Outro music: "Shelter from the Storm" by Bob Dylan

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Apr 17, 2020
Congressman Patrick McHenry Says Every Small Business Who Needs an Emergency Loan Should Get One

Congress authorized $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program in its coronavirus rescue package that was passed two weeks ago. Any company with 500 employees or fewer can get a loan of up to $10 million and that loan will be forgiven as long as 75% of the money goes toward keeping employees on payroll. The loans are financed by the U.S. government, but are conducted through private sector banks. 

But over the first several days since enrollment in the PPP opened, there have been a lot of problems with people saying they cannot enroll. There were technical issues because of the crush of people trying to apply. But the banks also put up obstacles. One of the most common problems people reported was banks saying they couldn’t apply unless they already had a business account or a credit card with them, or both. 

So I spoke with Rep. Patrick McHenry, the top Republican on the House Financial Services committee, who has been working with the Treasury department to try to fine tune the rollout of the program. McHenry is from North Carolina, a bank-heavy state. He was 

Republican leadership for several years in the House and moved over to a top committee spot when they became the House minority in 2018. 

There were two things McHenry said that are noteworthy. First, he said he thinks that there shouldn’t be a cap on how much the U.S. government can lend out to small businesses, an idea floated on Wednesday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat. It was noteworthy that McHenry agreed with Warren on this. The point would be to ease the anxiety of people who have had trouble getting access so far and worry they will be shut out all together. Already this week Congress is moving to add another $250 billion to the program, bringing it to a $600 billion total, but McHenry thinks that is not enough. 

And second, I asked McHenry to address the concerns of a number of people who told me they were not sure how to access the program. McHenry said that banks have a legal obligation to verify that loan applicants are not seeking loans with fraudulent credentials, and so he said if you have a business account with a bank, to go through them. If you don’t go through a bank where you have any account. And if you have neither or are having trouble with that approach, create an account with the bank you want to use so that they can verify your financial information. 

He said that the rollout has been uneven but that the next week will be improved, as will the week after that. 


I told you last week that the DC Dream Center was giving out 100 free hot meals a day in the Anacostia area of DC. That number is now up to 200 meals. I dropped by the Center over the weekend and dropped off a few items. They usually host a ton of programs at their facility just off Pennsylania Avenue on the other side of the Anacostia River, but they’ve shifted their work to feeding people who need it during this crisis. You can donate to their work HERE.

And Pathways to Housing is helping people who are homeless to transition into housing to help them stabilize their lives and work toward getting employed if possible. The donation link for them is HERE.


Outro Music: "That's the Way that the World Goes Round" by John Prine

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Apr 09, 2020
It's His Job To Critique the President. How Do You Do That During a National Emergency?

The question of who’s to blame for the mess we’re in with coronavirus is not a fun one. It’s clear that the U.S. response has been pretty terrible on a number of fronts: the testing component has been a disaster, as has the lack of preparation regarding medical equipment, from personal protecting gear to ventilators. And then there’s the president, who’s public statements have mostly been erratic. 

As Tom Edsall wrote in the New York Times, Trump "has lurched from complete denial (“One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear”) to “I am not responsible” to “We’re doing a great job” to “It’s going to disappear” to “It will go away” to awarding himself a 10 out of 10 to calling the unavailable tests “PERFECT” to claiming “We have it very well under control” to setting Easter, April 12, as the date to reopen the country “a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline” to boasting of high ratings as death projections soared. On Tuesday, Trump seemed to have come to his senses, at least for now: “This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks.”

But the question of how to critique the president is delicate. The instinct for everyone to row in the same direction at this moment of crisis is strong and understandable. At times of emergency, Americans often rally to the president. And that’s reflected in the fact that Trump’s approval rating has risen recently. 

However, compared to leaders of other countries, the bump in Trump’s approval rating is pretty small: 5 points compared to increases of 18 to 29 points for the leaders of Germany, Canada, Australia and Britain. 

We’ve begun to see political ads criticizing the president’s response, and that struck me as a rather delicate maneuver. So I spoke with Guy Cecil, who runs Priorities USA, one of the most influential Democratic super PAC’s in the country. They spent $190 million in the 2016 presidential election and over the past week spent $7.5 million to run ads critical of the president’s response to the pandemic in five key states that will likely decide the 2020 election: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and... For information regarding your data privacy, visit

Apr 06, 2020
Sen. Ron Wyden on His Push For A Vote-By-Mail Presidential Election

I talked with Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been leading the push with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to send at least $2 billion to states to help them get ready for a fall election conducted during a second wave of infections. He called the $400 million in last week’s rescue package a good start but said he’s going to be pushing for much more in the next bill that Congress passes to deal with the outbreak.

The president’s own science advisers have warned that even if we stabilize coronavirus cases after hitting a peak in the next month, we could see a new wave of infections in the fall. That might require us to think about elections differently. Namely, we might find that many Americans want or need to cast their vote by mail. 

Please consider supporting these two groups helping people during this pandemic.

Covenant House is a national organization that helps young people, ages 18-24, who are "experiencing homelessness, disconnection, and exploitation.” You can donate here.

Pathways to Housing helps get people out of homelessness. During this crisis, they are continuing to place people in housing, as well as providing services to those still on the streets, from food, to counseling, to collecting supplies to help those in need stay as safe as possible. You can donate here.

Outro music: "Blue Pill Blues" by Early James

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Apr 03, 2020
Yuval Levin on How to Come Back from the Coronavirus Pandemic

I talk with Yuval Levin about his article in the Atlantic about how to come back from the pandemic shutdown we are currently in.

He writes: “Along with making the hard pause bearable, we also need to enable a soft return toward normalcy, starting soon. That return will be slow and gradual; it will look different in different places, and it will mean living with the virus, not putting it behind us. The scenario President Trump has fantasized about, that “it’s going to disappear; one day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear,” is not going to happen. At the same time, however, the pause we are in cannot last, even for the medium term.”

Here are links to donate to the two organizations I mentioned.

The DC Dream Center is a wonderful youth facility in southeast DC that is serving 100 free hot meals a day right now to anyone who is in need. They’re the only location east of the river in Wards 7 & 8 doing so for all ages. Please consider making a donation to them. You can donate HERE.

DC 127 is a group that works to keep families together where the kids are at risk of falling into the foster care system. They provide support networks around these families and help the parents get their feet under them. They are also currently collecting and donating groceries to these families and others in need. You can donate to them HERE.

Outro music: "Stop Pretending" by Deep Sea Diver

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Apr 01, 2020
AFSCME President Lee Saunders on a contested convention and how adversity rejevenuated his union

Lee Saunders is the head of one of the country’s largest unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

He talks about why union membership has steadily gone down for decades, how an adverse ruling at the Supreme Court rejuvenated his union, and what it takes to lead a large organization effectively.

He also talks about the Democratic National Committee process to change the primary rules, and how the Democrats should not change the rules again to help Bernie Sanders avoid a contested convention if he has the most delegates but less than a majority.

The outro song is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in 1968 after marching with the Memphis sanitation workers, who were on strike and attempting to join AFSCME Local 1733.

Outro music: "They Killed Him" by Bob Dylan (words by Kris Kristofferson)

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Mar 02, 2020
Addisu Demissie - who ran Cory Booker's campaign - on the Democratic primary

Addisu Demissie ran Cory Booker’s presidential campaign and has an expert resume in Democratic campaigns. Right now he's an undecided voter in California. We talked about what's going to happen in the California primary on March 3, how the South Carolina result will impact Super Tuesday, and what happens to Bernie going forward.

We also talked about Addisu's thoughts about why Booker's campaign couldn't get the kind of momens that Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren had last year, which vaulted them into frontrunner status in a super-crowded field.

We began by discussing the chaotic state of the Democratic primary, and the similarities between Bernie Sanders’ path to the nomination and Donald Trump’s in the 2016 Republican primary. Just as Trump did, Sanders is winning the most delegates with only 30 percent or so of the vote, because the rest of the field is split among several other candidates. In the past, parties had the ability to limit the number of candidates running so there would be a consensus candidate who represented the majority of the party. But parties don’t have that power anymore, leading to what we discussed as a “collective action problem.” Everybody knows what needs to happen — the majority of the Democratic Party needs to unite around one candidate — but nobody is able to make it happen. 

It’s a function of our fractured, atomized politics, and of course if you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know that it’s at the very center of why this podcast even exists. I’ve been looking at this problem for a few years now. 

Addisu and I talked about why younger black voters support Bernie, and older ones generally don’t. I also wrote a piece about this today with my colleague Brittany Shepherd -- which you can read by clicking here. It’s interesting to think of young black voters as a lifeline for Bernie that didn’t exist so much in 2016, helping him win with around 30% in these primaries, and as a bridge to their older friends and relatives if Bernie is the nominee and needs robust turnout from the African-American community. 

And we talked about Bernie’s chances of beating Trump. I liked Addisu’s take on this, which is basically that trying to forecast it right now is probably a fool’s errand.

Outro music: "Dust Kids" by Andy Shauf

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Feb 28, 2020
Bakari Sellers On the South Carolina Primary and Joe Biden's Last Stand

Joe Biden’s last stand will be in South Carolina, where he is still expected to retain support from a large number of African-American voters despite his poor showings so far in Iowa and New Hampshire. Black voters make up about 60% of the Democratic primary vote in South Carolina. If Biden can perform well in Nevada, and then win South Carolina — both of those things being tall orders — that may give him a chance of a surge on Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states will hold primaries just four days after the South Carolina primary.

I spent some time in the Palmetto state this week. I saw Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, speak at events in Charleston. And I recorded this episode in the state capitol, Columbia, where I interviewed Bakari Sellers inside the capitol building in an auditorium. The episode ended when a tour group came in to watch a movie.

Sellers is a South Carolina Democrat who’s been active in state politics here for a while. He is 35 now, which might seem young. But he was elected to the state legislature at only 22 years old. He ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, and lost. But he will run for office again, and soon. 

Sellers is a frequent political commentator on CNN now, and we talked about the state of the race nationally, and about the South Carolina electorate specifically. He made some interesting predictions about President Trump’s chances of winning reelection, of former President Barack Obama’s potential role in trying to unite the Democratic Party if the primary becomes too fractious, and explained why African-American voters are expected to stay loyal to Biden. 

Outro music: "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" by Wilco

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Feb 19, 2020
Carl Hulse on What We Learned From the Impeachment Trial & How to Cover Congress and not Lose Your Mind

Carl Hulse is chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times and has been writing about Congress for the Times for three decades. He knows the US Capitol better than almost anyone. He’s also the author of "Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington's War Over the Supreme Court, from Scalia's Death to Justice Kavanaugh."

Carl interviewed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, and of course we talked about that. But we also discussed what it was like to cover impeachment from start to finish, and what it’s like to work on Capitol Hill without losing touch with the outside world. We discussed Twitter, and I told Carl how having a tweet go viral can be weirdly like being inside a pentecostal church service.

We also talked about why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went from buttoned down last September to tearing up a text of the president’s speech at the State of the Union, and what that means. And I asked Carl to reflect on what kind of president Bernie Sanders would be. 

Outro music: "Crowded Table" by The Highwomen

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Feb 08, 2020
What If You Had More Than Just Two Choices For President? Lee Drutman's Argument for Ranked Choice Voting and More than Two Parties

Lee Drutman is author of “Breaking the Two Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multi-party Democracy in America.” He says introducing ranked choice voting would make it more likely that other political parties would emerge beyond just the two we have now.

Drutman's book argued for abolishing party primaries as well, and for using ranked choice voting to elect members of Congress as well.

Drutman is a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America.

Outro music: "Awaiting Resurrection" by Drive-By Truckers

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Jan 31, 2020
Yuval Levin On His Indispensable New Book "A Time To Build"

Yuval Levin is director of Social, Cultural, and Constitutional Studies at the American Enterprise Institute and Editor in Chief of National Affairs magazine. This is our third conversation on this podcast, and comes as Levin is releasing his third book, "A Time to Build."

"We lack the grammar and vocabulary to talk about what is breaking down, and so cannot even begin to do something about it. We look for diagnoses in the realms made visible to us by our assorted sciences of society, but the troubles we find there are not sufficient to justify our despondent mood. Something has gone wrong somewhere else, in some invisible realm, and we have been straining to perceive and describe what it might be," Levin writes in his new book.

The theme and cause of institutions is something we have been discussing since mid-2017 on this show. You can listen to that first conversation here, and to our second from 2018 here.

One of his most valuable insights is the concept of platforms and molds. This is the point that for too many of us, institutions have become merely vehicles for us to use to promote ourselves, rather than objects worthy of devotion. 

Now if institutions hold only marginal value, then perhaps we shouldn’t be discussing the possibility of devoting ourselves to them, and in some cases sublimating our own egos and brands to larger institutional goals. 

But the entire point of this podcast has been, in fact, to explore the notion that institutions are in fact indispensable, and to better understand why that is. Levin has played a crucial and deeply influential role in this exploration, for which I'm grateful.

Outro music: "Song in My Head" by Madison Cunningham

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Jan 21, 2020
Justice John Roberts Is Not Going to Decide Impeachment Trial Witnesses - Jeffrey Rosen

Jeffrey Rosen is the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a contributing writer for The Atlantic Magazine, a law professor at George Washington University, and the author of Conversations With RBG: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law.

I spoke with Rosen about what we can expect from Chief Justice John Roberts as he presides over the Senate impeachment trial, and also about his writing on the dangerous direction that American democracy is headed in, and how to possibly turn things around.

Rosen's 2018 Atlantic Piece: "Madison vs the Mob"

Rosen's 2019 Atlantic Piece: "How to Revive Madison's Constitution"

Outro music: "It Might Be Time" by Tame Impala

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Jan 14, 2020
Bob Inglis Wanted to "Destroy" Bill Clinton during the 98 Impeachment. Years Later He Tracked Him Down to Apologize.

Bob Inglis was leading the charge 20 years ago to impeach President Bill Clinton. Inglis was an up and coming Republican congressman from South Carolina, and a self-described bomb-thrower.

A few years ago, Inglis asked to meet Clinton at his offices in Harlem. He walked into that meeting and asked Clinton's forgiveness.

This is a conversation about how that transformation came about, and about what Inglis is up to now. He's been a lonely voice on the political right seeking to raise awareness about climate change, but he said that conservatives are slowly coming around on the issue, and that whenever President Trump exits the stage, he will "take climate disputation with him.”

Outro music: "Crowded Table" by The Highwomen

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Dec 06, 2019
Susan Glasser Has Covered Impeachment and Russia Before, But Not At the Same Time

Susan Glasser is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she writes a weekly column on “Trump’s Washington,” and she is a global affairs analyst for CNN. She founded Politico Magazine and was editor of Politico during the 2016 election. She was editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy magazine, and previous to that a senior editor at the Washington Post, following years of reporting in Russia, Washington, and Iraq and Afghanistan. 

We talk in depth about her impressions of the impeachment hearings, which she watched every second of.

Glasser is the author of “Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of the Revolution,” which she co-wrote with her husband, Peter Baker, who is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times.

Glasser wrote in her most recent column about the two worlds of the impeachment hearings, and how that played out specifically with regard to Republican defenses of President Trump, in part by trying to blame Ukraine — not Russia — for election interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Outro music: "The Drawing of the Line” by Josienne Clarke

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Nov 27, 2019
Jack Goldsmith On Growing Up Around Mobsters, RFK's Abuses of Power, & Trump's Impeachment

Jack Goldsmith is the author of "In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth.” It's the story of his step-father, Chuckie O'Brien, and the man he spent much of his life working for, Jimmy Hoffa.

Goldsmith weaves his own personal story into a dramatic and compelling tale of how Robert F. Kennedy abused government power to go after Hoffa, and set bad precedents for government surveillance and targeting of individuals. These themes intersected with Goldsmith's own career when he found himself at the center of a massive fight inside the White House in 2004 over whether there was legal justification for torture and secret spying on American soil.

Goldsmith is a law professor at Harvard University and co-founder of the Lawfare website. He was director of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 2003 to 2004. He wrote a book about his time there, called "The Terror Presidency."

Outro song: "King of You" by Wilco

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Oct 18, 2019
"Kanye West Should Not Be President" - Chris Hayes On the Role of Parties In A Democracy

Chris Hayes is the host of “All In With Chris Hayes,” a nightly hour-long show on MSNBC that airs at 8 p.m. He wrote “Twilight of the Elites” in 2011, and a second book “A Colony in a Nation” in 2017.

"The most important social project we must undertake in the wake of the fail decade," he wrote in "Twilight of the Elites," "is reconstructing our institutions so that we once against feel comfortable trusting them."

I asked Chris about whether political parties should have more say over who they nominate in their primaries. He said he has thought about that question a lot, and has wondered how he would handle it on his own show if someone like Kanye West actually ran for president as a Democrat. He indicated he would feel the obligation to speak out against such a nominee, but also implied that he knew it would be difficult to do so given the public’s attitudes about what they think of as democratic and undemocratic. 

Hayes has his own podcast, which is called “Why Is This Happening?” We talked here a little about why he does a podcast given his already heavy work load and large platform.

Outro Song: "In Care of 8675309" by Lambchop

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Oct 15, 2019
Stacey Abrams: "I Talk About Power Because You're Not Supposed To"

Stacey Abrams is a 45-year old politician who ran for governor of Georgia last year and lost, but in the process became a nationally known Democratic star. She’s at the top of the list of potential running mates for the 2020 Democratic presidential field. And she’s only seen her her profile rise since last fall by contending that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, defeated her through underhanded tactics.

Abrams is the most prominent public critic of voter suppression. We talk in this episode about the reasons why many Americans don't think voter suppression is a problem, whether their minds can be changed, and what Abrams is doing to fight it. Abrams also weighs in on the story of the Quitman 10+2, the subject of my in depth investigation earlier this year.

Abrams also tells me that she still wants to be president of the United States, even if she has chosen not to run in 2020. And we talk about why she is comfortable talking in blunt terms about gaining and keeping power, a topic that most people approach delicately or not at all.

We end by Abrams talking about how she became a fan of country music, and why a song called "Pray to Jesus" by Brandy Clark is one of her favorites.

"[Clark] really speaks to the existential challenge that faces, you know, the working class and the poor, which is that there seem to only be two ways to achieve progress. Either, you know, prayers answered or you win the lottery. And I want to believe that there's more. And that's why I'm committed to trying to make sure voting works, because we should make sure there are three chances. Pray to Jesus, win the lotto or vote for people who lead us forward," Abrams said.

Outro song: "Pray to Jesus" by Brandy Clark.

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Oct 09, 2019
Mako Fujimura on Culture Care Instead of Culture War, Painting, & Restoring a Vision of the Common Good

Mako Fujimura is an artist and a philosopher. He’s been blowing my mind for 15 years, first with his painting and then with his writing. 

"Culture is not a territory to be won; it is instead a resource we are called to steward,” he has said. 

That statement is a rebuke to the last forty years of American life. Mako is a Christian, and so he is in particular rebuking American Christianity. He gives us a radically different paradigm through which to view the world. 

He is a renowned painter. His works have been shown all over the world, at "the Dillon Gallery in New York, Sato Museum in Tokyo, The Tokyo National University of Fine Arts Museum, Bentley Gallery in Arizona, Gallery Exit and Oxford House at Taikoo Place in Hong Kong, Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, Shusaku Endo Museum in Nagasaki.”

"He is one of the first artists to paint live on stage at New York City’s legendary Carnegie Hall as part of an ongoing collaboration with composer and percussionist, Susie Ibarra.”

Mako paints using an ancient Japanese technique called Nihonga, which relies on the use of pulverized minerals and is makes use of papers made from Japanese mulberry and hemp fibers. He has likened his use of these pulverized minerals to the way that suffering can be redeemed in our own lives. 

"These materials themselves have to be pulverized and pounded to become beautiful,” he said.

We talk about his experience on 9/11/01, when he lived three blocks from the World Trade Center and didn’t know for some time that morning whether his children, who were in school two blocks from the towers, had survived. 

This is from an August 2019 commencement address: "After 9/11, I had to train my imagination by painting over and over images of fire. I needed to transform haunting memories and images of destructive fire into the fire of sanctification. When I saw the spire fall at Notre Dame last month, yes, I was right back where I started — but I was able, also, to turn my mind and my heart back to my studio near Ground Zero, and again go into my daily practice toward sanctification. These fires do not have to end in destruction. Fire can purify our memory and desire. (“Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain.” T.S Eliot, The Wasteland) A renewed neuron network can form, if we imagine through the darkness."


Mako has written three books: “Culture Care,” “Silence and Beauty,” and “Refractions.” His work on “Silence and Beauty” brought him into collaboration with renowned director Martin Scorsese, who directed the film 

“Silence,” a story based on the Japanese novel by the same name written by Shusaki Endo, which plays a big part in Mako’s book. 

Here are links to a few other writings & speeches.

The Aroma of the New” - Makoto Fujimura commencement address at Belhaven University, 2011

Would You Give Your Life for Beauty?” - Makoto Fujimura commencement address at Messiah College, 2013

Sep 20, 2019
Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh Are The Establishment, says Brian Rosenwald

Brian Rosenwald is author of "Talk Radio’s America: How an industry took over a political party that took over the United States.” Rosenwald is co-editor of “Made by History” a daily “Washington Post” history section, and a historical consultant for the Slate podcast “Whistelstop.” And he is scholar in Residence at the Partnership for Effective Public Administration and Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.

In his book, Rosenwald traces the rise of talk radio at a time when AM radio was dying, and demonstrates that commercial and financial success was the driver behind it. And he documents the deep impact of talk radio on Republican politics. This phenomenon invited disillusioned and alienated conservatives into politics, he argues, but at a high cost. Talk radio, he argues, has destroyed the Republican Party and poisoned democracy in the U.S. 

We spend a good portion of the interview talking about how talk radio and cable news hosts have been and are the equivalent of party leaders on both the left and right, but without any of the accountability that party leaders of the past faced. 

Outro music: "Give the People What They Want," by The O'Jays

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Sep 10, 2019
The Battle to Create Shared Facts - Laura Berlind from The Sycamore Institute

Laura Berlind founded and helps run a think tank that is focused on one state and one state only: Tennessee. She’s the executive director of the Sycamore Institute, which on the surface is something pedestrian: a place that does research. 

But underneath the surface, Sycamore is trying to do something revolutionary in our time. We live in a moment when politics and political debate is often captive to a winner-take-all, facts be damned mentality, where ideology and partisanship are in the driver’s seat, and quite frankly power is the highest goal rather than service. 

Sycamore is a group of people trying to carve out a space in Tennessee politics, which is very conservative, for honest and open fact-based inquiry into what state lawmakers should do about the state’s big problems, much of it around health care. They want people from all sides to be able to agree about what the facts of a matter are, what the most likely outcomes of a certain policy might be, and just as importantly, what they don’t know for sure. 

In an age of alternative facts and polarization, this group is focused on establishing shared facts and a way forward for people in their state. 

Outro Music: "Sooner or Later" by MuteMath

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Aug 30, 2019
He Left Christianity Behind In a War Zone. This Is the Story of Bryan Mealer's Path Back to Faith.

Bryan Mealer is the author of four books: All Things Must Fight to Live — an account of his time in the Congo — Muck City — about a south Florida town with a legendary high school football team but a troubled past — The Kings of Big Spring — about his family’s history of surviving through oil booms and busts and leaning on Pentecostalism, and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, an account of a young boy in Malawi who helps his drought-beleaguered town — that book was a New York Times bestseller and was made into a movie directed by and starring powerhouse star Chiwetel Ejiofor, who also directed 12 years a slave and has starred in numerous major films over the past two decades, starting with Amistad.

Bryan grew up in the Pentecostal church in west Texas, left his faith entirely while a war correspondent in the Congo, and then has been writing over the past year or two about rediscovering Christianity in a very different form than the fundamentalism he was raised him.

We talk about the ways that his time in the Congo shaped him and changed him, and about how his work on a book about his family’s roots in Texas and Georgia, and in the Pentecostal church, primed him to turn back to faith.

Bryan wrote about his faith journey for The New Republic last fall, and wrote another piece about it for The Guardian over the winter.

He described Rachel Held Evans this way: "To have her embrace the Bible as a tool for justice, and forgiveness and grace instead of this divine hammer against people we don’t like was just, it was like my salvation."

But Bryan also ended his TNR piece this way: "No matter how angry people like me get at white evangelicals or how many calls to arms we put forth, on its own, it will get us nowhere in the end. To defeat hatred and creeping fascism and begin the healing of this nation, we—all Americans—need a new social gospel, and not just one that makes liberals feel comfortable. It is a gospel forged from the rubble, and it must include everyone. It will be messy and painful, and we must push forward even when our friends ask us, 'What’s the point?' When they ask us, 'How can you speak to those people?' Our big tent must shine like a light unto the world, and it must be a home to all—Republicans and Democrats, Jews and Romans, even to the demons that fly out from the debris."

Bryan describes his experience covering a migrant caravan from Honduras last fall, and how he and his conservative father discussed their differences over immigration policy in light of that. The piece he wrote on the migrant caravan is incredible. Read it here.

Outro music: “U (Man Like)” by Bon Iver

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Aug 23, 2019
Voter Suppression or Ballot Fraud -- My 5-Month Investigation Into a Case in Georgia

This is a story about a group of 12 African-Americans who were arrested and charged with 120 felonies after they shifted control of a local school board in rural Georgia from a majority white board to majority black. This story happened months after Brian Kemp became Secretary of State in 2010, and Kemp kept the case open for six years, even after two mistrials and an acquittal.

I have finished a five-month project looking into a fight over these voter fraud allegations that turned out to be what now looks to many like a case of voter suppression and intimidation. It's out today, and here I discuss it with Ariel Hart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who did crucial reporting on this story a few years ago.

My article on the Quitman 10+2, with the video project as well, is here.

Ariel Hart’s articles on this story are below:

The Vice article from 2014 is here

The Fox News interview with prosecutor Joe Mulholland can be seen here

My article on allegations against Kemp from last December is here

Background on Mary Turner can be found here

Outro music: "Holy Ghost" by Mavis Staples

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Aug 06, 2019
David Brooks on Not Feeling Like a Convert, His New Book, and Marianne Williamson

“Our society has become a conspiracy against joy," writes New York Times columnist and author David Brooks.

The thesis of his new book, "The Second Mountain," is that a meaningful life is lived not out of the ego-driven pursuits of the first mountain but out of the soul-driven pursuits of the second.

I found it to be a rich feast on topics like vocation and calling. I found it to be sharply provocative on the topic of marriage — both encouraging me to be a better spouse and at times indicting my failures. 

On the issue of community, Brooks spoke to the core questions of this podcast: how do we find a way through our fractured, distrustful, enraged, superficial time to come together with others to build and heal and overcome in our communities and our nation. 

And his section on faith and spirituality was my favorite. Reading this book was like food for my soul. 

We talk here about things Brooks wrote in the past that he now thinks he was mistaken about, his views on marriage the second time around — he remarried in 2017 and that’s a big part of this book — his nebulous place in the world of faith and how that’s kind of where he wants to be, and we talk a little politics.

Brooks describes himself in the introduction to his book as “radicalized” toward the belief that sweeping and dramatic change is necessary to change the course of America and the West. But he believes these changes should be moral and cultural, and even though he might agree with some of the things that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are proposing — though not their most aggressive proposals —he talks about they are looking in the wrong place for a game-changing message. And he mentions that only Marianne Williamson, and to a lesser degree Cory Booker, are seeing to make a deeper critique of Trump in a way that will connect in a powerful way. 

Outro music: "Side with the Seeds" by Wilco

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Aug 02, 2019
The Democrats Are Losing Faith Voters Because of Their Abortion Stance, with Amy Sullivan

In 2008, Amy Sullivan wrote a book called "The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats are Closing the God Gap." A decade later, Amy says the biggest thing blocking that gap from being closed is the Democratic party's handling of the abortion issue.

Amy is a journalist, author, host of the "Impolite Company" podcast, and a friend. We talked about a lot in this episode, and I learned things I didn't know about her upbringing and her interesting religious background. We talk about the many problems in American evangelicalism: botched handlings of sexual abuse cases, chauvinism, purity culture, and narrow-minded thinking.

But we end up talking a lot at the end about Democrats and abortion. That topic has been in the news a lot lately, from the draconian laws that have been passed in numerous states, to the departure of Planned Parenthood president Leana Wen.

Here's Wen's New York Times op-ed. And here's Michael Wear, who worked in the Obama White House, on the issue also in the NYT.

Outro music: “Walk Across the Water” by The Black Keys

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Jul 29, 2019
Steve Kornacki on "Wishful Thinking" Around Impeaching Trump & His Book "The Red & the Blue"

This week the House of Representatives held its third vote in three years on a procedural motion that would have led to impeaching President Trump if they had passed. None of these votes have been all that serious, but last week’s did get more support than in previous years. 95 Democrats voterd for impeachment, up from 58 Democrats in favor in 2017, and 66 last year. 

The temperature is clearly rising among Democrats, and Trump is stoking outrage and division with his attacks on elected representatives of the House who are women of color, telling them to "go back” to "the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

My guest this week is Steve Kornacki, a national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, who is in my opinion one of the smartest people on TV. We talk about Steve’s book, “The Red and the Blue: The 1990’s and the Birth of Political Tribalism.” 

Kornacki dove into the history of the 90’s for this book and based on that research he calls it “wishful thinking” to say, as some have, that the impeachment of Bill Clinton helped the GOP win back the White House in 2000, and so Democrats shouldn’t be afraid of political consequences if they impeach President Trump.

George W. Bush won the presidency in spite of impeachment, not because of it, Kornacki says. Kornacki notes that there are higher levels of support now for impeachment than there were in 1998, and ultimately says that to try to predict the future through the past on this matter is probably a fool’s errand. 

I also enjoyed Steve’s perspective on the daily and even weekly news cycle, and his exhortation to keep our eye on the big picture. "I spent all this time watching the old newscasts or reading old newspaper articles or magazine or whatever, you find so many of these moments that dominated news coverage politically, for weeks, for days, weeks, months, and are completely forgotten now and completely irrelevant. They never even led anywhere. But you would find all these deep think pieces and debates about what does this mean for the future of the country, and then absolutely nothing. So I try to remind myself that it's very possible with whatever the eruption of the day is now that it's one of those,” he said. 

Outro Music: "Drift While You’re Sleeping" by Trey Anastasio

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Jul 19, 2019
Fox News' Carl Cameron Is Now Working For a Liberal Website?

I talk with Carl Cameron, who was one of the first people hired at Fox News in 1995 and worked at the right-wing cable news channel for 22 years, about what he's doing now working for Front Page Live, a liberal news site. We talk about what it was like to work at Fox News, and how covering campaigns from the road gave Carl the independence from Roger Ailes and others that he wanted. Carl is unsparing in his criticism of President Trump, and weighs in on whether Kamala Harris has a clear core rationale for her candidacy.

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Jul 13, 2019
The Case for Regulating Facebook & Google - Sally Hubbard

It was a distant echo, but now it’s becoming a drumbeat. The big tech companies — Google, Facebook, Amazon — are increasingly the subject of talk about government regulation. And one month ago, Congress held its first hearing about what antitrust enforcement might look like regarding the tech giants. 

One of the people who testified that day was Sally Hubbard, of the Open Markets Institute, which bills itself as an organization dedicated to fighting “the stranglehold that corporate monopolies have on our country.”

I wanted to talk more with Sally about the topic. There’s a lot of ground that we try to cover, but in essence, I tried in this conversation to sketch out what the case for more aggressive anti-trust enforcement is, what the case for stricture regulation is, and what the intended outcomes would be of these proposals. 

Here’s Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Medium post on breaking up big tech. 

Hubbard wrote in January about the antitrust argument against Facebook and Google. There is a more in-depth argument for this here.

Here’s Hubbard’s written testimony to Congress.

Here’s the congressional testimony from David Pitofsky of NewCorp.

Matt Stoller of Open Markets wrote recently about Facebooks proposal to create its own currency. 

Here’s the New York Times piece on Google sharing location data with law enforcement. 

The New Yorker just published a piece on YouTube

From the right, a counterargument against breaking up Facebook. 

And finally, a piece on “surveillance capitalism” and how Silicon Valley lobbyists are trying to water down the move toward regulation.

Outro Music: "Lyla" by Big Red Machine

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Jul 10, 2019
Live from the Miami Debate: How Bad Was It For Biden?

Mo Elleithee, former Democratic National Campaign spokesman and current Director of the Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown, joins me in the spin room in Miami to talk about the Democratic debate.

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Jun 28, 2019
Bonus Episode: Tom Wolf reacts to today's Supreme Court gerrymandering decision

The Supreme Court today issued a decision on partisan gerrymandering, the practice of politicians drawing maps that give themselves an advantage over other parties by manipulating an increasingly sophisticated understanding of who votes how and where you live to guarantee the most seats in Congress and state legislatures. 

You can read the ruling here.

Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s other four conservatives — Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch — found that the court does not have standing to intervene even in the most extreme examples of gerrymandering. 

"Partisan gerrymandering claims rest on an instinct that groups with a certain level of political support should enjoy a commensurate level of political power and influence. Such claims invariably sound in a desire for proportional representation, but the Constitution doesnot require proportional representation, and federal courts are neither equipped nor authorized to apportion political power as a matter of fairness,” Robert wrote. "It is not even clear what fairness looks like in this context."

Roberts did admit that “the districting plans at issue here are highly partisan, by any measure. The question is whether the courts below appropriately exercised judicial power when they found them unconstitutional as well.” The Roberts majority did not find that the lower court’s decisions were constitutional. 

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent representing herself and the three other liberal members of the nation’s highest court. It was a very strongly worded dissent, in which she called the majority’s decision an “abdication” that is “tragically wrong."

“The partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people,” Kagan wrote. “Is this how American democracy is supposed to work,” she asks rhetorically.  

Tom Wolf from the Brennan Center for Justice talked three weeks ago about what he expected from the court, and today he comes back on the show to give his thoughts about the court's ruling.

Outro music: "There Goes My Miracle" by Bruce Springsteen

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Jun 27, 2019
Disarming Fear & Defensiveness around the Race conversation, with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

“Transformation requires people changing. And I don't think most people change when they're defensive,” Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove told me.

Wilson-Hartgrove is a leader in progressive Christianity, but as a young man he was a conservative Republican in rural North Carolina. And he talks in this episode about how the debate over systemic racism is uncomfortable and intimidating for many white people, and how to reduce those tensions.

Jonathan was an organizer of the “Moral Mondays” protests in North Carolina in 2013, and is a leader in the Poor People’s Campaign movement that’s co-chaired by Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis. Jonathan has co-authored a book with Barber called “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear.” He’s written several other books on his own, including his most recent, “Reconstructing the Gospel.” 

He talks about the Poor People's Campaign candidate forum with nine presidential candidates and how Rev. Barber has tried to maintain some separation between their movement and the Democratic party. We discuss the concept of keeping a "prophetic distance" in order to be able to speak truth to power, and whether progressive Christians are capable of that on issues like abortion.

Outro music: “Life’s Railway to Heaven” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band 

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Jun 24, 2019
Peter Wehner On Trump, Impeachment, and the limits of faith to overcome political ideology

Peter Wehner's new book "The Death of Politics" is a plea to everyday Americans not to give up on politics.

"So many things that we love and treasure and care for can be swept away if you get your politics wrong. On the flip side, if you get your politics right, it can allow for the conditions of human flourishing and human dignity to be protected and prevailed," said Wehner in this interview.

Wehner served several years as a senior White House adviser to former President George W. Bush. He has deep roots in the world of conservative policy-making and ideas, having also worked as a White House aide to two other Republican presidents: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Wehner began writing a regular column for the New York Times in 2015, which gave him a prominent perch from which to espouse a conservative critique of Trump. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

In this interview, Wehner talks about his own spiritual journey, and how he has been disappointed to see the ways in which religious faith is often "twisted into a pretzel" to fit into people's preexisting political ideologies and identities.

Wehner says he wrote the book as an "alarm bell in the night" to warn about the impact of Trumpism. But he said Trump's threat to American democracy is not chiefly one of authoritarianism. Rather, he says, it's that we all become like him in our own conduct.

On impeachment, Wehner is conflicted. After reading the Mueller report, he believes Trump obstructed justice, but thinks impeachment would make him a "martyr" to many voters.

Outro music: "Days of Decision" by Morrissey

Jun 11, 2019
The Supreme Court Is About to Issue a Massive Ruling on Gerrymandering: Here's What You Need to Know

A Supreme Court ruling is expected any day on one of the biggest drivers of our broken, polarized politics: gerrymandering.

Thomas Wolf is counsel with the Democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, out of New York University. Wolf talks us through the basics of gerrymandering and what the potential outcomes from the court might be. And he explains how a series of rulings by federal courts in the last decade have laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling of substance this month. 

Gerrymandering is a big contributor to our polarized politics. The more that dominant state parties — in conservative and liberal states — can maneuver their districts in their favor, the less meaningful the general election becomes. And that is a big reason why so many members of Congress don’t show any inclination to work with the other side, to find meaningful solutions to big problems, because they are only concerned with pleasing the most extreme members of their own party. They are worried about being primaried, losing their seat to another member of their own party who runs even more to the extreme than they already are, to win over the primary voters, who tend to be much more in the purist camp than they are of the mind that most voters are, who simply want the government to function and solve problems for all people. 

It’s a complicated issue, but it has big impact. Congressional districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census, and so from 2022 onward, the maps shaped by the court’s decision this month will impact the entire universe of policy issues to be hashed out by lawmakers across the country, from tax policy to climate change to gun safety.

Outro music: "Absolute Zero" by Bruce Hornsby

Jun 07, 2019
Paul Kane on Pelosi's Impeachment Challenge and Congress' "Lost Decade"

As Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, Democrats face a choice: stay united on taking their time to consider whether to impeach President Trump, or begin a massive political fight internally and in the country by rushing ahead with such a move now.

Paul Kane is the senior congressional correspondent for The Washington Post, and has covered Congress for 19 years. Pelosi has been trying to hold her party back from pursuing impeachment because there is not enough public support for it, Paul explains, but Mueller’s statement has made her job much more difficult. This week will be a crucial test of whether Pelosi can keep House Democrats united.

Paul also explains that earmarks might not be dead after all, despite the Senate’s vote last week to ban them "permanently." He said the last 10 years in Congress have been a “lost decade,” and that part of the reason is the loss of an ability by lawmakers to show their constituents that they are delivering for them. 

You can read Paul's most recent journalism here.

Outro music: "Father Mountain" by Calexico & Iron & Wine

Jun 04, 2019
Let's Get Rid of the Speaker of the House, Says Former Aide to John Boehner

Michael Steel, spent years as a top aide to Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, namely House Speaker John Boehner, has worked on a number of presidential campaigns, and is now a managing partner at Hamilton Place Partners, a public affairs firm in Washington DC. 

We talked about how the current uproar among House Democrats pushing for impeachment proceedings to begin mirrors some of the challenges that Boehner faced with a restive Republican conference when the GOP was in the majority from 2010 to 2015, when Boehner resigned and handed the reins to Paul Ryan. 

We discussed what’s causing the dysfunction in Congress that is now the new normal over the past decade. His most provocative idea? Basically to get rid of the Speaker of the House by making it a ceremonial position, turning over real control of House leadership to the Majority Leader position. To understand why he thinks that would make such a big difference, you’ll have to listen to the rest of the episode, or you can read my write up of this interview, which is linked to here.

Outro music: “All of Our Yesterdays” by Mac DeMarco 

May 29, 2019
Snapchat's Peter Hamby Knows the Youth Vote & Sees Trouble Ahead for Bernie Sanders

Peter Hamby is host of “Good Luck America,” a weekly political show on Snapchat that he said is watched by 2 million young people (the majority of Snapchat users are between 13 and 24 years old). And he writes a regular political column for Vanity Fair’s “The Hive,” which reaches a more establishment audience. 

We talk about what he’s learned from three years of speaking with, and to, younger Millennials, Gen Y and Gen Z. How do they think, and who and what do they pay attention to? And then we talk about Peter’s column in Vanity Fair from a few months ago where he talked about the ways in which the generation gap in America is going to play a role in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.  

Outro music: "Grown Nothing" by Stephen Malkmus

May 10, 2019
Snapchat's Peter Hamby Knows the Youth Vote & Sees Trouble Ahead for Bernie Sanders
May 10, 2019
Is Beto O'Rourke Already Played Out? Reid Epstein of The New York Times Joins to Discuss
May 03, 2019
Is Beto O'Rourke Already Played Out? Reid Epstein of The New York Times Joins to Discuss

Reid Epstein has covered Beto O'Rourke extensively, as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal the last few years, and now a newly minted member of the New York Times 2020 coverage team. Epstein talks about what it was that made O'Rourke a phenom to begin with, and how the playbook that got him thus far may be more difficult to execute in a crowded Democratic primary.

Outro music: "Sisyphus" by Andrew Bird

May 03, 2019
Jonah Goldberg On His New Media Venture: 'We Don't Want To Be An Anti-Trump Thing'
Apr 26, 2019
Jonah Goldberg On His New Media Venture: 'We Don't Want To Be An Anti-Trump Thing'

Jonah Goldberg is a longtime conservative pundit and author who is in the process of leaving his positions at National Review and the American Enterprise Institute to start a new conservative media enterprise, along with Stephen Hayes, who until last year was editor-in-chief at the conservative Weekly Standard magazine.  

Jonah has been thinking quite a bit about some of the themes of this podcast, and its specifics around political parties. He had good insights about the ways that many modern media outlets — on the left and right — now actually are political parties, or at least are functioning as part of a what are modern parties. And Jonah said he and Steve Hayes were setting out to create something that does not fall into that trap. 

We talked about whether their as-yet-unnamed venture will have anti-Trumpism as part of its core DNA, since both Jonah and Steve have been among the most vocal and persistent critics of Trump on the right. Jonah said it would not be anti-Trump in nature, but rather “post Trump.” In a style that won’t surprise those who have followed Jonah’s work over the year, however, he couldn’t resist making the comment that the rise of Trump is fundamentally “a story about old people."

We talked about how he and Steve are envisioning this new venture will work, what reader or market demand it will satisfy, and how they are intent on avoiding a click-based business model. And he talked about how as they have talked to investors, they have shifted away from a traditional model where a central website is the focus, to a different model where the central website is a hub and the landing page for the brand, but the activity and focus of the work is centered around newsletters, podcasts, and events.  

Outro Music: "Sow Good Seeds" by Mavis Staples

Apr 26, 2019
Nicco Mele: We Are Living In Two Worlds At Once

Last episode, we talked with Joe Trippi, who played a key political role in the 2004 Howard Dean campaign, which was the first Internet-driven campaign. This week, we have Nicco Mele, who was part of the team helping to run Dean’s cutting edge digital operation. 

Nicco has had an eclectic and distinguished career for someone who is only 42. He has been deputy publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and is now the director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

But in 2012, Mele wrote a book called “The End of Big: How the Digital Revolution Makes David the New Goliath.” It’s an innocuous sounding title, and at the time, I think Mele’s warnings about the dangers of the Internet were lost in what was generally still an optimistic time. But early in that book, he wrote that the Internet was opening the door to “chaos, destabilization, fascism and other ills.”

“Radical connectivity is altering the exercise of power faster than we can understand it,” he wrote. 

Now, he says, many of the dark prophecies from his book have come truer than he had anticipated, and there is a long way to go to repair the damage. “In many ways since I wrote the book things have come more apart,” Mele said. We are stuck, currently, with a reality where there are “two worlds” existing side by side as it relates to power and influence, he said. 

There is the old institutional world, where hierarchy, experience, expertise and tradition are core values. And there is the new connected world that is tearing down the old, where power and influence are far more diffuse and broadly shared. The two need to be connected and fused, he said. 

Mele said there remains a deep need for new institutions to be built that embody the values of the modern online world, but resurface some older values as well. For example, the idea of an “establishment” existing at all is often decried as inherently undesirable, and institutions are then vilified as tools of a corrupt elite. But, Mele said, that is a bad bargain for everyone. He called for a “new establishment.”

As I thought about Mele’s comments, it put the candidacy of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in a new light. I have been skeptical that someone as young as 37 can have the experience needed to run the executive branch. But the paradigm that Mele and I explore here is food for thought to push back against that skepticism. Mele in fact talked at some length about this to Vanity Fair’s Peter Hamby in a piece that ran in December, which I recommend.  

Outro Music: "Avant Gardener" by Courtney Barnett

Apr 15, 2019
Joe Trippi: Dems Could "Blow It" in 2020, But Here's Why They Won't
Apr 05, 2019
Joe Trippi: Dems Could "Blow It" in 2020, But Here's Why They Won't

Joe Trippi is one of the most experienced consultants in Democratic politics. He's worked on campaigns in six of the last 10 presidential elections. He helped guide Howard Dean's historic 2004 candidacy. He's been a longtime adviser to Jerry Brown, one of the most consequential Democrats of the last half-century. And he helped Democrats win a Senate seat in Alabama in 2017 for the first time in two decades.

Trippi says that in 2020, Democratic voters are going to be pragmatic and not purist, precisely because they want to beat Trump so badly. And he talks at length about the ways in which there are “laws of gravity” to a primary that will reduce the field dramatically after the first contest in Iowa. 

Nonetheless, he admitted, “we could blow this.” 

Outro music: "Good Guy" by Julia Jacklin

Apr 05, 2019
Joe Kennedy III On Mental Health, Packing the Courts, & The Green New Deal

The Kennedy family is one of the most legendary in American political history. It has long been involved in efforts to combat mental illness through public policy since President John F. Kennedy, spurred by the botched lobotomy on his older sister Rosemary, made it a focus of his presidency.


Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-MA, became a vocal proponent on the issue after disclosing his own battles with bipolar disorder and with drug addiction, and remains an advocate on the issue now that he is out of Congress.


And now, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, D-MA — the grandson of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy — has made mental illness a focus of his legislative efforts now that Democrats are in the majority for the first time in his six-year congressional career.

Kennedy’s push for mental health legislation is an example of his approach to seeking solutions while in the House majority that take advantage of their ability to control the agenda in half the Congress, but are more than just public relations proposals that cater to the Democratic base which have no chance of actually passing into law anytime soon.

We discussed his approach to being a member of Congress, and how that contrasts with the more performative style of much in American politics, whether it be President Trump himself, or the new celebrity stars of Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, or the image-driven, substance-free phenomenon surrounding Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

He referred to the Green New Deal as an “aspirational” piece of legislation, in contrast to legislation that actually can pass into law now. "I do think that as you turn those values into policy, this is about building coalitions,” he said. “That's the way that this discourse is supposed to work and yeah, I would love to see more of that rather than a, ‘Just because I can, I will.’"

He said that the calls by some Democrats – including some prominent presidential hopefuls – to increase the size of the Supreme Court are an example of a zero-sum approach to politics that he doesn’t believe in.

But he also talked about the frustration of dealing with a Trump White House and a Republican Senate led by McConnell that doesn’t respect established process — as in the case of McConnell’s refusal to give Merrick Garland a vote for the Supreme Court in 2016 — or the legitimacy of the Democratic party’s voters and interests. 

Outro Music: "I Was There" by The War On Drugs

Apr 01, 2019
Sen. Tim Scott Used Trump's Charlottesville Response To Help Low-Income Communities
Mar 15, 2019
Sen. Tim Scott Used Trump's Charlottesville Response To Help Low-Income Communities

When President Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” after white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Sen. Tim Scott spoke up. He called the president’s comments “indefensible” and said Trump had “compromised” his moral authority.

That prompted a call from the White House, asking Scott -- a black Republican who in 2012 became only the seventh African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate -- to meet with Trump to talk about the issue. There, Scott said, he talked the president through issues of racial discrimination and explained why he found the response to Charlottesville so offensive.

"What can I do to be helpful?" Trump asked Scott, according to the senator.

Scott was ready with an answer. He had been working on an idea called “Opportunity Zones,” designed to attract significant investment and capital to low-income areas through tax breaks as long as the money stayed for 7 to 10 years, and on the condition that it go toward creating something new that would bring vitality to those areas, such as new housing or retail. 

The question now is whether this program, which was signed into law as part of the 2017 tax cut bill, will work as intended. Scott and I talk about that, and more, including his views on whether he agrees with the Democrats’ move to reinstate preclearance as part of the Voting Rights Act, in this episode of the Long Game.

Mar 15, 2019
Democrats Need a Unifying Candidate in 2020, Jennifer Palmieri Says

Jennifer Palmieri has been one of the party’s most influential operatives for the last decade. Most recently, she was communications director and a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, and came to that job after serving as White House communications director under President Obama for two years.

As Jennifer told me during our conversation, Clinton’s loss to Trump was like “the universe exploded.” As part of the soul-searching process in the wake of that loss, Palmieri has been spending more time in the South since the 2016 election, to visit with and meet people who see the world differently, and to reconnect with old friends who are politically conservative.

Palmieri explores her own sense of loss and disorientation after the election. But she also tells the story of how her grief was compounded by the loss of her older sister a few months after the election from early onset Alzheimer’s at age 58.

Palmieri connects her own pain to the pain of other Americans whose lived had been upended in recent years, namely Trump voters, and says the 2020 election will be a test of whether Americans can come to live at peace with those who see the world in radically different ways.

Outro: “Exception to the Rule” by Phoebe Bridgers & Conor Oberst (Better Oblivion Community Center)

Mar 01, 2019
Trent Lott On Congress, Trump's Qualifications & Chances, & Growing Up in the Deep South
Feb 19, 2019
Trent Lott On Congress, Trump's Qualifications & Chances, & Growing Up in the Deep South

Trent Lott was elected to the House of Representatives in 1972, and to the Senate in 1989, and operated inside the House and Senate at a time when bipartisan cooperation was more common. By the time he became Senate Majority Leader in 1996, however, Republicans were becoming more confrontational.

I talked with Lott about growing up in the Deep South during Jim Crow, and about the controversy surrounding Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam over his wearing of blackface during medical school. Lott lost his job as the Republican leader in the Senate because of comments praising Sen. Strom Thurmond and lamenting that country would have been better off if Thurmond, a segregationist for much of his career, had become president.

Looking toward 2020, Lott predicted that as of now, President Trump is in a strong position to win reelection. Only former Vice President Joe Biden, Lott said, would pose a threat.

Outro music: "A Change is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke

Feb 19, 2019
Patrick McHenry Has Some Advice For the New Rock Stars of Congress

"When I got elected, I was the classic young man in a hurry. Classic," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Virginia Republican and one of the Republican Party's top leaders in Congress. "I can see it vividly. My first three years I did everything wrong you can do wrong as a member of Congress that is neither unethical nor illegal ... I was going to be a warrior, without regard for fighting what. Basically I’m going to fight Democrats."

McHenry was elected to Congress at age 28, but he is now 43, and ascended into a top leadership position four years ago. When the GOP was in the majority, he was chief deputy whip, the Republican in charge of knowing whether former House Speaker Paul Ryan had enough votes to pass key pieces of legislation.

McHenry is a fan of the paradigm that Yuval Levin has laid out on this podcast before, the idea that while we often treat institutions as platforms for self-promotion, we will accomplish more and be more fulfilled if we approach institutions as molds, organizations with a mission larger than ourselves that we can join, serve, and be formed by in the process. In this episode, McHenry talks about the lessons he learned that transformed his approach to being a member of Congress. It took him four years to undo the damage he had done in his first three, he says, and it’s a lesson he tries to convey to new members now as they enter the House of Representatives.

You can read the 2005 profile of McHenry that I talk about in the intro here.

Outro music: "Fools" by James Supercave

Feb 07, 2019
My book CAMELOT'S END is out Today! And a Joe Biden interview excerpt
Jan 22, 2019
My book CAMELOT'S END is out Today! And a Joe Biden interview excerpt

An update on where I've been for three weeks, and on the release of my new book today. And then I share a few clips from my 2015 interview with Joe Biden for the book. When I went back through the interview recently, I realized he was just as nervous about Elizabeth Warren then as he might be now if he runs for president.

I wrote about the Biden & Warren tensions here.

BOOK STUFFf: here's the link to the Amazon page for CAMELOT'S END.

Here's the link to my interview on Fresh Air last week.

Info on my author appearances is at But I'll be at Politics and Prose tomorrow, then Carter Library Thursday the 24th, in NYC on the 28th, and at East City Books on Jan. 30.

There are 3 different excerpts you can read:

Vanity Fair -

Yahoo excerpt -

Politico excerpt -

"I got my hands on a copy the other day, and @jonward11's new book on the '80 Dem primary fight is just a terrific read -- deep research matched with captivating storytelling" - @SteveKornacki

Jan 22, 2019
Al Mohler & The Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Albert Mohler is president of Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, the flagship training ground for the Southern Baptist Convention, which is one of the largest evangelical denominations in America, with roughly 42,000 congregations across the country and 15 million members, though Sunday attendance is estimated to be far less than that number.  

Mohler and Southern released a 67-page report titled, "Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.” The report was the result of a year-long study by six-member committee into the seminary’s history, going back to its founding in 1859. Among the report’s findings: Southern's four founding faculty members all owned human beings — 50 in all — and abused them as slaves. 

Mohler wrote a three-page introduction to the report, and said this: "We have been guilty of a sinful absence of historical curiosity. We knew, and we could not fail to know, that slavery and deep racism were in the story. We comforted ourselves that we could know this, but since these events were so far behind us, we could move on without awkward and embarrassing investigations and conversations.”

“The founding faculty of this school—all four of them—were deeply involved in slavery and deeply complicit in the defense of slavery. Many of their successors on this faculty, throughout the period of Reconstruction and well into the twentieth century, advocated segregation, the inferiority of African-Americans, and openly embraced the ideology of the Lost Cause of southern slavery.” 

What prompted this study? What does he make of criticism that the study should not just have stopped in 1964, but should have commented on matters of racial justice in our current moment? And has all this introspection caused Mohler to question his views on other topics, such as the ordination of women?

You can read Southern's report here.

Mohler's statement from May 2018 on the "Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention" is here.

Mohler's account of how he changed his mind about the ordination of women to positions of leadership is here.

And there is a lengthy profile of Mohler in Christianity Today from 2010 that is here, though it requires a subscription to read.

Outro music: "Difficulties - Let Them Eat Vowels" - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Jan 04, 2019
Panera Founder Ron Shaich Is Preaching Against Short-Term Thinking In Business & Politics

Ron Shaich, the founder of Panera Bread, the ultra-successful fast-casual chain, resigned from his CEO job in 2017 and is now talking more about what he sees as one of the unique plagues in American business, as well as politics: short-term thinking. 

We talk in this conversation about how Shaich, a college student with no interest in business, got interested in his line of work, and how his lessons learned in business apply to business. We also touch on whether Shaich himself, who spoke recently at a political event in New Hampshire -- a key presidential primary state -- has any interest in running for office himself. We talk about his time working on political campaigns in the 1980 cycle for a Democratic consultant, which I found fascinating.  

Of President Trump, Shaich is critical, but he told me he has "profound respect for those that are voting for Trump [and] for what they're trying to communicate.” But, he says he thinks Trump is doing a “poor job of delivering” for the people who voted for him. 

"He's the antithesis of everything I believe a business person to be,” Shaich said. "Trump is not a solution. Trump, as I said, is a human hand grenade that was meant to drain the swamp. The problem is, is the solution draining the swamp, or fixing the environment we call Washington so it better serves us?”

Shaich believes the core problems in business and politics is that "we've lost the patience to take the long view, and we have found ourselves in this place where our structures don't support it.”

Outro Music: "Mvmt I, "Rejoice! Rejoice!" by the Oh Hellos

Dec 28, 2018
Senator Michael Bennet Considers A Run for President and How to Rebuild the Senate

Michael Bennet is a 54-year old Democrat from Colorado who was elected to his second full term in the U.S. Senate in 2016. He's deeply disturbed by the demise of the Senate, but he told me he doesn't think the Senate can be fixed from the inside. He said running for president may be one way to try to reverse the decline of American political institutions. "There is not a substitute toward trying to ... build pluralistic constituencies that will support the kind of change that we need to make ... You need to engage people in their living rooms to do that and maybe people running for president can engage people to do that. I think you can do it when you're in the Senate as well ... You need to be willing not to believe that you always have a monopoly on wisdom."

The New Yorker profile of Bennet from 2007 is here.

A 2010 profile of Bennet in the Denver Post is here.

And here's a 2009 Rocky Mountain News profile.

Outro music: "Sucker MC's" by Run DMC

Dec 19, 2018
Andrew Sullivan on Christianity's Collapse, the Wisconsin GOP & Identity Politics
Dec 07, 2018
Andrew Sullivan on Christianity's Collapse, the Wisconsin GOP & Identity Politics

Andrew Sullivan was editor of The New Republic from 1991 to 1996, and has been a pioneer in more than one sense. He was one of the first writers to start blogging, launching The Daily Dish in 2000 and becoming one of the most widely read and influential bloggers in the country. And of course, Sullivan wrote the first major article in an American magazine — in 1989 in the New Republic — advocating for gay marriage, and was one of the most important figures to make the case — controversial at the time among both mainstream culture and in the gay community — for marriage equality. But he has also angered some in the gay community by arguing against hate crime laws, defending the right of religious conservatives to express their belief that homosexuality is a sin, and by saying things like, "the gay rights movement needs to just pack up and go home. I think we're done,” as he did in this conversation. 

Sullivan wrote for New York Magazine last month about the loss of faith in our politics system, a problem that continues to grow. And we talk about that and touch on what’s going on right now in Wisconsin, where the Republican Party is retrofitting the results of the fall elections by passing laws to take power away from Democrats set to take the governor’s and attorney general’s positions in January. 

But Sullivan also feels that free speech, and his ability to provoke and debate and speak his mind, is under attack from identity politics. 

We start out talking about Sullivan's most recent New York column, where he talked about the ways that the collapse of Christianity in America has created a religious right that is folded into a cult of personality around President Trump, and a social justice left that seeks to imbue politics with the same sort of higher meaning that religion has traditionally provided. "Both cults really do minimize the importance of the individual in favor of either the oppressed group or the leader," he wrote.

Outro music: "Cherub Rock," by The Smashing Pumpkins

Dec 07, 2018
The Lawsuit Alleging Voter Suppression in Georgia

Last Tuesday, a group started by Stacey Abrams filed a 66-page lawsuit in federal court that listed all the ways in which the Democratic candidate for governor and her allies say Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is now governor-elect, intentionally created “an obstacle course” for voters of color. 

For this episode, I spoke with Lauren Groh-Wargo, who was Abrams’ campaign manager during the election and is now the CEO of Fair Fight Georgia, the group that brought the lawsuit.  

Here's a link the lawsuit.

You can watch Abrams' interview with Jake Tapper here.

Outro music: "Don't Forget" by Jeff Tweedy

Dec 03, 2018
I Guess We’re Doing Season 2 Now. Here’s What’s Up Next

There’s plenty more to do about political parties, and I’ll dip into that topic from time to time. But it’s a good time to move into other topics as well. I’ve done a little of that already. Going forward, however, the podcast will shift a bit from a primary focus on political parties to a focus on short-termism vs long-term thinking. And I’ll be looking at a number of different institutions: Congress, business, the media, the vote, the courts, and others. 

Nov 30, 2018
The Path to the 2018 Midterm Elections

On Tuesday voters will go to the polls to choose candidates for Congress, for statewide office, and in local elections. Here's a look back at the biggest moments that shaped the last 22 months since Donald Trump was elected President.

January 21, 2017 - The Women's March

February 17, 2017 - "The Enemy of the People"

March 4, 2017 - Trump accuses Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower

April 7, 2017 - Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court // April 15, 2017 - Riots in Berkeley

May 9, 2017 - Trump fires Comey

June 14, 2017 - A shooting at the Congressional baseball practice

July 28, 2017 - McCain votes against Obamacare repeal

August 11-12, 2017 - Charlottesville

September 5, 2017 - Trump ends DACA

October 1, 2017 - The Las Vegas Massacre

November 7, 2017 - Trump visits South Korea & Democrats sweep Virginia elections

December 12, 2017 - Roy Moore loses in Alabama // December 22, 2017 - Trump signs tax cut

January 5, 2018 - Fire and Fury 

February 14, 2018 - Parkland 

March 13, 2018 - Conor Lamb wins

April 9, 2018 - FBI raids Michael Cohen's office

May 7, 2018 - Sessions announces family separation policy

June 26, 2018 - Ocasio-Cortez wins in New York

July 16, 2018 - The Helsinki Summit

August 21, 2018 - Manafort & Cohen guilty

September 27, 2018 - The Kavanaugh Hearing

October 26, 2018 - Pipe bombs and caravans

Outro Music - "You're Not Alone" by Mavis Staples

Nov 05, 2018
The Gravitron

We often refer to American politics now as a circus. But it's a carnival ride that best illustrates the gravitational forces that created the mess we've made of our politics. Everything now is centrifugal — pushing us away from one another and away from the center — with almost zero countervailing force.

In this episode I talk about:

  • Our loss of imagination for how to overcome challenges through working with others, and how our ideas about influence are too narrow.
  • How this lack of creativity is fueling the dysfunctional politics we see playing out.
  • The twin hammer blows that have weakened political parties in America, which used to balance our healthy push toward individualism.
  • Reforms to party primaries were intended to democratize our elections, but have made them less democratic. The current system holds the majority of Americans in the "exhausted middle" hostage to the minority of Americans on the extremes of left and right.
  • A push for greater voting rights could be combined with changes to our primaries.

The sound clip of an amusement ride with voice at the beginning is from a wonderfully strange short film I found called "The Centrifuge Brain Project | A Short Film by Till Nowak."

The song used in the interludes, and at the end, is "Red Hook (Live at the Jazz Standard New York, 2017)" by Jakob Bro, Thomas Morgan & Joey Baron from the 2018 album, Bay of Rainbows.

Oct 26, 2018
CBS News' Major Garrett on his new book, "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride"
Oct 19, 2018
CBS News' Major Garrett on his new book, "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride"

If you want to read a book about Trump and discuss it with someone who sees the president differently than you, this is the book to buy. “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of An Extraordinary Presidency,” by CBS News’ Major Garrett. He’s the chief White House correspondent and host of “The Takeout” podcast. 

"I don’t try to tell people to .. set aside their emotional reaction, pro or con, to this administration. What I do try to provide is a resource that tells you the most important things from my perspective, that happened, why they happened, and of those things, what are likely to be with the country for many years to come, whatever the duration of the Trump presidency is.”

It’s a book that is often critical of Trump but in a way that might be heard by Trump supporters. And it’s a book that confronts Trump critics with the reality that the president has had some accomplishments, as much as they often don’t want to admit it. Garrett often finds that Trump’s accomplishments are far less than what the president has said, or will have negative impacts that his supporters are not aware of. But he doesn’t shy away from thinking about the Trump presidency as consequential. 

1:00 — Why Major wanted to represent the voices and perspective of Trump voters in his analysis 

5:10 — Why he wrote some passages from the point of view of Trump supporters or advisers, and other passages with a more critical voice. 

6:54 — Why Major wanted most of his sources to be named in the book. There is one anonymous quote in the book. 

9:07 — How covering the Trump presidency has been like experiencing a form of trauma. 

13:07 — Major on how there are certain things we must “appreciate” about this administration in that they are facts. That doesn’t mean one must like them, but they should be recognized. 

18:11 — What did Trump voters hear when Trump talked about “the wall”?

21:18 — Why Major thinks it’s a mistake to liberally use the “racist” label. 

26:30 — How American politics is more about image than fact, and has been for some time, and what electing our first “fully-formed celebrity” says about America. 

28:54 — Major talks about hearing that Bob Woodward’s book would be released one week before his, and what he thinks his book does that Woodward’s does not. 

31:56 — Major talks about his chapter on Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and his interview with Jared Kushner about his relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and how all of this has impacted the U.S. government’s response to the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

44:37 — Major on his chapter about regulation, and how Trump’s own budget office has found that regulations provide order for markets and often bring positive economic impact that outweighs the economic cost of the regulation by between 3 to 8 times as much. 

47:45 — How the GOP tax bill is likely a temporary sugar high for the economy that is contributing to unsustainable debt levels. 

52:57 — How dysfunction in Congress has hurt the U.S. military 

55:23 — Trump has not shown a leadership instinct to bring Americans together and lead them toward a common goal 

Lightning round 

58:30 — Major on the Mueller probe

59:06 — What happens if Democrats take the House in the midterm elections on Nov. 6?

1:00 — Major on Trump’s physical constitution, what makes him tick, and how he loves to use his “crazy” against opponents

1:01 — Major on whether Jeff Flake will run for president in 2020 as a challenger from the...

Oct 19, 2018
Brian Kemp Says There Are 'Outside Agitators' in Georgia Election
Oct 12, 2018
Brian Kemp Says There Are 'Outside Agitators' in Georgia Election

The race for governor in Georgia is intense. You could script a full Netlix mini-series around the two main characters and the history between them. But when Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate, denounced critics this week who say he's suppressing the black vote, he resurrected an old term that carries a lot of baggage from the deep South's dark segregationist and Jim Crow era.

Outside agitators. That's what Kemp called his detractors.

Here, I explore the history of that term, and of the events that brought this election to this point.

You can read my article on the topic at this link:

Outro music: "Atliens," by Outkast

Oct 12, 2018
BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel on the Information Wars & Media Gatekeeping
Oct 05, 2018
BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel on the Information Wars & Media Gatekeeping

"You can risk going too far. You can risk saying everyone has a right and should see every single piece of everything, no matter how incredulous, how ridiculous, how over the top, how upsetting … So we’re going to take you into 4Chan and show you all the most racist terrible memes and all that stuff. There’s an idea now … that there are ways we can responsibly do a little more of that gatekeeping.” 

That's BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel talking about some of his lessons learned in his years of doing journalism coverage of conspiracy theories, attention hacking, bots, and attempts by bad actors to manipulate the public. We talk "data voids" and "grief tourism," among other things. Here's a guide to the discussion:

6:30 — Why Charlie lives in Montana — “I really think we’re going to see a lot more journalists doing this.”

11 —Charlie’s entry into journalism as an intern on “Meet the Press”

15:35 - “The first time I ever thought critically about Facebook …"

19 - “Is it a universal good that we’re all connected this much? … I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it in that way.” 

21:27 - Why Danah Boyd refused to use Alex Jones’ name in her ONA talk.

23 - What is a "data void" and how do bad actors exploit them?

"You’re getting information that might not have any context and might lead you down a rabbit hole.”

29:22 - How the term “incel” has been one way that online radicals have manipulated media organizations and journalists.

31:35 - "It is a really tricky concept for a lot of journalists to think that they own the story."

33:15 - “It was this idea that we can’t be gatekeepers. We need to be guides.” 

"You can risk going too far. You can risk saying everyone has a right and should see every single piece of everything, no matter how incredulous, how ridiculous, how over the top, how upsetting … So we’re going to take you into 4Chan and show you all the most racist terrible memes and all that stuff. There’s an idea now … that there are ways we can responsibly do a little more of that gatekeeping.” 

38 - How some people spread conspiracy theories to undermine the media and mock the media’s “grief tourism” 

42 - Why it’s a problem for the media that most people don’t know journalists, because local media has collapsed. 

46:30 - How BuzzFeed has tried to balance being a guide and a gatekeeper, and how publishing the Steele dossier fit into that. 

50:30 - Two principles for a news organization deciding whether to publish something or not

51:30 - Charlie’s questions about covering all of Trump’s tweets as breaking news 

55 - Charlie’s star turn in the Netflix/BuzzFeed documentary series on tech addiction 

Outro Music: “Long Time Ago” by The Jayhawks 

Oct 05, 2018
10 Years Since the 08 Crash, Are We Ready For The Next Big Crisis?

10 years ago, the American economy was on the edge of Freefall. A divided government overcame partisan differences to work together, in an election year. We talked to former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and many others, to get their take on whether our political system now is ready for the next crisis.

Click here to read the piece by Andrew Romano and I on why we may not be prepared to respond to the next big crisis, and why.

Outro music: "...There" by Andy Mineo

Sep 27, 2018
John McCain

Sen. John McCain passed away one month ago at the age of 81. He was an American hero. In 2013, I interviewed him in his Senate office to talk about his place in history. I wrote a profile for The Huffington Post, which you can read here. But now I'm releasing the audio of the interview for the first time.

Here is a link to McCain's speech on July 25, 2017, in which he told his fellow senators this:

"Our system doesn't depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than 'winning.' Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to 'triumph.' "I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don't want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

"What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us." 

Closing song: "Mama's Room," by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, from the soundtrack to "Hell or High Water"

Sep 21, 2018
The Man Behind the GOP Data Machine

"In the pitiful early hours of Election Night [it] was the only credible resource Trump advisors had." That's CBS News' Major Garrett's description of the Republican National Committee's data and analytics apparatus, which was loaned out to the Trump campaign in the latter half of 2016. Newt Gingrich says Trump, who had no serious campaign of his own, would not have won without it. The work of building the RNC's data and ground game began four years earlier, and was overseen by Mike Shields, the chief of staff from 2013 to 2014. But Shields says that as he did that job, he realized he was doing more than trying to help the GOP beat the Democrats. He was trying to save the RNC from total irrelevance.

My conversations with Shields in 2013 and 2014 were some of the first steps in my journey of beginning to think about political parties in a new light. We talk about what a party is, what a party committee should do, and how President Trump has stopped talking about a "red wave" because he finally listened to operatives who told him he was going to depress Republican turnout.

I interviewed Shields in October 2013 and wrote about it here.

I wrote about the RNC's efforts in April of 2014 at this link.

Here's my piece on election night in 2016 on how the RNC's data operation helped Trump.

Sep 14, 2018
Mitch Daniels On Why Tribalism Opens the Door to Tyrants

It’s intriguing to wonder what might have happened to the Republican Party if Mitch Daniels had run for president in 2012. He was finishing up his second term as governor of Indiana, and was widely respected for the job he’d done. He was articulate, thoughtful, and had a wide breadth of political experience, having served as White House budget director under George W. Bush, and as a high-level political operative for years prior to that.

Mitt Romney won the nomination that year, but struggled as a campaigner against President Obama. Would Daniels have done any better? It’s quite likely. And if he had won the presidency, the Republican Party would have been led by a politician who downplayed social issues, rejected grievance politics, and focused like a laser on fiscal responsibility (even if that meant increasing revenue through tax increases). 

Daniels ultimately chose not to run, largely because he and his wife did not want to revisit painful periods in their marriage under the scrutiny of the nation. By all appearances, Daniels put his family ahead of his own presidential ambitions in that moment. And for five and a half years now, he has been president of Purdue University. 

I asked Daniels to come on the podcast after reading his commencement speech to this year’s graduating class at Purdue, where he exhorted the students to push back against growing tribalism in this country. "Life in a tribe is easy, in all the wrong ways. You don’t have to think. Whatever the tribe thinks is right, whatever the other side thinks is wrong. There’s no real responsibility; just follow what the tribe, and whoever speaks for it, says to do,” Daniels told the students. 

And he said that “tribes always gravitate toward tyrants.” I asked him to explain that comment, and we talked about his belief that healthy institutions protect the most vulnerable from injustice, and the nation from violence. We also talked about whether he regretted his decision not to run for president. 

Tech pioneer and analyst Jaron Lanier recently echoed some similar themes on Ezra Klein's podcast: "The way you become a autocrat or a dictator is you get everybody into pack mode, and you get them all afraid that they’ll all end up at the disadvantaged slot, that they’ll be the one who’s humiliated, the one who the pack turns on. And then everybody has to get in line," Lanier said.

Here is the Al Hunt article in Bloomberg News where Daniels was quoted as saying he felt politically "homeless."

Outro music: "Golden Kettle" by Mipso

Jul 13, 2018
Yuval Levin on What You Can Do To Help Solve Our Broad Social Crisis

“A key part of our task,” Yuval writes, “is simply to see what we lack.”

"And when you step back and listen, an awful lot of what’s distinct about this moment in America seems like a response to a certain kind of suffering: a response to being left behind, disrespected, robbed of place and dignity and hope ... The absence we feel looks like isolation and mistrust and alienation, and so it looks like a shortage of belonging and confidence and legitimacy ... When we look for solutions, we tend not to look to institutions but to individuals, to movements, to ideals, or to maverick outsiders.”

"The transformation of our understanding of the role of institutions does not simply explain all this. It is not the cause of our broad social crisis, and it doesn’t offer the answer to the challenges that crisis has posed for us. But it is the cause we tend to be most blind to, and is it is worth seeing and articulating. And it also does point toward an answer to one of the deepest quandaries that now confront us.”

"And by failing to see the formative purpose of institutions, we undermine that purpose, and so we advance an idea of institutions as not molds but platforms, and contribute to a set of social transformations that tend to separate people in the very attempt to unite them, to undermine our aptitude for freedom in the very act of liberating us, to eat away our capacity for patient toleration, our decorum, our forbearance, our restraint; to cause us to mistake expression for reflection, affirmation for respect, reaction for responsibility, and empty celebrity for an earned reputation."

Yuval Levin is editor in chief of National Affairs, a right-leaning quarterly journal. He is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. And he is the author of four books. 

In April, he delivered three lectures at Princeton University as part of its Charles E. Test, M.D., Distinguished Lectures Series. Yuval titled his talks, "Why Institutions Matter: Three Lectures on Breakdown and Renewal."

The videos of the lectures can be viewed by clicking on this link.

You can listen to my first interview with Yuval for the Long Game podcast, on July 19, 2017, by clicking here, or on iTunes here.

Outro music: "Cudi Montage" by KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Kanye West & Kid Cudi

Jun 29, 2018
Adam Wren On Finding His Way In A New Journalism Landscape

I talk with Adam Wren about what it's like to be a journalist entrepreneur, covering national politics from the Midwest while also starting a state news-focused newsletter. And Adam shares his observations of Vice President Mike Pence, and how the Indiana Republican establishment is now shaping the future of America. And we talk about our mutual experiences writing profiles of Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who's up for reelection this fall.

Jun 25, 2018
Terry Sullivan on the GOP & Marco Rubio's 2016 Loss
Jun 18, 2018
Terry Sullivan on the GOP & Marco Rubio's 2016 Loss

Republican political operative Terry Sullivan discusses the move away from issue-based campaigns, toward contests based around personality and image, whether Sen. Jesse Helms was a racist, and how bad advice to Marco Rubio led to the moment that became the downfall of his presidential candidacy.

For examples of people losing touch with their senses, read the mentions below these tweets:

My tweet on Michelle Wolf is here.

Jake Tapper's tweet about "Camelot's End" is here.

On Jesse Helms:

David Broder's 2001 piece on Jesse Helms, headlined "Jesse Helms, White Racist," is here.

Broder's piece on Byrd when the former Senator died in 2010 is here.

You can watch video of Chris Christie's kneecapping of Marco Rubio here.

Here is the transcript.

I talked to Christie the day of the New Hampshire primary about why he never went after Trump the way he did Rubio, and wrote about it here.

Outro music: "Palmetto Rose" by Jason Isbell

Jun 18, 2018
Lee Drutman on Ranked Choice Voting & Multi-Member Congressional Districts

I’m beginning to think that ranked-choice voting might be a way for voters to exercise quality control in a party primary in a way that party bosses used to. The way it works, if no one gets 50 percent then the candidate with the least support gets eliminated, and the votes they got go to the candidates who their supporters ranked second. In 2016, Donald Trump won most GOP primaries with 30 to 35 percent, meaning that 2/3 of Republican primary voters wanted another candidate. How many of those voters do you think would have ranked Trump second? And there is a fight over ranked choice voting happening right now. It is being used for the first time in a statewide election tomorrow, June 12, in Maine, in primary contests for Congress and governor. Lee Drutman, of the New America Foundation, joins me to talk about it. 

Here's a good New York Times piece on how ranked choice voting works.

And here's a good NPR report on what's happening in Maine.

Lee's piece on multi-member congressional districts is here.

David Brooks praised Lee's idea in this piece.

Here's a link to the Jennifer Lawrence ad supporting ranked choice voting.

Outro music: “Future Suite” by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks 

Jun 11, 2018
Amy Walter On the California Primaries

Voters in five states will go to the polls today to vote in primary elections, but in California, Democrats are facing an unexpected challenge. They need 23 seats to retake control of the House of Representatives this fall, and there are as many as 6 or 7 seats in California alone that are prime targets for flipping from Republican to Democrat. But because of California’s unique rules for primaries — crafted with the intent to increase participation and fairness — the very intensity of enthusiasm among Democrats in the Trump era might be their undoing. Amy Walter, National Editor at the Cook Political Report and host of WNYC radio’s The Takeaway Fridays, talks about how this reform -- like so many others -- has had unintended consequences.

Here's Amy's piece on the California primary, "The Party *Doesn't* Decide," in the Cook Political Report.

Here's Amy's colleague, David Wasserman, with a more detailed piece on the districts in which Democrats are in danger of being shut out.

Here's the piece by Jonathan Rauch that Amy references during the show: "How American Politics Went Insane"

Jun 05, 2018
AB Stoddard Has Watched Congress Collapse

AB Stoddard, associate editor and columnist at Real Clear Politics, has been a working journalist for two and a half decades. She started covering Congress in 1994, and so she has seen the institution go through most of the big changes that have turned it into such a dysfunctional place. We talked about her work with the group No Labels to get rid of the Hastert Rule in the House, about her father's role in bringing "Roots" to television, and about how she's balanced motherhood with her career.

Jun 01, 2018
DNC's Ken Martin Says 'Resistance' Has to Mature
"At some point, they need to channel that energy into really tangible electoral activity if they're going to actually get power back from Trump and the Republicans, and to do that, the best place for that is two political parties and working in concert with our candidates up and down the ballot ... I believe that political parties matter, that they still matter. They're very important, and I would say, in a weird way, probably even more important now, as you start to think about the outlets for all of this energy out there," said Martin, the chair of the Minnesota Dems (the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. We talk super delegates, caucuses, and how the Democratic party grew weaker under Obama. ]]>
May 25, 2018
DNC's Ken Martin Says 'Resistance' Has to Mature

"At some point, they need to channel that energy into really tangible electoral activity if they're going to actually get power back from Trump and the Republicans, and to do that, the best place for that is two political parties and working in concert with our candidates up and down the ballot ... I believe that political parties matter, that they still matter. They're very important, and I would say, in a weird way, probably even more important now, as you start to think about the outlets for all of this energy out there," said Martin, the chair of the Minnesota Dems (the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. We talk super delegates, caucuses, and how the Democratic party grew weaker under Obama.

May 25, 2018
Ambassador Tim Roemer on $$$$ in Politics

Tim Roemer is a former Indiana congressman and was President Obama's first ambassador to India. He now represents a group that believes American democracy is broken and is trying to bring Republicans and Democrats together to fix it. Issue One is working on Capitol Hill with lawmakers to push a handful of reforms. One would require the largest digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to disclose and publicize any entity that pays more than $500 to promote its content online, with an aim toward shining a light on any attempts by foreign entities to influence American politics. We talked about what it means to him when we say that money in politics is a problem, and what the solution is.

May 21, 2018
Reed Galen Likes Sore Losers

“The angrier the electorate, the less capable we are of finding common ground on policies, or even of treating our opponents like human beings," a political scientist wrote recently. Reed Galen is trying to start a new political party that is built on the belief that American politics has to restore the dignity of every person as one of its foundational principles. Reed is the chief strategist for the Serve America Movement, an organization started in 2016, which is building organizing infrastructure in a handful of states this year with the goal of being ready to spring into action if a legitimate independent candidate for president runs in 2020. We talked about the group's origins and its plans for 2018 and 2020.

May 14, 2018
Joel Searby Wants to Take Down the Two-Party System

Joel Searby, a former adviser to Evan McMullin's presidential campaign, is now trying to persuade a group of senators -- whom he would not name -- to form a caucus that would elect a bipartisan slate of leaders in the Senate next January. We talked about this effort, as well as his reflection on the McMullin campaign and why it’s still deeply in debt, and on the introduction of ranked choice voting in Maine.

May 08, 2018
The Missouri Governor's Scandal
May 01, 2018
The Missouri Governor's Scandal

Embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is a textbook case, like President Trump, of the danger of political parties losing control over their primaries. When Greitens ran for governor in 2016, he promised in a TV ad to “take dead aim at politics as usual” and then shot a machine gun at a target that exploded and sent flames high into the air. The only thing exploding now, however, is his political career and the Missouri Republican Party with it. Read more of Jon Ward's article on this story at Yahoo News here.

May 01, 2018
Matt Bai Thinks I'm Crazy (or at least wrong)
Apr 20, 2018
Matt Bai Thinks I'm Crazy (or at least wrong)

Matt is one of the best journalists in America. He's a weekly columnist at Yahoo News and author of two books, "The Argument," and "All the Truth is Out." His second book has been turned into a major motion picture, starring Hugh Jackman, and titled The Frontrunner, in theaters this year. Matt's column this week was a response to the piece I wrote that grew out of this podcast. My piece was published Tuesday, and called, “Power to the party: Why political reforms can be bad for democracy.” Matt’s response to this was called, "We need stronger candidates, not stronger parties.” Matt writes that he’s long been a skeptic of political parties, and that just because Donald Trump has been a destructive outsider, that doesn’t mean non-politicians who run for office have to be negative forces. "I still believe that an unconventional campaign — a candidate respectful of governing expertise, but determined to rethink how we use it — can be the thing that restores our faith in public life,” he writes.  

Apr 20, 2018
Summary Episode - Everything We've Covered So Far
Apr 13, 2018
Summary Episode - Everything We've Covered So Far

If you're a new listener and wonder what this show is all about, this episode will get you caught up. I go back through why this podcast exists, and what each guest has talked about. There are clips of the most important portions of each show, and the most robust explanation to date of why this podcast exists.

Show Notes:

My dispatches from the Republican National Convention:

Mike Lee predicts backlash after RNC smothers delegate rebellion

In Cleveland, a dazed GOP marches toward a Trump nomination

Chaos on the Convention Floor

The Cleveland convention is ratifying the GOP’s loss of party power

Here is the first episode of The Long Game, which uses the convention as its jumping off point. 

Audio of David Axelrod full interview with Chris Wallace, from January 12, 2017, is here, and transcript is here

Here is the link to the July 14, 2016 episode of Slate’s Political Gabfest, with David Plotz, Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson. 

Here are the links to the individual episodes of Long Game interviews, which are highlighted in this episode:

Video of the event at the American Enterprise Institute, with EJ Dionne, Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, is here.


Apr 13, 2018
Steven Levitsky, author of "How Democracies Die"

Steven Levitsky is professor of government at Harvard University. He has spent most of his life studying Latin American politics and history, with a focus on political parties, authoritarianism and democratization, and weak and informal institutions. In 2018, he and fellow Harvard professor Daniel Ziblatt, an expert on democracy in Europe, wrote a book called "How Democracies Die." Here, Steven and I discuss what he means when he calls political parties the "gatekeepers of democracy," and why the Democrats reduction of superdelegates in their presidential primary may have unintended negative consequences. 

“How Democracies Die," by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Steven Levitsky's personal page at Harvard is here

Reviews of the book by Jennifer Szalai in the New York Times and by Yuval Levin in The Weekly Standard

Apr 03, 2018
What I'm Reading #2 - Dan Koch - "How to Think" by Alan Jacobs
Dan Koch, host of the Depolarize podcast, joins me to talk about his thoughts while reading "How to Think," by Baylor literature professor Alan Jacobs.]]>
Mar 30, 2018
What I'm Reading #2 - Dan Koch - "How to Think" by Alan Jacobs

Dan Koch, host of the Depolarize podcast, joins me to talk about his thoughts while reading "How to Think," by Baylor literature professor Alan Jacobs.

Mar 30, 2018
Seth Masket

Seth Masket is the chair of the political science department at the University of Denver. He has dared to say what few will: that for party primaries and maybe all of American politics to be more productive and functional, it might need to be a little less democratic. He and fellow academic Julia Azari wrote a New York Times op-ed in December titled: “Is the Democratic Party Becoming Too Democratic?”

Seth is the author of two books. His most recent is called “The Inevitable Party: Why Attempts to Kill the Party System Fail and how they Weaken Democracy.”

The text of my introduction to the show, along with all the links below, is posted on my Medium page devoted to this podcast. Seth’s bio is here.  Here are Seth’s two books:

How to Improve the Primary Process? Make It Less Democratic,” by Seth Masket, Pacific Standard Magazine, August 11, 2017

"Is the Democratic Party Becoming Too Democratic?” by Julia Azari and Seth Masket, The New York Times, December 11, 2017

Here’s How a Responsible GOP Might Behave,” by Seth Masket, Pacific Standard Magazine, February 28, 2017

Seth referenced this paper: The Losing Parties Out-Party National Committees, 1956-1993, by Philip A. Klinkner

We talked about the big idea in this book, and how the 2016 election did not adhere to this theory: “The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform,” by Marty Cohen, David Karol, Hans Noel

"Weak parties and strong partisanship are a bad combination," by Julia Azari, Vox, November 3, 2016

I wrote this at the 2016 Republican convention: "The Cleveland convention is ratifying the GOP’s loss of party power."

My piece on The Centrist Project from April 2017 is here.

Seth wrote about The Centrist Project in June 2017. That piece is here.

My more recent piece on Unite America, the new name of what used to be The Centrist Project, is here.


Mar 05, 2018
What I'm Reading #1 - "12 Rules for Life" by Jordan Peterson
Feb 23, 2018
What I'm Reading #1 - "12 Rules for Life" by Jordan Peterson

I'm introducing a new feature to The Long Form podcast, where I'll post short interviews with friends and public figures about the book that they are in the middle of. I don't want polished hot takes about a book someone has finished and fully digested. I want mid-process description of what sparks are flying around people's heads midstream through the book. And I love to know the backstory of how and why people start books. What intrigued them? What attracted them? And what are they getting out of it right now? 

I'm starting out with a look at one of the books I'm reading, "12 Rules for Life" by Jordan Peterson. He's a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has developed a cult following particularly among young men. I think after listening to this you'll have a better understanding of why. 

Show Notes:

Anthony Bradley tweet thread on why young men are into Peterson. 

"The Voice Evangelical Men Wish They Had," by Anthony Bradley in Fathom Magazine. 

"The Jordan Peterson Moment," by David Brooks in The New York Times

Peterson interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News

James K.A. Smith tweet about Peterson's "manhood-under-attack" "myth"

Vice segment on Peterson: "Jordan Peterson Is Canada's Most Infamous Intellectual"

Extended clip of Jay Kang interview with Peterson. 

Video of Peterson's complain about the Vice interview. 

"What’s So Dangerous About Jordan Peterson?" by Tom Bartlett in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Feb 23, 2018
Norm Ornstein
He thinks machine politics is a distraction. Norm Ornstein has a different take from Jonathan Rauch and Elaine Kamarck on why our politics is broken. Ornstein believes increasing voter participation and reducing the role of money in politics are better goals, and that the Republican Party is far more of a culprit in creating dysfunction than are the Democrats. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a book late last year with Thomas Mann and EJ Dionne called "One Nation After Trump."

Show Notes:

Opening and closing song: "Mass Appeal" by Gangstarr. 

Norm's book from 2012, co-written with Thomas Mann and EJ Dionne, updated in 2016: "It's Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism."

Norm's book from 2006, co-written with Thomas Mann: "The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track."

The paper by Jonathan Rauch and Ben Wittes from May 2017: "More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it."

Rauch & Wittes were responding in part to this paper from June 2015, by Mann and Dionne: "The futility of nostalgia and the romanticism of the new political realists."

And here's Elaine Kamarck's paper from April 2017: "Re-inserting peer review in the American presidential nomination process."

The exchange between Ornstein and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, at the beginning can be viewed here, and you can read about it here.

My profile from December on Warren Throckmorton, the evangelical professor who turned against 'reparative therapy' for gays.

My profile from September on Jemar Tisby, an African-American Christian living in the Deep South whose outlook on racial reconciliation darkened after the election of Donald Trump.
Jan 12, 2018
Elaine Kamarck

"When politicians can't get anything done, it breeds distrust. It breeds anger ... The weakening of parties ... most people think it's a good thing," Elaine Kamarck says. But, she warns that "the weakening of parties has meant the weakening of government. People don't like that, but very few people see the connection between political parties and government." Kamarck, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and a Democratic National Committee member and superdelegate, talks about her proposal to have a party gathering prior to the presidential primary to vote on potential candidates. But she says she doesn't care if superdelegates go away. She also says she doesn't fault Reince Priebus for not doing more as RNC Chairman to block Donald Trump from the nomination.



Oct 20, 2017
Jonathan Rauch

Jonathan Rauch's 2016 Atlantic cover story, "How American Politics Went Insane," argued that we've reformed our politics into dysfunction. We talk about how telling people to vote or participate in the process is not, on its own, going to solve our problems. We need people to either get involved in political parties or delegate authority to them. The irony, he says, is that "an unmediated, direct democracy, is less democratic and less representative than mediated democracy.” 

Episode 1 explained how I got interested in the topic of institutions by asking myself why the Republican Party was powerless to stop Donald Trump. Episode 2 explored the question, “What are institutions and why are they important?” Episode 3 looked at ways in which institutions can be harmful. This 4th episode is the first of a few that will look closely at the specific institution of political parties. 

Opening Clip: From The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Opening Music: "Power" by Kanye West 

Books/Articles by Jonathan Rauch

Other books or articles mentioned:

Closing Music: "Rita" by Madeline Kenney

Sep 19, 2017
Jemar Tisby
Jemar Tisby is one of the more compelling figures I am aware of when it comes to race and Christianity in America. He is the president of the Reformed African American Network, and is obtaining a PhD in the history of race and religion at the University of Mississippi. Jemar is on a "journey to figure out how … social justice and historic Christian faith connect: how faith catalyzes justice." And while he believes his faith identity transcends skin color, he rejects the idea that white and black Christians -- in particular -- should avoid or bypass the hard conversations that need to take place about racial justice and white supremacy in America today. I wanted to get his take on institutions early on in this podcast to help us think critically about the topic. We may need to regain an appreciation for the good institutions can do, but we need to remain clear-eyed about the injustice that can also be perpetrated through them as well.
Aug 14, 2017
Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin, one of the most plugged in, influential conservative intellectuals in the country, joins me to talk about how modern Americans often think of institutions as platforms for self-promotion rather than molds that form us "into human beings who are capable of being free men and women, who will choose to do the right thing, generally speaking, and so can be left free to choose, and don’t have to be coerced into being responsible.”

President Trump, Levin says, is a vivid example of someone who views institutions this way, and as a result, has hindered his ability to be successful. Trump has behaved not as a president would, but as a "performance artist," Levin says. 

Jul 20, 2017
The Origin Story

In this inaugural, introductory episode, I tell the story of standing on the floor of the Republican convention in Cleveland as the GOP squashed an anti-Trump rebellion. It caused me to start thinking about the role of institutions like political parties. I explain why this podcast exists, how I'm going to structure it, and how I got interested in the topic. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently said that the biggest threat to the country is not ISIS or Russia or terrorism, but "the lack of political unity in America." The disunity we are now experiencing is increasing the massive distrust of institutions that in many ways is what brought us to this point. The question is, where do we go from here? We can't go back in time, but what lessons does our history hold for us?

Jun 21, 2017