Vox Conversations

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When you’re sitting in front of Rep. Joe Kennedy, it’s clear that you’re sitting in front of a Kennedy. The face, the jawline — it’s all uncannily familiar. But Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, is rising in a changed Democratic Party. In the 1950s, the nonwhite share of the Democratic vote was about 7 percent. In 2012, it was about 44 percent — and that number is ticking upward. Kennedy is navigating it smoothly. Tapped to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union — and you’ll want to listen to him tell the story of how that came about — he delivered a powerful performance in a speaking slot that usually buries ambitious young politicians. And he did it by reminding Democrats that their rhetoric can be bigger than their divisions, that a party built on difference can still see its way to a national identity. In this conversation, Kennedy and I talk about the vision and the policies that lie behind that speech. Where should Democrats go on health care, on economics, on drugs? Is the divide over identity politics and economic populism really a “false choice,” as Kennedy argues? And how do Democrats talk about unity when Trump keeps driving the national conversation into divisive issues? Further Reading: Matt Yglesias' piece on Rep. Kennedy's SOTU response The Ezra Klein Show episode with the authors of How Democracies Die Books: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Angela J. Davis is the former director of the DC public defender service, a professor of law at American University, and editor of a remarkable new book titled Policing the Black Man, which pulls together deeply researched essays on virtually every aspect of how black men and black boys interact with the criminal justice system. It is a revelatory, comprehensive tour of the subject that’s often in the news but rarely treated in a thorough way. We cover a lot of ground in this podcast, looking at everything from disparities in crime rates to sentencing to policing. But perhaps the most important point we cover — which is also the subject of Davis’s chapter in the book — is that the conversation around criminal justice reform often misses the key actors. The debate tends to focus on police, but as Davis writes, "prosecutors are the most powerful officials in the criminal justice system, bar none. Police officers have the power to arrest and bring individuals to the courthouse door. But prosecutors decide whether they enter the door and what happens to them if and when they do.” Books: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs My Beloved World by Justice Sonia Sotomayor Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Vox's Sean Illing talks to Yale professor and author Jason Stanley about why American democracy provides such fertile soil for fascism, how Donald Trump demonstrated how easy it was for our country to flirt with a fascist future and what we can do about it. Correction 2/1: Professor Stanley suggested in this conversation that West Virginia declined to expand the Medicaid option in 2013. In fact, the state did expand the program and has gradually added enrollment since 2013. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
New York magazine's Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi spent the past four years covering the Trump White House. In this inaugural episode of Vox Conversations, Nuzzi talks to guest host Sam Sanders, host of NPR's It’s Been a Minute, about the perils of anonymous sourcing, some unexpected job hazards (self-loathing), and why Trump didn’t ultimately create, but instead activated, the crowd of insurgents that breached the Capitol last week. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby became a global star with her Netflix special Nanette. It’s a remarkable piece of work, and it does what great art is supposed to do: Give you a sense, however fleeting, of what it is like to live inside another human’s experience. Gadsby’s new special, Douglas, takes that a step further: It explores her autism diagnosis and gives you a sense of what it is like to experience the world through another person’s mind.  The first half of my episode with Gadsby is about her experience moving through the world as a neurodiverse person. Gadsby didn't receive her autism diagnosis until she was almost 40 years old, after decades of struggling to navigate systems, institutions, and norms that weren't built for people like her. Her story of how she got to comedy — and how close she was to simply falling off the map — is searing, and it helped me see some of the capabilities and social conventions I take for granted in a new light. As in her shows, Gadsby, here, renders an experience few of us have had emotionally legible. It’s a powerful conversation. Then, we turn to the topics of free speech, safety, and cancel culture. For years, comedy has been undergoing many of the very same debates that have recently become front and center in the journalism world, and Gadsby has done some of the most powerful thinking I've heard on these issues. We discuss what it means for people in power to take responsibility for their speech, how to navigate the complex relationship between creator and audience members, why Twitter is a “bullying pulpit,” the role of recording technology, and the new skills those of us privileged with a platform are going to need to develop. This is one of those conversations I’ve been thinking about since I had it. Don’t miss it. Book (and painting) recommendations: Saint Sebastian as a Woman by Louise Bourgeois The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben  The New Tsar by Steven Lee Myers Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor/Jack-of-all-audio-trades - Jeff Geld Researcher/Learner of all things - Roge Karma Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The introduction to Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, hit me hard. In her investigation of how American politics and culture had collapsed into “an unbearable supernova of perpetually escalating conflict,” she became obsessed with five intersecting problems: “First, how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity; second, how it encourages us to overvalue our opinions; third, how it maximizes our sense of opposition; fourth, how it cheapens our understanding of solidarity; and, finally, how it destroys our sense of scale." Yeah, me too. My conversation with Tolentino was one of my favorites of last year -- and it has become all the more relevant in the midst of a pandemic that has collapsed most human communication into Zoom calls, Twitter feeds, and Instagram stories. This is a conversation about what happens when technology combines with the most powerful forces of human psychology to transform the nature of human interaction itself. It’s about how we construct and express our core sense of self, and what that’s doing to who we really are. References: The art of attention (with Jenny Odell) Book Recommendations: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher in chief - Roge Karma Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The Times of London called Mariana Mazzucato “the world’s scariest economist.” Quartz describes her as “on a mission to save capitalism from itself.” Wired says she has “a plan to fix capitalism,” and warns that “it’s time we all listened. ”Mazuccato is an economist at University College London and Founder and Director of UCL's Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She’s the author of The Entrepreneurial State and The Value of Everything — two books that, together, critique some of the most fundamental economic assumptions of our time, and try and chart a different path forward. This is a moment that demands critique. The workers who are being called “essential” now were treated as disposable before — paid low wages, offered little respect. The difference between states with innovative, capable public sectors and states where government agencies have been dismissed and defunded is on terrible display.  The debates Mazzucato has been trying to open for years are now unavoidable. So let’s have them. Book recommendations: Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar  The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Please consider making a contribution to Vox to support this show: bit.ly/givepodcasts Your support will help us keep having ambitious conversations about big ideas. New to the show? Want to check out Ezra’s favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner’s guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) Credits: Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Rebecca Solnit is one of the great activist-essayists of our age. Her books and writing cover a vast amount of human existence, but a common thread in her work — and a focus of her upcoming memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence — is what it means to be voiceless, ignored, and treated as a unreliable witness to the events of your own life.  “We always say nobody knows, and that means that everyone who knows was nobody,” Solnit says. “Everyone who was nobody knew about Harvey Weinstein.” This conversation is, in part, about what it means to be a nobody and what we’d learn if we listened to the voices on the margins of society. But it goes wide from there, covering the psychic toll of sexual violence, the Weinstein ruling, how visual art infuses Solnit’s journalism, the changing cultural role of San Francisco, what climate change will do to social relations, the different narratives of violence that men and women grow up with, and much more. A quick warning: We spoke just after the Weinstein ruling, and we discuss sexual violence both in terms of specific cases and larger cultural questions. It’s an important conversation, and Solnit’s thinking here is essential and humane, but listeners should be prepared for it. Book recommendations: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado There There by Tommy Orange New to the show? Want to check out Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out the Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide (http://bit.ly/EKSbeginhere) The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule! Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Credits: Engineer - Cynthia Gil Producer/Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jill Lepore is a Harvard historian, a New Yorker contributor, the author of These Truths, and one of my favorite past guests on this show. But in this episode, the tables are turned: I’m in the hot seat, and Lepore has some questions. Hard ones. This is, easily, the toughest interview on my book so far. Lepore isn’t quibbling over my solutions or pointing out a contrary study — what she challenges are the premises, epistemology, and meta-structure that form the foundation of my book, and much of my work. Her question, in short, is: What if social science itself is too crude to be a useful way of understanding the political world? But that’s what makes this conversation great. We discuss whether all political science research on polarization might be completely wrong, why (and whether) my book is devoid of individual or institutional “villains,” and whether I am morally obliged to delete my Twitter account, in addition to the missing party in American politics, why I mistrust historical narratives, media polarization, and much more. This is, on one level, a conversation about Why We’re Polarized. But on a deeper level, it’s about different modes of knowledge and whether we can trust them. New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide. My book is available at www.EzraKlein.com. The “Why We’re Polarized” tour continues, with events in Portland, Seattle, Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and Greenville. Go to WhyWerePolarized.com for the full schedule! Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com Credits: Producer - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
This is a podcast episode literally years in the making. It’s an excerpt — the first anywhere — from my book Why We’re Polarized. A core argument of the book is that identity is the central driver of political polarization. But to see how it works, we need a better theory of how identities form, what happens when they activate, and where they fit into our conflicts. We’ve been taught to only see identity politics in others. We need to see it in ourselves. If you’re a longtime listener, this excerpt — like the broader book — will tie a lot of threads on this show together. If you’re a new listener, it’ll give you, I hope, a clearer way to understand a powerful driver of our politics and our lives.  Why We’re Polarized comes out on January 28. You can order it, both in text and audiobook forms, at WhyWerePolarized.com. Find the audio book on Audible.com New to the show? Want to listen to Ezra's favorite episodes? Check out The Ezra Klein Show beginner's guide. Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com You can subscribe to Ezra's podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Credits: Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The 2010s witnessed a sharp uptick in nonviolent resistance movements all across the globe. Over the course of the last decade we’ve seen record numbers of popular protests, grassroots campaigns, and civic demonstrations advancing causes that range from toppling dictatorial regimes to ending factory farming to advancing a Green New Deal.   So, I thought it would be fitting to kick off 2020 by bringing on Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard specializing in nonviolent resistance. At the beginning of this decade Chenoweth co-authored Why Civil Resistance Works, a landmark study showing that nonviolent movements are twice as effective as violent ones. Since then, she has written dozens of papers on what factors make successful movements successful, why global protests are becoming more and more common, how social media has affected resistance movements and much more.  But Chenoweth doesn’t only study nonviolent movements from an academic perspective; she also advises nonviolent movement leaders around the world (including former EK Show guests Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement and Wayne Hsiung of Direct Action Everywhere) to help them be as effective and strategic as possible in carrying out their goals. This on-the-ground experience combined with a big-picture, academic view of nonviolent resistance makes her perspective essential for understanding one of the most important phenomena of the last decade -- and, in all likelihood, the next one. References: "How social media helps dictators" by Erica Chenoweth "Drop Your Weapons: When and Why Civil Resistance Works" by Erica Chenoweth Book recommendations: These Truths by Jill Lepore Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keenga-Yamahtta Taylor If you enjoyed this podcast, you may also like: Varshini Prakash on the Sunrise Movement's plan to save humanity When doing the right thing makes you a criminal (with Wayne Hsiung) My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com. Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Credits: Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld Engineer- Cynthia Gil Researcher - Roge Karma Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Happy Thanksgiving! Please enjoy a re-air episode from April 2018 with Lilliana Mason. Yes, identity politics is breaking our country. But it’s not identity politics as we’re used to thinking about it. In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, Lilliana Mason traces the construction of our partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. These mega-identities didn’t exist 50 or even 30 years ago, but now that they’re here, they change the way we see each other, the way we engage in politics, and the way politics absorbs other — previously non-political —spheres of our culture. In making her case, Mason offers one of the best primers I’ve read on how little it takes to activate a sense of group identity in human beings, and how far-reaching the cognitive and social implications are once that group identity takes hold. I don’t want to spoil our discussion here, but suffice to say that her recounting of the “minimal group paradigm” experiments is not to be missed. This is the kind of research that will change not just how you think about the world, but how you think about yourself. Mason’s book is, I think, one of the most important published this year, and this conversation gave me a lens on our political discord that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in. Books recommendations: Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi  The Power by Naomi Alderman My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com. Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
I’ve wanted to have Dave Eggers on the show for a while now. Eggers has not only written a vast range of books (a deeply ironic personal memoir, a heartwarming novel about a Sudanese refugee, a futuristic story about a tech dystopia) but he's also founded the national tutoring nonprofit 826 Valencia, started the literary magazine McSweeney’s, co-authored the screenplay of Where the Wild Things Are, and much more. I’m fascinated by people who are able to do a variety of wildly different things, all successfully. Dave Eggers is one of those people.  So, we start this conversation by discussing Eggers’s life’s work, his recent book The Captain and the Glory, and Donald Trump. But then — somewhere around the halfway point — the conversation transforms into something I can only describe as, well, therapeutic. Eggers doesn’t own a smartphone or have wifi in his house, and hearing the way he talks about the internet, social media, and our relationship to them put me in a sort of quasi-meditation state that I can’t describe adequately with words. This one is a little strange, but it may just make your day. It certainly made mine. Book recommendations: The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton  The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton  The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton If you enjoyed this episode, you may like: You will love this conversation with Jaron Lanier, but I can’t describe it Cal Newport on doing Deep Work and escaping social media My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com. Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Credits: Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Engineer - Cynthia Gil Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Due to a technical glitch this interview with Edward Norton did not find it’s way into most people’s feeds. If you were able to download the first one this is indeed the exact same interview, but if you missed it please give a listen and enjoy - we had a lot of fun with this one. You’ve heard of Edward Norton. He’s starred in critically acclaimed films like American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman, been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and, most recently, wrote, directed, and starred in Motherless Brooklyn, a film about a detective with Tourette’s syndrome who ends up taking on the most corrupt and powerful forces in New York City politics. Motherless Brooklyn, as it happens, is one of my all-time favorite books. And so this conversation was an unexpected pleasure. In addition to a joint love of Motherless Brooklyn, Norton and I share an unusual number of interests: Meditation, the uncontrollable nature of the mind, the difficulty of solving problems by thinking about them, the psychology of power, media analytics, cultural ideas of heroism, thwarted masculinity in politics, Ralph Nader, and more. It’s rare that I think a conversation could’ve gone for hours more. But it’s true for this one. References: Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem This Could Be Our Future by Yancey Strickler Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch   *The world according to Ralph Nader* Book recommendations: Barbarian Days by William Finnegan  Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Buddhism without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor If you like this episode, check out: What Buddhism got right about the human brain You will love this conversation with Jaron Lanier, but I can’t describe it My book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com. Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com You can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Credits: Producer and Editor - Jeff Geld Researcher - Roge Karma Engineer - Jeff Geld Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
You’ve heard of Edward Norton. He’s starred in critically acclaimed films like American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman, been nominated for multiple Academy Awards, and, most recently, wrote, directed, and starred in Motherless Brooklyn, a film about a detective with Tourette’s syndrome who ends up taking on the most corrupt and powerful forces in New York City politics.Motherless Brooklyn, as it happens, is one of my all-time favorite books.And so this conversation was an unexpected pleasure. In addition to a joint love of Motherless Brooklyn, Norton and I share an unusual number of interests: Meditation, the uncontrollable nature of the mind, the difficulty of solving problems by thinking about them, the psychology of power, media analytics, cultural ideas of heroism, thwarted masculinity in politics, Ralph Nader, and more.It’s rare that I think a conversation could’ve gone for hours more. But it’s true for this one.References:Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan LethemThis Could Be Our Future by Yancey StricklerCatching the Big Fish by David Lynch  *The world according to Ralph Nader* Book recommendations:Barbarian Days by William Finnegan Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryBuddhism without Beliefs by Stephen BatchelorIf you like this episode, check out:What Buddhism got right about the human brainYou will love this conversation with Jaron Lanier, but I can’t describe itMy book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.comYou can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Credits:Producer and Editor - Jeff GeldResearcher - Roge KarmaEngineer - Jeff Geld Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The introduction to Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, hit me hard. In her investigation of how American politics and culture had collapsed into “an unbearable supernova of perpetually escalating conflict,” she became obsessed with five intersecting problems: “First, how the internet is built to distend our sense of identity; second, how it encourages us to overvalue our opinions; third, how it maximizes our sense of opposition; fourth, how it cheapens our understanding of solidarity; and, finally, how it destroys our sense of scale." Yeah, me too. What sets Tolentino’s work apart, though, is that it’s not about the internet — it’s about how people are living their real, everyday lives in the age of the internet. This is a conversation about what happens when technology combines with the most powerful forces of human psychology to transform the nature of human interaction itself. It’s about how we construct and express our core sense of self, and what that’s doing to who we really are. References: The art of attention (with Jenny Odell) Book Recommendations: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond Want to contact the show? Reach out at ezrakleinshow@vox.com News comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, Explained Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Oligarchic capitalism? Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that. Opioid deaths? She’s got a plan for that too. Same is true for high housing costs, offshoring, child care, breaking up Big Tech, curbing congressional corruption, indicting presidents, strengthening reproductive rights, forgiving student loans, providing debt relief to Puerto Rico, and fixing the love lives of some of her Twitter followers. Seriously. But how is Warren going to pass any of these plans? Which policy would she prioritize? What presidential powers would she leverage? What argument would she make to her fellow Senate Democrats to convince them to abolish the filibuster? What will she do if Mitch McConnell still leads the Senate? What about climate change? I caught her on a campaign swing through California to ask her about that meta-plan. The plan behind her plans. Warren’s easy fluency with policy is on full display here, but it’s her systematic thinking about the nature of power, and what it takes to redistribute it, that really sets her apart from the field. I don’t want to shock you, but: She’s got a plan for that too. Vox’s guide to where 2020 Democrats stand on policy Book recommendations: Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
YouTube is where tomorrow’s politics are happening today. If you’re over 30, and you don’t spend much time on the platform, it’s almost impossible to explain how central it is to young people’s media consumption. YouTube far outranks television in terms of where teens spend their time. It’s foundational to how young people — and plenty of not-so-young people — form their politics. And it features a political divide that’s different than what we see in Washington, but that I think predicts what we’re going to see in Washington. Natalie Wynn, of the channel Contrapoints, is one of YouTube’s political stars. The former philosophy PhD student dropped out and found her calling producing idea-dense and aesthetically rich explanations of everything from capitalism to Jordan Peterson to incels to “the West.” In this conversation, we talk about the political divides on YouTube, how the YouTube right differs from the YouTube left, why obscure ideological movements are making comebacks online, her experience transitioning gender while in the public eye, why you need to take trollish questions seriously, and the anxieties of modern masculinity. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
“The big question of our time is less, ‘What does it mean to be American?’ than, ‘What does it mean to be white American in an age of ethnic change?’” writes Eric Kaufmann in his new book Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. Kaufmann’s book is unusual in two respects. First, it’s explicit (and persuasive) in its argument that demographic change and the white backlash to demographic change are behind the rise of rightwing populism across the West. Second, it argues that the right response is to slow demographic change and calm the fears of white majorities. I think Kaufmann’s framework of what’s driving political conflict right now is correct. I have more trouble with his vision of what to do about it. But this is a book, in my view, that gets to the core debate of contemporary politics and takes it on directly. That’s why I wanted to have this conversation. Book recommendations: The Ethnic Origins of Nationsby Anthony D. Smith The Cultural Contradictions Of Capitalismby Daniel Bell NEXT AMERICAN NATION: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolutionby Michael Lind Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Yes, identity politics is breaking our country. But it’s not identity politics as we’re used to thinking about it.  In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, Lilliana Mason traces the construction of our partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. These mega-identities didn’t exist 50 or even 30 years ago, but now that they’re here, they change the way we see each other, the way we engage in politics, and the way politics absorbs other — previously non-political —spheres of our culture. In making her case, Mason offers one of the best primers I’ve read on how little it takes to activate a sense of group identity in human beings, and how far-reaching the cognitive and social implications are once that group identity takes hold. I don’t want to spoil our discussion here, but suffice to say that her recounting of the “minimal group paradigm” experiments is not to be missed. This is the kind of research that will change not just how you think about the world, but how you think about yourself.  Mason’s book is, I think, one of the most important published this year, and this conversation gave me a lens on our political discord that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in.  Books: Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi  The Power by Naomi Alderman Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
There’s a lot of backstory to this podcast, most of which is covered in this piece. The short version is that Sam Harris, the host of the Waking Up podcast, and I have been going back and forth over an interview Harris did with The Bell Curve author Charles Murray about a year ago. In that interview, the two argued that African-Americans are, for a combination of genetic and environmental reasons, intrinsically and immutably less intelligent than white Americans, and Murray argued that the implications of this “forbidden knowledge” should shape social policy. In response, Vox published a piece by three respected academic specialists on genes and IQ who argued Murray and Harris got both the science and its implications very wrong. Harris felt slandered by the piece we published and publicly demanded I debate him. After failing to get Harris to debate the authors of the Vox piece instead, I agreed. Over email, he then revoked his invitation to debate me. Harris’s defenders published a few pieces, our authors published a second piece, and everyone moved on. That’s where things sat for months. Then, a few weeks ago, Harris reopened the discussion with me on Twitter, I published a piece on the subject in response, and he published all the private emails we’d sent each other along the way. As you’ll hear him say, that backfired, so he decided, at last, to debate me. Whew. So here we are. For all that, I think this discussion — which is also being released on Harris’ podcast — is worth listening to. Harris’s view is that the criticism he and Murray have received is a moral panic driven by identity politics and political correctness. My view is that these IQ tests are inseparable from both the past and present of racism in America, and to conduct this conversation without voices who are expert on that subject and who hail from the affected communities is to miss the point from the outset. So that’s where we begin. Where we go, I think, is worthwhile: these hypotheses about biological racial difference are now, and have alway been, used to advance clear political agendas — in Murray’s case, an end to programs meant to redress racial inequality, and in Harris’s case, a counterstrike against identitarian concerns he sees as a threat to his own career. Yes, identity politics are at play in this conversation, but that includes white identity politics. To Harris, and you’ll hear this explicitly, identity politics is something others do. To me, it’s something we all do, and that he and many others simply refuse to admit they’re doing. This is one of the advantages of being the majority group: your concerns get coded as concerns, it’s everyone else who is playing identity politics. Even if you’re not interested in the specifics of our debate, I think this discussion goes to some important questions in American life — questions that drive our culture and politics today. I hope you enjoy it. A few links mentioned in the discussion: My piece on this whole debate, which links all the relevant articles. Harris and Murray's original podcast Vox's original response piece The Haier piece Harris wanted us to publish defending him Our authors' response to various criticisms The emails between me and Harris Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 2011, Tristan Harris’s company, Apture, was acquired by Google. Inside Google, he became unnerved by how the company worked. There was all this energy going into making the products better, more addicting, more delightful. But what if all that made the users’ lives worse, more busy, more distracted? Harris wrote up his worries in a slide deck manifesto. “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention” went viral within the company and led to Harris being named Google’s “design ethicist.” But he soon realized that he couldn’t change enough from the inside. The business model wasn’t built to give users back their time. It was built to take ever more of it. Harris, who co-founded the Center for Humane Technology, has become the most influential critic of how Silicon Valley designs products to addict us. His terms, like the need to focus on “Time Well Spent,” have been adopted (or perhaps coopted) by, among others, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I interviewed Harris recently for my podcast. We talked about how the 2016 election threw Silicon Valley into crisis, why negative emotions dominate online, where Silicon Valley’s model of human decisionmaking went wrong, whether he buys Zuckerberg's change of heart, what happened when meditation master Thich Nhat Hahn came to Google, what it means to control your own time, and what can be done about it. Further Reading: A Verge interview with Jaron Lanier where he talks about the idea that to maximize engagement, you need to maximize emotional engagement, and the emotions that are most engaging are the negative ones. Tristan mentions Kahneman’s System 1 & System 2 thinking. Here’s an explanation of that.  The Onion article Ezra mentioned about the ways meditation is applied in Silicon Valley The New York Times piece with a headline Tristan says is somewhat different from the truth A description of the Facebook earnings call that Tristan mentioned  The Stanford Persuasive Technology lab Tristan mentioned to explain the psychology behind the Snapchat Streak  Ezra mentioned Ralph Nader’s Consumer Movement. Here’s a description of that.  The New York Times article on greyscaling a phone that Tristan and Ezra discuss Recommended books Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves Reprint Edition by Adam Hochschild Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The year is young, but Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die is going to be one of its most important books. It will be read as a commentary on Donald Trump, which is fair enough, because the book is, in part, a commentary on Donald Trump. But it deserves more than that. It is more than that. How Democracies Die is three books woven together. One summarizes acres of research on how democracies tumble into autocracy. The second is an analysis of the troubling conditions under which American democracy thrived and the reasons it has entered into decline. The third book is a fretful tour of Trump’s first year in office, and the ways in which his instincts and actions mirror those of would-be autocrats before him. Of these, the book about Donald Trump is the least interesting, and so in this interview, I didn’t focus on it. Instead, this is a discussion about how modern democracies fall, and the ways in which American democracy has been creeping towards crisis for decades now.  Viewed this way, Trump is much more a symptom of our democratic decline than its cause. So let's talk about the cause.  Books and Articles Mentioned The Oppermanns by Lion Feuchtwanger The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South, 1880-1910 by J. Morgan. Kousser The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1) by Robert Caro Political Order in Changing Societies by Samuel P. Huntington (edited) Donald Matthews' book about the Senate in the 1950s Julia Azari's piece, Weak parties and strong partisanship are a bad combination: Rosenthal political polarization The webcomic Ezra mentioned, "Different" James Carse's book, Finite and Infinite Games   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On October 24, 2016, in the final days of the presidential election, Paul Krugman, the Nobel-prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, tweeted, "When this election is finally over, I'm planning to celebrate with an orgy of...serious policy discussion.”  Then, of course, Donald Trump won the election, and serious policy discussion took a backseat to alternative facts, at least for awhile. But now it’s time! In this podcast, Krugman and I cover a lot of ground. We talk taxes, net neutrality, universal basic incomes, job guarantees, antitrust, automation, productivity growth, health care, climate change, college costs, and more. Krugman explains why more information doesn’t make people better thinkers, the “kitchen test” for assessing how much technological progress a society is really making, and what the role of policy analysis is when the policymakers don’t care about evidence.  Enjoy! Books: The Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume Plagues and Peoples by William McNeil  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On page 239 of What Happened, Hillary Clinton reveals that she almost ran a very different campaign in 2016. Before announcing for president, she read Peter Barnes’s book With Liberty and Dividends for All, and became fascinated by the idea of using revenue from shared natural resources, like fossil fuel extraction and public airwaves, alongside revenue from taxing public harms, like carbon emissions and risky financial practices, to give every American “a modest basic income.” Her ambitions for this idea were expansive, touching on not just the country’s economic ills but its political and spiritual ones. “Besides cash in people’s pockets,” she writes, “it would be also be a way of making every American feel more connected to our country and to each other.” This is the kind of transformative vision that Clinton was often criticized for not having. It’s an idea bigger than a wall, perhaps bigger even than single-payer health care or free college. But she couldn’t make the numbers work. Every version of the plan she tried either raised taxes too high or slashed essential programs. So she scrapped it. “That was the responsible decision,” she writes. But after the 2016 election, Clinton is no longer sure that “responsible” is the right litmus test for campaign rhetoric. “I wonder now whether we should’ve thrown caution to the wind, embraced [it] as a long-term goal and figured out the details later,” she writes. What Happened has been sold as Clinton’s apologia for her 2016 campaign, and it is that. But it’s more remarkable for Clinton’s extended defense of a political style that has become unfashionable in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Clinton is not a radical or a revolutionary, a disruptor or a socialist, and she’s proud of that fact. She’s a pragmatist who believes in working within the system, in promising roughly what you believe you can deliver, in saying how you’ll pay for your plans. She is frustrated by a polity that doesn’t share her “thrill” over incremental policies that help real people or her skepticism of sweeping plans that will never come to fruition. She believes in politics the way it is actually practiced, and she holds to that belief at a moment when it’s never been less popular. This makes Clinton a more unusual figure than she gets credit for being: Not only does she refuse to paint an inspiring vision of a political process rid of corruption, partisanship, and rancor, but she’s also actively dismissive of those promises and the politicians who make them. On Tuesday morning, I sat down with Clinton for an hour on the first official day of her book tour. It is a cliché that stiff candidates become freer, easier, and more confident after they lose — see Gore, Al — but it is true for Clinton. Jon Stewart used to talk of the “buffering” you could see happening in the milliseconds between when Clinton was asked a question and when she answered; the moments when she played out the angles, envisioned the ways her words could be twisted, and came up with a response devoid of danger but suffused with caution. That buffering is gone. In our conversation, she was as quick and confident as I’ve seen her, making the case for her politics without worrying too much about the coalitional angles or the possible lines of offense. And she says plenty that can, and will, offend. In our discussion, she lit into Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan, warned that Donald Trump is dragging us down an authoritarian path, spoke openly of the role racism and white resentment played in the campaign, and argued that the outcome of the 2016 election represented a failure of the media above all. This was Clinton unleashed, and while she talked about what happened, it was much more interesting when she talked about what she believed should have happened.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Podcast Details

Created by
Vox Media Podcast Network
Podcast Status
Active
Started
Feb 4th, 2016
Latest Episode
Feb 25th, 2021
Release Period
2 per week
Episodes
418
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour
Explicit
No
Order
Episodic
Language
English
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