Universal basic income. A 15-hour work week. Open borders. These ideas may strike you as crazy, fantastical, maybe even utopian... but that’s exactly the point. My guest today is Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, whose book before July 31st. One vote per category. Please send guest suggestions for our upcoming series on climate change to firstname.lastname@example.org
How white identity politics won the Republican civil war
Tim Alberta’s new book American Carnage documents “the Republican Civil War”: a decade-plus struggle over whether the Republican Party would build itself around white identity politics or try to reach out to a changing America. Trump’s election settled the argument, and Alberta’s book tracks the way top Republicans processed that resolution — and submitted to their new reality — in real time. The profiles in courage are few and far between; the capitulations, however, are everywhere. Alberta takes us deep inside that process, and the quotes and stories he’s revealed already have top Republicans at each other’s throats. This is a conversation about what the Republican Party has become, why Donald Trump won the fight for the party’s soul so decisively, why so many conservative politicians abandoned their loathing of Trump to embrace the power he offered, and what comes next. Alberta brings the receipts, and if nothing else, it’s a helluva portrait of how principles are traded for power. Book recommendations: before July 31st. One vote per category.
George Will makes the conservative case against democracy
It’s a good time to be a Republican. But it’s a bad time, George Will argues, to be a conservative. Hence his new, 700-page manifesto, The Conservative Sensibility, which tries to rescue conservatism from the perversions of the Trumpist GOP. Will’s conservatism is rooted in a deep mistrust of majority rule, and an almost religious veneration of the Founding Fathers, or at least a certain understanding of them. Remember, he writes, “the Constitution of the first consciously modern nation, the United States, protects the sovereignty of private individuals, not the sovereignty of a public collective, ‘the majority.’” Will is articulating a tendency that’s always been present on the right, but is becoming more central today: the belief that majority rule will be the death of the American experiment and that the conservative project is at odds with democracy. Will is more forthright than most on this point: He chides conservatives for blasting activist judges, for instance, arguing that the right needs a judiciary willing to make sweeping rulings to curb the power of the state. There’s a lot to discuss here. And discuss we do. Book recommendations: before July 31st. One vote per category.
What deliberative democracy can, and can’t, do (with Jane Mansbridge)
Every time I do an episode on polarization, I get a few emails asking: What about deliberative democracy? Couldn’t that be an answer? Deliberative democracy, if you’re not familiar, refers to a broad set of approaches in which citizens get together, with or without their representatives, to deliberate on political questions. Not just vote, or donate money, but actually work through hard questions, in a structured process, together. Jane Mansbridge is the Charles F. Adams professor of political leadership and democratic values at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a past president of the American Political Science Association, and co-editor of the book, Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale. So she’s not just a pioneering theorist on deliberative democracy, she’s specifically studied the question where I’m most skeptical: Can it scale? Book recommendations: by Frances E. Lee
Rod Dreher on America’s post-Christian culture war [CORRECTED]
[A quick note about this episode - we have fixed an error that caused some listeners to hear overlapping audio in the first portion of the show. Thank you for your understanding, and we're sorry for the issue] In 2017, Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option , a book arguing that America has grown so hostile to Orthodox Christian practice and morals that believers need to retreat into sealed communities to wait out the cultural storm. It’s a window into a mindset that is increasingly powerful in politics but befuddling to those who don’t share its premise: How have so many white Christians come to feel like America’s most persecuted class? Dreher writes about the monastics, but he lives the engaged life. He’s a senior editor at the American Conservative, where he writes a popular blog confronting American politics and culture from an Orthodox Christian perspective. I asked him on the show to try to see the world through his eyes and better understand some of the debates splitting the country. How can a country so suffused in Christian culture seem so hostile to Christians? Why does the Christian right focus so much on sexuality rather than poverty, lust rather than greed? How can a religion built around such radical openness to strangers embrace Trump’s approach to borders and migrants? What is the line between protecting religious liberty and accepting widespread discrimination? And do blogs like Dreher’s, which trawl the culture for the stories meant to make Christians feel persecuted and appalled, just drive a deeper wedge into our politics? Dreher is thoughtful, eloquent, and open, and this is a conversation that left us both questioning some premises. A lot of the points we differ on can’t be settled by debate, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for understanding. Book recommendations: by Eugene Vodolazkin