The Gist

America’s Worst Year Ever

James Fallows thinks 1968 was worse than what the U.S. just lived through.

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Episode Notes

On the Gist, sorting out how undemocratic of our democracy is.

In the interview, the Atlantic’s James Fallows contends that while 2020 has been bad, 1968 was actually quite worse. The Vietnam War was raging, young men were being drafted, and in 1968 the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces launched their Tet Offensive. Not to mention, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated. Fallows and Mike discuss how the assassinations compounded on the stress of the war, how shooting targets have shifted from politicians to schools, and compare the civil unrest of 1968 with 2020. Fallows’ piece in the Atlantic is “Is This the Worst Year in Modern American History?

In the spiel, we’re not getting those $2,000 checks…which leads to a Remembrances of Things Trump where the president likes a certain phrase about talking and action.
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Podcast production by Daniel Schroeder, Margaret Kelley, and Cheyna Roth.

Editor’s note: This episode mistakenly identifies Martin Luther King Jr. as having been assassinated “when he was in his early 40s.” King died at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.


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  • Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.