The “Murder Mystery” Edition

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S1: This episode of The Gabfest contains explicit language.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate political gabfest for June 3rd. Twenty twenty one of the murder mystery edition. I’m David Plotz of City Kath’s. I’m in Washington, D.C. I’ve made everyone else late today. I’m sorry, Emily Bazelon of New York Magazine and Yale University Law School. I’m sorry for being late. It’s good to see you. Hello, Emily.

S1: No worries at all.

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S2: And John Dickerson of CBS, how do we describe you?

S3: Oh, I don’t know, man. Of all a thousand hats in a world of increasingly disrupted and uncertainty, you can just say of CBS News

S2: John Dickerson of CBS News, who is in fact, not wearing a hat, is in New York. Hello, John. Sorry I’m late.

S3: Good morning. It’s fine.

S2: This week, the showdown over restrictive voting laws in Texas in just about everywhere else. And are the Democrats doomed when all these laws do get passed? Then what happened to the Biden agenda anyway? Why is nothing passing? Why are there no new laws, no new policies, no new nothing? Then violent crime is surging in American cities. We’ll talk to sociologist Patrick Sharkey about why that is possible. If cocktail chatter, you know how at any gym there’s an old guy who never seems to work out, but he’s always in the sauna or steam room when you go there and he’s holding forth the three other guys about his boat or capital gains taxes, now that I am back at the gym, I’ve realized that at my gym, that guy is former Justice Breyer. He really, really likes to talk about his boat, like a lot.

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S1: Oh, that that one actually,

S3: that one was pretty good. At least it was short.

S2: That’s that’s that’s what I’m trying to do, is if I can’t and the bit at least I can I can make it short. OK, Texas Democrats orchestrated a mass flight from the Capitol in Austin to impede passage of yet another bill, another state legislative bill to restrict voting, one of more than 30 such bills that are working the way their way through various Republican controlled state legislatures under a totally preposterous, bogus lie and claim that these bills will protect the integrity of the vote. So what did the Texas state legislature, the Democrats in legislature do and will they actually stop this bill, John? Well, they

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S3: fled at the end of the session when the bill was being considered. They left the chamber, which deprived it of the quorum necessary to go forward. And so for the moment, it hasn’t passed one of the most contentious provisions at the last minute, although there are many different parts of it that are contentious. One of them was a prohibition on Sunday voting that you couldn’t vote before 1:00 p.m., which would deprive Democrats who use the souls to the polls, voting where you go to church and then you go vote. It would make it so you couldn’t vote. So this is one thing that’s actually has changed. Subsequent to Democrats leaving the chamber, Republicans said, oh, sorry, it was a typo, which it was meant to be 11 o’clock instead of one, which was surprising since one of the Republicans who had debated the bill on the floor had made a case for why it should be one o’clock. So it turns out that typo actually retroactively got into the mouth of one of the people advocating for making the limitation at one o’clock, which is to say that it was an unsubstantiated claim that it was a typo anyway. That’s likely to change. But that’s one small effort. The governor said that they should take this up in a special session, which they undoubtedly will, and it will pass probably because Republicans have a majority in both houses and the Democrats can only do so much.

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S2: So, Emily, what would this bill do in Texas and how is it similar or different in scope from laws and other states like Georgia and Florida?

S1: Arizona, I mean, it overlaps. So all of these bills are trying to make voting harder at the margins. This bill particularly tries to end or curtail methods of voting that helped people vote in places like Houston, the more black and Latino parts of Texas by doing things like taking away access to 24 hour voting or limiting the number of drop boxes. And so I think what we’re seeing is this idea that increasing access to the vote because of the pandemic is now to be kind of condemned and stopped. If you’re a Republican. And I feel like there’s something a little reflexive about this. I mean, partly this is frustrating to me because I did a ton of reporting on methods of voting before and after the election and things actually worked remarkably well. If you talk to election officials, Republicans and Democrats, they will tell you that. And a lot of these forms of access, probably we should stick with them after the pandemic, even if they were emergency measures, because it’s a good idea to have drop off boxes. It’s a good idea to have some places where people who work during the day can go to vote in the middle of the night. And there’s no evidence that has associated these tactics or. These techniques, I should say, with fraud and so what you’re having is this return to this kind of Republican dogma, that it’s bad for their party if more people vote. I think the number of people are actually affected by these measures on the margins is probably relatively small. And it is certainly depressing to see this bogus justification of the election being stolen as the reason. And there’s something that feels like they’re fighting the last war to me about all of this. On the other hand, the Democrats arguably are also fighting the last war because some of the most important state provisions really make it easier to overturn the results of an election. And the Democrats big bill in Congress, H.R. one, does not address that. It also doesn’t address these systemic, you know, power imbalance problems that our whole constitutional system has that is leading, that is making it much more likely to have minority rule. And now I’m talking about the composition of the Senate and gerrymandering, etc. But, you know, those proposals that really would have the kind of structural change are just out of reach in a Joe Manchin controlled Senate, or so it seems,

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S3: just to go back, I think, to that point about changing election administration that’s happening at the state level all across it in Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas. And I just want to spend one more bit on that is the which isn’t to say that what’s happening in Texas itself isn’t interesting, but there is an increasingly popular view among Democrats and among those who study the process of democracy that basically what’s happening is they’re changing the composition of the officials and how you certify elections. So it’s not just whether people can get to the polls or not, which points out you don’t. There’s political signs on both sides that argues that there’s a way in which these restrictions actually might encourage people to vote in a way rather than restricting it. But it doesn’t matter if everybody gets to the polls. Let’s say more people get to the polls, but the other team controls the apparatus of counting the votes and the apparatus of appealing counts to votes. Then who gets to the polls? Doesn’t matter because you’ve got a backstop in public officials and not only public officials, but those who will be voted into the jobs will know because they’ve seen previous public officials who tried to keep to the rules, get punished for it. They will know that they’re retaining their job security and or at being elevated within their party requires maintaining these new kinds of restrictions.

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S2: I agree with you both what you were saying, Emily, that these new powers to potentially overturn elections are what’s most threatening in the bills and in the kind of either. And then the conversation around here, these will be states that will have, in fact, done a whole bunch of work to make it harder for people to vote. They’re putting in these voting restrictions. And I guess I’m curious about how the mechanics of overturning these elections will be, because I think what they’re what they want to be able to do is say these election results cannot be trusted when they’re results they don’t like. And yet they’re also saying, oh, we’re we are insuring the security of the election by putting in all these new restrictions to make sure that the results can be trusted.

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S1: Oh, that’s a you’re right about that contradiction. That’s interesting. And yet one imagines that in the break, the glass moment of the election result not being what those in power want, they will find a way to resolve that contradiction.

S2: John, you going back for many, many years have always trotted out the saw that when you assault the right to vote, it causes people to rise up to protect their vote. But at some point, at some point, you reach the suppression works. Ultimately, if you make it harder for people to vote or you take them off the rolls, they will not vote. Their will vote less. And that will have a significant effect on the electorate and who it benefits in terms of which party it benefits, I think is unknown. But certainly you can reduce the vote. Have we reached that point where we’re now going to start to see suppression? Because certainly in the 2020 election, we had a huge turnout.

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S3: Right? I mean, and we had a huge turnout in states. Well, let’s look at Georgia, for example, where you had a huge turnout dealing from the presidential race. So you have big turnouts in presidential campaigns and you can argue, well, that’s the nationalization of politics. And so if you’ve got a big contentious presidential, you’re going to have lots of people voting. But in the elections after the presidential election in Georgia, you still had large turnout. And part of that was based on the mobilization and the efforts held over from the previous gubernatorial race in Georgia, where Democrats felt like the system was was rigged against them. And they rose up and they organized and they did all that was required to turn out. Now, why one party has to keep rolling the rock up the hill. Know, that doesn’t seem to be a fair system, but to your question, it’s unclear. It’s unclear whether we’re at that point. Or whether all of this press coverage of these rule changes and everything that people are able to see creates a greater public understanding of this and therefore perhaps increases turnout or starts the process earlier of identifying voters. We just don’t know yet.

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S1: I mean, the other thing that’s kind of bizarre about this is that what the Republicans are doing is seating enormous mistrust and the whole system with their own base. And so, David, you pointed out how that could get in the way of their messaging if they really wanted to overturn an election result. They’re trying to make it more secure. But at bottom, they’re really saying you shouldn’t necessarily trust the system. And that’s become the kind of article of faith, even in states like Iowa, where the only people who are not going to be voting are are not the only people, but what where one imagines that some of the people deterred from voting are Republicans, too. We’re talking about like maybe a more rural and white base, but they have the same kind of markers as Democrats who vote infrequently. So I really worry about that because it’s a kind of divide between the parties that is about the integrity of the election system itself as opposed to some sort of policy matter. But that’s kind of where we are. And it’s so also frustrating that we’re not doing the basic things that would really increase small D democratic participation, like automatic voter registration or same day registration. These things that are not associated with fraud that really do make a difference.

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S2: So what is going on in Texas? The state itself, Emily, is getting more liberal. It’s less white, it’s more urban. And yet this legislature, in addition to these voter restrictions, is passing incredibly conservative laws. There’s a six week abortion ban. There’s a law which allows unlicensed handgun carrying, which is just crazy that you could just walk around anyone, no license, just carry around a handgun. What is happening? Why is it as the state becomes, in fact, less conservative, it’s becoming way more conservative?

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S1: I mean, it seems like the more right wing elements of the party have just totally taken it over and that there used to be this kind of moderating or, you know, Republican like economically conservative wing that had more power. I mean, I wonder, John, I wonder if you have thoughts about this. The Texas legislature is very much a part time affair, right? You get paid like around seven thousand dollars a year. You have to have a job because, I mean, yeah, seven thousand dollars a year. And it’s not the thing that, like, necessarily defines your identity or that you do full time, even though this is a huge state. I mean, we have a part time legislature in Connecticut and I have mixed feelings about it, but it’s like a little baby state compared to Texas. And I wonder if that kind of dabbling has had some effect on who gets elected and moving the Republican Party to the right. But maybe

S2: that’s right. I’m standing up for dabbling before I think dabbling is fine, like a part time legislature. Seems fine. Good. I’m for it anyway. Go ahead.

S3: I mean, obviously, you can make arguments for and against one hundred and forty days. They meet every two years. You know, the part time, the noble, honorable part time citizen legislator is a romantic idea that has great benefit, which is that people who are not professional politicians use their common sense from their real lived experiences and shape legislation that affects real people and doesn’t get hung up in the idiosyncrasies of of the clubhouse. However, if politics is is driven by and elections are driven by the most ideological members of your party, and perhaps ever more so because your party is dwindling and therefore you don’t have a broad group to pull from, you need to really fire up the limited number or the shrinking number of people you have. Then you have to feed them ever rarer red meat in order to get them to turn out. And if politics more broadly is a base battle and not a battle over things in the middle, then red meat is more important. And if you have a general falling of norms, the idea of bipartisan cooperation, the sort of George W. Bush working with Bob Bullock to make laws in Texas, I mean, remember that George W. Bush ran for president on his ability to work with a Democrat in Texas, the lieutenant governor, Bob Bullock, in in 2000. That was his main pitch to the country. And so it just gives you a sense of how far things have traveled. But I think that Texas is a I think those forces we’ve been describing are part of what makes it need to be more conservative. And I just want to add onto this one more thing about there’s an opportunity cost for spending all this time on cultural issues, which is not dealing with the response to and the rebuilding after the coronaviruses. Texas had an enormous failure of its electric grid. That’s not being addressed. So the more time you spend on red meat, the last time you’re spending on other things and then to. The point about voting rights, you know, what happens is basically you have somebody yelled fire in a crowded theater, there was no fire, and now you have all of these lawmakers deciding that the way they can rise in their party is by putting forward legislation on fire safety or theater fire safety. They’ve totally jumped over the first part of what is supposed to be your job as a legislator, which is to decide whether the thing that you’re spending all your time on actually exists. They’re jumping over that, which is kind of the core job of government, which is to see an urgent need and then marshal all of the powers of government towards it. This is a total there is no urgent need. And yet the amount of energy that’s being aimed towards this and that’s not just happening in Texas, that’s happening in any of these places where this is a sort of backwards way to run government.

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S2: Do you guys think that the people who are putting forward these laws are cynical as John’s characterization they’re just suggest, which is that they don’t? Or do they actually, because they’ve been pickled in they’ve been marinated and they’ve been boiled in a stew concocted by OCN and Donald Trump and Fox News, that they actually believe this. And therefore it does feel urgent to them and they feel they are passing something important. Or do you think it’s a cynical exercise?

S3: I mean, on the best possible political issues, you can get people riled up without requiring them to be totally disingenuous. So there are people who believe, well, people might cheat. And so what’s wrong with making sure that people don’t cheat? And so even if there’s no demonstrated evidence of cheating or the evidence of cheating is puny, minuscule, infinitesimal, and requiring a high powered microscope to see it doesn’t matter because in theory, people might cheat and therefore we should do these things. And by the way, other states have similar laws and we still allow a certain amount of voting and you could still vote by mail. And therefore, it’s not totally shutting off the vote. But again, it comes back to whether all the time and attention applied towards this is commensurate with the challenge. And it’s not. And when things get out of whack like that, it’s when political success is based on public demonstrations of these kinds of things. I would just add one more thing is that on these kinds of issues, you see how low the threshold is for concerted action to get to the bottom of a perceived threat. Imagine if that same level of focus about a perceived threat were aimed for just a second at the underlying things that led to the 6th of January. I mean, on the 6th of January, the Republican Party has decided they’re not interested at all on this. They’re deeply interested in a thing where there’s not public evidence that there’s a lot of it.

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S2: John, where is my infrastructure bill? I was promised an infrastructure bill, where is my infrastructure bill?

S3: It’s coming one way or the other. President is still negotiating with Republicans. You know, it’s what is infrastructure has to define. How is it going to get paid for? And is it worth is the idea of bipartisanship really worth anything as a public good kind of on its own? Because there is a way that this can be done with Democratic votes only.

S2: Yeah, what I don’t get is why there has been this extremely long. I guess it’s not long by historical standards, long by the impatient standards of today, negotiation with Republicans about this bill when it’s anyone who has had any lived experience over the past 13 years, knows that there is not a compromise bill to be had and they will not pass a compromise bill and they will end up with a Democratic only bill. And so why not just get it done and move forward?

S3: Two reasons. One, because there is some interest in trying to do it with Republicans. But the bigger one is that you have to look like you tried to do it with Republicans in order to get Manchin in cinema. Who are the who get you to 50. So part of it is real and part of it is theater

S2: and theater just for Manchin and cinema, because I actually don’t think Democratic voters and I’m not even sure much of the country ultimately would care that much if all of a sudden there was an infrastructure bill and they weren’t really aware of how it came to pass. But if it’s for Manchin Cinema, then I can understand why it’s necessary. If it’s just for the public. I don’t understand why the the theatrics are necessary.

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S3: The public is massively behind most of the major parts of this legislation. You know, Obama used to do this, which is exhaust all the efforts to try and do it in a bipartisan way. And then when those failed, do it your way. I think purchase price of Manchin sent cinema on a variety of things. Infrastructure filibuster reform is a shifting target, but it’s a necessary target. And I think they need to be able to say, look, there was a good faith effort made to try and have bipartisan compromise. It failed. We’re going to vote with this anyway.

S1: I mean, isn’t one big question how long this drags out? I mean, with the Obama administration, with the Affordable Care Act, it dragged out for what seemed to me like absolutely forever. I mean, in all fairness to the people who continue to push for bipartisan support, is it possible that big pieces of social benefit legislation in the past become more rooted in the American system if they have bipartisan support? So I’m thinking of Medicare and Medicaid, which were established in 1965, and there were both Republican and Democratic votes for them or to go back further in history to 1935. The law establishing Social Security also passed with some Republican support, even though we mostly think of it as an FDR Democratic New Deal piece of legislation,

S2: a john will give the historical rebuttal. And one second, I would say, even if that is true, which I don’t know whether it is true, even if it were true, we live in such a different age that it is a known fact. Now, I deplore I would love there to be a bipartisan infrastructure bill where we build a whole bunch of dumb highways that I don’t think should be built. But we also get a whole bunch of child care centers built, which I do think should be built. And that’s the compromise. I would love that. But I think we all who who have any experience in it, breathe the air of Washington, know that such a bill is not really tenable and not really possible. And every minute that it is spent on the bogus, phony theatrics of it is a minute wasted towards getting an actual bill passed and then moving on to whatever the next thing is. And so I yes, it would. I’m sure it is the case that that bipartisan bills are more durable, but not that much. It’s not that it’s not worth it. And also, like a lot of the stuff that was a New Deal legislation was basically passed and it was rammed down the throat of FDR as opposition. And yes, people are for Social Security now, but a lot of them were then.

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S1: Yeah, I definitely was wrong about Social Security. Glenn Beck,

S3: you also had I mean, the parties are far different than than they were. The question is whether bipartisanship is the if you add a drop of bipartisanship, does it change the political system or is bipartisanship just a result of a political system where you have to have bipartisanship when you have more of a split ticket voting, when you have a greater mixing of different kinds of voters, you need bipartisanship because the only way you’re going to get your majority and therefore it has all these other salutary effects. But if the structure of the system doesn’t exist, then adding some bipartisanship is like, oh, that’s pretty. And now we’re going to go back to the way we were. And that’s the emerging view. And I should add, one of the emerging view among Democrats, many of whom were in and you see this in Ezra Klein’s interview with Barack Obama. But one of the interesting things about this theory is so let’s say you scrap bipartisanship because you realize it no longer does. It’s no longer the byproduct of a system. The system is far more polarized. Then you start looking at the results of things that were passed by Joe Biden with a Democratic only Democratic votes among households. With children, food shortages have dropped forty two percent in January through April, financial instability has fallen forty three percent. Anxiety and depression has fallen more than 20 percent. So if you start to be able to get fast results as a result of a partisan bill like the American rescue plan, then the question is, does that change politics? Can you show that to a mansion in cinema and say, look, this bipartisan thing you’re talking about that you think helps you politically? And of course it must in the state that Joe Biden lost by 30 points for Joe Manchin, or maybe it does in his state that Joe Biden lost by 30 points. If you can show all these results, then maybe there’s not such a big deal to not doing a bipartisan thing.

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S2: I mean, Manchin Cinema mentioned cinema. It’s like a it’s like a bad cop buddy cop movie from the 80s. What are the issues that everyone’s so concerned about mentioned cinema around? Is it filibuster reform itself or is it the specifics of the infrastructure bill? Because it’s clear like things like voting reform and police reform are not going to get 60 votes.

S1: Right. But I think the filibuster reform is important. Right, because you could change the filibuster rules without getting rid of the filibuster. In other words, you could say, well, just as we’ve exempted certain legislation involving the budget and involving judicial nominees from the filibuster rule, we’re also going to exempt bills that seek to protect the democracy. Right. And then that would get you H.R. one or maybe some better bill the Democrats could pass about voting rights. So I feel like that’s one aspect of filibuster reform that’s important.

S3: You know, we shouldn’t lose sight of the number of bills that are going to pass with 60 votes you could easily get. I mean, the police and bill could pass with 60 votes. There might be a lot of people unhappy about it. But there is evidence that Cory Booker is working with Tim Scott and might get 60 votes, in part because if Scott is in support of it, he’ll get nine other Republicans. The thinking goes there’s also a surface transportation bill which might not be sexy, but it’s full of infrastructure of the kind we were just talking about that’s likely to pass with bipartisan support. There’s also a China competitiveness bill that’s pretty damn big. That’s going to

S2: pass one hundred twenty billion. So it used to be real money.

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S3: The so there are these pockets of bipartisanship that do still that do still exist out there. But I should say one of the reason for the bipartisan theater is if you’re going to get rid of the filibuster, that will be such a big moment in whatever form, that’ll be such a big national moment that it’s not just Manchin in cinema who need cover. It’s people who are running in states like Colorado who need to be able to say, look, we did everything we could to try to work with Republicans. I’m talking about Democrats now. Of course, we did everything we could to try and work with Republicans. They wouldn’t do it even on an infrastructure which has been a time honored bipartisan thing. Therefore, we had to get rid of the filibuster. So you have to try publicly for things beyond just the success of the infrastructure bill.

S2: I honestly don’t think Americans would care. One shake of a lamb’s tail, one wit, one straw if the filibuster were gone. I just don’t think there is that many

S1: people really know what the filibuster

S2: is and how many. And yeah, I just don’t understand why there is such a fear of what the voter backlash would be. I understand why Manchin and Cinema might not want to support it. I can understand that, but I understand why the Democrats as a whole think it’s a bad electoral. The votes voters don’t care about procedural issues, even one as big as the filibuster.

S3: I think it depends on what we mean by voters. I think in the broad, big, messy, like population of the United States, I think I’m totally with you. If it is a thing that in that inflames to a glowing white hot burn your opposition in an off year election, then I think you do have issues to worry about when you’ve got states like Ohio, potentially Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, all up for grabs, you want you have to think through whether an issue, not just, you know, if it inflames the opposition as voters from now until Election Day, that’s something you do have to think about.

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S2: I just keep coming back to the fact that the filibuster fundamentally causes legislation not to be passed and the filibuster is designed to prevent laws from being passed in general. That’s the effect. And in general, if you’re a Democrat, you want laws to be passed, you believe in federal action. And if you’re a Republican, you generally don’t know the filibuster is has it built into it a tilt that is in the Republicans favor? And I think if if you’re a Democrat, even if you believe, as I suspect they should, that they will not hold the Senate for most of the next 30 years, even if you believe that you should still want the filibuster gone, because when you on the occasions when you do have it, you will have the capacity to pass laws that you actually want to pass, whereas you do not have that capacity now. And it’s and it’s made all these Democratic policy efforts stillborn. And that’s that’s been terrible for them as a party because they have a lot of stuff they want to do. So I think they should ditch

S3: it, and I should say my argument about the voters wasn’t an argument for or against or getting rid of the filibuster. It was just evidence of why it’s not completely meaningless in terms of the voters out there. Again, going back to what I said before, I think if you can say had a filibuster been able to block the American rescue plan, you wouldn’t have all these good numbers that are associated with its passage, which might be an argument for certain voters.

S2: Emily, is Joe Manchin so unreasonable this is such an unreasonable person for his skepticism about the filibuster, is demanding bipartisan negotiations about an infrastructure bill or his skepticism about H.R. one or whatever it is. I have so much sympathy for that guy.

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S1: Well, then you don’t think he’s unreasonable? I don’t think he’s looking from a different era. It seems to me he’s also speaking from a conservative state. I guess the thing I don’t quite get about Joe Manchin is does he really think he’s going to win re-election the next time around? Just the demographics of West Virginia make that seem kind of unlikely no matter what. But, John, what do you think? Am I wrong about that?

S3: Well, I mean, he’s been re-elected before in awful circumstances in West Virginia. I mean, he has his own. We should note, by the way, that just in terms of the differences between the two parties, I mean, there are conservative Democrats, you know, Manchin and cinema are two of them. You there are others who are kind of close. Susan Collins, I guess, is is a is would be a less conservative, less Trump Republican and Mitt Romney, too. But they don’t have they don’t cause the challenge in their parties the way they used to do. So it’s just a difference between the two parties. But I think Manchin has his own different political weather in West Virginia that he’s been able to

S1: get in the past. People didn’t. People split their tickets more than they do now. Right when you look at the reduction and split ticket voting, you think like, you know, like his time is over and he should just, like, make the most of it, figure out what he wants to do and go do it.

S3: Well, they split it with him. I mean, they’ve been splitting with him and they split it with Collins. But believe me, as one of the world’s greatest, I mean, split the death, a split ticket voting is very. Yeah, no, it’s not.

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S1: I might get you got me.

S3: I don’t know. It’s a powerful thing, but but it doesn’t exist in West Virginia and Maine. They’re kind of exceptions to the rule.

S2: I guess I feel like the Democrats look at Manchin or like grumpy and resentful and like, oh, why don’t you give it up and and just fall on your sword and, you know, vote vote for whatever the most progressive policies are and destroy the coal industry because you’re not going to win re-election. I think the Democrat should be looking and saying like, how can we get some really conservative Democrats elected in places like North Carolina, in places like Texas, in other states, and maybe in Montana, where there is still the possibility that Democrat can can win and Manchin should not be this thing that people are grumbling and resentful about, but should be an icon for what they should be doing instead of running whoever that that little turd in North Carolina who blew it, they should have found somebody who’s who could win that state. Democrats who put themselves in this awkward position where they keep blaming Manchin for this or that. Manchin has to live by different political rules and the rest of them. And maybe they should try to get like a situation where they win in other states that are more winnable.

S1: I mean, presumably that candidate is economically liberal and socially conservative. In other words, a Democrat who is not pro-choice, who is pro-gun and who believes in lots of, you know, help for struggling Americans for the middle class and that candidate. I mean, I think that’s such a fascinating mix of qualities. It would be hard to get past the whatever the sort of litmus test the party itself imposes before giving money to such a candidate. Right. They’d have to, like, take off on their own charisma and have their own funding base.

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S3: I think we should say that David’s argument is is put into words by President Obama and his interesting interview with Ezra Klein. And it’s worth reading, since we’re not going to go into a long war listening to or reading or listening to. Yes, it’s both a transcript and a podcast.

S2: Now we’re joined by Pat Starkie. He is a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton. He is also the founder of American Violence Dog, which is a project to track and visualize violence in the US. And he’s here to talk to us about the terrible surge in violence and violent crime that we’re seeing across the US. All right. What I think is a terrible surge in violence, violent crime, maybe I’m wrong. So actually, Pat, can you just start by giving listeners and me some of the most telling numbers about violence in America right now and whether it’s rising everywhere? For whom is it rising? What kind of violence is rising? If it is?

S4: Sure. Yeah, happy to. Thanks for having me on. So there has been this huge increase in violence and there are a few different ways to look at it. So over the past year, in 2020 in particular, I think the overall level of gun violence rose, you know, somewhere between 25 to 30 percent across the country as a whole.

S2: How many people is that? How many souls of that who have died?

S4: It looks like we don’t have the final data, but it looks like about four thousand more people were murdered in 2020 when compared with twenty nineteen. So it’s just really stark and very sad. Increase that that goes on top of all the suffering last year from the coronavirus and everything else that happened, there was this surge of violence that took place across the country and then particular cities. It was an even more sharp increase where, you know, you had cities that were Portland is an example where I’ve just been looking at data from Portland. This is a city that has been extraordinarily safe, but just had a huge increase of violence that has made the rate of shootings basically similar to most big cities across the country. So you had this really sharp shift from a very safe city to a city that all of a sudden is dealing with this problem of gun violence. And then there are a bunch of cities that have been violent places for a long time where the level of gun violence really skyrocketed. New York City has been safe, but there was a sharp increase in gun violence in New York. But then Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago had really sharp increases in gun violence, where in some cases the number of shootings doubled last year. So it’s not a myth. There is a crisis of gun violence and it is gun violence. It’s interesting that you mention that because it’s not that overall crime has risen. In fact, overall crime, if you you know, most crime is property crime and overall crime probably dropped last year. We don’t know that with certainty. But the level of overall crime is probably going to be slightly lower in 2020. At the end of the day, when the numbers come in, it’s really gun violence that skyrocketed

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S1: because usually when criminologists and experts like you talk about whether crime, violent crime is rising or falling there, it’s multifactorial. It’s really hard to know exactly what the causes are. Some of the theories that are being offered right now for this particular spike, there’s a huge rise in the number of people who own guns. Right. Or just, I should say, I guess, like the number of firearms sold. But I think a lot of the people buying them are people who didn’t have guns before. And then there’s the pandemic and the economic dislocation. All the kids who were out of school, the shutting down of violence prevention programs in some cities. And then there’s the question of whether the protests after the death of George Floyd have some kind of association here, not because the protests themselves caused more people to shoot each other, but because the police in some cities may have pulled back or may have felt like they pulled back. And you can tell that story in a way that’s critical of the police are more sympathetic to them. And I wonder what you think about whether there’s anything we can really say that’s helpful for understanding causality at this point or whether it’s just too soon?

S4: Well, it’s too soon in the sense that we don’t have great research on what actually happened. And when I say great research, like, you know, we need to collect a lot more data on what happened in 2020. But we we also need really good ethnography. We need people who were on the ground to give a sense, to give an analysis of how the social order within communities changed last year. And we just don’t have that really high level, rigorous ethnographic research yet. But all the things that you mentioned, Emily, are part of an explanation for for what changed last year is just really passing out, kind of which were the most important factors, the surge in gun ownership. It’s really amazing. It’s disturbing to see how many new permits and background checks came in last year. This is more people buy guns last year than ever before in the history of the country.

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S1: And that’s the legal guns. Right. Whereas often it’s the illegal guns that are involved in homicides and shootings.

S4: There’s actually not the greatest evidence linking purchases of guns with increases in violence. But what we know is just a descriptive level is that when there are more guns out in circulation, there’s more gun violence. And that’s not a shock. But that is a very stable relationship. And it’s also true that there are more police officers shot in places where there are more guns and police officers shoot more people when in places where there are more guns. One thing that I’ve been focusing on is an increase in alcohol consumption. So the bars shut down, but people drank more. And this is kind of an underappreciated factor that affects violence to just just our consumption of alcohol. But then, as you mentioned, institutions shut down, you know, the kind of core institutions that structure people’s lives. The basic foundation of community life broke down last year. And then you have this other shock, which was the video of George Floyd being murdered and the response to that. We should not think about this and conclude that protests for police brutality caused violence. The way that I think you have to to interpret what happened is that when there is a social order that relies on the police to dominate public space and when that is kind of the way that that neighborhoods work and then that breaks down and that breaks down for very good reasons, that breaks down because people all over the country said we’re not going to continue living this way. And it breaks down because police may change the way that they intervene in incidents and interactions. And it also changes because residents change the way that they interact with the police and check out and say, we’re not going to go along with this. We’re not going to keep providing information. We’re not going to call the police if there’s an issue. So when you have that social order that’s dependent on the police dominating public space to brute force, and then that breaks down, it creates the conditions for violence to emerge, that that level of disruption and breakdown creates the conditions that make communities vulnerable to violent.

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S2: The twenty five year, 30 year decline in murder and violent crime in this country is really one of the amazing. Bright spots of the past few decades, and it was it clearly had to end like there was at some point, you knew that that these numbers would go in a different direction or would stabilize or get flat. A was it was this the period when you would expect it to end? And, B, do you think, given that the factors you just talked about were really triggered by the pandemic for the most part, but would you expect these effects to wane as the pandemic wanes?

S4: Violence is not you know, it’s not like these causes led to an increase. And now that the causes are gone, violence will fall. A set of causes led to the spike in shootings and then that spike in shootings builds on itself. You know, it’s a little tricky to predict that, you know, once institutions open back up, then things will go back to normal. I wrote a book on the decline of violence, and I was initially going to call the book American Peace is kind of celebration of this long term drop in violence. And as I got deeper and deeper into the research and into the writing and saw Trump elected and saw Jeff Sessions, you know, appointed as attorney general and saw the changes that were being made, I ended up changing the title to Uneasy Peace. And the reason was because even though we had this long term, really stunning drop in violence and that had this enormous set benefits experienced in the most disadvantaged segments of the population, the most disadvantaged communities, we also did not change the way that we invest and disinvest in communities. So the US was still in a position where we were relying on heavy handed policing and mass incarceration as the primary, not the only, but the primary methods to deal with violence. And so as as long as we continued to not address the underlying conditions that that create extreme urban inequality, that lead to the breakdown of institutions and communities that create the conditions for violence to emerge, you know, the argument was that we actually had not reached a stable state where we could expect that communities were strong, they would function. They were no longer vulnerable to increases in violence. The approaches that have been used or that we’ve relied on as a nation to deal with violence, create all these costs, create resentment, create what Monica Bell, a legal scholar, Yale, calls legal estrangement. The feeling that segments of the community are not protected by the law, are not served by the law or not part of that citizenry. And so as long as we kind of kept that system intact, where public spaces dominated by the police, where we utilize mass incarceration, where we prosecute people aggressively, and that’s our approach to to dealing with the consequences of extreme urban inequality, then the decline of violence was not stable. And I do think that’s been borne out this past year.

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S1: So, I mean, I report on some of the people who you’re talking about. And, you know, if you grow up and you learn not to trust the police because they mistreat you and they mistreat other people around you, and then you carry a gun or you think about carrying a gun because like, really no one else is going to protect you and the threat is real. It’s hard to break that cycle, especially as you say, once reprisal shootings start. And so to me, that has to be part of the explanation of why the violence isn’t immediately abating, even if it was caused by the worse conditions of the pandemic. You have some really heartening findings, though, about the roles that community nonprofits can play in deescalating violence and about the work of violence interruption, which is involving community members and doing some of the prevention work or some of the response, like, for example, going to hospital rooms when someone’s been shot to try to prevent the momentum for a reprisal shooting from gathering. Those efforts have kind of been like a little bit coming through in some cities and there’s some money nurturing them. But they’ve never gotten anything like the kind of funding and support that we give to the police and to mass incarceration. And I wonder if you think that that’s the best path forward in terms of trying to prevent this trend from continuing.

S4: Yeah, thanks for raising that, Emily. So there is a body of research going back decades and and social theory, really, that makes clear that the communities that are resistant to violence are communities where residents know each other, where residents are connected to each other, where the. There are a core set of institutions and, you know, that includes religious congregations, but it also includes after school programs, community health centers, organizations that are dealing with homelessness, with addiction. The finding from this literature is, is that when a community has this set of institutions and they’re functioning and they’re supported and they’re sustained and residents are connected to each other, that’s a community that is unlikely to be vulnerable to violence. That’s a community that even if it’s a very poor community, it’s unlikely to be a community that goes downhill. It’s unlikely to be a community where there are these kinds of surges in violence. We have really strong evidence base saying that if we invest in the institutions that serve as a foundation for communities that make sure that no one falls through the cracks, that make sure that every space within the community is safe and maintained and cared for, then violence will not rise. That’s as strong as the research on policing. It’s just that that research has never entered into public policy debates. So we have this knee jerk reaction to a spike in violence. And we can see it happening right now where cities turn right back to the police and the prison system has the answers to an increase in violence. And we’ve never given that same investment to community residents and to community organizations, despite the evidence that these are the groups that are most effective at dealing with violence. They’ve just never been given the same resources and the same investment and the same commitment as the police in the prison system.

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S3: Is there one place that public policy or the politicians should focus on to make the kind of opposite case? Because Portland has pointed to so frequently in the political conversation as a place where see what happens when you don’t have cops doing what they need to do is they’re basically a counterweight place.

S4: There are some examples of places that have kind of taken on this challenge of developing a new approach. And I think the best examples, Ithaca in New York, of all places where incredible researcher Philip Atiba Goff, who runs the Center for Policing Equity, has worked with the town to develop a new model for dealing with calls for service, for dealing with the basic challenges that for which we usually rely on the police. And the goal is solving problems. That goal is providing assistance to people who need it with armed police officers as secondary responders, armed police officers being on call. That said, I would I would point to Ithaca as kind of a model for for what might be possible moving forward. It represents the ideals of investing in community organizations. It exemplifies the ideal of focusing on well-being, focusing on solving problems, as opposed to dominating public space, which is the way we’ve kind of responded to all the challenges that come bundled when you have extreme urban inequality.

S2: Pataki, thanks for joining us on the Gabfest listener. You should definitely check out American Violence Dog. It is a really great tool for looking at this surge and violence that has been talking about, and it’s really well designed website. So. Mothell, tough on that.

S4: Thanks. Thanks for having me on. Good talking with all of you.

S2: Let’s go to cocktail chatter when you are sitting in your area in New York, John Dickerson gazing out upon Gotham from the clouds above the clouds, possibly on the 14th floor, sipping on a cocktail. What will you be chattering about?

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S3: I’m chattering about two things. One thing to watch and one thing to read. The one thing to watch is Katharine Schultz’s TED talk about regret from I think twenty fourteen from some time ago. And it’s just great. I came across it completely randomly. And she’s a writer for The New Yorker and it’s great. The other is a piece from Cal Newport in in The New Yorker called What If Remote Work Didn’t Mean Working from Home. This is a topic, of course, near to my heart the efficiencies and ways in which we work. And it contains some great anecdotes, which I won’t ruin. But about how Peter Benchley wrote Jaws and how Maya Angelou wrote, which are both. Well, anyway, you should read the article. So they’re both worth reading for that alone. But it’s also a good argument.

S2: Emily, what is your chatter?

S1: I am urging on anyone who needs a little down to earth escapism to go enjoy watching Mayor of East Town, which doesn’t really need me to promote it. It’s getting kind of late. The finale it was this week. I feel that the finale is still a news event. That can’t be I’m always late to everything, but I especially so two things about the show. First of all, God bless Kate Winslet for looking entirely her age and not letting them, you know, fix all the flaws that come with being a middle aged woman. It was just so refreshing and honestly inspiring to see on the screen. And thank you, Mayor of this town creators, for setting the show in the Philadelphia suburbs of Chester County and having at least some of the characters really try to do a Philadelphia accent, which just warmed my heart. I mean, I don’t think they all did it like consistently throughout, but there were a lot of, like, pronunciations of home as home, which is the pronunciation I grew up with. And someone even said wooder instead of water, which is just my favorite. And I used to have to correct at least one of my sisters or at least try to, because that’s how people said water where we grew up. So Amerivest town, if you haven’t already checked it out and you don’t have all the scored for me that David has, you should go did so

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S2: a I’ve watched it, so I loved it. But you did feel rather late. B There’s a great interview with Kate Winslet about some of the making her look her age and herself, which I actually thought was slightly condescending to the people of Pennsylvania because it was all like talking about her dress and it would be like, oh, I’d see the ugliest pair of jeans and I’d get that. It was was very

S1: she did a lot of like Ocean City t shirts, like the Jersey Shore or the Poconos. All the landmarks of my growing up made. It had a moment on the

S2: show and question three or point three, Emily, maybe this is a topic for Slate. Plus, why do you not have any kind of accent?

S1: I mean, I try to beat it out of myself. My parents didn’t grow up in Philadelphia. I think that makes a difference. But I mean, so many people I grew up with, so many of my parents friends do have that accent and it’s both. It’s like I love it and hate it. At the same time, I have it has such I have such a strong sense of identifying with it. And yet it’s just kind of awful.

S2: It’s not one of America’s most attractive accents.

S4: I like that.

S1: Yeah, you like it. Good.

S3: When I go down to the academy,

S2: my chador actually is following up on something that Pat Starkie was talking about in our third segment involving Ithica. So we on the gabfests have talked a lot since last summer about the idea of of social workers and mental health professionals replacing cops for certain kinds of nine one one calls. And I just want to point folks to a wonderful episode of City Kest Denver. I know this is logrolling for my my other job, but it was a great episode of City Denver this week on Tuesday, June 1st, where we interviewed a social worker who’s part of Denver’s test of what’s called support team assisted response, where they send an unmarked van which has paramedics, social workers, mental health professionals to respond to certain 911 one call. So an indecent indecent exposure call, which is a homeless person changing clothes or someone experiencing a mental health crisis in Denver. They’ve been doing this now for a year. They’ve had fourteen hundred calls, not a single arrest or involvement of police for these calls, not one. These were all calls that historically the cops would have been sent to and who knows what would have happened. But involving these folks, they don’t have to escalate. They don’t need to call in the cops. Obviously, they’re not doing it for all calls. They’re doing it for certain subset that they’re screening. It seems like one of these ideas that is good in all respects. It saves money. It saves lives. It increases humanity, it saves self-respect. So at Denver, it looks like it’s about to expand this significantly. Anyway, you should check out the city of Denver at Denver City, Cast-Off FM, and it’s called responding to nine one one calls with sweatpants and snacks, not guns. It’s really good listeners. You have also sent us excellent chatters. Please continue to tweet them to us at at Slate Gabfest. And this week’s listener chatter comes from James Williams. Let’s hear from James Williams.

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S4: Hey, Gabfests. It’s James Williams from Greensboro, North Carolina. I wonder the chatter today about a Journal article I ran across in my Twitter feed called Epidemics of Trust the case of the Spanish Flu. The article is really interesting because it digs into this concept of social trust. I’ve thought about it a lot. I think most of us have over the last year. But it was really interesting to see them quantify it and bring it in as a as an object that can be studied, that can have consequences downstream in terms of how we relate to each other familiarly, how we relate to each other societally, how we have an economy. Social trust has an impact on the economy. They actually get so far as to quantify it into this. Many deaths reduces social trust by this percentage, which it’s just an interesting approach. But I thought, especially as we’re coming out of covid, this is an article that was written throughout covid finally published this year was just a really interesting way to bring that concept in and start talking about it intelligently.

S2: I think what’s interesting about that article is about how some of the economic downstream effects and it had a measurable push down in the GDP because of the decline in social trust, as I sure will feel the same thing post this pandemic. And there was an amazing set of data I saw, which I came from a business school which suggested GDP would be down as much as three percent in 2050 because of the lost. This is a different point of lost education during the pandemic. So there’s this huge impact that that we have, which isn’t just the death and suffering of today. It’s things that we will suffer for years and years and years to come. That is our show for today. I wish I could bottle the expression that Emily one just had on her face was very quizzical. Excellent, quizzical face, but quizzical face.

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S1: Emily, you made me

S2: think the carpet is produced this week by Margaret Kelly. Joslin is out again this week. She’ll be back next week. I think a researcher is Bridgette Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate Audio, June Thomas as managing producer, and Alicia Montgomery is executive producer of Slate podcasts. Please follow us on Twitter at at Slate Capstan. Tweet your chatter to us there for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson and David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next week. Hello. Plus, how are you? Good, hope you well, you know who is not here for Slate? Plus, John Dickerson,

S1: he abandoned us.

S2: He abandoned us because I was so late to start, John had to leave. So it is in in some indirect way my fault, which is too bad because John is a tennis and sports person. So who knows? Emily, do you want to set us up for this Naomi Osaka conversation?

S1: Yeah. So Naomi Osaka is one of the best tennis players in the world. She is, I think, the best paid female athlete overall. She has something like fifty million dollars a year coming in. She was playing in the French Open and she got into a fight with the officialdom’s of the tennis world because she didn’t want to do a post match interviews. These interviews are standard part of the TV coverage. Osaka said she was suffering for mental health reasons and felt like the interviews were all about doubts that people had about her and that she just didn’t want to do them. And she opened up about suffering from depression, in particular since she defeated Serena Williams in the U.S. Open in twenty eighteen, which is this big marker in her career. I just think it’s a really interesting question. Are these interviews part of the sport, something that keeps fans interested in the story of the athletes, or should you be able to opt out of them? And I think sort of connected. But separately, it seems obvious to me that whatever you think about this particular fight Osaka is having with tennis, that it’s really commendable that she came forward and talked about her depression and her mental health. That’s something that athletes have been reluctant to do in the past, to be up front about that kind of struggle they’re having. And so destigmatizing mental illness seems like a really good part of this picture here. But I have some questions about skipping the interviews. And David, I think what I wonder what you think about that as a not tennis particularly fan, but overall sports.

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S2: Yeah, well, so I would, first of all, suggest that people turn off this podcast, go listen. There’s a great hang up and listen episode section, whole twenty minute conversation, that podcast, a Slate sports podcast had about the subject. And they hit on a really a lot of different issues. I mean, there’s so many different things going on with Naomi Osako. She’s this iconic figure. She is Japanese and Haitian and she has she’s Japan’s now most celebrated sports figure. Huge weight on her shoulders from that. She’s in massive endorsements. She’s also famously like an introverted, shy person. She’s also someone who speaks out on social justice issues. She wore masks with the names of victims of police violence during, I think, during the US Open this last year. She’s a person who contains multitudes. And it is true that she has benefited from her her fame and wealth. And it’s also true that she’s born costs from it because she’s somebody who clearly has burdens and she has the burden of her illness. But also, some people don’t want to do press conferences and have to talk to people all the time and do podcasts and things like that. And it is it is a weight on them. It’s a really complicated issue. And I think there’s not it’s not one of these things which is like, oh, it’s easy to say, you know, do you have to meet your contractual obligation, do this press conference or, you know, oh, you know, and you can never if you any athlete is free to to answer any question or ignore any question and not have to do anything except play their sport, I don’t think there’s a simple situation. I want to hit on a couple of points, though.

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S1: Having having said that, I did everything and I wanted to hang up and listen over us. Yes, continue on. One is I’m sure you were right.

S2: I think there’s a false claim being made that Naomi Osaka has the social media channels. Therefore, she doesn’t need to talk to the press or talk to people at the tournament herself because she can communicate directly on Instagram or whatever her favorite social channel is and reach people directly that way. And that’s all anyone has to do. And I just think that that’s that’s a false argument, because the social media world that people create is a curated propagandistic world and it is not a substitute for the give and take. That happens when people are quizzed about what they do. And it’s also not the case that that that is enough. That’s number one. Number two is Naomi Hosaka is an incredibly wealthy person because she’s very successful at a sport that has a lot of television coverage and media coverage and that television coverage, the media coverage is what makes creates the opportunities for endorsement, but creates a huge purses in the sports that she’s doing. You only need to compare the level of wealth and fame of world class athletes who do a TV sport like tennis with those who don’t. The world class athletes who do a sport like biathlon or Greco Roman wrestling like the ones who are doing Greco Roman wrestling are not wealthy and famous. And and. For life, it is not at all unreasonable to expect some form of participation in this media circus. It can’t be an endless demand. It can’t be you can’t overwhelm you if you have legitimate health issues or mental health issues, as she does. But it is it is totally reasonable to expect that athletes who are participating in something like the French Open or the the NBA championship should have some obligation to talk to the public and the press to keep up the storyline, the narrative, the interest that is part of building the audience that these TV contracts pay for.

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S1: Yeah, I think I agree with you about that. I mean, I totally agree that it’s like not one I don’t feel I could argue this in various directions. One thing I do think, though, is that maybe there’s something useful in the legal standard for people with disabilities, which is whether their employer is making a reasonable accommodation for their disability. And so if you think of this mental health struggle, Osaka has a very real which I totally do. Is this reasonable? And I’m not sure what the answer to that is. It seems like an instance in which what is best for her personally is to stay out of the interviews like she has a dread of them. She finds them mentally intrusive and really hard. I get it from her point of view, from the point of view of tennis and these TV contracts and all the other athletes who are less sought after, but also depend on the money that the TV contracts bring in to tennis. Right. Because it’s not just the huge purses for the people who win. It’s also like the people lower down the ladder that I’m really not sure. Like, you know, Marshawn Lynch did this several years ago in football or he was just like, I really hate these interviews. I have to shop for them or else I’m going to get fined. And then he just sort of made a mockery of the interviews. Right, by being by saying things like, well, I’m just here because they’re forcing me to answer these questions. And it was like a comedy routine. And then it didn’t really go anywhere. It wasn’t like the rest of the NFL refused to do the interviews. And maybe the interviews are valuable enough for all the other athletes that, like you, could make an exception, a reasonable accommodation for Naoma, Osaka, and it doesn’t really matter for the rest of tennis. But I can see why the officials were not super eager to go in that direction. And then I think there’s also this interesting shift. So I watched quite a bit of like grand slam TV tennis coverage and not very much sports coverage in general. And I feel like over time what I’ve seen with TV tennis coverage is they’re so much more into the story. Right. Used to just like watch the matches, see commentary about the matches. Now before a lot of matches, they’re like these little two or three minute videos about who the players are. And you see these like sepia toned photos of them. You see their Instagram, you see their family. And the sport is trying really hard, I think, to engage viewers about story. And it is particularly noteworthy to me to see them do it about women, because tennis is one of the few sports where the female athletes, I think, are like just as famous and important as the men. And so I wonder if you diminish that in some way, if that is actually like not the best thing for the sport overall. Anyway, I wonder what you think about that part as someone who watches, I’m sure, more sports on TV than I do,

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S2: I think it’s hard to make policy based on an end of one right now. Misaka has. She’s a particular human with a particular set of issues. I don’t think there’s a massive problem in tennis of I mean, don’t follow tennis, but I think it’s a massive problem in sports of not enough people being willing to talk. And and even if

S1: what they say is mostly super banal,

S2: I mean, Marshawn Lynch like that, Marshawn Lynch is what Marshawn Lynch did was actually good, like created a lot of interest.

S1: People like he he did a comedy routine. Right. But she withdrew from the French Open. That’s a little different.

S2: Yeah. And I think I think your point about treating this is in the same category as how you talk about disabilities in the workplace is a is a good one. If someone is, you can imagine that if someone had was physically incapable of speech for whatever reason, but was a great tennis player, they’re not going to make them sit up there and and do the same kind of press conference that someone else does. I’m not saying that that’s that’s obviously not the situation, is it? But the reasonable accommodations for the for the athletes who require it. And it’s and most athletes want to do something like this. They want the attention. And it’s important for them to get their story out and make themselves into these iconic figures that they get more endorsements. And so they’re going to continue to participate. And so let’s let’s let’s not worry about this as some kind of trouble on the horizon until it’s evident that there is actual case of more than just Naomi Osaka disrupting it.

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S1: Can I say one less thing about tennis coverage on TV? Because this is really my favorite thing about it. Tennis coverage has older women commentators who look kind of their age. I mean, now this is going to be my theme of the day since I was saying this about Kate Winslet earlier. But they’re not people who look like they’ve had eight facelifts. They’re not super skinny. They like look like normal middle aged older women, and they’re awesome. I should be calling out particular people. And I don’t actually remember anyone’s names because I’m not like that good a tennis fan. But that is really a striking thing to me about tennis TV coverage that makes it super different from the women reporters and announcers and other sports like football and basketball. I’m glad that they’re there, but they tend to be like very beautiful and very young. And it is a joy to me to see these older women who are really, really excellent at their jobs get to have this kind of starring TV role. Well, it’s not just the tennis stars. It’s not just like Renee Stubbs and Chris Evert and Pam Shriver. It’s also like folks who are just really good at tennis commentary.

S2: Did you watch the Friends reunion, by the way?

S1: I know, but I watched the trailer. Are you about to say the obvious thing, which is that the women look exactly the same and the men look like they’ve aged tremendously.

S2: So they all look like shit.

S1: Oh, really?

S2: And they all look like they’ve had way too much work done except Lisa Kudrow, who maybe she’s had just better work done. The men looked like they’ve had too much work done. The women look like they’ve had too much work done and they all look terrible. And I was like, man, this I guess this is how I look to.

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S1: But the men like look look older and like they’ve lost their hair, they’ve gained weight, et cetera. The women may have had too much work done, but they look more like their former selves.

S2: No, I disagree. No, no. I thought I thought everyone looked I it just made me feel like time, the ravages of time, no matter what you do, the ravages of time are really ravaging the twenty five year olds look a lot better than we do.

S1: That’s a sad fact. And I’m going to end with one more name of a TV tennis commentator that Margarette, our producer, helpfully just sent me, Mary Carillo. Yes, she is also excellent Slate plus.