The “Twin Cities” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.

S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for September 19th 2019 the Twin Cities edition the gab fest is like before a packed house at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul Minnesota. We expected quiet politeness Minnesota nice. The quiet stillness of a night ice fishing under the stars.

S3: And instead we have the raucous brain crazed crazed prairie mosh pit style.

S4: I’m David Plotz about Lois Obscura. On my far left the man who only came to Minnesota because he thought it was Iowa.


S5: And fortunately he is. He’s so blonde that he fits right in here.

S6: CBS News is CBS 60 Minutes. Excuse me John Dickerson.

S7: You know. You know I went to camp here in business camp Mishawaka.

S8: So yeah. So.

S9: Camp Mr. walk in the house. Yeah. All right. Yes. So.

S10: I’m just saying.

S11: Got deep roots in this community wants to do an interview in the mall. Does that count. You did an interview at a mall. Yeah. Yeah. You know there there are malls outside of Minnesota. Yeah but this mall not Mall of America. It’s true.

S4: There is only one mall America about but over it I made a lanyard that is that other voice of course is a woman who eats her salad with a comb and her steak with a samurai sword. Emily Barth one of the New York Times Magazine and Yale University. Law.


S3: On today’s fest.

S4: Will it take a Democrat with decent Midwestern values to be Trump or can a coastal socialist elitist. Do it instead. Then the rise of the chaos voter is America in deep trouble because we’re suddenly overrun with nihilistic crazy voters who want to burn it all down. Ben when it comes to writing fiction about politics the best there is is the Twin Cities own Curtis Sittenfeld we will talk about how to turn real political lives and real political wives into novels. And plus we will have cocktail chatter.

S12: We are coming to you from the heart of club our country the beating heart of the CLO bankruptcy the argument of her struggling campaign is that she is from a place that is the middle not just geographically but ideologically and that only by nominating someone with those qualities those credentials will the Democrats win the 2020 presidential elections so John. Is she right about that. I heard someone say no already.


S13: That’s a tough hometown crowd. She can. She can’t even get in a man in her in her own pews. Well I’m sorry. I’m sorry Senator it’s.

S7: And she so she won by a landslide here. Well.

S14: Outperform. You know the old expression no one says as Coase the Minnesota Senate race so goes the presidency.

S13: That’s true that has not worked out. Yes folks Fritz Mondale would beat Humphrey to.

S15: A heat I would. What you you want. You’re. I mean he did weigh in. So there you go. There’s an answer to your question. First of all by the way can I say you mentioned you made reference to the New York Times story about their eating salad with a with a comb. Creative solutions for emergency situations.


S16: I mean what else does a priest know this story is about upbraiding a staff member for not having a fork and we are trying to make a dumb joke.

S14: I’m sorry.

S7: You know I’m very literal and I don’t get the punch line out. I was so literal minded.

S14: I just think a candidate who has emergency solutions for mean solutions for emergency moments is important. OK. Well this is the great question in the race because what everybody is trying to figure out is what’s the shape of the electorate can look like four for the Democrats to win the nomination and then I mean and then in the general election what’s the Coalition going to look like. And then is that coalition movable is it. Is it a campaign about persuasion or is it a campaign about motivation just your base and the answer is that it’s both. But there is a big debate about among the liberal side of the Democratic Party that says we need the kind of enthusiasm that Donald Trump is able to bring out in his party and only through an enthusiastic appearance by the left. Will we be able to win. Other people say well if you look at the states that in the electoral map Wisconsin Minnesota Michigan Pennsylvania Ohio Iowa even if those two those two may already be off the map they have a disproportionate share of white working class voters in the Democratic Party which has had struggle with them since FDR still needs to be able to capture those kinds of voters. This is the big tension in the party and what interests me is that what this requires is a lot of Democrats to basically do punditry about their neighbors. What do I mean 88 percent of Democrats say they would vote for a woman to be president but only 44 percent of Democrats think other Democrats would do that. So there we know that electability is the number one thing that Democrats care about. So they have to basically be pundits about their neighbor. We as Emily going to vote for a woman well I don’t know if she is. And then that that determines my vote if I’m a Democrat. And so that gets into very sticky territory when it comes to these questions. What’s the shape of the electorate. Will the traditional Democratic coalition turn out. And are we as or are Democrats trying to convince new voters or just wrap up their existing ones. So Emily two club stars obviously struggling but but Biden who’s like Old Man Club star in the in the moderate accommodationist wing.


S12: Is doing just fine. It’s he.

S4: I mean is he doing just fine for for the some of the reasons John talked about that Democrats believe that a return to normalcy is possible or because people think he’s the only one who can win or because low information voters are stuck on him or because he’s a great candidate.

S17: I mean all the above except I don’t think we have a lot of evidence for the last possibility. I mean what that is we keep waiting for him. Right. I think it would be great for the party if he was a great candidate and I don’t think he’s bombed out as I think we predicted before he got in the race because he has been such a lousy candidate in previous presidential cycle 21 weeks before Iowa.


S16: Yeah there’s a long way to go. Right. Right. I do think that his appeal has to do with other people’s perception of who could get elected I don’t think that’s crazy. I mean is this fundamental you can be as feminist as they get and still think is it possible that Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris could actually win. And do you want to take a risk this time around given what happened to Hillary Clinton. Like if a woman gets nominated and loses. Is that going to be it for my lifetime. I wonder about that.

S12: You know it’s you really do you really sit and wonder and think. Well I’m maybe I should support a man because of that.


S16: I don’t think about it in that terms for myself but I don’t.

S18: I do think there is a tension between our ideals about how gender and race and other immutable characteristics elegant legal term should play and then how we think they actually do play. And I don’t think it’s wrong to be asking those questions and trying to pull for that issue and I also think when I was writing about Warren and following her around she has this teacher leeway about her that some people really cotton to and other people find off putting and I don’t think you can separate the fact that she’s a woman from the way in which that plays to different audiences.


S14: One thing that’s been interesting is the shape of the race where it is right now there’s a Wall Street Journal NBC poll that just came out and 70 percent of Democrats say you’ll be fine if she was the nominee. That’s the highest of all of them. She has increased that number.

S19: She’s. So that’s something.

S13: Yes and no Democrat.

S14: I have no idea what it says but it’s it’s because. And Kamala Harris his numbers have gone south hard so what the NBC poll shows is Biden’s at 31. And I believe as History warns at 26 and Sanders is at 13 or 14. Harris has gone from 13 down to like five. She’s really taken a hit which is interesting and I’m not sure why you guys may have thoughts but what it feels like is is that Vice President Biden has a snowball in his hands and it’s it’s spring and he’s got to keep it alive until July. And and and Elizabeth Warren who’s got a plan for everything had 20000 people shopping in in in New York for her and her anti-corruption speech that she gave this week is creating like I mean she’s rubbing her hands together she’s like I have opened in the shade they airplane by flower and its waiting to blossom.


S20: Like she’s got the thing in her hand leave the better for John they could still hear her say well.

S7: But the thing is that he’s got the snowball and so she’s trying to create heat and that would make the snowball melt. So flour does respond.

S21: Now does it buy it.


S22: So all I can say is damn Snowball has melted now.

S16: No I liked her snowball metaphors. I said. Why does it matter what who Democrats will vote for and what Democrats think is going to happen as opposed to the whole electorate. Well they don’t know that answer.

S14: Well that’s the question whether you believe that the electorate is basically split. We’re so partisan there’s nobody in the middle anymore and it’s just all about turning out your team. And then there’s a new thing now and we’ll get to this in the chaos topic. But you know negative partisanship is is is more powerful now than ever before. So it ends up being basically you don’t vote for your person but against the other person. So how will that play and how do people anticipate that happening. Obviously Democrats have a big turnout benefit in Donald Trump but he has a turnout benefit with with think that whoever wins the presidency will win with zero independent votes.


S7: That seems well. Well we don’t even know when word the it’s really are anymore independent voters there a lot or two ever. Oh yeah don’t we care what we want to know what they think.

S14: Well this is the question a Who are they where do they live and how many of them are there because if they live in states that don’t matter they don’t man.

S17: That’s true I was going to say there are a lot of them in my standing right.

S7: And then the question is are they people who. So you are a state kind of matter. Oh yeah yeah definitely. But there’s no independents here. They’re all like they’re all DFL or they’re well oh white nationalist.


S13: You say that it’s drag for Labor in this drop in DFL nice. The. The great names like Holland.

S14: Here’s the thing though. Yeah. The question is OK. Let’s say you’re so suburban women will be something that people pay a lot of attention to because suburban Republican women traditionally vote Republican might vote for Donald Trump cause they’re worried about the Supreme Court are not going to vote from this time. So are they going to stay home or are they going to turn out and vote for the Democrat. Those are. So the question is then how many of those are around and what is staying home mean versus voting for a Democrat. What’s what’s the hurdle. And then also there’s an Andrew Yang Fan out in the in the stands. And then And then there’s the question the White where the white working class voter for Democrats today. Are they pulling over those voters who voted for Obama and then for Trump is that a big enough group is that in these states or is that a shiny object that shouldn’t be chased. Because you’ll end up losing voters in another part of coalition that you need. All these are open questions and the thing is the punditry matters because it’s turning how people are making their sorting decision.

S4: But I also think you left one out which is will African-American voters and in key states turn out in numbers the way they did 100 percent.

S23: I haven’t seen Warren really catch up with those votes but he’s at 13 percent in the year in the Journal poll and an Obama with 40 slightly ahead.

S24: But when when but if she’s the nominee is that going to sure stick. Well I just had to do to ask is more specific question do you Emily think this is already a two person race.


S12: Is this already a Warren Biden race and all and even Sanders is now really trailing far behind in his dinghy.

S16: I’ve always been skeptical that Sanders could really grow his support. I don’t like actually using grow as a verb in the way I just did. Sorry about that your previous metaphor is withering as you speak.

S25: Right away. I.

S18: Was skeptical. I’ve always been skeptical that Sanders could really vastly increase his support like he has a super committee base. I see you out there. We neglected you in the last election cycle. I feel regretful about that.

S16: And yet I remain skeptical though I really appreciate his presence on the debate stage. I think that if Biden stumbles somebody else is going to be a real contender in this race. I kind of think it would be but judge probably well.

S10: I think it’s two person John we got so much time now. No I mean but that’s the shift.

S14: I mean I think there are probably two lanes and so right now you’ve got it in the in the liberal lane four and the moderate lane you’ve got the two people in that’ll be what it allowed to come down to. It’ll be interesting to see how the sorting takes place between Sanders and Warren. A lot of Sanders voters and I know this because of the embedded CBS care accordion and I were just talking about this. They have. And she spends all her time with them.

S17: I don’t bet that means the reporter who had.

S14: Yeah well I don’t want to campaign because when I was one of those and I was out there all the time I would hate when people would pretend they had been when they hadn’t been so I need to give credit to the person who’s out there doing the reporting not the person who isn’t. Which is to say me. Nevertheless I have a microphone in front of me and can’t anyway what she was saying. Is that is that that Sanders voters have a passion and affection for him that is necessarily a transfer. Yeah. And or and or right. Known as surge miserable. And what’s going to make it transfer and what does that look like and when does it happen. Because if you’re if you’re any kind of candidate you want something for your transfer of voters or affection.


S17: So of course this could turn. I think Sanders and Warren are playing very nice with each other in a way that suggests actually some depth of allegiance and loyalty as opposed to something that’s more surface level and could disintegrate at the time.

S14: Well and also as he as he said when I when I interview him I did actually do as he said I’ve known her for 30 years. And I’m not going to. Here’s also another thing. So say things go south for one of the two of them. Do they make a do they join forces and basically say that we need to combine and and go after the the moderate or whoever’s in that lane. Presumably it’s Biden but could be Buda Georgia could be clever Cha too.

S4: Do you think Emily that there the Democrats are positioning themselves on issues in a way that’s going to be productive for the general. We see this sort of now aborted port push on Cavett can I ask my question. No no no. The aborted push on Cavett on impeachment the general push on impeachment.

S26: Warren has made this very interesting corruption attack that I think that that polls really well so that does that feel to you like the the main the main front the main way to to win in 2020 or do you have a sense about what they should be doing that would help them in the general.

S18: I think I mean this is I’m just kind of going off of the polls here and other people who look at the polls. But I think when you look at economic issues the way Warren is framing them yes that looks like a good argument to me it directly goes after the same discontent that Donald Trump has successfully gone after it’s populist. But it’s taking the target of the populism as like America’s corporate fat cats. It’s addressing inequality. She has it really. I think she’s very good at explaining what she thinks has gone wrong with the economy since 1980. And I think that’s compelling.


S14: But there are other things that I don’t think what if it’s right what if the election is more about identity and those kinds of issues and not an intellectual case about the sharing the wealth and when you shared prosperity what mean.

S23: I mean voters that went to liberal Harvard professor elite. Yes yes. So you’re saying Trump will try to make it about that if she’s the general election candidate. I mean the thing about Warren is that she actually is from Oklahoma and grab.

S14: But when you get into identity fights it’s not like well actually I’m from. I

S16: mean she tells all those stories. I mean she’s made that very central. And you know whether that is enough to combat the fact that yes she did work at Harvard I’m not sure. But she has an actual true organic response to those attacks.

S14: Here’s one thing I wonder about responding to those attacks and how it’s going to take place and what forum and what one does as a candidate who we know that Donald Trump is going to get the nomination of his own party or we assume barring some crazy event. So today he passed on along a tweet about Congresswoman alone Omar that said that she was dancing on 9/11. OK. It was a smear she was she wasn’t. Hit when he passed along that tweet. This is by the way the president of the United States. He said this is the new Democratic Party. So this is. This is super obvious right. Yeah. This is is this is. So this is negative partisanship. This is basically create an image of the opposite party that is that is so objectionable. You won’t from a vote for them and a lie. Sounds like right. So my point is if that is where we are and it’s where what data we September 18th imagine the escalation. How do you think about that in terms of a candidate who is in the opposite party bonding to something at that level.


S16: I mean whoever the nominee is is going to face this. It’s not going to matter. And so I think to be scared off from a more liberal candidate for that reason is a mistake. I don’t think that Biden is necessarily going to be more effective at responding to that. I mean. One thing. Biden has his strengths and I’m happy to lay them out. But when I was listening to the word salad.

S6: Problematic answer he gave with which you can with which he in the car. That’s what I’m talking about.

S17: When I was listening to that store that answer he gave about response to segregation which just went all over the place. I thought Oh my God. Can you imagine the debates between Trump and Biden.

S16: There’s gonna be right. They’re gonna insult each other and then they’re going to like both of them. They’re both likely Daddy like it’s just going to be this really weird combination of nastiness and like wandering into the wilderness. Answer.

S15: Well you know and here’s an interesting maybe signage in question but it’s one on my mind.

S14: Will the when people are in the desert when people in the Democratic Party are thinking about who their nominee is going to be and what they’re going to need to do against the likely Republican nominee do they think about it in terms of the debate stage context because turns out debates don’t actually affect the I think. Or do they think about it in another context. NJ and should that change the way they think about the candidate.

S16: Yeah I. That’s a really good question. Can I ask you a different policy question. So as long as I get to answer with a question no no. I’m Alice David. So here’s my question to either or both of you.


S18: So in my mind the weakness right now among the liberal Democrats is support for Medicare for all because the idea of forcing people onto government run health care that costs 30 trillion dollars is not popular. The public option the idea of choice strengthening Obamacare Medicaid for all or some possibility of Medicare yes. But the the Bernie version which is in four years we end private health insurance is not popular.

S16: So what’s if Warren is the candidate. What’s she going to do. She’s sticking to that position more than I expect.

S14: Although in this strange way where she’s sticking with it but not saying I mean she says I’m on his plan but then had that she never answers to Shelly Shelly done that on the tax on the last question is she leaving herself room to say something like Oh we’ll get there eventually or not I’m sure.

S12: Sure and I think that as long as the Republicans do things where they’re going after Obamacare which they seem to be doing with legal challenges the Democrats that’s a stronger issue for Democrats and Republicans than you don’t have to pin yourself to that.

S16: I think she has pinned herself to it more than I would have expected and the people at the last debate sorry to be so debate centric who gave the best answers were Kamala Harris and Pete booted Judge Harris brought up the lawsuit you just mentioned you know against to bring down Obamacare. But it just says I trust Americans why can’t we have choice for all.

S13: Yeah. So the question is go ahead you’re going to plod for Emily for Mayor Pete from here Pete. Emily you can play for everyone. This is America. Blood for yourself. Yes. Congratulations. Congratulations everyone.


S14: The thing that that is interesting to me about about Medicare for all. First of all you know we did the polling for it is highly volatile so people in theory like it and then once you start saying what’s in it they’d favored it drops like a rock. So that’s one problem. The second thing is in the context of a general election what is the value argument behind that. That a Democratic nominee is going to use assuming they they are in support of that to make a larger case to the public like is it we don’t think 30 million people should be without health care. Do we think your costs are too much and your one illness away from bankruptcy. Do we think 146 million people on private insurance should have a new complexity in their life.

S15: What is that. No. So might might what interests me is whatever the set of policy proposals are that a Democrat runs on.

S14: It seems to me that that the only person who has you mentioned Kamala Harris she was able to take the issue and make it about President Trump. That seems to me to be the thing that a Democrat needs to do and in the context of all the health care debate almost none of them have done that successfully in a way that has real throw weight in a general election and seems to me if you can’t do that you’re not ready for the general election.

S27: Slate Plus members you get bonus segments on the gab fest and other Slate podcasts in today’s Slate Plus segments are going to be the Q and A with our audience here in the Twin Cities. So


S28: go to Slate dot com slash gap us plus to become a member.

S29: All right. All right.

S30: All right dear Minnesotans I’m going to read you some statements and I want you to let me know if you agree with them by applauding if you do OK. I fantasize about a natural disaster wiping out most of humanity such that a small group of people can start over.

S31: I think society should be burned to the ground.

S4: When I think about our political and social institutions I cannot help thinking just let them all burn.

S30: We cannot fix the problems in our social institutions. We need to tear them down and start over.

S4: Sometimes I just feel like destroying beautiful things. That’s.

S32: The least appealing.

S30: So an astonishing percentage of Americans believe some of these statements 40 percent according to a recent study believe that we need society B society to be burned to the ground.

S12: This was found by three social scientists two Danish one American I like to have two Danish for breakfast and the paper is called a need for chaos the sharing of hostile political rumors and advance democracy. Tom Edsel the New York Times wrote a very interesting column about that and we’re going to couple that today with another social science paper called Democracy devouring itself the rise of the incompetent citizen and the appeal of right wing populism. And the reason we’re talking about that is these two papers taken together painted truly dire Dreier dire picture of where we are as a country. And they suggest that the United States and in fact possibly all democracies are even in worse shape than we suspected. So Emily may I ask you I mean if I could do this but what did this need for chaos paper find why is it so unsettling.


S16: So I have to say I think that the so I read this like 10 times like 40 percent of people agreed to this and then I decided that if you look at those questions closely. OK. If you answer them literally and you’re talking about actually burning things to the ground that’s bad. But I bet a lot of people I mean I could imagine this answered them much more in this way of like yeah I’m mad about some stuff and this is a flawed world and rig the system we lived it we live in. And and when you think about it that way it’s not as alert.

S12: OK. But can I describe what the study found.

S16: Yeah. Well what it found was that these folks like are really prevalent in those numbers you said. But that also they are likely to be spreading information on social media that social media has. This is so this is this big question is social media changing the way people communicate in a way that then takes these fringe views or are these disordered blow everything up views and allows them to spread and gain political influence in a way that is destabilising for the democracy. The counter view is like there’s nothing new about this. We’ve always had rumors. We’ve always had disinformation. The fact that they’re spreading more gets exaggerated that when you look at people’s news consumption almost everybody is actually looking at multiple news stories and news sources including mainstream ones. And we’re too concerned about pizza gate and a few of and you know the Sandy Hook libelous lies. And that we should stop obsessing about this because it doesn’t actually make that big an effect. And there are political scientists on both sides.


S7: All right. Well there’s a lot going on here. All right.

S30: I’m going to take the side which is that people who want to burn it all down are very dangerous.

S24: So that what this this study these these political scientists found was that when you look at sort of how disinformation spreads it’s not necessarily spread by people have a partisan motivation not necessarily people who are who like are spreading it because they want to take down the Democratic candidate the Republican candidate. It’s spread by people who want to take down the institutions themselves. They do not believe the institution they want to increase chaos in the system and that there has been a market increase in the amount of chaos in the system because the ability of people to spread this information has grown the number of people who believe in spreading this information has grown and it’s quite dangerous and the elites and coupled with this other paper which sort of said the elites have lost control of instability the elites have lost control of media they’ve lost control of politics they’ve lost control of the kind of master narrative of society and that you we are in a situation where the kind of nihilist destructive anarchic forces that these folks believe in have overtaken us and there is no way to bring them back in.

S10: There’s no way to rein them in right. So there’s a lot of it. So.

S14: One thing one thing is that the pizza gate and the most extreme stories and conspiracy theories that exist on both the left and the right are only a part of the puzzle. What happens when you have chaos voters is they’re happy to see chaos about a whole range of stories. And so it’s not just the ones of the most absurd. But any of the normal conflicts between urban rural religious non religion religious black white. They are happy to see disinformation misinformation create just chaos and cacophony. What that does is so that’s bigger because then that’s people that’s not people who believe there’s a pedophile ring in the bottom of a basement in a basement of a pizza parlor that doesn’t even have a basement. They help keep the noise in the fight. On Twitter social media. And so that’s a bigger group than just the crazies. What that does is it shreds attention just in general. Right. So you now have though that what used to be the as Andy Card the former chief of staff under George W. Bush said is what used to be the fringe is now the rug. Is that the fringe is now in the middle of the conversation. And so it’s harder to get that out of the way and then say OK now I’m just going to focus on this one thing. The other thing that social media is done is the. Something called the illusory truth effect which is once a person who’s mildly into chaos send something out that we know is in bad faith we know is is. I mean the a lot of whom are dancing on 9/11. They know it’s in bad faith. They just don’t give a damn. Once they spread that once that hits you first even the minute when you guys know this. But what even the minute you then are told no that’s not true. The first mover advantage of the false news still sticks in your head. And if the person who is it wants to act in bad faith keeps hammering home the thing that everybody says is a lie and keeps doing it. It sticks in your head and that’s the real danger. So you have chaos voters then you have voters who are anxious to be fed affirmation not information. And I think that creates a much larger portion.


S27: I know you’re but you’re about to jump in because to make one more point about this which is that the so chaos one of the things that that’s paradoxical about Trump is that Trump is an agent of chaos who then offers himself as a solution to chaos. That one of the things he’s been so successful at doing is to create and retweeting this Omar thing is an example of it to create the mistrust and create create the corruption create the anxiety create the fear and then say I am the answer. Only I can fix it. And to do it with authoritarianism as his answer. And so there is a there’s this paradox and Trump which is that he is he claims to be against chaos and yet is an agent of it. And and I think if you look across a bunch of countries if you look in Hungary if you look in Russia if you look in Brazil we have this phenomenon multiplying across the world is the same. So that set of things which is somebody who who posits there’s chaos in society increases the amount of it and then and then comes forward with authoritarian anti-democratic anti representative government solutions to to fix it. And that’s a fucking terrifying place to be. So.

S17: To make the role of the mainstream media to this conversation because if the mainstream media didn’t amplify Yeah the tweets et cetera and spend endless hours debating them on these fake cable news panels and ended up for conflict and treat the news like entertainment then the social media postings would have much less influence.

S16: And the other thing about these chaos voters these kind of Gremlin voters is that you don’t think that’s right.


S24: No I don’t think it’s right. Can I. Can I interrupt and have a conversation is it is that. Yes I mean the mainstream he has totally done that but that’s because the mainstream media is subject to all these forces of fragmentation and loss of audience and and the mainstream what the mainstream media is suffering from is it no longer has the authority it once had. And it’s lost the authority not because it’s it’s covered a lot of tweets. It’s lost the authority because media has itself just turned into this fragmented universe. And and CBS News I mean sorry Jon I note CBS News is wonderful you work for it it’s great CBS News does not have the gravity and weight that it had 10 years ago 30 years ago 60 years ago and it will never get it back. And so I don’t think it’s I don’t think it’s enough to say oh it’s the mainstream media is doing this you know it’s doing the dirty work for the president I think it’s you have to say these forces of fragmentation have have affected the media and government.

S16: Let’s the hawk away too much. Yes there are these market forces is also true that we present ourselves as having some higher authority having some moral compass that guides us having some elevated principles and then we act we in fact often lose the weight we lose the weight not going to let anyone off like that’s wrong but I especially feel this about television.

S4: No it’s a it’s a small fraction of people who are what it’s like cable news and that’s a small fraction of audience and you’re talking about Fox which is one of these agents of fragmentation.


S7: No actually it’s a real vision across the well or it and to some degree in newspapers and yeah we don’t need to do is to broaden it even more Yeah we can. Well so you know institutional legitimacy for anything anymore right but that’s because we are so hand right over and I mean we haven’t handed it over. Yes we know we have. We have.

S33: No no. This is something we haven’t had handed a mirror.

S15: It’s contributory.

S14: It’s not it’s not just a single it’s it’s it’s exactly the complexity that you talk about but but but as Emily said whether it’s the New York Times or CBS or Time magazine or any of those legacy big organizations that spend a lot of time making sure that their standards their job in part is to fight against. Now they’re businesses. So they have to have people at church.

S24: It’s the church U.S. Senate it’s the House of Representatives. It’s every major every its universities every significant institution this country has much less credibility than it did a year ago or 10 years ago right.

S16: Every single one but not to the people but that we have no responsibility for responsibility for and universities also have.

S14: Right right. So and also most of those institutions that you named still have people inside them who say that we still believe in our existing and original standards and we’re going to fight against these forces and we shouldn’t let those dark forces of darkness prevail even if some of them are coming from within our own house. And we have to keep those standards because without standards it’s madness. And so that’s.


S16: Also to the Gremlin voters that’s now I’m thinking of them. So I I guess I think they’re surely there are some people who are like you know cackling over burning down the world. I I in my gut feel like there are more people who just feel like no matter what I do my life doesn’t change and get better. These politicians they yap about solutions. It doesn’t matter. And I see this kind of entertainment faux news that you know particularly Trump has been so so good at promoting and peddling and I’m just going to like laugh at it because there is no point in really paying attention to this game. My life hasn’t changed enough et cetera. Well let’s say most people are correct but I don’t think there is. I don’t think that is a crazy view in itself at all.

S14: Well and it’s not just I mean this president has taken the link ever since basically candidates used the same processes that are used to sell lemon fresh pledge or any other consumer product. It has been on a straight trajectory to creating a situation where people feel like I’m being gamed the way I’m gamed to buy mud flaps on the new car. And so once that happens you bait it detaches from what’s happening in their real lives. That’s been going on before Trump people obviously do it now which is why it’s so great it’s so striking that politicians who in any party the way you change that is you inspire people. Is that you create these fires inside of each. Each voter Bye bye kindling something in them that they feel in a common way that then brings them and lifts them through whatever it is that you appeal to them. And it’s. And the paucity of inspirational speech in politics is striking. I mean that because that’s the only way you can beat it.


S4: I don’t I I think that is just I mean really idealistic in a way that doesn’t resonate. I think when you have had the inequality that you have when you have a lack of a shared you know commonality a shared sense of what the country is a lack of a shared sense of mission of the country the idea that political rhetoric is going to overcome these enormous political economic you know social religious cultural forces seems hopeless.

S14: Well so you’re right. No it’s obviously not just rhetoric. But if you’re going to do it you have to. So clearly we’ve been at worst places than this. We did have a civil war and you know 600000 people died. So we’ve been in worse places. And the the sense one example that’s literally the one.

S7: Sorry. Well yeah. Anyway 1968 things were a lot worse. Is worse than 60. Well whether it was 1968 was pretty bad. You had the National Guard. You were born dying it.

S15: Was always just people getting shot in major cities you know Jersey City thirty people dying Detroit 36 people dying like you we don’t yet have that.

S30: So we have we have got massacres we do massacre.

S34: It’s different it’s different You’re sure. But El Paso you like that’s a political shoot and you have Bobby Kennedy and and Martin Luther King I’m saying that that was 1968 was pretty tough year.

S14: So my point is that there have been worse there no politics was a lot different back then.

S17: You don’t have the structural things in place that would create correction that you had that you don’t have air locks in a different way you had authoritative news sources that had more write a greater share of the market than you got that a greater share because you didn’t.


S14: There were people I mean certainly if you look at the Wallace candidacy and you look even at the Goldwater candidacy there were a lot of people supporting those two candidacies who felt that these shared facts were all made up right. They didn’t make an organizing principle right or the left or the under which goes back to David’s point about the case voter voters one of the things that this paper finds and that is true is that there is a convening force of social media that they didn’t have in 64 in 68 and that is and that is what makes this different now and makes it much much harder to beat back with rhetoric because you’re did you’re immediately atomized unless you can kindle something in individual Americans and to suggest that they’re that that Americans across the country are so barren that they can’t be moved.

S16: That’s than to move people with the results. I mean I think Mitch McConnell while I wouldn’t give him the inspiring award when he personally when he emphasizes look we’ve gotten one hundred and fifty judges confirmed that is a real legacy a real accomplishment for his party that that should move his base.

S14: Right. Right. But they’re in control. This is this is a very problem.

S16: McKnight Sure. Yes yes. And it also goes to the fact that the Democrats trying to investigate and take testimony seems pretty ineffectual at this point. Now maybe there is nothing that can be done about that these subpoenas are in court in this kind of months long way but it feels like hey you know you said you were gonna go get Trump’s tax returns. Where are they. Like they’re the use of the house as a you’re in control. I don’t feel like we’re seeing a whole lot of fruits of that labor.


S12: Gabfest fans we are so happy to have Curtis Sittenfeld with us here in the Twin Cities.

S4: Curtis is the author of five novels and one amazing collection of short stories Her novels include prep eligible which is a retelling of pride and prejudice. American wife which is a fictionalized biography of Laura Bush. Her short story collection you think it. I’ll say it is amazing. It’s just so good. I read that has been adapted for television.

S35: True true it should be true less or less true than it once was. That’s something that happens totally shut it up that I will watch. Thank you. Thank you.

S4: For our purposes Curtis is also the American novelist who is most attentive and best at writing about politics. American wife is a masterpiece she also wrote a serialized novella about the Obama inauguration for me at Slate back in 2009.

S9: But you’ve forgotten that. I wondered if you had.

S20: You and I are the only ones and we were the ones who read it. It’s been read.

S4: She wrote a short story about Hillary Clinton for Esquire and also for her collection. And now we still are beating heart. She is working on a book with the working title of Rodham. It’s about what that’s about and about what if Hillary had a human right on the bill at Yale Law School and the way she really did. They’d fallen in love but she hadn’t married him and had gone on to lead a life apart from his SO.

S30: I. I am so excited to read this book which we will get a chance to read next year at some point. Curtis you tweeted this week you had a great tweet this week. I seriously think today anyway that I may have written the great American novel you might not realize it because I’m female and because the cover will probably be either a dress or a woman whose face you can’t see so this just isn’t. This is just an F Y.


S19: Off. So why why are you so excited about it. Why are you so excited about running.

S36: Well so I I I first of all she has to finish it. It’s a good I know that it is. It’s funny because I think that when I tweeted that and I can understand why in retrospect people thought I was completely finished with the book which I would say I actually am 90 percent finished.

S37: But you all know there’s a difference between being 90 percent finished writing your book and 100 percent. I think I had. So there have been moments when I’ve thought like this is not coming together as I had imagined this is I’ve been working on it for two and a half years and I think I will say yesterday I was having a day where I thought oh my god like it’s even better than I hoped.

S38: So you know celebrate this day. How do you get there.

S15: Does that rollercoaster go like this or does it go like the EKG chart.

S39: Well so I actually feel like the general rule I think is that if you feel like you had a great day of writing you and then you look back at each piece you’re usually wrong. And if you feel like you had a really terrible day and you look back you also are probably like that. Well I was going to say you’re right. But.

S38: I think that it’s less.

S37: I mean again there are times when I’ll and I wrote I mean I know this is in the year 2019. Some people have. Some of us have lost our attention span so I know this is a little bit daunting but it might be like a five hundred ish page. There’s there’s a lot to say about if Hillary hadn’t married Bill. It turns out. Yeah. And but yeah I think that part of being a novelist is just sort of getting to the other side of that almost no one writes novel novels about politicians or.


S4: And no one bright spot was about first ladies you’re now going to have written two novels about first ladies sort of because of course if Hillary hadn’t.

S9: Yeah yeah but you know what I’m saying here. I did what. Why. What are you why are you drawing.

S12: Why were you drawn to Laura Bush where you’re drawn to Hillary Clinton.

S39: So I think it I think it’s fair to see a pattern although I would say like my interest in Hillary Clinton is more as like the first female major party nominee for president. That’s sort of the category I see here rather than as primary.

S17: Who are you. She doesn’t marry Bill. You’ve actually converted.

S14: So you’re saying David’s defining her merely by her husband and not by her own achievements.

S38: I think I think it’s I mean she isn’t she.

S39: Well actually there are two things that sort of made me really prompted me to write the novel. One was when Esquire reached out and said Do you want to write a short story. This was in early 2016 and they said Do you wanna write a story from the perspective of Hillary Clinton. And the funny thing was I had been invited because of my book American Wife. I had been invited to write a few essays about Hillary Clinton and I had said no thank you like during the 2016 election leading up to it. I feel like almost nothing can be written about like who Hillary Clinton is to the American public that hasn’t already been said but to think like what does Hillary think of us is a completely different question like What does the world look like to her not not what do we think of her but what does she think of us. The other thing that I had this sort of slow realization is leading up to and after the 2016 election for plenty of grade school children knew Hillary Clinton as the presidential nominee but they actually had no idea who Bill Clinton was let alone that she had been married him and its children.


S38: But it’s in its way it raises this question of if if we had like we’ve been we all experience yet and all that.

S39: Yeah and we’ve there’s this version there’s many things that we’ve been told about her for 30 years. You know some of which have been you know some were true some were false some were sort of true but it’s like if you could strip away a lot. Like I sometimes do think like if she were you know the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or if she were you know like the president of a university and under some very random circumstances I ended up sitting next to her at a dinner party. I think I feel like I’d be like that woman is so smart and interesting and accomplished and instead somehow it’s like I have thoughts about like her headbands from you know 1992 and.

S17: Maybe one of the things I really liked about the Esquire story by the way also the press’s fault.

S14: I mean yes the obsessions with a lot of her and her pantsuits and all that stuff.

S17: And actually that’s like the point of this Esquire story is to write about Hillary’s experience of journalists coming and repeatedly in her life and this invasive way a journalist to yeah reminded me of different people. I was going to say though that Hillary says incredibly bland things in your story even as she’s thinking more interesting thoughts.

S18: And I wonder if that kind of voice and dialogue continues in the novel and that’s hard because when someone land voice or their internal voice of course is fascinating.

S35: But if you can’t keep having to produce these banal political soundbites like how do you deal with Oh no it’s much easier I get it.


S37: I mean first of all you know again we we all including me of course receive her as a public person but before she was a public person you know she was a private and so.

S39: So and that’s kind of in a way to me that’s the appeal of a five hundred page novel that you can like get to the point where the person is a public person but then you also can show them when they’re like 24 or 32 and like maybe with a co-worker with someone they date or someone they have a crush on because I do I do feel like we do a very weird thing where we have this access to kind of like very detailed information about these public figures but then we we sort of pretend that they’re not real three dimensional people like us like we are and they’re not.

S12: Have you met either Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush and would you want to if you haven’t. And have you talked to if you have you talked to them about their fictional selves. So I think the short answer to like almost all those questions is No I.

S37: I.

S16: And I if I were not so sure Laura Bush has read your book she’s a librarian. So people’s.

S40: People have said that.

S41: But I do think she’s so famous that I think that she she had to develop mechanisms for like tuning things out that if if I said like if someone said do you you know Curtis wrote about a book about you Emily maybe you would find it you’re not super famous. I mean your medium fame is spread. Among among sleepless listeners.


S37: Specifically the New York Times readers now so so. So I do think like if I were her I wouldn’t have read it and no I’ve I have never met Hillary can I will say leading up to and then when American way was published since 2008.

S39: I would sometimes dream about Laura Bush and in the dream we were introduced and she knew I had written a novel about her. And she thought it was distasteful but she was too polite to kind of call me out on it.

S38: And I will I. The Laura Bush dreams have gone away.

S41: But I have dreamed a few times.

S14: So do you have. And do you do immerse yourself in Hillary Clinton so that the new character you create grows out of that or is it. Do you recognize two totally separate people when.

S42: Yeah. Actually that’s an excellent question. So I I have immersed myself in Hillary Clinton.

S41: I finished my Hillary Clinton. And I do it. I try to sort of like it like it’s supposed to be a realistic. The premise is supposed to be realistically really what would have happened. And I will say this I’m giving away too much but I’ve had very early readers who have to two of the four Flake and two are like related to me but they’re actually my harshest critics but they’ve said reading the early passages where they found love at Yale Law School like Lick is so convincing that I get upset knowing they’re not going to be together.

S33: And then I reassure myself that they are together and feel like oh my god that seems to be like right where you want to be.


S7: I know I know I know I will say I know we’re at least the great American.

S41: I have gone so far down the rabbit hole that literally this is not a joke. I recently was like like should I moved to Fayetteville Arkansas. It’s actually.

S38: It sounds delightful. And then I got to get out my house and you picked out your house on Zillow or something. So I came to this lovely historic neighborhood. But yeah.

S39: Like Fayetteville I mean so Hillary moved there and in August 1974 when Bill was running for Congress in northwest Arkansas and I again it sounds like a really gray you know like academic sort of hippie like all the liberals in the state go there.

S17: And even though it’s near Boston of Arkansas.

S6: So you have lived I think you’ve lived. You grew up in Cincinnati you’ve lived in Washington Philly St.. St.. LEWIS Now you’re in the Twin Cities. I want you to rank those cities. So I will say this again you know I’m I’ve lived in other places but I have lived in the Midwest for a lot of my life and I I do I feel like it’s really shocking to me that I didn’t know how great the Twin Cities are yet even that there. And.

S37: I swear I’m not just saying as these gets it’s a great lake. There are tons of writers. It’s politically progressive. It’s beautiful like the lakes. It’s it’s actually a great I might have to say that Minneapolis is number one.

S43: Can Wait can I say one other thing because I was listening. I definitely think Elizabeth Warren is electable.


S44: Why do you feel so confident about that.

S17: Someone who’s thought about female politicians.

S37: To me it’s like why isn’t she elected. I like so many things.

S39: It’s like they have to happen and then we know they can happen and it seems like politics is so fluid and and there’s so many things that you know it seems implausible. And then afterwards it seems inevitable. And I also in terms of the thing the thing you guys were saying about Biden like imagining a Biden Trump face off I really sincerely think. And I like Amy Clovis. I like Kamala Harris. I like Elizabeth Warren that like any woman who’s reached the level of success they have has probably withstood a lot more like ugliness and criticism and it’s probably tougher than any man who’s achieved. Drop just drop the mike. Down. Is the author of the forthcoming novel Rodham.

S45: And the author of a whole bunch of other great novels. Curtis thank you for joining us. Thank you.

S3: All right.

S30: Let’s go to cocktail chatter when you’re having one of the very very many craft brewers that this city has had.

S29: What will you be chattering about.

S16: I was tremendously saddened this week by the death of Cokie Roberts who is I mean I feel lucky to think of her as like one of the female journalists I might aspire to be. She seems to be someone who everyone I’ve talked to who has met her thought that she was a lovely person.

S18: She just seems to be one of those Sparky generous presences that even in the cutthroat elbow throwing city of Washington is able to transcend some politics and maybe some of you saw it. There is this amazing photograph circulating this week of Cokie Roberts with Susan Stamberg and Nina Totenberg many years ago. They’re fairly young women. They’re wearing clothes that look very much of that era. And they’re pioneers they are changing the profession. They are these female voices on public radio. Before it was anything like easy to be that person and I feel so grateful to them and all the work they did. It’s just.


S19: The time to think about that. JOHN DICKERSON What’s her chatter.

S14: Amen to that. You know another thing about Cokie is that all the stories you hear or lots and lots of the stories you hear are things she did out of the way people she reached to who were not of her same age and was good to you know you know yeah she’s you want those stories. OK. So as far as all of you know I’m trying to finish a book. Still I’m still trying to finish it. It’s on the presidency and how the job is different than the thing we talk about during the campaigns. And so when during my research I was looking for a book that told people how to prepare to vote not like where to go at the polling place but how to study the issues what to how to think about a president. And turns out there aren’t very many of those books but they’re worth they were written for the elections of nineteen hundred nineteen 0 8 and 1912. I don’t know what happened.

S16: I know what happened in 1984 there on a Ziploc bag.

S10: Well I ordered one of them. It is here tonight in a plastic bag and it smells like your grandmother’s basement because that’s probably where it came from. And it’s called great issues and national leaders live questions of the day discussed the voter’s guide for the campaign of nineteen hundred people. That’s McKinley and that’s where Jennings Bryan. OK. So I opened it and what fell out but this three page little pamphlet. So this to me was more this key word to me was more interesting than the book.


S34: What is the pamphlet. It is the agent’s key to how to sell this book about how to prepare yourself. So awesome. This pamphlet is for your private use. It is the key with which you are to open the door to success in selling this book. No one can succeed at any work without preparation and the more thorough the preparation the better the success we give you this as a guide we advise you to memorize the description word for word. It’s three It’s four pages.

S46: Worth. We advise you to memorize this word for word and that’s distracted in nineteen hundred. They had a lot of time. We advise you to memorize word for word and then beat it.

S15: All you can. But be sure you never do worse. And ladies and gentlemen I tell you that’s just what I’m going to do. Because this is the most complete and in every respect the finest campaign book issued. It is authentic with new and fresh not printed from old plates profusely illustrated with portraits and illustrations so it turns out this is not the actual book. The actual book is 500 pages.

S22: This is a teaser. Okay. So.

S15: And this was this teaser was for. It’s got a cloth covering smell.

S47: Yeah it’s really good. I will turn to it.

S14: But you may you may be we may have a little show and tell. Yeah. And it’ll leave a little mark on your hands anyway. This is it.

S15: This is the teaser. That that this is in the era of do you want to show the class the what the pictures are like inside.

S30: This is Mrs. William McKinley.


S15: Yeah. It’s chock full of photographs. The find is not made from old plates. These are fresh new photographs. This is the era of the door to door salesman. So chaps in like lumpy suits and those hats they were always adjusting are racing towards the front door pushing aside the the l the encyclopedia salesman and pushing aside the Fuller Brush salesman so they can get to your front Roosevelt and show you Teddy Roosevelt the vice presidential nominee Anna McKinley and Boy wasn’t that important decision when in gent January September 1981 McKinley Adlai Stevenson the elder was the vice presidential nominee of the Democrats.

S38: Wow. Who knew. I don’t even know there wasn’t Adlai Stevenson the elder. May I mark you down for a copy.

S48: What’s it going to take to put you in a new administration today.

S15: So people the salesmen would have been propelled by this pamphlet which I mean I’ve made a copy because this is it’s falling apart anyway. And they would be propelled by the words on these pages. Call attention to the fact that this is the most handsome and magnificent book the cover representing what the book stands for a thoroughly patriotic nonpartisan book a book which will be an ornament for the home table as well as most interesting useful and valuable book for immediate use. So from that breathless description. You can see basically what we have on cable news today. David pass me back the book please because it is written in the chatty EST for wit which I think we should return to frankly the chatty est kind of sort of everything’s great in America even though big things are happening. Here’s the opening line. This will be the last presidential campaign of the century and in many respects it bids fair to be one of the most interesting and most important the results of the Spanish war was to involve the United States in new and vast responsibilities whether rightly or wrongly that’s key whether rightly or wrongly we have the Philippines Cuba.


S48: But wait there’s more. We have the Philippines Cuba.

S34: Puerto Rico and Hawaii on our hands.

S49: What shall we do with those.

S48: Yes Mrs. Smith. What shall we do with them.

S34: So you see that rightly or wrongly that’s where the both sides comes from and throughout this thing throughout this it tells the seller to make sure that they they point out that this is a nonpartisan book.

S15: So. But how do you sell the merchandise. Well you sell the campaign. This campaign will be the most interesting and most important campaign. Either you and I have witnessed what you hear now right. Every campaign is the most important. I always think it’s true. Yeah. Great issues embodying I might say the life of the Republic come to the front and national leaders must stand the most careful scrutiny the their real worth must be known whether they be men of honesty ability and experience. And then in a twist that seems familiar today it is important to you and me whether the trusts shall boss everything.

S10: So that’s Elizabeth Warren.

S15: So you you go through the book it goes on for pages about how I’m supposed to instruct the salesperson the person who’s buying it and then we will close on the hard sell at the end. If after showing you everything that’s in this book and all the pictures here’s the script for how it’s supposed to end. Now Mr. Blank everybody wants this new and fresh campaign book which as you see will be a book of lasting value for it contains the history of the past and present which one needs frequently for reference. And here is a place for your name. Now Mr. and then it has instructions handing him your pencil and pointing at the line on which you would like him to subscribe. Because remember I’m just coming to show him the teaser he’s going to write his name and then I’ll deliver the full book for you. Everyone who has seen this prospectus seems to be pleased with it. You will see from these names parentheses showing your list of subscribers. What kind of people are attracted by it. And I’m sure you will agree that you want your name down with the rest. Then it gives a little more instruction from peer pressure. Yes exactly. From this point forward we leave the agent to execute his own tact and judgment. Be careful never to allow your customer to say no.


S22: If it appears that he is about to do so turn quickly to some interesting picture. Or subject and begin to explain him or read some passage that will please him.

S10: Never lose yourself possession. This is the critical point and your tact and skill must all be brought to bear at this place. To book the order.

S15: So these days of course are gone. No one’s. No one sells their books in person before it’s completed using deceptive and marginally entertaining patter.

S34: That’s done now by Amazon that puts up an early link to the book. It’s called e-mail. It’s called the hardest job fourteen ninety nine.

S22: Point ninety nine. Act now ladies and gentlemen you know the kinds of people who will be buying this book and you will want to count yourselves among them.

S45: All right. So my my chatter My chatter is also like it’s like a John Dickerson chatter.

S20: Actually it’s going to go on as well. Not not quick.

S30: It will feature a presidential audiotape though so. So some of you who know me know that I have a real thing about pandas which is that I cannot stand them. I think they’re fraudulent and lazy and neutered and ill tempered and I grew up in Washington D.C. And if you grew up in Washington D.C. in the 70s you were constantly dragged to the zoo to see this pair of pandas that Mao gave to Nixon in 1972 when the U.S. Open diplomacy with China and these pandas would sit lumped partially. Drearily occasionally mauling a keeper or failing to breed and then when they did manage to breed they would then sit on the baby that they had had and suffocated. But they got away with it because Americans were duped by the kind of fancy paint job and the elegant fur. And since then pandas have become this tool of Chinese diplomacy and China rents pandas. The United States had extortionate rates. You get a panda breeding pair there. I think there are four or five of them now in the U.S. but China maintains ownership of all cubs that are born. So after when a cub hits 4 years old they expel trade the cub back to China. And and now pandas are getting caught up in the the Trump trade war because they there’s a 20 year lease on a pair of pandas in Washington which are the those are the marquee pandas the D.C. pandas. And there’s this fear that China is going to refuse to renew that lease when it comes up next year. And there’s a worry that they’re gonna be sent home. I’m not worried about a panda war. Yes there could be a panda bear. I’m not worried about this but the Washington Post is worried about the Washington Post historically assigns more reporters to the panda beat than it does to HHS. And I want to I just want to celebrate a really great piece of they did last month where they talked about the fact that these pandas could get sent back to China. And it turns out they uncovered an amazing piece of audiotape which is that Richard Nixon when the Pandas came to originally in 1972 was obsessed with the pandas and he had some of the same interests that I do in pandas. And so there was this wonderful conversation that he had with the Washington Star reporter that he would want to hype about the pandas arriving. But Nixon had some reservations. So we’re going to play the tape of Nixon talking to this Washington Star reporter as a matter of fact.


S50: Let me tell you an interesting thing about that. You must know you can you can only read your own you it. And when I but I was talking to Rob Portman who talked to his 3-D horse and the meeting is very interesting. These are the male female problem. The problem however with PANDAS is that they don’t know how to make it. The only way they learn how to watch other pandas mate. And so they’re keeping them there a little while longer. Younger ones this sort of line you know how it’s gotten around if they don’t learn it. Get over here. Nothing will happen. So I guess I should have your best reporter out there to see whether that is they will learn. So now that I’ve given you the story of pandas let me get back to your more serious and he was right.

S51: Those pandas didn’t learn anything. They failed entirely. That is our show for today. The gaffe is produced by the twin cities own Joslyn Frank.

S45: Our researcher our researcher is also a Midwesterner Chicago’s Bridgette Dunlap Faith Smith and gratefully pulled together this this show here in St. Paul.

S52: Things of the Fitzgerald Theater for hosting. Gabriel Roth as the editorial director of Slate podcast June Thomas is the managing producer you should follow us on Twitter at at Slate gabfest and tweet your chatter to us for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson. I’m David Plotz.

S29: Thanks for having us here. St. Paul. We’ll talk to you next week.

S31: All right. Friends thank you for the cheers that you can keep that up in a second. We’re going to have questions so we can have a brief Q and A. So if you want to come there’s mikes of stage left stage right.


S53: Yeah hi Joe Biden’s age and capacity is kind of an open discussion especially since Julian Castro’s attack on him during the debates which seemed to fail miserably in the polls and in the media.

S54: So I wonder is there more political politically expedient or polite or civil way for other candidates to bring up that issue and maybe more importantly do they have a responsibility to even if it’s not politically expedient given the stakes of the situation.

S14: It’s a great question. They want the first real campaign I covered was Bob Dole in 1996 and this was a big question with Dole too and none of the candidates could figure out a way to do it. And also in his case as it is a little bit with Biden too it’s a stalking horse for other stuff which is we think he’s too moderate and all that. I don’t know that there’s a way to to to bring it up successfully. I mean I think basically the way the smart candidates have done it is push them into corners about things from the past which when he talks about them a he’s constrained by the politics of the time b he knows that. So you can see in his head him trying to figure out who he’s going to offend and why and what he has to say which is just hard and complicated. And then three he’ll tend to use expressions that I remember when Bob Dole referred to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

S17: You know it was there was in my candy.

S14: Yeah except the thing the thing is he was hipper than he knew because my son and daughter both have record players and play records all the time. So it’s a lot of people are playing records again. But yeah but I think that’s probably the best way for them to do it over here.


S55: So I’ve been thinking a lot about federalism lately as we all want to do particularly in light of the Trump administration’s challenge of California’s restrictions on emissions. And I’m wondering what all of you particularly Emily thinks about this kind of flip flopping of partisanship when it comes to federalism and states rights.

S18: I mean you put that so well and I’m so glad you brought up this issue it is pretty amazing to see particularly the lawyers and the Justice Department make these arguments which are so contrary to positions that Republicans in particular have taken in the past not just about states rights and the kind of longer term like disfavored history of that term but also just the idea that we live in a laboratory of democracy and states should be able to have a lot of policymaking authority because they are closer to the voters than the federal government. So it is amazing to see people abandon that position when it’s no longer the policy answer that they want the states to be giving.

S56: Hi there. The term socialism seems to be a profanity these days that’s used by the president and the right wing. Is there a way that the left can recover that word and really actually show its definition so that the people that would benefit most from those policies could actually fight for it.

S14: There’s a bunch of great quotes about this. There’s Truman’s famous whine about Republicans always calling things socialist that are just exactly exist to help the people there. I’m not sure there are. There is unanimity among people who would identify themselves as Democrats that having the word socialist be reclaimed is a is is a great thing. I mean there are a lot of men who don’t want the word liberal reclaimed. That’s why they call themselves progressives. So I’m not sure that I think the bigger challenge for the Democratic Party is even if Bernie Sanders has tried a lot to explain what democratic socialism is. I’m not sure that he thinks that’s his best time span. I think the most useful way in these kinds of things is usually do to forget about the label and just talk about the thing that that people would understand and they’re in their hearts about either how prosperity is shared or not shared or helping the least among us or whatever however you want to phrase it but that actually doesn’t that doesn’t use the label but that quickly turns to a set of values that people would would feel more emotionally than they would a specific label.


S57: Hi I’m Tain danger. Thank you so much for coming to the Twin Cities. We’re so happy to have you here. My question was. JOHN DICKERSON You’ve gotten to interview President Trump. And I wondered when I watched it. Was there anything you didn’t ask the president because you were worried he would answer it.

S10: That’s a very good question.

S14: No I’m trying to think of what would be in that category. There were definitely I just found when I was moving into my new office the list of questions which is about 17 pages long and I got through about two and a half pages because that we had some issues in that interview. No but that’s really I wondered what that what kind of quixotic question that would be. Let me mull on that and think about it. Interesting question.

S58: Yes. So John described Elizabeth Warren’s plans as the fire that melts the snowball in Joe Biden’s hands or something like that. So I tried to but Emily came in with the horticulture. I was following you. It was good. So the question is kind of you know I could think of a lot of plans for a lot of things. Do you think that is just the fact that she has a bunch of plans that gives her like credence or is this going to make the kind of debate more about policy and that sort of stuff.

S18: I think having a lot of plans got her campaign going. It got her a lot of love from people like us who are interested in delving into policy. I think in the end the campaign is going to have to be about more than that and she knows that. And they are trying to add in the more kind of storytelling charisma driven elements. You know she stayed for some endless number of hours taking selfies with people in New York last week and that in itself generates coverage. I think she four hours. I just. Yeah really long time.


S26: But I don’t think I can’t think of another candidate who has any definition at all. I mean buthe did a little bit but besides that I can’t none of them have a signature the way she did.

S7: Well no.

S18: I mean Sanders is Medicare for all policy is absolutely his. Let’s see. I mean I think you’re right that Biden isn’t sick doesn’t have a signature like that.

S59: Yeah. And this is gonna be our last question I’m afraid. I’m sorry to hear other folks. All right. Thank you for coming out to Minnesota and the Twin Cities. My question is about regionalism and politics. Minnesota is kind of interesting in that we’ve elected Paul while Hubert Humphrey Walter Mondale to office Illinois Omar but then also Michele Bachmann Tom Emmer Tim Pawlenty. Do you think there’s any case for still regionalism or is it just an urban rural divide and that you know if you’re in the Midwest what’s one where it’s one place or is it just between the urban and rural areas I felt terrified of.

S16: You all know more about this than we do. But it seems like Minnesota politics has a distinctive flavor that there is this history in it different from Wisconsin which has its own sort of place in the political spectrum but that.

S13: Where they are now they’re not fans of Wisconsin. I said different. Different from distinct from them in Minnesota nice. Minnesota is interested in taking a risk on politicians who you know seem have some compelling set of values or promises they’re making that are at some kind of orthogonal relationship to regular old American politics and that that’s actually been an important incubator for some of the folks you just mentioned.

S60: Minnesota. Thank you so much for having us. It was great to be here. We’ll come back soon.