S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for October 11th 2018 the angry mob edition.
S3: I’m David Plotz of Atlas Obscura. I am in a closet in Brooklyn.
S1: Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine and John Dickerson of CBS This Morning. You are not in a closet. I don’t think where are you guys.
S4: We’re in a recording studio and we miss being with you I miss being with you on this week’s show.
S1: A terrifying Climate Change report casts a shadow on just about everything and puts everything in dismal perspective. Then Brett Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court justice. Democrats are angry mobs and men are an endangered species. We will discuss the the fallout from the cabinet confirmation and then has Taylor Swift turned the election to the Democrats. Apparently she has. Plus we will have cocktail chatter And don’t forget dear listeners we have our conundrum live show at NYU scribble Center on December 12th. Is it going to be a glorious night of confrontation with difficult ideas and difficult questions. And it’s always a really really fun evening and we’re expecting to have a great guest too so you should get your tickets now. There are just a few tickets left so please go get them at Slate dot com slash live to join us at the conundrum show on December 12th in Manhattan the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a group of 91 scientists who have spent years studying thousands and thousands of studies about the effects of human activity on climate issued a terrifying report this week. The planet has warmed one point eight degrees already from pre-industrial levels and without massive change in policy the planet will warm to point seven degrees in a couple of decades from now possibly a lot more than that in the years to come after that. The IPCC concludes that this will be enormously painful not just for our children and our grandchildren but for us because by 2040 all coral reefs will be dead. There will be coastal inundation much worse storms and wildfires droughts flooding the spread of diseases tropical diseases to the north mass migration an enormous refugee flows from the tropics and there will be places many many places on earth where it will be extremely difficult to live. First significant parts of the year just you literally will die because it will be so hot and humid. These scientists say that this tragedy can be averted only with massive massive human action and massive changes to the economy the effective abolition of the use of coal which is now about 40 percent of energy provides about 40 percent of energy it would need to go down to about one to save 7 percent. A huge expansion in wind and solar power and massively impossibly high carbon taxes. Carbon taxes that are more than 100 times as much as the tax. The Obama administration proposed which got nowhere. So this was among the most dreadful pieces of news I think we’ve we’ve heard and we’ve talked a lot about how bad the news has been and how disruptive and how upsetting everything is. But this is upsetting at a global level. And why. Emily do you think it’s so hard for us to grapple with it.
S5: I mean the standard answer to that is that this is a long term problem and we are not well set up to think politically about massive collective action to solve something that is not an immediate emergency.
S6: The country isn’t set up for it. The world isn’t set up for it and individually the sort of human psychology doesn’t grapple with it very well it’s just easier not to think about it because it seems totally overwhelming and unsolvable. This report though injects a different kind of timeline into the equation. I mean I had never seen anyone talk about 2040 in these terms I’d never thought about this kind of dire consequence in my own lifetime. And I wonder if it could have the power to change how we think except that the immediate reaction to the report has not seemed to generate any of that. And we’re obviously still in this incredibly polarized moment in which unfortunately climate change like many other things has been a dividing line between Democrats and Republicans the United States and so it’s hard to see how this report sir mounts those divisions and yet of course this is all we’re absorbing this news as hurricane Michael is flooding Florida and we’re having yet another extreme weather event that is tied to warmer water and warmer air and the kind of energy that that generates. John what do you think.
S7: Well I think you’d say a lot of thoughts. I mean the first thing is is to recognize the distance between what this report says and what the administration’s Well what the president’s position is because of the distance between the president his administration as is what we were talking about briefly because they’re not exactly on the same page in every way. One of the things the only way the only ways you solve the collective action problem is that a leader looks at a big looks at the world and says this is a huge problem and we need to address it. And I’m going to use my you know leaders who we consider virtuous and who are doing the right thing say and I’m going to move my country in the direction of trying to solve this problem because that’s what I’m here to do. I’m not here to do small things I’m here to do big things and the only way this big thing can be done is with the blunt force of the president’s political power. So that’s what what. That’s one end of the scale of the way you may do this but if you look at the way President Trump has talked about climate change he is not only in specific terms said that it’s a hoax created by the Chinese to make the Chinese more competitive in the U.S. less competitive.
S8: But he has also consistently attacked the empirical well empirical reasoning or what some people would call the Enlightenment and the idea that people through expertise looking at data and looking at at what you can analyze come to a conclusion. He’s he’s got kind of a double blow here against this.
S4: There’s a there’s a real distance between what one would do and what this president is doing.
S9: I’ve reached the point in oddly this may be you know I may be totally wrong headed and this may be a bad conclusion to have reached but I’ve reached the point that this is a collective action problem which is actually insoluble that there is no possible way the world can can muster the political will and the sacrifice required to make the changes that are necessary that we will keep burning these fuels until it is cheaper not to. And therefore it cannot be a political solution we can’t look to politics to solve it. We can only look to science to solve it. That the only possible remedy is some incredible scientific breakthrough. Hopefully at the level of fuel that we figure out some way to create energy without damaging the planet at scale and in a very cheap way and we can apply that very very quickly which is a very far fetched hope or as a second much worse solution some form of geoengineering to try to to forestall the worst. To say we’re going to continue this terrible damage what we’re in try to forestall it by using some scientific method of throwing a bunch of crap into the atmosphere to to to help us.
S1: But I don’t think there is a political solution and I think the time and energy we spend seeking a political solution be better spent saying we need funding massive funding for our indeed massive funding for energy experimentation massive funded funding for ways to make alternative fuels cheaper and thus thus more attractive in the marketplace. The political will is not going to be there we’re not going to have five thousand dollar a tonne carbon taxes. It’s not going to happen. And therefore let’s look to the things that can happen which is possibly innovation and experimentation that make the markets work better. It’s not a hopeless am I am I wrong to give up on politics.
S5: I think you’re wrong. I mean we just the world signed the Paris climate treaty and when you look at the suggestions for you know a kind of gradually rising carbon tax which would make a huge difference if it was adopted on a large scale it’s a sensible measure like it’s it’s within reach in the US for sure. Yes I feel like those political solutions are entirely compatible and indeed necessary for the scientific innovation you’re talking about. You have to put pressure on prices in order to stimulate the kind of you know movement toward renewable fuels and alternatives that are have the potential to make a huge difference and hopefully save us.
S4: Yeah I think the question is are sensible measures possible in the current American political climate on this particular question where sensible is defined as the acts that you would take to ameliorate the effects of something that the current president doesn’t believe exists or that he believes in trying to combat will only hurt all of the constituencies he cares about. And we should also mention of course that the Koch brothers actively fund politicians who take positions in the opposite of the. Of any kind of collective action that would be taken and taken to ameliorate this. But I also am I do agree with Emily which is the the funding for innovation. Also politicians have to vote for that funding and they’re voting for that funding to go to other things at the moment.
S1: Right. But I guess I feel like that’s an easier get lift than than telling people that your your gas is going to cost eight times as much. What do you guys make of the the most persuasive conservative case I’ve ever heard around this.
S9: There for a while there was a conservative case like oh this isn’t really happening don’t worry about it now. The most persuasive case I ever read about it comes from Bjorn Lomborg the Scandinavian economist who argues Yeah this is gonna be terrible. It’s gonna be really bad. Everything’s going to melt it’s all the things that these scientist say is going to happen is going happen. But you know what’s worse is people living in poverty. It’s 300 million Chinese people who live as subsistence farmers rather than living in middle class lives. And that the low cost of energy low priced energy while it causes this tremendous damage the climate and damages is kind of uncertain and it certainly exacts a cost. It also lifts millions and millions of people around the world billions of people around the world and allows them to to get out of a quite terrible economic circumstances.
S5: I mean I. That is a compelling argument I would find it more compelling if indeed that’s where we heard expending all our extra energy costs instead of in the developed world in which we all have these very energy expensive habits that we don’t take a lot of responsibility for. Right. Like I don’t know exactly what the back of the envelope math is. But if you were going to apportion energy use so that it helped people rise out of poverty. But you took it away from people who are already well-off. That would be really different than how we’re spending energy now wouldn’t it.
S10: Yes it would. Yes yes. That’s like an. I think it’s hard.
S5: I mean what I just laid out is a politically impossible scenario to imagine that’s not going to happen.
S11: And so anyway yeah you know we will know in 2030 or 2040 whether these timelines are right or may we’ll know in 2025 if things keep moving if the time line keeps moving up faster. And I wonder if let’s say that all happens you know whether you know President Buchanan gets you know is at the bottom rung of the presidential ordering list because basically people said he didn’t do anything to avert the civil war. I wonder if the catastrophic outcomes that are predicted here are on the horizon the lack of leadership. Well it will be seen in those kinds of grave terms because there really is only the blunt force of the of the public leader can get either of the two solutions that we’ve discussed so far going.
S8: I mean either to move legislation towards pricing carbon or to change the funding so that you inject a lot of money into research laboratories but making coal plants fire up more and helping encourage the use of more coal is not really a solution in keeping with this report.
S1: Yeah well I think John actually there’s a there’s a canard at the initial just even in your premise which is that we already know I’m in New York today we’re all in New York today New York was inundated by Hurricane Sandy which caused billions of dollars in damage. There’s a huge number of people who transit between Brooklyn and Manhattan which is one of the the the most busy river crossings in the world who are about to be inconvenienced for a year because a subway tunnel was flooded. That needs to be repaired their life is going to be manifestly worse and hugely delayed because of this. So so the idea that we don’t already live with it we are living with it it just doesn’t. It’s not. You know that’s a tax that that all New Yorkers are about to bear.
S5: I mean on the scale you know national scale but as part of your problem David exactly what you’re talking about that it’s there but we’ve accommodated it. It’s creeping up on us. Right. So we’re having these extreme weather events more people displaced subway tunnels closing rising sea levels. But it’s happening incrementally in a way that we then adjust to. I mean we haven’t even fixed the national insurance plan that means we rebuild in these coastal areas every time. I wonder if it’s just part of this sort of devilish nature of this particular threat in terms of our inability to really address it.
S1: Yes I mean I think that’s a great point Emily I mean we’ve sort of not at this in previous episodes but there’s a strong case that the entirety of the Syrian civil war and the cascade of of dire consequences that have arisen from it is it is a climate problem that that Syria has become intolerably hot.
S9: It’s too arid. Droughts that the life of that people were expecting to have the kind of middle class life they were spying to became unattainable and that radicalized people and that causes a civil war and that civil war then spills over in the form of refugee flows that cause a wave of right wing populism across Europe that fuels Brexit like that that itself is a is a problem which which is arguably a problem of climate change which we don’t look at as a problem of climate change. But it is. And and you’re right. And we attribute it to something else.
S1: And it makes it even harder to think about. That’s a great question. I have a I have a question for you guys. Which is what do you think it’s what’s our obligation or how do we teach our children about this. Do we teach them that your life is going to be horrible. You’re going to live in a you know rampant disease and a planet you can barely live on. Or do you say here’s a here’s a thing that’s going to be a shadow on your life. But you know your life. You can still have a great life. And and the most of life on earth is still really great.
S6: I mean we can’t do the former. Right. That’s just too discouraging and it’s not age appropriate for kids to feel like their lives are being choked off in that way. And you know there is some uncertainty and I don’t mean to turn myself into a climate skeptic by saying that but I don’t think that’s like a useful way for kids to think about this. I mean I also don’t think they should be dismissing it and ignoring it. So I think sometimes when I talk to my kids we talk about I like their generation is inheriting a lot of big problems. And that’s not fair. But it also means they’re gonna have huge opportunities to do things and solve them and like get out there and make the world a better place. And I feel like that’s something you know young people want to feel like they have agency and so that’s a way of kind of turning this question towards that. John what do you think.
S13: Well I I was thinking about it in two ways One is the next generation and one is the current generation again. Just briefly going back to what presidents do is presidents give people a place to put their anxieties and whether it’s you know I mean I even remember President Obama telling people how to wash their hands during the H1N1 Bird Flu H1N1. Thank you. So obviously that’s purely at the symbolic level but to the extent you have free floating anxiety about things it is a leader’s job to try to marshal energy into one productive direction. So that’s the question you’re asking about. And I agree with Emily. You can’t just save them. Okay
S8: kids hang it up it’s all darkness and terror in the future. But I do wonder how you then structure the argument for Hope which is that what is the structure that exists in that they can get become a part of that will improve things. You know my kids have encouraged us to put solar panels on on the roof. We ended up moving to a thing that doesn’t have.
S14: We currently run. You don’t own your building it hasn’t worked. Where we are now.
S8: But they were you know that was the equivalent of what seat belts were in our generation which is that you know kids encourage their parents to wear seat belts when they hadn’t been doing that before and then smoking for the next generation. We’ve got to do more than that can you. Can you create an argument for the hope that there is a structure to solve these kinds of problems given where the political structure is right now.
S1: You know here’s here’s the only hope that I can think of in that vein John which is that when we were kids they’re hung over all of us the shadow of the possibility of of apocalyptic nuclear war. And I know that many many children I was one of them went to bed every night and and catastrophe sized about nuclear war and what would happen in the event of nuclear war and imagining my own death in a nuclear war which I don’t.
S15: And it was serious scary right. Remember the day it was. Yes it’s like 11:00 at the right. Yes. That show like deeply affected me we talked about it in school the next day continue.
S16: So. So it was hugely affecting in the way that I feel that climate change will be for for my children and the children after them. It’s very hard to imagine that you can do about it. And yet what won that one won the day. It’s not that the risk of nuclear war has vanished is probably higher than it’s been in 20 years right now just because the world is so unsteady. It’s not that the risk of nuclear war vanished but it is the fact that through a very humane positive kind of liberal spread of liberal capitalism and liberal liberal ideas the West won and the kind of existential conflict between communism and the West vanished because we want it.
S17: And I don’t think we can win. We’re not going to win climate change in quite the same way. But what can happen is that if you say OK we’re committed to we’re committed to adjust world we’re committed to reducing our energy use we’re committed to going to sustainability the same way. It just just sort of say like we’re going to act as if our small actions are going to make a difference. It may be that in the end like that that creates political will around the globe. We’ve seen under Trump the fact that American that America’s stepped back from its ideals and that America no longer is a bastion of the ideals that’s originally been has has emboldened these right wing populist movements all over the world and has made a stand. I mean you see it with this murder of this Saudi Saudi journalists like where we’re sitting by and letting people get murdered in a way that we shouldn’t. But I think if we if we can get to a world where the right ideas continue to prosper it may be that we we make progress again on climate in the way that we. Because the right ideas prosper during the Cold War. We made progress on nuclear war. That’s my pipe dream.
S8: The only problem is that there was a consensus on both the left and the right that the threat of nuclear war had to be managed and there were differing wildly differing theories about how to do it. Between Carter and Reagan. But they both believed it needed to be done. And Reagan in fact after he was shot had a kind of vision of this being reducing nuclear weapons is being a signature vision for his presidency because of just the annihilate story power that you described David. And he committed himself to it. And while people will keep even well left and right didn’t like his methods. There was a consensus that the problem existed but this would be as if Reagan came in and said there is no threat from nuclear war and we need to build more more warheads not because you could argue build more warheads to to bankrupt the Soviets but that’s not there’s not an energy equivalent to that. I mean because essentially the president is arguing for a for policies that exacerbate the problem.
S18: And is there a problem too that you know for Reagan railing against the Evil Empire was like an exciting war like thing to do. Right.
S19: There is no human enemy in the same way here that you can claim that you’re defeating and take on the mantle of you know and fighting aggressive bring out all your weapons president.
S12: Right. And there’s also not an ideological cause here one of the things that was so helpful with disarmament or with the nuclear race is that it was the night it was still an ideological struggle between communist the Western freedom human rights and capitalism vs. collectivism and the subjugation of human rights and the lack of freedom in the Soviet Union. And you could bundle all of that together which you can’t in this way. Well you can’t in this case either. And there’s no star wars version you know if President Trump had a kind of I mean I guess carbon sequestration it would be the equivalent. But the president I don’t think he’s ever if he’s ever mentioned it. I don’t remember it. You know in other words there’s not that kind of pie in the sky solution. And I think also people would argue Star Wars actually was it was effective.
S15: But anyway the point is that there isn’t some like magic tool exciting bright shiny new object right.
S1: Same way that a politician could grab on to currently let’s and they’re depressingly oh no we solved that problem.
S18: Didn’t you notice.
S16: Yeah we did. Slate Plus members you get bonus segments on the Gabfest and other Slate podcasts and as part of your membership what you can get by going to slate that complex efforts plus you would hear today a segment we’re gonna do about the terror Westover book educated a wonderful book that all three of us have read in recent months. And we’re going to talk about that. So go to Slate dot com flushed f us plus and sign up today but cabinet with confirmed in a narrow vote and then sworn on to the Supreme Court in a ceremony at the White House. I could not bring myself to watch that ceremony at the White House because it seemed icky but in the weeks since. Since his confirmation that the story in politics has been about the effort by Republicans to turn Cavanaugh’s victory into not just a win of a Supreme Court seat and I would say the prize of a Supreme Court seat is worth an enormous amount of lost political capital. But there’s also tried to turn it into a political victory and something that will galvanize their voters and they’re doing this in part by depicting Democrats and cabinet supporters as an angry mob and depicting the charges against Kavanaugh the sexual assault assault charges allegations brought against him as a despicable hit job. So John as a political measure is this working is is that are we going to look back on the cabinet nomination and see something which in fact with galvanizing for Republican voters and useful for the 2018 midterms and or are we going to look back and see something which which help Democrats and also raised awareness of of sexual assault and the need to speak out about it.
S12: Well both of you have as you say or both. Is is possible. So I guess I would look at it or the questions I’m asking myself are are the following one is short term long term. So there does. There is both reporting and conversations I’ve had with people involved in Republican politics who definitely saw a bump in support among Republicans for candidates. Fundraising was up. There was a rallying effect not only to Kavanaugh in fact well beyond Kavanaugh but to the cultural questions. And we know that cultural issues fire people up more than hey we gave you tax cuts and its culture of grievance not culture of Hey we’re getting what we want. So the question then is does that change the grievance was these moralists on the left are denying us what we want which is the set of policies that Cabinet was going to vote for him on the court but but more directly and in your bones is kind of are they. Is this just the left being moralists and and they’re reminding us of all the things we don’t like about their values that there is real evidence that that was happening both that shows up in the numbers and anecdotally. Now the question is does that lie. How long is that last. Is it already through the news cycle. And then does the president.
S8: The president is going to stoke these fires from now until Election Day. So he has to and we’ve seen him do it on everything from the national anthem to policing policing and his 13. It’s always he’s always going to play the values card somewhere. And so this is this is a nice moment I think of for him politically I think two final things I would say one there. Bret Bret Stephens did write a piece in The New York Times that I thought offered up a possible Lane to how this might be a sustained moment which is that he said for the first time maybe the first time or first time in a long time he appreciated President Trump because here was this blunt powerful force punching and socking the know it all liberals in the nose and he’d like that. And so that is certainly what the president is it’s what he embodies. Could people rally to that idea. I don’t know. But it offered some kind of way in which you could take this moment and then say yeah I like this more broadly for the next thing. The second thing is if there was a benefit to the president well actually let’s forget the second thing because I’ve been talking too much.
S5: So I didn’t read Bret Stephens his column. Is he basically making the owning the Libs is the most important value he’d like the triumph here and worth everything else.
S20: No what he was saying essentially and he listed about eight different things is that he said that the left went so overboard on Kavanaugh that it started to display in big ways abetted by the kind of media circus that surrounded it display all of the things that he doesn’t like about the left and that because it was attached to this very morally charged issue. There was all the sanctimonious and sanctimonious ness on the left he doesn’t like and that really the only way to beat that back was if you have a big force on your side and that that was what he was grateful to have a President Trump for.
S18: Yeah I mean I guess there is some energy behind that and you’re right. The question is how lasting. I mean part of what we’re seeing in the polls is the polarization that often happens before an election right. People start paying more attention things tighten they realize what’s at stake and they go back to their own party or they get motivated to turn out when they were going to stay home.
S15: Exactly. Especially in midterm elections the dynamic you are just talking about is playing more important than what I was saying. It seems to me that looking at the individual races the one that’s most affected by this is the North Dakota Senate race where we see Heidi Heitkamp taking a nose the polls although Nate Silver also pointed out the North Dakota doesn’t get polled very much or very well and so it may be that the softness in her support was there all along. Or maybe it’s being exaggerated now. I find the month before an election to be such a frustrating time for trying to figure out what’s going on because it seems to bounce around in the media narrative you know which right now is this idea of like oh maybe Can I help the Republicans because that’s sort of counterintuitive and interesting. I just can’t tell how deep it goes and whether it’s there are the forces that are at play in fact are deeper. And then I’m also just fascinated by how the gender gap is going to play out because if Republican or independent women turn out and they do what they say they’re going to do in the polls then they should have the force to counter whatever white men are doing and coming home to the Republicans.
S20: The part of this also is the wish being the father of the thought which is that people like Mitch McConnell Hall are saying graves are saying oh this is giving us a big boost and a big injection in order to get people to say Oh I’ve gotten a boost I’ve been injected. So you know that’s a familiar game. Absolutely. And but I think where we’re the Liberals and the Democrats need some where they seem to need a moment is I we tried to book a Democrat on Face the Nation on Sunday after the cabinet confirmation we asked 20 Democratic senators none of them would show. And what’s that about. And I don’t know. I don’t quite know. I mean part could be like they do want to be associated with the loss could be they felt like maybe they did go overboard in the whole Michael of anarchy. You know Michael Abernathy turning this into a circus. They’re not responsible for Michael Abernathy. No but they oversight that they’re not responsible for him but they are responsible for the thing that they may agree had turned into a circus and therefore they didn’t want to be associated with the circus in its in its current moment. And so I don’t know. I mean these are those are two those two things are guesses. But what I would have would have guessed and it seems to me the Democrats need is some body some leader whoever that leader is to step forward and articulate what happened and how it should then be turned into effective action.
S18: Do they need to do that though or do they just need to change the subject and start talking about things like jobs and wage stagnation and policy or health care and Yeah yeah they just somebody needs to step on stage and say this weird this thing happened.
S20: Here’s how to think about it. Here’s how to think next. OK. And off we go. But who is you know that’s not really happening right.
S18: And who would that person be.
S19: I mean I guess it does seem to be the rule of thumb is that whenever elections turn more into being about a culture war that helps the Republicans. And then the question is how to diffuse that in the kind of way you’re suggesting John or just by like having a message that resonates. That is something different.
S15: I do think that this has been like a long for a lot of people like a kind of national nightmare with like a hangover attached to it and the people I will speak for myself I am eager to talk about other things in fact I can’t even believe I let a cabinet topic into the show this week. I’m so ready to move on.
S12: Well we should note that the the obviously the richness of the president talking about mobs when one of the things he’s been quite successful at doing is creating a mob mentality. The chance of lock her up. It was. It was means extraordinary that they were yelling lock her up about Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton after Republicans successfully I think made the case for due process with their their Supreme Court.
S19: And didn’t if you think about using anger as a weapon to make another obvious point. Cabinet did exactly that in his testimony so did many Republicans like Lindsey Graham and rallying to his defense.
S1: Yeah. You know that only white men are allowed to be angry Emily.
S10: I really. You’ve been around long enough to understand that only white men get to express our agreement.
S15: Yeah. And I I thought I kind of knew that and now I feel like my nose is being rubbed in it more and more every day. I still like you guys.
S7: One interesting thing about the House Senate split is that Heidi Heitkamp is a perfect example as Emily pointed out. And the way this bounces in Senate races could be quite different than the way it bounces in House races because a lot of the districts that are up and that are really on the knife’s edge are ones in which you have big suburban voting populations where the women are not as enthused know may vote for the Democrat or may not turn out for the Republican.
S11: And so where the believing Dr. Ford or at least believing accusers is more of them is not something you have to defend in those districts.
S13: Whereas you know in North Dakota at least based on Jonathan Martin’s reporting both in the paper and on the daily you know there where he was running into a lot of people who were saying you know kind of not only pro Kavanaugh but kind of anti this idea that women needed that accusers needed to be automatically believed.
S15: Women are a problem. We are just a problem. Everyone be better off if we just went home and were quiet again.
S1: It’s why. Why do when we talk about the gender divide. We always talk about it as women supporting Democrats and fleeing Republicans. Why isn’t it the other way. To me the gender divide is there’s something really weird and wrong with men that they are so so conservative and so defensive. I guess they’re what you know the Republicans are protecting white privilege and the benefits of being a prosperous white white guy has offered for all these centuries. And so naturally white men tend to sort in that direction. But I guess what I’m saying is the gender divide. Let’s not talk about the gender divide as being something that’s about women. It’s about both groups. Sure.
S19: Good point.
S20: Just quickly either one of you. What do you make of think of the idea articulated both by Michael Abernathy and Eric Holder that that the Eric Holder said you know Michelle Obama’s head when they go low we go high. No that’s not right. That’s not right when they go low we kick them. I was talking to a Republican who said when he saw an avid party was just basically Donald Trump like a guy who who Democrats are angry at because he muddied up that Dr. Ford’s testimony but that haven’t and he could eat clearly say look at least I was out there fighting and then I’m out there fighting for us. And you know who else is out there fighting like this. And remember Donald Trump had an huge embarrassment a national. He was a national clown after the birther ism when you know when he was America’s chief birther and then President Obama released his birth certificate. You know that Donald Trump was a national punchline and he’s now the president. So in other words Avenida if he was seen to have had a problem here that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of your career.
S1: I cannot stand the line ization of amnesty and the comparison to Trump and the idea that that’s the only way to fight. There are plenty of very aggressive very effective combative people on the left. I would say Elizabeth Warren is somebody who every time I hear Elizabeth Warren speak every time I listen to something she said or read something she’s written I’m impressed with how simultaneously aggressive and yet smart and she is. I don’t think the model has to be Donald Trump. You can be a tough minded opponent of what Trump is doing to the country without being exactly like him. And I think Democrats are deluding themselves if they think of a is the solution. The solution is not there. The solution is is someone probably a woman who is is very very tough but not a clown.
S19: That is the lesson from Italy and how Silvio Berlusconi was eventually defeated it wasn’t with another clown it was with someone who was like a sober sides policy wonk kind of candidate. And you know in order to believe the theory that Ivan Audie is like the Trump savior for the Democrats you have to want the Democrats to go off into conspiracy theory irrational land. I would prefer that not happen.
S16: Let us move on. Taylor Swift urged fans to vote in an American Music Awards speech then followed up with an Instagram post to 100 plus million followers urging them to vote to register to vote to go to vote out Oregon sign up to vote. And she herself said she would vote for Democratic candidates in Tennessee Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper for the Senate and House. There has been since a real spike of registrations that vote dawg. The play she point her fans to on the order of 250000 registrants and she did it disproportionately young voters a lot in Tennessee. There is some ambiguity about whether she’s responsible for all of that. There’s the numbers that vote org tend to grow in general the deadlines to to register to vote were approaching and you’d expect a surge. But but I think almost everyone thinks that a significant chunk of that surge can be attributed to Swift. Meanwhile we have Kenya West wearing mega hats and dining at the White House and says he’s saying he loves Trump’s energy. So are swift and w the same. And is there their involvement in politics the same Emily.
S18: I mean they both have political views that they’re expressing. I think Taylor Swift is trying to energize people who might stay home and there is a constituency of people who it seems like she has helped to mobilize and she’s also talking about just like the idea of participating in the political process. Right. I mean I really love the Tracy Ellis Ross and some recent award ceremony was wearing a T-shirt that said I am a voter. And I think just the whole idea of making it seem like part of what you do is a natural act of citizenship United States is like you go to the polls regularly. Like that’s part of being an American. And we should all do it together and hold hands. I. I’m like desperate for that kind of engagement. Here is an idea along those lines which I’m pretty sure comes from my children which is like you know you can have Facebook or various social media platforms make something that you put on your back screen or like on the back of your profile photo like the rainbow flag at a moment where LGBTQ rights is in the news whatever like let’s have something like that for voting so that people identifying as voters on social media in a way that then like makes that the thing that you’re supposed to do it just like normalizes it and makes it seem appealing.
S21: John my sense is that Taylor Swift had a disproportionate impact because she’s white because a lot of people on the right secretly thought she was one of them or maybe not so secretly thought she was one of them. And she’s been very guarded about her views she’s never she’s never spoken out much politically I think a lot of people thought that was because she might be secretly quite conservative and so that it was that there was a surprise factor there to do. First of all do you think this to the amount of registration seem inordinate to you. And do you think that that anyone else could have had such an impact.
S8: I don’t know that anybody else could have had an impact. I mean part of the impact of course was bombed by bumped up by the fact that 18 states had some type of registration deadline on Tuesday. So there was a lot of including Tennessee. So there was a lot of you know there’s a lot of umph that came not just from her but it was a known. You know it’s a lot of fun. Now the thing is once you’re registered then are you actually going to go vote. And that kind of thing. So we’ll just we’ll just have to see. I’m I was actually surprised it was as big as it was as it was. Did that. Was that because people had a previous notion of what her views were. I don’t know. Probably more was just that she has this enormous hold over the culture. And people really listen. But what does that mean listening you know. And how many people who registered would not have otherwise have registered. And do they go to the polls. Yeah. And the big one and then of course is do they go to the polls usually when you pull out celebrities it doesn’t really matter except when you can get them to come to your rally. And then when they go to the rally you get the people who came to the rally just to see the celebrity and then you know you never let them go until you walk them to the polls basically. And that’s that didn’t happen here. On the other hand depending on the state you’re in there may you know they will seem to who the new registrants are and you know and if they can mobilize enough.
S12: It’s tricky in a nonpresidential you know maybe it’ll maybe it’ll maybe it’ll matter. One other thing is that voters who registered have to register in the right states and districts for it to matter. So you had to see is this fantasy will matter although Bredesen is now down by a lot. But we’ll see where things are in a week. But I like five. Yeah I guess I was thinking I was sorry I was thinking more of Heitkamp is down by 10. So yeah he’s down he’s down by in single digits.
S4: But anyway. So it just state that people have to register in the right places for it to matter.
S9: Republicans tend to be ambivalent about celebrities basically because there aren’t many celebrities who are conservative Democrats really do love them. But Trump is sort of the exception Trump desperately wants celebrities to support him.
S21: But of course they don’t and that it kind of drives him crazy and so whenever he finds one that does it he he gets very excited as with Kenya. I think one of the things that I find charming about Taylor Swift actually who I whose music I used to love and now I don’t like all her new music but whatever.
S9: But one of things I find her intensely charming about her is that she her story is in a sense the story of of America or story of women it’s that she she is sort of representing a rural ideal. Her music is a country it’s a very conservative genre. She’s living in Tennessee. She’s writing songs about boys and trucks and then she moves to New York and becomes a liberal separate and now now represents sort of all these urban urban culture as opposed to the rural culture that she built her career on. And so with her it’s dance music triumphing over country music.
S15: I’m not sure I really like that theory of America because it’s like country music can keep triumphing. But I take your point about Taylor Swift.
S9: I mean I would much rather at the country music triumph I would I would be thrilled if all she did was record country songs.
S19: But yeah I like her country songs. I was going to make a different sort of learning point based on reporting I did after the 2016 election which is when I was interviewing women who’d voted for Trump women who’d gone to college and lived in Pennsylvania. They were really pissed off at Katy Perry as the celebrity who’d come out for Hillary Clinton and just felt like Hey who do you think buys your music.
S5: And you know why are you telling me I’m wrong and why are you telling me what to do it all. So I wonder if it’s possible there could be a kind of backlash although on the other hand the fact that Swift wasn’t talking at all about Trump and was instead talking about the Senate and Congress could insulate her from having that unintended effect.
S12: And I was one when you were talking about putting voting up on your on your Facebook page I was thinking through what it means to essentially make registering to vote what is implicit in that is that you are a Democrat or that you are anti Trump but you know you shouldn’t churn should be about process and participation. But isn’t that what it’s coming. Isn’t that what it in some of these cases. That’s what it means. I mean that’s what everybody you’re hearing is hearing her say well because she endorsed Democrats right.
S19: I guess what I’m trying to do is separate them out a little bit. But you’re right.
S10: The way she dealt but also it’s attached. I mean everyone is hearing her say that even if she didn’t endorse a Democrat she just said vote that these days that actually does signal Democrat because well demagogues tend to do just fine when you young people to vote and young people are disproportionately liberal.
S9: And because the Republican Party has made this really conscious effort to limit voting across the board and make it more difficult for people to vote. So when you encourage people to vote it is in fact a political statement.
S5: And yet at the only time I think we need to hold onto the idea that voting is not a poll asking people to vote is not a partisan act it is about improving and strengthening the democracy no matter how you vote. I think that’s crucial to hang on to and all of this.
S21: The only celebrity I want to hear from now is the rock. I want the rock to come out and say something. I feel like the rock the rock could move mountains. That’s my hope.
S22: All right. We’ll see what happens David.
S9: You’re on your own but OK let us go to cocktail chatter. So I have some dire news to report. DFS listeners which as I was talking last week about my new Martini habit this martini habit has become very dangerous. So I may have to completely shift. I’ve I’ve now had like three martinis before dinner this past week and they’re so good.
S10: And wait it’s three on one day going to be Academy days. No. 3 and No 3. No I’m enjoying it so much. I’m worry about how much Miller I just need to get back before dinner.
S22: That is like good thing people have done for generations anyway. Sorry. If you want to beat yourself up about your one martini three nights in one week.
S9: Go ahead well then one of them I followed with a jello shot at the bar was that was apologizing for being late with my drink.
S14: I want to know all about this guy. It’s just chatter gab Deville gabfest listeners I’m shattering down my clock. I should mark this seriously.
S10: All right fine. John what’s your chatter.
S7: My chatter could be totally apocryphal and it’s so it’s so kind of sentimental that it probably is in this world of of falling shadows and coldness and darkness. But nevertheless it’s from I saw and I found it on Twitter too which is like another thing that does not recommend it. But it is a it’s a it’s any missed connections on Craigslist and you should just read it. You can find it on Uber facts dot com which is the site I don’t even know but it is about a chance meeting in 1972 from a Vietnam veteran and a woman who was having issues with her fiance say and how is this Vietnam vet says it changed his life. And so even if it is totally apocryphal and made up the the idea that somebody would put energy into trying to create this kind of story which is basically formed around the salvation and saving power of human connection even when it’s in short brief moments seems to me to be something that’s worthwhile even if you don’t even if the specific mis connection here is not it turns out not to be true love as what is your chatter.
S5: I was so heartened this morning by a project that just went up in the New York Times called this is 18 times sent photographers all over the world to take pictures of young women turning 18 and do interviews with them about their lives about their hopes their ambitions their fears for the world. It’s just amazing to see these totally varied people from all over the place at the cusp of adulthood thinking through what it means to be a girl kind of on the verge of womanhood right now. It was just the shot in the arm that I needed I recommended.
S1: I think NY Times dot com slash This is 18 my chatter also inspirational a book by a man named James must which I hope I’m pronouncing it right. It’s called a thousand books to read before you die. And I know you’re thinking No I’ve seen those thousand things before before dying before. I don’t want it. This is wonderful. He’s a a reader of such joy and buoyancy.
S17: He’s not one of these crabbed people lording it over you or condescending about how much more he knows than you or pedantic. He has compiled over nine hundred forty eight magnificent pages well illustrated great books of fiction and nonfiction the high and the low. There’s a Dan Brown book on there. My God the DaVinci Code is in there the familiar and the highly unfamiliar and he has a real knack for recognizing what in a book is wonderful it is about as good a bathroom book read as I can imagine it. It’s so much fun. He’s a he’s a spirit. You want to spend time with so please check out a thousand books to read before you die.
S18: David Plotz How many of your books have you already read.
S1: How many of those books if I already read a lot fewer than I thought I would probably bet 150 maybe.
S20: Is is it a book itself or is an article.
S4: It’s a book. It’s a book book about books. It’s a book about books. Yeah. All right. Says that make it thousand one.
S10: He didn’t say you have to read his book did he.
S20: But you won’t know how to read the other thousand without having read his How do you put that in the conundrum.
S10: Oh my God. Exactly. You done you’ve done. I want to talk about my martinis.
S14: I’d rather talk to you. I’m done with my nit pick. Let’s talk about Darrell West over his book educated.
S1: Also this week we have a great crop of listener chatters. You guys are tweeting them to us at Slate gab fest and some of you are putting me on Facebook at facebook icon’s lashed out fest where something you have found wonderful interesting and fascinating troubling. Something worthy of discussion when you’re having your seventh Martini with me. So Sarah and Eckhart via Facebook sent us a link to a really weird wonderful story in the Washington Post which is a story about some thieves who stole 7000 items from a Philadelphia museum and you’re like oh how can you steal 7000 items from a Philadelphia museum. Those 7000 items were living insects. They stole all these rare living insects from this museum which presumably these insects will then be passed on to collectors who like to own weird hissing cockroaches and find it hard to get them otherwise.
S21: And the idea that there’s this massive bug theft was totally weird and enthralling and I hope those thieves get caught or that they get bitten a lot if they get stung and bitten and and then return those insects to whence they came.
S3: That is our show for today. The Political Gabfest is produced by Joslyn Frank our researcher is Bridget Dunlap. You should follow us on Twitter at Slate gab fest and tweet some cocktail chatter at us. There’s a new head of Slate podcasting. Gabriel Roth congratulations. STEVE Look Ty heads off to a great new job at NBC and MSNBC. We wish him the best of luck and we welcome Gabe as our new overlord. Anything we can do to please you Gabe. We will do for Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson and David Plotz. Thanks for listening. Come to our conundrum show on December 12th in New York. Go to sleep that complex life for tickets.
S23: We will talk to you next week and we’ll see you when we do conundrums in December. Bye bye.
S1: Hello Slate Plus how are you today at Emily’s urging. We’re gonna talk about a book that all three of us have read. I think John read it first because he interviewed the author on his show at some point and then I read it after that. And now Emily has read it but called educated by Tara Westover Emily. Why did you want to talk about this today.
S5: This book really got me in such a good way. I had it for months because I know John recommended it and people gave it to me. I resist. This is embarrassing. I am an author of non-fiction. I actually resist reading non-fiction and I resist memoir and though just brief descriptions of this book didn’t appeal to me either it’s like about this girl growing up in Ennis survivalist family in Idaho it sounded kind of like weird and maybe a little lurid. It’s such a well written special special book Because Tara Westover is a beautiful writer and is incredibly honest. I mean I really felt like I hadn’t read that degree of honesty and perception about someone writing about their own family. I can’t remember the last time. So yeah.
S12: JOHN Yeah adding. Yeah yeah yeah yeah absolutely. And also part of I think one of the problems and one of the things I was the reason I was so pulled into the book and we interviewed her on CBS This Morning and then I talked to her for 45 minutes afterwards for our podcast is that the kind of quick and dirty is like I grew up in a survivalist kind of fundamentalist Mormon family and you kind of feel like you already know the story right. She escaped but the the the the writing is is so well done both in the structure of the book but then also the most interesting relationship is really with her brother and the and the carefully crafted view into a push pull relationship with somebody who is clearly abusive but to whom she was drawn both for it’s kind of more standard reasons and then also because of the religious upbringing that she was in and she took get took lots of chances lots of great description she happened to sort of I mean her father was ran a junkyard. So the images of playing during the day by running through all of this basically sharp twisted rusting metal was also great. The mountain is used I thought quite quite effectively Yeah. So it was a I agree it was cool to see the care in telling what was also then and then also her own extrication from that intellectually felt more universal than the spirit specificity of the story might suggest.
S21: Yeah I thought it was an amazing wonderful book. Everyone I know who’s read it feels this way. It’s so vivid and actually one of the things that I really loved about it is that she is not a journalist by training she isn’t a journalist at all but she she used journalistic techniques so so much of what’s interesting about the book is that kind of self fact checking wreck checking her recollection against those siblings and being honest about where they diverge is makes it all the more persuasive. The fact that there’s that there’s so much ambiguity in this in this post blast forward world where we know that that your perception of how something happened and how it did happen and what you hold from it is is very uncertain sometimes and there are certain facts that you know and certain things you don’t. That puts wonderful there’s actually just in that vein do you guys listen to the podcast.
S18: Heavyweight Oh my God I was just going to say and that reminds me of Jonathan Goldstein in heavy weight who’s always mining this territory right and which facts that are your sort of family or friend mythology are lost to time like I mean Jonathan figures out how to confirm them or you know reveal the truth sometimes. But the basic lesson of the show and this is true I think about Westover is telling of these incidents.
S6: David you’re right where she recounts what she remembers and then there’ll be a long footnote about how one of her brothers or one of her siblings had a different memory of it and she’s just literally not sure. And she writes about that and I think that heavy weight is the way it does an amazing job with that same kind of material and it makes you realize that that is true about our own lives.
S13: And that’s the that’s it feels universally universal about her description is that there’s a meta thing going on here too which is that the structure of the way she’s written it is crucial to one of the central themes in the book which is who is in control of your memory and your history and when people tell you when the word gaslighting is being used all the time these days. But there is a lot of gaslighting going on about you know so what is your actual truth when everybody around you is saying your truth is something different. How do you fact check that and how do you fact check it in a world where people have just the normal immutability of memory but also where people have real motivated reasoning and memory making all of which is not just about oh do we disagree about whether we had tomato sandwiches or not. It’s about whether your identity is something you have any control over which is acutely at issue in this piece in this book but also something for all of us to figure out when we figure out who we are and who gets to define who we are.
S9: Yeah I mean I would just say going back to the heavyweight point if this is a subject that interests you that this week’s episode of heavy weight which is about Rob Corddry the comedian who’s an old friend of Jonathan Goldstein is trying to figure out if he broke his arm as a child get to exactly. It gets to the motivated reasoning question it gets to your how your identity is shaped by your memories and by other people’s memories of you and how that fit how you fit into a social world based on what those memories are. It’s it’s great. I mean it’s not as good as this book but it’s it’s a fantastic episode.
S19: Also themes. I loved it and I’m particularly fascinated by narratives in a family where family members and especially siblings have deeply invested memories that are at odds with each other because it I mean this happens in.
S5: In that episode about Rob Corddry and even more so and educated that people basically like go to war over these things because it comes becomes core to their identity and how they see themselves and it can be a story about something that happened to you or can be your rendering of story that happened to someone else in your family because your understanding of that becomes like your role in the family. Anyway I think it’s all just fascinating stuff.
S21: All right. Check out educated definitely go read a wonderful book by Terry Westover goodbye Slate Plus.