S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Enjoy this episode of The Gabfest contains explicit language.
S2: Hello and welcome to the Slate Political Gabfest for July 2013, 2020. The Invading America edition. I am David Plotz, a Business Insider.
S3: I’m in Vermont for one final one, final bucolic Green Week. I am joined from Charlottesville, Virginia. Sitting in for John Dickerson, Jamelle Bouie. Jamal, I want you first. Even though Emily’s here because you were just doing something super weird with your camera, and I got freaked out and you were attacking your camera. Hello. Jamelle Bouie, New York Times columnist. Hello. Thank you for having me. And joining us from New Haven, Connecticut, of course, of the New York Times magazine and Yale University Law School.
S4: Emily Bazelon. Hello, Emily.
S5: Hello. I have one criticism, although it’s really too early in the show for that. But I can’t believe that you passed up the opportunity to call the show person, woman, man, camera, TV.
S6: That’s true. I couldn’t I just couldn’t remember it. Definitely the person woman Mad Gamora, TV addition. And yes, I just repeated it for bonus points.
S3: But I wanted to know when I heard that this, of course, is the President Trump who cannot stop talking about this mental acuity test that he, quote unquote, aced. And he gave the example of person, woman, man, camera, TV is that you have to are given five words. You have to repeat them. Those surely were not the five words you were given. Those are just the words, the first words that he thinks of her person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV, right.
S5: I just wish that he was giving equal thought and attention to like the corona virus pandemic as he’s giving into his mental acuity test.
S6: I don’t know that that’s that’s just a fraction there.
S7: I was just gonna disappear. You see, you don’t got to worry about his benish.
S6: You don’t have to remember a million cases later on today’s gab fest.
S3: We are not going to talk about the mental acuity tests. We’re talking about the presidential invasion of Portland, Oregon, his attempt to manufacture civil war or civil disturbance in order to win the election. Then, should Democrats scrap the filibuster if they win the White House and the Senate and the House? And then the father of the vicious, dehumanizing partisan politics of today was arguably Newt Gingrich. We will talk to Julian Zelizer, the author of a book about Newt’s rise to discuss his role as the father of the modern Republican Party. Plus, of course, we will have cocktail chatter. So, Jamal, you wrote this paragraph this week, a secret of nationwide police force created without congressional input or authorization form from highly politicized agencies tasked with rooting out vague threats and answerable only to the president is a nightmare out of the fever dreams of the founding generation federalists and anti federalists alike. It’s something Americans continue to fear and for good reason. It is a power that cannot and should not exist in a democracy, lest it undermine and destroy the entire project. And yet in Portland, we are seeing something a little bit like that. Yes.
S8: Yes. In Portland there is. They mean administration is teaching federal police force that has been cobbled together for a bunch of different agencies within within the Department of Homeland Security. The statutory justification for this is that one of the services, the Federal Protection Service, is tasked with defending federal buildings. And so there’s been vandalism and graffiti at the federal courthouse in Portland. And so DHS, directed by Acting Secretary Head Wolf, sends the Federal Protective Service to defend this building. But it’s what you can also do is you can assign unit assigned personnel from other federal law enforcement agencies to bolster another service. And so they’ve gotten personnel from Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I think the Transportation Security Agency and they’ve also sent them to Portland all, you know, in camouflage and tactical gear to basically act as an anti protester force. Because that’s the interesting thing, right, is that the federal building, the federal courthouse, you know, only takes up so much space. I was just in Portland a couple of months ago, actually, and I have like a pretty good memory of of the geography of the area in downtown Portland. And it’s not really a ton of space, but the federal police force is basically creating a large perimeter around the courthouse and using it as a place from which they tear gas protesters. And the point, as you mentioned, David, as you said, is basically to generate images for the president’s campaign to say that cities are under are under siege by radical extremists and the president is restoring law and order.
S3: Emily, there are two different threads around the disorder. I mean, using that word and high quotes, the disorder in cities. One is what we see in Portland where there have been seven weeks of protests arising out of. Black Lives Matter. George Floyds murder and where protests have continued even as they subsided, perhaps in other cities, then secondarily or relatedly or in parallel, there is a significant, potentially sudden significant uptick in violence in cities. How should we think about these two things? Are they related? And and what President Trump is doing is, in fact, conflating these two things and and and sending federal troops, central federal agents, to be involved in both of those issues?
S1: Yeah, I don’t think we know enough yet to know why this uptick in shootings and in some cities homicides is happening. You know, it’s happening after this historic decline in this kind of violence, which has gone on for a really long time. The chief difference between this year and all other years seems to me to be the corona virus pandemic and the lockdowns and coming out of the lockdowns. But I just think it’s too early to know. And when criminologists look at, you know, week over week or month over month crime data, they often say that like it’s just it just is noisy or just inconclusive. So I’m going to reserve judgment about that. It’s possible there is some type of the protests. The theory for that, which is a popular one, is that when police violence, you know, particularly shootings of unarmed black people, goes viral and then there’s a wave of protests that then the police feel pressure to stand down and they don’t just stand down in appropriate ways. They also back off of crime fighting and then that, like, emboldens the criminals. That’s a popular idea from like the Ferguson effect from years ago. It was mostly debunked, although I think the city of Baltimore is a kind of counter example in a complicated way. But in any case, what’s happening now with the Trump administration and this effort, you know, whatever like sincere efforts there are to figure out what to do about crime in cities. This is not that like Jamal said. I mean, this is primarily a photo op. It’s a show of strength. And what I keep thinking about is how it’s it does have this fascist element. I mean, you have these officers from the federal government, they don’t have name tags. They’re like whisking people into unmarked cars. That’s scary. The people to whom that’s happening are experiencing that in a truly fear driving way. And yet, at the same time, it all feels like a kind of caricature. And like this is all just about making television ads. And I mean, that does not make the first part of it. Okay. But it makes it like hard to quiet. I don’t know. I just have trouble totally getting it. Jamal, what do you think about that?
S8: Yeah, I’ve been I’ve been grappling with this, too, because, you know, there is there are there are these two different elements. The first and the thing that I find the thing that really is worrisome, right. Is that basically the administration has figured out through creative use of existing law how to create a domestic security force, the domestic internal security force. And critically, it’s not one with any accountability to elected officials other than the president. It is you know, when people say secret police, they don’t mean police that you do you ever see on video or whatever. What they mean is a police force, which is formerly unaccountable to the public who has lines is such a great point, is such a great point. All right. Whose lines of accountability, lines of authority are opaque, that even if you were a congressperson. Right. And you wanted to figure out who exactly is responsible for making, you know, for the decision to whisk away protesters, unmarked vehicles, you would have a hard time figuring that out. And that’s what it’s but that’s what it means to be a secret police. And then so the administration figured out how to build this from existing law. And it’s very clear, and I didn’t quite get into this entirely in my column. But it’s you know, other people have noted this over the years, over the past couple of years, that the primary agencies here, Customs and Border Patrol and ICE, are highly politicized and very much believers in the Trump mission, not in the kind of loyalty to the federal government way, but a specific loyalty to President Trump. And so it’s a personal security force for the president. And that is bad. And even if it’s being used for campaign photo ops, the fact that we now know the power exists is the scary thing. But then also it’s also clear that the public isn’t really buying it. Right. And so, you know, in Portland, they start whisking people off the street and all of a sudden a bunch of, like middle aged white ladies show up in mass to protest and you don’t. Get that when you have, like, the middle behind you, right? You don’t, you don’t. That’s not what happens when the public is supporting what you’re doing. And it’s pressure of seeing what happening in Portland would happen at Lafayette Square. What was it two months ago that there’s a show of force by the federal government and the reaction from the public is this is unacceptable.
S3: The a couple of points, one tube to climb on to things you were just saying about one is what we’re talking about, internal security, Department of Internal Security, internal security. Those are those internal security is a phrase I associate entirely with dictatorships like that. Is it that is it a term that dictatorships use as a way of controlling a populace is internal security, and that’s what we’ve developed.
S4: Another point to add on to your notion that these are totally unaccountable is the provisional nature of all the Trump appointees. This is a an active DHS secretary never approved by the Senate, not even like his name.
S5: He hasn’t even nominated. They haven’t nominated someone for some like hundreds of days itself. Unprecedented. Go ahead and end.
S4: The person who’s most in charge of this seems to be on a daily basis is Ken Cuccinelli. Who, Jamelle, you published his whole title in in your column and I don’t have in front of me. But it’s remarkable to Ken Cuccinelli has not been approved for for this role by anybody. And he has he’s he’s the acting provisional, inconsequential. I mean, very consequential. You know what?
S8: Maybe you have the title guy doing the duties of the acting’s the. I put it in there. I was hope. I hope people laughed at that. And it’s very silly. But.
S3: And yet. Yeah. So these people are not it’s not only that they report directly to the president, their portrait of the president president have not been approved for these roles by Congress.
S4: So Congress not only can’t find this information, these are not people Congress never voted on. It’s Congress has never considered their record, their capacity to do this job. Why, Emily, do you think that Republicans who are so adamant about states rights and other occasions are so quiet about it wouldn’t at this moment and so adamant about the jackbooted thugs are so quiet about it? You have the governor of Oregon, the attorney general of Oregon, the both senators of Oregon, the mayor of Portland, all of whom say we do not want what is happening happening here. We do not want these federal officials. And yet there is no acknowledgement of that, no respect of that from the federal government. Why? Why are more conservatives not sympathetic to that?
S1: I mean, it is ever thus. This is become a partisan issue to Republicans in Washington, just like every other issue that President Trump creates as a kind of spectacle. I have another question I’ve been wondering about when you look at the statutory authority that the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department are claiming. It looks pretty broad. I mean, basically, if you have federal property, federal officers can show up and protect it. And if a federal officer says that they’re under threat, then that becomes its own excuse for more federal show of force. Is this just a really bad idea? I mean, we have learned in the Trump administration so many times that the president has his broad emergency powers or broad plenary powers in other ways. And we have relied in the past on a kind of basic notion of executive stewardship, that if you really wanted to help in a city like Portland where there were these weeks of protests, or you really wanted to try to address violence in a city like Chicago where it’s rising, that you would work in tandem with local officials, there are ways to do this that are actually helpful. And yet that is so at odds with the approach of the Trump administration that it just makes me start to feel like our balance of federal and state and local power needs to be adjusted legally because these norms are just not sufficient.
S6: Well, I want to go there. Janelle’s going to agree with me, I think. Go ahead. I would agree.
S8: I think that’s basically right. It’s sort of part of the. So I have been on this year long, kind of deep dive into revolutionary era America. I’ve built out a little library for myself and I’ve spent a lot of time reading not just, you know, the framers in the federalist sense, but the anti federalists and sort of the the opponents of the Constitution. And on both sides at the time of the founding period, there is this really robust debate about executive power, about the ability to use the call up a military force, call up militias. But all these things and there’s things into which somewhat inherent into the conception of the executive as designed, is quite amount of authority with regards to military force and to policing power. I think there’s an extent. 1794. Right. Washington calls up the militia to go put down a tax revolt. So is the thing. These things have always kind of been there. But, Emily, you’re right that they’ve depended generally on a sense of responsibility and a sense of stewardship and a recognition that this really is a last resort kind of thing, that this isn’t something you just turn to. And, you know, the whole point of having a singular executive is to find individuals who have kind of a sense of forbearance, of responsibility to use these things wisely. And what we’re finding with Trump is that that’s just like not a thing we can count on anymore. And so there’s been a recent there’s been more and more discussion recently about, say, dismantling the Department of Homeland Security. And I think part of what’s driving the discussion, in addition to the things we’re seeing on the ground is, I think, a growing recognition that if we cannot count on electing individuals who will responsibility to use the powers given to them, that we just have to take the powers away, that there’s sort of no there’s no other middle ground there because it’s clear that someone like Trump, someone like A.G. Barr, who don’t seem to really have any fundamental respect for limits, are going to take what they’re given and run with it.
S1: I think I’d say in favor of that proposition is that we seem to be pretty good as a nation at responding to what feels to us like emergencies. It’s not like it took a long time after 9/11. Well, in this sense, like we overresponse, right? I mean, we’re I mean.
S3: I mean, Emily, we’re the we’re in the midst of the worst pandemic in world history in American history.
S6: And we’ve responded so poorly that we put actually under eye our authority to say this.
S5: But, you know, said that was your of course, right about that. Here’s what I bet. Here was what was in my small piece.
S1: I’d read what I said, that I was thinking of 9/11 and our kind of overreaction towards surveillance and additional police powers and indeed creating the Department of Homeland Security. So, yes, I guess the distinction I make is between logistically tricky, long running, super unsexy problem of pandemic, which requires just like rolling up one’s sleeves and good government and a kind of terrorism driven crisis like 9/11.
S3: I wouldn’t have said that the response to 9/11, you know, covered us with gold leaf and.
S5: No, no, that’s not my point. Not that we did it. Well, it’s not I’m not saying that we did it right. I’m saying that, like, when we need to give the president and the federal government more powers, we go beyond that very quickly. Like it’s not as if we need to have this big loaded weapon in the form of extra statutory authority for the president lying around because we can’t get our act together to overreact in a moment like we do, that we know how to do that in a moment. That’s my only point. Not that we’re doing it right, just that we do move quickly and strongly in those moments. That’s it.
S8: Maybe another way of putting it is that the U.S. should a security state has very well-defined pathways for rapidly expanding power along these kinds of lines. Right. If you need to requisition one hundred billion dollars to build new weapons, new ships hold up, you know, carrier battle group and list people. We can do that very quickly because not only are the institutional pathways there, but politically over the past 50 years, if you’ve basically, like, shaped the state, the people that do these things very effectively.
S5: That was in fact my point, even though I didn’t say any of those words.
S8: We haven’t done that with the pandemic or with with anything related to, you know, health and welfare. Right. Not just the pandemic or any crisis involving people’s lives. We cannot do that. And we haven’t. But we have done it here. And so that’s sort of the problem.
S3: The last theme on this. Jamal, you touched on this a little bit earlier, but maybe, Emily, you you finish us out. I’m curious how you guys think this plays out politically. To me, the most important moment of this federal invasion was the wall of moms. Is this the counter reaction from Middle-Class Urban Women of Portland who said, you know what, we’re just going to get out there and we’ve come up with a catchy name where we’re moms and we’re going to dress like moms and wear some matching shirts and get between the protesters and these federal troops and kind of dare the feds to tear gets us, which they probably did. Do you think, Emily, that as a political matter, the disorder narrative that President Trump is trying to gin up is is. Primary or the regular Americans standing up and and resisting a kind of grotesque overreaction from an out-of-control president is the it’s going to be the dominant narrative which which you think wins this politically.
S1: I think the wall of moms wins. And here’s my argument for why. So, first of all, I wonder if this feeling of federal invasion in Portland is actually going to succeed in uniting a city that was bitterly divided before the feds showed up. Now everybody has a common enemy and driving it out is something that everybody can get behind. The second reason I think that the wall of moms has the edge is that when you look at the campaign as a Trump has already put out where he is like showing images from Port Clinton and then trying to link them to like Joe Biden’s America. So first of all, actually, this is Donald Trump’s America. This is not happening while Biden is president. And also, I just imagine that to the suburban and rural voters who Trump is really needs to reach. This feels pretty remote, like it used to be that when crime rose in cities that affected a lot of white middle class people directly. Now, real crime is incredibly concentrated. I mean, this is a bad thing, but it’s concentrated in mostly black and Latino neighborhoods in cities. And I just feel like there’s a way in which suburban and rural people have already kind of separated themselves from it, that this particular effort to make everybody really scared. Like, if you have to choose between what feels like a real threat to your life, is it that your school is closed? And, you know, everything is so not back to normal in pandemic America, or is it that, like President Trump is trying to make you scared about law and order in the streets of Chicago? It just doesn’t seem like a close call to me.
S8: Just to add to that real quickly. Trump is very clearly operating from an image of like the middle American. That from 1960 to 1970. But the middle American opportunity. They’re not even necessarily college educated. There they’re maybe a white person, maybe a black person ability in a person living in the suburbs in a medium sized metropolitan area. That is by, as we can see from polling, basically sympathetic to the protests like this isn’t you have the protesters aren’t really out of the mainstream here. They may have even participated in something. There’s a survey that’s would be like upper to 15 million Americans protested for George Foyt. So the middle American right now could maybe imagine themselves or their kid on the streets protesting. And then they’re seeing Trump send federal police officers to teargassed them. It’s just not a not a message that works. And when you consider that the military, the actual real military is like openly saying this is this we do not like police officers dressed like us. Please stop this. Like when you have former Homeland Security secretary saying this is bad, please stop it. Right. You quickly see how the administration actually is very politically isolated here and there’s not really any traction for this kind of message.
S3: I, I always think of Mike Pence as being the the signal in all of this is like, is Mike Pence close to this issue?
S9: Because Mike Pence, if an issue is going to advantage a Republican, advantage him and later he will be close to it. And if it’s not, he gets away. And I have not seen him around. You know, speaking up for the invasion of Portland, which makes me think he thinks it’s a bad idea, which makes me think it will probably backfire.
S1: Let’s think it’s mind the perent tense rollercoaster of politics.
S3: Yeah. He’s so good at protecting his own interests. That guy, Slate plus members, you get bonus segments on the Gabfest and other Slate podcasts. And today we’re going to discuss who is the greatest living American, John Lewis, who just died. In my mind, he was, you know, easily like it became clear, like that was he was the greatest living American at the time of his death. And now we have to decide who is the greatest living American. So like dot com slash DFS plus to become a member today. Emily, should Democrats scrap the filibuster if they succeed in winning the White House and majorities in the House and Senate in November? They are expected certainly to hold the House majority, barring something strange. But now it’s looking like a Senate majority may be within reach. Should they scrap the filibuster? If they do?
S1: Yeah. If they can’t pass big legislation, they should. I mean, I have never been a fan of the filibuster. I don’t like the idea that you need 60 votes in the Senate to pass legislation. I just don’t believe in it. I wish that our system would move closer to our parliamentary system where a party or a coalition gets voted into power and then has a real shot at enacting and executing its agenda. And then if people don’t like it, they can vote them out. Now, obviously, like this is a strategy with risks. It would have meant, you know, more Republican legislation. If Mitch McConnell had gotten rid of the filibuster, they would have repeal the Affordable Care Act, presumably. But I kind of feel like once you’re in power, you should be able to show the voters what it is that you signed, what they signed up for, and then they can decide whether they want it or not. Whereas in this country, we have this gridlock that turns into a way of kind of deflecting accountability and a lot of sclerosis in our political structure. And I think for a lot of American voters, there’s some appeal to this because it’s stability. So, David, maybe you’re going to speak up for that because it has a kind of like small C conservative valence to it. But I just feel like if Joe Biden comes in with a majority in the Senate and he can’t convince Republicans to go along with what the country may be desperately in need of at that point, you know, huge amounts of aid to state and local governments. A much better health care system. Climate change legislation, et cetera, et cetera. People are going to want to see results. And the notion that because we have this rule that really, like in the modern era, dates from 1917 and only became highly used, you know, as a tool against the civil rights movement in the 60s. I just don’t think that history is enough to keep around this particular instrument of the Senate.
S9: Just one point on the timing, Emily, though, they have to make this decision before they find out if the Senate is going to be the Republicans in the Senate would be completely obstructionist like they you make the decision at the start of the session when you vote on the rules. And so they have to anticipate, ah. Do we think we can get some kind of coalition governing, governing coalition where Republicans will not block everything we do or do we just have to accept that they will behave the way they behaved during the last years of the or during the Obama presidency? I think you have to assume they’re going to behave the way they behaved in the Obama presidency. You can’t you can’t wait to see whether they’re going to act out of goodwill or not. That is not a luxury they have. They have to make a decision now. Jamal, is there. What is that? Is there any case for keeping it?
S8: I think the strongest case for keeping it is what what Emily gestured towards, which is this idea that you actually don’t want rapid swings in governance. You want some stability. You want the construction of large coalitions of people. I was recently involved in a conversation with a couple political philosophers, and someone mentioned that you want to aim you want to try to build super majority coalitions even if you don’t need them. And I think that I don’t think that should be dismissed. The thing I would probably say in response to that is that the filibuster, a filibuster. I don’t think it’s necessary for doing that. It is entirely possible to build broad coalitions. And in fact, you could also argue that, you know, if 55 Democrats vote for something, given sort of the geographic and demographic diversity of like a Senate Democratic majority, you would have that broad coalition. If you think of things in terms not of just in terms of partisanship, but in terms of kind of who actually is being represented. There you go. But even if you’re thinking turned to partisanship, I guess that’s really the case, that you need the filibuster to build those coalitions. I think the filibuster might actually be an impediment to that because it it incentivizes obstruction in knowing how an obstruction actually works out. It incentivizes simply not working together at all with the majority if in hopes of, you know, waiting it out a couple of years and being able to get the power for yourself. There’s another thing the filibuster does. And we see we’ve seen it over the past couple of years. That is really underrated. And that is because the filibuster of the legislative filibuster essentially ensures that any policy change of any kind requires a supermajority in the Senate. You can kind of promise things as a lawmaker, knowing full well that you’re never really going to be able to do them. And I that’s what I consider the Obamacare repeal. I do the entire. Story of Obamacare repeal, basically of Republicans making a promise to their voters again and again and again that they’re going to repeal Obamacare because they know their voters hate it, but they themselves, knowing that the odds of this actually happening are pretty low. And you saw, you know, the Obamacare repeal bills in 2017 were all done through reconciliation. Right. They they were all they all only needed a simple majority to pass in the first place. And each of them failed. I think in part because Republican senators released a handful recognize the actual political disaster it would be to do it. I’m not actually one who thinks that getting with the filibuster will produce large swings. I think in a world where there is no filibuster, you’re still going to have to assemble large coalitions to get things done. I think in the world without a filibuster, the lawmakers who are interested in making policy, who want to get a piece of the pie if a bill is going to happen, are going to proactively jump into the fray. Right. If you’re or if you’re Mitt Romney or Lisa Murkowski and it’s a 55 45 Democratic Senate and, you know, they’re going to pass the big health care bill and you know that you can’t obstruct it. Right. There’s nothing you can do to keep that bill from getting passed. If there’s unity in the Democratic caucus to do it, then I think the odds are good. And you’re just you’re just going to go make your suggestions. You’re going to offer up amendments. You’re going to you’re going to try to participate in the process in the absence of a filibuster as well. If you’re running for office, you actually have to think about the things you’re saying a bit closer. You can’t just say we’re going to do all this repeal because voters will know that, hey, you could actually do this if you’ve got the power. So we’re going to expect you to do it.
S1: That’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought of ending the filibuster as an argument against polarization or of an argument for the pragmatic move away from polarization, which I think in some ways the country would be so much better off. Like this idea that in both parties there, five to 10 senators who would move over and make deals if they saw some political benefit. That’s really interesting that that could go in that direction.
S8: If you say if you can’t stop something, then why wouldn’t you? You know, rash, if you try to make radical policy. Right, exactly.
S1: Yeah. And you can actually say that to your voters and have a real justification. So what do you think about Joe Biden and all of this? I mean, Biden asked about this last week, said, well, we’ll see how obstreperous the Republicans are being. And then he went on one of his. I think of them as nostalgia tours about how great he has been in the past at working across party lines. And he really can do this. And he knows people thinks he is naive when he says this, but like, it’s really true. He’s going to try. All of that suggests that, David, he won’t do this right at the outset of the new Congress or that the Democrats won’t do this because they’ll want to be able to prove to people that they tried to work with the Republicans and fail. So how does that add to this? Because I think, you know, I was listening to Matt Glaziers and Ezra Klein talk about this last week on the weeds. And you could just feel the kind of hangover they had for remembering watching Obama reach across party lines repeatedly and how much time the Democrats wasted when they actually did have a majority of the Senate, just the kind of months wasting away. David, what do you think about all those political dynamics?
S10: I think Biden just doesn’t have the luxury to sit around and wait because of the rules of the Senate. You have to make a decision before the Senate goes in session about whether you’re going to have this rule or not. And I think they need to decide not to have this rule. I want to make a few points sort of jumping off of things you said. One is, I think, getting rid of the filibuster as Jamal and then you, Emily, also point to it does sort of move the power of the Senate towards the median centrist senator. You know, in some ways this is bad. If you’re a Democrat, it isn’t the progressives who are going to be driving the agenda. It’s more your your Joe mansions in the middle have the power to decide how legislation is going to get shape because they are going to cast the deciding majority vote.
S9: Whereas you don’t you don’t have to have something which is going to get 60 votes. You just need something that’s going to get that that 50 first vote. So you’re the policy cusp is the median 50 first vote. And having power concentrated in wherever that center is is probably better than having it around the edges.
S10: That’s number one. Number two, I like get the idea of getting rid of it because it gets rid of this this really dangerous notion that the Senate is a deeply special place where the men and women who serve or, you know, are coated in golden syrup and and baked with a, you know, beautiful pastry crust. It has these so-called traditions and this notion of itself as the greatest deliberative body on Earth. It is not that anymore. I think it is time to align the Senate with a politics that actually exists not. With its own pompous self conception and a third point, I want to make four points, the third point is I think if you don’t get rid of the filibuster, then Biden as president will have a very unappealing choice of either continuing the kind of executive overreach that Obama started and that Trump has taken to an extreme or to step back from that and be a very weak president. And both of those options are very unappealing. It’d be much better for Democrats to get an agenda passed through law rather than through administrative changes or executive orders, a because they don’t, as a matter of philosophy. Democrats don’t really believe and administer an executive orders in the way that Republicans increasingly do. And B, it might not even work as the Supreme Court might quash it because the Supreme Court is very conservative and is not going to let a Democratic president get away necessarily with the same things that Trump got away with. Finally, my final point about this is one of the reasons why Republicans have not bothered to get rid of the filibuster, the legislative filibuster. They have gotten rid of the judicial filibuster and allow them to get tons of judges and justices threw at the Democrats, I guess, got rid of the judicial vote.
S1: The Democrats headed for the appeals courts.
S10: Republicans stood for the supreme for the Supreme Court, but for legislation, Republicans have never gotten rid of it because Republicans don’t really care about passing laws in general. They want to pass a big defense budget every year and sort of farm aid and then there sort of specific help for various industries that they’re interested in. But mostly Republicans are interested in rolling back laws. And Democrats, by contrast, have lots of laws they want to pass. So Democrats, relatively, are sacrificing more by accepting the filibuster. I have no doubt that Mitch McConnell recognized that there were 20 bills that Republicans really want to pass, that he would have scrapped a legislative filibuster and in a trice. I think it’s a no brainer. I really think that that this is this is the moment to strike it down. But I’m sure. So I’m sure I’ll come to a devil’s advocate.
S1: Yeah. I just want to play devil’s advocate for one minute. What about the problem of congressional elections happening every two years independently of the presidency and the president’s legislative agenda? That’s really different from the European parliamentary system. Right. And so I wonder if the normal kind of to and fro sometimes backlash we see in elections, like how that the fact that there’s this staggering does that militate against ending the filibuster?
S7: I don’t I don’t think so. If the idea is that the staggering of congressional actions is prone to to result in sort of more swings, I don’t think that’s the case. You know, the House has elected every two years for the Senate, every six and in different classes. And so at no point is the entire Senate ever up at the same time. Often, you know, when people are defending the filibuster, they say, well, this is this is how it was designed. It was designed to protect minority rights. But as you alluded to, Emily, at the beginning of this segment, the filibuster is extra constitutional. It’s it’s kind of a product of Senate rules and really it kind of emerges accidentally. And one of the first Senate sessions, I think, in May, in the early eighteen hundreds, that Aaron Burr discovers that by eliminating one rule, I think a particular rule for closing the question because he thought it was redundant, you end up creating this rule that allows for unlimited debate. And at the time, senators were like, this is not good. We’re not going to do that. And the filibuster goes basically dormant until the late 19th century to shut down civil rights bills. It’s not for nothing, right. That in the original design of the Senate, for as much as it really has changed since 1789, direct election of senators, I think kind of fundamentally changed the institution. But for as much as it’s changed, the core idea that the framers had was that by having long serving lawmakers with a closer connection to the executive branch by way of confirmations and by having their elections staggered, that is the mechanism that creates the distils, that creates deliberation that they wanted. Not not a filibuster, not a supermajority requirement. And in fact, throughout the constitutional convention, supermajority requirements are debated quite a bit and they’re almost categorically rejected, except for things like treaties for which everyone agreed needed to have much more than a majority vote because they had the binding power of law. But for ordinary legislation, almost no one at the convention wanted a supermajority requirement for that. And the extent to which the filibuster has become a de facto supermajority requirement for legislation I think is very much out of keeping with what the chamber is supposed to be.
S4: This week, Republican Congressman Ted Yoho reportedly accosted Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a person he had never talked to, even though they are colleagues in the House of Representatives. He accosted her on the steps of Congress and called her reportedly a fucking bitch. This was not one of the 25 biggest stories of the week. And yet it felt somehow familiar. It felt like something. Wee wee sense is happening, at least internally all the time. We’re about to talk about how that came to be before Donald Trump. There was Newt Gingrich. He also was a one named Hurrican who broke Washington. If Trump has demolished the unwritten rules of the presidency, he was only doing what Newt Gingrich had done before in Congress. So we are joined by Julian Zelizer, who’s a professor of history at Princeton and author of the new book Burning Down the House Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker and the Rise of the New Republican Party, which is about how we got this way, how Newt is in some ways the terrible stepfather of the politics we’re living with today.
S10: So, Julian, I think one thing that will may confuse listeners who don’t know about your book is the speaker in the title of your book is not, in fact, Newt Gingrich, who would fall a decade after the events you describe in your book. It is Jim. Right. So tell us a little bit about about the rise of Newt Gingrich and the destruction of Jim Wright and and what that meant for Congress.
S11: Yes. So Gingrich Newt Gingrich is elected to a district in Georgia in 1978. He comes to Washington in the early 80s, ready to cause trouble telling fellow Republicans who had not been in power in Congress since 1955 that they had to stop being so nice and they had to do whatever was necessary to achieve power. And he undertakes a series of attacks during the 1980s showing how he’s going to do business. He goes after Congressman Charlie Diggs, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus. He goes after Speaker Tip O’Neill through a series of stunts, including the use of C-SPAN to attack the patriotism of Democrats. And finally, Jim Wright becomes the speaker in 1987, an old school Texan who very much practiced politics as an institutionalist, as someone who believed that, you know, government and governance was an art. And Gingrich sets his sights on him and he eventually brings him down by 1989, pressuring him to resign because of ethics scandals and because he does that. The decade ends with Gingrich having a formal leadership position in the Republican Party House minority whip. And many Republicans who saw him as toxic and dangerous thinking, well, maybe he’s on to something. Maybe he’ll eventually deliver us that majority we crave. And so it’s the story of how he comes to power and how he uses Joe McCarthy like tactics. But this time ends up in the leadership rather than pushed aside.
S1: One of the things I was really interested in about your book is the way in which you talk about how Gingrich used the post Watergate reforms to go after Wright. So there’s this moment in the 70s. Congress wants more transparency, is they want to be setting higher ethical standards. Gingrich turns that on. Right. And I think part of your argument that made a lot of sense to me is that one of the reasons he’s so effective is that his rise coincides with the beginning of cable television as we know it today, where you can suddenly grandstand on C-SPAN and on CNN. And it seems like Gingrich uses those tactics in a way that Democrats were just bamboozled by, like, totally unprepared for. And then Wright ends up as a kind of sacrifice to the gods of partisanship and polarization and cable television.
S11: Yeah, he he’s very astute that way. And he takes everything that comes out of Watergate and uses it to his advantage. And the world had changed post Vietnam and Watergate and measures had been put into place to make members more accountable, like ethics rules. That said, you could only earn so much money speaking. You have to disclose your finances.
S12: There was a C-SPAN, which is a product of the house putting sunshine into its institution, allowing cameras to cover whoever was speaking. But he just sees partisan weapons there. So cable television, as an example, offer this incredible platform where he can get on air and say basically whatever he wants. And there was very little filter and his accusations would spread before they could be corrected. And often the press was very attracted to what he was doing. He gave them conflict. He gave them controversy. He gave them a lot of what they were looking for. And he also used investigative journalists who are doing serious work trying to uncover what was wrong with. Government and how money and lobbying work. But he took bits and pieces of different stories they produced and he used them, he weaponized them to go after Democrats and essentially criminalize them in the public mind.
S8: What kind of opposition was there within the Republican Party ticket or was there any opposition? Was there anyone resisting this kind of drive towards kind of, you know, unbounded partisan warfare? Or was there just, general, by what Gingrich was going to do? Could one thing that’s kind of key to all of this is that Republicans had been in the minority for quite some time.
S11: That’s a big part of my story. And certainly rhetorically, most Republicans, certainly senior Republicans say they don’t like what Gingrich is doing. And they warn that unbound partisanship without any concerns about governance or the health of our democratic institutions is dangerous.
S12: But in the end, most Republicans were willing to go along. Rank and file Republicans were frustrated that they had been out of power for so long. They saw themselves as a permanent minority in their eyes opened when some young maverick was saying, I’ll do what you need to bring you power. One of the characters in my book is Bob Michael, the House minority leader. And he’s a very good person. I get along kind of legislator who believes in what Washington does. But but he starts to replicate Gingrich’s rhetoric. He starts to allow him to have a bigger voice in the party. And finally, when he’s bringing the speaker down, they elect him as House minority whip, which is the leadership position, even though many people might not know that. It’s it’s it’s part of the path to power. And Republicans like Olympia Snowe vote for him, saying that he was refreshing and he had a vision of how to make them the people in charge rather than the people always beholden to the Democrats in.
S10: In what ways, Julian, does Trump represent a continuation of Gingrich’s methods? In what ways is he better or different than Gingrich? And what what methods have Gingrich has he has he not used very well? How much is Trump a product of Gingrich?
S12: He’s a he’s a big product of what Gingrich does to the party. People read the book and and they see Trump in it. I wrote most of this book actually before Trump was even a candidate. I took a break from it to finish another book called Fault Lines. And I came back to this. And it’s pretty remarkable to look at what Gingrich was doing. He was using a kind of rhetoric, mainstreaming a kind of rhetoric about his opponents, which at the time was was pretty out there. He had he spreads a memo, for example, this is Trump in in 1990, telling Republican candidates if they want to speak like Newt, they have to use the following words about Democrats and their words. That includes sick and traitor, in addition, and a corrupt and radical. And Gingrich, like Trump, was someone who believed he could basically do anything. And it was OK that there were no restraints that you were had to actually follow. That was a myth of Washington. I think the big difference with Trump is he’s less connected to any sense of party. Gingrich still saw himself as part of that Reagan moment, part of that conservative revolution, and he saw his fight not only for himself, but for a party trying to move the country to the right. Whereas Trump is is more disconnected from anything like that. He is a rogue actor counting on his party to support him. But I think less connected to any broader sense of a moment like that.
S1: How do we come back from this? All we’ve seen since the time of Gingrich is a continuation from it at this point. I think a lot of partisan Democrats want their party to be more ruthless to kind of respond to Mitch McConnell’s running of the Senate in the same vein. And I just wonder whether you think there is any way to reverse that dynamic or whether this is a slide once begun that just leads to a kind of more hardening of positions and outright nastiness?
S12: Well, there’s no way to reverse what the Republicans have become. I think that that’s part of the story. This is the party. And any story about President Trump that doesn’t see the roots of Trump in in this party, that doesn’t see how deeply connected he is to where the GOP is, misses the point and and really actually overestimates the possibility of change. But what do Democrats do? You know, Democrats in my story were already very hesitant to go Gingrich like they had a sense of boundary that that actually inhibited them from responding to his attacks. Jim Wright, you know, he responds to every ethics charge with a data dump of. Explanations of why he didn’t break any rules, Gingrich just get in front of the reporters and say he’s the most corrupt speaker in American history. End of story. I think Democrats definitely have to respond to these tactics. They don’t have to become Trump like or Gingrich like. But they need a sharper media response. They need to speak more directly about what Republicans are doing. I am not convinced that that Democrats can reach out and find many Republicans who are willing to pull away from this. I do think in the end it’s going to be about electoral defeat. I think you need a series of elections starting in 220. But continuing after that, with midterms so devastating that Republicans see themselves as shrinking, see themselves as falling out of power. That’s when there will be the Gingrich is of this generation who say we need something different. We need to pursue a different kind of politics if we’re going to have greater appeal. I don’t know if that’s going to be a Tucker Carlson or I don’t know if that will be a younger Republican who has a very different outlook on governance. And so I don’t have an easy answer for you, and I don’t think it’s going to be a quick change.
S4: Julian Zelizer is a professor at Princeton and the author of Burning Down the House Newt Gingrich The Fall of a Speaker and the Rise of the New Republican Party. Thanks, Julian. Thanks so much for having me. Let’s go to cocktail chatter. When you’re having a.
S10: I can’t even imagine. I’m with bated breath waiting for Jamal to tell me what his cocktail will be because Jamal always has something elaborate up his sleeve. But when, Jamal, you are planning your elaborate cocktail, what are you chattering about? Two little booties?
S8: Well, I guess it will be food related. So we’re all inside for the most part. I cook a lot as it is, but I’m cooking even more in in quarantine or just sort of staying home. And so I’ve been actually making my way through cookbooks. I haven’t really looked at a bunch. I have a ton of cookbooks and some of them I cook out of a lot to them, not so much. And so I recently, two weeks ago, took plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi out of storage. And I’ve been cooking from it plenty, which is from 2010. It’s a vegetable forward cookbook. I think it’s almost entirely vegetarian and it is wonderful, especially for summer produce. And so I’ve been cooking from it pretty consistently. I will recommend a recipe from it. His recipe for Babakhan use, which is in the cookbook as I think burnt eggplant. And, you know, if you’ve make Baba goodnews before you sort of are familiar with the steps, you do have to burn the eggplant on the stove like it makes roasting, draining it, chopping it, all of that. I think his recipe has something that I have not seen in others, which is a healthy amount of pomegranate molasses. But you can actually find that most grocery stores. And it adds a really nice sweetness to counteract the bitterness and the smokiness of the burnt eggplant. So Easy Come, Easy cookbook to find plenty. By Ottolenghi and the Burnt Eggplant. It’s delicious.
S1: I cannot believe that pomegranate. What did you say? Molasses is available in most glasses.
S8: It’s total. I was sitting on myself.
S5: Pomegranate lassus. Oh my God. I’m like excited that that those two words are ever joined together. I’ve never seen it in my life.
S4: I align myself for that recipe. I’ve made that recipe. Good. Good chatter there, Jamal. Emily, do you have a chatter which will delight and satisfy our listeners as much as that one will?
S1: Mm hmm. I might actually, because I am chattering about a project from Dahlia Lithwick, one of Slate’s most beloved writers. Dahlia sat down with a whole bunch of people who went to Harvard Law School with Ruth Bader Ginsburg for a project called the Class of RBD. She was particularly interested in interviewing the other nine women who are in that graduating class. And it’s just this fascinating compilation of stories about what it was like to be part of that groundbreaking generation of women trying to break into the legal profession. There is a two part podcast that goes along with the written part of this project. And I just think of it as like a tribute to some of our elders at this moment. For me, because of the toll that the Corona virus pandemic has taken on older people, it just has a kind of especially appropriate and poignant feel to it. And I also wanted to recommend a project that’s about reproductive rights. So sort of related in a sideways way. It’s a book called The Lie that binds by Elise Hoague at NARAL. And it’s a much more kind of hard hitting look at the history of abortion and contraception. This country arguing that conservative opposition to abortion is a kind of Trojan horse for a lot of other goals about the subordination of women and traditional, quote, family values. I’m not sure I agree with all of the argument, but I thought it was a really interesting read. And there is a podcast that is coming out in conjunction with that, too. So if you want to delve more into those politics, I also recommend the lie that binds. But start with Dayas excellent project.
S9: Dalia’s project is great. I read the articles in Slate, which were great, and there’s a transcript of the her interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who remembered all the other women in her class, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg talking in particular about these other women who were in her Harvard Law School class was fast.
S1: And she even there was one woman who dropped out and she reminded die of that person and like, told her to go find her. Which. Yes.
S4: Yes. Everyone had the number of women wrong in the class four years. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg was like, no. There was another woman.
S1: There were nine. And you can hear Dalia’s interviews for this project on Anarchist’s with Dial Lithwick.
S4: In your podcast, Feed My Chatter is about a novel that I’m reading. I’m the last person in America to read it. Americana or Americana? I’m not sure how it’s pronounced.
S1: It’s Americana. I really believe that deeply.
S10: But there’s a new element in the book where they say an emphasis, where they’re describing how it’s pronounced and they say on the fourth syllable. Which would make it American Idol. That’s why I did.
S1: That’s why I use that word syllable Americana.
S10: The four syllable is the con mer, huh?
S6: Sorry. I am an idiot. Thank you.
S9: I assumed it was the fourth with just the last four with. So I went from one of those cultures where there’s no no higher than for us for it’s just like, oh, that’s the lie.
S6: And yes, Americana America does make more sense. Thank you, Emily. Counting. It’s one of my great skills. I’m so excited. Novel by team Amanda Deach eBay again.
S10: It’s pronounced that too, who is a Nigerian author. And it’s about Nigerians in the U.S. and in London in the early teens, 20 teens. And it’s such a fantastic book. I am enjoying it so much. I haven’t read the novel. I’ve enjoyed this much in so long. It’s full of life and joy and fun and romance and and but also, you know, the difficulty of being an immigrant and the difficulty of being an immigrant in the post 9/11 world and the lies and compromises and and racism and what it is to be Nigerian and not an American black. And it’s it’s just a fantastic book. It’s such a great summer read. So if you’re looking for a good novel, Americanah, there are two things that book.
S1: I don’t think I’ll ever forget the descriptions of getting her hair done. And just that whole world is so striking. And then also, David, if you got into the passage about like the good white friend, do you know what I’m talking about?
S5: Oh, yeah. OK. So I read that passage. I was like, I feel so seen. Like, for better or worse, failed or worse. I don’t know what I have been like auditioning for that role my whole life. I was like, oh my God. She’s like describing my own. I felt like I felt like parodied in such a hilarious way.
S10: Listeners, you have sent us great chatters again. There’s so many good chatter’s this week, so, so many good ones. You’ve tweeted them to us at at Slate Gabfest. Thank you. Please keep them coming. And this one comes from Joshua Bennett. And it’s a article in Science magazine, which is about the worst year to be alive in human history and recent human history. Anyone want to make a guess at what the worst year to be alive in recent human history was?
S8: I think I saw this article, so I’m not going to make the guess, but it’s. Yeah, I don’t want to spoil it.
S1: The Black Plague, whenever that is.
S10: No, it’s 536 A.D. There is this volcanic eruption that darkened Europe, the Middle East and much of Asia for 18 months. And then it erupted again a few years later. It basically caused this incredible ice age. Brief ice age. Huge amount of death. And then the plague came on top of it. So there was this enormous plague that destroyed what remained of the eastern Roman Empire. And it took 100 years for for Europe to recover from this. And it’s just a great it’s a great account of this. What must have been. I mean, I know I’m laughing. It must’ve been just an absolutely appalling time to live. And how the scientists looking at ice cores in from glaciers and in Switzerland, I think, have figured out figured out exactly how this happened or what happened. Everyone had kind of wondered what had happened and they figured out, oh, there was this Icelandic volcano. And then it was again, you can then see 100 years later, this is rise of led in the ice. And the LED is a signal that silver mining has restarted in a significant way. And silver mining is sort of a symbol of like, oh, economies are kicking back up anyway. Great piece in Science magazine recommended to us by Joshua Bennett. That is our show for today. The Gabfest is produced by Jocelyn Frank. A researcher is, of course, Bridget Dunlap. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate podcast. June Thomas is managing producer.
S2: Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer for Emily Bazelon and Jamelle Bouie. I’m David Plotz. Thanks for listening. We will talk to you next week.
S4: Helo’s slate plus. How are you? We did not talk about John Lewis on the gabfest.
S10: He died shortly after we recorded last week’s show. And John Lewis is. I certainly was, in my mind, the greatest living American. He was one of my heroes. He was, I imagine I don’t want to speak for you, Emily or Jamal, but I imagine he was somebody that you guys admired, too.
S5: And I think that’s a safe assumption.
S8: Yeah. Yeah. Great admiration for John Lewis and these birds.
S10: John Lewis is somebody who I don’t I don’t keep an official list of greatest Americans. But it did occur to me when he died, I was like, oh, you know, whenever I thought about who who is my American hero? Who do I think has as much for my fellow citizens and me and for the nation as anyone has done it with humility and done it with grace and done it with courage. It was pretty easy to say, oh, well, it’s John Lewis, journalist. Lois’s has done this. And he you know, you could say if you were asked to name who’s who is the greatest living American, you would one name that easily would have come to mind would be John Lewis. And so the question on the table here is, is there a greatest living American? Obviously, you know, greatest asset is is in the mind of the beholder. But is there somebody who we can all point to and say, like, wow, this is a person who has done so much for us selflessly. And, you know, without without ego and with courage. And I wondered if you guys had names. I have a few and a few different categories of people.
S1: But, yeah, I thought of some names of people. I also realized how much I struggle with exercises like this, because the superlative of it all is like, yeah, freaks me out. I feel like I can never choose one. And so then I end up having to like, calm myself down with like, OK, well actually think of a bunch of people you think are great and not worry about who the great est is. The second trouble I had with this assignment, an exercise is the question of like, do you do one amazing thing or do you have to have a whole lifetime? And then the question of people who are alive are by nature less mythological. Right. Like they have clay feet because we can actually talk to them. And there are actual people who walk around and that sort of makes it harder to lionize them in quite the same way. Anyway, with all of those caveats, the first person who came to mind for me was Bryan Stevenson, who is a lawyer who’s represented people on death row and otherwise disproportionately punished or people who are innocent, who’ve been convicted of terrible crimes. And Brian started the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, which is a really important legal organization. I think just as important, he started the museum in Montgomery that memorializes lynching and really just like changes the whole dimensions of how people think about that part of our American history. He’s also just an amazingly munchy person, in my experience, and a great orator. So he was my first choice. I have some other people, but you guys go.
S7: Jamal, I found this very difficult for similar reasons. And I feel like it might be cheating, I guess. But I immediately just went for another famous civil rights era person who is still living, who I admire quite a bit.
S13: And it’s Bob Moses, who was also part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and worked on voter education in Mississippi during movement. He helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Party must be Democratic Freedom Party, which challenged the mainstream Mississippi Democratic Party for recognition at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. You know, he is one of the giants of the civil rights movement and one of the I think the lesser known people of the movement, but still very, very important. And he still living. He’s 85. So, yeah. Bob Moses would be my my pick.
S4: Yeah. I want to just pay respect to the criticism that you raised, Emily, and that you echoed Jamal.
S9: I think this is it is a silly exercise. I am somebody who loves lists. And but for all the reasons you cited, Emily, is this is somewhat ridiculous. That said, I asked about this on Twitter and got some great responses. I think you can exclude the presidents and the ex presidents. There are a lot of people who would say, oh, Barack Obama or even more people who apparently say Jimmy Carter, who indeed has had this very admirable post presidency. Jimmy Carter has really, you know, show lived, lived a life of humility and lived a life of accomplishment and and has shown in his post presidency how to be spiritual and holy and admirable.
S10: Person, he’s somebody who deserves respect. Some of the other people who came to mind for me and then also I saw other people recommended Dolly Parton is somebody who you know, she’s a incredible creator, incredible symbol, but also has just used her own money in her own effort to promote literacy and share books in this remarkable way. She’s taken a platform and used it in a way that I think is noble. I think Hosain dress similarly like what he has done around food and around helping people during both during the pandemic. Then, of course, after the hurricane in Puerto Rico is amazing. But I think the person I probably would point to, it’s a little bit of a cheat, because when you have as much money as he does, it’s kind of easy as Bill Gates. Bill Gates has set himself out. You know, he had this career of making money, which he was a rapacious and vicious and ran a company which I worked for, which was, you know, not a loving, notably great company. And he was not a loving and loving CEO. But what he has done in his in the second half of his life and the way he has dedicated himself to trying to solve problems on a massive scale and spend his own money, his own hard earned money to solve those problems and to do it with as much thought and wisdom and attention to the to the neediest among us. I think it’s incredible. You know, it is different when you when you have, whatever, one hundred billion dollars to spend. It’s easier to do that. But I think it’s I think it’s he’s a he’s a model in that way. Are there other people I mean, you said you had other folks.
S1: I do. But wait. I have to politely dissent from Bill Gates for this reason. This is not to knock at all his charitable work, but I don’t. I just object to the model that you can, like, make a ton of money rapaciously and terribly. And in his case, by concentrating market share to the point of getting sued plausibly by the Justice Department for any trust violations and then make up for it all later. Like, I just don’t like that model of life that you like. Do all this bad stuff. But then it’s OK because you use all the money that you took slash earned.
S4: Well, so anyway, my next choice, I guess I guess, I guess are all those people who do all the sad, miserable stuff and never make up for it again.
S6: Well, that doesn’t make you the greatest mayor of painting.
S8: And that’s you could think of Bill Gates as basically doing the least he could do. Right. Is sort of use the money he earned not just by, you know, being innovative. What have you, but kind of by taking advantage of a rapacious capitalist system that the least he could do with that is is disperse it to charitable causes. This might be unpopular, but I kind of feel somewhat similarly about Jimmy Carter that I kind of think you can think of his post presidency as basically atoning for being president, that that’s simply being president of the United States is a position that requires you to do a lot of bad, even good presidents. And so I think the Jimmy Carter model of essentially atoning for that for the rest of your life is admirable. But that’s how I would think of it, though.
S1: He did eradicate that horrible little worm. I forgot. Yes. Salt.
S8: No, everything Jimmy Carter has done is good. But I really think you really think it’s you should put it in the context of, oh, he had he was the leader of a massive capitalist imperial country, so. What do you do with your soul after that?
S6: I’m not going to argue with that. I’m going to nominate. Oh, man, I am. I would argue with that. I think I.
S4: Yeah, we don’t. We don’t need to. We can save it for another day. But, wow, I. I feel like you getting into being in the arena and trying in the arena is that’s a perfectly legitimate way to spend your time and it’s a and to help the most people. And yes, you do evil. But you also do good. I think the Bill Gates case is a little bit easier. Bill Gates was not helping people at Microsoft. I being a little provocative to pillaging.
S1: I I’m I’m going to propose a nice antidote to this part of the conversation in the form of Dolores Huerta, who is an American labor leader and civil rights activist. I’m picking her up because she is, I think, really beloved and seen as an icon among peers, particularly for organizing farmworkers in California, but also because they just think it’s so important to recognize labor leaders and all this. Right. I mean, this is like one answer to Bill Gates is that rather than using the capitalist system and then atoning for it later, you try to actually address its inequalities. And I think she stands for that proposition.
S4: Good. All right. Slate plus Gabbi.