Hey, Virgil, hey, Bri, top of the morning to you, are you feeling an influence coming from across the pond like you in a positive one?
No. Yeah, I mean, there's always negative vibrations coming from that part of the world in particular this week, eh?
You want me to fill this in like it's a thing that I wanted to talk about. I don't want to stand you over the top of the morning and now you're acting like I'm somehow pitting you in by talking about the subject that you want us to talk about.
I knew this was coming because I read the damn posts and Bri castigated me earlier this week for being too cool to care about the royal family. No, that's not exactly it.
It's that there was a lot of like very performative tweeting from the left about how they just didn't care, which was really clearly about how they felt left out, because this wasn't something that happened on the Internet. This is real people.
This wasn't a meme about for nigh on tick tock, but that dealt with issues of gender and racism, which are like not always very welcome conversations in certain segments of the left. And, you know, like I was like, you don't have to care. But the fact that people were smiling so loud about it seemed to me to indicate a little bit of insecurity.
Well, I think part of that is an aversion to the ancient British aristocracy that should absolutely not exist in this rigid, psychotic, class based society, which is not to say that we don't also have a rigid, psychotic, class based society, but it's like less serious than what we'll hear in the interview in a second is the Senate exists.
It doesn't stop us from talking about the shenanigans that happened there. I mean, like, yeah, we all get it. We all hate the monarchy. Now, this story opening at nine. You know, Prince, you know, somebody in the English royal family was concerned about the skin color of Archie, whatever their last name is, Bunker like, that's that spicy.
I mean, like, I don't know what that we have to tether a critique of the crown to every every bit of spicy content that's coming out of an Oprah interview like.
Yes, I mean, but I carried on this conversation that very much so was the tea to come out of it, as I understand it, from the million votes that people made.
I mean, I'm not a big real family follower myself, but I do think that even I understand, having watched the crown, that there is a certain amount of, you know, interest that secrecy breeds and the fact that there's so much privacy and there's so much control over the media surrounding the royal family. And the English press makes this event more salacious than your average period gossip because they're famous for being famous.
No, because they came to America and used the American I mean, in a way that they would never have been able to do in England, because there's one of the things that came out in the interview is Harry said, you know, this is a very close relationship between the tabloids and the Crown. And they have these events and like mixer's where they have the symbiotic relationship. And when you watch the crown, you see all these stories about how they call and get stories killed all the time in exchange for other little tidbits.
And that's part of Megan's frustration. Right? She's like they have a certain amount of control and over the narrative. So I hold them responsible when the narrative is that I'm like ruining England by having married your literal red headed stepchild.
So that's what the other royals believe, that it's like you should have married a black person.
I mean, again, this is all like second, third, fourth hand. But that the narrative is that, you know, when Kate Middleton married William, everyone loved her and she was the perfect princess. And, you know, she's got that wasp waist and wears clothes beautifully. And she was merchant's daughter, right?
Well, that didn't seem to be that much of an issue in the grand scheme of things. And her value was arguably cynically amplified. The fact that she was beloved was amplified as a way to contrast her to Megan, who was older. She's a few years older than Prince Harry. She's American, which they don't have a great history of royals marrying Americans over there.
No, they don't turn some fascist. Apparently they or it just makes them. I mean, yes, but like principally the issue wasn't that he was a fascist. The issue was that he just abdicated.
And then there's the fact that she's black. There's the fact that she her parents are divorced. There is the fact that her father seems to be a somewhat unsavory character. There's the fact that she was a working actress. She was literally one of. The suitcase girls had a deal or no deal. Yeah, deal or no deal, sorry, I mean, obviously none of those things are actually a problem. But in the world of there are for me, those are all big.
But you never did a suitcase girl, Virgil.
Yeah, I would not. Yeah. It's broken across America for all of it. I mean, is the show still on the air? It's like the youngest, you know, 40 to you think deal or no deal is still on the air.
I'm asking I don't know.
I don't watch cable. But the game that's about averages. No, it's not still on the air.
Why should that be an obvious fact to me?
There are exactly two game shows that are on the air that deserve to be on the air. And they've been on the air for decades and they are jeopardy! And Price is right.
Wheel of Fortune is on the air. I'm the one that is on my family feud.
OK, you're right. But Family Feud has not been continuously on the air.
I mean, I can't attest to the veracity of that statement. Actually, I don't know.
I kind of shot from the hip on that one now. Yeah. You know, I used to just be throwing stuff out. OK, all right.
All right. I know there's been like seven hosts of Family Feud. And also I have, like, serious problems with Family Feud, but I do like the format of it. Wheel of Fortune, I have zero respect for should never made it to air, period.
I don't care for Wheel of Fortune either. It's the steal for me.
And there's a little bit of this one family feud, but it's the it's the ability to like do all of the work and then have the other person steal it. Yeah. A little mistake. Yeah.
I mean that is also really messed up and family feud and I think that's one of the I maybe they have that into to heighten the drama of it, but I consider it a design flaw of the game.
It makes it less of a game of skill.
I think that mostly it's not an issue because if the first family if the original family gets far, you know, they've they basically, like, solved all but like one or two of the questions on the board and the other family gets a chance to steal. The remaining answers are usually very, very difficult. And they don't steal like it's dumb stuff because, you know, the the answers are collected via a survey and the nice people just say dumb stuff.
It's got to be like a one person responded out of one hundred. Exactly. Or it's something that's super obvious, like the number one answer and then they deserve to have it stolen from them. That's a good point.
That's a good point. I think that's fair. I mean, I still would want to toy with the format of the show some option to see how it plays out, do some AB testing, but generally. All right, fine. I will concede my point. Family feud. Yes. Has been on the air for a long time, maybe continuously, maybe not.
Had three separate runs from seventy six to eighty five from eighty eight oh ninety five and then ninety nine.
There's a lot of runs. I'm sorry I can't read this book for you right now.
There's a lot you do not have to. I did not requested so I think we're still in the Steve Harvey era or is that past.
We're still on the Steve Harvey era. I have a million or one critiques of Steve Harvey. I think that this is his best milia, not commercials for Green Dot or subprime loans or whatever the hell he pitches.
No, Steve Harvey is perfectly constrained in this family TV format so that any, like, weird, creepy, bad political instincts that he has can't really come out. He can make just the right amount of suggestive innuendo when called for to make it chuckle so he could just like laugh a little bit, cloud on the people who make bad guesses, just the right amount.
And that's all I need from him doing a little bit where he asks a question with sexual innuendo and then acts outraged when somebody responds in a sexual fashion. Correct.
OK, it can't be.
But there's no politics in our family feud, which is good is something I support part of a part of a movement called Commercial GamerGate. And I just want politics out of our game shows.
You get the SJW stuff out of jeopardy.
You know what's funny? Maybe we should all look at this, but I was talking to my friend the other day about Family Feud. I don't know if you do this, Virgile, but I know I'm not the only one who does this. When I see a family on Family Feud, I obviously I root for the black family, like, I just feel bad.
That's what you do for the you make it into a, you know, a racehorse.
I feel like you root for the black you and I don't know if you root for the Asian family. I don't know what your life is divided. Obviously I root for the black family. OK, so the other day I was watching a clip of it, like on my phone, you know, is it was like, you know, Instagram, family feud moments or whatever. They're close up on a family. It's an African family and they're dressing like matching like African print outfits.
They're really cute. I'm like, all right, they're doing the thing. They're answering the questions. I'm rooting for them. And then the chance comes for the steal. And when they come to the other family for the steal that family with the black American farm. Oh, wow. I was absolutely torn. I had become so deeply invested in ruins my day, it ruins my day.
That's like a real life playing out of the the descendants of slaves versus all the other people controversy.
You know, it's Steve Harvey Oswald for even pitting us against each other like that. I didn't want to participate any more, but it's OK. It's OK. The consumption of this clip, it's OK when it's black people versus Asians.
Well, that's you know, that's the Steve Harvey. That's the real royal family. That's the American royal family.
I was going to say, you know, his daughter is dating Michael Jordan, right? I did not know that. Well, yeah.
American royals right there still put a lid on the royal family chat that we've we've gotten sidetracked from.
It has been really funny to see the derange defenders of the royal family on both sides of the Atlantic, whether it's the the Ben Shapiro type American rightists who are just kind of saying this for, you know, just to get read tweets or whatever, you know, like I respect Prince Philip, like, why bother you?
But the what the British people, like the British right wing, which we could we could do like an entire frickin miniseries about the arrangement of the British right wing, just how much they love the royal family.
And there's just some weird just I don't know, it's a Bednall obsession. Yeah.
Like, you know, your country. I mean, because I don't know. I kind of think inherent in that is this is this recognition that, you know. All right. Well, my country is pretty shitty, but this makes me I get to play pretend that we have a noble lineage.
Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, obviously, there are some parallels to America. I don't want to get too glib. There are people with commemorative plates of various people. Folks had like Kennedy on their walls forever. Obviously, there's a lot of Obama memorabilia that's still floating around. Like we're not completely above the idea of this kind of hero worship, this whole episode. We end up talking, you know, a lot about people's feelings of fidelity and commitment to the Democratic Party and being unwilling and willing to critique them.
This does feel different, though, and I feel like because I watched the crowd here.
I do, I guess, understand it better than I used to. I mean, for one, I think the queen is just so old that she was there for everything. Every historical moment in your living memory and your parents living memory is going to have had that literal same woman. They're weighing in, giving words of comfort, standing on the sidelines, patting away the kids tears at the sight of the tragedy or whatever occurred. And so I do understand how you could have an investment in a person as kind of a witness to your country's history and to, you know, your personal history by extension.
So an old person, I mean, like but old by anybody's standards, not just like old for a head of state while everybody is old in America, the youngest senator is like eighty two.
But I mean, she's I mean, when you're watching the crowd and it's like, first of all they had to have like three or four different actresses play the woman because it's like nobody's range is that long and it starts in like nineteen eighteen or whatever. I mean it doesn't set. In 1980.
What was the Queen born, when was the Queen born. She's like a hundred so.
Well twenty, twenty tens I think. I'm sorry. 19 times I think maybe 1919.
Oh nineteen twenty six.
Yeah. Because she was like a teenager during the Blitz and stuff like that.
She was born on April 21st. OK, well you know what, that's older Hitler.
Betty White is older than that. That's true. Can we not talk about England because we're just the same.
But with Betty White, I mean, I'm not I think we should abolish Betty White. Also abolish the golden car.
Oh, come on. You're not part of the panic every time Betty White turns on Twitter.
I know. Not Betty White. Oh, she just did a funny.
You're just going to make me sound heartless. I want to lose, you know, I mean, even the British perspective we were given the American Prospect. I just want to give the Irish perspective for a second. This is from the Irish Times review of the Oprah interview. This is by a writer named Patrick Frain. I'm not going to do an Irish accent because I can't do one that's not cartoonish.
OK, having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbor who's really into clowns and has a house dubbed in clown murals, display's clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown related news stories. More specifically for the Irish, it's like having a neighbor who's really into clowns and also your grandfather was murdered by a clown. Beyond this, it's the stuff of children's stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or iWalk is head of state.
What's the logic, bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has just laid four British eggs and one of those is the sweatiest creep, Prince Andrew. So it's hardly deserving of applause.
I don't think anyone's going to run to better your Ratliff's good luck right in the lead for your next MSNBC article.
Not so less.
Yes. Why don't you? You know, that's a reference. You know, he was named in one of the Eppstein lawsuits where one of one of his victims, alleged victims, said that he was sweaty and he responded by going on the news and saying, well, actually, I'm incapable of sweating. So case closed.
Oh, it's so bad. Yeah, but I think about it.
But after that interview, I'm starting to think they're bad.
Well, I am glad that Megan escaped. I think it's extremely weird that they escaped into the protection of Tyler Perry.
Perry Well, where where would you go?
I would use a different situation because I like being here, much like Britney Spears. I would have turned down the date with Prince Harry Shearer about.
Oh, I did not know that.
Yeah, she is a savvier judge of character than one might think of the fact that I also didn't know who is Piers Morgan when on a date with Megan Markle or they got they got drinks. I don't know.
I think that he thinks that they were it was right. He thinks it was a date. And she was like, I got drinks with this guy, but they met on Twitter.
So there's a lot more effort in that or her and Harry Morgan and Marcal. OK, so there's hope for me yet.
There's hope for you. What's Prince Andrew at?
All right, let's go to an interview that possibly rivals Oprah's interview. Oh, it's way in terms of sheer interview, brilliance, just sheer competence that we're just bringing to the table.
It's with one of my favorite journalists. I was so excited to meet him in the context of my work on the campaign. And really, it was really great to have a conversation with him that's more broad and far reaching and touches a lot of subjects outside of my purview as national press secretary. So I hope you enjoy this interview with John Nichols at The Nation.
Let's meet our guest. He is the national affairs correspondent for the Nation and associate editor of the Capital Times. He's also a book author, most recently of The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party, John Nichols. It's a pleasure to be with you both.
John, I feel like this is a really opportune time to have you here. This because if you scroll past the titles of all of your books, not just the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, but all the way back to it's the media, stupid. It seems like you really have you're you're an expert of sorts on everything that seems to be going on in my country politically right now. In terms of the fight, the left is having to have any influence on the current administration.
So I'm curious, what is your read coming out of the somewhat tumultuous week where there were some disappointments around the 15 dollar minimum wage, but where the media is largely celebrating the genuine substantive gains that are in the covid bill, how do we continue to kind of wave the flag about what more could be accomplished if we had a different orientation among the Biden administration peers?
That's a great question. I think it gets to the heart of the matter. The fact of the matter is that Democrats, when they get power, tend to default to being a managerial party. They want to manage the situation that they're in and as better managers than Republicans, usually they are so far. And I think by a lot of measures, historically, they look at the situation. They say, oh, well, there are some things that need to be done.
We have to get some money to local governments. We have to get some money for the vaccine program. We have to get some money for health care because there's still a lot of people that are sick from covid-19. And that's all in this one point nine trillion dollar American rescue plan. And that's great. It's excellent. I'm all for it. And much of it is quite progressive. In fact, I think you could make a strong argument that it is a measure of the victory of progressives in shaping a lot of narratives and a lot of ideas because campaigning for economic and social and racial justice and making demands as we have as regards how we measure that has been integrated into elements of this plan.
Right. It's a more conscious plan, especially as regards people who historically have been left out and left behind. So all compliments, sir. Now, here's the problem that's managing and it's managing. Well, give it credit. But if we accept that we're not where we need to be, if we have not arrived at the cooperative Commonwealth, if we have not gotten to the high ground of this this more perfect union than what they bartered away in the negotiations, is that that climbing that going to the next step, when you barter away the two thousand dollar direct payment and take it down to fourteen hundred and say, oh yeah, we would get 600 someplace else.
So that's OK. And then when you say, yeah, we're going to means test it. So we're going to give it to millions of fewer people and even those who get it are going to get less at different thresholds. And then when you say add on unemployment insurance, we're not going to give you quite as much as as we propose. We're going to cut that down some. And then on the big one. On the big one, on increasing the minimum wage literally after the better part of a dozen years of literally locking in the hardest working people in America to poverty wages.
We just can't quite get there. We can't quite do that. And so the end result is you have a great managerial bill, but you have a lousy vision, Bill. You have a lousy sort of get to the high ground measure. And this is the problem, I would argue, for Democrats when they are in power. And it is why we kind of default to that position that the singer Bruce Cockburn summed up in one of his great song from the 1980s.
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.
Suddenly, it's refreshing. Well, there's an episode titled, If There Ever Was One, I'm really glad you brought up the idea of a more perfect, you know, more perfect union, obviously, from the preamble, Barack Obama deploy that phrase to great effect.
But what it feels like often now is that the idea of more perfect for, you know, requires that you're not at perfect. And it's tacitly a criticism of the current administration.
And it feels like now any critique of the Biden administration is considered to be partisan and then their team Republican and your team Trump.
And it doesn't really leave a lot of space to say, hey, what if there were things we could have done to push harder for a 15 dollar minimum wage?
The response from a lot of the mainstream Democrat center is, well, why are you complaining? You guys will complain about everything. Can't you take a win?
And I'm curious from your perspective whether that is a more recent political development or something that has kind of always been the case in the history of left movements.
It's always been the case. It's not a recent development. There always is an argument that if you raise a critique, if you challenge, you're going to somehow undermine or weaken the administration. And the tragedy of that is that it's exactly wrong. The challenge is what strengthens an administration. And when I say it's always been the case, I mean that. Yes, I'm sure in 1787 there were people who said, in fact, I know there were.
We said, well, if you critique the Constitution, you know, maybe we won't get it. And that that could be bad. Well, no, critiquing it got us the Bill of Rights. And so it was kind of a good thing. I just wish that critique had gone even further on a whole host of issues. And so the critique is always healthy if you have leaders who are conscious of its value. And that's the great test.
It's not a test of the grassroots or of the left or anybody. It's a test of of Joe Biden in this case. And I can just reference historically to the proper response to which was Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the stories told in many ways. And so I'll tell it in one way, and that is that a.. Philip Randolph, the head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, arguably one of the greatest labor leaders in the history, not just of the United States, but the world, and also the guy who called for the 1963 march on Washington.
We all the advanced guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom. This revolution reverberates throughout the land, touching every city, every town, every village where black men are segregated, oppressed and exploited. But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights for all white allies know that they cannot be free while we are not.
When he went to meet with Franklin Roosevelt again, as the story is told, with a list of demands. Roosevelt, very impressed with Randolph, said, You know, Phil, I agree with everything you're saying. Go out and make me do it, and effectively what he was saying there, if indeed the story is true, was that we desperately need a critique to get to that higher ground, to get to the point where we want to go to.
And I've came up as a kid covering labor struggles. That was my the main thing I covered. And I used to talk to labor leaders all the time who would say, look, I'm in negotiations here and it's going to be really good if my members are angry and agitated and riled up and picketing and making a lot of noise. Because then in negotiations, I can say I can't compromise with you on this. My people won't accept that. Right.
Well, it's the same in politics. If you're Joe Biden and you're in negotiations with centrist Democrats or with Republicans or whoever, if there is like a great bunch of people out there who are saying this is unacceptable, this cannot be we cannot sacrifice the minimum wage in the first major initiative of the Biden administration, that's that's a signal that is going to come back and haunt us. And it is going to resonate throughout this administration. If we don't do it now, there's great dangers.
If you're amplifying that, then when Biden sitting there with Joe Manchin or whoever is not got a problem here, I got to you know, I need I need some movement. I clearly am showing myself to be very militant on the view that internal dissent within a political party and then a dissent that comes from the edges of that party, perhaps from those who sympathize with it, but are not necessarily in and from beyond, from those who are clearly critical.
All of that, if it is well intended, if its goal is to achieve something better, like, I don't know, maybe the platform of the party, literally what they ran on. Right. I think that's OK.
That all seems very reasonable to someone like me. But then why is there, in your view, why is there such an aggressive current against intra party criticism?
Because it makes things harder, right? It requires you to do two things. Number one, if you are unprincipled to actually be principled, that's dark. Yeah. You know, it's like, oh, rats, I do this. They want to do this my way. But two, if you are principled, right, it requires you to work harder and it is tougher. I mean, there's no question if your party is in lock step with you.
Right. And you can literally say I decided this. So this is what we're going to do, that's very easy. And so you understand why people don't like it. But the problem with it is and I dare to use a word that Louisiana Senator John Kennedy used recently during a committee hearing, oh, we love him. I know he's a fascinating fellow. During that irritated, he said, I love the dialectic.
And I thought, well, it's not arbitrary love of a Southern Republican who backed it used to be a Democrat saying he loves the dialectic. But if we understand the dialectic, if we understand this this notion that a back and forth, a push and pull actually makes something stronger. That's why those of us who favor internal critique and external critique think it's useful and think it's good. I think it makes a President Joe Biden stronger. And frankly, when presidents resist it too hard, then you end up with Lyndon Johnson in nineteen sixty eight going on television, interrupting the Lawrence Welk Show, I believe to say he's not going to run for another term.
Right. Because it's just it's all been wrecked. Well, Lyndon Johnson didn't end up not seeking another term as one of the more successful domestic policy presidents in American history because of internal critique. It wasn't because there was an antiwar movement. It's because he didn't listen to the antiwar movement and it ultimately wrecked his presidency.
That makes sense to me for why policy makers and party apparatchiks and I'm sorry if this question is going too far afield, why policymakers, why politicians, my party apparatchiks, why they're opposed to intra party critique. But something I've noticed I know you've noticed this as well, especially in the past few years, is that this opposition to criticizing a Democratic president from Democrats has increasingly been coming from below as well.
That it seems to be a partisanship of this type has morphed into a distinct ideology. Almost in the way that we see people talk about these things. I'm curious if you have any thoughts on where that's coming from.
Absolutely. In fact, my dear comrade and colleague Bob McChesney have written about six books on this issue, and that is our transforming media. And the fact of the matter is that our media has changed. It's very, very different. It is less top down. You have many, many more entry points. But in this in this change, what has happened is we've democratized punditry. And so now everybody's a pundit. Everybody is sort of analyzing what danger might occur if you don't compromise here or if you make this move or if you do that.
And and in fact, people who are engaged with politics and who are good people, who are really passionate about it and follow all the news, they're looking at polls and they're looking at kind of higher level punditry, trickle down punditry, whatever we want to call it. But we end up in a situation where there's just a tremendous number of folks who are like, wow, I know what I want. I know what the right thing is, but I know I can't get it.
I have to we have to compromise. And so I'm horrified when somebody comes forward and actually says what I want because that I know we can't get that. And I know that's dangerous and I'm too idealistic and I'm too I believe in economic and social and racial justice and saving the planet and ending wars. And that's just more than where the American people are at. And people I do think that this is the great danger, because the fact of the matter is we get progress when people say, you know what, I'm just not going to tell myself what we can't do anymore.
I'm going to tell myself what we can do. And the word that I always kind of try to throw into the mix here is necessary. I think that too often progressives talk about what they want or even what they know is a good idea. But what they don't talk about is what is necessary, what has to happen. And I will tell you a couple of things that are necessary. First and foremost, by and large, the progressive ideology, the progressive vision is necessary because of the circumstance we're in, because of the economic, social and racial inequality that we experience, because of the threat to the planet, because of all of the challenges that we well understand, we don't have to go through.
But it is also necessary. That's sort of the moral side of it. There's also the political side. The fact of the matter is Franklin Roosevelt was the last Democratic president to win reelection every time with a majority of the vote and to win every midterm election. Every time he went in, he got it. All right. Franklin Roosevelt, it never failed. And you say, well, yeah, those were different times. I don't know. You had, like, really bad Republicans.
You had depression, economic downturn. You had wars. You had, you know, I mean, it's a pretty big challenges. And yet he won every time. And you think, well, OK, what was the trick? Well, Roosevelt administration, if you looked at it, got more and more progressive as it went along. It moved to the left. He replaced a centrist Southern Center right, Southern conservative vice president John Nance Garner with Henry Wallace.
And it really worked. Even when they got rid of Wallace, they still ran in. Forty four is a very, very progressive pop. And then Roosevelt dies. Harry Truman comes in, gets rid of all the new dealers, literally chased him out of the administration, starts to compromise on all sorts of things, loses the Congress for the first time since nineteen thirty two in nineteen forty six. And you say, OK, well that's one bad example.
No no. Again and again and again. You look at it, you start to compromise. Johnson went bad on the Vietnam War. Democrats started really have a lot of problems. We lost the presidency. Then you get it back with Jimmy Carter. He pulls his punches. He doesn't do as much as he could have or should have in those first two years. They have tremendous setbacks in Congress in nineteen seventy eight. Lose the presidency in nineteen eighty, you think?
OK, OK, that's a couple examples, but that's way in the past. Who remembers Jimmy Carter. Oh yeah, he's still alive. And then you say, well but what about Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton ran on this and I covered Bill Clinton. I'm old enough to have covered Bill Clinton and I was there with him on the last days. I was doing what's called close cover. You literally up near the candidate. And I was here.
He was literally people are saying, I'm going to vote for you because you're going to cure cancer. Right. The hopes for Bill Clinton were just immense. Well, that's Biden's agenda. Well, there you go. And it's a good agenda. But so Clinton comes in and suddenly says, oh, we got deficits and debts we have to pay. So suddenly you're pulling punches everywhere. You're doing free trade. You're abandoning all sorts of basic premises and nineteen ninety four, what he loses power, right?
He's still president but he can't govern and say, OK, well, that's Clinton excuse and pass. Oh, Barack Obama. He's elected with an overwhelming majority. Right. Sweeps into power to try to work with Republicans. They barter away half the stimulus to tax breaks and things like that. They don't do single payer. They don't even do a public option on health care. There's a lot of still free trade, things like that. 2010, you lose the house, two thousand fourteen, you lose the Senate.
I'm sorry. There's kind of a pattern here. And I think you don't like a lot of presidents.
You sound like a docent at the FDR Museum.
Let me tell you about this guy. He actually whipped everyone's ass kid.
I'll tell you a story. But no, but that's the point.
And the other reason I go through each of those examples, right, is to say that the history is so absolutely rock solid, clear that you don't come in and compromise. You don't Kosoff, you don't give people less. You give them more. You build this excitement, you build this enthusiasm. And yes, I'm sorry if it's difficult, right. You change rules again. I'm not bringing up Roosevelt ever going to mention them again.
So, yeah, OK.
So I feel like I feel but I just say, you know, I don't know people who others. Franklin Roosevelt. Right. Comes to the presidency. People are like, well why was he inaugurated on March 20th as opposed to January 20th? Because they literally amended the Constitution to restructure. When presidents come into office, they restructured issues. And how Congress worked there was so much they got changed in the early nineteen thirties and they restructured their relationship with Congress.
They move people around. They did all sorts of wild things. And why? Because Franklin Roosevelt said, well, we got a depression, people are suffering, we've got to do stuff. And they did stuff and it wasn't perfect. They failed on lots of stuff in that blank. Of course they were perfect when I said. But the fact of the matter is, what we like about the New Deal is not necessarily everything it did. What we like about it is that it had that ambition, that it tried to go from straight.
So the pattern being as clear as it is. We find ourselves, of course, falling into a similar trap in the conversation that's had by the left is why are they intentionally doing what they know has failed in the past? Are Democrats intentionally trying to lose midterms? And when you kind of poke that bear, when you ask them, you know, for example, when we asked Representative Condit when he's on the show a week or so ago, you know, why is it that so many of your colleagues don't support Medicare for all style, despite its overwhelming popularity rating and says, well, you know, a lot of them think it's a losing electoral issue.
And it's like, but my friend, you and I both know that's not the case. We see the patterns. We see what loses on what wins. At a certain point, the left says they're not mistaken. They're not myths misreading history. They're operating on some motivation that's different from necessarily winning and that there are other influences afoot here that are motivating the behavior of these elected officials. That isn't simply what's going to get them elected, what their constituents actually want, what's good for America.
How do you start to message around that and communicate that when it seems so obvious to the left? But that's just not a conversation that seems to be happening at all in the mainstream.
Instead, what you get is while the Democrats can't do X, Y and Z because the parliamentarian, because of Joe Manchin, because of Krysten Sinema, because Republicans at large, you know, how do you start to chip away at all of the excuses that the Democratic Party has been incredibly effective in building up to absolve them of any responsibility for the outcome of their policies?
You don't you don't try to chip away at it. You take a great big back and go for it. You try and knock it down in one one fell swoop because it chipping away at it. And Rubinoff says it's chipping away at it, finding like, oh, here's this little bit of evidence you're trying to make the case they love. That's like the comment section on, you know, like a blog post or something like that. It's like, OK, yeah, they want you to go into that and just say, lose yourself in the minutia of the.
Oh yeah. But what about this and stuff like that. No, no, no. You first off, you go with that basic concept. It always happens, right. It happens again and again and again. So clearly the problem is really it's not something debatable. It's not about personalities. It's this is structural. This is this is a reality within the party. Now, then you ask yourself, well, are they people? You know, they're not the overwhelming majority of them come at this for very good reasons.
There are some high level Democrats who are just ambition writ large. Right. You know, that they just that all they they do care about is getting the job and the gain and all that. Yeah, except they exist. There's a lot of people there who came in literally for incredibly noble reasons. Right. And then there it's almost as if we talk a lot about the trade union movement and we say one of the problems, the trade union movement is there's not enough union education.
You're not, you know, informed on how you got where you are and why a union is necessary. That's very true in the Democratic Party. There's too much party education. Right. And the problem is that from the top, there is this kind of constant well, this is how we do it. This is the only way we're going to win. We're not really popular. People don't really like us, you know. And so, you know, when we start to talk about, you know, all the things we really want, we're going to scare folks.
Right. And they're going to call us socialist. And that's why I wrote the book The S Word, because I wanted to argue and I continue to argue every day that until Democrats get comfortable with being called socialists, even if they aren't sure, let's say they have to be there. But until they get comfortable with that and they say, yeah, maybe this idea is a little socialistic, you know, but it's good until they get comfortable with that, they are going to always operate from a place of fear and it's trained to do.
Is that sincere, though, John?
Because we're not just talking about, OK, Amy Klobuchar doesn't want these left policies. We're talking about in this instance, the militancy that you called for before, the militancy that you pointed to that was able to but a Philip Randolph was able to leverage to make make a president listen. Right, to make him do it. Where is that coming from in a contemporary context, where a lot of the institutions that used to be the source of some of that militancy, whether or not it's some arm of the media, whether or not it's independent organizations, socialist organizations, whether it's not.
The handful of progressives we do have in Congress, what do you do if even those groups don't necessarily bring the militancy required of the moment and are for whatever reason, offering a degree of cover to a Biden administration who is pointing to the parliamentarian, for example, as though they are fourth branch of government instead of being very easily overturned, obstacle to providing people the minimum wage, a 15 minimum wage?
Yeah, and so that's that's exactly the right question. And the first off, let me re-emphasize that when we talk about Philip Randolph and Franklin Roosevelt, there's a debate about whether that conversation ever actually took place. So I always say, as the story is told.
Right. But is there a debate about the pressure that exists is behind? That's the Bible. And what we do know is that Randolph did meet with Roosevelt. We do know that Randolph threatened a march on Washington in 1940 into nineteen forty one and Roosevelt. So building up for World War Two, so concerned about that, that he issued an executive order integrating the defense industries. Huge, huge action that again, Randolph threatened a march on Washington in 1940, late forties, and got Truman to move on, integrating the military.
And then finally they did do a march on Washington in sixty three. And it had a profound impact on moving not just a constitutional amendment to get rid of the poll tax, but civil rights, voting rights. Except what we know is that a depression works. So then why isn't the pressure why do we try to talk it down? We can't deny money in politics. It's real. And despite all the talk we have of. Oh, yeah, now we've figured out how to raise money from the grassroots and stuff like that.
Most Democrats, at least in leadership positions, have not been trained to that kind of thinking. They're not inclined toward that kind of thinking. And in some cases, they really have spent so much time raising the money from those folks and hanging out with the lobbyists that they actually does leave it right. They believe that they need this money and they believe that they have to kind of like cut the corners and go into this centrist route because and this is the most dangerous argument that comes from the media.
You know, America's kind of a center right country. Right. You hear that. You've heard that a million times. And you hear that from supposedly liberal commentators say America's center right country. We're not the post. So quite the opposite. That's that's false. It's a scorching lie. And yet it has been so incorporated in and I'm not trying to give anybody excuses. This isn't to let somebody off the hook. It is to just say that if we're going to be honest about what the problem is, this psychology has gotten so integrated into the way that the Democratic Party works that even when people who maybe came in for very, very good reasons can a very progressive right there now in these positions of power and there's a whole there's a machine operating.
It's a it's an infrastructure that that they're so familiar with that they are frightened by and actually resistant to somebody coming in and saying, you could do this really differently. We could do this in a really better way. And you saw that happen in twenty sixteen, where it was clear at a certain point that Bernie Sanders was far more in touch with kind of where the moment was right. And yet Democratic leadership said we can't do that. That's that is totally unacceptable.
And so you actually see a situation where they will talk themselves out of winning. They would talk themselves out of winning because it would require them to do something in a way that they don't want to do because they actually are sold out to bad premises or B and I think this is actually just as dangerous that they don't think they can do because they so desperately fear being called radical or socialist or militant or whatever. The interesting thing about it is that years ago there was a big push by the Republicans to call Barack Obama a socialist right after he came in as president.
Instead, they everything everything is the socialist. It got to the point where on Fox one time Sarah Palin was on with Sean Hannity and they were talking about doing window treatments to keep the cold out. And the government had a plan for that. And they said this is socialism and weatherization is socialism. And the interesting thing was that finally The New York Times reporter asked Barack Obama in an interview, I believe, at the White House said, look, I know this is crazy and we're even embarrassed to ask it.
I ask you that. But is there a chance that I mean, there's all this talk about you being a socialist. What do you what do you think about that? Right. Obama's response was, no, that's silly. I'm not a socialist. Of course not. So. Double triple certification homosocial, it's totally not Kappler to my bones. Yeah, and so it's done the interviews done right.
The guy goes back and then in a relatively unprecedented thing, this is actually the guy reporter actually wrote about it in an article in a relatively unprecedented thing. The president of the United States called him up at his office and said, you know, about that socialism thing we were talking about. I just want to really super duper, double extra emphasize I'm not a socialist. Right. And you're thinking, why does Barack Obama, the brilliant man, one of the more capable people, I would argue, to to ever achieve the presidency in a very capable communicator as well?
Why does he feel the necessity to do that, that he has to make sure that that nobody would think that that's what he's doing, whereas the super successful Democratic presidents and if you look at Roosevelt and even Galai often criticized Truman when they came up with their case, they laughter they were like, this is this is what the Republicans always say when they don't want you to get Social Security. This is what the Republicans want. You know, I mean, Truman had a great on.
And I always, always note that John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, you know, in a speech to newspaper editors in the late 50s, went on and on about Marx. So, you know, Karl Marx was a reporter for a New York newspaper at one time. This is in the midst of the Red Scare. And he was comfortable talking about this stuff. Now you've got this class of people who are terrified, these leaders who are just terrified of it.
And I know it's a long answer and I apologize for it. But the reason I give the long answer is because I think that people who get to the higher echelons of the Democratic Party have literally taken this in to such an extent that the question of whether they're doing it because they really are in the service of the moneyed interests and they just want to do it or because they just don't think they can do it any other way, whatever it is in this flurry of influences and pressures, that's where the Democratic Party defaults to.
And then they lose so many cities to part that they have to compromise and then they lose. So how do we break? That's right.
Right. And so that's why I'm almost like less interested. And what's motivating what I'm just going to call bad actors and more interested about what's motivating the people who should be the militant pressure points to not fulfill that role. I want to go back to the point you made earlier about kind of like pundit brain and everybody's feeling like they got to, you know, weigh in and seem like the smart person in the room, in the reasonable person and the pragmatic person, because I do think that that kind of thinking has infected the left in a really interesting and frankly frustrating way where there is a real allergy to being perceived as having tried something for fear that you might be perceived of having tried and failed something.
And I wonder if you can speak to the historical put that in the context of a historical trajectory of left movements and whether or not that allergy to failure is something that is new. Because to me, it's one of the most toxic influences that I that I see around here.
If if a plan doesn't have 100 percent risk of passing 100 percent certain, I'm sorry.
One hundred and seventy is passing. It is perceived as you're a moron. Basically, you're just the most, you know, immature person. The kinds of things that folks used to say about Bernie and Bernie supporters are you must just be a 19 year old living in your parents basement. Doesn't know anything about the world is the kind of messaging that I feel from other parts of the left.
One of the things that people say to me a lot, you've probably said to me at some point, oh, you're so optimistic. Right. And and the fact of the matter is that everyone says that to those of us who are optimistic and I'm a great optimist, there is simply no question that everyone who says it is implicitly saying. Yeah, you know, you've got this default optimistic position, right, you believe these things are possible, and so I can't really take that seriously.
Right. It's fun to hear you speak about it. But really, at the end of the day, I'm going to need to go find a cynic to tell me we can't do this because that person I know it's right. That person I know is more experienced. That person I know just kind of they've got their finger on the pulse better because cynicism. Right. And skepticism and a certainty that things aren't possible. That's realistic. We're actually that's we're taught that that that is hard core jammed into us not just in politics, but throughout life.
But here's the interesting thing about it. I actually think that, by and large, as somebody who's been a pundit, who's been around it a lot, that I think cynicism and skepticism, by and large, are there evidence that you're scared and that maybe you're afraid you really don't know what's possible? And the easiest thing to say is you could turn out bad. You know, maybe it's not a good idea to try that. And the people I learned from are the people who never had a chance.
It was never going to work. You know, it was it was always an uphill drive and it was unlikely to succeed and yet spent their lifetime doing it. When I was a kid, one of my first big projects ever worked on was an oral history of veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade that fought in the Spanish Civil War against fascism. They were America's premature antifascists. They were people from not just New York City or San Francisco, but from rural Wisconsin, where I come from, who when Franco rose up against the elected government of Spain with the support of Hitler and Mussolini in the nineteen thirty, said, this is it.
This is the fight against fascism, and our government won't do what it needs to do. So they literally went illegally into Spain to fight against fascism, to join the people, the farmers, the peasants of Spain, to fight against Franco and the fascists and half of the Americans who went died. And the other half came home, survived, and then they were told they were premature antifascists and because they were on the left, they were chased throughout.
Sometimes they were even allowed to fight in World War Two because they were thought to be two antifascist in the aftermath. And I'm not kidding. In the aftermath of World War Two, they were red baited. They were chased out of jobs. They were even fired by unions. Right. And when I encountered these folks, men and women, mostly men in the 1980s, you know, kind of later 1980s, they were old by then. They had been at it for more than 50 years.
The youngest of them was gay. And AIDS Rowden, who had joined up with like 14 or 15. And he was like seventy. Right. So, I mean, they were they were old and yet they were still at it. They would show up at Central America protests. They would show up at labor protests. They would knock doors and picket and campaign and believe. And the interesting thing about it was that you saw at the end of the day that they were right about everything.
They got things wrong along the way, but they knew that they wanted economic and social and racial justice. They wanted an international order in which colonialism and imperialism were taken on. Some of them were communists, some of them were socialists. Some of them were just independent radicals. But they were clearly on the left and they got beat up a lot for you. Could any one of them, any one of them you can look at and say, why wouldn't you just give up?
Why wouldn't you not believe? And yet you do. The weirdest things that I interviewed were incredibly optimistic. They believed. They believed. And now we look at, OK, what were they for? A lot of the things they were for and the things that were we're still wrestling with, we're still trying to get around to. And so the lesson I take from it is we need to be optimistic. We need to believe in what is possible, because at the end of the day, those moments come right where everything's thrown out away.
You have a pandemic that the government is unprepared to deal with and mass unemployment that extends from oh, my gosh, I know that will never happen. But let's say that if that happened, right. And then suddenly we find out, oh, the government's got trillions of dollars, they can spend money like crazy. Right. And I thought we had deficits and debts and we couldn't do anything. No, no. It turns out we can do we can get as much money as we want.
Oh, really? So suddenly everything you told us we couldn't do was a lie. Right. All right. So if it's a lie, then maybe it's a lie that we can't have single payer health care and maybe it's a lie that we can't have a living wage for everybody. And maybe in these moments, those of us who believe in what is necessary, step in with our answers and we succeed. Now, you can tell me that's never going to happen, John, and you're just too naive and you're too optimistic and stuff like that.
But at the end of the day, I'm going to believe it. I'm going to believe that that's the point, because I think that was the point of the abolitionists in the period from the founding of this country and original sin until the Civil War, they kept pushing. You could you could be born, live your entire life and die an old person as an abolitionist and not see the end of slavery. And yet they carried that struggle forward. And the point came where something happened, something real happened.
You can be a Philip Randolph, right. The perhaps the most radical guy in New York City in nineteen seventeen nineteen eighteen. They called him the most dangerous man in America. He published the messenger of Socialist publication. He was radical. He ran for statewide office in New York on Eugene Victor Debs, his ticket. You know, I mean, boy, come on, what chance is that guy have? Right. And he ended up organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, got on the AFL-CIO board.
They still ridiculed and pushed him aside, said he believed too much. You never joined the Democratic Party. He remained a socialist throughout his life. And yet he got into those rooms with presidents of the United States. He made demands. He called the march on Washington in nineteen sixty three and on the morning after the March on Washington March on Washington was great. The morning after a Philip Randolph, they actually had the Socialist Party's gathering to kind of deconstruct the march in Randolph was there, right?
If you read the report, which, by the way, is covered by The New York Times because New York Times used to cover socialist. No. Did you? OK, and just much more thoroughly than they do now. If you read the article, which, by the way, on the front page, New York Times, Philip Randolph's response after that incredible march, after that incredible moment when they went to the White House and had sandwiches with John Kennedy and got their picture taken at the Lincoln Memorial and everything, A.
Philip Randolph said, folks, we're going to have to do some more marching. And he was completely unsatisfied. He said we got to do. And what did he turn around and do? In a matter of about two years, they had developed their freedom budget for all Americans. They literally proposed a social democracy and they got into Lyndon Johnson's office and he ending this and working on it. And I guess what I would say is I'm with those folks.
I'm with the folks who believe that we get ready for our moment. We have our marches, we have our pressure, we push. And sometimes it works. Right. It actually happens. You have you have a march. You have other incidents that occur of great consequence. And then you get you get accustomed. You'll never get real people to actually get Civil Rights Act. You get the Voting Rights Act, you get a war on poverty, you get Medicare and Medicaid or in two years.
Right. And I am always of the view that that two years is always out there. It's always possible. And I think that the only thing often that stops us from getting that is a Democratic Party that says, oh, this isn't the time. We're just not going to do it now. We'll do it someplace down the line. We'll have to build to it. And so the tragedy of it is, I can guarantee you that so many opportunities have been missed because of cynicism.
I guarantee you. Yeah, Bill Clinton had gone for single payer Medicare for all health care in nineteen ninety three. He might have lost the initial vote, but they would not have had the setbacks that they did. In nineteen ninety four, Clinton would have been reelected. Ninety eight, they would have done better. And at some point along that line we would have gotten single payer. I know that to be true and I know that so many other things that we should have now, we could have gone except for people at the top level of the Democratic Party who kept saying it's not the time, it's too far to go.
And so if we remember that history, if we understand that history and this is the point at which we have to say no more, what do you think that now is the moment to throw down over a fifty dollar minimum minimum wage?
Because the argument goes, if you have a must pass bill, the pressure should go both ways.
The pressure shouldn't just be that we concede to everything Joe Manchin and Christian sentiment. It should also be that it's an opportunity for progressives, potentially the six or seven or eight progressives in the House that could hold the thing up and demand the inclusion of a fifteen dollar minimum wage, the same way that we're told that moderate Democrats demand the exclusion of a 15 year minimum wage. You know, there's the understanding that we're not going to have more leverage during the next reconciliation process, but less you talked about the word necessary and what's necessary for millions of Americans with record levels of unemployment.
We all know it's disproportionately affecting black and brown people and women. All of the stats that are so horrible that you will hear when you turn on NPR divorced from the solution. So, I mean, obviously, there are risks to doing this and there's a public perception battle that will fall out around whether or not progressives are right to hold up all of this much needed relief. But what's your view on whether or not this is the time for that particular fight?
That's a great question. And I'm going to give you the best answer. I don't know. And I wish I could tell you for sure that that I know. What I do know is this frontline workers working for state and local government have been stretched to the limit in Mitch McConnell through all of twenty twenty on the Heroes Act, that the previous version refused that funding. And now we're in a situation where you have that ability to make government function, make it possible for government to function at the state and local level.
That is a very managerial response I acknowledge upfront as a critic of a managerial approach. But I also know that, hey, those people to make that happen, it's an incredibly valuable right. And a lot of the other things that are there in this measure are valid. And so at some fundamental level, I hate to say it, but I think we missed we already missed the open, tragically. I mean, when was the opening? It was when the parliamentarian came on.
That was the point at which to say no.
Should Bernie Sanders have declined to vote? For the bill, I think that British should have done it alone, but I think a group of people should have I think that they should have said we can't do this.
I mean, all it takes is Bernie. I'm not in the camp of and I'll say this bluntly and maybe people will be very uncomfortable with this. I'm not in the camp of saying one person should do that.
I mean, two people did it on the other end. Yes, I realize and that's what I think, is that you need to organize a group of people to do it right. And would there have been the group? I think there would have been. I think there was a sufficient number of people there. I think the parliamentarian fight was was the fight. And it was a brilliant, perfect argument. And it just horrifies me that it didn't happen.
So, yes. Do I think would I have preferred in that moment to have seen even an individual senator, but certainly a group of senators say this is unacceptable. This is this is absurd.
Who do you imagine it would have been along with Bernie? Conceivably, Jeff Merkley?
I think quite, quite likely. The fact of the matter is there's quite a few quite a few folks. There were clearly people who were willing to work with Bernie Sanders on what was a brief. It was like a 30 second theory of how they were going to do this, which was that they were going to use tax policy to pressure corporations to raise wages to fifteen dollars. And that was abandoned for reasons of complexity. But at that point, he had Ron Widen and other people.
You know, it wasn't just Bernie. There was there was a group of folks. The truth of the matter is you've probably got a good half dozen more Democratic senators now who are at that place, who are there. Elizabeth Warren is another example of somebody who who could be and should be there. And so then the question becomes, and this is true in the house as well. Right. The question becomes, how do you get that group to start working if you don't want the individual person to be the one who is said, OK, that's the one that's stopping everything good from happening right in our media system, in our political systems in this country are designed to destroy that person and are designed to to undermine them no matter how courageous they are.
And so I do think you need a block of people there ready to move as a group and to say we just aren't going to do this. This is not this is not going to happen. And so there is a Congressional Progressive Caucus operating in the House. I think you need a Senate Progressive Caucus. And I think you need or at least you need people who are ready to do that. But rather than get down to the individuals, because I'm often very cautious about a politics built around individuals and more interested in kind of where the movements are and what we do and how we make things happen.
And it strikes me that it was pretty clear the 15 dollar minimum wage issue was going to be the one that was going to be the fighting point. And this is where the movement needed to be there. And I'm not blaming people for this. Right. But I am saying, why not? Well, because I think individuals probably would have been I think there's individuals who would have come right. But where is the call to come? Where is the movement?
Leadership, I would say, is you deserve some critique here. Absolutely.
And that's the thing. I mean, where where is the presence? Right. And look, Washington's been through a lot of help of late. Right. You know, you had January six and everything in the aftermath of that. And I think there's a there's a lot of fences up right now, literally, literally. But at some fundamental level, if fifteen dollars, which I think is a really big deal, I think this is the fundamental thing.
You're doubling people's wages. And by the way, that's not radical to do. Harry Truman did that in 1940, not to get after one of the forty eight election became a Democrat Congress. They raised the minimum wage, not quite double that. They got pretty close to it. So it's not this is not unprecedented in our history. It's doable. It's within within the realm of reason to do a huge spike. And we knew that was going to be a battleground.
To their credit, Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema told us this is where they were going to say no. So at that point, why not have a fight? Why not do it? And if there is a loss, if it doesn't succeed, well, then we know the power, right? We know what we're at. But if you don't kind of rally in and you'll come to DC and go to those Washington, I go to those offices across the country and put the pressure on at an intense level.
We don't know what we might have been able to do there. And, you know, before a moment ago when we talked about those missed opportunities. Right. What might have been possible in nineteen sixty seven, what might have been possible in nineteen ninety three, I fear that we will look back at February into March of two thousand and twenty one and say what might have been possible moment. We had a moment where.
But isn't that a reason to say regardless of the risks, regardless of the media, the public battle that is going to what would emerge if that house progressives were to hold this up or appreciate why it would be better for Bernie to be acting as a block?
But absent a block, if someone like Bernie Sanders, who I obviously have immense respect for, but who was also by any metric at the end of his career, one would imagine, you know, at a certain point, what are you saving up cultural capital for? Why not go out in a blaze of glory under saying that this really does feel like a last stand of sorts? I mean, when do you anticipate us having an opportunity for a fifty dollar minimum wage?
Again, truly, because it looks like we're going to lose that. You know, given how Democrats are behaving, the odds that we lose the House, our real Senate, both, who knows it's going to be a bloodbath next midterms and then there'll be a perfect ready made excuse for why the Biden administration can't do anything at all. And then who knows what's going to happen four years from now. So that being the case and this crisis being looked at, being something that looms in the background, it's hard for me to value the abstract desire to have Bernie Sanders have backup or to say, I don't know that the progressives should take this on, given how needed the covid bill is, if we really say what we believe about the necessity of a 15 dollar minimum wage.
I agree with you.
Yeah, I think I think it's some fundamental level. That's where we get to. I think it's a credible argument that that's the right thing to do. And I write I'll write it up in a minute tomorrow.
But that argument and you'll note that today I wrote a piece for The Nation in which I my argument, I can never remember my headlines, but it was something along the lines of Democrats who are resisting a fifty dollar wage are the Republicans best allies. And that was actually looking toward the twenty twenty two, twenty, twenty four elections. And so I'm not going to argue with you. I think that is the credible that is the credible argument and it is a legitimate point at which to make the fight.
I think this was a point at which to make the fight and it frustrates me greatly that it did not happen. It has not happened. And again, though, I'm going to put on my optimist hat sorry, my apologies, but I'm going to put it on and I'm going to say that administrations do learn and also movements learn. They have a dance. There's a relationship in these early stages. The question now is, what do we do with the knowledge that we have?
What do we do with the experience of this covid bill? How do we come back? And it strikes me that there's a couple of things that are absolutely necessary. If you give the minimum wage in this process, you can get the increase in this process. And also, I would strongly emphasize, if you got the nickel and diming of unemployment, if you got the the means testing of direct payments, there's a lot of stuff that went awry here.
If that's the case, then how do we prepare for what comes next? How do we deal with what's going on? And it does strike me that that this is the point at which some absolute demands have to be made as regards Senate rules and filibusters. And I know that's boring stuff, but this is the point at which we have to call people out on this and make it kind of a fundamental fight. And the interesting thing is our comrade Joe Manchin on Sunday, if you watch the Sunday shows, he did an interview in which he said, yeah, I might be open to like a talking filibuster.
And now if you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk. I'm willing to look at any way we can, but I'm not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.
Well, that's all anybody's ever been talking about is making move into that. So if Manchin showing that openness, then I think we put the pressure on Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden and we literally say, OK, you can clearly negotiate with Joe Manchin on this, maybe even Kyrsten Sinema. What are you going to do this? How bad does it have to get before you make the change, before you make the rule change and you do the thing that is necessary?
It's it's one vote, right? It's a 50 50 plus Kamala Harris vote.
And I think it's unacceptable that Joe Biden seems to be signaling now that he's not there with that he's not there with filibuster reform, doesn't have any thoughts on a filibuster to support a filibuster, especially now that some more moderate Democrats are now saying that they would like to see some filibuster reform in his view and his position hasn't changed.
What the hell? I mean, what do we do that right then? We are going to have a situation where the House of Representatives is going to pass, as they already have, H.R. one. Right. They've got the politics. They passed the George Floyd reform policing. They're going to do the pro act, which is pro labor piece of legislation. They're going to do just kind of run down the list and it's something environmental will come. They're going to pass a whole bunch of stuff.
Going to be close votes right there, going to Pelosi will actually have to pressure some Democrats to do the right thing, but they'll get it passed and then all of these things will pile up at the Senate door and nothing will happen. And the fact of the matter is that will be unimaginably destructive. And now you bring me around to your to the argument or the discussion we were having a moment ago of at some point there has to be that the demand has to be that you got to fix this or you have to accept that this isn't going to work and you're going to end up with it sometime in November of twenty, twenty two.
And let me emphasize, in November, twenty, twenty two people aren't going to remember the American rescue plan. That isn't going to be remembered just like in 2010. In 2010. Did people remember Obama's rescue plan? He did a huge amount of money. Better part of a trillion dollars. Right. That didn't get it didn't work in November 2010.
Do you think it's different because of the checks, though, that people feel that better, will feel that more personally than Obama's?
You know, maybe they're going to get the check and cash it. And do you remember all the checks you got two years ago? What checks that I get two years ago?
I don't know how much you get from Vladimir Putin. No, man, I got to remember the checks you got two years ago.
I mean, I remember some, but I don't think I'd remember fourteen hundred. Maybe I would I'd be thrilled to get 49.
I mean, maybe if it's a physical check, like for my mother or something, that's the only time I would get a check. It's called direct deposit these days. Yeah.
Bitcoin and so it's. Yeah but it's in your Venmo or whatever. And so, but then it gets to the question of and again and this this is the heart of it. Maybe the biggest thing about David Bowie, who is best political philosopher, the modern and not the best apolitical, said in the 1990s. So things are moving so fast, everybody's having trouble keeping. Right, and this is one of the greatest innovators in music and so many other things, I bring that up because that was twenty five years ago, that a product 30 years ago saying things are moving so fast.
I think these have just sped up that we have so much coming at us and so much communication in so many ways. I don't think that anybody's going to remember the checks. I think they would remember the checks if you did what Rokita has proposed two thousand dollars every month until we get out of it, out of the problem. But I don't think that that I mean, hold it. Let me ask you this a different way. Do you remember the six hundred dollars you got?
I mean, I didn't get anything. There you have it.
I couldn't even get to be to be honest, I couldn't even get through and get unemployment when I was unemployed after that. The campaign like it just logistically. At some point they sent me a card, but the card never worked and I just gave up.
I mean, did people remember the checks that they got from Trump or did they remember the fact that they were not getting another check before November?
And when Trump was in trouble in December after he had lost, what did he become really enthusiastic for that two thousand dollar checks, man.
And, you know, great political instincts. Donald Trump did not say, let's means test him. Right. Let's let's not give them as much and let's not let's not give it to as many people. And so here's the bottom line on all of this. If the Democrats in power do not regularly deliver month after month throughout this period and keep getting things done right, the memories will be short. The frustrations could be to be large. And, you know, the fact is, I always think the most dangerous thing that is ever created in politics was the theory of the first hundred days, if you like.
Oh, yeah. Get it all fixed in one hundred days. Well, Roosevelt didn't do that into the Wagner Act, which gave labor rights in the first hundred days into Social Security in the first hundred days. The rural electrification, first hundred days. You know, the first hundred days was basically managerial. It was getting the banks literally collapsing most of what the New Deal was to place month after month, year after year, over a period of time.
And you know what? Ultimately, people came to love it. They came to like an activist government. They kept doing things. And so what I'm talking about here is the question of whether this democratic government, the party government that we have now will be activist throughout its just two years that it's been given this this narrow window of opportunity. If it is not, then pattern is very likely to hold and they're very likely to lose power and they're very likely to end up in a situation where Joe Biden, the second two years of his presidency, he can't govern in any kind of fundamental way that ought to scare all of them.
And it is sort of the answer to your question of who is the hero? Who is the villain here? I think those who have the critique, those who stand up and challenge movements and individuals in Congress, they're not villains. They're the ones who are actually trying to save this thing from falling apart.
John, I just had a couple follow ups as we approach the climax of this interview. We know we've been talking about this legislative fight, about the fight for 15. Looking at the broader horizon, what do you make of the argument that the Democratic Party in the neoliberal era, at least, is structurally designed to safeguard the status quo, to redirect or innovate radical passions and radical ideas?
I would say, yes, that the Democratic Party is not a political party that is inclined to go for it, to go for the big the big one. It's better. The Democratic Party is actually better than it was for two reasons. Right now it's better because the times are so demanding and it's literally there is a certain pressure to to step up. It's better because movements and movement, political figures have come in and influenced it both from inside and outside.
And so you are seeing evidence of the influence of the left on this party, right? It has. You'd see some real evidence that there's there's been some movement, but some movement is insufficient to the moment and runs the very profound risk that it sort of dials down the enthusiasm. The great progressive senator of the last century, Robert McFarlane, who was asked about reform versus change, fundamental change, and he referred to reform or a lot of reforms as half a loaf.
And people say, well, take a half a loaf. Right. That's that's pretty good. It's not a whole loaf of bread, but it's half a loaf in the Follette said half a loaf dulls the appetite for the meal that you actually need. And so I think that that the Democratic Party has. For a very long time, then a half a loaf. It gives you progress, it gives you things that that you want in many ways and some very good things.
And you're going to get some right now with the American Rescue Act and with some other things and you get some good executive orders and stuff like that. And that's good. That manages the moment. Did it? It's progress, I guess. But but if you go back to that government, the trouble with normal is it always gets worse. It's just managing doesn't get us out of the crisis that we're in. And if the Democratic Party is a managerial party, it's not getting us to where we need to be.
Then, as an optimist, how do you square that circle of people agree with that proposition, that that's what the party does, that's what it's built to do. Then what's going to change all this?
Well, I'm for multiparty democracy. I mean, I like a system where you have a lot of options. Our problem is that we have a rigged system in America. And it always one of the things that's striking about me is that you will hear politicians say, oh, the system is rigged, it's a rigged system. We'll talk about the economy being rigged. They'll sometimes even talk about politics being written, but they won't talk about the biggest rigging of all, which is the two party system.
It literally is a system set up so that you've got two options and you are overwhelmingly your energy into each of these parties, one or the other, and you kind of hope to move the ship one way or the other. And I'm open to that. I'm open to the I wrote a book about this long struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party, which now I would argue has been going on for 80 years, more than 80 years in some ways.
And some people say, well, yeah, but isn't that the evidence that you give up? No, it's not the evidence that you give up. It's fine. I have great respect for people who work within the Democratic Party to move it left. And if they could find a way to do that, fantastic. But I do not reject those who say, look, you know, an external pressure can also have an impact. And ultimately, do I favor political reform that would make us it would allow us to have multiparty democracy where you really had competing forces?
Yes, I think that would be better. Do you want to get me going on reforms also to talk about the US Senate? And I'm not I'm not so sure that's such a healthy institution either to start to really talk about what we need and how the changes we need. I always hear people say, well, let's get rid of the Electoral College. Yeah, of course, let's get rid of the Electoral College. But let's also talk about the United States, an incredibly unrepresentative body where a handful of people can literally stop what the great mass of Americans want.
If we object to the Electoral College, why don't we also question literally the constructs that give us the Senate that that is such a challenge. And I know that those are bigger conversations. Those are the conversations that take people way beyond the intricacies of the moment. But the fact of the matter is that when I look around the world and I cover a lot of politics around the world, I have been lucky enough to cover elections in twenty five different countries.
What I have seen in that experience of being in other places and looking at a democracy play out in other places is that there's a tremendous benefit to, at a certain point saying our system is not working, it doesn't function. We need to rip some things up and and create a new system. We need to restructure the way it works. And most countries in the world have done that. We are now an outlier. The country that was supposedly the great revolutionary country is now the one that hasn't had a lot of constitutionalism.
And I really want to get down to the heart. I know it's not necessarily the question you asked, but it's some fundamental level. It's a fundamental level. I do think that there is a very strong argument for a movement for radical constitutional reform in this country that gets us a couple of steps closer to democracy and that that does involve being frustrated with the Democratic Party.
I agree with you on closing things out and thinking about a.. Philip Randolph coming in to lecture these Democratic presidents about building social democracy.
Makes me wonder who other than people the judge is going to be the socialist to get in the Oval Office and tell Biden what's what?
Do you have any suggestions?
Yeah, look, look, the fact of the matter is, a.. Philip Randolph never took a cabinet post. Philip Randolph refused the nomination that was offered to him, or at least he was encouraged to seek in nineteen forty four to represent Harlem in Congress. And there was a lot of pressure on him to to make that move. He always refused the opportunity to be in the room officially. He chose to force his way into the room to demand that he get a hearing and he got that hearing.
Now I want to emphasize that Philip Randolph was actually very pragmatic, gets back to some of these discussions we've just had about when you stand up and when you make your demand. He did not do marches on Washington sometimes when he had threatened to do them because he got enough progress, not everything he wanted. He wanted an end to segregation and racism and discrimination. There's so much he wanted to address, but he was willing to take a win along the way.
But the genius of Philip Randolph was that he was ready to come back the next day and demand something more that line them. You know, I think we're going to have to do some more march. So I do think that that this is one of the biggest problems in America today. And I know it's a terrible way to run things out and finish off by saying, here's by the way, here's here's the biggest problem in America today, just what you want.
But I think this is one of the biggest problems in America today. Our media is almost entirely but almost incapable of covering people who aren't elected officials as they make demands. Now, tremendous credit to the Black Lives Matter movement, which was a grassroots movement that actually did get noticed. Right. But it took immense energy and weeks in the streets and dramatic demands, many of which have still not been met. Right. But there is there's still evidence that you can you can do that.
But here's the interesting thing. When I go and talk, Antonsen, I give a speech back in the old historic days when you actually spoke it physically. I would always before I got the speech, I'd always go to an antique store and I get a daily newspaper from that town because they always sell and they got a stack of them in the corner. You can get for like five dollars and you get one from some random date 50 years before.
And I'd go up to the crowd and say, well, let's take a look at the front page of the newspaper. First off, there's 20 stories on the front page, not five, because they actually had a lot of journalism and they didn't take a big picture to try and make you think the false longstreth that you're actually getting news. They actually put a lot of a lot of information. And who was on the front page? I remember being up in Duluth, Minnesota, one time and I had a copy of the paper from up there and his front page article, Ralph Nader talking about from 50 years earlier, talking about some consumer issue, civil rights folks talking about something else, anti-poverty campaigners talking about something else and going to the White House and meeting with the president.
And in a high profile, big deal way like this mattered as much as if Joe Manchin came over our media use to cover politics as if it was actually politics. Right. And that meant that the whole of the thing now our media has its narrow set of legitimized figures, those who we will listen to and we push aside movement folks. And so in a roundabout to long way, I'm sure the answer to your question about Philip Randolph, we need a new Philip Randolph.
We need a whole bunch of Philip Randolph. We need him to do exactly what Randolph did, which is to say, I will meet with the president and I will make my demands. If the president moves immediately, we will not have that march. If the president doesn't, we will have that march. And once we have that march, one way or the other, then we will start planning the next March, because it is a permanent opposition to whoever is in power, right.
Until those in power give you what you need. And at the end of the day. We talk too much about what politicians should do. We have to talk about that, what the people demand, but I'm not putting it all on the people. I'm not saying, oh, yeah. So the people have to make this happen. No, I'm putting it on our media system in this country, our failed, awful damaging media system in this country, which so diminishes independent and dissident voices.
And I'm quite bluntly saying I'm glad to be on this podcast with people who are asking questions that actually are a little tougher and push a little harder. And this is what media is going to have to be able to hear you say that.
I was worried you were going to close out by telling us to stop talking about Joe Manchin so much.
I was going to do that, John, if you really want to help us, how could you say nobody rocks like bad faith? Nobody.
Nobody rocks like bad faith. No, that's not real. As a as a as a person of faith. Right. Which I am I have to acknowledge to you that that I prefer a good faith.
But we have no I am surprising to anyone who listen to the show.
Virgil put out the name Bad Faith. He threw it out there and I said, that sounds kind of good, but what about good faith? And I think he was right.
I think that bipartisan adjectival at the better sounds like a Christian adult. Contemporary.
Yeah, I see that as a as a person of faith who actually does believe in some of that stuff. See, that's why it probably appeals to me. But I can tell you that my call him a friend, certainly somebody I've interacted with along a lot over the years, Wayne Kramer, who was from the NC five, one of the greatest rockers of all time, the My Guy.
I think his genius was that he understood sometimes to be the bad boy could have some power. And so maybe the Barnfather argument doesn't little I guess bad faith sounds more like a rock band than good thing.
My favorite story from Please Kill Me, which is a classic book. Everyone should read it. Bree, I'll send you my copy.
Sometimes it literally can I just tell you I want you to story because I'm done it, I think. It's the bookshelf looking to see if I sound like an idiot here, because we cannot we cannot see your books.
I got your look on to state. Stay with me.
Oh, he's got a ladder and everything. I'm jealous. He's putting us to shame right now. And they're like, I think they're doubled into this.
Like, so so please kill me. It's got to be on the other bookshelf inside. But I do have Julian Cote's we have our bookshelf a mess.
But I do have Julian Pope's history of head on its history of punk and alternative rock in Liverpool. So that's something. All right. Please tell me the story was I think it was Kramer.
They had some kind of debt. I don't know. It's like credit card debt or something like, yeah, they got a call from a debt collector and someone picks up and says, stop fucking calling us. We're heroin addicts. Want I pay our debts. And that's that story is why I never voluntarily paid my student loans.
That's kind of cool. That's that's a good one in the book. I think it's the book Detroit Rock City, which is a history. I hope I've got the title right. It's a history of rock and roll in Detroit. The guys at the Embassy five tell a story about how they had moved into the inner city. You know, like right before the Detroit riots of nineteen sixty seven. And they were out partying hard one night. And I know that's going to be shocking to you at the time.
And so they slept in a little bit and things have been pretty crazy the night before, but they had gotten used to sleeping in. As the story goes, they got up and they're like semi dressed and opened the front door of their place and there was a tank in their front yard with its turret turned toward them. And they said, well, this is getting serious. Things are getting real here in Detroit. And just to give you an example of why that matters to what we're talking about, I will argue again that most of what we should know comes from rock and roll, that Wayne Kramer is absolutely one of the most brilliant political commentators that I know and that Wayne Kramer from the AMC five still around, just played guitar, I believe, on the new Alice Cooper album.
Wayne Kramer in his incredible brilliance after getting busted and spend some time behind bars for this incredible prison reform group, Jail Guitar Doors, that gets guitars to prisoners and helps them to get into music that also works too long before it became kind of a thing just working on prison reform at a fundamental level. He's one of the most moral, decent people in the world. And, well, I love spending the better part of two hours talking about politics.
What I would rather have done is two hours of rock and roll, because my optimism tells me that there's there's always more good coming from rock and roll.
We can definitely make that happen on a future episode, especially if you can get Wayne on.
Oh, yeah, Wayne, I won't speak for him. But, you know, I mind you get in trouble for that. I think he would. Come on, you know, he's he's a totally he's a deeply political guy. You know, he played a gig for Bernie. I know that in Davenport, Iowa. Really? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It was a fabulous thing in twenty fifteen. This is he was he was there early. I'm pretty sure it was Davenport. If I, if it's those years on the road you start to lose sight of some things, but I'm pretty sure it was Davenport. Wayne came out and played along with a bunch of other people and he was fabulous and he got the point he was really good. But the best thing, one of the best things we ever did, I can tell you that back in ancient Virgil, how old are you?
I'm thirty four. Thirty four. OK, when you were in I think it's before you were in high school we organized a movement for media reform because I've been complaining about the media all your life. So we organized a movement for media reform. We had a big event in Madison, Wisconsin. Tom Morello came and folks from the coup and and other other rockers and players and different folks and the Chambers Brothers who did the song Time Has Come Today. And we had this fabulous show right where we had everybody smart in politics had spoken, Bill Moyers and Studs Terkel and members of Congress and everybody at the end of the day, it was the the rockers and the soul folks who actually got the message across better than anybody else.
And so you want to do that? I'm ready. I'll even try and bring Wayne along. I love it. Let's do it.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. John, working our audience find you.
Your audience can find me in my garage where I'm at right now. No, The Nation magazine, we got the Nation Dotcom, the National Magazine of America.
Well, it's a magazine which I like quite a bit. Let me say a few things along the way. Also, I'm on Twitter at Nichols' Uprising. Which is an homage to the Wisconsin uprising of 2011 and your book, The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party is still available from Verso.
Better be. I'm doing an event with New Mexico progressives tomorrow night. And yes, I'm very enthusiastic about that, although I'm also enthusiastic that I'm writing the book right now about all the covid criminals and political horrible people. And it will include a lot of Republicans, but some Democrats as well.
Very much looking forward to that. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you. This is really wonderful. It's wonderful for me and I really like what you're doing. And I also like the two of you, so I'm glad to be here. Thank you. It really means a lot.
I really enjoyed that. Yeah, we sure kicked out the jams on that one.
I felt like we were talking to a kindred spirit. Yeah. Yeah, I like that a lot. I was great guest and a lot of interesting things. I never know what to say to him outright. Well, mainly because, like, I sometimes I want to make like an like a substantive point or comment on the conversation or continue on a line of argumentation. But then we'll be here for 15 minutes.
I mean, this was the worst and this was a long episode.
But generally speaking, sometimes I do feel like we should leave more room for, like post conversation hashing out, although you can stray into a realm where you're saying things that you probably should have said to someone's face, and then it can just feel like we're, you know, doing unfair editorialization. And it's a difficult balance.
I'll give you one thought that I had over the course of this interview, which is, you know, in Congress, Republicans have a lot of theory, people, a lot of ideologues who, you know, carry around their copies of The Fountainhead and they know their Ludwig von Mises, you know.
So the profile of George. All right. You know, so, you know, kind of fuck faces who are writing about, you know, free market shit in their college publications.
And there's no parallel on the Democratic side. I could not name a single Democratic member of a member of the House anyway who reads theory or adheres to a rigid set of ideological principles.
There's no one carrying around a copy of the Little Red Book.
Yeah, I mean, the right did a really good job of decrying Marxism. I'm not sure what else. I mean, even you know, I was I was quoted in an article as learning from the right or having some sympathy for the right. But really, I'm talking about Tea Party tactics that are Saul Alinsky tactics. But the the fact that these were left tactics have been completely forgotten or deliberately obscured. And so, yeah, there there was obviously a history and a tradition to draw upon.
But, you know, to Ralph Nader's point when he was on the show, there just doesn't seem to be any ideological interest in that or in a kind of storytelling which would be useful for messaging reasons to the public. Right. Well, we had the I think Eric Stiegel on and we were talking about the Supreme Court and all of that. My frustration with Fetlock has often been that the American Constitution Society, its counterpoint, doesn't really see itself as having to have an ideological vision.
They see themselves as like neutral. We're just neutral and the law is neutral. And to John's point, if one side is ratcheting far in the other direction and the other side is neutral, what you end up with is the right a rightward swing.
Yeah, I mean, you have I mean, you know, the right is, you know, mostly composed of frauds. But, you know, within the the super frauds are real ideologues who will really want to destroy the what scraps of social democracy we have in this country.
There's a lot of rancor on the left, to put it mildly, and there's quite a lot of pessimism, quite a lot of cynicism.
And I do think that to some degree, being able to articulate your principles in a way that's not focus group public relations crap, but like, you know, actually, you know, intellectually derive principles, theory and then say, OK, so this is what I follow and, you know, my actions are going to be based around that.
And maybe I'll compromise, you know, in order to get something done, whatever. But ultimately, that's my North Star. I think there's a great value in that.
You know, that's what I liked about our Rohana interview, where he was willing to really discuss these these distinctions between, you know, socialism and capitalism and why he believes that markets are necessary and things like that. I mean, I don't agree with him, but I am glad that he was willing to engage in some kind of intellectual discussion on those topics.
And, you know, you and every listener and listen to that interview right now by going to Patriot, not bad for podcast and becoming a subscriber to our humble little show that was smooth.
Virgile, I mean, maybe it is good to start off by commenting on the interview by saying something like less banal than that was fun.
Yeah, that's just five dollars a month at Patrón Dotcom. Such Bad Faith podcast. And look at all the great content you got. You get premium subscriber only episodes you've got. There's a comment section. You can abuse us by sending us messages.
You can be you can, you know, let your freak flag fly and just become a full friggin KARREN. Just complain about the show.
That's what five bucks gets you.
Those are the words of someone who doesn't read the comment and you can be found on YouTube dotcom slash bad people. As always, keep the debate was all about freedom when you're trying to be brave enough to let your. Thievin do it now. All need to system system.