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[00:00:02]

It's Friday, August the 14th, and you're very welcome to the Inside Politics podcast from the Irish Times. I'm here today. I am joined by Michael Brendan Dougherty. Listeners may remember Michael from a previous podcast in which we discussed his book, My Father Left Me Ireland, a meditation on an exploration of national identity and personal history from his own very particular Irish American perspective. And that book, by the way, is still available in all good bookshops. I know that for a fact, because I was in just such a bookshop only last week and saw a copy of it there.

[00:00:30]

But in his day job, Michael is a senior writer at National Review, which is one of the foremost publications of conservative thought in the United States. He is also a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a division of social, cultural and constitutional studies. And a recent article in The New York Times cited him as one of the writers who would be instrumental in shaping Republican thinking in the post Trump era.

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So what better week to have him on than this one? With Kamala Harris officially announced as Democratic vice presidential nominee and preparations underway for what are going to be, I think, some of the weirdest party conventions in modern U.S. history.

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Michael, you're very welcome. Thank you so much, Hugh. I'm glad to be here again. An easy question. First of the two candidates in November, who would you like to see be elected president?

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Oh, jeez, I will not be voting for either of these. I'm also in New York, so it's an easy way to pass off responsibility because Donald Trump would have no chance of winning in New York. So I can I can stay pure journalistic and detached from the actual outcome. So you're going to be you're going to be sitting this one out? Yes.

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As as I did I did in twenty sixteen.

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I mean, National Review, which of course is full of a multiplicity of different opinions, but it has it is not pro Trump, but it's not part of the never Trump coalition of former Republicans or conservative anti Trump people, things like that. Some of some of the campaigns we see that have been up and running for the last couple of months, like the Lincoln Project. Right.

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In 2016 National Review. That was before I joined National Review. But in 2016, the magazine opposed Trump's nomination and preferred other candidates instead. And then, I don't think said anything about the the general election race as far as an institutional endorsement. So, yeah, we've we've maintained views. I mean, it's always been this way at National Review. I remember very famously in the nineteen eighties as conservatives, some of them got tired of Ronald Reagan. There was a phrase among conservatives saying, oh, let Reagan be Reagan.

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In other words, like let him be unloosed from his advisors and and so on. And a very famous voice in an review said, well, let someone else be Reagan instead. So yeah, there's always been a little bit of distance between conservatives that are writing maybe conservative intellectuals. And the Republican Party is a electoral project, and I hope it remains that way.

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Would it be fair to say, though, that although you're going to be sitting things out and you're not going to be voting for Trump, and we might talk a little bit more about him later, that there were elements of what Trump ism represented in 2016 within the Republican Party, elements that you would have had some sympathy for, things like less interventionist approach to foreign policy and perhaps a greater concern for those left behind by the economic progress which some people were benefiting for, but not all those kinds of issues.

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Yeah, absolutely. Trump you know, sometimes he would say just try to make promises to just about every constituency in his his electoral messaging. But, you know, he could be he broke very decisively with Republican orthodoxy on a couple of issues. He you know, for one, he very clearly said that the Iraq war was a mistake, a horrible foreign policy mistake. I agreed with that. He promised that on health care issues, he was going to take care of everyone.

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I'm still not sure what he exactly meant by that, but it was at least a different message. And he really broke with the parties kind of more recent free trade orthodoxy, particularly on China. And this is something that has been examined a little bit more in the Republican Party. Since he did so, I think, you know, you look from about twenty 15 onward, a lot more many more studies have come out about the costs of China, shock to certain regions of the United States and whether it's even driving, you know, early death among a subset of people in America where life expectancies are going down.

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So, you know, he definitely, in a sense, was ahead of the curve on those on those issues. And and, yes, I I agreed with the direction he was pointing in, if not always the approach he took to get media attention for these issues. But, yes, he did signal a big break. And it's it's one that's, I think, been coming for a while in the Republican Party. You know, American politics is always realigning.

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It's always in a state of flux. And, you know, in the early 1990s when the Republicans took Congress for the first time in decades, you can go back to journalism of that time and find, you know, David Brooks, The New York Times columnist, when he was quite young, remarking on how upwardly mobile, you know, rich Republicans in places like Cook County, Chicago, they couldn't make sense of this more populist sounding culture war, Republican Party that was emerging underneath them.

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And they were repelled by it in some ways. And what you what you found over the last twenty five years is a lot of those voters have left and become Democrats and another set of voters has been trickling in. And that set of voters was crucial to Trump's victory in 2016 in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. So there's a there's a you know, the Republican Party has lost, you know, used to be a joke that the Episcopal Church was the Republican Party at prayer.

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Well, you know, Episcopalians would much more likely be liberal Democrats now and downwardly mobile, you know, unchurched evangelicals would be a big part of Trump's base at this point. So those former Democratic constituencies are coming into the Republican Party. And I think over time, the the kind of economic views that they had in the Democratic Party before will trickle in to the Republican Party. I mean, not just as they were in the FDR in the in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt coalition, but you will see some change or you should see it.

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You should expect to see it.

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I mean, that process and the tensions that caused, if we can kind of see it happening in front of our eyes country, I mean, it strikes me I mean, every party is to some extent a coalition of different interests and different positions, and particularly in a political system which privileges a binary situation where you only have two large parties essentially contending for for power. But you look at the moment at the stalemate over what to do next in terms of financial stimulus for the U.S. economy as the as the pandemic continues and this deep, deep divide within the Senate majority of Republicans on what to do.

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But between I suppose, on the one hand, traditional fiscal conservatives who don't want to throw more money as they see it at the problem. And on the other hand, I suppose a combination of people who don't ideologically have the same level of problems with putting money into the into the economy and probably some who are afraid of losing their seats as well.

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Right. And, you know, a little bit of that is an age divide. Right. Some of the the I mean, so many politicians in the United States are well over 70, but some of the younger Republican senators who are most likely to be the bigger spenders, at least on this particular issue. It is it is a developing thing, though. You will find that even the more populist identified figures in the Republican Party, like Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, they will still take fiscally conservative votes where they can.

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So there's a balancing act. Some of these senators, I think, are trying to do between an old guard and, you know, a rising generation of voters in their. I mean, you mentioned Missouri. I was listening to a progressive podcast last week and they were discussing a recent ballot measure in Missouri, Missouri being essentially a red state and the ballot measure mandated by the state government to expand Medicaid, which essentially without getting into the horrible details of how health care works in the United States, essentially meant an expansion of Obamacare to an additional 200000 or so people in the states who wouldn't have had it otherwise.

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And there were obviously they were because of their political position. They were celebrating this as a political triumph. They were also mapping it against that, the traditional Democratic Republican binary of American politics.

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And one of the things they expressed concern about was that in this red state, this had passed by 52 or 53 percent. But the people who had swung in favor of it were not actually the people who were going to benefit from it. They were actually people in the more prosperous suburbs around the cities. And the vote against it remains strong in the more conservative rural areas where most of the people who would have benefited from from this expansion in the first place would, you know, would have actually got health care that they didn't have previously.

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And this was one way of asking a question about that is what the hell is going on? But I suppose slightly more sophisticated way would be. Is this the sign that the culture wars trump economic economic self-interest?

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They do. And I think it's particularly on those issues of redistribution, the old binary and still true that that, you know, oftentimes Democrats are advocating for programs that benefit Republican constituencies and that Republicans are more likely to oppose them. I mean, this has been true now for years as the Republican Party captured more and more of the senior vote in the United States. That means the Republican Party's constituency is for depends on Social Security spending, even as the Republican Party figures are much more likely to say they want to reform or change the system or privatize the system in some way.

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So that's still true.

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However, I do think that there is a rising pride among some Democratic politicians and figures that the big Silicon Valley companies and Wall Street are tilting more and more towards the Democrats and away from Republicans.

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Now, all of these sectors have figures in them who will donate to Republicans. They they donate to both parties pretty conspicuously. But, you know, you're seeing in investor's notes from, you know, major hedge funds, you know, real celebration of the pick of Kamala Harris to be the Democratic ticket. That is a newer phenomenon where you're seeing, you know, Wall Street really coming around to politicians that have a reputation as being quite progressive in many ways.

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And is there bad faith on all sides here then?

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Are there conservative Republican politicians who claim that they want to cut the size of the state, but are quite happy that the kind of gridlock you get in American politics is going to prevent them ever doing that in any meaningful way at the at the congressional or senatorial level? And on the other hand, you have Democratic politicians who claim to be liberal is a very confused term. It seems to be this way progressive on some on some of these kind of issues, but are actually being bankrolled by the one percent.

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Yeah. I mean, yes, you do have that. I mean, it's it's it's a large country. Huge. So there's people have to contain some contradictions.

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And these are pretty big contradictions, though. No, it is. And in in some ways they may be unsustainable in the long term. I mean, and it's the same thing. I think, you know, a lot of your listeners who, you know, they would have been following the kind of realignment that has happened in the United Kingdom where traditional labor constituencies all of a sudden or maybe not. So all of a sudden maybe they were close to tipping towards Theresa May in the previous election.

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And then finally in the last election where Boris Johnson led the Tories, he, you know, took a wrecking ball to, you know, to the the Tory, to the Labour strongholds. So the same thing is happening in in the US.

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I mean, if you look in the last. Thirty years college educated voters used to be an overwhelmingly Republican constituency. Now they're an overwhelmingly Democratic constituency. You know, it used to be that Republicans kind of filled out their majorities with northeastern moderates. Now they fill them out with Southern and Midwestern populists. So, you know, like I said, it's just a kind of process of ongoing realignment in in the country. And it benefited Trump. It may not be enough for him again in twenty twenty, but it'll it'll continue going on.

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You know, this this formulation of politics, I think is still rising. But of course it will it will reach its height at some point. And then, you know, a new realignment will happen in American politics.

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Again, that's all very, very philosophical. Let's get down to the nitty gritty. As you tweeted earlier this week that the D the choice of Kamala Harris was a mistake. Why is it a mistake?

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So I think it's it's probably not a fatal mistake. I still think you would have to say Biden is the favorite in November. I think it was a mistake because Kamala Harris was, I think, pretty unsuccessful in her own run for the presidency, that she was not very appealing to voters, that she you know, because she brought because she brought such an enthusiastic reaction from, you know, what you call liberal elites. I think that this this kind of impeaches the brand.

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Biden offers voters, right, that this Biden has a foot in the old Democratic Party, the, you know, in the old Franklin Delano Roosevelt coalition to some degree. And he that was his strength. And he appealed particularly to black voters as well. So the choice doesn't quite reinforce it. What we've seen is the enthusiasm coming from. You know, celebrities, hedge funders, Wall Street, Silicon Valley in particular, you know, she's very tied in to Silicon Valley money.

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I think the publication Recode, which kind of follows the the industry in the money in Silicon Valley, quoted top Democratic fundraisers saying she's the safest pick for the donor community.

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And I think Joe Biden's advantage as a candidate for the Democratic Party was that he didn't seem to have this overclass sneering attitude toward the deplorable polls out in the hinterlands.

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He didn't he didn't hate the backwoodsman of the American electorate. And I think Komala changes that a little bit. It may not be that voters quite know her as, you know, a San Francisco, you know, a product of San Francisco's high society politics.

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But I think I would be worried that they will get to know her is that I mean, these these these choices generally don't make a huge amount of difference.

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I mean, people think that Sarah Palin maybe ended up being a drag on McCain in 2008, but Sarah Palin, in a way, was a Hail Mary pass from John McCain because he was losing anyway. And it just didn't it didn't work. But he probably would have lost anyway otherwise. I mean, people can barely remember who ran with Hillary Clinton only four years ago.

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Yeah, I would say, you know, however, it does remind me at least the spark of energy that Harris has brought to what was a pretty sleepy race reminds me of 2008 and the choice of Sarah Palin. Harris is obviously a more accomplished politician than Palin, in many ways more impressive. But there's suddenly this newer energy. I mean, we've seen it even even at National Review, our traffic numbers entirely surged as conservatives were were kind of looking into her again.

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And I've noticed on on the other side, there's been a surge of interest among, you know, upwardly mobile liberal women in the suburbs for the the Biden Harris ticket. So all of a sudden, I think what you've had is, instead of what the Harris pick has done is it's kind of put a vision of the future of the Democratic Party at the end of Joe Biden's proposition. Joe Biden has said in some ways that he's a transitional candidate, a transitional president.

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And so, naturally, his pick of vice president, who's significantly younger than he is, you know, it suggests what direction he's pointing to, where the party will go. And that party is one where, you know, Harris is admired as culturally very progressive. But The New York Times can say that she's a pragmatic moderate because she has so much support from big business and from Wall Street and is not part of you know, she's not confused at all with Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who kind of articulate a more traditional progressive, even democratic socialist critique of American big business.

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I wonder, though, if that surge of interest on both sides, which you describe both for National Review and among among suburban women interests, I suppose, in the election? I mean, that's well thought. That's really is probably a suppressed kind of surge that's been waiting for something to surge on for several weeks, if not a couple of months, hasn't it? Because politics has been so low key, we've basically had Joe Biden very rarely popping up.

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We've Donald Trump shooting himself in the foot three times a week. And that's what politics is being for most of the summer.

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Yes. Well, you know, it hasn't it hasn't you I'd say there's been suppressed interest in the race and suppressed interest in Donald Trump and Joe Biden. But there has been this kind of, you know, boiling pot aspect to American politics. I mean, there are huge resentments building up in American society during covid-19 and the crisis. And, you know, one of the strange things is that Biden and Trump haven't totally tapped into them, but the resentments over the scale of Lockdown's the, you know, just antsy feeling that they've put people in, combined with, you know you know, I would say many progressives look at the news from their screens sitting in their homes and they they think, oh, all these conservative Republicans in Florida, Texas and Arizona have not been doing social distancing because they don't believe in science and they've extended and exacerbated this horrible pandemic in America's performing so poorly in this because of Trump and this kind of leadership.

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And then on the other side, I think, you know, a lot of Republicans and conservatives are looking at the scene and saying, you know, contact tracers are forbidden in New York State and other places from asking whether you've been to these giant protests. And a lot of Democratic politicians have allowed these enormous gatherings sometimes, usually against public health regulations. These these protests for abolishing the police or for justice for George Floyd have continued against the law, even as the law restricts people from running their business normally or going to church.

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And the amount of resentment, conspiratorial feeling and mutual anger, I think is built up actually in a quite frightening way. And the election hasn't quite captured all of that yet. I'd be fearful if it did, but so that there's been political energy in the United States. But it's not it's not all focused on electoral politics.

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Isn't Donald Trump, though, largely responsible for what you've just described there? I mean, whatever, but that the protests and whatever about, you know, hypocrisy arguably on both sides and whatever about how much power a president has in the United States federal system, I think he has more than he is actually used. And he certainly and we've seen it in many other countries. You know, we've seen we've seen strong leadership and coherent leadership. And what we've seen from Trump is very far from strong and incredibly far from clear.

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Yes. And and if you look at the polls, the covid-19 pandemic is the most important issue, according to respondents and Republican respondents rate the president's performance lowly. I mean, they they give him higher marks than Democrats do from a pure partisan effect. But no one has looked at his handling of this and congratulated him. He's been all over the map. And, yeah, I mean, his his initial proclamations that the virus would just go away were unconscionably stupid.

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And I was proud to say so at the time. And what you will find is his defenders will just try to point to some of the contradictory messages from other public health bodies and other other officials that, you know, mirror his or mirror the general confusion that the virus has occasioned in this. Right. So people will point to the changing recommendations about masks or, you know, change other changing estimates or they'll point to, you know, New York Governor Cuomo, whose popularity has gone up during the virus.

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You know, arguably early on he made a decision to put patients back into nursing homes in order to clear up hospital beds and by doing so, probably spread the pandemic among the most vulnerable population in the state.

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And I mean, the trouble with all that, particularly looking at it from outside the United States, Michael, is that we're familiar with a lot of those problems, the nursing home problem, for example, in Ireland and in and in other countries, too. We're familiar with confusion over masks. These have all been part of the narrative as that thing has panned out over the last five months. We're less familiar with leaders talking about injecting themselves with disinfectant or retweeting lunatics who believe in alien rape of some sort or God knows what it's going to be from from week to week.

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I mean that. More in the area of the you know, the kind of tin pot dictators of Brazil and the Philippines isn't that of a democratic country.

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Well, yeah. I mean, you know, one of the things, though, I think everyone in the world should ask themselves is what is the United States? I mean, is the United States really comparable to a much smaller territorial Western European countries? Or is it one, you know, something more like Brazil, an enormous giant multicultural Western Hemisphere democracy where, you know, authority is less respected, where there is more violence, where there is, you know you know, I think you and I might be used to this this comparison between the United States and the United Kingdom or France and Germany.

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But in many ways, the United States is a very different beast. And it it surprises me less and less as I age that Brazil and the United States have that kind of similarity with where there's a more direct font for, you know, populist lunacy right into the corridors of power. That's a very interesting point.

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In fact, it's been quite similar to one that was made by another Irish American journalist, Claire Malone, to me a couple of a couple of months ago when we were talking about what we don't often tend to think of saving your presence as the madness of American politics.

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But just thinking about about the polls. Nate Silver of 538 Dotcom, who's the sort of regarded as the premier, go to guy on data analysis of the polls released to some fanfare his model for the 2020 presidential election this week. And somewhat to my surprise, given the way the polls have been over the last three months or so, he only gave Joe Biden a 71 percent chance of winning. And I think his rationale for that are the largest part of his rationale for that was the fact that politics in the United States are so volatile and so unpredictable at the moment that you have to build out into the Damadola.

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But, yeah, I think he's correct to to to not be so certain about how this is going to go. It's a very unusual election year. I mean, you would never have guessed that the United States would feature, you know, what we used to call front porch campaigning, where a major candidate of a major party stays at home for most of the election. But we've had that with Joe Biden. And there's real question about whether he is, you know, energetically up to the task.

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I mean, he is anyone who's watched Joe Biden for years would note that he has a very different persona. In some ways, he's much he he's much quieter. He kind of speaks in this much softer register than he used to. He you know, one notable thing is that he in the primary debates in the Democratic Party, he would finish his answers well before the time limit was up. That is the exact opposite of the Joe Biden I grew up watching who would speak over anyone, including President Barack Obama.

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So there's there are questions about that. There's also a feeling that perhaps Trump has hit the the the nadir of his first term and the re-election campaign that, you know, fatality rates are going down across the United States. The economy will pick up off the floor, which it hit, so that things may go better for him. And there's also. I think a fear that maybe pollsters aren't sure who to poll, who the electorate will really be in November every four years, there's usually a dissenting pollster.

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And this year I'd point to figure Robert Cockily of Trafalgar Group.

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He's kind of risen as a critic of the mainstream polls, saying that they're over polling politically hyper engaged people because they use, you know, traditional 10 minute phone surveys to identify their respondents. And so they're they tend to overestimate Republican. They they tend to over poll, you know, high information Republican voters and maybe under poll, you know, what you call low information independent voters. And he thinks this is missing some key elements that might support Donald Trump and over polling elements that might be uncomfortable with Donald Trump, although he himself, I think, still views Joe Biden as a favorite in a few of the swing states.

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How he views the race as closer than than is generally accepted.

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I suppose one part of this is that if Trump does come back to some extent and the polls do narrow further and as we know from 2016, he doesn't need to win a majority or a plurality of the electorate due to the Electoral College. So he could, as he was last time, or even be even further behind. It could be three percent, four percent behind and still win the Electoral College. That would lead, particularly with this pandemic driven expansion of postal voting, slow counting, all these kinds of things.

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Probably if you had a tight election, it would probably also be a very chaotic, possibly a very vicious really, you know, seriously problematic electoral process.

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Yeah, I think this is the the thing that's really concerning me at the moment is that. You know, every couple of years, every election sometimes features these pre-election ideas of conspiracy. In 2004, the Diebold electronic voting machines were being rigged to against the Democrats. That was one theory put forward by Howard Dean and others.

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We've we've just seen this before or but this year in particular, it seems that Democrats who, if you're looking at the polls, should be expecting a hearty win for Joe Biden, you know, are really immersing themselves in the, you know, stories about the post office and whether Donald Trump is somehow deliberately slowing down the delivery of mail.

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But they're right.

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He is. He is. He only said it. He said it yesterday, Michael. Well, he said yesterday he seems to have confused a budget item for expanding postal voting from the federal level with with this other theory, which which has been deemed a conspiracy theory, that the mail is being slowed down deliberately to hamper voting. But there is I mean, I've I've written about this myself. There is this this sense where, you know, a lot of Democrats accused even four years ago that Donald Trump wouldn't accept the results of the 2016 election.

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And then what happened was the election happened and a significant portion of Democrats didn't accept it. And they became obsessed with this dossier that turns out to have been cooked up by a couple of academics in Cambridge and filled out in detail by a failed Brookings Institute scholar and not exactly the product of hundreds of conversations with Russian intelligence or whatever it claimed to be. And in the air is filling with these conspiracies again. So close election, I think, in this environment could lead to to something really heady and I think.

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You know, there are some progressive groups that are planning massive demonstrations leading up to the election and, you know, there's talk on the edges of the political scene of color revolution that's been tipped in the Atlantic Monthly.

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And so, yeah, I think you could see something really that's a color revolution like the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, sort of Maidan Square protests, that type of thing.

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And there's been all these comparisons like the idea that, you know, Donald Trump was was creating a model of how he'll deal with post-election resistance, the way that they cleared Lafayette Square in front of the White House a few weeks ago so he could take his photo op with a Bible in front of St. John's Church. You know, people immediately started making comparisons to the Euromaidan. And I think a lot of Democrats have also, you know, because they've grown up in a country where Republicans have seated presidents without winning the popular vote in 2000 and in 2016, you know, there's some defection from the constitutional system that allows this to happen.

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Now, if the presidential contest were a popular vote contest, both parties would be different parties. They would run differently. They would campaign entirely differently than they do now. And the results would be different. The whole pattern of advertising and and electioneering would be different in that system. It would be better, wouldn't it?

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It would mean that you would actually your vote in New York, which you mentioned, that started the thing, would actually have a purpose.

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I mean, you won vote in 170 million or whatever in as much as every other single vote had a purpose.

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It would have a purpose, which it doesn't, as you said at the outset, doesn't have it right.

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Well, I mean, I don't want us to be thrown back into the debates and the Federalist Papers about how an extended republic ought to work and legitimacy could be founded in in a continental sized republic. But no, it would be it would be different. But in the in this case, there it's not how the elections are run. I don't know that it would be better. I mean, the the constitutional system, you know, was dealing with this problem of an extended republic and state governments underneath it and how they would adhere together and but just adjust just to take it at one point.

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And God knows, we're not going to get into the whole kind of ancestor worship of the founding fathers and all that kind of stuff in the United States. But a simple thing which is not unconstitutional, as far as I know, is that if the Electoral College votes of each state accurately reflect the percentage of the vote won by each candidate in the state, well, then this problem would not arise. And again, your vote would have meaning.

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That's that is also that is also true. But, you know, these are the presidential election. Is this you know, it is a process that helps behind these different states together in one union and bind different regions of the country together. And it's not you know, it's not unthinkable in these kind of systems that you you want legitimacy for some.

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I mean, there will be lots of areas that get known. There would get no campaigning at all in a totally popular vote system. Right. There would be places that would be passed over entirely just because the voters are too dispersed in those, you know, in those places. So, you know, you'd be trading one set of ignored voters, maybe for another set. But in any case, there's been the fact is there has been this gradual defection from these anti-immigrant Harian features of the American constitution among Democrats and progressives.

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And I think at least notionally, you know, there are, you know, views of reforming the Senate or the Electoral College are much more common. And I think if Donald Trump won a second term due to and there was a split between the Electoral College result and the popular vote, I think it could get very, very, very fast.

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Can I just to close just offer you two different scenarios and see what you think I should say, because I don't have a vote at all in this election and I'm not constrained by what I say. I mean. As you probably guessed, I think that Donald Trump is a human stain on American politics. I think he's a thug, probably a criminal. He's a racist. He is one of the worst politicians ever to rise to such a position in a democratic society.

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That having been cut off my chest and if he clearly loses in November and steps down in January, how does the Republican Party and conservatism in the United States contend with his legacy, whatever the hell that might be?

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I mean, it depends. I mean. I mean. It depends how how he comes down, you know, if it ends in a color revolution, I mean, it just might be amplification and I'll be calling you from some prison or something, but. American politics has an astonishing ability to forget the past, the even the immediate past. You know, I am generally very anti-war. And the Iraq war was the defining issue as I was coming into political journalism and politics and I thought the Republican Party would always be committed to this, you know, kind of messianic view of itself and of the American nation as this democratic hedgeman bestriding the whole world and tutoring every person from the Middle East to every atoll in the Pacific Ocean on how to be democracies.

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And then. The Bush presidency ended in failure and people moved on remarkably quickly, you know, Jeb Bush was left defending his brother's Iraq war in the primary. He was defending it more than George W. Bush himself defended it in his own memoir. I think Donald Trump, if he loses in November, will what you will see immediately is his opponents and skeptics in the Republican Party who overwhelmingly or who disproportionately are people that have access to media outlets and and so on, they'll say, I told you so and that this was a stain and we have to move on.

[00:44:09]

And I think it will be I think you'll be shockingly quick and there will be no satisfaction for those who, you know, like Michelle Goldberg writing in New York Times yesterday, you know, want to see some kind of truth and reconciliation about the Trump era. I just I highly doubt that's going to happen. No criminal charges? No, I don't think so. I mean, it's the same thing. I mean, people think these things are going to happen.

[00:44:38]

Lock her up was a chant four years ago. It led to nothing. I, I don't think there will be I mean, there may be some, like, little harassing investigations and things like that, but people will move on.

[00:44:54]

It's a it's a country with a very, very short memory in many ways. And yeah, Trump Trump will go in and he'll be gone.

[00:45:03]

OK, and then the other scenario is Trump is re-elected and we have Trump unbound, whatever that might mean.

[00:45:10]

Well, the thing is, Trump and I wrote this before his election. Trump is. Completely bound and tied up, you know, he's been unable to pass much of his agenda in Congress, even when he had a Republican majority, he ended up ceding to their traditional agenda items like a tax cut rather than a big border wall or, you know, a major trade war with China, which he really only conducted at the edges. He's been unable to staff the the appointed positions of the executive branch of government because so many Republicans won't work with him.

[00:45:56]

And that's led to a lot of the boobage incompetence, his inability to execute his even his orders to withdraw troops from Syria. I mean, he just he can barely get things done as it is in his first term when there's still an electoral and spoils kitty to dangle in front of Republicans in a second term. You know, I would expect more feuding with media figures on Twitter and less approach to governance at all. I mean, yeah, I mean, he's this is a man who's clearly enslaved to his passions and his his ego.

[00:46:40]

So I don't think of him as particularly liberated in any respect. So, yeah, I am a second term would be it's hard to even imagine how it would function given the way he's had such difficulty retaining people even in the cabinet. And when they leave, they tend to hate him and write nasty books about him. This is pretty unusual for everyone who leaves a White House position or nearly everyone to write a nasty tell all. I mean, we really haven't seen anything like this since Andrew Jackson, someone who's so detested by Washington society.

[00:47:30]

So I don't know how a second term would function.

[00:47:33]

I mean, I take the point about the incompetence. I take the point about the incompetence and the inability to implement an agenda, whatever that agenda might be. But there is we've had a couple of people on Masha Gessen among them, and also in a slightly different way, Michael Lewis talking about his book, The Fifth Risk, talking about kind of intentional incompetence, kind of damaging the institutions of government in the United States by by neglect or willfully damaging them or not appointing people to positions.

[00:48:00]

I mean, the fifth risk is a is an interesting book on that subject. So four more years could do if you accept that thesis, four more years could do a hell of a lot of damage.

[00:48:08]

Yes, I think I think four more years could do damage. I think he I think there are huge risks to how his presidency has operated. I mean, that's why despite, you know, some surface affinities, you know, I've never been able to bring myself around to admire much of what he does. You know, there's there is a real risk. I mean, the worst risks that I feared in 2016 have not come to fruition. But they could in a second term.

[00:48:43]

And, you know, you could also see I mean, I'm surprised you haven't seen more of it, but on a geopolitical level, people are treated the first Trump for years as potentially a blip on on the horizon. And I think many considerations in Europe and in Asia have been put on pause to wait and see whether he'll be re-elected or whether whether what his election represents is a long term direction for the United States. In a second term, those calculations will change.

[00:49:25]

And I think you'll see potential rivals or regional challengers in in certain areas be more aggressive while the United States is kind of plunged into its own internal crisis.

[00:49:44]

I think I think that's very true. We'll leave it there. Listen, Michael, thank you very much for getting up at the crack of dawn in New York to join us. I gather you're off in your holidays tomorrow.

[00:49:51]

So so do enjoy them. We'll just say thank you to our producers on Branon. And as usual, I'm encouraging you if you haven't already done so. I'm sure you have. But if you haven't got to Irish Times, dot com slash, subscribe and sign up for unlimited access to the Irish Times, the introductory price is just one euro a month. Michael, you really should try.

[00:50:08]

Obviously I am a subscriber. Excellent. That's what we like to hear. And if you want to get in touch with us, we'd be delighted to hear from you. Just email us a politics blog. Hazardous times, dot com until the next time. Thanks very much indeed for listening.