Editor's Note: Accuracy is not guaranteed; you can help us get better by highlighting mistakes and suggesting edits! Please fill out this survey if you wish to learn more about us and our mission or send me an email.
You think today you're doing it, the lottery isn't there and you are poor, you pick your numbers by just shaking your phone nice. And maybe then you think, well, if someone's going to win, why not me? Shake, pick and play with the new app, The National Lottery. It could be you play responsibly, play for fun.
What in the world is happening on Wall Street? Economic indicators. He knows where this is going to end up.
To understand the economy, you have to understand human nature. This podcast is powered by a cost. How are you doing there? It's David, it's podcast time. I hope your week is going well. I hope you're not feeling too put out by level two, level three, level four. Forty 42. Would you sing the song at the base wasn't. He was good. I didn't like the style of bass, but he was a good bass player.
Yeah, he was a good person based what Level 42 would look like anyway. How are you. I'm good. I'm not so bad at all. Good. Good. I tell you, I have a thing on my mind. Go on, tell us. Dereliction. I was walking around town the other day and because Dublin is now empty. Yeah. You see a lot of things you didn't see before. You tend to look up a lot more because the streets are empty.
We've talked about this before, particularly with respect to Cork, because I remember going for a walk in the MARD like to the tip of Cork Port not that long ago and looking up and seeing how many derelict buildings are in our cities. I don't think there is urban architecture anywhere in the world which would tolerate what I would call such vandalism that we have allowed in this country, old buildings. To become vandals, to go derelict, no other country that is interested in protecting their architectural heritage would actually do that also.
These are places where people could live, you know, in terms of like to reimagine the city and the budgets this week, by the way, we got the budget. We were we were out for a week. We got too excited.
You were always a bit premature at the budget, but I would love in the budget. It's just one simple thing to say. We are going to penalize dereliction. So if you sit on a building and you allow that building to go to rack and ruin, you are going to be penalized. You have a responsibility to the city, to the building to own something to actually keep it in good nick. That's the first thing. The second thing is not only penalize people, but also give people an incentive.
So, for example, if you have a building over the shop somewhere. Right. And it's a little bit rundown. You should get a tax break to actually belongs to put an apartment in there. So the idea is to go to try and get people living over the shop and cities in towns, Dublin and Cork and going all the sort of place.
It will be budgets are so much more. Inventive. If you think we're going to do just one big thing, and I think it could change, I just was I was walking around the city of the damn retard. I just thought, well, you know what?
I was thinking about this as well recently with the old last week before the the big hullabaloo about that old house in Bulls Bridge, the O'Reilly deal with the McWilliams.
We do know the day. But, you know, there was such a hullabaloo about that house being demolished, being demolished, and yet it was sitting there derelict for years, for years to have through. If there was the same kind of hullabaloo about the we should pretend that every building housed a former Proval, he revolutionary have blue flags everywhere. The MacWilliams lived there, you know, but I mean that idea and just just because dereliction is vandalism for the property owning classes, that's what it is.
And it just struck me when I was walking around that we. We should just stand back and say, do we want post code? To do something realistic about making cities, places to live, if we want to do that, and I think most people do, most people do that right, then what you've got to do is you've got to stop the vandalism. That is dereliction, number one. And number two, you've got to encourage people to actually invest.
Now, if and I think it must be very difficult and architects will explain to builders and explain it, it's difficult to convert buildings into units and it's expensive then make it cheap by giving a tax break. This is actually how Temple Bar and I know that war tunnel was rebuilt from being a bus station potentially to actually being a thriving centre. People live there. I remember living in Parliament Street years ago in one of those buildings that was again driven by a tax break that the builder took a tax break to build it.
And Parliament Street, at the time, nobody lived there. There are lots of people live there. Yeah. So that was these are the things that can get me down. I know. During the week. But tell us, what are we doing this week? OK. This week we're going to go with the states. We're going to go deeper into the states yet again because the elections coming up well, three weeks away, three weeks away.
And I am absolutely thrilled. We've got a conversation coming up with a fellow called Tom Frank. Yes, Tom, Frank changed the way Americans understand American democracy. In 2004, he wrote a beautiful book, beautiful title as well. So what's the matter with Kansas? Right. So Kansas is the dead center of the United States. It's regarded as demographically to be the most representative state in the United States. It's very much, you know, when we're doing The Wizard of Oz years ago, Dorothy was from Kansas, was very much the wholesome Central American apple pie and all the rest.
And yeah, exactly in his ideal.
And it was also quite a revolutionary state, quite a revolutionary state in terms of quite sophisticated politically a long, long time ago, even under the 1890 other stuff. I like all this. Yes. You know, William Jennings Bryan and all that stuff. And and it was also where the Spanish flu came from, the Kings, the Kansas flu, the Kansas flu. If it came from Arkansas, it went to Kansas was Kansas, where the recruiting for the American military was.
Yeah. So all the farm it incubated in incubators. Yeah. Yeah. You can tell Trump that is Kansas flute. Anyway, he wrote this book in 2004. What's the matter with Kansas? And like a lot of political cultural writers, he probably wrote the book. So yeah. OK, you know, I might be onto something here. Yeah. It became a New York Times bestseller for weeks on end. Nobody in America talked about anything else.
What he did was he reframed what was going on in America very, very brilliantly. He said, look, what has happened here is that the right wing Republicans have become the party. They used to be the party of the winners. Right. They've become the party the losers. They've become the party the left behind in Kansas in 2004. This is this is a more than a decade before Trump is the interesting thing. He figured out what was happening to the Democrats who used to be the party, the working class used to be the party, the working man and the small farmer in Kansas, OK, the Democrat, all of them, they, through a process of change in their own DNA, suddenly became the party of Wall Street, the party of Silicon Valley, the party of Hollywood, entirely removed from the workingman.
And they decided to fight the culture wars based on their own agenda. The Democrats. Yeah. So LGBT, all of which is very important. Abortion rights, all of which is very, very important that this is the liberal agenda. Right. At the same time, the Republicans saw this and they said, hold on a second, we're going to fight this culture war as well, but we're going to fight this cultural war on old school values.
And what they managed to get is they managed to turn the Republicans, the blue collar workers, away from the Democrats to Republican Reagan Democrats that were basically Democrats voted for Reagan and they shifted. Right. And of course, they introduced the evangelical side, the religious side, which is big in the states of huge. But what Tom Frank said, they've done all this, however, once the Republicans get into power. They execute policies that are against the interests of the working class, so they have tax breaks for the mega rich.
Yeah, for the billionaires. Yeah, they cut fiscal expenditure. They cut education expenditure. Right. They attacked the trade unions. So what Frank was trying to do was understand how did that happen? How did my mom and dad, Democrat, his mom and dad is talking about and their family Democrats died in the world, JFK, Democrats left of center working people. How did they switch to become Republicans? And he wrote this in 2004. He's written amazing books, including his latest ones on populism, which he believes is a very good force and an anti-establishment anti elite force.
But it's been, again, hijacked. Been hijacked, right? Yeah. And so what he was talking about, it's exactly the same softening up in the UK, how, for example, the Tory Party became the party of the north of England in the last election, exactly the same. Johnson understood that to fight a culture war, let's not talk about economics. Let's fight a culture war. So labour becomes the party of upper middle class journalists from Islington.
Yeah, and the Tories become the party of the northerners and the people in West Midlands, you know, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, sort of people. Amazing. Even here you could be said right sideway Fianna Fail has lost. Fianna Fail is profoundly lost its working class folks, and the fall always managed to be a working class party. And the sort of business party. Yeah, right on their hyeok. And what was amazing about Fianna Fail, as they could be a business party and a working class party and paint themselves, has been victims in the press, which I thought was really good.
But they've lost that support. They've lost that to Sinn Fein working class support. Yeah, and it's the same idea, the fighting culture wars. You know, when I when I see Fianna Fail getting into bed with the Greens, for example, which I'd be kind of a green ish person myself. Yeah, but worrying about cycle lanes morning. Because these are not things that thick. Basically, Fianna Fail became the party of the workingman here because Fianna Fail built houses.
The majority of council houses in this country were built. Rafina fall administration. Yeah. Yeah. So people rewarded Fianna for for having given their granddaughter house by giving them a vote two or three generations. They've lost that. So what Tom Frank is talking about is a big, big canvas and the way to write these big books is always rather than start with the huge thing and talk about America, let's talk about Kansas, the state. Yeah. And then we'll use that as our template for look at the world.
So it's it's that great way of writing non-fiction books. You go to the minutia of the village. Yeah. And then you build out the lessons for later. Yes. So is where we go and talk to him. Absolutely. He's on the line to talk to me. Just before we talk about culture and ideas in America, what is the mood in the Beltway in Washington? Oh, Jesus.
So the mood has been all through this. This season of panic and covid is has been one of panic and fear and and and has also transitioned into a little bit of hate. Not a little bit. A lot. And then there's the larger problem of Donald Trump, which everybody, you know. All right. Thinking people here inside the Beltway hate and despise. And that's the sort of one bright spot on the horizon, is that he's almost certain to lose here in a few months.
And so everybody will be very pleased about that.
But the the overall feeling these days is just one of loathing. You know, fear, hate, and, you know, increasingly as so I'm here in the Beltway, this is actually a really well informed part of America with a lot of highly educated people and still has a functioning and even excellent newspaper, The Washington Post. This is one of the most journalistically scrutinized areas in the world. If you had to measure like journalists per square foot or something like that.
And there is some kind of if you had to do that, Washington would have would rank probably first among American cities or first in cities in the world with a place with the most swindled expense accounts, I suspect.
Yeah, but I'm I'm originally from Kansas City and there it's the ratio would be completely the opposite. There's two million people there and the local newspaper has is down to something like a dozen reporters.
I mean, it's not funny. It's just it's crazy. And this is happening everywhere you go. In America, newspapers are dying except for the ones in Washington and New York. Well, specifically, the New York Times, The Washington Post, every other newspaper is dying. They have to sell their headquarters. You know, even the mighty Chicago Tribune, which, oh, not all that long ago, is the biggest circulation newspaper in America. I mean, they had to sell their building, the spectacular office building in downtown Chicago, you know, and it's just it's a state of ruination.
And so and as a result, you you have no idea what is going on in the city around you. You know what's going on in Washington, because everybody talks about Trump all the time. But you have no idea what's going on in the city. You can hear gunshots, but you have no idea what's going on and what has filled its place. What's taking its place is a the soap opera in Washington. And everybody talks about it now.
Everybody and be social media and social media lives exists to stoke hate and to make people despise one another. It exists for that purpose where you are constantly you're it's a war of all against all, you know, as somebody once said. And you're everybody is constantly trying to protect themselves from from looking like a fool. It's you know, it's like it's like the things that when I went first went into journalism in the late 80s and early 1990s, this was something that you would publish a story and then you had to, you know, fend off various attacks on it or whatever your book.
And that's everyone. Now, that's everyone. Everyone's ego is on the line every single day. They're constantly at war with everybody else. And it's as though you get this feeling from social media that, you know, it's doing something to our brains. There's this feeling that you get in social media that life is all about scolding people. That's what it is. There's that. And then there's other weird thing, which is the soap opera. Like I was talking to an elderly member of my family the other day and I called him up.
But this is a man who has never really cared about politics. I always thought politics were for losers.
And maybe he's got to really start talking about Donald Trump and how awesome Donald Trump is.
And I'm like, oh, that's odd. You know, that's that's who got to him. And, you know, is it Fox News? Did he finally start watching? And then and then I was talking to another elderly member of the family and, you know, called him up on the phone and immediately started. And again is a man that never gave a shit about politics and immediately starts reciting like some CNN talking point about how awful Donald Trump was, you know, and it's like it's like, don't you have anything else to do?
And of course not.
It's over time. There is nothing else to do. Just sit here in your box and watch the TV and yell at one and shout at the TV.
Yeah, and I was. But OK, so you got the two elderly members of the family. OK, let's talk about the states, OK? And I'll tell you why it's Irish people know our generation of Irish people. We know the Philadelphia is the New York's, the Boston's the Chicagos, the San Francisco's the place if you're on the really swanky end of our island. Right.
And we don't know the bit in the middle that you talked about in what's the matter with Kansas. We're going to start with Kansas. And then I want to I want to end with this this idea of populism, which I, I find absolutely intriguing. But tell me about the middle bit, the bit you're it's a big it's a big business.
Yeah. But it's like it's like Mexican Americans go to holidays in Europe. I did Europe, I did France, Spain, Italy, Germany in five days. OK, so let's talk about Kansas. Those parts of America, the Trump connects with, identifies with. Bizarrely, because he's here in New York, can I tell you why? Yeah, he's a New Yorker. So when I was growing up, growing up in Kansas City, we were the antithesis of New York.
That's how we understood ourselves that we were we were down to earth. We you know, we were ordinary Americans. We weren't exalted. We were unpretentious. We didn't boast. We didn't. And it helped that the Yankees, the New York Yankees would every year would defeat the Kansas City Royals, which is our local baseball team. We defeat them in the playoffs. So we'd just, like, make us hate New York even more. But but that's how we understood ourselves and that they would embrace a guy like this.
You know, Donald Trump this not just a New Yorker, but the most New York, the loudest, most boastful, most vulgar.
Yeah, all the stuff was cheating on his third wife with a porn star and paying her off. Yeah.
I mean, it's like it's like as foreign to Kansas City as it's possible to be. And yet they have embraced him in this extraordinary way.
So why come on, let's explain to us, why don't we just started on the story and different aspects of it will come to me. But there is a larger story in America, this larger political story that's been going on through the course of my life. And that is, you know, well, there's two sides to this one great story, but it's the big turn, the big turn to the right.
And most people think of it beginning with Ronald Reagan. And that's not inaccurate. That's that's roughly correct. It sort of began with Ronald Reagan. But what they don't often recall. But was so I was 15 when Reagan got elected and I was a little a little Tory at the time. And I thought Ronald Reagan was a great guy. And I was yeah, I changed my mind later. Well, I was 15. Yeah. And and I think you're going to be as a Tory.
Well, but that's what makes it so fascinating. Talk to me. And why did I like Ronald Reagan? And there was there was just there was something about the guy and it was the way that he spoke in this very reassuring way. So we're coming out of the Carter administration. It's been one national humiliation for America after another. You know, there is the oil prices were high. You couldn't you couldn't put gas in your car. There was that there was a recession.
Interest rates were 20 percent. And then the Iranians took those hostages. You remember all this and I'm older than you. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And here comes Reagan. And he I had admired Jimmy Carter because he was he seemed like a good guy and all that. But here comes Ronald Reagan. And he speaks in this reassuring way and he speaks in very simple with easy to understand solutions. And he was almost perfect for a kid who's 15 years old and doesn't really understand the world, but really wants to wants to be told that there is an answer to things and that the answer is let's be more moral or something like that.
And here comes Ronald Reagan. And I fell for it. I got over that fairly quickly. But I often think about that period of my life because, you know, it's fascinating that I did once that I was once a conservative. But what we don't remember about Ronald Reagan, what I find more and more is that people don't remember is that the Republicans have been and the conservative movement specifically the way conservatism triumphed is by pretending to be an ally of working class people, specifically working class people, although Republicans only back then rarely used that phrase, they use it more today.
Trump uses it all the time, as a matter of fact. But that's been their appeal for a long time, going back at least to Reagan and even more accurately, going back to Richard Nixon, who used to talk about the silent majority, the ones who aren't protesting, etc.. He was talking to my people in Kansas when he said that. And Reagan with his kind of Frank Capra Reader's Digest way of talking about ordinary Americans, you know, and Reagan would say things like, I don't like to hang around with these executives.
I know, you know, I'm a Republican and everything, and I have to do that. But I'm much more comfortable hanging around with the people with calluses on their hands, which was just such complete bullshit. Yeah, it was a good image. It was a good thing he said things like that all the time, and that was his image. That's he was the only union president ever to be elected president of the United States. And then, of course, he did incredible damage to the labor movement in America.
Like Thatcher, he led the sort of the big counterattack against against unions and that succeeded in basically destroying the power of organized labor in America. That's that's Reagan's doing. But the way he appealed to us was with this kind of phony populism. And I use the word phony. That's that's important. We'll come back to that. But that's that's been going on for a long time. And in that and George W. Bush was good at it. George Bush's dad even did it.
Would you remember this extremely preppy president, George? Bush first, yes. Yeah, he was like everybody I ever met in Boston. He was the preppies preppy.
And yet you're saying, yes, he he masqueraded as a man of the people. And he would when he ran for election in 88, do you remember he he would drive around the country listening to country music all the time. And that was supposed to signify, you know, what a man of the people he was. And he would he would eat pork rinds, which is this kind of southern. Are you familiar with this? It's a no, but I kind of get it.
I get to create a Southern snack XRF and he would tour flag factories. That one always cracked me up and he actually was able to pull this off. And even even this guy, the ultimate preppy, was was described by his supporters as a populist, which is just like, you know, it makes you want to just throw up. And his son, George Bush Jr., you know, even more so is that Texas accent and all that crap.
And Donald Trump is just one in a long list of these guys who do this act. And then, of course, they get into power. And what do they do? They you know, they they cut taxes for their for the rich, for their friends. They deregulate their friends. They go to war against unions. They do everything that a Republican typically does, but they make the sale in exactly the opposite way. But but then you say but that's you know, Tom, that's not that's not enough.
And it's not the picture is actually bigger than that because there's this other side of it, you know, the Republicans. And that's what that's what I wrote a whole book about this. It was called What's the Matter with Kansas? It was about the way that the extreme right has, you know, one of the innovations that they pioneered is reaching out to white working class people and persuading them that they're together, that there's this kind of solidarity between these guys and and and working class people, which just seems ridiculous, except for if it wasn't for this other factor that's going on, which is the transition of the Democratic Party away from the Democratic Party is, you know, it's your Labor Party.
It's your Labor Party. Exactly. So you know that it's often hard for people to understand that it's the it is the party of the left in our stupid two party system. And they are on a 50 year experiment in this country to see if you can have a party of the left that doesn't care about about working class people that has lost interest. And that's that's the experiment that we're engaged in. And it began at about the same time as the Republicans began their great move to the right.
The Democratic Party decided we aren't going to be the party of organized labor anymore. That's a you know, it kind of a dead end. We don't really like those people. They don't have good taste, et cetera. And they decided they want this is in the late 60s and early 70s. They wanted to be something different. Right. It was the age of Aquarius. And they wanted to be the party of all these enlightened kids coming off the college campuses who were such geniuses and such, you know, so attuned to whatever it was like.
Bill Clinton and exactly.
Bill Clinton later becomes the embodiment of this. But it went it was going on for decades, even before Bill Clinton became president. And basically they were they were going to be the party of the of those people in Boston that, you know, much back in the day.
They were going to be the party of these of what we call a professional class, these very wealthy people with advanced degrees from fancy universities who are so incredibly prosperous and also so incredibly enlightened and so smart and have such good manners and know about that, that you have to recycle and you have to treat them.
They've got great, great bookshelves and they've got great taste. Oh, yes, good sports. And no doubt it's a true you know, I was thinking the other day did the while ago, I was thinking these are like what I would call Burning Man Democrats. Yeah, but they go to Burning Man. That's their thing. It's they're they're incredibly they're beautiful. They don't look like any of us. OK, number one. And number two, they're wealthy.
They tick all the right boxes in terms of social liberal agenda, but they're very different to a blue collar working class family. Yeah. Oh, my God.
Absolutely. There it is. Those people on Newbury Street. But you know this, by the way, one of the only the only state that George McGovern won in nineteen seventy two was Massachusetts. And Massachusetts is sort of the core of this whole change in the Democratic Party and the home of all these universities, et cetera. And it's not just that they are alien to blue collar people, blue, blue collar people.
Think of them as the elite. These are the enemy. These are the people on the other side of the table. When you go to bargained for when you go to negotiate for whatever it is, these are the people who fire you. You know, these are the people who sue you. This is when you go to the county government to get a permit to do whatever. This is the guy that refuses to give it to you. This is the guy at the bank, the.
A nice dinner loan, and this is also a rising class of people, you know, the new economy, post industrialism, all this shit and the Democratic sort of leaders and great thinkers of the Democratic Party are reading that literature about the new economy in the information age and post industrialism, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And they're saying to them, by the way, they said this openly, this is not a conspiracy or anything like that.
They're open about this. They say this is who we need to represent. We need to be the party of these people. You know, the economy is changing and we need to be on the side of the winners. So they're doing this experiment in this country where the party of the left is going to be on the side of the the winners.
And the party of the right is on the side of the losers.
Right. But not really. OK, so tell me more. But not really. Of course, here they really answer to are the Koch brothers and the oil billionaires. And so you basically have a situation in America. This is where we are, where we're at today. You know, Hillary Clinton, after she lost the election, she was going on this lecture tour all over the world. And one of the things she said she likes to point this out is that she won the areas that produced like two thirds of the of the gross national product of the United States, the areas that are prosperous and growing and affluent, basically.
And this is the Democratic Party basically crowing about the success. I mean, she didn't win, but the long term success of their great vision to make themselves into the party of the winners in our economy. And what does that look like when the left party in a system? Is the party of the economic winners? And I would submit to you, that's what that's America right now is what it looks like, where you have just complete political dysfunction.
Everything is fucked up. You have this monster in the White House. Trump is not the end of this. This is going to go on and they're going to come up with someone even more monstrous. But who's a better politician? Trump is a terrible, terrible politician who won. I mean, strictly because the Democrats dropped the ball, you know, because Democrats don't, you know, following their strategy, they're utterly complacent and and and allowed him to beat them.
But they're going to win. They're going to win now because of Trump's sheer and utter incompetence in dealing with this pandemic.
That's a big and it just seems to be so up in the air at the moment. That's to be debated at this point.
And I don't I don't want to be, like, rock solid about that. I mean, obviously, anything can happen and we have no idea what the effect of the pandemic is going to be on turnout. I mean, all of these people are afraid to go to the polling place. And so they're voting by mail and all kinds of things could go wrong with voting by mail. I mean, we just don't know. And yeah, of course, you're right to sound that note of caution that anything could happen.
But if you look at I mean, at at the way things are going now. But it's just it's been it's frustrating and maddening on so many levels because the entire Democratic strategy, I don't want to say entire, but the strategy of our kind of what I call the pundit bureau in this country, because remember how talked about the news media earlier and how it's been reduced to just a shadow of its former self. And one of the things that this has meant is that there's just a very small number of people who comment on everything officially, right?
Yeah. I mean, we're all we're all pundits on on Twitter now. We're all pundits on Facebook. But in the little realm of accepted media commentary, it's a tiny little universe. And they all agree with each other on nearly everything. So I refer to them as the pundit bureau.
We the commentary out here. Yeah. And in their minds, the way that you go after Donald Trump is you constantly mock his supporters for being stupid and being racist and being vulgar. And this has had the entirely predictable effect of forcing those people to dig in their heels and to rally behind their awful, stupid leader.
And so you have this weird situation here, David, where, you know, I've seen we've seen other bad presidents in my lifetime. We were talking about George Bush, senior Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon. These are all people that the public turned against pretty massively. I mean, I remember the turn against Carter. By the time the election came around, there was like I mean, nobody was on his side. He lost overwhelmingly. Well, that's not happening this time.
It deserves to happen. Donald Trump has been a singularly awful president and he deserves to be deserted by the public, but they're not doing it.
This is what I want to get to. The nub of the reason they're not doing it is because, number one, they don't like the Democratic message. No. Two, the kind of identify with his ridiculous blue collar billionaire idea that he sells to you.
Remember that phrase? I do. I do. And I think that the phrase that I know, blue collar, really, I know it's a brilliant one right there.
But, you know, when he when he said, you know, I love the unmagical. Remember he said that, you know, sure, yeah, yeah, wait, what makes that that sounds stupid, right? But what makes it sing? What makes it work is that all these years the Democrats have been telling us if you don't go out and get a college education, then you deserve what has happened to you. You know that you deserve.
And the fact is, what they're not reckoning with with a democratic you know, this is the Democrats. Education is the solution to everything. You know, your way of life is is is being destroyed. You need it. You need to go to college. And what they're not reckoning with is that not everybody can go to college. And even if you do go to college, you're not necessarily going to go to Harvard, are you? And we actually I mean, the whole idea of education is a meritocracy.
And for the party of the left to be constantly embracing meritocracy and that the people on top of the people that got good grades deserve everything that they have. What does that say about the 99 percent of us who didn't get that, you know, who didn't do those things? What happens to us? We're still citizens. And here's Trump saying that and they laugh at him for saying that. By the way, that's a big punch line here in this country.
But there's something like, I don't know if Trump is a genius or if he just stumbles on just saying these things, but he really caught something there. He you know, he he put his finger on something there, you know, and the way the Democrats laughed at him, by the way. So the Democrats have partially defused all of this hatred in this anger by nominating Joe Biden, who is a truly inoffensive guy, you know, a kind of grandfatherly figure, reassuring, you know, that sort of thing.
But he offers, like, literally politically, nothing, nothing. There's no no programs that he's over here.
When you say somebody is harmless, it's actually a bit of an insult, you know. But but but Tom is right. Like the idea that if America we started this discussion, he said America is angry, it's divided, it's bitter, it's pissed off. Biden offers you the idea of, look, I'm I'm not your uncle. I'm your actual great uncle, your grandpa. I'm your granddad's brother, OK? I'm your grandmother's brother who's all right, who's decent, who never did a bad thing, who's always and that's not a bad place to be.
And it's and I would I would suggest that it's actually. So the Democrats here have stumbled on to the right guy for the right moment, because in this climate of fear, dread, hate, he does seem like a reassuring guy.
And I mean, he seems like that he's going to get elected and it's going to be another disastrous presidency. But, you know, at least he does seem like that right now. That is the brand image. And that's it's a good brand image for the moment.
No, but you know, what I want to come back to is this idea of the culture war. Right? Because this is something that the Brits have it. We in Ireland don't have it just yet. The Brits have it. We'll get it. We'll get it eventually.
I think it's covered. It's catching. You can you can thank you. Can thank us in Kansas for it. To Kansas, by the way, is where the original culture war began, which was Prohibition. Topeka, Kansas. Yeah. In the late 19th century. Yeah. They called it the Kansas idea.
It's a really it's a singularly stupid idea, but it began in Kansas and they had prohibition there for a very long time.
Tom, can I just stop you there? What ethnically? Because this has always intrigued me about prohibition, Arkansans, Germans.
What do you what like what was the core ethnicity? What you Swedes were you Scandinavians? Germans, who were they?
And a lot of English and French and Germans. Recent immigrants in America were very much against prohibition because they retained their habits from the old country, Italians and Irish, and also very much against prohibition because they were big losers.
And also they made the boots.
That's right. The Anheuser-Busch, et cetera, et cetera. Yeah, that's exactly right. But but that it was largely evangelical Christians were the big supporters of prohibition. Kansas has its share of those as well.
Is it any coincidence that Dorothy was from Kansas? I mean, the picture you're painting is this wholesome American sort of slightly how would you say Anglo-Saxon, but not particularly saxum but states that represented everything wholesome about the United States? Yeah, that's the idea.
Yeah, it was Kansas used to be the most representative place and it's not so representative anymore, but it used to be that it's demographic breakdown was almost precisely the country as a whole. Not anymore. But it was when I was a kid. And so the test marketers would always descend on Kansas City every time they wanted to roll something out. So, for example, in my neighborhood, we had cable TV in the early 70s. This is long before anybody else had it.
And they had to I don't know, I know you don't care about these things, but McDonald's, the the Irish food chain, I just I just can't eat.
McDonald's had this sandwich called the McRib, which is they rolled it out in Kansas when I was in high school. And my friends and I would we loved these things anyhow, but it was a test. Marketers are forever doing their tricks in Kansas City and they're about doesn't it doesn't really matter anymore. But, yeah, it's supposed to be representative of the rest.
Tom, you said that Trump will lose, you think, in a couple of weeks.
I think so.
But but but anything could happen like a culture war, the culture war that you talk about, you know, the idea that the Democrats lost the culture war to the conservatives or the Republicans because the Republicans identified with white working class folk and said, your concerns are my concerns, even though, as you said, it was a great bait and switch. They actually didn't care. Right. They ended up cutting taxes for the ultra wealthy, etc.. Yeah, we're always we're like, you know, project forward a wee bit in America.
Right. What's all this going to do to the states? Does it mean that your politics is. Extraordinarily, it's stuck at the moment between dysfunctional. The world is dysfunctional. Well, what's what's it going to do?
It's already done it. It's called inequality.
You know, you've got like this where the all the economic gains of years and years and years have gone into the pockets of a very small number of people. When I say very small, I mean like 10 people. You know, for a country of three hundred million, it's it's extraordinary. And, you know, like like Jeff Bezos, the guy that owns Amazon or that started Amazon, you know, has prospered in the course of this pandemic in this extraordinary way, but like prospered personally.
And, you know, it's already come to pass the wages of conservatism. So, you know, my latest book, by the way, and you brought up so many interesting things here, but my latest book is about the eighteen nineties, which was this is hell zone of inequality. It was in the early days of industrialization and inequality was out of control. Monopolies were ruling the country and political corruption was in your face. It was everywhere. Well, it's the exact same today.
But the question of the culture wars, my whole theory of the culture wars, because I you know, back in almost 20 years ago now, I went back to Kansas to study what had gone wrong, how this state had turned so far to the right, and specifically how working class people had signed up with the conservative movement, which was doing them objectively, economically speaking, was doing them such incredible harm. How could this happen? You know, that was the question that I tried to answer.
And that's basically been the question I've been trying to answer ever since. But one of the answers was the culture wars, because once you start drilling down into all of our recent cultural battles, you know, the media, Trump versus the media or, you know, all these things having to do with school, with education or abortion, even, you know, the great. What would you even in Ireland, you've managed to come to some kind of solution on that.
We're still fighting about it. And it drives me crazy that, you know, this is still going on. But here's the thing. When you drill down into these issues and you talk to the supporters and you read their literature, all of them are just thinly disguised ways of talking about social class in America. So there's this huge like, you know, we never talk about social class openly in America. I mean, Trump does now. He talks about it quite a bit.
But generally speaking, we don't talk about it. It's considered a rude, vulgar. It's we we talk about race all the time. I mean, this is something that really makes people uncomfortable. But we talk about it constantly, but we don't talk about social class. And when you dig down into the literature of of the culture wars, every single one of them is a veiled way of talking about about social class that you the average, ordinary, unassuming American, i.e., working class.
You're sitting there on your couch watching TV and they are like in your face with this vulgarity, you know, these Hollywood billionaires and these superstars are whatever it is, offending your values, insulting the flag, insulting your country, insulting you. And it's always the elite. This is the word that the conservatives have used and they're so good at it. It's always the elite against you, the average American. The normal American is they like to say it's always the elite with their perverted values, their perverted New York City, Los Angeles, Hollywood values, versus you, the happy little unassuming American doing your job down there in Wichita.
And this is obviously now that I put it this way, this is a way of talking about class without talking about economics. And they're very, very, very good at this. And they dream up new culture wars. Well, the one that we're in now, the media, you know, God Trump versus what he calls the fake news, who are constantly insulting you and looking down on you. And the really sick fact of it is, David, they do look down on you.
They really are an elite, you know, and this is absolutely burns me up that they can't see it. It Trump's actually right about some of this stuff.
And it's like we're stuck in this stupid fight and we can't get out of it and we're going to go down to the bottom fighting with each other like like like, you know, I don't know what the metaphor is, fill it in.
But, you know, Tom, can I guarantee you record that Biden will probably win. So, yeah. What do you reckon four years of Biden will bring the same shit?
He said, look, he's he's. Said, he said openly he's not going to do anything spectacular. He's not promising us anything. He says status quo ante. I mean, you can't use those words, but he's like, we're going to go back to the to where we were under Obama.
He's promised nothing. I mean, even the kind of the big reforms that we really need in America, like a universal health care system, which we could really use right now, believe me, he said he would veto that. You know, nice move, Biden. But look, it's better than where we're headed now. It's better than the, you know, the toboggan ride to hell that we're on right now.
You know, we're going to talk about populism. We're going to talk about because I love this idea that basically America populism is a force in America against the elites, which has been a third wave force. And it's actually fascism. And you know what I find. Let's talk a wee bit about that, is that, you know, the idea that populism is described by all classes and all sides as some sort of cheap suit approach democracy, some sort of very, very easy sloganeering way.
But in actual fact, it's it's it's a vibrant anti elite movement. Yes, it is.
Although it's not there's not much of it left anymore. But that's what that's what it was and what it has been from time to time in American life and could be again. But oh, anyhow, this is something that drives me up the wall because I cannot you know, the Democrats have basically in this country, they they used to care about my views, but they've completely tuned me out. And there's no way to persuade them of this stuff anymore.
And it's just absolutely frustrating.
Why did that drop, Bernie? Because Bernie seems to hate that guy.
They hate that guy. Well, he is the populist tradition. That's. Yeah. That he is he represents it.
I think I've wondered about that a lot myself, because their hatred for him is it's like their hatred for Trump, not quite as much, but he was just absolutely intolerable to them. It's like it's like something that you're allergic to know. They had an allergic reaction to him. And you take someone like Elizabeth Warren, who is she had a lot of the same positions on the issues and they didn't despise her. You know, she was she was OK.
But there was something about Bernie Sanders that they just felt that was just intolerable. And I've met Bernie Sanders and he's a you know, he's a thoughtful man. And, you know, I just don't understand why people disliked him so very much. My my sort of working hypothesis on this is that the reason they hate him is because he represents that. You know, we were talking earlier about how the Democrats turned their back on their on their past identity beginning in the seventies.
But really, with Bill Clinton, Bernie represents that old identity. He would be a repudiation of their generational project. You know, that generational project of all those all those ambulant young men walking down Newberry Street in the 1970s and 80s, you know, and Bernie Sanders is like the one saying, no, you're going the wrong way. He's that, you know, the Jeremiah in the wilderness.
I'm going to tell you something. Bernie set up a thing called the Sanders Institute, and he asked about 20 people to be fellows of it. Yours truly is one of them.
And I went up to yeah, no. And I went up to Vermont and I sat and I listened to and I contributed to this extraordinary chaotic debate. But what struck me was absolutely what you're saying is this represented fascinating, the Democratic American populism, but it scared the shit out of everybody.
That's right. But it would be it would be very helpful, I think, at this point, you know.
OK, well, we will leave it there. You're part of the gang now.
That's OK. I accept. I mean, I'm in. Let's do it.
Let's do it. Let's do another episode next week and we'll see what's happened. Maybe maybe then Trump will be a sure winner and I'll be.
Oh, my God, David, he's going to win again. He's got to get reelected. How is that dog? Frank. Take care of yourself, Tom. We'll talk. Bye bye. Bye bye bye.
Our tree business, we know that your business sometimes needs to be run outside from home or on the road. Today, we are providing 5G in every county in Ireland. We also carry over two thirds of the entire country's mobile data on our 4G nationwide network. So if you're a business owner, farmer or a tradesperson, rest assured that we have you covered everywhere.
Visit three forward slash business for more.
Come home to ultrafast broadband and Skye's best ever Wi-Fi for our lowest ever price from just 30 your home so you can now play games, stream music and download movies at ultrafast speeds for less than ever before. To switch from just 30 euro month for 12 month search, die 30 availability subject to location, set up these terms and conditions apply for more info guideline for its speed.
We'll definitely have Tom Francon again.
He was great. He's great. He was loving us. He was loving husband. You see, the thing about it, this is the this is the joy of podcasts, reading over radio because, you know, I've done radio for years and sort of formal TV interviews. Yeah. People's personality doesn't come out. They've got their own message. It's like you are too sexy to talk about. There's 26 to talk about that and you don't actually get to know the person.
But he was great from it's great to tell us at the end there. You mentioned Bernie. Yeah. Where is Bernie now? What's happening? He's talked out the race, obviously, but is he still part of the show? Very much so. He's he's campaigning all the time.
Tom is saying that they hate him. OK, so. Remember, I've always said two things. The left. Straighter. Yeah, yeah, in the right Sickert converts. Yes, so amongst the left, what it becomes, it's it's almost like an orthodoxy. You're not orthodox enough, right? So the people who really see this world as well, the Labor Party people don't hate anyone like they hate the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party hate or they are the people before profit and they hate the left of Sinn Fein and whatever the left hates.
I mean, it's like a seems like catechism, right? It's like you weren't on the cross with Jesus as I was. You were with Barabas or whatever. Right. OK, so whereas the right's always think, well, we'll hold our nose and we just get into power. Right.
So that's the first thing to the left in America. Splits like the left everywhere. Right. You know, and the great example was, was in the UK where David Miliband and his brother, Ed Miliband, David Miliband was obviously the much better candidate. Yeah, Ed went for the trade unions. The trade unions went for Ed. Then the trade unions ousted David Miliband and Ed Miliband just wasn't as good a candidate. No, he wasn't. You know, at the end of the day, he wasn't what is good but insipid, wasn't it?
Do you see that all the time? It just didn't have the same sort of charisma his brother had.
Right. Yeah, but what Tom Frank is saying, it's very important. He's saying, look, the left have to be left. Right. They have to deliver for the working person. Cheap houses. Some sort of tenure over income, some sort of sense that your your job's going to be OK, free school. Health care is a big left wing ideas, you know, but I was the reason I was saying it was chaotic in Bernie's was because I've always noticed as well, if you do any talks with the left, the very bad V, that really, really bad at getting things organized, you're right.
And I think that over time there was a great there's a great quote from Oscar Wilde. George Bernard Shaw was a complete socialist set of the Fabian Association, and he was in London. And the two most famous Irish people in the late 19th century in London were George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Yeah, OK. And of course, Shaw was trying to convert Wilde to socialism, to leftism. Right. Because he knew that it could get wild in there.
That was a great scalp to get to whatever. And Sure. And Wild are writing to each other. And what she was trying to say. Well, why won't you become a socialist and wild retorts? Beautifulest. Because their meetings go on too long.
Not great, but it's true. So to go on the brutal timekeepers. Right. And I know when you do festivals, you have to keep today. Yeah, absolutely. You know, and they count. So the birdie one was great. It was really fascinating. But as we arrived at nine a.m., we're still talking about chicken can two in the morning chaos. But it was great. So any lefties out there keep time and more week at a time like, you know, time to go.
Listen, thanks very much for listening. We'll see you next week. Now, what I have here, what I have your ear, if you like the podcast, if you like what John and I are doing, if you like the stories, you like the research, if you want to learn economics, if you want to do a twice a month bespoke tutorial called us Mock. If you want to do any questions and you want to listen and ask questions, by all means, we would love to hear from you.
So support us on patron just patrón dot com forward slash David McWilliams. Probably the best fuckwit you're going to spend.