Hi, I'm Molly John Fast and welcome to The Daily Beast, the new abnormal. I'm a left wing pundit and an editor at large at The Daily Beast. We're here to have fun, sharp conversations with some of the smartest people in media, politics and science that help make what's happening in the country and the world clear. Our world has been turned upside down on the new abnormal. We'll talk about the people who got us into this mess and figure out how we get ourselves out of it.
And I'm producer Jesse Kennen, and I'm here to make sure everything doesn't go too far off the rails while we have fun discussions about our world gone mad and why I took that dude seriously ourselves. Not so much. Today is a jaw dropper of an episode as we booked a sitting Republican congressman after countless attempts, we finally got one to talk to us. And today we'll be speaking to Adam Kinzinger, the congressman from Illinois 16th District, about his vote to impeach Donald Trump and where he stands as a Republican Party that has largely turned against him.
And then we'll talk to Ronald Brownstein, a senior political analyst for CNN and senior editor at The Atlantic. But first, we're going to talk to Ali Velshi, who's a business and politics correspondent and the host of Velshi on MSNBC, as well as everyone's favorite fill-in host on the network.
So welcome, Ali Velshi. Thank you. Very excited to have you on. Very cool. You have, like, crisscrossed the globe or at least America during covid. And I'm curious to know, has that been very weird? I imagine that's been very weird.
It's weird on a lot of levels. I've been traveling, you know, I normally travel everywhere. But in the last year I've been traveling, as you said, almost exclusively in America. I haven't I haven't left America. But I started traveling the week that George Floyd was killed. I went to Minneapolis and from there I followed a number of the protests and then it became campaign stuff and then it became covid, you know, after the election. And I've been traveling almost weekly since the end of May.
And at one point I went to my doctor and I said, just check to see if I've got covid antibodies, because I'm kind of amazed given that not only am I traveling, but I'm literally traveling for the purpose of talking to people I talk to as sort of a panel of people everywhere I go. And I didn't get it. But it's it's been remarkable and weird. So I don't have that same feeling that a lot of Americans have about wanting to, you know, needing to get back out there because I've been out there a lot.
But what a surreal year that we are going to talk about for the next twenty five years.
Do you have antibodies? I don't have antibodies, which is kind of amazing. I the doctor called me to say, you don't have antibodies. And I'd like to say that we have really good protocols at NBC and we're really careful. But I don't know that how much that matters as much these days. People who are really careful still end up getting coronavirus. I will say this. At no point did any of us think, boy, we're really good at this, so we don't need masks and we don't need social distancing.
I mean, we've practiced as good hygiene as we can for the last year, but it definitely a few months ago started to get scary thinking to myself. It doesn't really matter what our protocols are. The numbers and the way this is spreading became alarming.
You haven't gotten vaccinated yet.
I just got my first dose a couple of days ago when New York changed qualification. So I'm a man of a certain age and I qualified under the new rules, although my doctor did say to me that he could provide me with a note suggesting that my body mass index well, unlike me, it's like I don't I don't I don't need them. Thanks very much. I'm comfortable with my body.
I know more than a few people for whom that is one of the unintended consequences of the pandemic has made them more able to be vaccinated.
Yeah, and and I totally get it. I just didn't expect that. Like, I was sort of an unspoken thing between my doctor, me, that I could probably use to lose a few pounds and exercise a little more. I didn't actually think it was a thing, but now I know.
Well, I mean, I just can't believe you didn't get it. You and me both, particularly airports and planes, planes are particularly good because they circulate the air relatively well. But you're in a lineup with a whole bunch of people and you're touching a lot of the same stuff. And you're in the airport with them and you're in cabs and Uber and things like that. So I I'm actually fascinated. I spend most of my time in Philadelphia, but I would travel and I'd return to my New York place for a few days so that I could find out, you know, be alone for a few days and then get a test.
And then I'd come back to be with my wife. And she was always it was like it was like being in a jail cell, like I'd be in a separate room and she'd feed me through an opening in the door. I'm most surprised and most pleased to have gotten through it.
We are in this weird period now where we're kind of like in this media drop off, where people are just less interested in news. Does that freak you out? Where are you with that?
No, look, we had to expect that it was going to happen because work for four years, people told me things. They'd stop me in the street and say, you know what? I have to take the remote away from my mother because she's got you on twenty four, seven or thank you for helping us get through this. Or, you know, I never watched cable news before. I never watched MSNBC for the before and I'm glued. To it now, so I understood that we were being used in a way that was not familiar to people and not common, and that once the emergency, as it were, ended, meaning the emergency of having a president who might declare war with a tweet or something like that ended, people would would back off.
And then you combine that with warmer weather after a tough winter and after being shut in for a year. And the idea that people are getting vaccinated. I had a friend of mine told me the other day, I will not turn my TV on probably for the next two years other than to watch Netflix or something like that. And I think that's common and I think that's understandable. And, you know, we can take it as a bit of an opportunity to to do other kinds of programming or to do what we do.
But I think it's expected and frankly, I'd rather be in a world where people don't need me as badly as they did for the last four years.
Yeah, you know, it's funny. I feel the same exact way, like I would rather have democracy. Yes. Lower ratings. Ratings. Yeah. But I definitely think it is it feels like we have to sort of find different stories now because we spend so much time doing these stories that we're like, you know, you couldn't not write. Ivonka made whatever million of dollars while working in the White House. You know, there was so many stories that needed to be written that were so important.
And now I feel like how do you kind of go back to normal? And more importantly, how do you bring the audience back?
I agree with you. You had to cover those stories. And, you know, one of my biggest complaints during that period was the amount of news that isn't getting covered because this story sucks all the oxygen out of every room all the time. And you realize that, right? Like all of a sudden people are hearing about more about the Rohingya or the wiggers in China or we're getting more sophisticated about the Iran deal, or we're learning that Benjamin Netanyahu may not be the next prime minister of Israel.
Stuff was happening the whole time, but we had to cover one story. So on one hand, there's all of this space for other news that's going on. And then there's this issue of an attack on democracy. Democracy is not out of peril. The voting rights matter continues to be serious. Social justice movements continue to be serious. You think Asians weren't targeted by things beforehand and all of a sudden we get to now see it and deal with it.
So the fabric is really ripped. And if we can spend the next two years or more covering stories in a way that repairs the fabric a little bit, that would be a good utility. That'd be a good use of our time. Now, I think some of us are going to want to see cooking shows and mindless entertainment and maybe the roaring 20s will come back, as some people are predicting. But but I do think there's heavy lifting ahead of us as journalists in terms of the continued and sustained attack on democracy and fairness and equity in society.
So that's what I'd like to spend some time on. How do we actually fix it when you're not in the middle of the storm? Yeah, it isn't.
I mean, the thing I see, too, is then you also have people who have been reading news about Trump who have sort of I mean, I'm on the opinion side, so I don't get this. But there are straight news reporters who cover Trump really, really well and are now covering Biden and people are very mad at them.
Our job, I've always said, is to bear witness and to hold power to account. Right. We have two jobs as journalists, wherever you are on the spectrum. If your perspective or you're not, you have to say X is happening and then you have to hold power to account for X. That doesn't change. Regardless of who's in power, you should still be holding this administration to account. The difference is I'm not waking up every morning trying to figure out whether Joe Biden lied about something.
Right. But his approach to guns, to immigration, to equity, to these things, there's no reason it's going to be fully aligned when you have a common enemy who is who is attempting to dismantle democracy. Everybody's on the same side, right? With Donald Trump out of the way a little bit and the attacks on democracy having slowed a little bit, the differences between people who were otherwise aligned start to show. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.
I think one has to be careful to not lose sight of the end game. And that is you are either on the side of democracy or you're not. And to the extent that you have to keep that going, that's important. But I don't know that it would be healthy to not be, you know, wisely critical of what the the Biden administration does. But that's a responsibility we have to take seriously. Not not wantonly critical, but wisely critical.
I agree. And I think that that and the other thing is that media needs to speak truth to power and whatever that looks like. But I do think we do have a sort of opening now for stories that aren't as life and death to which we have to honor.
Yes, that's right. It's hard to balance that because we're attracted to the urgency that we had over the last few years. Right. That that does create an importance to what you do in an importance to have to follow it. How do you treat these things that are not life and death? Because once you signal that they're not life and death people. Corozal Right. Well, maybe I don't have. Pay attention to it as much, but they are actually democracy, for instance, our democracy is under attack.
And when it comes to these issues of equity and safety, for instance, for Asian-Americans or for for black Americans, they still continue to be life and death issues. They just don't have the same urgency that they had because it wasn't you know, it wasn't the way it was in the last four years. So that's the important part. We have to keep important stories at the forefront and figure out what the appropriate level of urgency is to to communicate them to our viewers, to say, look, it's not all coming to an end today, but it is important that we continue to discuss this.
Shine a light on people who are really working to improve the situation and shine a light on those who are not.
But it is interesting, I read this. I read David Lyonheart New York Times letter every morning, and I'm like a huge fan of his. And he had this very interesting letter, which was about how we cover covid very negatively as someone who was like in the Fizer trial and have spent a lot of time talking about covid and writing about covid, I think about this a lot. And I wonder how much of it is because it's so hard to talk about life and death things with nuance.
Yeah, I read that article with interest. I feel like there needs to be a second part to that. So the study indicated that compared to the global standard, American media reporting on covid was I think it was somewhere in the 80s, percent of negative versus fifty three percent or something globally. And they said that this is both on the left and the right, like just generally speaking, it was negative. And I'm curious about if you do some kind of a regression analysis, whether other countries that were comparing them to had the same degree of polarization that we did in the United States where Unkovic.
So the example I cite is Canada, right? My my people are in Canada. I'm Canadian. Originally, my parents were there. There wasn't this sense of the government misleading you and lies coming out of the White House. And it's not like people are happy with Koven. They're actually kind of very unhappy these days with the rate at which people are getting vaccinated. It wasn't the people versus the government. It wasn't this weird, good versus evil thing.
So there wouldn't have been necessarily the same need in Canada to have the degree of negative coverage overcovered as we've had here. Here, if you were on the left, you were complaining about the White House validly so and if you on the right, you were complaining about these efforts to take away your civil rights by making you wear a mask and closing down your businesses. So I think that story is half the story and probably needs more of it. That to me, covid is a perfect example of journalists having to hold power to account.
Right. The government was doing the wrong thing in America and we needed to tell people they are actually lying to you because now it's a matter of life and death. So I read that article with interest. I think David is a really good author, but I feel like there's a second part to that, that I want to see a little more research on it.
Why is Canada such a mess when it comes to vaccines? And it seems like the European countries did much better with with controlling the virus and then they did much less well with the vaccinating? I think you're absolutely right.
In fact, satisfaction in Canada with the way the government handled the coronavirus was actually very, very high. And then suddenly it wasn't suddenly came to vaccines. And my parents got their first dose of vaccine and are getting their second dose in three or four months or something like that. The UK is doing something similar. So that's interesting. We were so far behind on everything in the United States until we weren't. And by the way, it sort of coincides with when Biden came into office and put the weight of the federal government behind vaccine distribution and places like Canada are falling behind.
It's now getting very frustrating because, you know, it's a year end. People want to get out. They want to get around. So, yeah, I'm monitoring that closely, but it's not looking great. Yeah. Why do you think it's happening? You know, there are countries that are manufacturers of drugs in their countries that aren't an America. You know, we're struggling with how effective this AstraZeneca vaccine is, but we've actually got a lot of it.
We manufacture it. So I think part of it is that we are a net manufacturer of vaccines and countries that do better in this. If you have to negotiate for vaccines from another country, you're dealing with vaccine, nationalism and a very poor global coordination of vaccines. I remember in the recession of 2008 2009, the world coordinated the central banks of the world, coordinated to keep the world from sort of dropping through the bottom. We didn't do that with vaccines.
And we've got this really strong sense of vaccine nationalism. You may believe that a farmer in India requires the vaccine, but if you're a farmer in Nebraska, you're not interested in them getting your vaccine. And I think we really need to think about this in the wake of this thing, because there will be other things like this that come. And we've just kind of got to decide that there's got to be a way that we can be fair about the distribution of vaccines.
But that's not people's primary concern when a deadly illness is going around.
I've seen you identify as a finance taros. Let me know when I think of you, I think of this guy explains politics really well, but. I often think about the Republican Party seems to be, you know, we all know that they are mostly about serving their corporate donors, yet they have this balance of getting elected by their base, which then brings on insurrections. I'm wondering if you have insight on how you see the pressure from their corporate side being on them, that they know they need to get elected by riling up their base, but yet they have to still serve people who want to financial stability.
This is a really astute question, Jesse, because the Republican Party did a good job for a while of sort of straddling this world in which some of their adherents were, you know, doctrinaire conservatives and some were small government, libertarian sorts, you know, and that's the kind that corporate America likes, less government, less regulation, lower taxes. And then something happened. And the Republican Party has become crazy. And I think corporate America is struggling with this.
So, for instance, in Georgia, where the Republican Party is really working hard to impose voter restrictions, there's been a lot of pressure by Georgia voters on the corporations that are based there, Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta to say please don't donate money to any of these people because they're actually working against democracy for the very people who work for you and are part of your company. So I think corporate America is struggling now with what the Republican Party is.
And I think the Republican Party is in big trouble because if they'd like to win an election at some point on a national level, they're going to have to attract people who are so-called normal. They're not hateful, they're not anti-democratic, they're not conspiracy theorists, they're not social demons, but who are conservative and something wrong with that. And there's nothing wrong with America having two strong parties or more right now that doesn't exist. And I've been really struggling with what the Democratic Party is going to do is they're going to be a new thing formed that is sort of moderate people who like less government and lower taxes but don't have strong views on social issues.
Is that going to be is it going to cleave off of the existing Republican Party? Is this going to become the Republican Party, this crazy sort of anti-democratic conspiracy theorist party? I think it's very unhealthy for America, whether you're a Republican or not, to wish for the demise of the Republican Party. So I think Republicans and Democrats have got to sit around and say, what does the future look like? Because if you have one party to the point that that Molly was making earlier, you can end up eating your own.
You want to be able to get sharper on the in the arena of ideas. And right now, that's not happening because there are no fundamental issue debates going on in the Senate and in the House. Everybody just votes one way because it's what their party is. And no one's coming up with really good suggestions. There are eight to 10 United States senators, Republicans who seem to be interested in real compromise solutions, and they're trying to advance their cause a little bit.
So when we were talking about a fifteen dollars an hour minimum wage, Mitt Romney suggested a twelve dollars and 50 cent minimum wage. I think it was fine to somebody who is earning seven. Twenty five an hour. That's not enough. But at least someone came up with a suggestion to say, let's debate this. It went nowhere. But that's what the Republican Party is going to have to do. They're going to have to say, we've got ideas to run on.
You will remember, Jesse, in the last election, the Republican Party made a conscious effort to not have a policy. They said Donald Trump, to our policy, we're not going to actually put policy offerings forward.
Cult of personality is policy. I mean, it is absolutely beyond strange. I mean, I wrote a piece about this in the piece today, like, how do you get people to vote for a party that just wants to destroy the government?
Molly, I don't know. I don't know what this is about. I don't understand. And the thing is, I meet people who think that we're all exaggerating about this and MSNBC is just against Trump and all this. And I sort of say, look, I don't know what you're reading or what you're seeing. There are actually people after after a country that has shed blood to make sure everybody can vote. There was a civil war, there was a suffrage movement.
There was a civil rights movement. We have generally agreed that the point is that all citizens should be able to vote. They're actually working against that. That is actually anti-democratic stuff. How do you square that with your desire for lower taxes, your desire for smaller government? We can debate those issues. We can't debate this one. This one we we fought wars over. We've already concluded what democracy is supposed to look like. So I don't understand how that works.
And that I kind of hope, is what the next two years will allow us some space for real dialogue, for people to say let's not just be hyper partisan about stuff, let's remember what democracy is and what our role in it is. But I am actually very worried about that. Molly, I moved to America twenty years ago. I never thought we'd be having a real conversation about whether democracy in America is in peril.
And we are. Thank you so much for joining us. This was really, really, really great. Are we done already? This was too fast.
Oh, that's good. You can come back. Adam Kinzinger is the Republican congressman from Illinois 16th District who sits on the Committee for Energy and Commerce, as well as the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
You're going to have to give us a what up again, Representative. What what's going on? What's your first Republican congressman ever? Great.
That's so sad. Oh, no. Is that true?
Yes, that is true. This is the first time we've had a sitting Republican congressman on the show because.
So that is our that is our political landscape now. And not for lack of trying.
I have to say, we've done a lot of trying.
Yeah, we've been trying to get mad, Gateson. No, I'm just kidding.
So can you explain to me a little bit about what happened on January 6th and you did the right thing. It must have been one of the hardest decisions you've ever made.
So it's weird because I was actually an easy decision. You know, I've been paying attention to this whole idea, all these conspiracies for actually a while, but particularly started to get more outspoken in the last year. And, you know, I remember back in like twenty fifteen. I don't know if you guys remember the whole conspiracy about Jade Helm where the federal federal government was going to overthrow the Texas government. And and so like the that was I think even Louie Gohmert had given a speech on the floor of the House about it.
And, you know, I'm obsessed with him. Right. Well, could you go back to that speech? And so anyway, like the Texas governor, instead of just saying to people, no, that's not true, he activated the Texas State Guard, which is not the National Guard. It's like the Civil Air Patrol of the Guard. And he knew it wasn't true, but that was an easy way out. So I had been seeing that and know in, you know, prior to the election, the president beginning to undermine the election and then, of course, after the election.
And you know what really hit me when it's just like it's been stolen. It's been stolen as I work with a lot of countries around the world, but particularly close with Georgia. And they're a fledgling democracy. And then you realize how that, like, undermines things. And and so that's where I started to get really outspoken. Like, look, if you're not willing to stand up for something so basic, you know, then why am I here?
And then, of course, when the insurrection happened, then I knew, you know, I had on multiple kind of media things, predicted violence prior I didn't necessarily know would take this thing, but I knew that it was going to happen. It's just like this cannot be this is like as a pilot, the buffet that comes before your plane starts, it's like a warning. And and so for me, it was an easy decision to impeach, I knew would be politically hard, but I knew that I couldn't live with myself and not vote that way.
Can you stay in office now? Yeah, I hope so.
I got you know, I look at it. I've got over a year and a half still in this terminal. We're just sworn in. And that's something that's kind of annoyed me, too, about where politics has become. As I remember maybe four years ago after an election, like we had our very first conference meeting just when we got sworn in. And half of the discussion in that conference meeting, which is when it's like all the Republican members of Congress was what do we have to do for the next election?
I'm like, dude, can we give it like a month or two to try to govern?
So I've seen, I think over the last couple of months, you know, you're starting to see President Trump's kind of influence wane. I think we're going to survive this. And but it's certainly going to be an epic battle. It's probably going be an epic battle that needs to happen.
Yeah, it does seem to me like him being off Twitter. He's become just not important anymore in the discourse.
Yeah. He can put out crazy press releases calling Rove a RINO and, you know, like he's doing. But it's true. And I think I'm fully supportive of Twitter banning the president because, you know, we've got we have a hearing today on these exact issues. And the reality is your First Amendment right. But you don't have the right to yell fire in a theater. And when the president's tweeting things like this is what you get, you know, when you steal an election that is certainly yelling fire in a theater.
And I think it's taken a lot of his influence where I see a lot of Republicans who did the right thing now being targeted. And I think about Georgia is one of those places. Are you worried about these election laws?
I am. I think, you know, here's the thing. So I think the Democrats for the people, Bill, is actually a really bad bill. And just just philosophically, I disagree with it. And the problem is, you know, when you, on the other hand, have Republican legislators, I mean, some some of the moves they may be taken actually may be legit. For instance, I actually think that the election season should be short.
And some you know, if you have early voting six months prior, all you're doing is basically starting an election the day after I was sworn in. But when it comes to some of these other things they're doing, like, yeah, it's a terrible. You know, it also, I think as much as anything, it's the intention of them doing it is to kind of wink, wink, nod, nod. The big lie is real. You know, we've got to fix this because the brain.
And so I do worry about it and I worry about. But, you know, I think ultimately, like when it comes to the primaries that are at hand, you know, I guess Raffensperger is now being challenged for doing his job, for God's sakes. And I think when it comes to that, though, it's it's you know, these Republicans like we want unity. We want unity. But what they're saying is we want capitulation under Donald Trump because Donald Trump can attack anybody he wants.
But if anybody attacks him, then it's a ununified party. And I just think it's a battle that has to be public because the public's the ones that are going to make the decision about why do you think the bill is bad?
Well, there's a number of things in it. So, you know, restoring the rights of all felons to vote, there's issues with basically federalizing the election. I think one of the benefits we have is the ability to and it's one of the reasons I was so defensive of this election as well, is the fact that our election system is decentralized is actually makes it really kind of impenetrable to hacking. You know, there's certain things that are good, obviously more money for cyber defense and things along that line.
But there's a lot of stuff in there, including federal funding for four campaigns that I think we need a much broader discussion to deal with as Americans.
You came out against Marjorie Taylor Green's transphobia side. To my calculation, you are about the only elected Republican who's ever stood up for transgender rights. Can you tell us about that decision?
OK, this is kind of one of my biggest things that drives me nuts about politics is just now it's you know, it's one thing to do kind of an outrageous tweet occasionally. But what they do is they they feed on this culture war. And so when you have Marjorie Taylor Greene that put that, like, sign outside of fellow representative from Illinois, I'm only because I can't think of the names I'm trying to. But outside of her like office, basically, in essence, poking fun at the fact that her daughter is transgender.
I mean, first off, A, that's wrong. Every human being has value. And number two, that was solely for the purpose of getting Twitter followers, stirring up this kind of division. And it's just wrong. You know, I mean, we can have legitimate debates over over policy issues. But I think when we get to the point of kind of dehumanizing people, we're looking at people as, you know, failures basically or bad or evil like that is a bad thing to do in the public sphere.
And I think, you know, that's something that absolutely, utterly has to be called out. And she just does stuff. I mean, honestly, she was proud of being kicked off committees, and that just shows how unserious a legislator she really is.
What do you do with those Republicans like the Louie Gohmert and the Mo Brooks? I mean, Mel Brooks spoke at stop this deal later. What do you do when you have a I mean, I understand that the Democratic Party has also people who are, you know, a little bit different, but like, this is not different. This is like right in saying, you know.
Yeah. So here's an interesting thing. So you'll always get people to talk about the both sides. And I think that's a legitimate discussion sometimes. And I think sometimes we need jerk reaction to, say, somebody. Both sides, both sides. I mean, when it's actually legit to say in this case, like, yeah, there are some obviously radicals in the Democratic Party, but I think it's been the right through history that is more apt to things like conspiracy theories.
I mean, I'm sure there's definitely conspiracies on the left, but the ones that I've been privy to have all been kind of right wing conspiracies, all been focused on things like overthrowing the government and the government's illegitimacy. And that's dangerous. That is actually not any kind of freedom of speech. So for me, and particularly as a Republican, and I can attack Democrats and they're not going to listen, but frankly, we have to it's the biblical thing.
If you have a plank in your own, you know, you're pointing out the speck and somebody else is going to remove this plank in our own eye. And I think part of that is if you have somebody that goes and speaks to the Stop the Steele rally, not just speech, but basically says things like, we're going to fight like hell, we're going to go to war, you know, I think they should be not welcome in the Republican Party.
I don't think we should be going as far as removing them from Congress, because I think each district has a right to pick who they want to pick. But I think as Republicans, if I was the minority leader in charge of the party, I'd be like, you can call yourself a Republican, but you can't caucus with us. And we're not recognizing you as a Republican for some of these. And unfortunately, the problem is all the money and the fundraising is with the angry, kind of crazy side of the party at the moment.
And so they're not going to do it.
It's almost like the party is weirdly weak. And that's why you have people like me. Marjorie Taylor Green comes from a lot of family money, so you can definitely see the machinations behind it. Why you keep the R next to your name? Why do you not become an independent?
Well, for me, it's because, look, I was a Republican long before Donald Trump. I you know, I was like. A six year old Republican when I you know, when I was six, I cannot decide on a Republican, which is odd. You know, I'm sure some of the people listening have been in that position, too. But, you know, for me, this kind of off the rails thing is relatively recent when I say relatively like within the last decade, half decade.
And, you know, we always know there's going to be two strong parties in this country. And so you've got to do battle for the soul of the party. And I think if I would like, leave and say I'm over it, I'm a go independent, you know, right now, that would be just simply ceding ground to people like Donald Trump, who's a server. He's the real RINO, right. He's a Republican in name only.
There's nothing Republican about him.
Yeah. It's sort of so fascinating to watch this fight play out. Do you see a world where you guys can, like, take back the Republican Party?
I do, and I think so. Here is this is my optimistic view. So I'll just go through my pessimistic view seems to be what everybody does.
And the pessimistic view is, you know, we just continue to trend this way. And eventually, after a number of election cycles, we realize we are not a competitive party. We're a regional party. The party goes down in flames. My optimistic view is that every day that goes by, Donald Trump is less and less relevant. I think every day that goes by, we may be a day closer to some kind of legal action against him, whether it's New York or Georgia or insurrection.
And and I think that would turn it on on a dime.
You're always going to have 30 to 35 percent people that voted for Pat Buchanan and you know, those kinds. But I do I am optimistic in the long run that we can take it back. And the problem is it's got to take people just out there putting it all on the line because, you know, until you go out and actually win suburban voters again in a race, it's not like a suburban voter without a candidate. The back is just going to be like, I'm now Republican.
It's like, yeah, people say, well, look, Donald Trump had millions of people that voted for him that didn't. Yeah. He also lost millions of people. And by the way, the Democrats got many, many more millions of people because they didn't like Donald Trump.
Right. It's interesting. I actually was talking to Kevin Mullen yesterday and we're talking about I had a guest on here who said when a party loses three elections, they start to say, like, oh, what we were doing is not working. So that would mean midterms, this Trump election and the next midterms. I mean, you do see with senators there are all these really the sort of sane Republican senators seem to be retiring at a pretty good clip.
What is your thoughts on that?
Yeah, that's sad. And I understand it. I mean, it's it's you know, everybody's got to look at, you know, when you come up for us, particularly in the Senate or the House, it's a decision to make every two years. You can kind of make more finite, momentary decisions because like, I can do another two years when you're in the Senate, it's like six. And, you know, when what you've gone through is, this isn't my party, you know, you've got to kind of walk that fine line, you know, whenever something crazy happens.
And you know that if you follow through, which a lot of them have and say that that's wrong, now you're going to be attacked by your own side at some point, you're just like, look, I have given plenty of years of service to my country. Like, it's not like I'm running away. I did my job. It's just this is not a time to come back. And so I think that's where, you know, it may take a number of lost elections.
But I think, you know, when you look at some good candidates that are rising up, for instance, you know, I've got this country first thing that we just endorsed, Michael Wood down in Texas six. So that's a special election. Michael Wood is a Marine reservist. And the reason I just decided to go to to support him is because he has openly said in the primary that we have to move on from Donald Trump in a primary.
That's not something you hear often people say. And so I think those are the kinds of candidates that have to be supported. You know, it's like, David, against Goliath, Goliath being Trump's fundraising machine. But you look at something like a 20 person race. If Michael would have the lane of time to move on. I'm still a conservative from this guy. You can see where he has a path to victory. And I think focusing on things like that and showing once these crazies maybe win a primary, for instance, for Senate and then lose, you know, that's going to be kind of where the wake up happens.
But I think there's no doubt there's going to be damage. And I said when Trump was president and everybody know kind of an American public, but when I'm talking to folks like, oh, this is great, you know, it's great stuff done and all that, I'm like, listen, he's going to go down in flames and so is the conservative brand. And everything that we've gained will end up being reversed. Probably a worse.
And I think it's going to happen like with the fundraising stuff. He raises a lot of money. But the question is, and you're seeing this already, we don't really know. It doesn't seem like he's so interested in raising money for other people.
That's totally true. He saw this issue with Kim Classic, you know, the African-American lady running in Baltimore. She had a really good. Commercial, and then that whole same commercial has been repeated over and over and it's lost its effectiveness, but, you know, when it came out first, it was great. Midpoints. And she raised eight million dollars and five million of that went to her adviser. So it's a grift. It's just a grift.
And all these, like grifters out there, you know, look, if I had no morals, I would actually start like a grifting thing and probably make a ton of money. And that's where I think, A, we have to expose that. We have to talk about that because we people that have been hurting during the pandemic and and want to turn to helping political candidates because they think that's kind of the answer to this pandemic misery. And they're helping candidates where, you know, it's hard to get 50 bucks, but I'm going to do it.
And in 40, that goes to some clown who's going to buy another Mercedes that's got to be exposed. And then I think also we have to have a real discussion about and I hate, by the way, when I say real discussion, because usually that's like what people say to kind of kick the subject down the road. But we really do need an actual, like, dialogue about about money in politics. And that's where I said, you know, on the one issue, I think, you know, there is some benefit to really having some some talk about it.
I think they jumped the gun on it. But like when McCain-Feingold happened, it took all the soft money out of the parties. The party lost all its power because they don't control the money anymore. And then when Citizens United happened, it basically, you know, released the crack. And for all the dark money, that's a real concern.
Now, can you imagine a world where there's a bipartisan bill controlling money in politics?
Not right now. I do eventually. But I think right now here's the problem. So like when Citizens United happened initially, you know, as a Republican, unions have like the ability to kind of get money and spend it, that we didn't have Citizens United equalized that for Republicans. So Republicans were all excited. And then all of a sudden Democrats figured that out and then crazy groups within the Republicans figured that out. And so I think it's going to have to be a moment when both sides are kind of recognizing that this sucks for both of them.
And I'm just not quite sure we're there yet. Now, you know, the normal's kind of take back the Republican Party, then I think we're going to all be in a place to recognize that and do something, but unfortunately needs to take constitutional no constitutional amendments.
Seem like they were. I mean, I just wrote a piece on the era, so I've been thinking about this a lot because the era just got completely creamed. And it's not even should women have the same rights as men like you're hard pressed to find someone who wouldn't agree with that. Yeah, but I'm curious to know when you have this situation here, I mean, what's your feeling about the Supreme Court?
So, look, I mean, as a conservative, you know, I'm happy with what the Supreme Court looks like, but I also am very sympathetic to the realization that, you know, having a Supreme Court that people trust is really the key backstop to everything and every institution. And now I think including the Supreme Court has become political, the last one that has and is the military. And certainly it's on the verge of that. And so, yes, as a conservative, I like the make up of the Supreme Court.
But I also would be very supportive of efforts to say, let's get back to putting in Supreme Court justices that are going to be fair and not necessarily going in with a predisposed political notion, because, you know, it's part of the problem with the whole filibuster going away to 60 votes is not forcing that kind of compromise. Now, it's just like, let's get our person in there and then it just becomes another legislative branch. Know, that's a big concern because then when you know that there's no, like, fair backstop, which I think the Supreme Court still is a fair backstop, I'm not saying that.
But when the perception changes, then it really can do real damage to two democracies. And I think that's the key, honestly, that everybody, no matter what your political philosophy is, needs to really think hard about, which is all these momentary political gains or losses are one thing. But we've got to once again have the perspective of history. And it's like, what are we doing to the institutions in the long run? When you think about the fact that, you know, all we do is go on, you know, Twitter and TV and call the other side douchebags now versus like real discussions about, you know, they're wrong because of this.
You know, I respect that person. What's that doing to the 20 year old kids that are going to be in politics in the next generation, that have never seen Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill have a beer together? It's it's we can't expect the next generation to go back to normal politics. We're not showing them that example.
Do you think there are people besides Liz Cheney in the leadership who agree with you?
No. I mean, I think, Liz, if you take the three leaders as Liz, you know, I mean, I think at their heart, they all agree. It's just, you know, when we're so close to taking the majority and you're like, OK, we have eight. Months, what's the safest bet? You know, the safest bet is just let's double down on what's been working and then when we're in the majority, then we can change the dynamics.
But that, of course, won't happen.
Oh, yeah. Thank you so much. This was helpful, but also terrifying.
Well, OK. I got the terrifying. Let me just say, though, I would not have stayed in this job as long as I have. I'm starting year 11 if I didn't have an optimistic view of the future, and I really do. I mean, the cycles of social angst is is here. We're going to get through this. And I honestly think we're going to come out of this with, like a new American century. I just think we have to be open and honest about the crap that's happening now.
And that's the way to heal from it. People have to just reject it.
Thank you so much. This is so helpful. I really appreciate you coming on. Yeah, you bet. Any time.
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That's new abnormal for The Daily Beast Dotcom. Ron Brownstein is a senior political analyst for CNN and a senior editor at The Atlantic and the author of the new book Rock Me on the Water.
Hi, Ron Brownstein. Hi, Molly. Welcome to The New Normal. I've been living it. How have we never got that report before, huh? I don't know. So first, tell us about your book.
Oh, thank you. So my new book out this week is called Rock Me on the Water. It is about pop culture and politics in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, the era of Jerry Brown, Jackson Browne and Chinatown, as I like to say. And at one level, it is just the story of this incredible constellation of talent that came together at the same time in the same place. This was the era of the second, what the people call the second golden age in Hollywood when you had movies like Chinatown and The Godfather and Carnal Knowledge and Five Easy Pieces and Shampoo and Nashville, it was simultaneously the apex of the Southern California sound, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, the Eagles.
It was also the fundamental transformation of television, really the beginning of the road to peak TV that we're living with today. When Owen when CBS put on the air all in the family, Mary Tyler Moore, MASH and others shows that for the first time use the medium to comment on the society around it. So at one one level, my story is about just this incredible moment when all of these stars align. We'll talk about, you know, obviously the literary world in Paris in the 20s or the modern art world, New York in the early 50s.
I think the early 70s in Los Angeles is a comparable constellation of talent. But there's a second layer to the story, and that is that this was, I think, a genuine hinge point in American political, cultural and social history, because it is in the pop culture that was made in L.A., primarily in L.A. in the early 70s, that the 60s critique of American life was embedded into our culture. Ideas like greater suspicion of authority and business and government, changing relations between men and women, more personal freedom, more inclusion of marginalized groups.
These are all insurrectionary ideas that emerged out of the movements of the 60s. And I argue they really became immovable in American life. They became part of our mental architecture once they were integrated into our movies, music and television. And in that way, as a final point, I argue in the early 70s, culture was ahead of politics and predicting what the country would become, because even as all of these ideas were triumphing in the cultural sphere, Nixon, like Trump later was still winning two national elections by mobilizing the people who are most uneasy about the changes that the 60s unleashed.
And so while he was able to win a temporary restraining order or victory against these cultural changes, politically, they did enter our lives and they did change the way we lived. And I would argue that something similar is happening today. When you see Trump's success at mobilizing the voters who are most uneasy about the way the country is changing demographically, culturally, even economically. As I write about all the time, there is a big audience for that message.
But if you look at pop culture today and the way it kind of embraces this panoramic, diverse America, I think that's a better predictor of what America is going to look like in 20 30 than the electoral returns are for Trump in twenty twenty.
Talk to me about what you're seeing right now. You've been around for a long time. And I mean, that is a humongous compliment. And you've sort of seen that the ebb and flow. Where are we on the kind of the timeline of history here?
Yeah, so, I mean, the first presidential race I cover was nineteen eighty four. So I have been doing this a while and I think the biggest change that we've all been living through actually goes back to the period that I that I that I write about in the book, which is that we've moved from a class based to a cultural based political alignment and political division. I mean, the parties I think now are united and separated around a very different fault line than they were going into the 60s and 70s.
It has been a process has really happened over the last 50 years, but enormously accelerated in the last decade, both through the backlash against Obama and then Trump kind of emerging from that. And I think what we see now is a politics in which the fundamental fault line between the parties is what I call the Coalition of Restoration and the coalition of transformation. You have a democratic coalition that is centered on the places and the voters who are most comfortable with the way the country is changing, whether that's demographically, whether that's culturally, whether it's economically.
And you have a Republican coalition that is deeply uneasy to hostile to the way the country is changing. And you see this demographically and Democrats doing better with younger voters, Republicans. Better with older voters, you see it kind of on the class alignment with Republicans, relying mostly on non college whites and Democrats now doing better and better among college whites, you see it geographically. Democrats basically dominate every major metro in the country. I mean, you could draw an imaginary beltway around every metro inside of it is getting more democratic outside of it's getting more Republican.
So all the cherries on the slot machine line up in a way that was not true when I started covering politics. The parties really are representing different America, separate Americas and the democratic coalition of transformation is larger. I mean, there's no question it's a little larger. They've won the popular vote in seven out of eight elections, presidential elections. No party has ever done that. If you look at if you divide, give half of each state's population to each senator.
Democrats have represented a majority. Republicans are representing a majority of the country. And only once one session in the last 40 years and the Senate and right now, Democrats represent fifty six percent of the total population of the country. So there's no question the Democratic coalition is larger, but that doesn't mean it can always govern, right? I mean, all the work in the constitutional system that favor small, rural, preponderantly, white, preponderantly Christian states.
So we are at a very precarious moment where you have a balance of power that can shift based on kind of Democrats are larger, but it's not like an insurmountable advantage. You have a Republican coalition that really does respond to this message that this is our country, his words, and they are taking it away from you. Seventy five percent of Republicans say discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.
Unpack that. For me, that seems insane.
So, look, I mean, I think the essence of the Republican message is that you, the virtuous, real America by which we mean white Christian America, are under siege from contemptuous elites above and from dangerous minorities and immigrants below. We don't want to take your jobs or come to your neighborhood and kill you like that St. Louis couple that they highlighted at the convention. And this sense of eroding influence that this was our country and it is being taken from us, I think is now the single most powerful, without question, I think is without question the single most powerful force in the Republican coalition.
It's all they have, right. Are still voters who don't like the way Democrats tax and spend and regulate.
But I mean Republicans also. I mean, they are spending, too.
Yeah. And I think the evidence if you look at the polling post-election, if you look at the focus groups of people have done Stan Greenberg. And there's no question that the dominant engine in the Republican Party at this point is a Trump style message of racial nationalism, which, by the way, has an audience among a certain share of non-white voters. And we can talk about that in a minute. But to me, the key question is somewhere between twenty to twenty five to 30 percent of traditionally Republican voters pretty consistently and bullying are not comfortable with a racial nationalist authoritarian party.
I mean, they are uneasy with January 6th, with Trump's role in January six, with the way the election was undermined. And I think a critical question for the next few years is, do those voters continue to align in a Republican Party where they are clearly subordinate, where Marjorie Taylor Green is not being thrown out of the caucus, where Ron Johnson is minimizing the violence of January six? If you are a Republican who is genuinely horrified by what happened and and what it portends for what's coming, do you say I'm still voting for Ron Johnson because the alternative is a crazy Democratic Party that's going to do all these liberal things?
Or do you say this is just too much and I'm getting off the bus? I don't think we know the answer to that, but it is an absolutely critical question.
I always think the triumph of the Republican Party is the Democratic Party's inability to message.
Well, I find myself conflicted on this question because I feel like over the course that I have been writing about politics, performance matters less and less in terms of how people vote. And it's more and more about these fundamental, almost existential questions of identity. I mean, like, is Greg Abbott going to be punished in Texas for messing up the energy grid that badly and for handling the covid shutdowns that ham handedly and overriding local governments? Now, are there going to be voters who say, wow, you know, Biden is getting all of these shots and people's arms and I am back at my kid's football game and, you know, I can go to the diner again and therefore I'm going to vote for him, even though I'm not sure I really believe in Black Lives Matter and gun control.
I mean, I just don't know if that's going to happen anymore. And that is that is kind of like. It's almost as though we are taking a census every two years. I like to say, rather than having kind of a persuasion argument about about trying to move a move the country and that is a scary prospect because I think you can objectively look at the trends and everything that triggers the Republican coalition, everything that these voters don't like. There's going to be more of it, not less of it.
In the 20 20s, white Christians, non college whites, rural whites, they are all going to keep shrinking as a share of the population. I mean, a majority of the nation's total economic output at this point is generated by the top hundred counties. And Biden won ninety one of the metro America. Diverse info age, innovative driving the economy. Metro America is solidly blue. And I just don't think that anything that's going to happen in the 20 twenties is going to calm down the Republican base.
You know, it's funny. I mean, in the book you can see the first echoes of this like in the 70s, because what happens is the story that I tell is that basically the cultural critique of American life, that the 60s comes into the pop culture and it's there. I mean, it's there. And all the family every week it's there and mash even more gently. And Mary Tyler Moore certainly there. And the movie is Chinatown, The Conversation, The Godfather, all about kind of the systemic rot and corruption.
The American dream isn't what you think it is. And, you know, Nixon is winning much like very much like Trump basically saying, I am going to stop all of these changes that are kind of undermining the America that you that you remember or that you that you revere. And yet he can't stop the kind of the cultural ascendance of these ideas. So you start to see really the first stirrings of the religious right in the early 70s, mid 70s in backlash to this and all of that kind of procedure to the 70s.
And what's really striking about the Trump era, obviously, is that the racial dimension of this has become so overt and in-your-face in a way that it wasn't before. I mean, it's not know. Yes, the Republicans are fighting about transgender rights and so forth, but the core of it is not gay marriage and abortion and some of the kind of sexual mores and family relations issues. It is now right on what was always kind of under the mask or beneath the surface.
It is right on about racial change. I mean, look at the way they framed the election, right? That it was stolen. OK, fine. It was stolen, but it was stolen in cities with big black populations. That was their case. So Trump has made all of this so overt. And I will say that the audience for it is a few points bigger than I thought it would be. Right. But the question is, as I said before, I think twenty to twenty five percent of the Republican Party is not comfortable with a racial nationalism, authoritarian kind of vision for the party.
Good. They do. Fascinating.
Thank you so much for coming on.
Oh, thanks for having me. And to talk about past and present pop culture and politics.
What's crazier than Kuhnen? More outlandish than the gate and scarier than a Mexican getaway with Ted Cruz. The answer is what the American right wing has planned next. You were the first to listen to Fevered Dreams. New podcast from The Daily Beast. Tracking the conspiracy slingers, orange acolytes and straight up grifters pushing to retake power. Every Wednesday, host Suyin Superceding and will Summer check in on the movement of the radical right and to The Daily Beast dotcom slash podcasts or your favorite podcast player to catch the first episode and get subscribed.
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Hi, Jesse, can high mileage on fast, so there's a signal that we do just one hour, one segment actually survives. We had an episode of Hunter and two episode one hundred to the hundred.
In second time we skipped it, one of those four episodes. We did skip it and I will never forget it because my inbox will never be the same.
Yes, I remember it well. That's right. But we've learned our lessons to let the audience down. So tell me, who is your fuck? That guy.
My fuck. That guy is a man called Jason Miller. Well, just the thought of him. I mean, you know, what's interesting about that man is that multiple people have let him impregnate them, not one, but two. Right. I mean, think about that. Right. Like, it's one thing to get really drunk. I never have done this, but theoretically, one could get very drunk, could have sex with someone. But to, like, be like I'm going to have a child with Jason Miller is really something.
And it turns out I know this is going to come as a big shock to all of your listeners, but he's like one of the last people employed by Trump. Right. He's one of Trump's sort of core group of real scumbags and criminals.
That guy, he's making the Trump social media app, right? Oh, excellent. I was hoping we could side up. Right. It's an app where you can meet women to cheat on your pregnant wife with. That's like, by the way, that's like the trope of Republican politicians like Eric Greitens.
It's like, well, I did have a pregnant wife, but yeah, it's just like how if you're an anti gay Republican politician or you're definitely on the down low. Yes. Yeah. Burset out the Delvaux.
But here we are. We have this Jason Miller. It turns out that he is hiding his I know this is going to come as a very big shock to all of you listeners hiding his income so he doesn't have to pay child support to AJ Delgado. I know it's shocking you. None of us saw it coming, but the guy with all the wives, that guy, he's also a misogynistic scumbag. So it is with great joy and zeal that I say, go fuck yourself, Jason Miller.
Oh, well, by fuck. That guy is one of a person I've hated for two decades but does not hold a candle at Skarbek. This, but just glaring, glaring hypocrisy, which is one. Ari Fleischer. Now, for those of you who are lucky enough to Babri hold this godforsaken Kryten, Ari Fleischer was George Bush's press secretary and today he tweeted about Biden's press conference. Are you kidding me? Biden is flipping through a typed multi-page document.
What I better. Q and A's. I've never seen a porous pre leads to a news conference. Is he really that weak that he needs a study guide now? One would say, you know, presidents, they all read from notes and some of them are a little bit more off the cuff than others. We all remember Barack Obama was accused of having a teleprompter, but we have to remember that about Ari Fleischer, a bad day. Jeff Catted, who was a reporter with a fake news that I don't say this in the Donald Trump way, but literally a news site that did not exist, the town news where he would have this reporter and call on them the whole time to get softball questions to get through.
And this was by Ari Fleischer's invite. And this person had the experience of only working at their high school school paper before this.
So I don't think Ari Fleischer's the best vessel for criticism of how White House press conferences are run.
Yeah, I would say that's pretty fair. The guy who sold us the weapons of mass destruction may not be may not be totally on a level.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that's how he became a media critic. I don't know. But what I do know is, fuck you, Ari.
It's like when people tell you who they are, believe them. Yes.
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Here's what we love, courtesy of Outkast recommends. This is US Quintupling Soothsaying, and welcome to The Daily Beast's Fevered Dreams. I'm Will Summer a politics reporter at The Daily Beast, where I dig into all the darkest recesses of American extremism. On this podcast, we're going to take you on deeply reported plunges into the sometimes hilarious, sometimes frightening movement that's turning our political landscape into a dysfunctional madhouse. We'll take you inside the right's push to retake power, not the Trump era was insane.
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