Reforming an Unresponsive Political System

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Mike talks with Jim Jonas, a founding director of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers and co-founder of Colorado Independent Voters. Jim is an experienced political, public affairs and corporate communication consultant based in Denver, Colorado. For the last decade he’s helped create and manage a wide variety of entrepreneurial, disruptive political organizations and campaigns to promote independent/nonpartisan causes and candidates. He was a co-founder of Unity ’08, a consultant to Americans Elect, and the campaign manager to Greg Orman’s independent campaign for the US Senate in Kansas in 2014. Jim got his start in politics writing and producing political media for consulting legend Roger Ailes in New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC. He also served as Senator Lamar Alexander’s communications director for his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 1996.

Mike and Jim discuss whether political elites have too much power, the barriers both major parties have set up to reform, how reform can happen, and what listeners can do to help the cause of nonpartisan reform.

Jim Jonas on Twitter

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PG138: Gun Laws, North Korea Sanctions, PA Gerrymandering, Mueller Charges

The show opens with Mike and Jay discussing the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Mike takes issue with the inflammatory rhetoric of NRA head Wayne LaPierre, and while Jay agrees, he points out that there are those on the left who are equally inflammatory. In terms of policy proposals, Mike points out how rare schools shootings are, the difficulty in making them even more rare, and the almost certain unintended consequences of any such effort. Jay agrees, though seems less skeptical of proposals to arm teachers than Mike clearly is.

Next, the Guys discuss the latest round of U.S. sanctions against North Korea. They both agree that North Korea has taken advantage of previous administrations – of both parties – with Jay arguing that this sort of tough approach is called for, given that history. Mike appreciates the logic, but is concerned about possible consequences if the U.S. backs North Korea into a corner with no way out.

Then it’s more on gerrymandering, in the wake of Pennsylvania’s Democratic-majority supreme court drawing a Congressional map for the state after the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor couldn’t agree on their own map. While Mike and Jay believe that courts shouldn’t draw Congressional maps, Mike believes it’s an unfortunate last option when a court finds legislative maps to be in violation of a constitution (whether it’s a state or the federal constitution).

Finally, Mike and Kay discuss the new indictments against former Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. Jay doesn’t see the link between these charges and collusion with the Russians in the 2018 elections, and while Mike agrees, he points out that these investigations typically take years, and that Mueller is likely building a case.

What Jay’s Watching:
The Times of Harvey Milk

What Mike’s Reading:
Who Needs Congressional Districts?

Here’s the link to take the Stony Brook survey on the messages that political parties send to their members. (The researchers request that you don’t post about the survey so as to not influence others who haven’t yet taken it.)

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School Shooting, Contempt for Religion, Universal Healthcare, GOP Debts

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Mike and Jay lead off the show with Mike arguing that in the aftermath of tragic events, like the recent school shooting in Florida, we’re far too quick to rush to judgment and far too eager to believe that incompetence or malfeasance is the cause. He argues that we should look to institutional structures, incentives, and resources which are, in his view, more commonly at fault.

After that, Mike and Jay answer listener questions about whether liberals like Susan Jacoby (who Mike recently interviewed on the show) are contemptuous of religion, their positions on universal healthcare, if Mike should be more aggressive, if Jay’s carrying water for the Trump administration, and whether the nation debt is more the fault of Republicans than Democrats.

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PG137: South Florida Shooting and the FBI, Mueller’s Indictment, Senate Immigration Fails, Mitt Romney for Senate, and No Solo-Press Conferences for President Trump

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This week’s show opens with Trey introducing a new voice for the left: Ken Katkin, a professor of law at Northern Kentucky University, who’s stepping in to give Mike the week off (and to give listeners the week off from Mike 🙂). The two then move into the tragedy in South Florida this week. The two open by talking about the FBI’s potential shortcomings as noted by Governor Rick Scott. They then move, briefly, to discuss the role of gun legislation. The topic is particularly difficult for Trey who lives and works in Central Florida.

Next Trey brings up the Mueller’s indictment against 13 Russians. Both Trey and Ken agree a central finding is a lack of citizen awareness of information discernment. It also appears to support the claims of the Trump team that more than being pro-Trump, to this point they were anti-Hillary in all their forms. However, it is clear that more is coming from Mueller on the American side.

After that Trey and Ken discuss Romney for Senate, and how wrongfully both the left and the right wrongly dismissed him as a cold warrior for focusing on Russia. Romney is a fascinating test case for how Republicans will run campaigns in the post-Trump era.

Finally Ken and Trey discuss an issue near and dear to Trey’s heart: presidential communication. It has been over a year since Trump’s last solo-press conference. It is evidence in favor of a hypothesis that Trey made in academic circles in 2011: presidents will use unmediated social media channels over mediated channels of information.

The Crisis of the Middle Class Constitution

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Mike talks with Ganesh Sitaraman, a professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. He’s a longtime advisor to Senator Elizabeth Warren, serving as her policy director and senior counsel. Professor Sitaraman has commented on foreign and domestic policy in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, and The Christian Science Monitor and is the author of The Counterinsurgent’s Constitution: Law in the Age of Small Wars, which won the 2013 Palmer Civil Liberties Prize and, most recently, The Crisis of the Middle Class Constitution: Why Income Inequality Threatens Our Republic.

In this episode, Mike and Professor Sitaraman discuss ‘class warfare’ vs ‘middle class’ constitutions, the radicalism of the Founders, why income inequality wasn’t a big problem in 18th century America, the reasons for increased economic inequality over the past 40 years, and lots more!

Ganesh Sitaraman on Twitter

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PG136: Trump Rejects Dem Memo, Budget Agreement, Gerrymandering (also – Mike ‘Sings’!)

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This week’s show opens with Mike and Jay discussing President Trump’s decision to not allow the release of the Democratic response to the memo released last week by House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes. While the FBI and Department of Justice voiced concerns with releasing the Democrats’ response, Mike points out that they also raised concerns about the Republican memo, which the President allowed to be released. Even so, Mike is withholding judgement because the White House claims it will work with the Intelligence Committee to come up with a version of the Democratic memo that can be released. Jay agrees with Mike that the Trump administration’s handling of this whole thing has been somewhat less than supremely competent.

Next is a look at the bipartisan (yes, that’s right bipartisan) budget agreement reached by Congress. While some on the left were disappointed that protection for Dreamers wasn’t part of the deal, and some on the right were angered by what they see as reckless spending, there were more than enough votes to send the measure to President Trump’s desk. Mike and Jay discuss the winners, losers, and policy implications of the agreement. (Earlier in the week, Mike promised to compose and sing a song titled ‘Donald Trump is Great’ if there was a budget before they aired the show. While he was technically right about there not being a budget – the measure President Trump signed was a continuing resolution, with the actual budget coming in March – Mike decided that he didn’t want to skate by on a technicality. If you want to hear him ‘sing’ his Donald Trump ‘song’, be sure to listen past the closing credits.)

After that it’s gerrymandering – a proposed redistricting plan in Ohio that has both Jay and Mike proud to be Buckeyes as well as a challenge to a Pennsylvania redistricting plan that the Supreme Court decided not to take up.

What Mike’s Reading
Naked Money. Charles Wheelan

What Jay’s Reading
Ohio’s redistricting fight suggests how principles and politics can mesh.

Eight views of Pennsylvania: A visual dive into Congressional redistricting and gerrymandering.

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Malice, Incompetence, and the Trump / Russia Saga

A lot of people are very worked up over the Nunes memo. Most liberals see it as an obvious hit job on the FBI to protect President Trump (I’m in that camp) while conservatives seem to view it as an attempt to shed light on some very troubling allegations against an agency that’s supposed to be above politics.

Jay and I chose not to discuss the memo on this Saturday’s show (February 10), because we’re waiting to see if President Trump authorizes the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal memo. When that happens – or if it doesn’t – you can be sure that we’ll be talking about it. read more

Abortion, Trump’s Racism, Podcasts We Like, How Mike Became a Liberal

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Mike and Jay start the show by addressing listener comments, starting with a criticism of their recent discussion of reproductive rights, which several listeners said was sorely lacking in nuance. They also get into the extent to which they follow world politics, President Trump’s racism, and podcasts they recommend (well, podcasts Mike recommends – Jay’s pretty much a one podcast guy). After that is Mike’s recent interview with conservative radio and podcast host Todd Feinberg, in which Mike explains how he went from a far right, Republican-voting, Heritage Foundation intern to the centrist liberal he is today.

Show Links:
The Weeds
The Ezra Klein Show
Left, Right, and Center
Pantsuit Politics
NPR’s Politics Podcast
Todd Feinberg on WTIC NewsTalk 1080
Harvard Lunch Club podcast
Mike Rowe’s Life Advice
538’s Gerrymandering Project
Scott Adams on cognitive bias and Trump (WSJ – paywall)

Today’s show is sponsored by DaVinci. Go to and, for a limited time, get 50% off your first purchase.

Listener support helps make The Politics Guys possible. If you’re interested in supporting the show, go to and click on the Patreon or PayPal link.

PG135: GOP vs FBI, State of the Union, Immigration, Infrastructure

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This week’s show opens with Mike and Jay’s discussion of the ‘Nunes Memo’, in which the GOP majority of the House Intelligence Committee suggests that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page using highly questionable evidence. Jay believes that it’s important for this information to come out, while Mike argues that the GOP was wrong to release what he believes to be partial and misleading information.

Next is a look at President Trump’s State of the Union address. Both Mike and Jay agree that the SOTU is painful and largely pointless political theater – after explaining why they move on to discuss the two major substantive policy proposals in the speech: a four-point immigration plan and an outline of an upcoming $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal.

What Jay’s Reading:
Polarization is an Old American Story. (Wall Street Journal – paywall)

What Mike’s Reading:
TV Gave Us the Modern State of the Union. Then It Killed It. (Politico)

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Is College Worth It?

In November of 2016, I had the opportunity to interview  George Mason economist Bryan Caplan about his book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. It’s a book I not only enjoyed, but one I’ve been assigning in my economic policy class for years.

Recently, Caplan came out with a new book, once again with a provocative title: The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. I’m looking forward to getting a copy (it was just released on January 30) and, with any luck, having him back on the show. read more