Democrats Debate, Gerrymandering, Census Citizenship Question, Administrative Authority, Border Crisis Funding

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Jay and Mike open the show with a discussion of the first two Democratic presidential debates. Instead of looking at the debates in terms of ‘winners and losers’ they step back and talk about the nature of the debate format and the sort of qualities it rewards and punishes. Mike lets loose on his general disgust with these multi-person debates, and while Jay isn’t quite as impassioned he agrees that they’re far more spectacle than substance.

Next, they look at a trio of major end-of-term Supreme Court decisions, starting with gerrymandering. Jay feels that the majority got it right and that gerrymandering, while a potential danger to democracy, isn’t something that the Court can fix. Mike disagrees but feels it’s a tough question and understands why some may not be able to accept the social science view of how much partisan gerrymandering is too much.

After that they turn to the Court’s decision on the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the Census. Mike thinks that Chief Justice Roberts and the Court’s four liberals got it exactly right – while the administration can add a citizenship question, they have to provide a reasonable explanation for why they’re doing so, as opposed to the after-the-fact rationale the administration provided. Jay is somewhat disappointed with the outcome, but joins Mike in his respect for Chief Justice Roberts.

The final Supreme Court ruling they examine received less coverage than the others, but is on a topic – administrative discretion – that’s near and dear to both Mike and Jay’s hearts. Jay feels that the Court’s ruling to keep in place a narrowed doctrine of deference to administrative agencies’ interpretations of their own rules is reasonable, though he argues that the narrowing of that deference is part of a larger project to restrain the administrative state – something he’s very much in favor of. Mike agrees with the outcome and argues that the four dissenters seem to want to replace agency discretion with judicial discretion, which he views as unacceptable judicial activism.

They close the show with a look at the humanitarian crisis on the Mexican border. Mike & Jay agree that the system is currently overwhelmed, and that Congress did the right thing in putting aside at least some partisan differences and approving some desperately needed emergency funding.

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Helena Rosenblatt on the Lost History of Liberalism

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Mike talks with Helena Rosenblatt, a professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about her latest book, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century.

Topics Mike & Helena discuss include:

  • the meaning of liberalism in ancient Greece and Rome
  • liberalism as an aristocratic virtue
  • the connection between liberalism and education
  • the Catholic Church as an historical opponent of liberalism
  • classical, ‘laissez faire’ liberalism
  • progressive Republicans, Wilsonian Democrats, and 20th century American liberalism
  • how mid-twentieth century totalitarianism affected liberalism
  • the key challenges to modern liberalism

Helena Rosenblatt on Twitter

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Trump in 2020, Hicks before the House, Gallagher Trial, and the Actions of Iran

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Will and Brian begin with a discussion about Trump’s official re-election announcement. Both agree that Trump has better odds than the average pundit gives him to keep his position, but they differ slightly on why he could win. Will argues that the base will be enough to see him through while Brian posits that Democrats could likely unseat him if they spent less time debating one another and instead focused on a concentrated campaign against Trump. Ultimately, Brian argues that his base sees him as Teflon Don and that his control of the media is underacknowleged by political opponents. Will argues that with the economy doing well and no actual military conflict, Trump should be able to keep America great.

Next, they turn to Hope Hicks’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Neither Will nor Brian are surprised that Hicks has not been willing to discuss what Democrats want to hear about, but they both acknowledge Democrats will keep trying to find information to help make a case that Trump has obstructed justice. Brian sees this as essential to preserving democracy as we understand it in America while Will believes Democrats are costing themselves time and resources by focusing on an already galvanized issue rather than going after the president on policy grounds. In the end, they both wonder what utility Democrats will ultimately gain from this and what could be accomplished if efforts were devoted to other areas.

They then turn to discussing the Eddie Gallagher trial currently underway. Both believe this is an issue that merits an investigation, but they differ on culpability. Brian finds the alleged actions reprehensible while Will believe Gallagher needed greater support prior to being sent back into a combat zone. While neither excuses his alleged behavior, Will finds the testimony of a medic to raise serious questions. Both believe this is reasonable doubt, but Will points to the immunity granted to the medic as a potential sign that the government was looking to muddy the waters and avoid President Trump having to ultimately pardon Gallagher for his crime. Brian agrees and adds that if we want to improve our image abroad, avoiding allegations of incidents like this would be a great first step.

Lastly, Will and Brian conclude with a discussion of recent activities in Iran, focusing on the Revolutionary Guard’s decision to shoot down an American drone this week. Will is perplexed by the response to last week’s cargo ship bombing allegations and the announcement this week that it must have been a mistake to shoot down the drone. Brian is concerned about maintaining territorial sovereignty while also protecting national interests. Both agree that a war with Iran would not be a useful endeavor given the lack of an endgame.

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David Rose on Why Culture Matters Most

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Mike talks with University of Missouri St. Louis economist David Rose about his book Why Culture Matters Most. Topics they discuss include:

  • why democratic capitalism is the only reliable way to achieve mass flourishing
  • the relationship between culture, trust, institutions, and mass flourishing
  • small group vs large group trust
  • the role of religion in building a high-trust society
  • why trust in the system has been in such steep decline
  • how limited government helps to maintain trust in the system
  • what we can do to increase trust and strengthen our democratic institutions

Panel on Capitalism & Poverty (YouTube)

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Mexico Deal, Iran Tensions, Barr & Ross Contempt Charges, Conway & Sanders

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Mike and Kristin begin with a discussion about the recent immigration agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. They go into some depth about the details of the agreement, President Trump’s stance, the concerns about the short timeline for Mexico, and some of the larger issues that the U.S. may face down the road. Both agree to take a “wait and see” approach. They also question whether it would be wise to add a “sunset” provision to executive orders so that Congress can assess crisis situations with a more flexible timeframe, but without necessarily hindering the President’s ability to act quickly.

Next up is another geo-political topic that picked up steam toward the end of the week – escalating tensions with Iran. This week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed the finger at Iran for involvement in attacks of tanker vessels in the Gulf of Oman. Mike wonders if this is something the U.S. should approach with “muscle”, essentially backing Iran into a corner, and whether that is a wise move. Kristin brings up historical context and the importance of unifying allies to address Iran’s aggression – as was the case under President Reagan. Mike also brings up questions about the connection between this and possible arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Turning to domestic issues, Mike and Kristin discuss the disagreement surrounding the citizenship question on the 2020 Census, as well as the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s vote to hold AG William Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in contempt for withholding related documents. Both Kristin and Mike surmise that there is more here than meets the eye, as the actions seem politically motivated on both sides. They discuss their views, and Mike brings up an interesting idea regarding the timing of the Census.

Finally, Mike and Kristin wrap up with a discussion of some personnel changes and issues coming out of the White House, including White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her departure, as well as issues surrounding Top Aide Kellyanne Conway’s violations of the Hatch Act.

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Impeachment and 2020

Will and Alexandra begin today’s show by discussing the state of impeachment talks. Will argues that impeachment at this moment would do nothing by divide Democrats and solidify Trump support. With the DCC publicly split already, it would just draw focus off of 2020 and risk alienating potential moderate voters. Alexandra, on the other hand, has shifted her views since the Barr performance and lack of willingness of Trump to cooperate. While she believes winning in 2020 is crucial for Democrats, she believes this is about protecting institutions and democracy more largely.pol

Next, they turn to a general discussion of the 2020 election. Will continues to argue that 20 candidates in a debate is going to fracture the party more than help. Moreover, he points to the potential for donor fatigue based on debate performances and the general election. The September debates will produce more substance and nuance, but what damage will occur before then? Alexandra points to concerns about Democrats only participating when they are energized by a candidate and the impact octogenarian candidates may have here. She draws out comparisons between current female candidates and the flaws of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Perhaps most importantly, she points out that the presence of Bernie Sanders on stage—who she identifies as not being a Democrat—as damaging the ability for other candidates to shine.

Lastly, Alexandra and Will discuss topics of interest this week. Will chooses to discuss regulation and sport. After yet another small child was hit by a foul ball at a baseball game, there are increasing calls for enhanced safety measures. Will understands the wish to regulate for the name of safety but also posits that parents have a role to play here when deciding to sit with small children. Alexandra shared about her research describes a lot of what is occurring in American politics before our eyes today by focusing on how dissent against leaders by group members is viewed—both by leaders and those who dissent. This is relevant for framing discussions within both the Republican and Democratic parties today.

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Trump Goes to Europe, Jobs Report, Mexican Tariffs, and ICE

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Will and Alexandra begin by discussing President Trump’s trip this week to Europe. While Will believes the trip got off to a rocky start thanks to the tweets directed at Mayor Kahn, he also argues that the Normandy Address was the highlight of Trump’s presidency thus far. Alexandra posits that there were a number of concerns about the trip, including the inclusion of Trump’s extended family on the trip. The conversation ends with a detailed conversation about media coverage and perceptions of individual reality.

Next, they turn to discuss the recently released job report, which failed to meet expectations of the administration. Alexandra points to concerns about how quick the Fed can (or is wiling to) move. More importantly, she feels the unemployment numbers are not the best evidence of how well society is doing because of the type of jobs that are available. Will believes the Fed will drop interest rates quite soon to help make up the gap but also points to stable unemployment and overall healthy economy continuing to buoy the Trump Presidency. Yet, a slowing economy will need to be addressed.

For the next topic, Alexandra and Will talk about Trump’s Mexican tariff threats. Will believes Trump needs to ensure support of his base before moving unilaterally. Will the average Midwestern voter sacrifice from their own income to limit immigration at our Southern border? Maybe more importantly, can he handle detractors within his own party over this issue? Alexandra points to the brokered deal not likely leading to success. Moreover, she posits that the initial tariff threat could have led to a complete destabilization of the Mexican government and economy, leading to more efforts for individuals to enter to the United States.

Lastly, they turn to a discussion of recent ICE actions and the decision to cut educational opportunities and legal aid for children in custody without parents. While budget was cited as the main cause, there are plenty of political arguments. Alexandra finds the actions to be illegal despite pleasing Trump’s base and supporters. Will argues that we technically owe nothing to these individuals beyond stated rights, he recognizes there is no benefit to not helping children in these situations. Both agree that depriving children of basic emotional stability has long-term consequences.

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Israel, Electoral Strategies, “Freedom molecules,” Presidential Crimes, Presidential Power, Political Moderates

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Trey and Ken take on listen questions in this midweek episode. First the pair answer a question on why liberals seemingly support Israel. Second they weigh in on if the Democrats have a successful electoral strategy to create a new “blue wall.” Third they address a question on the changes in climate change language coming from the White House. Specifically what they think of the term “freedom molecules.” Fourth they explore a listen question on if and why presidents cannot be charged with a crime. Is it policy or is it a constitutional reason? Fifth, how much power does the president really have? Specifically, how much economic power? Finally, is it possible to give moderates more power in American political parties?

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Mueller Statement, Mexican tariffs, Abortion, Debate Thresholds

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This week Trey & Ken start the show by analyzing Robert Mueller’s brief statement to the press. Specifically they address why Mueller spoke and why there were no charges brought. They also parse his words on the question of crimes and the lack of support he offered to Barr. Trey thinks that Mueller has opened a greater possibility of impeachment proceedings.

Next is a discussion of Mexico tariffs over immigration. Trey hypothesizes the timing of this conversation is directly related to Mueller’s statement. Ken largely agrees. On the policy side they discuss the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which is the supposed basis for President Trump’s tariffs. Ken sees there being no emergency and therefore not valid, Trey wonders if the act would even apply to a mechanism such as tariffs.

After that it is to the newest abortion restrictions coming from Louisiana. Both agree that one of the unique aspects of this week’s potential restrictions are they originate from Democrats and was signed by a Democratic governor. Trey wonders if this doesn’t point to a larger set of schisms while Ken sees it as regional politics as usual.

Finally, Trey & Ken discuss the new DNC debate thresholds. While some are arguing this makes the Democratic Party a filtering device Ken and Trey argue that is precisely what political parties were designed to do. Trey takes aim at the progressive and populist tendencies that have put too much power into the wrong hands, despite good intentions. Trey sees both the rise of punditry and the decline of parties as bad unintended outcomes to progressive initiatives to end backroom deals.

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