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 Davinciwork.com/TPG 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 politicsguys.com and click on the Patreon or PayPal link.

13 thoughts on “Abortion, Trump’s Racism, Podcasts We Like, How Mike Became a Liberal”

  1. Hey guys, im a 23 year old Canadian and have been listening for a few months now. I subscribe to more political podcasts that i csn keep up with and wont miss yours. I tend to lean fairly progressive in my views but always want a fair respectful debate and thats why i listen. These days American politics is often compared to other countries to show how it could improve or how it’s superior. What do you think American politics could take away from that debate, especially from my country as I have a bit of a biased towards it.

    1. Great question! I don’t know that either Jay or I follow Canadian or really any non-U.S. system enough to reach any truly informed conclusions about that. But if you have any thoughts – particularly in regards to how the U.S. system compares to Canada in this respect, we’d love to hear them! -Mike

      1. Thanks for the reply! Now I am not formally educated in politics just a concerned citizen of the world but as a Canadian I feel a strong connection to the U.S. and its policies. I just finished todays episode following your journey from right to left. I dont like the focus on where peopleare on the spectrum and choose to focus on issue by issue but i guess im a Socialist at heart. That scares people because they hear Communism but there are many successful kinds of socialist governing bodies that even Trump likes such as his precious Norwway. I guess my specific question is how do you guys feel about the U.S. moving to a basic universal healthcare system that still maintains a certain kind of free market for insurance companys for non essential health benefits like cosmetic surgeries and dental and more?

  2. Another very good question – I’ll put it in the listener mail queue so that Jay and I can address it in an upcoming episode. -Mike

    1. Great! Thanks for taking the time to respond. Its appreciated and am looking forward to that and all future episodes.

  3. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your podcasts, but I do like to make a contribution every so often!

    Mike, I could almost become a Democrat if there were more people in the party expressing their thoughts in the way you do. I found myself agreeing with pretty much with everything you had to say in that interview. But, I’m frustrated and disappointed in both parties. I feel as though they’ve been highjacked by the extremes, and of course, social media tends to attract those groups in droves.

    I follow you on Facebook under another name because I wanted some privacy. (My family and real friends don’t need to see everything!) I’ve made a couple of comments recently on things you’ve posted, expressing some of my frustration with a cartoon and a video, and you have always been very nice in your response. If only this was the norm! I truly enjoy listening and learning, and I appreciate hearing other points of view; otherwise I’d probably be as close minded as the people who are yelling the loudest right now.

    Also, I liked your recommendations for Jonah Goldberg’s column in National Review as well as Jonathan Bernstein. I’ve subscribed to both. Another one I find interesting is Andrew McCarthy, also from National Review. I liked what he had to say recently about the Executive Branch having more and more control over the military, and before that he did a good job of explaining the Nunes memo, which was very confusing to me.

    I think you have the best political podcast out there. You, Jay and Trey are always interesting and informative.


  4. Thanks! I’ll keep on trying to convert you, and keep on trying to get my fellow liberals to see that we’re likely to do more good if we try to get out of our ideological bubbles and work to understand and engage with Republicans (who aren’t really ‘the enemy’ at all) -Mike

  5. Hi guys,

    I have been a listener of your podcast for some time now, but have recently taken up quite the issue with how easily liberal politics are so easily brushed aside in nearly every episode. Funny enough, I blame Mike for this more than Jay. I expect conservative arguments & counterpoints from Jay, but Mike is far too willing to just give in and not present a counter to many arguments.

    I haven’t ever felt compelled enough to write you guys until this episode and Mike’s interview with Todd Feinberg.

    There were several things that Todd mentioned that Mike either completely ignored or just gave up ground on. First, Todd mentioned that liberal economists (later mentioning and thus implying Paul Krugman) argue that we can just print more money to pay for budget deficits. This is wholeheartedly wrong and as I heard it, I had hoped Mike would call out Todd for this bit of false conservative propaganda. I am a high school Economics teacher (I hold a degree in Economics) and am constantly reading economics research/blogs/articles. I have not once found a serious economist (liberal or conservative) that argues printing money as a viable option to cover our deficits. Todd flat out lied about this and Mike let him off too easy.

    Another cringeworthy moment in the interview with Todd was when he mentioned how Democrats are anti-American and, in his view, want to dismantle everything that is American. This is a blatant lie and something I would expect from Fox News or Breitbart, not this podcast that I usually enjoy. Heck, I don’t even think Jay holds that belief!! (At least I’d hope not). I, too, am a former conservative (voted for George W Bush twice) that is now a liberal. I went through such a transformation out of reaction to people like Todd; people who spread false lies and glittering generalities to further their own political goals and ideals (I have only been reaffirmed in this thought by this current administration and Republican Party). I am not naive enough to think that this doesn’t happen on the left, but I would rather error on the side of compassion and in the belief that there is good in everyone, American or not, which is far more prevalent on the left than the right. The lie that the left wants to destroy America only further adds fuel to the fire that divides us today and I had hoped Mike used that opportunity to explain that. He did not.

    The last moment in the interview that really struck a negative chord with me was when Todd had mentioned the extreme left and how they have become a vocal element in the Democratic Party. I took two issues with Mike’s handling of this comment. First, Mike completely brushed off those people as if they are not a viable, equal voice in the political discourse that happens in this country. Many ideals held by those like Bernie Sander and Elizabeth Warren are just as valid as others and deserve to be a part of the discussion, not brushed aside as fringe elements of a political party. This leads to the second issue: the way Todd presented the issue completely ignored the alt right elements in the Republican Party; elements that have taken part of the political spotlight with this current administration. The discussion focused on the extreme left when Mike could have easily countered with a mention of the alt right and framed the conversation in a little different light.

    I am almost to the point where I no longer want to spend the time listening to the podcast because of the frustration I feel afterwards. I know I am just one listener and I understand I don’t have to listen. However, each week I convince myself to give you guys one more chance because there is a lot of value in what you are doing and I appreciate many of the policy discussions that are had. I feel an entire element in our political landscape is being ignored and discredited while elements on the other side are validated. I have heard you two discuss comments such as this in the podcast with the conclusion that its your podcast, you have decided to present only moderate views (which Mike does, Jay does not), and those who feel this way just need to live with it. That’s an understandable position to make, but equally understandable is my sentiment (and I’m sure others like me feel this way) that I would rather spend my time listening to other podcasts/music/news anchors or reading literature that presents all sides equally.

    Hope you guys continue the podcast because I know people enjoy it like I used to and I am extremely sorry for such a long post. I understand if you do not want to read it :).

    Cheers to Mike and Jay!


    1. Hi Brian

      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment. I think you make a number of good points, and I’ll try my best to respond to them. As I’m sure you noticed, what Todd Feinberg does is very different from what Jay or Trey does. Todd is very entertaining, but he’s also a lot more combative than Jay or Trey (those things are clearly connected, I’d say – for better or worse). He threw so many what I considered wild claims at me that I found myself unprepared to shoot back answers and I wasn’t able to fact-check him in real time. Basically, he’s a pro at this and I’m not, as I expect was clear to anyone who was listening.

      Second, it seems like I’m probably considerably more centrist than you are, and if so, I can understand your frustration when I sometimes dismiss what I see as the unrealistic and unhelpful far left. There are actually some further right listeners who feel the same way about Jay.

      I completely understand that because of this, the show may not be for you. If so, I want to thank you for listening, and suggest that even if you don’t find my political commentary worthwhile, you might enjoy some of my interviews, which tend to frequently be with guests further to the left than I am. -Mike

    2. This comment captures a good deal of the frustration that I have been progressively feeling also.

      This podcast was meant to be a haven from the kind of empty, point scoring rhetoric that passes as political discourse in the media. Here, instead of two people chattering past one another with arbitrary talking points and glib put downs of their opponents, Mike and Jay were going to delve into the issues, genuinely strive to offer their perspectives, and perhaps contribute to helping one another – and by extension the listener – inch closer to understanding, if not compromise.

      But more and more the cheap rhetoric that chokes up the 24 hour news cycle is creeping in here, overtly in interviews with childishly inflammatory figures like Todd, but also, I feel, in Jay’s reliance upon false equivalencies (‘The Russia scandal is nothing, but the Nunes document is everything! ‘Why are liberals so weird about Trump’s Russia ties? What about what Hillary did in the 90s?!’) and lazy cheap partisan shots at perceived opponents to claim victim status (ah, that horrid Left Wing Media Bias…)

      And this would be frustrating enough, except that Mike, perhaps out of politeness, often does seem to just let such cheap rhetoric stand unchallenged. In a different circumstance that kind of allowance might offer the opportunity for listeners to see the emptiness of such statements to be evident on their own, except that – as the current President of the United States exhibits – confusion, playing upon people’s aggrieved sense of imbalance, and just generally painting everyone who doesn’t agree with you as criminal, delusional, or frauds, is a winning strategy.

      You can muddy the water so successfully that rational discussion becomes impossible. The merits of either side’s position is lost in the chaos. And that seems to be the point.

      1. First off, I want to that you for commenting, especially because your comments are about not a specific issue but about our general approach, the thing I like to think makes us different from most other political media. And so when multiple people made cogent argument concerning our possibly falling away from our founding principles, I take that very seriously.

        I believe the Todd Feinberg situation is a separate thing from what Jay and I do. I thought I was ready for Todd, but clearly things seemed to go very quickly for me, and there was plenty I let pass in the barrage. My sense is this is a matter of experience, and Todd has decades more of it than I do. He plans to have me on at least one more time, and possibly more than that, and when he and I talk in the future, I’ll do my best to not let any significant questionable claim go unchallenged.

        As for the show with Jay, I thought the points others raised were significant enough that I wanted to get more data (being a political scientist ‘more data’ is almost always one of my first moves when I want to look into something). To do this, I started a Facebook thread explaining the situation and asking for commentary. If you haven’t checked that out, I hope you do as well as add your thoughts to the discussion. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/politicsguyspage/posts/908724619287508

        I believe that we’re all biased, and that certainly includes me, and so I try to remember that I may not be the best judge of how good of a job I’m doing at living up to the principles of the show. That said, I try to challenge Jay when he says something with which I disagree, especially if I believe it to be particularly important. For instance, in the last episode Jay seemed to suggest that military spending data showing how ludicrously more the US spends than the rest of the world was unreliable and I think I pushed back hard on that. Similarly, when he claimed that tax cuts might just pay for themselves, I again pushed back hard. On the Nunes memo, I tried my best to point out what I felt to be the reasonable approach – waiting for the investigations to conclude before reaching a conclusion, in the hope that this would make for a clear contrast with Jay’s view, which obviously differs from mine.

        Of course, on some issues there’s not a whole lot of daylight between us – the Ohio redistricting plan we discussed in the last episode is a good recent example. That’s bound to happen seeing as how we’re both centrists.

        Again, I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. Reading ‘You guys are great!’ is wonderful, but I love it when smart, perceptive listeners force me to consider what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and whether I can make some changes to improve. -Mike

        1. Hi Mike,

          I first wanted to say that I appreciate you taking the time to respond and address many of the concerns. Like I said, I appreciate what you and Jay do; there is a ton of value in being able to reach across the political aisle and discuss vital policies and issues in a mature way. In addition to teaching economics, I teach government/civics and this is something that I try to instil in my students.

          One thought I had after reading your reply was how much I appreciate when you guys throw guests hosts on certain episodes. I find Trey to be one of the most rational people I have heard and, despite not necessarily labeling myself a libertarian, often find myself taking a lot away from what he has to say. That’s not to say I don’t from you and Jay, but it is nice to hear different perspectives now and then. I also recall a colleague of yours, Mike (I think Ken was his name), who also brought great ideas, arguments, and perspectives to the table.

          I’m glad to hear that others feel the way I do, that greatly helps alleviate the frustration. Thanks again for all you do for the podcast, Mike. Thanks to Jay as well. I hope that we are able to hear other perspectives from time to time in the future.


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