« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#262 — The Future of American Democracy

2021-10-05 | 🔗

In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Andrew Yang about the state of American democracy. They discuss Andrew’s run for the Presidency, the humiliations of campaigning, the manipulation of politics by the media, Andrew's run for the mayor's office in NYC, the power of bad incentives, open primaries, rank-choice voting, the Forward Party, the weakness of a two-party system, inequality, the child tax credit, enhanced unemployment, UBI, worries about inflation, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bucket of making sense podcast, this is SAM Harris just a note to say that if you're hearing this, you are not currently on our subscriber feet and only be hearing the first part of this conversation in order to access full episodes of the making sense, podcast you'll need to subscribe at samharris dot org. There you'll find our private rss feed to add to your favorite podcast sure, along with other subscriber only content, we don't run ads on the podcast and therefore it's made possible entirely to the support of our subscribers. So if you enjoy what we're doing here, please consider becoming one okay. today. I am speaking with Andrew Yang Andrew has a new book chest today, I believe.
the title is forward notes on the future of our democracy and he also a new political party, the Forward Party and in today's podcast we cover- All the relevant experiences and issues that led him to write the book and found the party we cover the obvious, broken nests of our political system, the importance of things like open primaries and rang choice voting as a means of reforming it. We talk about his experience running for the presidency and for the job of mayor in New York City, very different experiences and we cover many other interesting issues here politically and socially, and await always richest people Andrew hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did, and I bring you Andrew Yang
I am back what Andrey ANG Andrew thanks for rejoined again Sab. It's great to be back with you. You know any time. talk to you something goods going on we're gonna, launch you in one direction or another. Every time we speaker says one getting used to now. First, we should mention at the time Do you have a new book? The title is forward notes on the future of our democracy, which is some essentially you're memoir of being a presidential candidate which is very had to be fast and inexperience and done it comes cross in the book and then your basically your pitch for the ways in which we can change. our politics in the end, the role for they forward party in that conversation and ethical will save that that final peace for the end but dumb, let's talk about them, the nature of the problem. You say
very early in the book that damn democracy itself is losing legitimacy. So much the book is, is a look at the ways in which our system is broken, and this broke this relates to politics. It relates to the media. It relates to a fundamental distrust in institutions that is now spreading to catastrophic effect, and it also relates to the issue really launch sure presidential run, which is there is a groan. concern around inequality. A wealth inequality in particular is, as you wanted to address by you be I, but also with respect to education and health care and other variables. So, Ray three problems. We could talk about before we start getting into solutions. Politics here to party politics, The media and inequality- in general- and I thought we could just gonna track through them and get you
or view on them as a candidate in maybe in both his Sylvie. your presidential run and I've been should to hear how the run for mayor of New York. It was a different experience, so at least are with politics, What was it like to run for president? and what was it like was taken from the beginning. I know if talked about this a little bit, but your book is is so interesting on this. point: what was it like to do this? when no one knew who you were running that will end for the longest time. That was the case at the outset. It seems like a completely quixotic enterprise to declare your candidacies the presidency and the reactions of friends and people who would support you out of some prior relationship without any expectation that you could possibly get anywhere yet take us back that too
sure I do tell some fun stories in the book about how I'd go to my son's birthday party in another. Dad would say: oh what do you do and then I didn't want to say I'm running for president, because I would have seemed Is he hit, so I would say policy or I'm an author that by evasive this would often now Can then I'd wind up, saying I'm actually running for president now and then we'd have a thirty minute conversation about that end? the end of it. They would not sign up to volunteer from campaign. They be like our. That's really interesting. Good luck with that. So you can imagine why wouldn't really want to have this conversation over and over again and during that time I am so grateful to you, SAM, because you and I sat down for conversation like this one and your podcast really launched my campaign in multiple ways, one the people who listened decided to take an interest in my campaign and supported
donated which I was incredibly grateful for, but then this I win. Who is organizing something called a winding? Was a huge fan of yours and decided to invite me to Iowa speak in twenty eighteen on the basis of our conversation, so You were a better friend to me that a lot of other sophisticated by the fact that, at that point we were still just getting to know each other, and you said something to another journalist that I really appreciate you said. Well, you know I don't know Andrew thou well, but he seems like a fairly normal fellow who just decided to ruin his life by running for president hit. I heard that
a girl. I'm glad I gave through, but they are. The early months of the campaign were like bad, where I had a vision for what the campaign could be and that vision slowly started to grow. Thanks to people like you and the people who worked on my campaign, he had this. This is one of the points you make in the book which sham a genuine surprise for me, and I shouldn't have been. I've certainly noticed this process made. It was. It was all on the surface, but till you pointed it out- I someone who along with, I think most people assumed that there is a kind of a centrist city and narcissism and just a search four eager gratification that is in forming many presidential runs and that may be the case and in certain candidates, but what you may clear again, which
really should not have been surprising but you'll, be you make it so vividly clear and discussing ethics areas of Marian Williamson and Joseph stack that the process for most people unless you already happened to be a front runner for some reason or another. The process is just go annihilating, you talk about that yeah. You show up my first trip to New Hampshire. There were literally too people are waiting for me. Maybe one in one person has happened to be there in and politely pretended. They were there for me, and That was an entire day. I to rally in Iowa Labour Day in twenty eighteen that drew Well, people maybe ended. None of them were there for me either, and these were everyday occurrences and keep in mind at this point though I was a very, very anonymous presidential candidate in I'd still some things in my life, but look at legs like a person. Do they value,
his time and has a family and stuff? So you do things all the time that, we're in positively reinforcing and the media as a right in the book is a huge part of this dynamic, where the media will completely sidelined you, if you're, not one, major candidates and when they do mention you, they will mark you, because a poetic oppose as and with many their candidates and happened. some measure, and so When you talk about the problems I outlined in the book, the media, Gauntlet was such a huge part of running for president, and I am now convinced that that's core to our problems. I aids Korda why we can't seem to make any real problem. ass. If memory serves you weren't mocks some and when I think about the mark, in part. I do think about Marian Williamson who, as you point in her own life, your head up in a very successful career,
lots of people loved her. She made a lot of money. She had a very big form she ran a successful charity machines. She's Varick. published in her world me you, you might not agree with her metaphysics any end, but she really had a very comfortable life that she didn't need to screw up, and then she runs for the poor since he and his immediately framed as a kind of punch line and it SAM. I think you could directed it with. It was something like a hundred percent certainty that that would have happened, but that version has- But then there there are the people who have had to have a fair amount of gravitas in terms of their biographies withers, there's no obvious joke to make at their expense, but they're, just utterly ignored by the media and went in for you, you can. If you fell more that then and they were. There were some agrees with me that the example of maybe
and they by Joseph stack first. Second, because- I wrote in the margin of your book. When you mentioned him literally wrote who question I've never heard of Jos S deck right, Sir, that Google, it look look up. I and I haven't. I have on a blank slate, whether apart from what I read your book he's got a you know everything Give me a little color on on Joe for a second Joe, as a Phd from Harvard was admiral in the. U S. Navy was entrusted with thousands of lives and was to term member of Congress from pain. Albania, so he's a very, very serious person who had spent decades and service and had put his life on the line for the country when he decided to run for president. It was like he didn't exist and it was somewhat a fine, I spend time with Joseph that's another thing that happens on the trail. Sam is that I have hung out with virtually
all of the other candidates in you. union, halls and peoples Dr Ways and at the fair and stay cry, so you do get a sense of people, and I have spent time with you and Marianne End many others but chose a great guy, a great man, a real patriot. He does have a lot a gravitas where he's commanded, thousands of people them They are treated him like a non entity and because he's a committed individual human walked across the state of New Hampshire as a way to try and generate attention for his campaign completely ignored. ninja when it was mentioned. It was mentioned as kind of a look at the crazy person, a sort of thing. I thought that was deeply unfair, because you know again, if you a right, Jos record is a very serious individual who should have been given a fair
yeah, and in your case there were. There was some some fairly stark, an egregious efforts to ignore you literally like fire, Raising her if memory serves a rug fund, raising graphics, worry, elegant universe, showing the candidates who had re a certain amount of money or or gone up in the polls, enough to make debate and you are left out where people who had raised less money and were ranked lower than you were were left in the graphics. This happened most on it. send BC. How much of this I think you uncovered at one point that there was a policy that the EU should just not be talked about You know how much of this was inadvertent and how much of it was actually an explicit effort to disappear. Your campaign. It happened distantly enough, where are you really cannot chalk it up to neglect or incompetence emission? I think the exact count was a dozen times,
and we heard later from producer Oriana Peccari, who is at MSNBC during that time, that she was given a list of candidates not to ever invite on the show or interview, and I was on that. so there was definitely a decision made at some point and if you wanted to hypothesize, you know why. I believe that there is an ownership structure MSNBC, where you could draw a pretty direct line to people who were backing Joe, but at the time I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, and it was only later in the campaign when I had just gone through debate that MSNBC and moderated where they clearly wanted nothing. To do with me. Where I decided to say, look like I'm not going to appear and MSNBC unless they start actually treating us fairly, and at that point they completely. committed any mention of me from the race for the following month, Ploss during really the final stretch of the campaign. So is an important time.
It was most dark. When I actually made the seventh debate stage, which was a very significant peace the news I was the last non white candidate to make the debate station Emerson B he decided not to mention that, even though that was mainstream news for just about everybody so this can be more say about the media in a minute, because, as just an enormous problem on many fronts now, but back to your presidential, run for while really at any point. But what was the most surprising part about this process to me, but you must have had some expectations of what it would be like in. In what ways were those expectations violated? It was around my treatment by certain types of institutions where I kind of imagine, then maybe some people would be excited to have a conversation about the automation of jobs and technology, and I in something
or might even be interested in or excited by by my being the first asian american man to run for president as a Democrat, like some people who really love to talk about the first in various categories, and neither of those This was true hit if it turns out tat that that is what I think of as journalistic organizations of back did not seem to care about the defamation of millions manufacturing jobs and the ongoing automation dehumanization of the economy and it. What it made me realize am and made me more grateful to thinkers like you is that there is a particular discourse, language in media there's a particular discourse and language in politics, and they aren't the discussion of fact in the way that you'd hope and I thought they were going in, and so my relative success and performance.
Ended up being based upon all of these behaviors and adaptations that I adopted in order to try and compete. But it was very discouraging to me that it it seemed like when I was talking about economic facts and figures. It was like I was speaking a foreign language. oh yeah, that's something that you go through in the book is well. Minister hacks. You found for a system that really didn't care to hear from you on substantive issues, but where we could be exploited by a dance, video or a God video. What did you begin to? guys. What do you think now about this system, by which we pick our leaders, I mean it's just, I know what we're gonna get into the in the political reforms you you recommend. But what made is just it to be bizarre to see that the way to get tracks,
and I made it, though, the classic moment of this from years past, which has been much remarked upon, but likely the moment where Hillary Clinton campaign was transformed when she shed a tear and a diner over whatever was the fact that The attention of the media can be swan by August. The human interest compete end of story? We were any substance and it really can't be swung by substance. It seems yeah, I care to rise it as a reality. Tv show. I one point during the debates, but there are narratives and characters that the media in particular is interested in enhancing and elevating, and that's really the crux of the coverage in my case, my meaning.
To humor or physical activities hook up with open a very was ended up being positive in terms of our coverage and the energy, but, as reclined said something about how our collapsing systemic issues into personalize narratives and I think that's like our reasonable character, nation of a lot of their political coverage, though there is a real agenda behind a lot of it, were that the media does decides to elevate certain characters. And ignore others. I think ignore is their main weapon of choice when they want someone not to anywhere a big. In kind of like slightly marking snide ridicule might be like our second weapon of choice,
And then, among the approved characters, then, though, constantly be trying to characterize people and talk about something around their relationships. Behaviour most, and one thing that happened to me a lot on the trail- and this is very true of this process- is they are constantly digging for vulnerability. Ninety nine over a hundred if they find a vulnerability, that's not going to be good. For you hit that, like that, I'm gonna be like go this way. It's really human invulnerable. Isn't that nice. They believe. All I get is so that that that's one of the things that unfortunately makes politicians into automaton over time So how is running for mayor of New York different one is? It is a different office, although. unlike most mayor races, it it does have a national. On it, but with
I mean the way, one big difference had to be that by the time you you ran for mare, you're, pretty AMOS. You know you're, not Europe, I think naturally viewed. I certainly view do as front runner without even looking at the polls because of your your national platform. At that point, the how's, your experience of being a candidate different It was a completely different dynamic to your point, SAM, where, on the presidential trail, I was continuously trying to build up energy and race against oblivion, whereas in the May oral I was the centre of attention essentially from day one. I will say that the media coverage tended to be quite negative or questioning, and they would chalk it up to my being the front runner, though, think there might have been a couple of other dynamics, and so in many ways it was kind of the opposite of my presidential run well aware. Instead of being the
likely underdog constantly doing things to get energy Instead, I was like the front runner who is continuously under attack by other candidates through the press, often because that was their best way to try and yeah. And what what are you? What do you make a factor that you didn't when? Maybe, if you had to ascribe to a couple of most important causes what what what happened. I think the single biggest variable was the reopening of the city. Then the crime surge in New York it was on the front page of at least some of the papers every day and that being the number one concern heavily favoured. Aragon was because he was a police officer
earlier than May narrative was around reopening and economic recovery, and those were things that people saw so strength of. Mind ran right. Ok, let's just talk about the political system as it is, and what to do about it is, I think, wherever some one is on the spectrum of political concerns buyers persuasion. I think everyone agrees that there's something less than optimal about our system as it exists.
What what you? What what you ascribe the the main dysfunction too, that this point has broken, and this is the heart of my book, the deeper I got into the machinery so to speak, and now at this point I would consider myself other friends or friendly with dozens of political figures, most of them on the democratic side, because I I ran as a Democrat, but you know all of these people- and you start to get a sense of the environment that they operate within. Why? Where stock really answer
I do want to go back to some first principles, because I've been learning myself about some things that I'd taken for granted. But the core argument in my book is that people will do what their incentives demand in if you are a political figure today, your incentives are to generally cater to the most polarized and extreme points of view in voters in your district, because that's who's going to vote. You back in one numerical contrast that I cite is that Congress has a twenty eight percent. and approval rating nationwide right now, which pie doesn't surprise anyone listening to this once again through uniform us, don't think things are going well. The individual reelection rate for members of Congress is ninety two percent. So even though, seven out of ten of us are really sad hook it without things are going you're almost
heard of reelection. If you decide to run which most them do cause, they, they really liked this job. The people that will decide whether you come back are not the mainstream public but the ten to twenty percent, most extreme voters in either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, because eighty three percent of the congressional strict are now safely democratic Republican, so your incentives are to be less reasonable and more ideological and unfortunately, that's what we're seeing on both sides, which is leading us to this historic level of polarisation that we all can feel that is resulting in political violence and could end up being a new civil war that ends up bringing down are democracy as it currently exists. I want to reiterate your your opening point about the power of incentives, because.
What when viewed from outside there are so many institutions, so many human dramas where you were you, but where is very easy to believe that the pay involved who are doing these inexplicably stupid heinous things either are sociopaths were malignantly selfish or Total morons and it's very easy to believe the worst of the individuals involved until you have some insight into the system in which their forced to function and if it a system where the incentives are tariffs. Even a very good people, very competent people, very smart people, wind up, doing, disastrously, stupid destructive and even seemingly evil things is that today there aren't narcissist, send incompetence and
people who you wouldn't want in power in these systems, but it's gotta be for the most part, a store of decent, fairly competent people, incentivize terribly by the system, is in place. That's exactly right! Sam end a result of understanding. This is that we should not expected to change or get me better, because people will, if anything, the incentives are higher now than they ever been, and the political incentives toward the extremes are now compounded by the media, which, at this point is separating us into ideological camps and ginning up support for the good guys hatred for the bad guys and then pouring gasoline on the whole thing is social media who, which obviously is going to reward the most inflammatory and aggressive language in behavior, so we're being set up,
are being set up to turn on each other to eventually end up disintegrating in terms of the society we currently regard as now like a normal, safe environment and that's what I concluded from my journey into this, which is that these people are not bad people. Some of them are not great people but like for the most part there, the reasonable people almost responding to perverse incentives, and so then the great project, becomes. How can you in real life, improve their incentives, and I do want to a shout out to you, and this is the something that is a major theme of the book. Is that into me. You represent the ant note in many ways, ham and take what are the new media incentives for you, I mean you're, just like a highly reed and individual, or that you don't have the same need. I don't think you're producers giving you a list of
people not to talk to you or anything like that. You know that there is like surgery now. People are groping for trusted perspectives and voices more and more- and I just want to thank you personally for being such a huge figure for people who are looking for wisdom truth really. This is to hear- and I have to be in a spot where there are they're, almost no incentives that aren't of my own making you not. I have consciously designed life that way, and it is not, that is impossible to be bad incentivize, even in this, even in the space, but it's much harder and its know, and that's why I'm here it's it's relief frankly to baby, say whatever I want to say and to talk to whoever I want to talk to and to not be calibrate. Any of that against any kind of
outside pressure. You know even pressure from my audience and anyhow You followed me down these various byways, but whenever I have discovered that a significant the percentage of my audience, really disagree he's with me about something. That's that What the one signal for me that I need to take pains now: to be trained by in any way exit. I notice other people being captured by them. audience in various ways adjective I wanted that so when I discovered that eight years, giving up presented my audience really drill down to what it was, but it seemed like something like twenty percent favoured Trump for reasons that I still cannot fathom. I just made it up to not care how much pain I got from them every time I wanted to trample on Trump, because I just felt important, and so it is with these Equally large percentage of my audience? Tat is very far too little
aft and hates everything. I have to say about weakness and identity politics. The pain, get from them like I, I have decided to take as now it is rather than signal, because It is very important for me to preserve. Might my freedom to say what I think is true an important rather than to be course correcting based on what's wrong Boarding me from my audience and what would you get on on any these pain points in this is. This is obviously amplified by social media, There's so much more energy from the haters than from the people who agree with you that it like you. You can really get blown around by highly disproportionate annoyed if someone's virulently opposed. It seems like the most prominent thing in the even though there could be a hundred people who d silently nodded hit a sort of living in system, where is something less than ten percent of any population, can really steer the key
conversation on a polarizing issue, because they teachers have so much more energy, data and citizens. With these various activists, groups on the left and we ve got all the noise. The comes out of trumpets, Stan and the most extreme voices over there. You do get the I study on many points you have a lot of reasonable people that have been cowed into silence and therefore aren't influencing conversation and end and should in the media, doesn't seem to care, accept them in the media. Just they just keep em amplifying the extremes. Well again, as whether incentives arm they figured out that their ratings will be higher and their add, revenue will be higher if they cater to a particular point of view and then reinforce it. There was an anecdote about cable tv producer who said look
our people, don't even regard us as news they regarded as comfort, which then will justify all sorts of pigs. You might do journalistic lay area like I ordered that we're not You even reporting the news here. You know in the fact that you have to take that. great pains mean mean you're, acutely aware of the kind of pressures that some of these media figures in organisations would be under, but in their case they don't have to no self regulate. To that extent, I got one like my people like this. I may give the more of that and then you'll be thanked for it and paid more for it. at the political level. What are the reforms? that you think will really change the system and the. pressures that are, on all other. All of these the various parties here? I am happy to say that The news a real life example that you're gonna love SAM. This isn't my book
has it didn't happen yet, but there was a handful of republican senators who decided to impeach prompt, and only one of them is up for reelection in twenty twenty two and then is senator early summer. Council decided if you'd like to continue listening to this conversation, you'll need to subscribe SAM Herriston work once you do. You get access to all full length episode of the making sense podcast, along with other subscriber, only content, including bonus episodes in a maze and the conversations have been having the waking up at the makings, has podcast his ad free and relies entirely endlessness important, and you can subscribe now at San Paris network
Transcript generated on 2021-10-06.