« The Weeds

Cruelty: the point

2021-07-09

Matt is joined by Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer, author of the new book The Cruelty Is the Point. They discuss the racial politics of the Trump-era, how these tactics persist in the GOP today, and how the dynamics of the present moment have led us to relitigate Reconstruction-era problems that go against the fundamental understanding of American equity. They also have a few things to say in there about Die Hard and Indiana Jones.

Resources:

"The Cruelty Is the Point" by Adam Serwer (The Atlantic; Oct. 3, 2018)

The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America by Adam Serwer (Penguin Random House, June 2021)

"The Flight 93 Election" by Michael Anton (Claremont Review of Books; Sept. 5, 2016)

"The Great Awokening" by Matthew Yglesias (Vox; Apr. 1, 2019)

"The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic; June 2014)

Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior by Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird (Princeton' Oct. 2021)

Schoolbook Nation: Conflicts over American History Textbooks from the Civil War to the Present by Joseph Moreau (U. Michigan; 2004)

Guest:

Adam Serwer (@AdamSerwer), staff writer, The Atlantic; author, The Cruelty Is the Point

Host:

Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias), Slowboring.com

Credits:

Erikk Geannikis, Producer

Ness Smith-Savedoff, Engineer

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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You probably think politics, paperwork, power, lunches, but you haven't experienced easy. There's more museums per square miles in any place in the country is also where important decisions are made like which Michelin starred restaurant, to try. First, you know. I think that now experienced easy to plan your trip today visit Washington, DOT, Org. You ve been like a million bucks written about Donald Trump and the Trump years. I think that my guess this week, Adam server has written one of the best of them. It's called the cruelty is the point. It's a collection of essays and different themes about the Trump years about sort of trump aeroplane. Mobilization, but really but the deeper roots of the kind of politics we ve been living through for the past
five years, we sat down together. You know we talked about the book. We talk about politics. We talked about sort of some of the changes in the political system from twenty. Sixteen to twenty twenty, I thought is really good at those really interesting conversation. I think you're gonna learn a lot from it and got check it out there. So neat bucks, media, Potass, Denmark of my guest today, Adam Somewheres staff writer at the Atlantic. I'm sure you have seen is pieces. There are, but we are here to talk today about his new book, which is called the cruelty. Is the point as Ex red eyes much better than these sort of gossipy trunk books tries to actually talk about Trump era, politics in a way that makes
since then has we'll meaning in the world. So thank you wasn't shell. Thank you for having me. Let's start with the basics, it's important to judge a book by its cover. What cruelty is the cruelty? So in a book but you know I think everybody is aware of personal cruelty that has when people are simply nasty to other people and in particular, tromp excelled at being as nasty as possible politically to people who he felt when I'm doing what he wanted them to do that you now. I think of cruelty is part of human nature the book is focused on his cruelty is a part of politics specifically the way it's used to demonize certain groups so that you can justify denying Cuba the people, their basic rights under the constitution or exclude them from the political process, and basically, my argument about how this works is that this is as along pedigree in american history stemming from The fact that we are a country that was founded on the idea that all are created equal, but you know, was founded by slaveowners, who wrote protections
slavery and the constitution, and as a result, we periodically have these conflicts over expanding the blessings of American Denmark. And typically those conflicts, take place along the collar lion and you know currently our system, incentivize, is this kind of what I done any politics, because it allows one party to hold power without winning majority. The votes so becomes more urgent to persuade that one group that there on the verge of corruption and so anything they data prevent Dat destruction, is justified which, as you know, one of the things that trumped did to two halves, to grasp on the conservative imagination was that he appealed very much to their sensitive, like impending apocalypse as a result of some sort of liberal tyranny, and you know as a way of getting them to stop worrying about his personal flaws said you know, I'm the one who's going to protect you from ultimate destruction and is a sort of how you you know, he's not the first person to approach politics. This
American history by this sort of politics is always associated with attempts to disenfranchise rabble constituents, These are the schooner people against people on the basis of race or religion, and even though Trump is no longer president, you see that kind of politics persisting because they are a product of de racial polarization of the two parties and this system that in hand is disproportionately the power of the most conservative elements of the electorate since you you talk about in a couple of these as it is that I think relates to this. This idea, specifically of cruelty. Actually, as you you talk about So the boys is idea of psychological wage of whiteness Wade, witches and an executive. But I mean you know, he's he's talking about reconstruction- is talking about. Well, why workers black workers two interests could have been a wind were
caging in things like to readjust or movement in Virginia, but, ultimately you know most lower class whites in the South go along with the redemption project. They decide that that's what they want and what they get out of. It is a sort of a feeling of superiority, more than anything particularly concrete and prompt, is good at dramatizing feeling right, like he's a very he's, a very evocative person in a way that transcends the sort of policy specifics of what he does there. I mean, I think, and when you look at the boys at the time he is, going against the prevailing consensus, historical consensus on reconstruction, which is that of failed, because black people are incapable of self government you boys and in wood word and Franklin and their disciples. Eventually you don't come his conclusion. Jim Crow is
sleep contingent on the basis of the formation of a white political identity that excluded black people. That was not necessarily the way it had to happen. That is, it was something that occurred as a result of the very successful white supremacist political campaign on the part of the Democrats, to break this emerging alliance between black and white workers in the south or some other time. Watson, who is like that of ideologically a progressive, eventually comes to see the wisdom of excluding black or wisdom and scare quarts of excluding black people from a polity. The way Van Woodward puts it is with the white men had to unite before they could. Ride along class lines. So there is this theory that, once you got black people out of poverty than you can deal with it, I'm getting white workers what they need
so there is like a psychological aspect to it, but there also, you know if you read books like D author Omar Ali who roads disagree about the black populous boom in Dar, like material class differences that you can use to make like you know, a traditional mark, seen analysis about the differences between the white and black populist in terms of like landowners, any garlic interest and stuff like that. But the point at least that I am making is that this kind of political identity formation is significant. It has a significant effect on. Politics is not completely divorced from material concerns, things that people think they do and say do actually matter.
And one of the things said tromp did very well was both accelerate this process of the republican party. Concluding that interfering with democracy was there, rather than winning over democratic constituencies, was their best Patsy continuing their hold on power, and also that they could get away with quite a bit more than they thought they could get away with an trump showed them that I mean, if you remember back, and he doesn't twelve after Romney lost. There was all this anguish about yourself deportation and he is like sought. Donald Trump Endorse Man and the people who eventually ended up running down trumps campaign had a different theory, which was you know, Mitt Romney,. I do not quite identity politics, sudden we're gonna, have a candidate who's gonna. Do that and he's gonna win weight in ended. I only know people remember that speedy was these sort of original official diagnosis of the Republican Party was that Romney had
and too hard against immigration that he had abandoned a kind of Bush, Mccain effort to me a more inclusive brand. That Romney had made a mistake, there and that you needed a sort of pivot back to the older approach. Trump took it in the opposite direction, and I think it's interesting, I'm not sure his. I don't even want to call it a policy vision when he titillated in the twenty sixteen primary, at least it wasn't like obviously different to me you from me Romney's, but what he said was very different right, I mean Rami. Revenues are convincing way. You like I'm severely conservative. Yes, I was the moderate governed. Massachusetts, who instituted an effective state healthcare plan, and I think government can do good things, and I was in that debate. We had Kennedy as a whereas I got one of them act, original Reagan, Bush. But now I am a true conservative and what my argument around these
always been the constituencies serving when he was trying to serve the Republican party. He was trump fish when he was trying to win office in masses, since he was a moderate Republican and now that he's Utah he's a very conservative Republican who is also like pretty skeptical of Trump stop politics, not necessarily transport policy and would jump conveyed right with that they're sending rapists they're sending me words type of stuff was that he really didn't like emigrants here sincere about. Yet it was not a factually accurate description of the immigrants. The situation, but that it was an emotionally honest depiction of how he felt that there has been a disabled people said from his truth or what they really mean is that he is like he expresses his feelings. Not that he's act. He actually like tells the literal truth, because he's I got a very lazy thinker, so he.
Lies a lot because he's not really concerned about whether or not what he is saying is right, which can be very difficult to deal with if you're someone who is not that way, which is one reason I think to press had a hard time handling at first. They I mean debt willingness to say those horrible things made. People feel as though he was incorruptible because he did not hear two way. People thought at the time as like standard political norms of communication and therefore he must have been truly authentic, which is actually not the same thing as being truthful And I started to to hear this from people who have people who are known realise pipeline on the internet, who you know, began skeptical of Trump and came to appreciate him more is that they feel that you know the liberal. Ah, consensus on social issues in kind of like tony circles is so all encompassing
that, like you, need somebody who's and asshole like Trump, whose similarly doesn't care why certain kinds of people think of him that he is gonna, be able to like make space for their project, son on immigration, on policing and various other things like that, and I mean that these and ass all but he's our asshole wreck, and then it takes an asshole there right that, like that's what need, not just somebody who's, gonna vaguely sign on to some kind of white paper. I think that there is a substantial amount of the political discourse, in particular on social media, which has just elites on different parts
the political spectrum yelling at each other about who is a good person and the actual people were affected by these policies are sort of an afterthought in other, just like scenery in parts of the debate, but that the actual stakes for human beings are not really a part of the conversation, which is a frustration but also social media. So of course, not everything stupid way. You know I was struck by your your original essay would but this title, because Is it a both conveyed to me? You know what I think a lot of people on the left found so repulsive about Trump right, who you know you can always make the case that, like trumpets less different from other for public and politicians, but you know he felt very different to lots of people both pro
m com, and I think that this tendency to sort of floor overtly with the idea of cruelty, attentive, really put that undue splay. You know helps explain why we actions to have proven con are so much stronger than they were just sort of the other politicians that that I've seen in my lifetime. What do the other republican politicians I've seen in my lifetime airing does what currency does as it forms lions. It's on the one hand like we think of it, it is like just to eat a sort of an immoral act. Unnecessary malice towards another human being. There really does like helped draw lines between differ, groups of people and an end away like I used this example just because I feel like it. Completely de politicized. But when you think about, when your kid and like there's a group, a cool kids and our pig, on a kid he's kind of parity and you're, not in either group. You know maybe you'd like to join in with the quartet
because you don't want them to come after you or you want to feel like you belong or me Did you just like stay away, because you don't wanna, be a tar, any stay quiet, because you don't wanna, be a target or mean? Oh? Maybe you actually stick up for the kid and you get fervent about they either way. The kids, who are teasing, yellow, it are forming a bond to dislike after transfer. Russia and meanness towards another person same were asking in your them and I think Trump excelled at creating, a feeling of intimacy in community and in that way with not like the marginal trump voter, but the people who subsume their identity and trump is amazing. Idea like shut up at his rallies and wars. T shirts and wars hats every day, and I found a measure of satisfaction and the thought that allow rural somewhere would be angry at them for doing ass of illicit Obregon. I want to draw a distinction between sort of marginal an average tissues. He's into grilled children's easier overpaying for home. An auto insurance.
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stay in the game at a deeper level, then you need to listen to and I fell university. A new weekly episode from the SB nation and Elsa every Wednesday, our team of professors at any fell university. Teach you the finer points of which one crash course at a time, will break down the. What how and why Everything that went down that we subscribe to the explanation about show today and become the best fan you can be. So you don't wondering that I think people have been talking about a lot over the past couple of months is that in twenty twenty Trump seems to have gained a good amount of support with, but you go with Letty no voters, but maybe a modest amount with black voters as well, which I mean, I think, is obviously just up a noteworthy occurrence that people should pay some kind of attention to, but also has been taken by some to sort of the bank.
Line of argument that highlights the role of of racism and emigration politics in Trump. Your book in a really brought me back to twenty fifteen twenty, sixteen, the sort of gonna like how did we get Trump in the first place? You know I should have wondered why, when you think about tat about these, these twenty twenty results and lead the discourse that follows from that, its clear that you know whatever tromp was doing it. And twenty, when I was in an economic support for voters, whether was Biden doing things like seeing me to get rid of the oil industry and a debate which is negative. Popular along the Rio Grande. I dont think we know the full story of debts which yet except we know that it significant and it could be even more significant down the line. I think that it sort of a cop out there in the sense that it doesn't actually change the nature of what Trump says does or what he stands for or why he does it. You know if you go back to life
in thirty two and fifty is winning the black boat in the north, because the Republicans aren't doing much for black people and after as an economic and that's appealing, even though the Democratic Party is a white Supremacist Party You wouldn't say that the Democratic Party cease being racist and nineteen thirty two sdr got a lot of black boats. Tat would be stupid what you woods, he said that switch ultimately did have a tremendous impact on the Democratic Party and its possible that a more diverse republican Party will step away from its radicalization against democracy as a result of having to serve a broader constituency. But you know it's also possible that those odors begin to identify with the specific racial by default that necessarily entirely exclusively racial Quantum court nationalist identity and embrace tat to the exclusion of other people in the country who are in a tree.
I have been traditionally excluded from the democratic process like black equal partners like the discourse of people of color races, Sanctions between non white groups and so had set makes it sound like it's impossible for black people, have prejudices towards other groups or for Latinos TAT prejudices towards black people. And if you like, just look outside of the United States. It is very obvious that that is not the case I'm so it makes perfect sense that those things could also happened here. So I mean, I think, that you're right, it's a noteworthy development, its significant. I don't think we totally understand why it happened yet and its possible will have long term implications for the Republican Party and
Credit party, but I dont think, is really changes the nature of either. What the Republican Party is trying to do to democracy at the moment, or you know what tromp himself thought of his project in terms of you know that his rationalized view of american citizenship, where he considered some of these people, voted from as hailing from countries that he considered quote shit holes, and I mean that's dead with a reaction to the twenty twenty election is so short of telling wait. I mean because that I think the rod story. We would tell about the racial realignment of the parties. Was you know by the thirty? Is black voters in the north feel, like Republicans, have basically drop civil rights? Sdr has an economic ideas. They like they start voting democratic. You get a black house Democrat from
cargo and, through incorporation, their starts to be pressure on Democrats to deliver for some of their new voters. That takes a bit of time, but you stretching the impact pretty fast right. I mean filled Randolph and the M sampling Practices grumbled. What do I mean that doing Roosevelt's administration? You wouldn't say after your Rana, particularly richly voluntary presidency, but he was he was answering to that constituency, whereas see you look at a map bright and if I wanted to demonstrate that Trump did better with back in his bed and voters, I mean I can show you a precinct map of Philadelphia, but his whole election fraud. Narrative, like it look It's the fried in these african american City sway and images like incredible, because he did ass. He put out, he did better in those places and he didn t tell
sixteen, and yet he still saw them as illegitimate, and I think that speaks it heading both what you're identifying speak the significance of identity formation that, like labour Civil rights LE liberalism that emerged in the nineteen thirties has been such a part. It has been the default American, the bride entity for so long data, and forgets that it was contingent and didn't surly have to form that way in the same way that you know the south didn't necessarily have to fall to white supremacy in the way that it did. It didn't necessarily have to be the case that the Democratic Party ended up being both a pro labour and pro civil Rights Party and what wars, right now is like, despite the fact that Donald Trump one some of those voters over he still conceives in some sense of those voters, is not really a veto to the extent that their legitimate parts of the american polity, it is because they supported him because they are inherently legitimate away, the rest of his supporters are inadequate,
see. We all know that there continues to be disagreement among republicans about various things, but you don't see any faction that saying like hey. Maybe we should call it on making it Oh, no, not at all, I'm right did like we'll meet even just rational aim, and I was talking to some Democrats and they were saying you know. We're coalitions were in twenty ten. This Supreme court decision that that came down could have really bad for us, but actually you know that the collisions shifted, but the politics has not moved along with There's no there's, no, like here's. How we're gonna build on you know. Are our wines be more? You know, Bush to point no kind of thing, and you know I mean the republican issue. Right now is like the border, the border, the border just like truck- that's, not just the border, but this sort of performance of punishment of liberal targets with
power of the state, which I think is related to one of the reasons for the rise of tromp was just like this sort of radical social change that we experienced in a world enough to remember when same sex marriage was not a popular position. Can now then said that George W Bush, diluted and car of deliberately like push tat to get Bush elected these these same sex marriage amendments in the anti does Forbush did even better than Donald Trump did with. It does this time and he made inroads among black voters to he got over. I think there's like maybe eleven or twelve percent, and you know that you seem like a veto that wasn't going to happen and then all of a sudden there is swift, change and unlike office and a majority of Americans are in support of same sex, marriage rights, and you know the position that Barack Obama held in two thousand and nine is like now considered bigoted in homophobic position, anything for people whose, like religious faith, thousand a day have to oppose same sex marriage. That's like extremely scare
anything Donald Trump very much dug his hands incident and where it was like, you know, everything's, gonna change and there like destroy your whole way of life, and you know you need me to stop them, because I'm the only one who can do it and I think that was really powerful to them. But it's also like that approach to politics is also what says you know. It's, ok, to like shit immigrant families, because they're trying to cross the border it again to America to have a better life or a two year pass laws targeting Trans children or Van Muslims from coming to the United States or the like pass laws beating like civil liability for driving a car into black lives matter protesters. These acts of cruelty reinforce the kinds of social barriers that help maintain the kind of factionalism that for right now is profitable for Republicans political
because of the structure of our political system, and it has this kind of existential quality right there was there the flight whatever election year a way, and he looked at me like what are the ito with one of the lines, and there was the coordination of third world foreigners with no traditions of american Liberty around paraphrasing, as I don't remember, but this is a racist nonsense like. Obviously there are a lot of people, immigrants to the United States or coming from countries that are run by liberal leftwing regimes and they do not like socialism. And certainly socialism Saxon appealing pitched too the up, and in so doing it is like absolute nonsense, but it is telling, in terms of where the republican elite intelligentsia is that still maintaining this, like bullshit white genocide, light stuff, even though it is very clear that dislike weird, determinism- that non white people are automatically left wing, is false. Somehow they make both arguments at the same time where the like half our trump, isn't races, cosy, one these latino votes, but also
The Democrats are trying to replace us with Latinos who will robotics vote democratic and it doesn't make sense. The mass is not now. Thank you. I know you know this has become a big trouble. Karlsson thing over the past couple of months that the real assault on democracy is that Democrats favour immigration, because immigration changes the composition of the electorate's lobbying, that is this, like straight up: reconstruction in our early twentieth century white man's government stuff, it is such a classic old timing, racism, and it says a tremendous amount of data across and as someone who is feared and respected, despite going on television and saying
thanks way you just as you say it's like there's a different kind of a track that you could be on and then I think you know we would be on if the maps were different right, I mean if Tom, if you got the exact same share of the boat that trumpeted, but what that created was a big. I mean that huge, but like up a four point, democratic majority in a unique camera parliamentary system and like now Joe Biden, is just he's legislating and Republicans I got shit. We need to get like like a lot more votes than we got last time, then you have a totally different mentality, then Will we have right now, which is despite getting wave your votes than binding? It was a squeaker election
you really are disenfranchised a few thousand people away from being able to win, which you know it discourages like rethinking of anything. It discourages rethinking things they didn't lose by enough to rethink the whole tromp thing, but that just like I mean that scenario, your describe it as it is exactly what I'm talking about as it is a product of the system. It is not simply a product like malice One of the things I talk about. You know in the boat and also you know in a tease out for the New York Times that tourism arises. The themes of the book is, it is not. The Democrats are just like or liberals inherently more virtue, sir, better people said they are reliant on people who are concern we live in moderate and liberal their reliant on people who go to church every Sunday, and are also reliant on like Yoke hipsters in Brooklyn and when you have to like stitch like all these coalitions together of people who are very different, were very different.
Religious, ideological police who have different ethnic backgrounds who have different personal histories, and this way like you, have to win them over rather than in a lock a bunch of people out. If Democrats tried to disenfranchise Non college white voters, they would disenfranchise millions of their voters because they still relies substantially on non cod white men as well. The fact that demographic votes very heavily republican, they still get millions and millions of votes from white men who do not have college degrees. That kind of power sharing is what creates the space for democracy without this kind of helped to exclude entire sections of the country from the polity and to figure out ideological reasons for justifying doing that. We'll get a place. I mean I feel like one of the big midst as some people propagate is that, like liberal people live in some kind of bubble, I mean I'm I'm very untouched.
Myself personally grew up in New York living DC? But even so it's like you know. My wife's parents are like you know their older. Why were Texas people who are much more conservative than me, and she knows mall and I know them, and she grew up in a small town in it in the countryside and like a wooden, you don't get me where rattling normal people are not political. Enough till I want to disenfranchise large swathes of the population who are like people with a no honour on a human level right, but the bulk of Republicans actually are totally isolated, racially and ethnically and can treat this kind of stuff. On
purely abstract or purely kind of tactical basis, and you know, as you say, I'm in its ally key. You know you put people in the room and I'm sure it's like equal assholes everywhere right, but Democrats coalition management is just different and its more concrete right. It's like your life is gonna, be better in some specific way rather than people like you will be elevated. I and like every sad its best. There was some Tucker Karlsson rare that you're responded. You and you made some job on Twitter, where you are like tat across them is complaining about high, density. Zoning because then like it would integrate. Our heads or something it was like. A newer, like I hoped to Sunday convince conservatives that over regulation of important economic sectors can be counterproductive, but it was like literary like these people are going to be
like we're, going to integrate communities and then, as communities are gonna, be left wing and it was like what is going on like what like how're. We like doing talking points from George Wireless from eighteen. Sixty like this is insane, and I think that yeah there is a certain amount of. On the one hand, the dynamic for conservative is like they are more isolated from liberals. I thanks and liberals are from conservatives simply as a result of like liberals, living in urban areas where, despite the fact that leader the dominant culture the world are still lots of conservatives, but I think it another aspect of that is that, because pop culture is so default, left wing now that fur concerned, as I think it feels suffocate hang despite them, not necessarily coming in contact with very many liberal unlike the actual spaces where they live. I was watching like Indiana Jones, last crusade like last year during the pandemic.
As I cannot. You have Doctor Jones like the older Doktor Johnson is like a very observant. Religious christian and who has a diary and he praise any like slaps Indiana Jones when he's is the Lord's name in vain. As like, when was the last time you saw like a prominent lily yes, conservative, academic. In like a popular movie like that, you know what I mean when I thought this evening. When I watch die, hard last winter, where you know there's this whole thing about Macleans wife is using her maiden name. Professionally, and you just like you wooden, probably do that in a movie right like it's. On the one hand, just like a kind of arson action movie, but it's also like the you'd like redemption, of traditional s, gender roles. He makes it up at his wife by saving her from Paris. You know it's like it. It's it's! It's it, sir, like that highschool fantasy of ivy, stopping a mass shootings, something except it's like an act
what movie with birth was yeah, and so he like freezes the pace of shifting gender roles by also defeating the terrorists, who are left wing, but their left wing ideology is fake. I obviously, like everybody likes that movie, even if I dont know I don't agree with those political messages, but it is unlikely everyone lobby dialogue see the way, but you just like it's true you would not see like conservative themes, just casually dropped into pop culture. In that way now I mean, I think you do. I think it's just that the prevailing pop culture is left wing and, like a social sense like you, don't see that this specific kind of social conservatism that used to be like pretty prominent in our culture is not there anymore. This is sort of, like they ve sort of users to talk themselves in the feeling politically powerless when actually their political powers, like tremendously enhance relative to their actual numbers, which I think
so in some ways makes some self conscious and just like all of this, and that justifying a politics of like no quarter towards people, they feel like our ban on their destruction who, in my view, are not than on their destruction at all. Let me take a second break here and then we'll talk about true no quarter. Politics. You know that getting to know you question be boys ass, they ask you know what would you bring with you for on a desert island, but really what would you do if you shipwrecked on a desert island? That's going that actually happened to captain James while in his crew, and one must uninhabitable places on earth at the edge of the Sahara. The new season of against the off it's a pipe gas from wondering tells the story of the men who survived, captivity, dwindling supplies and life, threatening hunger and thirst, At our ship sank off the coast of North West Africa facing improbable odds. Captain Riley's teams journey across the desert. Storm sacrifice here, some human endurance and fight to get help. Into against the odds and half a podcast, Amazon, music or within one week.
Really and ad free by joining wonder repulse in the wondering app wondering feel the story. So at the beginning of the bug you, you talk a fair amount about history, and the sort of civil war and die post civil war type politics, and so they develop the argument that we are seeing a kind of continuation of a sort of the politics of that spirit. People got really into now arguing about how how history should be taught in the world. I don't actually recall being taught like the reconstruction era at all in school, the leg, what what happened they like? How did we get to Jim? I think you ve actually pinpointed something and point about this like you were that article in the great awakening about the sort of increasing liberalism of college, educated, white, liberals in particular, but raising lit the racial liberalism, college educated, and I think basically, what happened was tat after Ferguson,
occurred, and there were seen others that justice farm him forth. It showed that the Ferguson Police Department was just like horribly exploiting the cities. Population at the behest of the municipal leadership. Poor like trying to you now basically squeeze m for money so that they could find service for other parts of the town, so I think what happened in Ferguson was deaf people really began to ask themselves as question like how did we elect Obama, but the country is still has this like tremendous racial inequality like how did it happen, and so I think that sparked a kind of re examination of history- and I think it was partially fuelled by you like tat of icy cold synthetic in the case for reparations looking at, you know that argument not as a question of
slavery is that there is a long distance thing, but as like a crucial aspect of the formation of the modern welfare state from which black people were were significantly excluded, and I think tat, unlike that things like the massacre of the church in South Carolina and then, of course, the rise of Donald is not a neutral event in this. I think it's a tremendously radicalizing event. I think everybody is sort of how are we? How did we get here? People begin to ask themselves that question is They dig in history and it turns out that there is, I think, a lot to learn about how we got here in part because the narrative that Barack Obama leaned on to win really secluded alot of those ugly parts of our history or frame
them as, like, inevitable, liberal triumphs of the best ideas of the american founders, which politically is like a very effective narrative right, but the job of politicians is not to give the most accurate reading on american history or racism or anything else. It's the wind power and use that power to help their constituents, so rock of homage triumphal s, narrative critically coming from him was very effective politically, but it obscured this a whole other part of history that I think people wanted to dig into in part, because it wanted to figure out how we were still having these problems. After all, this time, and after something like the election of the first like president one- and I think it was, this- should have dwelt he too, oh bombers,
symbolic, meaning right where there was, I mean it was a group of people who are just incredibly terrified of a Mamma, a long wait. You know bill air, secretly wrote the memo do his bugs. You know all that separate, but there was a group of people who I think that a bomb a winning should be the expiation of America's since right, and that now you know all all- should be forgive it right and that, like part of the case for a bomb, might be while you can make health care more affordable. A part of the case may be, you know you are tired of the Iraq war on the part of the case was gonna be, but once we have this by president, then obviously like people won't be able to complain about racism anymore right, and then you have another group of people for whom it's like no like rubber.
And haitian at the highest levels of government is going to raise our aspiration. Swayed things we ve been talking about for a long time are going to be heard that, like Brockett Michel, like they know personally these struggles, they ended. That's why something like if I had a son, he would look like Craven. I think with such big you'll. It was there and it was the Henry Louis Gates thing when he got arrested and about us at the cop acted stupidly and he did at stupidly. That was a contempt of cop situation, and this is like the contempt of cop is like a euro. It goes that like people were complaining about content of cop and like the nineteenth century, You know I mean they get. It is just like this has a long history of lake of Americans annoying a police officer him a wrestling them for no reason, but when a brok obama-
said it and immediately became this like a he, no Brok Obama's starting the re, swore he's trying to crush the white man and abolish. I too diffuse it with the whole beer summit saying. I think that was the opposite. The trail on, seeing as I guess it important then like a subsequent aspect to this, not least of which, because its after that the phrase black lives matter, is coined by the big turning point, for me at least, is that when a lot of white conservatives realised that a bomb is not simply a symbol of american racial progress, but is actually a person with opinions, and some of those opinions are like you shouldn't arrest a black man in his own home, because he disrespects a police officer I eat out. They just went ape shit, I mean, if you go back and you read the staff that conservative media was writing at the time about. That incident is absolutely insane, especially for people who profess to believe in an idea
of limited government and an individual freedom and like the importance of private property. You got on about this for a long time, but it's obvious that in this era of America, politics, what identity supersedes all those things as far as like ideological importance will, I need to be you know. We'd helps understand the sort of the swing wide from Obama to from which I think, a lot of Amerika Why liberals found shocking in way that African Americans didn't necessarily but, but you said you had been members. Like my neighbors said to me, like a you know, I see people on on tv talk him liked is never been a racist politician before you know, which I I think, carry some insight, but it said I think, to Liberals Obama's election. Was this?
credible sign of progress, but the two, some more moderate people Obama's election was supposed to be like the end of races. Ray. It was like the Civil Rights ACT in the Voting Rights ACT. You know why are there riots? We just gave you everything you want, it should read and should ensure that was. I I think, I'd like a more vicious backlash too, like oh, you gotta. President. And now you still want you know the college professor not be arrested in this house. You still This guy do not be shocked by the cops like like what. What do you want from me, and you know that helps sort of spur a kind of backlash politics when at the moment, right, like you know, inauguration day, two thousand nine was like pretty good vibes moment for America. It always comes back me to the fact that It was two thousand and eleven when you know this person thing was happening. Donald Trump is like I'm going to lean into this as hard as possible, and I think you know I write about this in the book.
I think birth rhythm is a really important it sort of a bit it's a dumb races Conspiracy theory, but I think its support and important moment of ideological formation, because it sort of the trunk platform he's like a rock Obama's, an alleged, illegitimate president, because he's back and he's a secret muslim men who was born. Elsewhere so he's like he symbolizes, both the sort of Islamophobia, the moment or anti muslim politics, the moment he symbolizes each hour. He is he's at this sign of an emigrant and he's black, and so he like wraps up
all these, like strains of fear, that Donald Trump makes centrepieces of his two thousand. Sixteen TIM pain, deliberately Arabic, Donald Trump improvements with electing over all those significant actually erase the fact of that, or why that happened. It was all this some hope. I think, along like more stableman Republicans that tramples gonna lose the primary and they hope that for various reasons, but one reason they wanted to beat him was that they felt he was not that actually like well versed in their doctrines. I dont think they're, like most republican voters, sincerely believe that broke a bomb. I was born in Kenya, but they do think it's funny right, like it's a funny thing to say and
it's funny to get people saying. Oh that's, racist and the bill. I trumped doesn't care that you think it's race straight and that that was ultimately more compelling too, like the majority of primary voters, then, like job bushes, Guenaud studies that the American Enterprise Institute about marginal tax rates- and I think the primary is like a fine time capsule as you can go back and you can find leg, people who later became ardent fierce pro tromp sycophants, saying things like Donald Trump is a racist and you know what are we just white identity. Politics now is that all the Republican Party is and then, like you know, ten months You're all their audiences and voters want em to say. Donald Trump is fuckin, awesome and they're all saying, and it's like they never is. I frequently get criticisms from conservatives about me being unfair, but
were actually saying the same things about Donald Trump they're, the ones who changed their minds. I didn't change my mind. I veto. We were in agreement in two thousand fifteen. It was just that became the nominee, and you guys had to change because you're subscribers, your audiences, your view where's your voters decided that they, like Donald Trump, send out you have to like Donald Trump, and you sort of you figured out a way to like tell yourself that that was good and not bad he waited. You know him, and mostly by I mean themselves coming to buy into this kind of existential politics right where it like it. No longer matters to a lot of conservative intellectuals like are we formulating policy agenda? They make sense like does this align with some principle that I I believe in and was rather that you know the progressives are so terrifying that he had sight by any means necessary, and this is the
The means that we have at hand you dont want to me from. I don't know inside the progressive zone. It is like it seems so far sick all you know, so I ve been lobbying in watching you see for a long time were you grew up? Obviously we don't have any were publicans here, but one thing you see in politics that we're publicans is that, like we still do have business owners, you know who don't like regulations and we have rich people who don't wanna pay taxes, and we have religious people who have traditionalist attitudes toward things, and we have a police union, and sometimes we end up a good policies and sometimes a bad policies, but like we have the basic given take of american politics absolutely exists within a one, city. There's no steamroller that, like crushes all opposition in its path, because these are actually like- I mean I don't know. If you can, you go to the Bahamas and there's conservative politics
just in a country where everybody's bought, because these are like the building blocks of a function. And human society, but actual american conservatives have like no confidence in their ability to like exist in a pluralistic context. I think that's right it irritates me because, obviously like it on social media, you can find a whole lot of liberal fantasizing about that, but you actually never getting rid of conservatives like ever thinking. You were never going to get rid of people who have conservative he's on immigration, you're, never going to get rid of people who are very concerned in their religious observance, and it here very closely to you the structures of their face in such a way that you now contradicts
liberal social mores like you, never getting rid of people who want to pay fewer taxes like that's just never happening so to me, dad is what makes this republic an assault on the under Bachar, see old, more enraging, because it's like they just don't want to have to compete with people who are different rather than like, acknowledging that their politics do have an appeal. You know, there's a probably a significant chunk of black America that that The democratic party. Now that would probably vote for the Republican Party if the Republican Party was in show routed at this point in time and white identity politics. Yet I mean I think it's me Its book shows. You know that I'm on policy issues, probably the marginal black voter, is to the right of the marginal white voter Emmi, not average, but marginal for exactly that reason right that white people attended to fall into the Republican Party and by people
repulsed from it, because you know, because he's identity issues are important to our peoples lives but like, but maybe you greed that, like we, shall stricter immigration policies which are negative over someone who doesn't think that you should be allowed to have a late, or I mean all this stuff right. It's it's very plus a frustrating dynamic, but you know what it does come back to this idea that you know wheat. We do have the templates for complete disenfranchisement. Of swathes of the population that, unlike eliminating religion or business or aversion to taxes like a real thing that happened in most of the country, was no by people were voting for several generations. This is like what I try it. I made my grandfather convert and most
country was finally that this is like it till he moved to New York. You don't you can vote, and that was just how the country was run and most people want about their business and like that was defined with for them, and I could I I thought he was. I got this like experiment and multi racial democracy that we and doing is like. It started in nineteen sixty five, its fragile it doesn't have to persist most of our history. You know that This new era, even free black people, are being. Who did from the ballot? You know in the region, fraction era, like Democrats are legally part of the reason. Do you remember it happens- is because Democrats are like what is part of the reason. Why happens? But there is this period where democratic, like you, don't even like black people vote in your republic in states like. Why are you forcing black suffrage on us and select at this? This issue of hypocrisy becomes like a talking point against universal black suffrage. We have actually had periods in which large sections of the American Party had been excluded on the basis of
of race. We have not had a period where conservatives were like annihilated out of existence and and simply lead to The Vienna like no longer existed. It existed for any period of time. It just has not happened. It's not going to happen and it exists as a mode of politics in order to justify doing the thing that has actually happened. Anything you know, learning that history is interesting. I mean I feel like. I grew up with a sort of a vague sense of like continuous upward progress in american history, which is just not I mean. I don't think anybody even like explicitly said that to me that just like every five years was better than
five years previously, but like it's very much not true, there was a real stab at a gallop, cherry and participatory democracy. There was like the civil war and lead to a kind of you know awoken eying among the northern white population which, before the war you know wanted to exclude slavery from the west What was really not body in two abolition, that was the talking rights against proprietors, like they want social equality. Social equality? Worry, that's crazy and obviously like there are some people like that Stevens who quietly are like yeah, that social quality things where this is going in? That would be good, but most of the time they're, like none of political equality, is not social. Equality like that's not only mean- and I think war. You know you could see for four like four Ulysses gland, but for a lot of other people was sort of radicalized.
And so, as you say right, they adopt the fifty amendments which had not been the practice in the north previously right they go further. But then you know there's a significant in return, and you know it's like it's hard to say that the moral arc of the universe is like actually bending in any particular direction. We just sort of got to a happy or point in the recent past. I think the inner I grab in Washington DC that or woke, was primarily a white pejorative for unnecessary egalitarianism. I had written might be described as awoke education, and all I mean by that is. I went to an overwhelmingly back public school, where I was actually taught black history, which was not taught everywhere in the United States, and so I like, I remember we did reason in the sun,
you, know my junior year of high school, and so we learned all about restrictive covenants and we learned about the Supreme Court case. It's is cases that struck down restrictive covenants because Lorraine hands worry had actually written in the play about her dad, who was part of a case that struck down restrictive covenants and like he died and she was like he died of racism and he was like a relatively what he was a real estate. He was extraordinarily wealthy for a black person at that time, and so you know I was educated about these things and I got the college. I knew a lotta I like I went to vaster. I met a lot of Manhattan, prep school fees for the first time who had not did not have that kind of history, not because their teachers were bad people, but because, like where I was, it was considered important to me, that black children understood their own history in a way that it was not power ties in other parts of the country, and you know to Dixon we're having this debate. You know there's a lot of back and forth about, like
as highlighted in your newsletter any idea. I training stuff, that's a pretty stupid and counterproductive, but I think it ultimately to the debate that we are having about whether or not to teach. This is in how accurately to teach it because It necessarily changes your perception of the present. If you don't know about convict leasing, then the idea that black people are simply porkers their dumber than why fuel it actually seem persuasive to you as a white person. But if you do know about all the economic dispossession took place under Jim Crow unlike on and on and on into the twentieth century, then necessarily you're understanding of racial equality in America, and you know what the state can do about. It becomes differ, and I think that's really what were arguing about when we argue about like in this current conversation about american history. That's really sort of the actual conversation our having or even though we spend most of our time in the meadow conversation of like this
and said something outrageous. This person said thumbs something stupid. Look at this idiotic charge tat some one made. How can rapid fragility be the number one stop selling by can a country, etc, etc. Yeah needed is interesting because we don't have. I am I don't like this was France we would have very organised conversation about like what should be in the national courts, you'll him. But we don't have that in America, so we can have a very sort of diffuse. You no kind of discussion about these things that has now am. I don't have that. I think tens not to be not to be tethered to specifics right. You know, whereas I you know I looked up. I mean my my kids in just finished the guy you sell. You know he didn't get alot of super rigorous history instruction, but you know I was able to look up like what are the Washington Dc Social studies. Guidelines right like in a definitive were in and I read them, and you know they seem good to me. I am a her forehead,
Actually, it's like. If we had education in a more focused way, then you know we could sort of talk about like what's in and what's out and like what's on the eighty test and what isn't and why we think it important to sort of have this stuff in there. You, because I think, some Conservatives think that it's like, while progressive, just want to teach this history, because they, because I hate America and they want you know they- want people to see that it's that it's bad and I'm sure somebody does think that, but you know, I think people want kids to understand like how we got where we are right, any that's. That's what you're saying really waiting It's it's easy. I gas, if you're way and you ve lived
in a very segregated, you know excerpts somewhere to think it's like, whilst not important right for people have any sort of context or understanding you know of poverty or segregation or where any these things come from. You know this stuff didn't make it into the book that I have written a little bit about despot like this conflict. That you're talking about is its are actually the first time we leave and had it does a book called schoolbook nation by Joseph Moreau. That gives like a very wonderful
counting of John Hope Franklin Rights in american history, textbook fur, school kids, and it becomes this huge flashpoint in California because of California influence on buying schoolbooks, and it is the same argument that we're having today about whether or not the book, because it has much more than emphasis on black history. It is much more a matter of fact about the actions of the founders both towards black people and native merit ends. It is like that. The argument like are we going to teach our kids to hit America? We gonna teach our kids like patriotic education that teaches them pride in their history in this textbook is too pessimistic about America and about our past and the extent to which the founders diverged from you know, their professed beliefs, I'm in its the same. The politics are slightly different.
We're in a different era, but it really is the same type of argument. Do you echoes a remarkably storm recrossing as written about this as well that I ina? I think that this is absolutely not the first time that we had These arguments about the meaning of history and obviously there sort of arguments about the president, but their ultimately arguments about are we being in a just society or one that has been warps by the bad acts of the past. And you know there are political. Dress in both directions, line also about who hounds in the community tat way I mean I was at the Carter Woodson House, which is now open sesame.
Neighbourhood is one of the four a pioneering black history scholars and, as I understand it, a part of the point of his project. It wasn't that he'd like wanted people to think the bad things about America, but he wanted people to have a better understanding of their community right and that they were being written out of a sea We are in fact doing white history of american right, so they would say all this is like an optimistic whatever, whatever story but like it's, it's not right. It's totally exclusionary and you know highly eating others starve. It looks like trying to tear the country down only if you have a very particular sense of what the country you know really is and who its constituents are there I mean all of this. I think- and I think this is part of the boy of the bark is that we ve been having these
arguments about what America's bus today, since the founding it people like Thomas Jefferson, argued both sides of the argument. Both of them are authentic expressions of the American idea, which is why there are so persistent american history, and so I think it's hard for me. Our demand to be settled exactly, but it makes and to me that we're talking so much about history now as a result of the events of the past decade, or so I dont know, if it's going to be, to be such a sound piece of our politics by it. It's not. Usual that were arguing about this. Obviously, after reconstruction, you have the dining school He has his attempt to like the smear reconstruction as like you know what I'm quoting charity or dont negro domination and act like shapes, guns, perceptions of Jim Crow and then during the civil rights movement in our work by people. Like would word you who Martin Luther King, called it I believe, the civil rights movement. This is important for Russia,
in perceptions around you know what America can be and what the south can be in its makes perfect sense that people who don't want America to be saying that these people, why would like contests tat not solely in realm of values or logic or policy, but also in their understanding of history lesson I am so re integrate, but I hope that we will act. The new debating history, long enough for everybody to buy it, read it ideally, but that? But the most important thing is to buy books I want to emphasise that as a sort of several reading is fine, but you didn't even listen podcast. Thank you and good luck with other promotions thanks. So much man- ok thanks as always to our sponsors, producer, Martinique, us and we will be back on Tuesday.
Transcript generated on 2021-08-05.