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Year-End Spectacular

Update: 2016-12-28
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Sarah, Ezra, and Matt each review one big thing they learned in a tumultuous year for policy and politics.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

the following podcast contains explicit language let's let the Cassidy sixteen in the worst year of podcasting or greedy or have things to the thing of little look into another episode of the weeds but his policy podcast of the panoply network I'm at Matthew Yglesias said joined in studio by my colleagues Eric left and Ezra Klein where where are you I'm coming off from K UCI which is the radio station at the Davis of California Irvine An Irvine native on here for the holiday and they very kindly let me use their studio and this week the final we had twenty six and is going to be at a look back at a year that was eventful in sorrow and knowing wisdom and things have happened um we we all experience them together we experience them we podcast about them hopefully learned a thing or two and so I think the idea was that we were each going to come to the table with that with one thing that we have learned a lesson in world of politics and policy and we could talk about it so as Rakhi of a good one sure I'm ready to start I got to a good one the thing that I have struggled with throughout the year that I struggle with during the election and that I find hardest to absorb in its aftermath is the idea that this has been a real change to my model of how politics works that there is no bar there is no floor that you can't drop in a so so before this I think how I thought about American politics which is that we have very sharply partisan parties and so pretty much any candidate the Democrats or Republicans nominate will start with forty five forty six percent of the boat but I actually had a bit of weight on the pretty much in that sentence I thought their candidates the parties cannot make that would not begin or were not at least and with forty five forty six percent of the vote and Republicans in twenty sixteen nominated such a candidate the nominated a candidate who is extraordinarily unpopular both in the country and also during much of the primary in their own party nominated a candidate who was able to unify much of the party behind him but always had a lot of signaling coming from elites if they were comfortable with them they nominated a candidate who routinely strayed far outside the boundaries of what we considered decent in American politics the way Donald Trump tweeted was just not stir in the whole campaign when he came out and see Ted Cruz's father was potentially involved in the JFK assassination I thought that was an unusual moment the sexual assault allegations and tapes it came out some of his policies the just the way in which imported himself and acted throughout the campaign struck me as beyond what would work in American politics has struck me as a kind of thing that you know even given that you begin with a lot of party support they're going to drop you beneath a bit of a floor because this just the kind you must be this be sent to ride dimension of this and I just turned out to be wrong about that and the implications for me being wrong about that are actually pretty profound I mean this was part of why I thought that American politics was reasonably safe from demagogues reasonably safe from really dangerous players and now I see it kind of the opposite I see that the way I've come to view what is going on is that this is great line from the political signs Julie is Ari she writes that we live in an age of weak parties with strong partisanship and so it really is a case that the sentence should actually be that no matter who the Democrats and Republicans nominate to begin the forty five percent of the vote well then you get into a much more dangerous place because the parties are very weak the primary systems are very weak and as the South Trump this year they can be taken over by all kinds of players and if anyone can come in and take over the primary and then be guaranteed the support of the party that actually makes a party system actually makes a primary system a vulnerability through which really really dangerous things can and are dangerous players can enter and take over American politics so I end this year a lot more skeptical and concerned about the baseline security of American democracy in the baseline sort of tendency of the voters to say Hey you've got you've got to basically clear a bar to wield real power in the United States I think we've seen that bars a lot a lot lower than I would've thought I had a question about what you've learned as the SU do you think in this and we talked about a number of podcast and rethink how how specific to Trump you think of this Santa as in like how widespread it might be in because of one of the examples that comes to mind and I think about it was I remember the shoes a few years ago I maybe like twenty eight and twelve covering um tidy again this candidate for Senate in Missouri who was leading in the polls until he said I was at that time the body has a way of shutting down pregnancy a legitimate rape and I mean this is like went like wildfire up losing that race and that links him to be a case like there is a bar like that was the thing that put a can below the bar some terrific how is this something specific to them with as much like celebrity is Trump are or how do you think about like where the bar has been lowered I struggle this year obviously right the people's estimation of candidates change based on candidates doing dumb things and by those true for Trump to it's not Matt has written about this well it's not the Trump was truly tough lawn he's very unpopular he won the election unpopular people thought he was unqualified and what happens a lot of folks voted against the other candidate so I have a couple of thoughts then on that one is that I don't know that it's unique to Trump but I do think Trump really understood some unusual things about American politics that suddenly I didn't come into this seeing as clearly so he has a he his a shameless this about him and I mean that Thompson a value neutral way he does not become a shame when you attack him when he does something wrong he doesn't do what most politicians do which is once the weight of the party comes against him the weight of the media comes against him he apologizes and agrees that he had made a terrible mistake he just says no like I got was a great point I stand by the National Enquirer is a great magazine who knows of Ted Cruz's father killed JFK it's an interesting thing to talk about and that actually turned out to be a and an interesting sort of plays folk psychotic and are not really good at that so what happens and Hillary Clinton for that matter is not good at that so happens they do something wrong then you know feeling bad about it or feeling pressured around it they agree they did something wrong and then you have a spare with the media saying they did it wrong they're saying they did her wrong their own party saying that is something wrong the Democrats are saying they did something wrong or the Republicans the case may be and everybody agrees and it helps voters form that that estimation suits or Trump a smart and that he wouldn't really allow that to happen to him and he did not happen simply by never admitting a fault and never he used those fights as part of his own persona so that was one thing everything was different was the presence of Hillary Clinton in the race Claire McCaskill is a politician his political persona is built on creating a connection and being acceptable to voters with the site Red State lean she works very hard to be someone who you know even if you wish is I don't remember exactly where she comes down on the DW nominate scores but I think she sort of center left Democrat if I come into her voting record right but she has made a reasonably acceptable to people some with the correct and so when Aiken fell apart she was a viable alternative for moderate Democrats moderate Republicans independents or center right leaning independents in misery what I think happened in the presidential election was it the Clinton campaign actually was effective and frankly don't jump himself is effective at making Trump pretty unpopular the thing is though that a lot of people who didn't want to take that step to Clinton now again she won the popular vote some this was just geographic breakdown but nevertheless I think of something like fifty one percent of Trump's voters in exit polls that they're voting against Clinton goes again a bit back the partisanship point if you take partisanship is really the driving force in American politics it helps I think explain why both candidates really start to almost no matter who they are with forty five forty six percent it's because of the sort of organs of partisanship the mechanisms of partisanship the drivers of partisanship media outlets party elites seem eccentric cetera they do such a good job of making you fear the other side that ye may be the case that your candidate is temperamental Ian qualified literally un qualified he acts in an erratic and occasionally scary manner but he's running against a criminal who should be in jail and if that's your choice so yeah okay I mean people often do vote for the lesser of two evils and I think a lot of people Republicans felt like they were doing that in this election so I do think one of the pieces here was that one thing McCaskill is able to do with bacon was you know people are kind okay with that they maybe didn't agree with her but they sort of fundamental like her she's a likable person Clinton particularly Republicans really really really unpopular I think that helped Donald Trump not pay for a lot of what he had done during the campaign I would push either one and seventy s I think that Republican elites have shown much more ability to discipline influenced Donald Trump than you're giving them credit for right that doll Trump having started with a very hazy profile on policy little connection to the institutional conservative movement a tendency to sort of shook from head and say lots and lots of very heavy rocks things has over the course of the past year you know very steadily parked himself as comfortable advancing the interests of inherited wealth financial capital fossil fuel extraction industries which is like the mean the economic temples of the Republican Party he's aligned himself with orthodoxy and guns with orthodoxy on abortion with orthodoxy and Israel I think a fascinating question is about how and why it is that trade agreements that are not that significant have come to play such a large symbolic role in American politics has aligned himself with conservative orthodoxy on all of the most important issues of the day and not because he personally is like a die hard conservative but because he was made to go do that if Republicans wanted to make Donald Trump do other things they couldn't they just don't want to I think we saw in North Carolina for example that like Donald Trump's total disregard for democratic norms is just part of conservative movement orthodoxy has been growing popularity of books from conservative intellectuals about how democracy is bad in people should be allowed to vote is a huge popularity in Rand on the right you know a lot of things like that but I think Trump is a wild character who does a lot of entertaining and disturbing things but who you know fundamentally shows that the conservative movement is a very powerful institution in America and they win elections but people people have to cater to their key priorities I think both of the things that you actually don't agree with most of what he said there I I think Trump clearly created and adopted a pretty Orthodox and in times almost amusingly Orthodox conservative policy platform darl in one of our icebox has made a good point that often times we got in trouble it's because he was trying to parent the standard Republican line in his dinner and stop it right like on on abortion that you know of course you know maybe women need to be punished if they have an abortion I'm not sure that's actually so different from what I'm saying I think that there were couple things happening simultaneously one was obviously trumps attempts to get the Republican Party behind him which overwhelmingly worked and this is part of those attempts but the other was that that is I think a little bit separate even separate in the mines many Republicans from some of Trump's temperamental and character a logical tendencies and I think that a lot of the election played out on this particular reason I mean you very much it was what Hillary Clinton ran against right we've talked about this on the show that Clinton did not run against Trump is an Orthodox Republican she ran against Rob as a kind of dangerous temperamental and personality outlier in American politics he couldn't trust nuclear weapons what Marco Rubio said about Trump a semi with Ted Cruz said about something when you went and looked at what his opponent said about him it was that he was erratic that he was a liar that is a narcissist that he can be trusted and it's those doubts that I think a lot of the electorate him pulling shared a lot of luck that said they thought his temperament was wrong for this job but it just I think that what I had wrong and who it could be what the Clinton camp and wrong and others at wrong was that actually wasn't enough when I say there's a bar I'm actually talking about a pretty non ideological bar I'm not saying that the bar is whether you want to repeal Obamacare or they want to create Obamacare saying that sort of on both sides of the aisle Democrats and Republicans I thought people just took the job of the presidency seriously enough that they would demand someone who's just tendencies temperament made them feel pretty confident I think that is and how people felt about Trump including on the Republican side to talk to a lot of Republican politicians Republican media folks who are very very very concerned about just the way he acted but that wasn't enough to in any serious or significant way and his core support and so it seemed that in the and he sort of had most of or all of one or more public and would have to some combination of Republicans hating Hillary Clinton and Republicans you know noticing that he had adopted their priorities that he was able to pull out a couple more folks who felt left behind by the system or you know maybe thrilled to turn more and more unusual let's put it that way parts of his message and that was geographically certainly a winning coalition yeah I think you know you're saying as are that you talk a lot of folks who are concerned but then like when I was on time talking to Trent voters and most are the opposite like it was an asset that he was always going to say when he was thinking he was not going to hold back that when I was in the very Kentucky that was really happy for Trump a lot of people I talk to their united as them was Trump the person who supported because the candidate Ehrlich in the primaries and pretty universally the people I talk to their days in the primaries like that's a guy who who tells it like it is an AI me I do think that is often inaccurate estimation and that he is not filtering himself in the way we think like this bar weeds to folks filtering themselves it surprise me as well that that was as appealing to people or as it was through the primaries and the general election and the n AME doesn't totally square with the low capability numbers I know this is some anecdotal data bag you think that is again the same vein one thing that surprised me and that that translated almost into Urbana fed in a belief that this is someone who's honest in a way that he was willing to say such outrageous things that he would say he was an honest broker and was was not the I think is something interesting the sort of Trump induced like class shift in voting patterns were college educated people became a new college get why people became unusually unlikely to vote for the Republican nominee where's working class white people became unusually likely to vote for him and it it seems to me that some of that stuff around like language and behavioral norms is really driving that I mean a gap in how sort of professional class people and working class people regard norms of conduct in polite society and that the Clinton campaign to operating to an extent within a little bit of psycho social bubble assume that like everyone would regard this manner behavior as as like outrageous and obviously does qualifying and clearly a large number of people really did but there's a significant minority of the population that sees it like one hundred and eighty degrees the upset like this is what we need in politics is more I'll be polite about it click blunt ness because that's how I was I was taught to be in the EU did they did say I sort of a hint of I I think in American life right is around some of that stuff around like modes of conduct in like is a good or bad in America that we have sort of pressure to self police but I think that's the way in which actually says it does square with a low fever building numbers and this is why I really want to emphasize that I think it's important in the same time to put these things together so it's a David Paul Kuhn wrote this piece and the New York Times Some early this week about how I think it's cool to make no liberals reason didn't elect or bigotry than elect Donald Trump and of course it didn't look to bounce jump was fundamentally first and foremost Republican Republican leaning voters and it's only once he put together that forty four forty five forty six percent would every think it was forty three percent and then he say ok what added the bit on top of that right and there I think that there was it really wasn't most voters because again Trump was extremely unpopular extremely unpopular in the primary the least popular president we've ever elected least popular nominee of a party ever so it wasn't most voters but for some voters at the very things that made him unpopular were exactly what made him great exactly what made him finally some would say what nobody would say which isn't like you know the Mexicans coming across a border war criminals or that the Muslims coming over come on and on ships and on planes were actually terrorists and and that created a very very hot core of Trump support the thing that you need to go back to my learnings from the year that I think I would of thought is that the unpopular part of it the fact that was broadly unpopular is going on road so much of a support that it doesn't matter and the thing that I think the thing that I think we saw was it actually didn't happen it that there is so much pull in American politics to vote for and reasonable rational pull right I mean the parties are very far apart on the issues if you're a Republican you've real reasons not to like Hillary Clinton but the pull of the party was so strong that it really didn't harm him that much that so many people including seventy in the Republican Party including some elites and the Republican Party really found this guy personally Iam not fit for the presidency that as long as he's willing to sing less sometimes most of the time from the from the policy hymnal they were willing to stick by him and then you can put that together with his Mensa pointing out this group of folks who felt uniquely activated by Trump who felt that he was finally someone who is saying what they have always thought finally someone representing them who wouldn't forget them when he got into office and that created what would prove to be a winning coalition but I'll try to emphasize is that for me what was surprising about victory was not how he got from like forty five percent to forty seven point whatever it was the end of that is how he got from thirty five to forty five now as it gets the parties have always been trying to explain and this is more or less my explanation maybe it's true maybe it's not but it's the part it is normal support the folks who like didn't love him we've seen polls I think are really interesting the Trump supporters who love him I think actually a lot of attention throughout the primary about the general election but the folks who turn up at his rallies and so forth but that's not who he won with I mean they they were the final bit of a collection of books one with for actually not that comfortable with them oftentimes but it didn't matter they were more afraid of Hillary Clinton more afraid of the Democrats partisanship is just very very very powerful at this point in American politics in ways I think it almost creates structural incentives to do somewhat trapped dead right Sarah cliff hey ok so I had to leave this thing about mindset and present it to a village the health care law Obamacare I had to leave this thing about Obamacare that I was I've written multiple times its variations the headlines about the gears here to stay Obamacare will be repealed there's this headline I wrote after the King versus Burwell decision really the last big Supreme Court challenge they CA about Obamacare survived its final test and it's here to stay in a road a lot about twenty million people of insurance and Republicans can't take that insurance a way that it now that Democrats have done this thing where they rolled out these benefits to millions of people a lot had really secured its place in history and this year has really been a challenge to the way I've thought about how how benefits and policy in politics interact I had a theory going to this year that as you give people things and I think Democrats should this theory that that they would rally to protect it the other party would be the last side willing to dismantle it that they would not want to take away this thing that people rely on and then we end up in those points where we have the party that has promised to take away concerns and twenty million people elected and really not backing down from those promises really laying the groundwork quite quickly to move forward on repealing the Affordable Care Act and so that is really its challenge my view that benefits are are something that becomes secure quickly or something that are hard to dismantle them and that are hard to take away from people now I do think and we'll get into this as a Daisy hasn't been repealed yet maybe this theory holds more true than I believe it to be but with all the movement toward repeal it makes me much less confident in his view that you can pass a benefits program and expect it to be really entrenched in history the way Medicare and Medicaid have an end that really opens up for me a lot of questions about what the future of entitlement legislation looks like I'm in an may be passing a lot of programs on party line votes do you end up with this kind of policy ping pong where each party is more focused on an electoral victories they don't want to work with the other party and creating entitlement programs see you end up flipping back and forth between the Democrats' version of healthcare in the Republicans' version of health care with very little stability which would be quite different than Medicare Medicaid were passed with bipartisan votes and really didn't see a lot of change in party control there is never good opportunity in the next few decades to take them apart so that I think is the lesson that really is reshaped how I think about the future of entitlement politics yes I agree with that as I know I think USM quibble is that the lesson that one of the time I am less sure of how far it goes yet and obviously we've had this conversation on the podcast before so I think probably what you're saying is right there was a a view Democrats held in twenty ten two dozen items well that just got the Affordable Care Act over the finish line that even if it wasn't popping of the day it passed it would become popular as people began experiencing benefit from it and that has clearly proven false right I think that's part of the lesson and that is just simply discredit it and now point out that I think Republicans have managed to keep up a fervor around this law even as it has been delivering benefits even as it began living benefits in many of their States' rights many states have taken the Medicaid expansion many all the states have a lot of people relying on this insurance but they have kept ideologically very much in the same place where the day it passed them such an amazing fact of American politics how much the views on Obamacare been stable from before the law launched to now years after it's been in effect I mean if you look at those Kaiser tracking polls yes it's been like forty seven forty four forever really are this is like straight line for seven years it's really stunning charts everything we've seen everything we've learned is changed and nobody's minds about anything as it went from theory to fact to like working program nobody anywhere has looked at it and said Well that's better than a hundred times worse than I thought so it really actually just shows how much this stuff is probably not driven by how the programs go but actually about underlying again to go back to Osaka matter of blind partisan divides that said I think the jury's still out on what is going to happen when Republicans actually wielding the power to repeal it try to appeal and or replace it I think the thing that they're trying to do right now with a pass a repeal and replace bill that has no replacement and put her pee on a two year time delay action some ways makes mii doubt even more that they can really do what they think they can do now that the pill for reasons he talked about Sarah's sort of a disaster because it will probably collapse marketplaces in the meantime but I'm not thinking about it like that what I do think you see there's the inevitable come around around come together around a replacement that it's going to be their mess now and were in Kentucky and your Poppy hooks or Trump voters who do care about this law and did not really believe that he would take it away from them they're going to hear from a lot of people like that I think it was you can correct me if wrong please Governor Martinez the other day from New Mexico's star Republican governor who came out and said that you know hey if they really just funded Obamacare that would be a real lack of critical problems in her state I think going to hear that from a lot of governors so when she published a really good play a piece from John King style which is a more optimistic take on this than frankly where I set but he had this this line where he said that repeal and replace is going to be He replaced by I think it was reform and rename that they would have to come up with something those of fairly like Obamacare but you know Trump care they could put their ownership stamp on the node changed a bunch of things here and there but didn't create a ton of pain and you may be right about that I think I take a lesson I should agree with most of it but I'm not sure we've seen the final piece of it yet I'm not sure I think we've seen that won't become popular but I'm not sure we know how truly vulnerable it is because like there one day going to have to like look at a world where if a site like Donald Trump puts pen to paper on this piece of statute there's going to be a day the next year or October of the next year when sixty million people can lose her health insurance and that is a day of very very very bad press coverage and we'll see how we'll see how much they want that I so agree with everything has been said I just want to state the welfare state in trench main thesis a little bit differently I took Paul Peterson's at class class in college he's author of old but called rolling back the welfare state question mark it's a book primarily about Ronald Reagan era United States and even more importantly actually Margaret Thatcher zz United Kingdom because they're in effect no institutional impediments to a UK governing majority doing whatever it wants wide of catcher had wanted to pass a law saying there's no national health service at all it's place but nothing everyone is just out on the streets nobody could stop our right but you didn't do that as she din do anything like that even if she implemented some very dramatic changes in UK public policy the basic framework of the welfare state stayed in place and the reason that I believe this would be true of the Affordable Care Act wasn't that I thought the law would become popular or the name would become popular or anything like that but because once these things are in place you develop a group of stakeholders skew know they are whether it's hospital administrators or medical doctors or the guy who owns a chain of gas stations in eastern Kentucky town where many people get affordable Care Act benefits just like the whole web of people people in an elite Sen and business types and elected officials I thought I'd tried to represent their constituents right like those people like the communities there was reporting and she talked a lot to like the individual like low income people who are getting Affordable Care Act
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