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Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes
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Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes

Author: Chris Hayes, MSNBC & NBCNews THINK

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Every week Chris Hayes asks the big questions that keep him up at night. How do we make sense of this unprecedented moment in world history? Why is this (all) happening?

This podcast starts to answer these questions. Writers, experts, and thinkers who are also trying to get to the bottom of them join Chris to break it all down and help him get a better night’s rest. “Why is this Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBCNews Think.
156 Episodes
This conversation starts at Grid Talk 101 (what even is an energy grid) and ends at the fragility of modern life. That can only mean one thing – David Roberts is back. An energy and climate journalist, Roberts explains that we have every reason to believe that we’ll see an increase in the freak weather events like the one that wrought havoc on Texas. And as we witnessed firsthand, one failure, one breakdown in a system, can have a deadly domino effect resulting in some truly dystopic conditions in a matter of days. So how can we avoid another Texas-sized meltdown? And what exactly went wrong in the first place? You can subscribe to the Volts newsletter here and find David Roberts on Twitter here.
A short while ago, you may have seen posts crossing your social media feeds from celebrities and activists like Rihanna or Greta Thunberg showing support for farmers in India. Right now, one of the world’s largest protest movements is taking place across India. Millions of farmers are demonstrating against a set of policy proposals passed by Narendra Modi and his government. In turn, Modi has tried to quash the movement, going so far as attempting to force Twitter to silence any critical voices. This week, journalist and Washington Post columnist, Rana Ayyub, joins to discuss the protest movement and how Modi’s reaction to it fits his pattern of illiberalism and nationalism that marches India away from democracy.     
Roughly 19 million acres of eastern Oklahoma hung in the balance in the summer of 2020. Before the Supreme Court was a case asking a question crucial to Native land rights - does the United States still honor the treaties signed in the 1800s promising that land to indigenous tribes? And in a landmark 5-4 decision penned by conservative justice Neil Gorsuch, the court ruled that yes, that land remains reservation land. It was a huge win - but what does it mean? Joining us this week is Rebecca Nagle, a member of the Cherokee tribe and host of a phenomenal podcast titled "This Land", detailing the long fight leading up to this moment.Read the McGirt v Oklahoma opinionListen to Whose Land
Come on a journey with us, dear listener, as we learn the little-known origins of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s beloved obstruction tactic. Turns out, we owe the filibuster to the efforts of John C. Calhoun, a virulent racist and spiritual father of the Confederacy, as he tried to protect the power of a minority of Senators who represented slave states. So how did the filibuster go from a tool of the South, to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, to today, where a single email is enough to block legislation? That’s right – a single email. With prophetic-like timing, Senate insider Adam Jentleson just released a new book examining the history of the filibuster, making the case that it’s partially responsible for turning the Senate into one of the greatest threats to our democracy. Read Kill Switch:The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy by Adam Jentleson
Content warning: This episode discusses the recent federal executions and details the circumstances of some related crimes, including abuse, assault, rape, and murder.For 17 years, the federal execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, sat dormant. Then, with only six months left in his Presidency, Donald Trump and AG Bill Barr oversaw an unprecedented 13 executions. Of those 13, three took place during his final week in office. So why, with one foot out the door, did the Trump administration take extraordinary measures to rush through a historic slate of executions? This has been the center of Intercept Senior Reporter Liliana Segura’s work for a long time. One of the best people on this beat, Segura spent months traveling to Terre Haute over and over again as the spree unfolded. So when it came to learning more about what just happened, who these people were, and what it means for the death penalty more broadly, we knew who to turn to.
We have a lot to get to with legendary tech journalist Kara Swisher this week: the deplatforming of President Trump, the conservative obsession with Section 230 (what even is Section 230), why Parler went dark (what even is Parler), and why some Republicans would rather complain about losing Twitter followers than address the deadly attack on the Capitol.
One day after the attack on the Capitol, Chris Hayes and author Ta-Nehisi Coates sat down to process what we witnessed as a nation and what it reveals about the fragility of American democracy.RELATED READING:Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Chris HayesWe Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi CoatesThe Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
What can bourbon teach us about legacy, nostalgia, and consumer trends? Pappy Van Winkle is some of the most coveted bourbon in the world, but it took three generations of labor and loss to reach this pinnacle. Author Wright Thompson spent years with the third generation Van Winkle, who brought the family business back from the brink, studying the careful craftsmanship and rich history that goes into every barrel they produce. With a drink so inextricably tied to a distinct time and place, Wright found an opportunity to interrogate the mythology of the South, the seduction of nostalgia, and what it means to make things that last.RELATED READING:Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last by Wright ThompsonBourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey by Reid Mitenbuler
In June 2018 Donald Trump posed with then Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou at a ground breaking ceremony for the new Foxconn facility in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin. Touted as “the eighth wonder of the world” by the president, the multi-billion dollar deal was supposed to produce a 20-million-square-foot manufacturing complex, thousands of jobs, and the beginning of a new well-paying manufacturing sector in the American Midwest. Over two years later, almost none of that has happened. Instead of thousands of new jobs and a promising facility, Wisconsin looks to have been left holding the bag on a deal that was over promised and under delivered. This week, investigations editor and feature writer at The Verge, Josh Dzieza, joins to talk about what happened with the Wisconsin-Foxconn deal and why its promise was doomed to fail.The Eighth Wonder of the World by Josh Dzieza Foxconn tells Wisconsin it never promised to build an LCD factory by Josh Dzieza
Congressman Max Rose says he has no regrets. Elected in the 2018 blue wave, he flipped New York’s conservative-leaning 11th district, which includes all of Staten Island and a corner of Brooklyn. Now, two years later, he’s one of the frontline Democrats who lost their reelection left wondering what went wrong. In our continuing dissection of the 2020 election, we sat (back) down with Rep. Rose to get a candid perspective on what pundits are getting wrong and what, if anything, he’d do differently. You Might Also Like:From Red to Blue with Rep. Max Rose (June 25, 2019)The Democratic Coalition After 2020 with David Shor (Dec 15, 2020)The Down-Ballot Democrats with Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (Dec 1, 2020)How Red is Texas with Abby Livingston (Nov 17, 2020)
What were the shifts in the 2020 election? Why was the polling so off? How did the coalitions change? As the dust settles, and we can dive into official numbers, a clearer picture is forming of what actually happened during this election cycle. David Shor is a political data scientist who works to help elect Democrats. This week, David joins to look at the data and help answer some of the outstanding questions about the 2020 election. As well as layout the trends that have led to this political moment and the landscape going forward.
The local newspaper is dying. Across the country, newsrooms are either shuttering completely or struggling through massive staff layoffs. It's becoming increasingly clear that in the void left by trusted local reporting, misinformation is taking root. A sweeping investigation by the New York Times uncovered a conservative pay-for-play network that disguises itself as unbiased local coverage. The enterprise includes 1300 sites spanning all 50 states, and with familiar web layouts and innocuous titles like Wichita Standard or Illinois Valley Times, you may have come across one and been none the wiser. New York Times reporter Davey Alba is one of the journalists who broke the story and joins to explain what tipped her off, who is behind it all, and the role social media plays in this moment.RELATED READING:As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place by Davey Alba and Jack NicasHere Are the Hundreds of Sites in a Pay-to-Play Local News NetworkFind more of Davey Alba’s work hereDozens of new websites appear to be Michigan local news outlets, but with political bent by Carol Thompson
What happened to the down-ballot Democrats? Going into election day, Democrats were expecting to pick up seats and expand their control of the House. Instead, they suffered consequential blows, still managing to hold the majority but ultimately losing seats. It was a shock that launched a bevy of post-mortems trying to figure out what went wrong. For Florida Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell it was impossible to sit back and listen as folks diagnosed from the sidelines what she had experienced firsthand; elected to office in part of the 2018 blue wave, Rep. Mucarsel-Powell lost her re-election bid this November. In fact, her majority-Hispanic district swung 22 points to Trump this year. While there are no straightforward clean cut answers about what unfolded in the election, Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell offers a clear-eyed take of what she witnessed in Southern Florida and what she thinks the biggest lesson is for the Democratic Party.
Has online activism and doomscrolling through twitter turned politics into just a hobby for people? At what point is it just a way to spend time rather than affect meaningful change? This week Tufts University professor, Eitan Hersh, joins to talk about what he diagnoses as “political hobbyism”, what real political engagement looks like, and argues how this self-gratifying online hobbyism can be detrimental to the real political activism needed to create change. Politics is for Power: How To Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, And Make Real Change
Are Republicans losing their grip on Texas? Election night saw Democrats largely unable to build on the gains made in 2018 when an insurgent Beto O’Rourke ran a grassroots senate campaign that gained national attention. But despite frustrations from Democrats that they didn’t perform as well as they hoped this November, there’s still cause for concern among Texas Republicans. The population in metro areas is growing rapidly and demographics are moving to the left. So just how strong is the Republican hold on Texas? Abby Livingston is the Washington bureau chief for The Texas Tribune and just so happens to be a seventh generation Texan. She lays out the origins of the Republican domination of the Lone Star State, what clues she picked up on that things were starting to change, and what to keep an eye on in future elections.
The U.S. just surpassed 10 million confirmed cases of coronavirus as infection rates spike across the country. If you look at the charts tracking the reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, it shows the country on a dangerous trajectory. How did we get to this point? Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has spent time studying the sociology of pandemics and says her alarm bells were going off all the way back in January. She’s spent months writing with an almost unparalleled clarity about the many interlocking aspects of the pandemic, often with insights than turn out to be well ahead of the curve. Tufekci lends her insights on the early missteps in containing this pandemic and what a success story would look like.How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right (New York Times, Aug 2020)Follow Zeynep on TwitterTwitter and Tear Gas by Zeynep Tufekci
What is the deal with all those fundraising emails? The ones with increasingly dramatic subject lines and maybe a dash of emotional manipulation – they’re everywhere, but do they work? There’s a science to the fundraising email, a lot of data, research, and trial and error. It’s something Michael Whitney’s spent a lot of time thinking about, first in ‘03 on the Howard Dean campaign, and most recently on both the ‘16 and ‘20 Sanders campaigns where he worked as digital fundraising manager. Online fundraising is a massive source of Democratic funds and this year it has exploded, with campaigns taking in record breaking sums. So what are the strategies at play? Whitney breaks down the power of small dollar fundraising, what works and what doesn’t, and when campaigns go too far. Plus, hear Chris describe his campaign stress dreams for some #relatablecontent.Follow Michael Whitney on Twitter
Why is Donald Trump doing better with Latino voters in 2020 than he was in 2016? The central tension in even asking that question is – who exactly are Latino voters? As campaign veteran Chuck Rocha points out, beneath that label is a deeply diverse group. Still, Rocha found success in reaching Latino voters as senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign. So what did he do right that other campaigns are struggling to do? From outreach to messaging to the undeniable generational divide, Chuck Rocha dives deep into the voting bloc that could decide the election.RELATED READING:Tío Bernie: The Inside Story of How Bernie Sanders Brought Latinos Into the Political Revolution by Chuck Rocha
What does the world think of us right now? Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power says it isn’t surprising that our standing in the world has dropped, but rather just how precipitous those drops have been. This conversation, conducted as part of the Texas Tribune Festival, unpacks the sources of humiliation and isolation brought about by the Trump administration and what the stakes are for American democracy in the international context.RELATED LINKS:Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power
We are just weeks away from an unprecedented election day. In order to vote safely during the pandemic, more people than ever are voting by mail or early in person, and early numbers point to a strong likelihood of record turnout. There are hundreds of lawsuits across the country centered on access to polling places, ballot drop boxes, and deadlines for ballots. And on top of all of that, we have a President whose rhetoric is directly aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the election if he doesn’t win. This week, election law professor, Edward Foley, sits down to give an under-the-hood look at our election administration and the current logistical concerns, and walks through the worst-case legal scenarios of a contested election result.Presidential Elections and Majority Rule: The Rise, Demise and Potential Restoration of the Jeffersonian Electoral College Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States
Comments (195)

Rebecca Bennett

"Prosumer" ⚡🎸

Feb 24th

Diane Neglia

What is the name of the rule that they got rid of that allowed the filibuster? Because instead of writing my senators to get rid of the filibuster, maybe we write them to reinstate the original rule.

Feb 14th


Sneak preview of the next few episodes! Episode 153: Still obsessed with Trump. Episode 154: Still obsessed with Trump. Episode 155: ^^

Jan 22nd

Philly Burbs

Excellent story. I think you are an excellent host. This story would have been helpful to be aired on TV weeks before the election. Why do we have to listen to podcasts to hear actual news? Why do most cable news shows repeat the same story/tweet verbatim, 24/7 with different faces? Why does cable news air opinions, not facts 80% of the time? Viewers think they are facts because the show has NEWS in its title. Some guests are paid lobbyists, not educated professionals in whatever field they are talking about. That's how the deniers of climate change started. Paid Lobbyists appearing as professionals on the "News". I have wasted years of my life watching the cable version of "The View" called the News. Can anything be done about it? We now have conspiracy-mongering ripping our country apart, calling themselves " News, " in actually they are an easy way for the people involved to make millions/billions. Greed. I believe in freedom of speech. Our "real news" must be protected. I believe some news shows should not be allowed to call themselves news stations, rather Opinion TV. What do you think? Would love a series on TV on this topic.

Jan 6th

Karin Mazaki

My mom worked for the classified section of a local Chicago paper. I know, double death. I don't think classified ads are necessary in a major city paper but the local news is. Lerner Newspapers helped to inform the locals about what the alderman was up to. About crime and local events. It was part of community organizing. If you look up the story about Warren Park in Rogers Park in the 70's, you will understand what it really means for a whole community to come together. I'm sure the local paper had something to say about it.

Dec 8th


Chris. No one notices any diffence in sound quality but you:). Just keep speaking truth!

Oct 28th

Renee Oliver

Great podcast! Thank you.

Oct 17th


I keep hoping that QAon is just an elaborate joke created by the actor John DeLance who is best known for playing the character Q on Star Trek and he's just doing this to troll the right. I don't think it is.

Oct 3rd

Adam Schexnaydre

There is some misinformation in some of this podcast. Maybe talk to someone in the industry?

Aug 26th

Don McKinnon

like, Please learn how to speak without having to say "like" all the time. Disgusting to listen to and had to stop.

Aug 18th

Bella BabyGirl

Love Max Rose, my Husband and I voted for him last time and will be voting for him again this November!

Aug 18th


Totally enlightening!

Aug 14th

Jeanne LaTerza Jordan

Thank you, Chris, for bringing this conversation to us. As a white woman, I continue to try to learn more and more about the struggles and realities of American life for Blacks. My public education left huge gaps in my understanding of the history of Africa Americans so I'm catching up.

Jul 8th

Iain Robb

great episode

Jun 16th

Jeff B

I get the impression that they either were distracted during watching or viewed it through a bias.

May 27th

Robert Tolbert

It would be great if you had Dan Heath on the podcast.

May 27th

Andre Pawlowski

yeah, not going to feel bad for anyone who can get whatever they want at the drop of a dime.

May 26th

Norma Powell Byron

Dr. Omarova lays out truly enlightened and well-conceived thinking to recreate and improve modern investment and banking. Wow.

May 23rd

Hamish Lamont

Superb interview. I immediately grabbed the book on Audible.

May 13th

Nellie Fly

Jon is so listenable. I dig his voice and style. I'd like to see a deep dive into why boy-wonder speechwriters, advisers, pundits are all Jesuit-educated! Is it just me? Get David Brooks' people on the blower😆🤙

May 8th
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