00:06I am very excited to welcome yasha monk00:09and EJ Dionne back to politics and pros00:11Yasha monk is here to talk about his new00:13book the People vs democracy why our00:16freedom is in danger and how to save it00:20as the cold war drew to a close in 198900:24Francis Fukuyama’s the end of history00:27posited that liberal democracy had won00:30and would be the final ideological forum00:33but almost 30 years later we see that00:35this is not in fact the case00:38drawing on recent examples from the US00:41and Europe monk demonstrates how as00:43liberalism and democracy come apart they00:46tend towards extremes of either an00:49illiberal democracy under the sway of00:53populist demagogues or an undemocratic00:57liberalism run by two technocratic00:59elites Yasha Monk is the author of the01:02age of responsibility and is a lecturer01:05Harvard as well as a senior fellow in01:08the political reform program at new01:11America01:12he is joined today in conversation by EJ01:15Dionne01:16a Washington Post columnist and01:18co-author of one nation after Trump01:20which we also have many copies of here01:22at the store so Melissa please give a01:24warm welcome to Yoshi McKinney javion01:33Thank You Isaac I asked so I wouldn’t01:36have to so that was very kind of him01:39Thanks thank you all for coming and01:41thanks to a lot of old friends I see01:43here today I just want to say politics01:46and prose arranges some of the very best01:49conversations on the crisis facing01:51democracy and on public problems01:55generally and I think if we could locate01:57a politics in Pro and pros in every01:59community in the United States and02:01across the democracies we wouldn’t have02:04a yahoo in the pad to write this book02:06I’m also really happy to be here because02:09like many of you I have become a Yasha02:11fan over the last several years I admire02:15his sharp mind and warm heart and both02:18of them are02:19and he comes at his concern for a02:22liberal democracy and his commitment to02:24a greater degree of social justice from02:27both personal experience and deep and02:29serious philosophical reflection that02:32earlier book is is really good too if02:34they have it around here today he’ll02:37sign them both I am sure if you care to02:39buy one I just what I want to do what02:43we’re going to do today is have a02:44conversation up here he and I have been02:46talking about this book for a while02:48indeed he was kind enough to visit with02:50my students up at Harvard where I taught02:53last semester and gave them an advance02:55look at some of the chapters of the book02:56and we had a wonderful conversation02:58there and he and I have had friendly03:00discussions including a couple of03:02arguments that I want to service here03:04friend very friendly arguments won over03:07populism and the other over the role of03:10young people in the future and so we’re03:13going to talk about that but first I03:16want y’all should I have a chance to03:17introduce the book I am going to read03:19every author should have a paragraph03:21like this in the book that very neatly03:24summarizes the core argument in this03:27case of the first half of what the03:29problems are so I’m going to read this03:31and then I’m going to ask Yasha to tell03:33you a bit about himself because as I say03:36his commitment on these issues comes03:37from his own background he became an03:40American citizen last year correct we03:42should welcome Yasha with a round of03:44applause and we are very lucky to have03:49him and I want him to talk about sort of03:52his background a bit and how he came to03:55write this book then we will get to some03:59of the issues but first my dramatic04:01reading once upon a time liberal04:04democracies could assure their citizens04:06of a very rapid increase in their living04:09standards now they no longer can04:12once-upon-a-time political elites04:14control the most important means of04:16communication and could effectively04:18exclude radical views from the public04:20sphere04:21now political Outsiders can spread lies04:23and hatred with abandon and once upon a04:26time the homogeneity of their citizens04:28or at least a see for a shil hierarchy04:31was a big part04:32of what held liberal democracies04:34together now citizens have to learn how04:37to live in a much more equal and diverse04:39democracy04:40welcome Yasha and please tell folks a04:43bit about yourself and how you came to04:45write this book like at what moment04:47after how many hours after either breaks04:50it or Trump’s election did you decide04:54well well I think what sort of04:57interesting surprising is what I started04:59to write this book before I’ve a brexit05:01Oh Trump happened um other people05:03weren’t so interested in me writing the05:05book at the time because they kind of05:07thought I was a little bit of a weird05:08crank when I started to to argue three05:12four years ago05:13there’s real warning sign for our05:16democracies not assume United States but05:18in big parts of Europe as well05:20people always accuse me of being a05:22Cassandra um and I wanted to respond to05:25I didn’t because I realized oh just give05:26me you know dig me even deep into the05:28hole Cassandra was right damn it that’s05:30the whole point of Cassandra that’s his05:33next book that’s my Cassandra was right05:36dammit exclamation mark there uh you05:40know I mean why is it that our sort of05:41more life to those dangers then when05:43some other people I think a mix of a05:46personal story and some academic05:47interest of mine I mean so you know05:49personally my family has had a bad habit05:52of being in the wrong place at the wrong05:54time for these free generations so I’ve05:56seen you know and my great grandparents05:59my grandparents my parents how you know06:02the political situation ended up being06:04quite differently from what they06:05expected and how they affect that06:07affected their own lives so I think you06:09know to me the idea that political06:11systems can turn and then that can have06:14quite tragic consequences in a very06:15personal way is is concrete rather than06:19abstract and that I think probably06:21anticipating a little bit what part of06:23our conversation might be later06:24separates me from many other people my06:26generation who grew up in United States06:28or other people who grew up in big parts06:30of Europe the other thing is where as an06:32academic I started to think about how06:36people actually feel about our political06:37system now what people have known for a06:40long time is that approval ratings for06:44Congress and for particular politicians06:46keep getting lower that participation06:49and former politics gets lower and also06:51some united states but also in Europe06:53that people the approval ratings for for06:57Congress of Supreme Court for presidency06:59have been sinking but forty years ago07:01people trusted politicians and now we07:04don’t anymore and majority so that was07:06all clear it with a colleague of mine of07:08metaphor we started to look at how do07:11people actually feel about a political07:12system itself so do they say it’s07:15important to him to live in a democracy07:16are they open to a foreign alternatives07:19to democracy and we started to see that07:22those attitudes had started to shift as07:24well but actually fewer young people now07:28say it’s really important to him to live07:29in a democracy but the number of people07:31who say I want a strongman leader who07:33doesn’t have to bubble of parliament or07:34elections or even I think army rule is a07:37good system of government has gone up07:39significant and so you know when we saw07:42that a few years before Trump was07:43elected we really started to worry about07:46what’s going on when you look back at07:50we’re opinion was in a lot of the West07:54after the fall of the Berlin Wall and07:57loose in his wonderful book has a07:59wonderful description of journeying to08:02the wall very excited with a bunch of08:04students and there was a feeling that08:05aha liberal democracy has finally08:08triumphed a lot of these problems have08:10disappeared and there is nothing but08:13success on the horizon what happened08:17what happened and why were these08:20predictions so wall what were people08:22missing in 1989 or did developments08:26afterward change yeah so the obvious way08:30to frame this is around Francis08:31Fukuyama’s argument the end of history08:33which said that for the first time in08:37living memory there was no real08:38ideological competitor to liberal08:40democracy in the 19th century that been08:42absolute monarchy but some degree be in08:44favor Christie but 20th century was08:46fascism and communism all of those had08:48failed and in 1989 though Fukuyama have08:52a claim for democracy was everywhere08:54that there would no longer be any08:55historical event so it’s a miss reading08:56what he was saying he said08:59yes sir he was saying look there’s no09:03real system that people would rather09:05live in people are deeply committed to09:07liberal democracy of the system and so09:09we don’t really have to worry about its09:11persistence now even some people who are09:13skeptical of Fukuyama actually bought09:15that cool faeces for big parts of North09:19America and Western Europe so political09:21scientists who would you know were very09:22empirical and counting you know numbers09:25and playing around and Stata and are09:26they09:27they might afford over the end of09:29history you know what a silly phrase but09:31they actually had the same belief so09:33there’s a famous article by someone09:34called Adam Przewalski’s in the 90s who09:36said look at all of the democracies that09:38have over 15,000 dollars GDP per capita09:40but have had at least two changes of09:43government for free and fair elections09:45well you know what all of those places09:47are safe you no longer have to worry09:49about the persistence of a democratic09:51system in those countries09:55and those reliant on the assumption that09:57democracy had become consolidated which09:59is a phrase in literature which would10:01mean when was the only game in town and10:03that’s precisely what we set out to test10:05and what we described what I described10:06with some degree in this book which is10:08is it still true but everybody gives us10:10importance to democracy is it still true10:12that people reject versus alternatives10:14to moxie out of hand and most10:16importantly are there any politicians10:18and political movements that will10:22actually have real power in the system10:23and reject the most basic rules and10:26norms of liberal10:28office for a long time that’s no longer10:30the case that populace had been rising10:32not just here and there and American10:34primaries where they sort of shut up for10:37a little moment and when crashed again I10:39think of all of the extreme candidates10:41but briefly led the pack and Republican10:43primary fields not just in 2016 but in10:462012 and 2008 and so on so forth but you10:50also saw a very steady rise of populism10:53in Europe for a long time in a paper10:55with some news here today Martin Hammond10:57we show that the share of populist11:00parties in Europe has increased from11:02about 8 percent in mere 2000 to 2511:05percent more reason and so the whole11:10world on which we based the conviction11:13but we don’t have to worry about11:15democracy anymore after 1989 went far11:17beyond and I think it’s now been11:20challenged in ways would go far beyond11:23Donald Trump but a few weeks back a11:25Brahmin and was here to talk about his11:27book to fight against the age he thinksit’s actually important that we callthis new right-wing nationalism by itsname and he believes that aim is fascismdo you agree with that or or not and howdo you analyze what is the nature ofthis ideologyI disagree for up on this and andthere’s a number of reasons for thatI’m the first is that11:56it’s really easy to think of the11:59collapse of democracy as requiring12:00something like what happened in Germany12:02in the nineteen thirties12:04right so we’re only going to lose12:06democracy if lots of people give a12:08Hitler salute you know by riebeck ugly12:10black boots and ran from the center of12:13town of tortures right and some of that12:16happens some of that exists and when you12:17look at Charlottesville there’s12:18obviously people who quite openly are12:21fascists in our country today but you12:24know what despite all of horribleness of12:26what happened in Charlottesville that12:27was the only danger we faced I wouldn’t12:30be too concerned I wouldn’t be writing12:32this me what you see fo in countries12:34from Russia to to Turkey and countries12:39today like Poland and Hungary is there12:41as many other ways in which democracy12:43can come under real attack and those are12:45a lot much more subtle it’s not people12:47who say I’m a fascist I want to get rid12:50of democracy it’s people who say you12:52know what you’ve been disempowered12:54people have taken a real power away from12:56you and I’m the only real Democrat I12:59alone actually represent the people13:01I am your voice as Donald Trump said in13:02the Republican National Convention so13:05give me your votes what I can return13:07power to the people and that I think is13:09the real danger to democracy at the13:11moment so calling that fascist is makes13:14us lazy because we think well there’s13:16nobody in in black boots and torches in13:18the streets so why should we worry and I13:20think it makes it more difficult for us13:23to understand the specific nature of13:25populism now here we have a disagreement13:28as perhaps some of you saw so AJ is13:31excellent column and Washington Post I’m13:32about a week ago in which he basically13:35says there’s good forms of populism13:37now you know the word populism is a13:39little confusing um and and you know13:42there are some people who have13:43historically been quote populist who has13:45sometimes called populist now who I13:47think can contribute a certain13:48corrective to the system but the way13:50that I describe populism in this book13:52and the way that I can make sense of it13:54I don’t think there is such a good13:56fingers good and the reason the13:58following word is a populist at heart14:00it’s not somebody who says the certain14:03things wrong with our politicians and14:05some of them are corrupt and some of my14:06self-serving and it’s really important14:08that we win in order to make through14:09that’s a normal part of Porter’s those14:12Barack Obama as much as anybody else14:13right talk about a rigged system and so14:15on there’s nothing dangerous about that14:18but what populist s– have uniquely is14:21that they say only I truly represent the14:26people the only reason why we have any14:29real political problems at the moment is14:30the politicians are corrupt and14:31self-serving and I can fix all of that14:34because I stand for ordinary people I14:36manage to channel their wisdom and their14:39views and this means with anybody who14:42opposes me who disagrees with me is by14:44definition illegitimate so give me all14:47of the power and if the courts are going14:49to stand up to that because what I’m14:51doing is unconstitutional then they are14:54being an American14:56right if the media is criticizing me14:59then they’re enemies of the people if15:01your position is trying to use its15:03institutional prerogatives to limit how15:06much I can do then they are traitors and15:09this is true of populist in different15:12countries and of different stripes15:14Donald Trump and recive erawan and15:16Google Shabbos don’t have much in common15:18for example Donald Trump doesn’t seem to15:20be overly fond of Muslims whereas15:22receipe Erawan doesn’t seem to be overly15:24fond of anybody who’s not a Muslim but15:27they share this trait they share the15:29trait of saying the only reasons why we15:32have political problems as bad feelings15:34are corrupt15:34I represent ordinary people and I can15:37solve it but to do that you have to give15:39me all of the power because anybody who15:41disagrees with me is a traitor is15:43legitimate and that kind of populism15:46will always be a danger to the basic15:50principles of democracy and that’s why I15:51think is always going to be dangerous I15:53don’t want to pursue this too far15:54because I want yeah should I have a15:56chance to present the rest of his book15:57but just for fun I want to just take15:59this one one time which is in a way is16:02your argument about populism in16:04contradiction to the argument about16:05fascism because what Rob’s argument is16:08is you don’t have to wear Jack boots are16:10seeing the horse vessel song to be a16:12fascist and that in fact the danger may16:15be hidden from us because people are16:17doing it in the name of democracy and16:19after all the word VOC that Hitler16:21invoked was the people and so there is16:25so I just want to pursue that and then16:28on the populist side I I would basically16:32assert and we that this why we probably16:34shouldn’t go too long on this populism16:36is an essentially contested concept and16:39I think that there are those who see16:41populist more in ameri in the terms of16:44our old American populist movement which16:46was largely a democratizing movement and16:49I think there’s actually a difference16:50across the oceans on this as well which16:53is I think Europeans because of the16:56nature of the right-wing populism you16:58face are more likely to see populism as17:01anti-democratic so just take that and17:03then I want to just pursue a couple17:05arguments in the book and I want to let17:06this learn an audience participate as17:09well17:10so look like certainly certain17:11similarities between some forms of17:13populism in some forms of fascism but17:15but very essential differences as well17:17one of them is how openly hostile17:19fascism is to democracy which yes the17:22fact but I agree the problems covertly17:24hostile to to democracy but but fascism17:27has always been openly hostile and17:29that’s an important thing to understand17:30and so if we think is vis like fascism17:33we’re gonna say well Donald Trump is not17:34overtly hostile to democracy so why does17:37anybody worry we all Toronto firms as17:39some people have charge right and that’s17:40that’s a real mistake that really makes17:42it more difficult for us to understand17:43there’s also crucial difference in the17:45kind of forms of political regime that17:48those countries tend to Institute so17:51there was an important distinction17:52between dictatorships and totalitarian17:57regimes right most fascist systems tend18:00to be totalitarian regimes which is to18:03say that every sphere of politics on18:06society becomes deeply imbued with18:10ideological fervor you cannot have a18:13chess club that isn’t organized along18:16fascist lines right and that is the same18:18in communist um now I think populist18:22don’t tend to erect regimes like that18:23when you think of Turkey when you think18:25of Russia there are places where as long18:28as you don’t criticize the government as18:30long as you don’t pose a threat to the18:33dictator you get to do whatever you want18:35and so again I think populism and18:37fascism actually erect systems that are18:40very different as well18:41now look I agree with you this concept18:43of essentially contests that is18:45important right there’s no one natural18:47way of defining democracy there’s no one18:49natural way of defining populism in a18:52way it is a question of which definition18:55allows us to understand what’s going on18:58in the world the best at the moment and19:00what I would say is that for I19:03understand was different kinds of19:04movement called populist in American19:06history I don’t think that that is very19:09useful as a term at the moment because19:11what we need to understand is why is all19:13of this stuff happening around the world19:15why do you see erawan and Turkey why do19:17you see Victor Arbonne in Hungary why do19:19you see marine lepen in France why do19:21you see Donald Trump in the United19:22States all of the same19:23and the best way of making sense of that19:26I think is to use my understanding and19:28be understanding some of the economic19:29literature on populism because that19:32precisely brings out with very important19:34commonalities between people who also19:36have some important differences to each19:37other let’s go through some of the core19:41arguments of the book you talk and and19:44let’s sort of start with economics19:48versus immigration and we’ve talked19:50about this before one of the hardest19:51things I think to sort through is19:54whether this surge was caused by a19:57globalized economy economic distress the20:01decline of upward mobility particularly20:03here in the US or whether the driving20:07force even more than economics was a20:10fear of widespread immigration of20:12backlash against widespread immigration20:15on the side of the immigration the20:17primacy of immigration would be the idea20:21that some of these movements have shown20:22up in places like the Netherlands which20:25have fairly well distributed economic20:27growth relative to other countries but20:32I’d like you to sort of parse economics20:35versus immigration and maybe give people20:38a sense of some of what you talk about20:40as solutions to these dilemmas so first20:44of all in trying to understand why is20:46all of this happening at the moment I20:48took inspiration from a story that at20:50first has nothing to do with populism or20:52Donald Trump so it’s a nice little20:53respite told by Bertrand Russell he said20:57well once upon a time there was a21:00chicken on a farm and it led a very nice21:03life it was a kind of chicken we’d all21:04like to eat for dinner which is to say21:06that you know it’s got to run around21:07freely and do whatever it wanted um and21:12and but all the other animals on the21:14farm kept warning it and said be careful21:16one day the farmer is gonna come and21:20kill you I’m a chicken said what are you21:22talking about that farmers be nice to me21:24all of my life he’s always fed me and21:27muttered some encouraging words21:28why would things suddenly be so21:30different well Russell and his nice wit21:33says that eventually of course but21:35chicken21:36did learn but he was wrong the the21:38farmer came to ring with chicken snack21:41showing that more sophisticated views as21:44the uniformity of causation would have21:45been to a chicken’s benefit what does he21:48mean by that right while the most21:50sophisticated views of uniformity of21:52causation what what he meant is quite21:53simple that scope conditions on how the21:55social world works right as long as the21:58chicken was too thin to be taken to a21:59market the farmer had an incentive to22:01keep feeding it once it was big enough22:03to fetch a decent price how he behaved22:07was going to change now why is it that22:10liberal democracy has been incredibly22:11stable around the world for the last 5022:13or 60 years and now we start to see it22:15seemingly being less and less stable22:17well let’s look at the scope conditions22:19what was truthful is past 50 60 years22:22there is no longer true and it seems to22:24me would best three big things there and22:26we’re sometimes put in competition with22:27each other but all of the interesting22:29phenomena in human history have always22:31had more than one cause the world is not22:33mono causal right so the first is living22:38standards in the United States from 194522:40to 1960 the living standards of the22:43average American doubled from 1960 to22:461985 we doubled again since 1985 they’ve22:50been stagnant now that makes a real22:53difference about how people perceive22:55politics they used to say well you know22:58what um I don’t love politicians you23:01know his belt with his Washington DC23:03stuff you know it’s a little weird but23:05in the end they seem to be delivering23:07for me right they seem to be sticking to23:09their end of a deal so let’s give him23:11the benefit of a doubt now people are23:14saying I’m allowed to swear in this23:17bookstore yeah that’s where one since he23:19was a shot off my microphone um now23:21people are saying you know what I’ve23:23worked really hard all of my life I23:24don’t have much to show for it I think23:26my kids are gonna be worse off than me23:27let’s throw some against who won’t23:29see what sticks how bad can things get23:30how mile that is I know our country if23:36it weren’t for Trump would have gotten a23:38better reaction and now look the23:41counter-argument against this and this23:43has been reserved researched a lot in23:45the in the media and so on is to say oh23:48but it’s not necessarily true23:50people who voted for their own Trump23:52were much poorer than those who voted23:53for Hillary Clinton grant it but it’s a23:56little bit more complicated than that23:58that’s it’s really bad test of whether24:00the economic causes matter what’s24:02interesting is that not just in the24:03United States but in many parts in many24:06countries publicity doing very well24:07around the world you see a very clear24:09distinction between urban and24:13economically dynamic parts of a country24:16and others so in the United States24:18Donald Trump won over two-thirds of24:20American counties but something like24:22one-third of America’s GDP he did much24:25better in parts of a country where24:28there’s very little recent investment24:29where people are less educated even24:32where the share of jobs were the subject24:34to automation in the coming decades is24:37much higher because people there realize24:40I might still be doing fine but I have a24:43lot to fear from the future now my24:47second course has to do with with24:50culture and ethnicity and immigration24:51this is really stark in Europe where24:54most countries became stable democracies24:57at a time when there were more24:59homogeneous than it previous parts of25:03the history because of a tragic effects25:04of World War two and in which they had a25:08clear mono-ethnic monocultural25:10conception of who Rudy blocks when you25:12asked a German where I grew up an25:15Italian and a Swede in 1960 hue really25:19belongs to the country it would have25:20been obvious that it’s somebody who’s25:21descended genetically from the same set25:24of people but it certainly isn’t25:25somebody who’s brown or black somebody25:27who’s Muslim or Hindu now thankfully25:30that started to change over the last 5025:32or 60 years there has been a lot of25:34immigration and people have actually25:36started to adapt more liberal and25:38understandings of citizenship and of25:40belonging there’s also a strong reaction25:43against that and for either and for25:45Mirman condone that reaction and none of25:48us should I think is actually easy to25:50understand why that would be the case if25:52you say hey I may not be the richest guy25:56I may not have the best education you25:58know I may not have a most social26:01respect but at least I’m better than red26:03immigrant over there26:04right at least I have a high social26:05status with that well it now thankfully26:07has politicians who are immigrants or26:10children of immigrants you might go to26:11your to your work and your boss might be26:14an immigrant well the fact that some26:16people feel like they’ve lost something26:18there that some social standing has been26:20taken away actually isn’t too surprising26:23now the United States is both similar26:25and different it’s different because26:27we’ve always been a multi-ethnic society26:29there’s always been many different26:30ethnicities living here but it’s similar26:33in rep has always been a very strict26:35racial hierarchy which gave one set of26:37people big advantages and privileges26:39over others now again I think we would26:41do well to remember though we’ve26:43actually come a very long way in26:44overcoming that despite the obvious26:47ongoing injustice in our country it is a26:50much better place for minorities to live26:52than 20 or 40 or 60 years ago and a lot26:56of people have started to embrace the26:59idea of an equal multi-ethnic Society27:01but again there’s a lot of people have27:03something to lose from that and who are27:04rebelling against bet again I don’t27:06condone that but it shouldn’t surprise27:07us that that is going on alright so if27:11you have the anger and the basic27:16distrust of our politics because people27:18are feeling like my life is not getting27:20any better I’m afraid of a future27:22economically if that often takes a27:24cultural form of a backlash against27:26immigration a backlash against racial27:27equality when you add the third27:30ingredient social media27:32which makes it so much easier for people27:35to challenge a media consensus to27:39challenge the gatekeepers who used to27:42say what can be a part of our political27:44discourse and what can’t now27:47in some ways that’s a good thing it’s a27:49good thing in dictatorships because we27:50Democratic opposition now has a much27:52easier time telling a telling a27:57population with truth about corruption27:59about repression and so on it can be a28:02good thing in our country as well if you28:04think about we meet the V men’s platform28:06that the students at Parkland High in28:09Florida immediately gained after the28:11horrible mass shooting there and their28:13ability to make her voice is hurt and28:15engage engage the public in a push for28:17change on gun control but at the same28:21time it also obviously makes it easier28:22for hateful voices for people who want28:25to spread fake news safety here next to28:27common pizza that’s an obvious thing to28:29think about and for people who want to28:32organize radical political movements to28:37actually have a big voice in our28:39politics so to me it’s these free causes28:41coming together but help to explain not28:45to the rise of Donald Trump and the rise28:46of similar for Italian populist in so28:48many different parts of the world28:50how do people want to defend liberal28:54democracy not end up looking to lots of28:58others like they are simply defending an29:01establishment in the status quo and I29:04thought about this a lot during the say29:07German elections where I’m my politics29:11our Social Democratic but I kind of29:13found myself wanting Merkel to do29:15reasonably well I didn’t want her to29:17fall and in a sense there could be29:19nothing more status quo then rooting for29:22Merkel in Germany and that I think that29:26there’s a real danger here that those of29:31us who want to push back against the29:34dangers of democracy end up looking like29:37protectors of the establishment and the29:39ruling class how do you respond to that29:42what’s your sort of strategy and29:44approach on that today I absolutely29:47agree missus this is crucial so a 201629:50election in my mind the United States29:52was a contest between a moderate29:55politics of a status quo and an Axman29:57politics of change well it turns out30:00that when those are the rules of30:01engagement the extremist parties of30:03change can win not necessarily because30:06most Americans are extremists30:10because they really won some promise of30:13a country that changes that actually30:15delivers more for them and so what we30:18need to do among people who are more30:21politically moderate is to offer the30:24vision of the real politics of change to30:27show how without embracing a populist30:29mind frame how without sacrificing the30:33rights of minorities sacrificing30:34varieties of immigrants and so on we can30:36actually promise people a real vision of30:39of a better society and to me the great30:42failings of Angela Merkel and the grand30:45coalition that is now in power again in30:46Germany is that they’re not using the30:49big parliamentary majority they had and30:51still to some degree have in order to do30:54that but they aren’t actually saying hey30:56we are in favor of globalization and30:59free trade and all of those good things31:02but we’re really going to fight to make31:04sure that rich individuals actually pay31:06the tax in Germany or the United States31:07but corporations actually pay a fair31:10amount of tax in these countries that we31:14make it much easier for productivity to31:18grow in our countries because that’s one31:20of the main drivers of middle-class31:22incomes by investing a ton more money in31:25education that we are actually making31:30sure that people don’t have to keep31:34spending more and more money on the most31:36essential goods from housing to31:39education to health care now in all of31:41these countries visa huge problems and31:43the establishment parties aren’t31:45actually fighting for that we’re not31:47actually saying here are some ways to31:50radically change the way we run things31:53the way that we have public policy in31:55order to ensure that we have a better31:58distribution of against from32:00globalization and by the way much more32:02productivity growth much more growth in32:04incomes as well without thereby you know32:08giving in to the puppets all of these32:09things are possible those ideas out some32:12of them and even particularly32:14far-fetched employing four or five times32:17more people at vis to look after people32:20who are hiding the money in tax havens32:22is a no-brainer32:23it’s really easy to do and it pays for32:25itself tenfold so why aren’t we doing it32:29if I would suspect if Hillary Clinton32:32were here or Martin Schultz of the SPD32:34were here they would both say that’s32:37pretty much what we were suggesting in32:39the campaign and yet no one noticed that32:41that’s what we were suggesting is that32:43would they be right or wrong or half32:45right they’d be half right at best so32:48when you look at the advert compaines I32:50don’t think but they have a radical32:52measures on on any of those things but32:55it’s also a matter of how you actually32:57talk about those things and salvers so Ithink one of the failings to me overHillary Clinton campaign was that itnever actually set out a vision forAmerica it basically said he is a goodfix on this and he’s a good fix on thisand he has a good fix on this and he issomething that I’m giving this could besomething that I’m giving that groupit’s not saying here are the ways inwhich we’re going to make America workfor everybody and make it fair toeverybody and hear the ways in which yessome things are working but there’s alsolots of things but really aren’t workinginstead the message was you know Americais already great I’m gonna disguise thefact that I have two questions to ask byturning my two questions into onequestion with us with the semicolon andthen if people want to start lining upplease feel free I’d like you to talkabout young people because youespecially if you look at the UnitedStates and you acknowledge this in the33:53focus especially if you look at the33:54United States Americans under 30 or33:57Americans under 45 really promise to be34:00the drivers for change in a I think34:04positive direction in our country I’ve34:07told my kids that when my generation is34:09gone you guys will make things fine34:12except I want to be around to see it so34:14there’s a kind of contradiction there34:17the and and yet you have some more more34:21worries about young people more in34:22Europe than here so I’d like you I’d34:26like you to talk about that and then34:29secondly I would like you to talk about34:33sort of in in hopeful terms do youat the response to what you write aboutin the book in Europe or in the UnitedStates and see anything coming togetherthat might actually be successful inpushing back against the war on liberaldemocracy or are you still more in Akosand/or a mood so so starting with withyoung people I mean I think so so lookbut the thing is are quite stark right Imean I’ve alluded into a couple of timesmay as well say my loud so you know youask people how important is it to you tolive in a democracy among olderAmericans born in 1930s 1940s overtwo-thirds say absolutely importantamong Millennials born since 1980 lessthan one-third – when you ask peopleabout whether they think army rule is agood system of government and a lot ofthese figures are in the book twentyyears ago one in 16 Americans saidthat’s a good system of government nowone in sixty and among young at a fluentAmericans is actually going up from sixto 35 percent nearly a six-fold increasethe counter argument against this forpushback when I get is oh but all of thepeople who voted for Donald Trump wereold people so of a politicalmanifestation of this actually is ismuch more hmong older people and youngerpeople now the first answer to that iswhat I’m hearing here from the leftwhich is not true right actually therewas a lot of young people who did votefor Donald Trump among white peopleunder the age of 3048 percent voted for Donald Trump and 43percent for Hillary Clinton which iswhich is a very worrying thing thesecond thing I would say is that DonaldTrump didn’t really try to appeal toyoung people right I’m he’s himself avery you know an old guy and that’s justnot what his campaign was was designedto do now you could easily get forms ofa proton populism where they’re on theright where there’s clearly a quitevibrant young or dried scene and so onor for that matter on on on the left thedoes try to tap into the deep systemicdiscontent with democracythat you see among a lot of young P andthe third point is well go and look atEurope and you see with young people aresome of the strongest supporters ofpopulist movements on both the left andthe right in the French presidentialelections in the first round over 50% ofyoung people over 50 percent of youngpeople voted for Ivor marine lepen thefar-right populist all jean-lucmélenchon the far left populist in Italy37:18you see that not only did nearly 2/3 of37:22your overall Italian electorate go for37:24iowa’s Silvio Berlusconi over far-right37:26league or the the five star movement37:30which has strong connections to Russia37:32and has run by people who believe in37:349/11 was an inside job but the only37:36demographic among which there was less37:39vacays was the oldest people among young37:41people something like 80% verge for his37:43parties so so absolutely this fred is37:46among young people as well as all of you37:49now to a second question of how well are37:51we standing up against this I think37:56that’s roughly three scenarios for37:57what’s going to happen in the next years37:59the United States the first is that38:03Donald Trump does such a terrible job38:06and ends up being repudiated so broadly38:11losses so disastrously in the midterms38:13you know wins one and a half states in38:162020 there’s a real moment of coming38:20together and a real recognition of how38:22dangerous it is for people to to flower38:26most basic rules of our political system38:27and not as a recognition that this38:29particular guy failed but that similar38:32kinds of movements are all dangerous38:34nothing that’s possible but I I’m not38:37holding my breath foot38:39the second scenario is V inverse it is38:43that like Edwin has done in Turkey like38:47Auburn is succeeding in doing and hungry38:49like it looks like the Polish government38:51may be succeeding and doing in Poland38:54Donald Trump actually manages to expand38:56his base to deliver for some of his core38:58constituency to undermine independence39:03titude sly for the pattern of justice39:05and and the FBI to corrupt the process39:10of elections more and more and that he39:12essentially becomes a form of dictator39:15of a course over the next six or eight39:16years now again I think that’s possible39:20but in part because Donald Trump has39:23actually been very incompetent at39:24following the PlayBook of a vote for a39:27town leaders around the world in part39:29because he hasn’t been very good to39:30delivering for his base in part because39:32he’s not very strategic in his attacks39:34on institutions but it’s always obvious39:35but it’s naked self-interest in part39:38because even his rhetoric always seems39:40to be a little bit more about himself39:41and about setting up that essential39:44contra contours putting himself and the39:47people and so on I’m hopeful that’s not39:50going to happen and in part because39:51where’s the great resistance movements39:52of Americans actually heating and taking39:55seriously those people who are once39:57called casandra’s and going out to to40:00resist Donald Trump and all kinds of40:02concrete ways my big fear now when I40:04talk about this in the book is the third40:07scenario what I would call the Roman40:09scenario but which I had in mind the40:11late Roman Republic but given the40:14elections a week ago I guess I’m a owes40:16to be talking about Rome today which is40:18that you have a populist figure like the40:22kuraki in Rome were like Sabha40:23Berlusconi in Italy for that matter that40:26exploits deep discontent of a political40:28system and comes to a political stage40:31crew creates a huge constitutional40:33crisis and after a bunch of years is40:36thrown out of a system again Chimaera’s40:38Krakow’s was killed Silvio Berlusconi40:41ended up resigning in disgrace in 201140:46but because the underlying reasons for40:49this discontent aren’t being tackled40:51because we’re not doing a good enough40:52job of making sure that ordinary people40:54actually get an improvement of a living40:56status because we’re not creating an40:57inclusive patriotism but emphasizes what40:59unites us across racial and religious41:02lines rather than what what divides us41:04um you you have this similar kind of41:07energy coming back six years later like41:11now in Italy ten years later has41:13happened with with Jewish crocuses41:16younger brother and so over the course41:18of perhaps 20 perhaps 40 perhaps 6041:21years you slowly get such an erosion of41:25a political system that you wind up that41:28to me is the biggest fear that this is41:30not a matter of dealing with it in 202041:32of dealing with in 2018 it’s something41:35that we’re gonna be fighting not just41:36for the rest of your lifetime each day41:38but for the rest of the lifetime of a41:40few young people in this crowd as well41:41[Laughter]41:52but we go but that doesn’t mean you can41:54look it up on Google and not buy the41:55book41:58can you introduce yourselves when you41:59ask a question is the mic working yes42:02okay yes I’m Jeremiah reamer this is not42:06a plan DJ asked me to ask a provocative42:09question earlier but but I just thought42:11it up my my question has to do with you42:16have a a term I’m not completely42:19satisfied with to talk about the the42:23opposite of the Democratic populist you42:27call them I think is it undemocratic42:29liberals and I guess my question goes to42:32whether they’re really undemocratic or42:35incapable of making a democratic42:37connection because I actually think a42:38lot of these people want to be42:40democratic but they’re unable to make a42:43kind of a connection to electoral42:45politics and to the kind of successful42:48model where they we’re sort of their42:53expertise their professional knowledge42:56was consulted and valued and42:59big tent party political leaders were43:01able to use that but I think they want43:04to be democratic you know there’s a43:07tendency to view technocrats is just bad43:09but I think there are good Technic rats43:11and bad techno I think Mario Draghi is43:13kind of a good technocratic along with43:15Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke they did43:17some good things so my question to you43:20is and by the way this is related to43:23another observation I made about the43:25Trump reaction to Trump among the most43:28aggrieved people about the Trump43:30election are people who are professional43:34civil servants who feel they have43:36professional expertise it’s not just the43:37fact that they’re cosmopolitan hipsters43:39living in by coastal cities they also43:41feel their professional knowledge useful43:44for government is being completely43:46ignored how can those people how do you43:49think the good technic ratso to speak if43:51you agree with my my term can can remake43:55a connection I mean obviously yeah yeah43:58so yeah go ahead yes 14 being so I think44:08the short answer is very termos and44:11democratic liberal robin anti-democratic44:12liberals so in essence I agree but just44:15just to explain that time a little bit44:17to people who haven’t read the book so44:18one of the arguments I make is that you44:20know we need to think of our pokel44:22system as having these two elements44:23liberal democracy the liberal has44:25nothing to do with liberal and44:26conservative it’s not you know brock44:28obama as george w bush it is a44:31commitment to invent rights to to the44:35rights of minorities to the rule of law44:37to the separation of powers and amah44:39cracy in my mind when becomes actually44:41translating popular views into public44:43policies unless we’re actually managing44:45to make sure that our political system44:46is responsive to what people want it44:49doesn’t seem to me very democratic now44:51what i think is happening in the world44:53is two things on the one side for a long44:56time we’ve had a system of rights44:58without terribly much democracy of a45:00undemocratic liberalism which is to say45:02a system in which yes we do a reasonably45:05good job at protecting individual rights45:07and minority rights and the separation45:10of powers but we’re not doing a great45:12job45:13often shirring that we’re actually45:15translating what people think into45:17policy and that’s the case because of a45:19huge role of money in politics it was a45:21revolving door between lobbyists and45:22legislators yes because of a certain45:27elite class but doesn’t have much45:29circulation of ordinary people but also45:32because a lot of bureaucratic and45:34technical institutions that do do a45:35great job take lots of issues out of45:38democratic contestation so that lots of45:40decisions are made by the Supreme Court45:43by an independent central bank and by45:45international organizations are45:46precluded from politics through trade45:49treaties and you take all of those45:51things together and it’s not surprising45:52when lots of people say no between45:55listening to me right now we need to45:58understand that to understand part of a46:00populist instinct which is the inverse46:02it’s not rise for democracy it’s46:04democracy vaad rights it’s saying we are46:07gonna speak for a majority and actually46:09put forward all of the politically46:11incorrect ideas that people actually46:12like now often unfortunate side is46:15really our popular when you look in46:16Switzerland whoever was a referendum as46:19a result of which the Swiss Constitution46:21now reads I quote there’s freedom of46:24religion in Switzerland the building of46:27minarets is forbidden she doesn’t make46:30much sense that shows that actually a46:33majority of Swiss people did want to46:35restrict the rights of a Muslim minority46:37well now the problem with that is that46:39eventually a liberal democracy rights46:41democracy overrides degenerates into46:44straight for dictatorship because once46:46you’ve taken away separation of powers46:47once you have put your own people in the46:50courts in the electoral commission as46:52this happened in Hungary in the media46:53the position along it has a real chance46:56of getting rid of so you know between47:01those two evils I think I know which one47:02I would pick but in order to deal with47:06the underlying drivers of his populist47:07anger we need to find ways to make our47:10political system more responsive to what47:13people want and even for a lot of47:14technocratic institutions do a great job47:16I think we need to recognize that they47:18have problematic aspects to them well47:22you kind of47:23answer some of the questions I have but47:25let me just make this statement and let47:28you comment the Democratic state has to47:32rein in the forces that are trying to47:34destroy it47:35those are very various like the Romani47:41corrupt press the preventing people from47:44voting not educating them to the point47:48that they vote for the man wants to be47:52dictator if we don’t do that we have to47:56be to watch be watchful canter and we48:00know what happened in Germany what48:03happened in other kinds of each to me48:05they are not becoming democracies they48:08are losing their freedom and and people48:12just let that happen you know and if we48:15don’t we are not alert what is happening48:17why do we believe what we hear in some48:21radio or television station why is that48:24allowed to happen48:25lying everyday to people so one of the48:30things what I think is really important48:31is to actually you know educate people48:33about the values of our political system48:35and how our political system works one48:38of the reasons why there’s more and more48:41information online is because the rise48:43of the Internet and of social media and48:44so on but I think it goes beyond just48:47the existence of Facebook and Twitter48:49things can spread because people don’t48:51trust the government and we don’t trust48:52the government because a we don’t really48:55know how it works because we barely48:56teach civics anymore in high schools48:58right and be because even insofar as we49:02do you know how it works they only see49:04the negative things in our political49:06system this is something that I say that49:10could have it where I teach and my49:11faculty colleagues aren’t too pleased49:12with me for it49:13which is that we need to actually tell49:16people what’s good about our political49:17system as well now that doesn’t mean49:19that we should be uncritical doesn’t49:21mean but we shouldn’t also be upfront49:23about the shortcomings of our political49:25system and ways in which people continue49:28to suffer injustice and discrimination49:30but if we only talk about those things49:32and never say about explain how it what49:36it is but49:37makes our political system and why it is49:38but living related states for all of its49:40problems it’s still a lot better than49:41living in Russia or Iran or China or49:45Venezuela then we shouldn’t be surprised49:48that people are willing to throw all of49:50that away and so I think you know one of49:53the things but we can all do with our49:56[Music]49:58children with our siblings with our50:00parents with if you’re a teacher of your50:02students if you’re a writer a journalist50:04with in your articles is to actually50:08recommit people to those political50:11values from Plato to our startled and50:13from whose thought to the founding50:15fathers all of the great thinkers about50:18self-government knew how crucial it is50:20to transmit our political values from50:22one generation to the next and we might50:24have paid a little bit of lip service to50:25that in the last 30 40 years who stopped50:28taking it seriously and that’s a big50:29problem I’ve been thinking that the last50:3214 months are brought to you by Joni50:33Mitchell you don’t know what you got50:36till it’s gone and could I bring in I50:38could the folks at the store tell me50:41when we should shut down a called a50:43Dogma yah50:45actually I will take two more questions50:47and then was that all we have yeah sorry50:54actually can I amend that if people are50:57briefed let me just take four questions51:00fast all at once and then Yasha can give51:03a very compact answers because he wants51:06to sell books so four quick thank you51:09my name is Don greenhouse from the51:12Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua New51:15York where EJ has lectured a number of51:18times when we invite you all to come and51:21hear some discussions just like this51:23very quickly I can’t remember her name51:26an author recent book called strangers51:30in their own land a hotel and she uses a51:33metaphor so I’d like to you to think51:35about it in terms of micro rather than51:38macro sense of these we’re all lined up51:41back from the pot of gold and we’re all51:44standing quietly in line and our liberal51:47democracy keeps bringing people into51:50the line in front of us the blacks the51:53gays etc etc and this is causing this51:57angst and populism I wondered if you52:00might comment52:01hold that thought thank you sir Stewart52:04Schulz I’ll try to make this really52:06quick and condense it but you’ve52:08identified populism you know there’s52:11lack of agency this lack of Economic52:14Opportunity threat to cultural identity52:16as the major threats of liberal52:17democracy and I can’t speak to the52:20international situation but at least52:21domestically Trump ran on all those52:24things but his actual administration has52:26nothing to do with any of that message52:28it has to do with advancing corporate52:31interests and it’s it seems to me that52:33the the real threat to liberal democracy52:35is not in these issues which are real52:39but in the forces that use those issues52:43to advance agendas that are more52:45dangerous to liberal democracy I mean52:47what’s the role in capital in all of52:49this so it’s clear that Donald Trump is52:53a symptom of fraud or underlying causes52:55as he undermines institutions are we52:58doing a good enough job to deal with the53:01underlying causes or are we just saying53:03he’s undermined this institution there53:05for Donald Trump’s about sorry for the53:10rest yeah my name is avery James I’m a53:15sophomore at American University quick53:17question you mentioned how we need and53:19you actually end up at new york times on53:20this as well this new nationalism this53:22new patriotism I would just ask how is53:24that in any way unique from what Marco53:25Rubio won in 2013 how was that in any53:27way unique from what Jeb Bush who was53:28bankrolled by the Republican Party53:30basically Mitt Romney but he’s fluent in53:32Spanish this time I mean how is that any53:33different from what the people who had53:35the power to make decisions the53:36Republican Party wanted and ended up53:38with what we have I mean that how is it53:40non-unique right yeah that’s question I53:41really have is how does that change the53:43current trend Thanks all right53:46I might need some some reminders but but53:49I’ll try and get through these four53:50questions quickly and then say something53:51inspiring at the end there we go that’s53:53my task so yes so please that’s so so54:02the cutting in line metaphor I think54:04it’s54:04quite powerful and and and and but54:06that’s how a lot of people think about54:07it right that that they’ve been they’re54:10frustrated we’re not getting what we54:12want we’ve been promised a pot of gold54:13they’re still sounding a line for it and54:15now why are the people doing well like54:17for me that precisely explains the54:19lunacy of pretending that cultural54:22factors and economic factors ah it’s54:26either one of y’all this is the way in54:28which it’s connected but if people feel54:30like I’m getting a fair shake and I I’m54:33a lot wealthier than my parents wear and54:35my kids are gonna do better than me I54:36know what that guy over there is doing54:39fine too good for him you know he’s not54:41like me he’s an immigrant or he’s54:42whatever right but but I’m doing fine54:45nice what he’s doing fine too when54:47people start to feel you know what I’ve54:50been taking advantage of all my life and54:51politicians are we delivering for me and54:53my community is falling apart in all54:54kinds of ways and there’s an opioid54:57epidemic and and our incomes are54:58stagnating and because union jobs are55:00gone and now why is that guy over there55:02doing fine it’s easy to scapegoat and55:05blame right and so one of the ways of55:07dealing with hat is to make sure that we55:09actually deliver on the American dream55:11for people in a way that that we55:13promised um on inclusive patriotism I55:17mean I think that there is a deep store55:19of inclusive patriotism in in American55:22political history55:23um I think often people didn’t55:26necessarily act on that so you know in55:28the end though I agree with some what55:30Republicans had perfectly decent metric55:32around it Muslim weren’t willing to55:34actually vote in those ways and and and55:37and ensure that we take those issues on55:39the table through some kind of55:40comprehensive deal where we come to a55:42decision about that I also think that55:45there is a little bit of resistance to55:47it on on parts of left-right so what we55:50have at the moment is a riot politically55:54who says let’s talk about nationalism55:55over time but let’s talk about it in55:58exclusive ways basically the kind of56:00form of white nationalism of which I56:01would argue our current president is56:03guilty but then on the Left I think best56:06instinct but I know quite well because I56:07grew up with it wishes to say hey56:10nationalism can be so destructive and it56:12was so destructive in 20th century why56:15don’t we actually move beyond it56:18leave nationalism behind in the century56:20which is so cruelly shaped and that you56:25know allows us to be Cosmopolitan’s it56:26allows us to not have any strong56:28collective identity whatever that’s one56:30kind of approach the other approach is56:32to say we’re going to celebrate every56:33form of collective identity at the56:35sub-national level and religious group56:38every ethnic group every sexual root and56:40so on but we’re not going to celebrate56:42the nation because a nation is bad and56:45has this very bad history and the other56:47things are under now I agree that we56:49need to defend every group from attack56:52and discrimination that is ongoing but I56:55also think that the nation can actually56:57be a great stew of solidarity but it can56:59be precisely the thing but allows you to57:01see why you should care about somebody57:03who doesn’t have the same skillet57:05doesn’t have skin color doesn’t have the57:06same religion and so on and we’re57:08emphasizing that an inclusive manner is57:10a way to build social solidarity and57:13fight discrimination rather than a way57:15to advance so to meet nationalism as a57:18half domesticated animal and instead of57:20leaving it on its own to be stoked and57:22prodded by the worst kind of people I57:24think though we need to domesticate one57:26nice way of doing that in a political57:28speech and I have many disagreements57:30with him and other things is what Amanda57:33McConnell said in Marseille on the57:35campaign trail he said when looking to57:38his audience I see people from Mali in57:40the Ivory Coast and and Algeria and57:43Italy in Poland who what do I see I see57:46the people of Marseille what do I see I57:48see the people of France look here57:50ladies and gentlemen of horn as you know57:51the far-right party of my underpin this57:54is what it looks like to be proud to be57:56French that to me is a nationalism that57:58actually makes sense and and having58:00parts of right could fight for it most58:02strongly living parts of a life could58:03also fight for it more strongly there’s58:06two questions but I’m missing here58:11and one one alright so um okay so the58:20question about corporation look I mean I58:21think that58:24liberal democracy works when democracy58:29in capitalism and balance I don’t think58:31the answer is to abolish capitalism58:33because there is no democratic country58:36but it has ever existed on the face of58:38the earth without capitalism and while I58:41get right-wing critiques of58:43globalization because we standard of58:45living of steel workers in Michigan but58:48he hasn’t improved that much over the58:49last thirty years and most because of58:50our political choices Robin makes58:52globalization but at least I get it I58:53don’t really understand certain forms of58:56left-wing critique of globalization58:58because if you actually say that you59:00care about the well-being of poor people59:02in the world and you look at the fact59:04for two billion people have been lifted59:06out of dire poverty in India and China59:07over the course of the last twenty or59:10thirty years people didn’t have59:11electricity you didn’t have food to eat59:13we didn’t have medication who now leads59:16middle-class lives I think we need to59:19recognize what all some positively power59:21it has but we need to also make sure59:24that we actually use those fruits in59:27order to deliver for ordinary people59:30now some kindness have done much better59:32than this than other countries and it’s59:34not because the more or less capitalists59:35it’s because we’ve pursued policies but59:37I actually directed to helping ordinary59:40people and that’s in part because money59:43had much less of a hold on their59:45politics when it does in our culture so59:47this is not rocket science it’s solvable59:49but we need to fight to solve it it’s59:52going to be hard to solve it59:56I’m gonna end with you know I’m60:00sometimes told that when I talk or you60:05know when people read my articles but it60:06can be a little depressing so so thanks60:10for coming out to get depressed on a60:12Sunday afternoon with lovely sunny60:14weather but but I actually genuinely60:16think and I think your book60:19One Nation are trumped prints without60:20really beautifully as well EJ but this60:22is a moment to be inspired the spine60:25will be ugly this now apologies when I60:27grew up politically when I came away60:29pull it came of age politically it60:32seemed like what we would do wouldn’t60:33matter that much because yes there’s60:36some policies were better and some60:37policies there were worse or some60:39ongoing discrimination and injustice but60:41in the end we sort of knew what the60:43world was gonna look like 30 or 35 years60:45from now right now we don’t know that60:48and it’s up to how we act to ensure how60:52that’s going to look so yes that’s scary60:54and yes it’s easy to get depressed by60:56that but it’s also easy to get inspired60:58by that because it means where we can60:59actually act um the best picture image61:03for this in my mind comes from our61:04mizar’s61:05who says has a huge fire burning and61:08each of us only has a little glass of61:10water in the hand and and it can seem61:13hopeless if I go to the water and I dump61:16my little glass of water on it on the61:17fire that’s not going to change anything61:19the fire is far too big well but thanks61:22for coming out everybody there’s a lot61:23of people in this room and if each of us61:26takes our glass of water and I’m set on61:28fire then together we might just be able61:29to extinguish it now the way to do that61:32is to fight for real change in our61:35system not just to defeat Donald Trump61:36it’s to actually make sure that our61:39political system delivers forward many61:40people again is to make sure that people61:41see what’s valuable in our political61:43system again and if you agree with some61:45of my descriptions and diagnosis today61:48you’ll have an idea of what you can go61:50and do at home if you disagree when you61:52have your own ideas but but the61:55important thing is that unlike people in61:58Turkey and like people in Russia and62:00like people in Venezuela we still have a62:02freedom to go and fight and organize and62:04mobilize politically and argue and so I62:07think it’s our duty to do that62:09Inuyasha for Congress pack will be62:12collecting signatures up here I want to62:21read just the last words of the book62:24with what Yasha said he said nobody can62:27promise us a happy end but those of us62:29who truly care about our values and our62:31institutions are determined to fight for62:34our convictions without regard for the62:37consequences though the fruits of our62:39labor may remain uncertain we will do62:41what we can to save liberal democracy62:44thank you all for coming out and yes we62:46will sign the bus62:58you
America is no longer a majority white Christian nation. Journalist, author, commentator, and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne and Dr. Robert P. Jones, author of “The End of White Christian America,” discuss this seismic change, its impact on the politics and social values of the United States, and its implications for the future.
Good evening, everyone.
I’m David Hempton, Dean of the Divinity School,
and I’m really delighted to welcome you to campus
this evening for a discussion of the important changes occurring
in US religion, and the impact they’re
having on our politics, our culture, and on civil society.
Last year, I spoke in Europe and Asia
on a topic that was much on the minds of citizens
there, and frankly, also here in the Northeast United States.
Namely, Evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump.
When I did those talks, I drew partly
on the research of Dr. Robert P. Jones, one of our guests
In 2011, the Public Religion Research Institute, PRRI,
the organization headed by Dr. Jones,
asked Americans, quote, whether a political leader who
committed an immoral act in his or her private life
could nonetheless behave ethically and fulfill
their duties in their public life.
At that time, as Jones has written, only 30%
of white Evangelical Protestants agreed with this statement.
This was not a surprise.
White Evangelicals had for years been the most likely group
to say that a candidate’s personal morality bore heavily
on their performance in public office.
PRRI asked the same question again in 2016,
with the presidential campaign in full swing.
This time, 72% of white Evangelicals, that
is as against the earlier figure of 30%,
said that they believe the candidate can
build a kind of moral wall between his private and public
That sentiment carried into the election
that November, when around 81% of self-designated white
Evangelicals, which is a complicated category,
voted for Donald Trump, the most weighted vote
of any American religious constituency, and a big factor
in his election.
It was, as Dr. Jones chronicled in his book,
The End of White Christian America,
which is where we had that title for tonight plagiarized–
it was as he chronicled in his book–
—a shocking reversal, one driven
by a sense among white Christians
that their way of life was at stake,
that America’s best days were behind it,
and that the 2016 election was the last chance
to stop the country’s inexorable decline.
But while the country may or may not have been in decline,
it’s clear from data collected by Dr. Jones and the Pew
Research Center that both the white majority
and formal affiliation with Christian denominations
were in decline and are in decline.
These trends go far beyond the phenomenon of Donald Trump’s
election and presidency.
They help shape our politics at all levels,
including the surge in support for nativist and right-wing
Not only in the United States, but also across Europe.
According to our other distinguished guests
this evening, The Washington Post journalist
and distinguished political analyst,
E.J. Dionne, this surge is a product
of a constellation of factors that include globalization
and technological innovation, growing wealth inequalities,
migration, cosmopolitanism, and the decay
of traditional cultural values.
As a result, the narratives on the right and the left,
reinforced by the rise of information outlets that
affirm, rather than challenge, the beliefs
of their audiences–
you can watch this any night–
are now almost impervious to countervailing information.
People get their information tracks
from their preconceived positions.
Few write more cogently or insightfully
about these factors than our two guests tonight.
And E.J. Dionne, as the co-author of the recent book
One Nation After Trump, this book,
takes heart in the activism inspired
by the current political movement,
and offers a hopeful vision that’s often lacking
in discussions like these.
Sadly, even on university campuses.
This would be a good moment to silence cell phones.
It’s a nice ring, though.
It is a nice ring.
Yeah, so do get your hands on this book
if you get a chance, as well.
These two books are terrific reads.
And then this one has both a great guide
to explaining the election result, but an even better
prescription for where we might go from here,
which is more unusual.
So it is well worth reading.
So as someone, myself, who studies history, religion,
and politics, I’m very anxious to hear what our guests have
to say this evening, and perhaps to ask them a question or two.
We’re really delighted you have made time in your schedules
to be with us.
Thank you so much for traveling up to Boston.
So without further ado, please join me
in giving a very warm welcome to our two
very distinguished guests, E.J. Dionne and Robert P. Jones.
I want to begin just by saying what a joy it
is to be back here at the Harvard Divinity School.
I taught a class here last semester called Religion
in America’s Political Conscience and at the Ballot
And it didn’t strike me until after I named the course
that I had separated the conscience from the ballot box,
although that might be revealing.
And I just want to say it is particularly
a joy to have some of my wonderful students here
My brilliant TA, Axel [? Tokach. ?]
Thank you, Axel, for coming.
And I understand there is a rabbi Joseph
Telushkin in the room.
Are you here, Rabbi Telushkin He may be here.
He is a brilliant rabbi.
He is also the father of my brilliant advisee, who’s
a student here, Shira Telushkin Some of you may know Shira.
And I’m really honored to be here
with my friend, Robbie Jones.
Robbie and I, we have done work together now since 2010
on the whole– on a variety of aspects of American politics,
including back in 2010, on the overlap of the Tea
Party and the religious right.
And we had a lot of fun with that study,
because a lot of people thought that the Tea
Party was a separate libertarian wing of conservatism.
When, in fact, what we discovered
is that a majority of Tea Partiers
also thought of themselves as part of the religious right,
and about 3/4 of Tea Partiers had views that were–
on social and religious questions
that were essentially indistinguishable
from the religious right.
But Robbie has been a real pioneer
in this area for a long time, even though he’s very young.
And what I want to do is just invite Robbie–
I’m going to go sit down, because Robbie
does many things well, but I think
Robbie is by far the best PowerPointer I have ever
met in my life.
And I could just sit and watch Robbie PowerPoints for hours.
It won’t be for hours, but this book is very, very important.
And after Robbie’s finished, I am
going to read a section in the book
about Billy Graham, who, as people most people here know,
died this morning.
Is that correct?
Or was it last– it was this morning, I think, at 8:00.
And Robbie has some very insightful things
to say about Billy Graham.
But also, his death is a sort of a bittersweet reminder
of the era that Robbie writes about, and that, in some ways,
is passing away.
And so we’re going to start with his PowerPoint.
We’re going to talk a bit about Billy Graham’s role,
and then we will take it from there.
But you are about to see a real treat.
Oh, I always hate when the bar gets set that high.
OK, but thank you so much, Dean Hempton
and Harvard Divinity School–
Oh, I j– could I say one thing?
Go ahead, yes.
I love David Hempton.
And what I was thinking as he was speaking
is that if Robbie Jones had written his book about David
Hempton, the book would be called
The Joy and Wisdom of Irish Christianity in America.
Yes, a little less somber than this title up here.
Well, I’m going to give you just a little bit–
I want to have a lot of time for E.J. and I to talk.
It’s really a great joy to be here with E.J.
We’ve worked together now for almost a decade,
and our offices are just down Massachusetts Avenue
in Washington D.C. from each other, within walking distance.
So it’s fun to be here in Boston.
It’s just right across the table,
instead of down the street from one another.
So I’m going to start with just this photo
here that you’ve been staring at a little bit, maybe
subconsciously, as we’ve been sitting here,
before I show you some numbers.
Because I think it sets the table fairly well.
So I received this in 2012, just after Barack Obama’s
So between the election and Thanksgiving,
I received this photo.
And just under the photo, it said “Christian family
And so I haven’t doctored it.
It was black and white in the email that I received it from.
And I kind of saw it and I was curious,
and I looked to see who had sent it.
And it was sent out by the Christian Coalition of America,
which is a conservative Christian organization that was
part of the Christian Right movement in the ’08s and ’90s.
And they sent this out.
And I said, oh, that’s curious.
I’ll read on down.
And then I came across this language in the email,
and it said this.
It said, we’re soon to celebrate the 400th anniversary
of the First Thanksgiving, and God has still not
withheld his blessings upon this nation,
although we now so richly deserve his condemnation.
Let us pray to our Heavenly Father
to protect us from those enemies outside
and within who want to see America destroyed.”
So this is the message that we get
just days after the re-election of our first African American
President to the presidency.
And it occurred to me that this apocalyptic language
was telling something.
So I immediately save this.
I said, OK, this is–
I really need to think about this some more,
and kind of hung onto it and had been thinking about it.
But I think this sense of–
we heard a lot of it in the 2016 election too,
but it has a longer history.
This kind of apocalyptic ring that the America
that we know and love is over.
And I think one of the things going is like, why this photo,
So if you look at it, what is it?
It’s a white family at prayer.
You’ll notice there’s a father at the head of the table,
So it’s a kind of patriarchal, hierarchical image of family,
and they’re all kind of bowing their heads.
And it was really standing in that email
for “America,” right?
White Protestant America equals America.
And I think that’s what’s going on, and a lot of our debates,
I think, are really over that.
Is this the image of who America is and should be?
Or is it not?
And that really– that fundamental question, I think,
is a lot of what we’re wrangling over.
So I want to show you some numbers about how much
things are changing, and how I think
how that has set the stage for the anxiety, the fear,
the anger that is so animating our politics
both at the national, and even all the way
down to the local level.
So first, I’ll just– we’re going
to throw this term around a lot, so I
thought I would unpack it, just to make
sure we’re not misunderstood.
This term “White Christian America”
is a term that I just coined, because I
needed a way to talk about an era,
and the sense of dominance.
And it really is a word that refers
to the dominance of white Protestant America
that really held a lock on cultural and political power
for most of the country’s life.
And so when I’m– using that term,
it really is this sense of this kind of cultural and political
dominance of a world that was built mostly by white
So I’m going to give you a bunch of stats here,
but in case people are not big numbers people,
you could think of them as vital signs.
We’re going to look at the chart of white Christian America
and see how its help is doing.
If I had only one chart to show you, and I’m going to–
I know E.J. will be relived.
I’m going to show you a few more than one.
But it would probably be this one,
that would give you just in one chart, a sense
of the demographic and cultural changes
that we’ve experienced in very recent history.
So I’ve got the Obama presidency in t–
these are years across the bottom.
I’ve got that kind of grayed out in this box
so you can see the kinds of changes that happen just
during the last decade, and really, largely
across President Obama’s term in office.
So this first line up here is the percent of Americans
who identify as white and Christian in the country.
Now, this is any type of Christian.
Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Non-denominational, you
They identify as white, non-Hispanic, and Christian.
These numbers capture that.
And you can see, if we just go back
to the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency,
there’s been a fairly dramatic drop
in the number of white Christians in the country.
When Barack Obama entered office,
the country was safely a majority white Christian
54% of the country identified as white and Christian.
By the time Obama leaves office and we
get to the 2016 election, that number has dropped to 43%.
So that’s 11 percentage points across eight years’ time.
It’s more than a percentage point a year.
It’s a pretty– it’s a very steady and very precipitous
So that’s one thing.
Just demographically speaking, the country
has crossed from being this majority white Christian
country to a minority white Christian country.
And then here is another line that’s
kind of just a bellwether cultural issue.
This is support for same-sex marriage
in the general population across the same time period.
And one of things you’ll see is, again,
if we go back and use the beginning of Barack Obama’s
presidency as a marker, only 4 in 10 Americans supported
same sex marriage back in 2008.
Barack Obama himself did not publicly
support same-sex marriage in 2008.
But by the time Obama gets out of office, that
has been flipped on its head.
It’s 6 in 10 supporting same-sex marriage, only 4
in 10 opposing it.
And our last numbers from 2017 actually
showed that number jumped again in 2017 to 66.
So it’s now 2/3 of the country that
supports same-sex marriage.
And so if you are a conservative white Christian,
these numbers, just these two, are–
constitute a kind of sense of cultural vertigo, I think.
Where you’ve gone from a country that you recognize in a country
that you sort of feel like you can lay claim
to being in the mainstream, and even
being the dominant cultural force,
to one where that is no longer true.
And it happens in a very, very short amount of time.
So let me unpack this just a little bit more.
Here is if I do big boxes of religious affiliation, the pie
chart of what American religious affiliation looks like today.
That’s that same number.
43% of the country, in blue here,
is identifying as white and Christian.
This 24% box is those identify as non-white and Christian, so
mostly African American and Latino
Protestants in the country.
The 7% is those who claim some other religious tradition.
Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhists, et cetera.
And the 24%, that big block of orange up there,
are Americans who claim no religious affiliation
at all today.
About a quarter of Americans who are religiously
unaffiliated in the country.
So that’s a snapshot of where we are today.
One way of seeing how dramatic these changes have been
is just to look at the generations
who are alive today, and what the generational cohorts
So you can think of this chart–
I like to think about this as a kind of archaeological dig
down through generational strata.
So we’ve got the young people on top,
and we’ve got seniors down here on the bottom.
And we’re going to put up–
the first number we’re going to put up
is just the percent within each generational cohort
that identifies as white and Christian.
I think you’ll immediately see the generational change
and how quick it’s happening.
Just the generations that are alive today.
When you go down to seniors, 2/3 of seniors
identify as white and Christian.
If we go to youngest Americans, age 18 to 29,
that number is only 25%.
It’s more than twice–
more than a factor of two between seniors
and young people.
And you can also see that it’s actually
a fairly linear generational stair-step here.
You can take a ruler pretty much and draw a straight line.
So it’s very, very consistent.
The younger you are, the less white,
the less Christian you are.
The older you are, the more white, the more Christian
And if I put up the other divisions on that same sort,
you can see the patterns emerging.
And the biggest thing is the bookend
on the other side, the religiously unaffiliated
in the country.
If you go to seniors, only about 1 in 10 seniors
claims no religious affiliation whatsoever.
But if you look at young people today, it’s nearly 4
in 10 who claim no religious affiliation, 38% today.
So again, it’s a factor of four on that measure here.
A little more than three– not quite four.
A little more than three on that measure.
But very, very dramatic changes.
You can also see the green there,
which is non-white Christians in the country.
And among young people, for example,
there as many– or there’s actually
slightly more non-white Christians
than there are white Christians in the youngest
cohort of Americans.
Whereas, among seniors, there’s nowhere
near that kind of parity.
So that’s the kind of quick change
that we’re seeing in the country today.
And just to kind of–
I haven’t said a lot about Catholics,
but I want to put them up here too.
This is a phenomenon–
we’re sitting at that Harvard Divinity School, broadly
speaking, a part of the mainline Protestant tradition
and more liberal Protestant end of the spectrum.
And for a long time, the narrative
has been that the more liberal end of the Protestant world
has been where all the decline has happened,
and that white Evangelical, more conservative churches,
That has largely been true until the last 10 years.
And then in the last decade, well we’re
actually seeing is slightly steeper declines
among white Evangelical denominations
then we’re even seeing among white mainline denominations.
But the overall story is that if you’re white and Christian,
whether you’re Evangelical, mainline, or Catholic,
the trends are the same.
Again, this is not a very long– this is only a 10-year window
here, and you can basically just see
the patterns are the same among every white Christian subgroup
in the country.
But the new thing here is really this decline
among white Evangelical groups from 18%–
sorry, from 23% down to 17%.
That’s genuinely new in the country.
They have been sort of stable or even growing
probably the last 10 years.
So I’m going to stop there, and we can kind of
come back to this other part.
But I think that lays the land–
gives you the lay of the land in terms
of just the demographic and religious change
that has really hit us in the last few decades,
but very much so in the last even 10 years.
I think that explains a little bit about why this feels
like a fight to the death among some quarters, particularly
the conservative and the white Christian world.
Wasn’t that awesome?
I love his PowerPoints.
Before I turn to Billy Graham, I wanted
to ask you to take apart the white and the Christian part.
Because I think that there were a lot of ways in which
your stark title could be read by people.
And I think these charts make clear
that there were two things going on here simultaneously,
but in a way, they are quite different things.
On the one hand, the country is getting more diverse,
and so those numbers, simply on non-white Christians
by generation, shows demographic change.
But the rise of the religiously unaffiliated
among the– particularly among the young, is in some ways,
I think, the biggest religious story in the country.
When you have nearly 40% of the under-30s being religiously
unaffiliated, that’s not–
by the way, young people always less religious.
Because this cohort of young people
is far more unaffiliated than any of the earlier cohorts.
I mean, this is a real change over time.
Can you talk about those two?
Now, if you’re sitting there as a conservative white Christian,
both changes may alarm you in different ways,
but they are quite distinct.
Could you talk about those two separately?
So one of the things that really got me
on to writing the book in the first place
was the sense that we had this narrative out there
that the Census Department has been giving for quite some time
that by 2050, the country–
the original projections that caused shock waves
were when the Census put out a press release that said,
our current projections show that by 2050, the country
will for the first time be majority non-white.
And it caused a lot of headlines.
Since then, that number’s been revised down to 2042
as the demographic changes have been accelerating a little.
But that’s just race and ethnicity
that has to do with birth and death rates and immigration
And if you put all that together, that’s what we get.
But it occurred to me that the alarm bells that I was hearing,
I think, were not fully explained by people
looking that far out on the horizon and thinking,
OK, well in 2042, something is going to happen I don’t like.
But there was something already happening in the country.
And it’s when I think we put these two things together–
so you have this engine that is racial and ethnic decline,
that we’re getting steady reports from the Census Bureau.
But I think what really turbocharges
the cultural changes is this, really,
exodus of young people from traditional religious
And so it’s a kind of–
here’s the engine.
You get this kind of turbocharged effect,
though, I think, from the religious affiliation.
Because most of the kids were actually raised
in churches, and then left.
Now, they leave mostly before they’re 20,
so they do leave quite early.
But they were still– most of them
today were still raised religious,
leave by the time they’re 20.
And by all measures that we have, very few of them
look like they’re coming back.
And as E.J. said, even if we had–
every generation was slightly more unaffiliated in their 20s
than they are later in life, as they get kids, and a mortgage,
and settle down.
But even if we get a kind of traditional coming-back
to religion, this will still be, by far, the most religiously
unaffiliated generation that we’ve ever seen,
by a factor of three.
The other piece that I’d love you to discuss
is the change in the nature of Christianity.
And you’re from Mississippi, and know this story better
than most folks, that the changing
nature of Christianity itself–
as Latinos– in the case of both Catholics and Protestants,
And African Americans and Latinos,
in the case of Protestants, primarily,
become a much bigger part of the cohort of believers, which
is certainly, I think, having over time some real effect
on the Roman Catholic church.
Where the Catholic numbers as you show
would be much worse in terms of disaffiliation
without Latino immigration.
And African Americans, even though there
are a lot of non-affiliated young African Americans,
have tended to stay more affiliated than white people.
What does this do to the nature of Christianity in the country?
Yeah, well the Catholic church, I
think, is really fascinating because there is–
this ethic change is happening all
under the umbrella of the same denomination.
So you’re not– what happens in the Protestant world is
typically you have these parallel denominational tracts
where the African American denominations are
kind of over here in their own denominations of churches,
and Latino denominations over here.
There’s still not today–
about 86% of our churches are essentially
mono-racial churches today.
There’s still not a lot of multi-racial congregations
in the country, particularly the Protestant world.
But what’s happening in the Catholic world is really
interesting, that we’re– like in the southwest now,
there are more non-white Catholics than white Catholics
in the southwest already today.
And we’re looking at now–
it used to be–
as recently as the 1990s, the ratio
of white to non-white Catholics was 10 to 1.
And today it’s about 60-40, and we’re headed toward parity.
To give you an idea of what the white Catholic exodus looks
like, 12% of Americans today are former Catholics.
And most of the are white–
Second or third largest denomination,
if they were a denomination.
They’re a smaller group than former Catholics.
A friend of mine is in a parish, a Catholic parish
that has become very Latino.
And a friend of his was complaining
about the shift in the ethnic makeup of the parish.
And he said, what do you mean?
Where’s the life?
Our people have funerals.
Their people have baptisms.
And he was for the change in the church.
Let me read what Robbie wrote about Billy Graham,
which is really– it’s particularly–
it’s quite powerful.
He talks about Billy Graham at mid-century having
an open-handed, inclusive style that really
went against the very defensive tendencies in the Evangelical
world after the Scopes Trial, the failure of Prohibition.
Although his wild success might suggest otherwise,
Reverend Graham entered the national stage
at a deeply uncertain time for Evangelicals.
In the 1950s, mainline Protestantism
was the unchallenged public face of white Christian America.
But the young Billy Graham almost
single-handedly reconfigured Evangelicalism
into a force with the power to shape
the national consciousness.
The most prominent example of Graham’s influence
was his historic crusade in, of all places, that’s
a good Mississippian’s line, New York City.
The Big Apple was not only the sophisticated cultural and
financial center of the country, but it also
has a headquarters of the mainline Protestant National
Council of Churches and its flagship
educational Institution Union Theological Seminary.
This is amazing.
For 110 days in the hot summer of 1957,
Graham drew crowds averaging about 18,000 people per night
to Madison Square Garden.
After the first night’s success, the New York Times
devoted nearly three full pages of coverage to the event,
even printing Graham’s service–
ABC News broadcast 14 Sunday night services, Saturday night
services, from The Garden, reaching an estimated audience
of 96 million viewers.
When he preached at Yankee Stadium,
Graham set an attendance record of over 100,000,
and more than 20,000 people were turned away.
Then you go on, and here’s where I want you to pick up the story
and relate it to the theme of the book.
But by the 1980s, Billy Graham’s welcoming and largely
apolitical appeal was overtaken by a movement built
around partisan politics and apocalyptic rhetoric, led
in the 1980s by figures such as the Reverend Jerry Falwell
and Pat Robertson.
As the elder Graham aged and health concerns
began to limit his public appearances,
his son Franklin, whose temperament and goals
resonated more with the religious right
than with his father, stepped increasingly
into the spotlight.
It would be difficult to overstate the differences
between father and son.
Talk about Billy Graham if you would
I mean, I think it is that I think Franklin and Billy
Graham do represent two different eras
in white Evangelicals’ life in the country.
And it’s interesting that Billy Graham
is this kind of rare moment where white Evangelicals did
kind of come into their own, felt
fairly secure in the country, and it
wasn’t a defensive posture.
There was a lot of fire and brimstone.
There was this deep invitation to come be
part of their Christian life.
He was one of the first people to desegregate services,
refused to hold rallies in the South
where they were segregated.
Asked Martin Luther King Jr. to come and offer
an opening prayer at some of his crusades in the 1960s.
So this is a very different kind of posture as well,
and was sort of, I think, universally loved
by Democratic and Republican presidents
alike, who held council with all the way through.
Although he did try to defeat John F. Kennedy in 1966.
Yes, that’s true.
That was kind of Protestant-Catholic– yeah.
Yeah, and that– for the Protestants.
Our friend, Sean Casey, has written a wonderful book
called The Making of the First Catholic President, 1960,
where he documented some of that.
So it’s just and aside.
I wanted to–
Yes, fair enough.
But it’s a differ– it was a very different–
The Massachusetts Catholic I am, I couldn’t not–
I had to.
Couldn’t let that go.
Keep me honest on Catholic [INAUDIBLE]..
But it’s a very different posture for him.
So a little aside, I don’t know if I–
so I worked for Billy Graham in the summer of my high school
And so I actually met him, because I got a–
I grew up Southern Baptist in the South
in Jackson, Mississippi.
And I got a call right from my senior year
asking if I wanted to go work for the Billy Graham
Evangelistic Association for three weeks in Amsterdam.
I thought sure, right?
So I got overnighted a plane ticket and a reservation
at the Amsterdam Hilton.
Just just barely turned 18, and I spent three weeks Amsterdam.
What else did you do an Amsterdam?
We’ll leave what happens in Amsterdam in Amsterdam.
But I remember being struck even then.
I mean I’d seen him on TV and stuff.
But being struck even then at this sense of–
and here I was in Amsterdam.
Not exactly the Evangelical capital of the world.
But he packed the place out night after night.
And his message was not a kind of condemning the sinful city.
It wasn’t any of that stuff.
I mean, it was this very open, warm invitation.
I remember being very struck by that even as a very young kid.
And then we have, I think, Franklin Graham
who was very public in this last election, his support
for Donald Trump, and very critical of President Obama
Very critical of the Black Lives Matter movement,
and very much just kind of in lockstep with the Christian
Right Movement, which has a very–
a harder edge to it.
And I think we do have in Billy Graham’s death today
a kind of passing of an era, of a very different kind
of posture when Evangelicalism, I think,
was much more sure-footed, and much more sure of itself,
I think, in a way that today, it’s very defensive,
and I think a little anxious.
Could I– I’m just curious.
This is– I’ve known Robbie for a long time.
I never knew this side of him, the Amsterdam-Graham side.
You went to semi– you went to Baptist Seminary.
Can you talk about just the influence he and his style had
on you personally?
So I grew up Southern Baptist.
I did a Mathematics and Computer Science degree at a Baptist
College in Mississippi, then I went
to– being the good Baptist boy that I was,
went to a Southern Baptist Seminary
in Fort Worth, Texas, Southwestern Baptist
So at the time, Southwestern was the, quote unquote,
“moderate” seminary that, while the SBC
was in the turmoil of this sort of denominational takeover
that was connected to the political Christian Right
So this was– my last semester at seminary, actually, was–
I literally watched the transition
from what felt like this kind of non-defensive and open-handed
kind of Evangelicalism that Billy Graham had been modeling
to this more hyper-political, partisan,
and kind of hard-edged thing.
Where my last semester seminary, while we– the students
were all gathered in Chapel, the trustees met in secret,
fired the president, locked the doors.
Locked his doors with his personal effects
inside, and escorted him off campus with armed guards.
That was while the student body was sitting in Chapel.
And I remember thinking, like, OK, yeah, this–
I’m seeing this very–
you couldn’t be more stark than that juxtaposed right together.
And then after that, the seminary changed direction.
A number of professors left.
Some were fired.
Some were passed over for tenure.
So the whole face of the institution change that.
And could you talk a bit about something
you and I have talked about a lot, which
is how politics, in a way, has come trump
religion among a lot of people?
Alan Wolfe, who taught at BC and ran the Boisi Center there
for many years, really caught me up short one day,
and he was absolutely right when he said,
you know, religion isn’t really important to politics.
It’s that politics is becoming important to religion.
People don’t argue about the Nicene Creed.
They don’t argue about the virginity of Mary.
They don’t argue about religious questions.
They argue about social and cultural questions
linked to politics.
And that when you think about the Trump
more than over Hillary, 81% to 16%, as I recall,
Trump got the highest percentage,
higher than George W. Bush, of the white Evangelical
vote of anybody since we’ve been recording it.
This really does suggest politics trumping religion.
And that finding that David quoted
is probably maybe the most quoted
finding in PRRI’s history.
Where before Trump, the personal life of a politician really,
After Trump, the personal life of a politician really, really
And just to put a line under it, the change in that number
was much starker among white Evangelicals
than any other group in the country.
Can you talk about that, and then
maybe show one more– it’s my favorite slide, if you’ve
got it, which is the end of the white Christian political
I don’t think I’ve got that on up, but I can talk about it.
But you can describe it, yeah.
So just to kind of put that number–
I think it literally has been the most-quoted number we’ve
ever put out.
And what we did, just to kind of remind you–
Dean Hempton laid it out pretty well, but just to remind you,
we asked in 2011 this question about,
can someone behave immorally in their private life
and still behave morally and perform their duties
in their public life?
The number in 2011 for white Evangelicals
was 30% agreeing with that statement,
that someone could do that.
By the time we get to the last election cycle, it’s 72%.
So it’s a 42% percentage point swing.
You just don’t really see that kind of swing
in numbers like that.
So when you do see that, you know that something’s really
But we have a–
I mean, what’s interesting about it is if you look back
at the voting patterns, really, the last four or five election
cycles, what is remarkable–
I think, what really goes to this point about how important
political affiliation become for religious identity
is that you hardly see any movement,
no matter who the candidates are.
So you can just go back election cycle after election cycle.
So white Evangelicals, for example, vote 8 in 10
for Republican presidential candidates,
no matter who they are.
Now, think about this.
Mitt Romney, Mormon candidate.
George W Bush.
Now, these are really different candidates, right?
And the needle hardly moves.
So what really matters is who the Republican
Party put forward.
To be fair, it’s true the other side as well.
So the Democratic candidates looking very different,
and the numbers don’t move.
The most consistent voting group in the country,
though, that is dead on the nose,
are white mainline Protestants, who vote about 40–
who vote exactly in the last three election cycles,
44% for democratic candidates.
44, 44, 44.
It doesn’t move at all.
If you look at the chart, it looks like a satanic number.
It’s like 666, you know?
I mean, it’s 44, 44, 44.
But the real realignment– again, it’s
a racial story here, too.
I mean, you’ve pointed this out in your previous book
very eloquently, that it really is this shift in the Civil
Rights Movement, where the Democratic Party
became associated as the party of Civil Rights.
And that spurred this kind of white–
a great book is called The Rise of the Republican South by,
I love this, it’s two twin brothers, Merle and Earl Black,
who are both political scientists.
One at Emory, and one at Rice in the South.
And there was great books.
And what they called the “Great White Switch”
that really happened between the Civil Rights Movement,
and it really caps with Reagan.
By Reagan, there was this real seat change
in Southern white party affiliation,
and along with that went white Evangelical party affiliation.
It was really part of that same–
part of that same swing.
And so ever since then, we have seen
this 80%, 8 in 10 support for Republican candidates,
no matter who they are in the country.
And it’s just kind of a mark of our politics now.
We saw the same thing with the Roy Moore election in Alabama
White Evangelicals, again, with a very unorthodox candidate
for a group that’s kind of branded themselves
as values voters.
And based on what we saw in Alabama,
it was that 78%, I think, of white Evangelicals in Alabama
voted for Roy Moore, which is right in line
with their typical voting for Republican candidates
at the state level.
Let me ask you and press you on that,
because I think you make an important point there, that–
I’ve struggled with this myself, that we’ve
started talking about white Evangelical Christians
as a voting block with the rise of the moral majority
at the end of the ’70s and in 1980.
But in fact, the people we are talking about,
the very same people really made their journey to the Right
and to the Republican Party because of Civil Rights.
And even some of the issues connected to the Religious
Right were actually racially tinged,
such as the IRS cutting off tax benefits
to white Christian schools that were essentially being
used as segregation academies.
And interestingly, Jimmy Carter got the rage,
but that that was actually started
in the Nixon administration, the move against those schools.
And so sometimes, I’ve asked myself,
did we put a religious overlay on something that was actually
simply racial, or was there a distinctive religious aspect
that entered into it in 1980?
And this doesn’t deny that these voters are and think
of themselves as very religious, but nonetheless, these trends,
as you say, began long before anybody
was talking about either of the Moral Majority or the Christian
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately too.
Like I said, I grew up in the South.
My family from five generations back is from Macon, Georgia,
but I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi.
But what I think has been interesting to me is–
as someone who grew up in that environment,
there’s a story that you get told
from the inside of these churches that
has nothing to do with race.
Despite the fact– so one key point
here, I grew up in the Southern Baptist Convention.
I did not know that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed
in 1845 because of a pull-out of the Southern churches who
wanted to support sending missionaries
who were slave owners.
And there was a rift between the Northern Baptists
and the Southern Baptists in 1845.
The Southerners said, we’re going to– we really do think
it’s fully consistent with Christian values to–
for a missionary to own slaves, and really
pulled out and formed their own denomination.
I didn’t know that was the history of my own denomination
till I went to seminary and took a Baptist History
class when I was like 21.
So that’s how anesthetized that narrative is.
And I think that one of the things that’s also coming out
is trying to re-understand that history, I think,
is really important.
It’s a task that some churches are taking on,
but I think it’s also important that that invisibility itself
was a powerful racial tool in the South,
so that it actually became–
There’s this great book called Sanctuaries of Segregation
that’s about Jackson, about my hometown, in 1963, 1964.
And it really was this combination
of the governor, the mayor, and the central pastors
of the Methodist and Baptist churches
that were all aligned to keep not only
the public facilities segregated,
but first and foremost, the churches segregated.
Because they saw– if the churches–
if segregation fell at the church level,
that would be the domino that knocked everything else down.
So it was actually quite important that–
socially, that the– and for cultural power,
that the white Christian churches remain segregated.
So I think this has been a racial story all the way down
that just isn’t told very well.
Let me– I want to invite David to come in here.
I just want you to sort of give a word, a verbal picture,
of that chart I like so much.
Because– just so you know, the reason I like this chart
is because it really showed how radically different
the Obama coalition was, and really
still, the Democratic coalition is now,
from the Republican coalition.
If you sort of crossed race and religion,
It’s a very different–
So it’s basically a version of this chart.
But what I did in the other chart
is I overlaid the Obama and Romney coalitions,
and kind of fit them into where they
would fit in the generation cohort
as a way of kind of explaining where the two
political parties were, in terms of race, religion,
And what it basically showed was that in 2012,
that the Obama coalition looked about like 30-year-old America,
in terms of its racial and religious break.
The Romney coalition looked about like 70-year-old America
in terms of its racial and religious composition.
And what we’re seeing now, even if we just–
and that was vote.
But even if we look at party affiliation today,
the Republican Party 10 years ago
was 80%, 81%, white and Christian.
Today, the Republican Party is 71% white and Christian.
10 years ago, the Democratic Party
was 50% white and Christian.
Today, it’s 30% white and Christian.
So we’re now looking at the two political parties who
are increasingly being polarized by race and religion,
so that we’re on a trajectory where we’ll end up with,
basically, a kind of white, Christian nationalist party,
and then everyone else over here.
And that’s something I’m actually genuinely worried,
is that drift that we’re seeing in party
affiliation in the country.
And what that means is that only one party
is creating a multi-racial, multi-religious coalition,
which may create incentives for the other party
to create certain forms of division.
But B, it creates enormous coalition management problems
inside the Democratic Party, because a big part of the shift
is in the rise of the seculars, of the non-affiliated.
And so– I mean, I think you saw it visibly in the Hillary
Clinton campaign, where that campaign was
very torn about how to present her religiously.
Because here was this very religious Methodist woman
for whom Methodism, who, one understands,
was discouraged to some degree by her campaign
from talking about that because the more secular vote was–
turning out, the younger, more secular vote was critical,
they thought, to her success.
Could you elaborate on that?
I mean, the other thing I’d point out is that–
I think this creates problems for–
because we only have two political parties,
it creates problems for both, actually.
Because the other piece of this is
that it creates incentives for the Democratic Party
to be home to everyone except white Christian voters,
and that, I think, also is a really unhealthy dynamic.
Because all of a sudden, white Christian voters
become the enemy.
Like, they’re the other guys.
They’re not in our tribe.
And I think this kind of tribalism thing
is a real danger, I think, for our politics today.
David, I wanted to give you the first set of questions.
I thought I had a night off.
Oh, I thought you–
I thought you wanted to come in.
I heard you saying that you wanted to come in.
No, I will be happy to give you a night off.
There are a couple of things I would [INAUDIBLE]..
So we had a presentation here a couple
of months ago by a young scholar at Calhoun College
who, as well as putting a race slant on theirs,
put a strong gender slant on it as well.
Arguing that, really from the Vietnam War Era onwards,
there was a distinct creation of a kind of Evangelical
masculinity that came around through patriotism,
support of the military, support of patriarchal values
in the family, support for the police, and so on down
And being also quite resistant to feminism
and pressure from that.
So it’s another, as well as the other pressures
on pushing this constituency further to the right,
she made a pretty compelling case,
even through the popular literature of the Evangelical
constituencies, of how this kind of constructed masculinity
became also a part.
And that would be true, right, through a range of things.
Maybe even over guns as well.
I don’t know.
And maybe the second thing I’d ask you to comment on
is it seems to me that the Evangelical constituencies I
know are kind of against you liberal elites of all kinds.
Whether it’s activist judges or the liberal media,
the Ivy League universities, Hollywood, a whole bunch
of things that they feel are a concentrated attack
on their values.
From just a liberal a elite, broadly conceived.
So those are two things, maybe, to add to the mix a little bit,
that I’d be interested to hear your views on.
You can jump in here too, [INAUDIBLE]..
I’ll take a stab at the gender one.
That first image that I showed with the family prayer
I don’t think is coincidental, that it
had the most prominent figure in that photo
is the patriarch sitting at the head of the table.
We have some antique furnishings in our house.
Some you may have this too.
We have a dining room table from the 1940s in our house,
and it seats–
1, 2, 3– six.
And there’s only one chair that has arms.
And it was literally built into our furniture
in the 1940s and 1950s, this sense
of where– and that’s called the captain’s chair, right
and that’s where the father sits at the head.
It only fits at the head of the table.
It won’t even fit around the side.
It has to be on one end or the other.
And there’s a chair at the other end too but,
it doesn’t have arms.
It just this one.
And so I think it’s literally built
into the fabric of our culture and our architecture.
I mean, it was there.
And so I think that’s been a part of it.
And the other thing I guess I would sketch
is it’s part of a bigger kind of hierarchical world
view, where gender is kind of a very clear conception.
It’s black and white.
There’s man, there’s women.
Each know their place.
There’s parents and there’s children.
There is this real ordered, hierarchical world.
And I think it’s the breakdown of that–
and it’s whites over blacks.
It’s very clear.
Everyone knew their place in the pecking order.
And I think it’s the dissolution of that sense of space.
And particularly, if you’re on the top of that pyramid,
you feel that very decisively when it starts to crumble.
And I think that’s part of what’s going on,
and so that’s why the gender pieces have to be part of it,
I think, in the construction here.
And then the other piece– was remind me the–
I mean, that’s certainly been there.
It’s– I mean, I’ve certainly had people from my–
just to make it from a personal example, the way it works
is that your local church will–
in the Baptist world, licenses you
to the ministry on your way to seminary.
It’s kind of an endorsement from your local congregation
as you’re heading off to seminary.
And there’s a reception, and that sort of thing.
And I’ve certainly had at least two people
come by and give me the “Don’t let seminary ruin you” speech.
There was kind of that sense of things,
like, don’t lose your faith at seminary.
It turns out I lost my denomination at seminary–
–with the way things fell out.
But I think there is–
that has been there.
And I think it has been this kind of embattled South.
And again, it has a kind of racial tinge to it, right?
Everything from the War of Northern Aggression instead
of the Civil War, to Confederate flags everywhere,
to Daughters of the American Revolution putting up
monuments here there and yonder about the Civil War.
All those are markers of a world kind of gone by, I think.
And that’s why I think this–
I really Trump’s cam– we haven’t really
talked about this explicitly, but I do
think that Trump’s campaign slogan,
he’s going to make America great “again.”
It was that last piece that had more power than anything else.
And on the homestretch of the election cycle, I mean,
he was really leaning on that.
I mean, he was literally saying, I’m your last chance, folks.
If you don’t vote for me this election cycle,
you will never see a Republican like me
in your gen– in your lifetime.
And he was kind of just naming the demographic changes.
Like, I’m your bulwark against the change.
Yeah, I think there’s a paradox on women in this area.
On the one hand, if you overlaid women
into some of these charts, especially women
have been tilting more Democratic than men since 1980.
That’s really when the gender gap started, opening up
with Reagan’s election.
In the country now, the gender gap under Trump
is truly astonishing.
And so that if you actually added women to these pictures,
men would fall out into all these–
or a much bigger piece of the Republican coalition.
On the other hand, women are also
the most religious people in– or more religious,
on the whole, than men.
They’re more likely to be believers.
They’re more likely to belong to churches and synagogues,
and especially churches, though.
And they often take leadership roles.
So not necessarily always the formal head,
but they play a very prominent part.
One of the– Theda Skocpal here at Harvard is doing a wonderful
study with two colleagues, Vanessa Williamson, and–
I’ve forgotten the other colleague involved in this.
And they are looking at eight counties in–
I believe it’s Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin,
Trump counties in Trump states.
And it’s two Trump counties in each state.
One more rural, one more exurban, suburban.
Here’s an interesting fact out of their study.
They have found that in those eight Trump counties,
there– these are pro-Trump counties,
they have found 10 anit-Trump groups that got organized.
Two interesting facts about the leadership of these groups.
One, every single one of them is either a lead
or co-led by a woman, and many of these women
come out of the mainline churches.
Many of them have mainline church backgrounds.
And obviously, these are predominantly white areas
that voted for Trump.
And so on the one hand, you see a picture
that– of a past that had religion
overlaid with patriarchy.
On the other hand, you have very religious people who are–
very religious people, being disproportionately women,
many of them in leadership roles,
and many of them out of mainline Protestantism.
And just one story from our class.
We had a wonderful Unitarian minister in our class
from a par–
his church was in Dallas.
And it takes guts to be a Unitarian in Dallas.
And he said that after Trump’s election,
his church just filled up because it was
known as an activist church.
And I couldn’t resist looking at our students and saying,
God works in mysterious ways.
The purpose of Trump’s election is to turn America
into a nation of Unitarians.
Could I– can I respond just to–
well, just two more and then I will give up.
One is, I did ask Theda Skocpol and those those counties
the non-college educated women who split for Trump like 62%,
Wasn’t it something like that?
Whether there was any shift there in support for Trump.
In other words, whether this was essentially
college-educated women who were organizing against Trump,
or whether there was any movement
in that other constituency.
And she said she didn’t really know the answer
to that question.
She hadn’t really gotten to it.
But that’s an interesting–
The second thing, and I’ll finish with this
and take my night off, is really just
to switch over to the Democratic side.
And so I did read somewhere in the reflections on the campaign
that the Democrats were nervous about talking about religion.
And one reason for that is that a lot of the young staffers
on the campaign came from metropolitan areas
and were simply inured to that language,
and weren’t comfortable with it.
And she wasn’t particularly comfortable with it so it.
So I’ve just got–
so my question about that is, given your demographics,
would it be smart for the Democratic Party
now to stay away from those topics, with the assurance
that things are moving in that direction with the younger
Or does the Democratic Party need
to find a voice of how to talk about these issues,
the way that Hillary fai–
in my view, wasn’t able to do about her Methodist roots
So if you were a Democratic strategist,
which of those two options do you
think would make the most sense?
All right, so you’re going to get me
in trouble with this question.
I don’t know.
Do you want to take a run at that first,
or do you want me to–
I have a strong view on this, but I’ve always–
I kind of want to do it first, because curious.
All right, all right, All right.
All right, we’ll see–
My view won’t change, so–
No matter how brilliant you are.
So here’s what’s interesting.
If I gave this presentation in England
about the percentage of unaffiliated people
in the country, the British people would be thinking,
where did all those church people come from?
Because we’re talking about 24% of the country
That means that 3/4 of the country
is affiliated in some way or another.
And even among young people, we’re talking about 4
in 10 being unaffiliated.
That means that 6 in 10 are affiliated in some way.
Now, it’s a dramatic sea change for the US context,
as we have always been kind of the exception
to the Western developed world in terms of religiosity.
And so this is new for us.
But I think–
I’m of the mind, the parties certainly
have to hone their messages and speak to their base.
But again, from my money, I think
that it’s a dangerous game to play,
I think, if a political party decides,
we’re going to so tailor it to our base
that we’re not going to speak a language that still most
of the country understands, and that
is meaningful for most of the country.
Even most young people, still.
And I think it’s about how it’s done.
I think the kind of wearing it on your sleeve
and sort of slapping the– and this has actually, I think,
been something Democrats have been guilty of,
is because they’re uncomfortable with it, what they tend to do
is sort of slap Matthew 25 as a bumper
sticker on whatever the policy briefing is
that they’re going in for.
And somehow, that makes it a kind of faith-based kind
of grounding on it.
But I think something that’s more organic–
and I think Hillary Clinton could have pulled this off.
Because I’ve been in smaller settings and heard
her tell her story.
It’s not awkward.
It’s not– doesn’t feel contrived,
and I think she could’ve pulled it off.
And I think if it feels like it comes from the heart
and it’s not about–
it’s more about who I am, and what
energizes me and grounds me as a candidate,
I think that’s something that’s not
going to be that off-putting to people.
Even for people who have a kind of deep suspicion of religion
That’s my take.
One, I can’t resist just this notion of this rising nuns
people under 30.
In a sense, the under-30 generation
is becoming European.
Because we’ve always made a big distinction
between churchgoing Americans versus non-churchgoing.
Particularly Western Europeans, but now pretty much Europeans
Peter Burr, the great sociologist of religion,
he used to joke that elites were more secular,
and the mass of Americans were more religious.
And he said that India is the most religious country
in the world, Sweden the least religious.
And America is a country of Indians governed by Swedes,
This [INAUDIBLE] quip.
Remember his Harvard quip? he’s like–
That we often mistake–
that academics tend to mistake the Harvard Faculty Club
for the country as a whole.
And so I just think that is an interesting development.
But point 2 is I personally think
it was a disastrous error on the part of the Democratic campaign
not to encourage Clinton to speak about Methodism
and its role in her life.
And I think we have a lot of examples in our history,
but one in particular where a public figure could speak
very clearly to secular people while often
speaking in religious terms.
And that’s Martin Luther King.
And Martin Luther King’s rhetoric
was a brilliant fusion of the Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution on the one side,
and Isaiah, Micah, Amos, Matthew 25,
and a lot of other parts of it on the other.
And I think that what’s happened is–
and I think this is very dangerous for religion.
In the last two days, I’ve run into two people who–
two women, who said, I own actually quite beautiful
crosses that I used to wear, and I don’t
want to wear them anymore.
Because if I wear them, people automatically associate me
with the Religious Right.
And it is the association of religion
with certain kinds of right-wing ideas,
and particularly among young people,
and particularly among gay and lesbian people,
that turns off the younger generation.
And I think there was fear in the Clinton campaign,
and particularly among the more secular young,
that they would be turned off by this.
And also, that there’s a lot of anger among younger people,
again, particularly gays and lesbians,
toward very conservative Christians, who they perceive
as inimical to who they are.
But I don’t see in this country, given
what Robbie said about the 75%, not
to talk to religious people was a mistake.
And it was, finally, in a way, the most authentic piece
of Hillary Clinton.
Anyone who’s ever heard her talk about the role of Methodism
and why it created this commitment in her
to social justice–
it’s very believable, because as best I can tell,
it’s actually true.
And that’s a really helpful in politics.
So I– and that– besides which, we have this electoral college.
And if you want to carry Michigan and Pennsylvania
and Ohio and Wisconsin, I don’t think you can just say,
we can do it on the secular coalition alone.
I’m not for it.
I wish we didn’t have an electoral college, but we do.
Who wants to– please.
You’re right near the mic.
OK, thank you.
My question, it’s really about Billy Graham,
but I have to set out a couple historical things that
haven’t come up.
In the 1920s, there was a rise of a nativist populism,
and the KKK, funded by some wealthy Southern Baptists,
really made a push to come into Southern New England.
And my family is from Connecticut,
and my grandfather made a stand, a public stand
that was memorable in my family, about that.
God bless him.
While that went on–
I said, god bless him.
For us that’s true.
That went on for five, eight years, and perhaps in the end,
you could say it was really wiped out
by The Depression and then the World War.
At the end of World War II, the Churches of the World,
the World Council of Churches, anyway,
really confronted the German churches, Lutheran
and Catholic, and said, you did nothing.
You let all of these fascists sit in the pews
and feel loved by God, and you did nothing.
And that’s totally unacceptable.
And American mainline denominations
took that to heart.
And in my own college graduate school era
of the ’60s, boy, everything was full of that story.
In the ’50s, just when this was really ramping up,
Billy Graham stood up and said, hey, here I am.
I’ll give you all the cheap grace you want.
Come on down to me.
You don’t have to do any of this moral stuff.
And he cheap-graced his way to millions of bucks,
and I would say, really set up Franklin Graham to take over
and take it one step further.
So I’m having a little trouble today
with all the warm things being said about Billy on the radio.
But my family never liked what he was doing,
I do think he saw–
he’s a good salesman, and he saw that he
could sell what the others were no longer trying to sell.
Comment on that?
No, you go.
You work for the rabbi.
I am actually looking up something
on my little phone here.
Yeah, so it’s interesting.
The one thing– the thing I would say that–
I resonate with in what you’re saying
is that there’s a version–
a kind of abstract version of this personal relationship
with Jesus that runs deeply through Evangelical life
and through Billy Graham’s speaking.
That that’s what’s most important,
is that you get your naked self right with God through Jesus.
It’s this very one-on-one personal thing.
What tends to be missing from that
is the connection to social action and social justice.
Now, it’s interesting to him– he’s a complex figure,
because he really–
for the time, I mean, he was very clearly trying to de–
he refused to hold rallies in some places that
were try– say, you can only come with segregated audiences.
He’s like, I’m not going to come.
Are we going to have it or not?
He was– at the time, King, it’s worth remembering,
was a controversial figure even in the mainline churches
in the 1960s.
Even in the African American denominations, King–
in many of them, King was a controversial person.
And Graham reached out, had him do the opening thing.
So I– it’s interesting that he doing that kind of stuff.
But at the same time, i think one
of the other ways I’ve been thinking
about how Evangelicalism sort of hid its racial history
is through this very personal view of Jesus that doesn’t
connect to social action.
So you can be personally right with God–
and you can see this over and over in Southern sermons
from the ’60s, and before the Christian Right
got politically active.
The trope was, that’s politics, this is religion,
and the two don’t have anything to do with each other.
But you can only really say that if you’re
at the top of the heap, and the status quo looks good to you,
Then that makes a lot of sense.
But that disconnect, I would say,
that’s what resonates to me that as maybe the weak point,
I think, in what got reinforced.
At the same time, he was working to desegregate things,
propping up a theological view that didn’t have a lot of teeth
to it in terms of racial justice.
[INAUDIBLE] talking about the [INAUDIBLE]..
No, I appreciate your question.
First of all, I like the way you linked what
you said with the first part.
Because, of course, cheap-gracing it,
you are channeling Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
who was in the part of the German church that stood up
And that was his phrase.
What I was looking up is Reinhold Niebuhr
was a great critic of Billy Graham,
and it was precisely on this point.
And in a way, Graham could be said
to have popularized the reaction to the social gospel
among fundamentalists a long time before.
And so on the one hand, it was a more open, less-angry form of–
that Evangelicalism was a less-angry form
of fundamentalism, and this was a less-angry form
So in that sense, the warm Billy Graham is a real story.
On the other hand, at the root of that
is a very, very conservative view of religion that did not
have this social challenge in it, and that Graham,
in the end, really was quite conservative.
He was a very close friend and ally of Richard Nixon’s,
And it was not a social justice faith at all.
[INAUDIBLE] has to [INAUDIBLE].
Although in the ’50s, that was a fairly broad [INAUDIBLE]..
It was a major part of his platform.
Yeah, so your point is correct.
I had a choice of writing a column on him this morning
and I chose–
I let my colleagues do it.
Because my feelings about him are complicated,
the way yours are.
Because I accept what Robbie says,
but I also think that those are two sides of the Graham story
that we just have to accept.
Who wants to– who– oh, the gentleman back there,
we’ll come to you.
Thank you guys both for coming.
One thing you said during the talk was, quote,
“Nothing inside Southern Baptist churches in Macon, Georgia,
has anything to do with race.”
And so I actually have an interesting story.
My grandfather, his parents were Syrian-Turkish immigrants.
They moved in 1909 to Macon, Georgia.
So my grandfather was born the last of nine Jewish kids
in a big family in Macon, Georgia.
And when I asked my grandfather about what
it was like growing up in Macon, Georgia,
he said, well, Andrew, after dark, there
were no Jews, dogs, or blacks allowed on the street.
And so as a Jewish kid looking up to my grandfather, the idea
that race never existed inside of whatever happened inside
of Southern Baptist churches sounds–
doesn’t sound too right to me.
And I also think that tonight we’ve
talked a lot about white Christianity,
but we haven’t really–
here at the Divinity School, we often
wrestle with questions of justice when it comes to God.
And if we think about this long arc of Christian decline
that we’ve outlined tonight, we also
recognize the same historical period represents
tremendous increases in things like mass incarceration,
I mean, white wealth over those periods,
compared to minority wealth, has been astronomical.
So we see the consolidation of white control over society,
and we know that 53% of white women voted for Trump.
So I guess my question to you guys
is how does your approach take into the racial catastrophes?
Over 3 million incarcerated folk today, increasing.
How does that not stem out of those same white spaces
from the past?
The rise of white culture?
Let me take the thing about– what
I said about the inside of white Christian churches.
I want to make sure I’m not misunderstood.
I wasn’t saying that narrative was true.
I was saying it was being told.
And so that, I think, is what’s remarkable,
is that I could grow up– and I went to church five times
a week growing up.
Like, I was there Sunday morning, Sunday night,
Monday night visitation, Tuesday night Bible study,
Wednesday night prayer meeting.
That was my schedule growing up, so I was there all the time.
And so I wouldn’t have missed it if it was there.
And it just wasn’t there.
I mean, there wasn’t a narrative at all, because–
There was– and it just, it wasn’t ever a part.
Even when we were talking about our own history,
we had like Baptist training union on Sunday afternoons,
and that was the time when you’d talk about the denomination.
And it just wasn’t there really.
Not all the way back, it wasn’t there.
About the ’60s, none of it.
I was there.
So I’m saying that there’s a literally whitewashed narrative
being told inside churches that, I think,
hid the racial history of the domination.
And I think that was a huge problem,
and is an ongoing huge problem for–
and what’s great, Macon, Georgia is a great example.
There are two First Baptist churches in Macon, Georgia.
They sit about 50 yards apart downtown.
One of them is African American, one of them is white.
They used to be one church.
They split during the Civil War when
it became too tense for slave owners and slaves
to be in church together.
And so they gave permission for the African American slaves
to go build their own church before they were emancipated,
and then after the Civil War and the Emancipation,
they continued their own church.
Those churches have sat for 150 years on two corners of Macon,
Until the last five years, they finally
get two young pastors who kind of looked at each other
and went, what are we doing?
We’re sitting here– and they started
doing some joint things between the two churches.
But that’s like the last five years that has happened.
It’s a sort of long, long story.
And your point about the Jewish community, I think,
is really important, and it’s part of this narrative.
Yeah, in the 1920s, huge anti-Semitic stuff going on.
And it’s really important to remember,
the KKK was a white Protestant organization.
It was shot through with Protestant Christianity.
It was anti-Catholic, it was anti-Jewish,
and it was anti-black.
And that is its history, and it was propped up
by white Protestant churches all through the South where
it really had its stronghold.
So I think remembering that is really important.
We’re hearing echoes of it even today in Charlottesville.
We heard not just stuff around race, and pride,
and the Confederate flag, and that’s a– but
they were chanting “Jew will not replace us” in Charlottesville.
So it’s still hovering there with us,
even though attitudes have largely
changed in the general public.
And the rise of the KKK in the ’20s that you referenced–
and it was really powerful in some states in the North,
particularly– they basically took over Indiana for a while.
On top of being anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish,
it was deeply anti-immigrant.
And it’s worth remembering that the ’20s were
when the toughest immigration law was passed by Congress.
It was a kind of a backlash, not at all unlike the backlash
reflected in the Trump campaign.
I will– before we close, I want to tell a very personal
Southern Jewish story.
But I’m going to wait till–
to close with it, because it’s actually a–
it’s a warm American story about the lines of hatred
always being unexpected.
But I wanted to just go to a couple more questions.
The gentlemen here.
Yeah, go ahead.
Yeah, here’s the mic.
It’s not clear to me a couple of statistical points.
And then I have a larger question.
Did a majority of white Christians
vote for Donald Trump?
I was afraid of that answer.
And the spike in– or the big shift
in the statistic that you’ve stressed most,
about how under Obama, white Christianity shifted
from a majority of the population
to a 43% minority in eight years,
I suspect that that– that I’ll get
a “yes” to this statistical question too,
that that was probably the fastest shift of that kind
in American history.
Yeah, you can s–
Robbie’s suggesting another “yes”?
I believe that’s true.
I mean, it has been dropping, really, since the ’70s.
But this 11– more than a percentage point a year is
definitely more [INAUDIBLE]–
But more of that comes from the rise
of religious disaffiliation than from racial change.
That’s why I was trying at the beginning to–
in other words, you’ve had a very precipitous drop
in religious affiliation among younger Americans.
And so some of that is racial change and immigra–
because of immigration.
But more of it is from religious disaffiliation.
The other point that I didn’t talk about,
but that is interesting, we’re talking
a lot about white Evangelicals.
One of the reasons why we’re seeing their drop
is actually that fertility rates among white Evangelicals
have gone down.
And that’s mostly because there has
been an uptick in Evangelical women getting college degrees
over the last generation.
And so we always know that’s a corollary.
So that’s all these kind of interesting–
in the mix that has lowered–
that has made family sizes smaller.
And then with the– you get smaller family size,
disaffiliation of young people, the whole group
starts aging and declining.
And that’s part of the story here.
So there are– and this was my third and final question.
So clearly, there are a number of drivers of this 10% drop
under Obama that has made us–
that has brought about the title of your book, The End of White
Well, you– and of course, you’ve
just given us, both of you, a number of the drivers.
Which of these driving factors do you
think was the most important?
And I’ll yield.
Well, I think we–
as E.J. suggested, we’ve seen this kind
of steady and predictable racial and ethnic drop that’s
And I don’t have the chart here, but if I showed you
the curve of–
over time, the trends over time, the percentage of Americans who
claim no religious affiliation, it starts in the 1990s.
And it’s single digits in 19–
like 6%, 7% in the 1990s.
It just starts upticking a little bit into the 2000s,
and in the last decade, it just looks
like a lot of rhythmic uptick.
It just takes off.
And so it is kind of turbocharge across the last decade
kind of thing.
And we’re seeing it.
It ticks up like every year.
I mean, it really is a measurable phenomenon.
And just on your point, you might ask the question, well,
if these numbers moved in that direction under Obama,
how in the world did Donald Trump win
the election if those numbers are going this way?
And the answer to the question is, older people turn out
at higher rates than younger people,
is the single most important factor.
And there was a slight downtick in African American turnout
from the Obama election.
But it’s really that a lot of these numbers
are driven by young people who under vote,
compared to old people.
And so there was–
there may be one or two elections left maybe
in this coalition.
Even that is questionable, but it
has to do with voter turnout.
And if Trump turbochargers young people’s turnout,
then this coalition is fundamentally– basically
finished, I think it’s fair to say.
Although everybody’s been saying it’s finished for a long time,
and they’ve been wrong.
So it’s worth– sorry.
Can I just put one fine point on this real quick?
Just to kind of spell this out, though, white Evangelicals
make up 17% of the population.
So they’ve declined down to 17% of the population.
In the Trump election, they made up 26% of voters.
26% of the what?
So at the ballot box, they are 9 percentage points
overrepresented at the ballot box because of higher turnout
rates, relative to other people in the population.
Our best projections are it’s going
to be 2024 before the voting population looks
like the actual population looks like already.
That’s a good way to put it.
I was going to say, the role of black women
in the Alabama special election for the Senate.
I mean, that turned it against the Evangelicals candidate.
It was African Americans and it was young people,
that the line that you draw across that vote is age 45.
45 and under voted 61% for Doug Jones.
Over 65 voted overwhelmingly for Roy Moore.
And then you had very effective organizing
within the African American community that
produced a significant turnout.
It’s always been true in Southern politics
that if you get a good African American turnout
and a white vote of around, depending
on the state, the share, it only has
to be around 30% of the white vote in Alabama
But usually for the Democrats– and it
usually doesn’t reach that.
And that’s why they keep losing elections.
But Jones had the two-fer of a really good African American
turnout, combined with that share of the white vote that
rose, particularly because of younger people.
But I think it was African American women in Alabama,
if I’m not mistaken.
It was historic that they turned out at rates un–
we’ve never seen.
They outvoted African American men,
and they outvoted white men and women,
in terms of the rate of turnout in the election.
Although African American women tend to always turn out
at higher rates than men.
That’s true for quite a while.
But you’re right–
It was higher than whites.
It was higher than whites in the Alabama election.
No, go ahead.
Thank you so much for the talk.
This is really inspiring and very interesting.
I want to shift to–
I mean, Rob, in the book, you talk about– or one
of the very interesting things in the book
is that you talk about you use three institutions, basically,
to think through this decline, or end, of white Christian
And I want to go back to this particular idea.
Most of the discussion was obviously
about the demographic change, but I
want to ask, how do you see the changes in the institution?
And by that, I don’t mean formal institution.
But I mean the institution of white Christianity
And this takes us to David’s comment about the presence
or lack thereof of a particular presentation of religion
in politics in, say, the Clinton campaign,
or in Democratic campaigns.
And I want to ask, are we looking at the absence
of religion in politics?
Or are we looking at the absence and the dismantling, if you
will, of a particular mode of engagement between religion
and politics that we probably can characterize it
as white Christian American institution?
And in this same line, in a way, are
we looking at a different kind of identification
between religion and politics, between religion and race, that
transcends since what you described
as this kind of invincibility invisibility of the question
of race in the traditional white Christian narrative,
towards a mode that identifies the lines
between the individual and the public in a different way?
And in this same vein, just one last point.
In relation to AG’s comment about MLK
and his role, or his narrative, or his ability
to merge political and religious discourse,
I wonder if, again, we’re looking
at just a different language.
That the calling on religious symbols
here is not one that comes from a particular mode of power
or privilege, but one that comes from a prophetic narrative that
is part of the traditional–
the tradition of African American
prophetic religious expression.
And that probably, this is really the difference here.
That we’re looking at the disappearance
of a particular mode of institution.
So I want to hear what you think about how
this demographic change maps on the institution
of white Christianity in politics and beyond that.
I’ll take a piece of that.
So thank you for bringing up the institutions, though,
this is like nose counting up here,
and I think the institutions matter.
So I’ve been, for the next project,
reading a lot about South, and Calvin Trillin,
who’s a great journalist writing in the Civil Rights Era .
There’s a collection of his essays out in book form,
and the title of the book is– the lead essay,
or the lead article that takes the title of the book
is called Jackson 1964.
And one of the things that struck me in that book
is that he talked about the civil rights workers that
were on the ground in Mississippi
throughout the delta, and then kind of headquartered
That often, their key media strategy
was to get the attention of the National Council of Churches.
And that if they could get the attention of the National
Council of Churches, they then saw that as a conduit
to Congress, a conduit to The New York Times,
a conduit to The Washington Post,
and they could get national media attention.
That was the conduit through.
I don’t know anyone today who thinks–
that’s their media strategy, is to get
the National Council of Churches on board.
It’s just that that institution has really changed.
When that was founded–
I have an account of the cornerstone
of the big– maybe you’ve probably been to the God Box
Building, and it kind of– it’s actually dubbed “The God Box”,
that was at the time called the closest thing to a Protestant
Vatican the world would ever see when it was founded.
The cornerstone was laid by President Eisenhower,
and when it was opened, there were
30,000 people that turned out for the opening
of this building.
And it was kind of this great gathering
of the mainline Protestant denominations in the building,
and it was this real sense of power
that it was going to be this gathering and reinforcing
and guiding power in a single direction.
It very quickly sort of never quite fulfilled that purpose,
but it’s notable today.
It’s still there, the National Council of Churches,
but they’ve abandoned the building.
They’ve now moved to DC, and they’re sharing, actually,
the Methodist building on Capitol Hill, which
has its own similar story.
As the largest Methodist building,
and the only religious building on Capitol Hill,
it sits right between The Capitol and the Supreme Court
If you look out one, you see the Supreme Court.
When it was founded, they were raising money for it,
the Methodist Women dubbed it a Protestant sentinel
on Capitol Hill.
It was right there to kind of keep an eye on things.
They even built apartments so that members of Congress
could live there and share a cafeteria,
and they could rub shoulders with them on a daily basis
and kind of influence policy.
And you know, those buildings are still there
and doing important work.
But they don’t have the kind of stature or influence
that they had in the 1960s.
And I think that mode of, yeah, we
got this big Protestant, behemoth institution
that everybody has to stand up and pay attention to.
That era is also, I think, gone.
I was thinking there will soon be Koch brothers condos–
–in DC, God help us.
Just two quick points.
One is I think there has been a tension
throughout American history between prophetic religion
and what you could call the alternative.
Liturgically, you could call it law-based.
And the African-American church has always
partaken of the prophetic.
And I’ve always found that you can–
if you’re talking about talking to a Christian,
you know which side they are on by whether they quote Micah,
Isaiah, and Amos or Leviticus.
And whether they–
–quote– whether they quote the social passages of the New
Testament or the conversion passages of the New Testament.
And I think you saw that in the fight over slavery.
You saw that over social justice issues
in the progressive era in the ’30s.
I mean, you saw it in the Civil Rights years.
I think that’s a deep tension that’s always running
through American religion.
The second is a set of cycles where religious questions are,
more or less, central to American politics.
And we get accustomed to one and are
shocked when there is a change.
And if you just go from 1928 to 1932,
1928 was an election saturated with religion, both
because Al Smith was the first Catholic candidate
for President, and because prohibition–
and whether to continue it– was the central question.
And all of a sudden, a funny thing
happens on the way to 1932, which is the Great Depression.
And there’s a great exchange between Jim Farley
and the Democrats, who were really
torn by these questions, and particularly prohibition.
And some Democrat in Missouri wrote Jim Farley and said,
I don’t understand why wet Democrats–
you know, pro– anti-prohibition– fight
with dry Democrats, when neither of them
can afford the price of a drink.
And suddenly, we went through a long period
where public religion was not as present.
And then everyone was stunned when the Christian Coalition
But really, it was just a return to that earlier pattern.
Are you Rabbi Telushkin?
I want to welcome you.
Before you came, I welcomed you, not only as a learned scholar,
but as the father of one of my very favorite students
here, my advisee, Shira, who is brilliant.
So thank you.
So let’s get the rabbi a mike.
Do we have– is it– where–
ah, thank you.
Oh, I’m sorry.
I saw the– can you hold on?
Let me– I don’t want to be gender discriminatory here,
but I was just so happy to see Shira’s dad here that I–
So this is, I guess, a measurement question
and a broader question.
Within your category of white Christian,
I’m wondering if you’ve looked at voting patterns
and attitudes within or between different levels
Because I know, after the election,
I saw some evidence that suggested
that white evangelicals who attended church weekly, or more
frequently, were less likely to vote
for Trump than evangelicals who just kind of superficially
identified as religious, but didn’t necessarily–
that didn’t manifest in any behavioral measures.
And so I’m wondering, if that’s the case, how much work
religion is doing here, versus just
some sort of white, conservative ideology that
has become linked to religion.
I’ll just say one thing quickly, and turn it to Robbie.
What you just said, I think, was true in the primaries
than in the general election.
In the primaries, the genuinely religious evangelicals
were shifting– voting mostly for Ted Cruz.
And the self-identified evangelicals
who didn’t necessarily go to church
were much more likely to go to Trump.
And you’re absolutely right that, in the second group,
saying you’re evangelical is a kind of cultural marker
more than it is a deep religious commitment.
Whereas the Cruz evangelicals really
were the religious evangelicals, which
is why Cruz beat Trump in Iowa, and part of why
Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin.
So you’re right.
In the general, I think–
as a general rule, higher rates of church attendance
produce higher Republican voting,
though I think some of that is overlaid with age.
Because age also produces higher Republican voting.
So it’s notable that we see this pattern repeated
with Romney, as well.
Romney’s favorability rating before he
became the Republican nominee among white evangelicals
was in the 30s.
We measured a month after he became the Republican nominee.
It was up, nearly at 70%.
So we see these same kinds of patterns.
And it’s about partisan alignment, right?
Once the candidate becomes the Republican Party nominee,
evangelicals basically align their views.
It’s a miracle.
Church-going or not church-going, they
align their views with the Republican party’s nominee,
and that’s what we saw in that character question.
The favorability numbers looked that way.
If there’s one group, though–
I do want to– this is a great point to insert this point.
If there’s one group that looked different in the Trump
election, it was Mormons.
It’s the only group that significantly looked different
than– now, they had Evan McMullan on the ballot.
So in places like Utah, that drained off votes.
But it was the only group that really did move
away from their typical support for Republican candidates
in the last election cycle.
And if you look at some of the more outspoken critics
of Trump, you’ll see many of them are Mormon.
You’ll see this kind of pattern.
I keep thinking I want to write something about the real values
And I think there’s something going
on in the Mormon community about a sense of having been
an oppressed religious minority once
upon a time in our history.
And so even though there’s obviously
a very, very strong conservative streak among Mormon voters,
there is still this sense of the danger of mistreating
By the way, I’m totally persuaded
Romney didn’t win the Republican nomination the first time
because he was Mormon.
And that’s why Mike Huckabee– that’s
one of the central reasons why Mike Huckabee overwhelmed him
in Iowa, which really helped derail his election.
And there is no question that, the first time around,
his Mormonism, I think, was very harmful with this constituency.
Yeah, Rabbi, welcome.
And you could imagine, to my wife, Deborah, and myself,
the greatest honor is being identified as Shira’s parents.
Oh, thank you.
So thank you.
It occurred to me that the issue, I think,
with Billy Graham was he just was trying to spread goodwill
and over– and went– and de-politicized.
Because it’s interesting.
He was not only a disappointment in that way to liberals.
George Will wrote one of the most devastating columns
against Graham when Graham visited Russia, and gave
a speech in a church telling everybody in the church,
your job is to be good workers for the state.
It so demoralized the Christians who were there.
There weren’t even that many Christians there
because the KGB had filled it up with a lot of their people.
So I think it was an overemphasis on steering away
from the political.
Also, the comment about Graham vis-a-vis Kennedy
as a Catholic, I think we also recognize
that an anti-Catholic position was very widespread still
Norman Vincent Peale, who was certainly not
a particularly conservative Christian,
opposed Kennedy because he was a Catholic, which
led to one of Adlai Stevenson’s great lines,
“I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling.”
I love that line.
And one of the very significant events affecting
African-American voters in that election
was when Martin Luther King was arrested.
Nixon, whether because he personally didn’t care
or making what he thought was a smart political decision,
And King’s father announced that he was now supporting Kennedy–
He switched, leading Kennedy to remark to some of his friends–
he didn’t say it publicly– imagine,
Martin Luther King’s father, a bigot.
But then he added, but then again, we all have fathers.
And one other request, if anybody can help me on this.
I’m serving as an advisor to a Jewish Museum,
and one of the things we’re working on is,
what has been the impact of Judaism on the world?
I remember once reading somewhere–
and I have not been able to find documentary evidence–
that obviously, slave owners wanted their slaves
to be Christians, but that they were–
I remember reading this.
I haven’t seen evidence of it.
That they actually had Bibles printed up
for slaves, in which the Bible was printed,
but the Book of Exodus was left out.
I’ve heard that, yes.
I want to get that on display somewhere.
I’ve heard that, as well.
And what’s fascinating is how deeply important the book
of Exodus is in every African-American church,
and how central it is African-American preaching,
for obvious reasons.
I mean, “let my people go.”
I’m going to try to remember where I have found this
because there were very–
the first slave owners tried to keep the slaves illiterate,
and actually didn’t want them reading the whole Bible
because the Bible is very dangerous.
And there was often a tradition of one slave, at least,
And the original African-American churches
were in the woods, and they were–
and the slaves were very conscious of those parts
of scripture that pointed to the freedom.
And so I think, in some cases, they were limited Bibles.
But in a lot of cases, the effort
was to keep the slaves illiterate so
that they would only hear the parts,
say, of Saint Paul, that said slaves, obey your masters,
and that sort of thing.
Which was the part that influenced Billy Graham when
he spoke in Moscow– in Russia.
Spoke in Russia, yeah.
One quick point on this.
It’s worth noting that in the 1940s–
I think it was 1947–
“The Christian Century,” which was the liberal publication
arm of the Protestant world–
published a 14-part series worrying about Catholics
in the country, and whether–
and it ended up being a book by the editor of “The Christian
Century” called, “Can Protestantism Save America?”
So there was deep, deep worries across–
not just in the conservative end of the Protestant world,
but in the liberal end of the Protestant world.
Well, it was said that–
In the ’50s?
1947, I think.
–anti-Catholicism was the anti-Semitism of the liberals.
And what’s fascinating about anti-Catholicism is it had two
completely different strains–
a right-wing strain in Conservative Protestantism,
and a left-wing strain that saw the Vatican–
and you could find some old stuff
in Vatican documents, pre-Vatican II that was
pretty chilling to liberals.
There was the famous Catholic catechism
that had the question, what is liberalism?
Answer, liberalism is a sin.
And it was Spanish.
“Liberalismo es pecado.”
And so Paul Blanchard was socialist,
who wrote “American Freedom and Catholic Power.”
So that there were these twin engines of anti-Catholicism
in the United States.
We have to close, is that right?
I want to tell my southern Jewish story, if I may,
because we’ve been very serious here.
And I always find this an upbeat story about,
it just depends on what the lines of division
are in a community.
There was a gentleman who was a second father to me
after my dad died.
His name was Bert Yaffe.
He grew up in Sparta, Georgia.
His dad ran the only general store in Sparta, Georgia.
There was a great tradition of southern Jews running the one
When Bert was a teenager–
and the big split among whites in southern towns
was Baptist, Methodist.
And they couldn’t stand each other.
So when Bert was 16, he wanted to go out
with a Methodist girl.
And in order to do that, her parents
made my friend join the Epworth League.
Bert, from the only Jewish family in Sparta, Georgia,
proceeded to get elected President of the local Epworth
Later, he and the Methodist girl broke up
and he wanted to go out with a Baptist girl.
And as Bert told the story, they didn’t give a damn
that I was Jewish.
What they couldn’t stand is that I had been President
of the Epworth League.
I want to thank you all very, very much for being here.
But Trump’s theatrics were also very convenient because they disguised the fact that he cannot now, or ever, deliver on his signature promise to create a “great” infrastructure program. This is why Trump “infrastructure weeks” have become a standing joke in Washington. LaTourette was right: The Republican Party is no longer interested in spending public money to solve big problems if doing so gets in the way of cutting taxes.
LaTourette explained this in his rough-and-ready way back in 2011 when he called the 2010 tea party class of Republicans “knuckledraggers that came in in the last election that hate taxes.”
One of those newcomers was Mick Mulvaney, now Trump’s acting chief of staff and budget director. From the moment Trump, Pelosi and Schumer announced their convergence on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan last month, Mulvaney began sabotaging it. “Is it difficult to pass any infrastructure bill in this environment, let alone a $2 trillion one, in this environment? Absolutely,” Mulvaney said.
He was far from alone because the entire Republican leadership in Congress is now part of the Knuckledraggers Caucus. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly signaled that he had absolutely no interest in a big infrastructure plan if it required rolling back any part of the GOP’s 2017 corporate tax cut.
Democrats argue that because business is clamoring for infrastructure, it would make sense to ask business to foot part of the bill. They have suggested raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from the 21 percent enshrined in the 2017 law and pulling back on some of its other provisions.
No way, say the Republicans. A “nonstarter,” declared McConnell. Faced with the choice of bridges collapsing in a heap or reining in the tax giveaways, the bridges don’t have much of a chance.
Note that the meeting Trump sabotaged was about how to finance the plan. He had no way of coming up with anything constructive because, for all of his bravado, he is totally under the thumb of Congress’s conservative ideologues. His tantrum was part of the coverup no one is talking about: The emperor has no money.
This fact underscores a widespread misunderstanding about our politics. “Normal” Republicans are regularly described as privately horrified with Trump. Trump is said to have engaged in “a hostile takeover” of the GOP.
In fact, it’s Trump who has been taken over. He campaigned as a different kind of Republican, and his infrastructure promise was a major component of his antiideological image. But on all the things the ideologues and right-wing business interests care about —
Trump caves in.
We know the president’s boast that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any votes.” Perhaps Republicans in Congress wouldn’t go that far. Otherwise, they’ll keep standing with him as long as he prostrates himself before their tax-cutting god, even if this means showing he is too weak and powerless to fix the roads.
And the most powerful faceoff of all may be “reform” vs. “corruption.”
.. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait was one of the first journalists to suggest how important corruption could be during this year’s campaign. Writing in April, Chait argued that it “should take very little work” for Democratic candidates “to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed.”
.. The advantages of the corruption issue are
(1) “corrupt” really is the right word to describe the Trump administration;
(2) a concern over corruption transcends philosophical dispositions; and
(3) the failure to “drain the swamp” is one of President Trump’s most obvious broken promises. Instead, Trump has turned the swamp into an immense toxic-waste dump.
.. Alas, we now know that basic expectations — from the release of tax returns by presidential candidates, to the avoidance of blatant conflicts of interest — must be codified. Scandals are like that: They teach us where existing laws fall short.
.. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced a resolution outlining a broad agenda that has been co-sponsored by 163 House Democrats.
.. They would start by restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013; providing for nationwide automatic voter registration; ending purges that illegitimately disenfranchise many citizens; and outlawing gerrymandering by requiring states to establish cross-party commissions to draw district lines.
.. the package would codify ethics expectations of public officials — including presidents. To fight foreign meddling, it calls for “real-time transparency of political advertisements on all advertising platforms,” an ideachampioned by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).