“How Do Democracies Fall Apart (And Could it Happen Here)?” Session 3

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ultimate question and one of the maybe
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before answering and I’ll be brief I
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invite people and this is may be
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responsible y’all should just say to ask
yourself what are you trying to
accomplish here if what you’re trying to
accomplish is how do we strengthen the
left that’s one answer and you’re saying
how do we try to strengthen democratic
norms that’s quite a different answer

and there’s been a tendency to blur them
the way I’m not on the person with the
left at all so I’ll just give you four
Myositis me you wanna strengthen life
the way you do it is by ramping up is by
building a coalition of minorities
that’s that’s the best democratic
mobilization build-up racial antagonism
black lives matter those because of the
the big the reason that Hillary which
the reason the 2016 election was
abnormal was by the normal political
science indicators Hillary Clinton
should have won fifty three percent of
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the vote the fact that she got forty
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eight is abnormal she lost five points
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in a very common friendly
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environment why failure de mobilized
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black voters partly because of voter
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suppression partly because she wasn’t
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offering them much of anything Medicare
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for all that that’s how you build the
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left but what you will discover when you
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do that is the candidates who leave that
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will be Trump’s of the left not as gross
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for example like Bernie Sanders who was
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good at his job
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yeah they won’t they they will be norm
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travelers they will do things like
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Obama’s executive actions to in his
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second term that’s what you’ll get that
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is a way to a more social democratic
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United States it’ll be an ethnically
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driven way if what you want to do if
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it’s it but if your question is how do
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we build democratic norms that’s a
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different question and then and and then
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you have to say this is not about party
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advantage and that means that some of
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the people you have to address the
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things that are driving the corrosion of
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democratic norms what do you think was
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you would you be a butter he said why
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did you why did you vote for trouble and
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by the voter said well you know I’m just
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really disappointed and what is happened
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to my personal living standard I’ve been
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at a way wage increase in twenty years
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saying you are so greedy and
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materialistic don’t you understand that
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money is the root of all evil hi Colin I
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caught you like order you delay aside
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these crass okay but that is the sermon
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that they get if they say I’m happy that
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my sis my neighborhood which used to be
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a hundred sailors percent
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english-speaking now has 30 percent
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English second language learners in my
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children’s school and that will happen I
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went to a school in North Carolina what
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does research in Oakland 20 in 2007
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where family reported the change from no
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foreign language speakers to 30 percent
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over the course of their through
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children’s time in that one school
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district if what finally what is
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bothering and do something about and
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take them and take the grievances
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seriously I’m the trumpeter Jose
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trumpeter is deeply at a stop but I had
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a big impact on me the job that seems to
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me that Democratic systems get into
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trouble in two ways
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one is when you put populist muses the
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people identify the problems and the
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people offer the solutions
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bad lead ISM is the the people identify
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problems the elites tell them they’re
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wrong about them and offer other
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problems and other stages also bad
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listen to the problems then then use
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partisan competition to compete to offer
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responsible solutions but do not read
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the problems on court any anyone else
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want to pick up any of that well there’s
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several questions that are basically
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about the connections between populism
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and presidential ism to what extent are
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they some kind of you know symbiotic to
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mutually encouraging or one one
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producing the other or yeah I’m going to
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be very brief this time but I’m gonna
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make myself even more unpopular um if
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there’s one thing but all of political
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scientists seem to agree on over the
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last thirty years so that it’s all about
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institutions right and and it’s not
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clear to me in the case of populism but
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it is now obviously the particular way
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in which populism plays out in different
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countries is shaped by institutions but
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when you look around these different
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contexts what is striking is that
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populism has found a way of expressing
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itself here for a presidential election
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there threw a party was very strong in
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Parliament there through you know a
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popular referendum across all it is very
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very different institutional context so
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while I think was obviously things to be
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said about hyper partisanship about
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anger about the fact that the political
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system is blocked because of all the
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veto powers and all of those things the
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United States what’s striking to me when
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you look at international perspective is
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how little of the experience and the
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variation of populism can be explained
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by institutions
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just add you know Viktor Orban era Diwan
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came to power as Prime Minister you know
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you go down the list and so to me what
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this suggests is that old debate juan
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linz his question actually in some ways
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it was answered I think by Adams
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students a chaemoo I don’t know if you
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stood but he answered it about a decade
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ago you know that it’s not presidential
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ism or parliamentarism per se there’s
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selection issues which create the
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outcomes we see and to me that suggests
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a much more micro focus in terms of our
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research agenda can I pop in I wrote a
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book about mandates and presidential
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mandate claiming and my argument in the
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u.s. context is that populism is a
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rhetorical strategy for presidents to
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deal with the legitimacy challenges to
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an incredibly powerful and problematic
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institution and the conditions of
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partisanship so I think this there’s
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something separate there about populism
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as as a rhetorical strategy
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well so here’s one that this says it has
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david firm’s name at the top but that
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may be a rhetorical sleight making
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America great again would require
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strengthening the welfare state which
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many voters interpret us giving handouts
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to blacks and Latinos these voters are
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also the most vulnerable to
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anti-immigrant and xenophobic appeals
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would your concessions work question
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mark did at one point endorse the
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lowering of the age would qualification
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for Medicare I think to 55 I forget that
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was one of her 972 policy proposals and
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one of the things I has always been a
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theory of mind about campaigns as if you
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have 1972 policy proposals you don’t
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have any if you have four you don’t have
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any if you have two you’re testing
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people’s memory so if you yeah I think I
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think generally I think you see
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throughout the that the United States
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needs a thicker Social Insurance network
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Europe needs a thinner one we need ways
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of financing it that are not too
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provocative and you need you need an
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offer but the offer the offer works
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because it’s an offer to the politic if
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if the offer is to the planet then the
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offer is going to break down to the tone
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of its own way so I think actually the
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two thing when you talk about it is not
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that this there in this it is not a
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contradiction that you have a policy of
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thicker social insurance and higher
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borders those two go hand-in-hand and
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that’s one of things by the way that
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people want to break the welfare state
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they understand that very well that’s
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that’s why you find libertarians are
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very committed to open borders because
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they know with
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orders your welfare system your social
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service system cannot work and that’s
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why they’re favored so a question for
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for Emily and perhaps also Yasha there’s
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a deals party with social media
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how can journalists deal with the
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particular challenges of covering the
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Trump presidency a that so much is
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happening such that many important
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stories get neglected and be that Trump
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manages so often to dominate the news
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cycle with tweets that derail attention
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from substantive and timely issues
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sometimes this seems to me like Trump’s
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main talent is that he has taken his
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reality television show and turned it
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into the news that we consume all the
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time that is an inescapable and there’s
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a kind of fire hose and in fact there
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are all kinds of teasers you know you’ll
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we’ll see soon he’s sort of using all
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those strategies that served him in this
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different role to great effect and it is
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a huge challenge for the media you know
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we cover everything it’s just that
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people can’t really keep up and it
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becomes harder and harder to know what’s
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important the 972 points
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kind of hold in that era as well you
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know one part of the media that I
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probably should have mentioned and
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didn’t it’s obvious is that um you know
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the right-wing media has become has
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taken on such a role in fueling social
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media in covering the president in a
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different way and I think that again
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that puts pressure on the mainstream
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media to become kind of a different
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animal and responds in a way that were
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not particularly well suited for um I do
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think one thing the mainstream media has
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doing been doing better at is covering
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fake news as fake news as opposed to
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ignoring it even last year you see a
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fake news story you just sort of like
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act as if that’s you’re not gonna touch
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that as opposed to trying is realizing
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that it’s out there being consumed and
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needs to be debunked and it’s always
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tricky debunking also you know spreads
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misinformation too but I think we’re at
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the point
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given how people are consuming news how
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difficult it is to tell on Facebook
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whether the source you’re looking at is
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credible or not that the mainstream
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media has a responsibility to be
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engaging in these stories that we used
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to see as beneath us yeah so I mean
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i-i’ve been thinking through sort of the
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different notions of truth and lies we
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have right so those this pair of
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concepts that were very popular a few
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years ago so Stephen Colbert’s
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truthiness and when Harry Frankfurt on
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which is basically saying the
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problem isn’t isn’t any more of a sort
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of straightforward lies for problem now
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that people are sort of indifferent to
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the truth and we don’t quite know how to
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deal with that and that’s different from
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the straightforward lie because at least
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there’s a how Frankfurt ones at least
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Valaya pays it kind of tribute to the
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truth right I actually think that that
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in retrospect is really naive that
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compared to what we have now
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that sort of child’s play but what you
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see and I think the first place where I
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observed it actually was Italy and a
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silhou Bella’s kony but I think Donald
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Trump is completely following that part
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of Paris Coney’s example it’s it’s it’s
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over frating the public of so many false
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claims and with just so much spectacle
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and with so many things going on that it
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becomes impossible for people to
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ascertain what’s true or not because if
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you have a normal sort of attention span
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to politics which is to say a fraction
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of that of what most people in this room
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whose life it is to study politics half
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you just cannot no longer it’s the
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opposite of what David was saying what a
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policy promise it’s not one lie that is
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defining of your presidency you do 10
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lies a day and so nobody in the you know
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in 98 percent of population don’t have a
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patience to try and figure out with
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details on each of those claims and so
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all you can do is to trust the people
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whom you trust and if you’re on the
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right that’ll mean you know Fox News or
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to the right lad and if it’s on the left
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it means you know the kinds of things we
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must be probably consumed right and I
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think there’s a difference between those
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two I’m not saying but we’re the same
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but but but I at this point don’t have
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the time and the patience to go through
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every claim and
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make my own assessment as to whether
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Donald Trump is actually true in bout
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racist things he claims a happening I
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simply assume that they’re false because
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he has managed to over freight the
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system so much but there’s no other way
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of dealing with that I’m a diving is a
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fundamental attack on the very
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possibility of having a truth based
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discourse or a political discourse in
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which truth sort of negotiates how we
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should act though we haven’t quite faced
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up to conceptually much less in terms of
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our response to it can I say something
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very brief about this very brief yeah
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it’s a question actually you know Trump
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has a big Twitter following but you know
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when you tweet something it might get
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retweeted I don’t know ten twenty thirty
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thousand times it’s nothing like Kim
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Kardashian right so my question is why
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is it that every tweet is news why is
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the mega the megaphone is actually the
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New York Times printing you know
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treating his tweet as news and I wonder
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how you guys think about that so it does
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seem that the subject no I’m sorry
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oh you want an answer to that well
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you’re gonna get the penultimate worries
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well and also this is just like
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everything turns into my trying to
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answer for the New York Times right I
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don’t even work on the news desk but
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look the president is making statements
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right I mean I don’t know if you all
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notice the Twitter account that turns
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every tweet into an official statement
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but ridiculous as it is that is what
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they are and so then you have to make
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judgments as the news desk every day
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that covers the president well which of
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these really matter and that is hard to
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do there is no question that there’s all
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kinds of chaff with the weed but that is
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a tough decision for a journalist to
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make something the president says
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something provocative isn’t newsworthy
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the problem with the refusal to stay
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away is we have things like you know the
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four days during Puerto Rico where
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Puerto Rico is a nun television because
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there’s no electricity there and it’s
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very hard to get images and instead
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we’re having some made-up fight about
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you know Colin Kaepernick and Steph
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Curry and the and black athletes which
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is simply divisive it’s that is tough
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for journalists to push back on
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and one sentence I know this is will be
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to your question the fact that the
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statements don’t matter is why they
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matter so when the President of the
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United States the commander-in-chief of
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the Armed Forces says with an eight and
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a half minute gap in between to give the
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Russians lots of time to get off a
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nuclear missile response I am about to
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announce a total and complete ban on dot
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transgender soldiers in the military and
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then the military says thank you for
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your helpful comment we certainly will
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take it into consideration
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and give it to and the military’s
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actually no we thought it over we’re
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sticking to our original policy because
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it’s tweetIn that’s astonishing that’s
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an amazing thing and the fact we have
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this decision of government where the
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president proposes ideas from time to
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time and the Secretary of Defense
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determines whether they’ll become
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government policy we we are out of time
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I would just say that I think it’s
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fitting since we are a university that
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the subject of truth is where we’ve
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we’ve ended up we are after all our
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basic mission is the creation and
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dissemination of knowledge and you know
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some might might go so far as to say
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that the the movements within
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universities to question whether it’s
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possible to actually generate nevermind
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disseminate knowledge have have created
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part of the intellectual and ideological
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terrain that makes what we’ve been
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talking about for the last five minutes
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possible and perhaps in addition to
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being public intellectuals are coming
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out of our our ivory towers and speaking
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in the public sphere we might want to
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pay some attention to the the recreation
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of norms of truth-telling and truth
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seeking within our own institutions but
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I want to thank everybody for
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participating and particularly the
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people have done all a tremendous amount
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of work to come here
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thank you all very much indeed
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[Applause]
123:11
[Music]

Time for G.O.P. to Threaten to Fire Trump

Republican leaders need to mount an intervention.

Up to now I have not favored removing President Trump from office. I felt strongly that it would be best for the country that he leave the way he came in, through the ballot box. But last week was a watershed moment for me, and I think for many Americans, including some Republicans.

It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behavior — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.

I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.

It has to start with Republicans, given both the numbers needed in the Senate and political reality. Removing this president has to be an act of national unity as much as possibleotherwise it will tear the country apart even more. I know that such an action is very difficult for today’s G.O.P., but the time is long past for it to rise to confront this crisis of American leadership.

Trump’s behavior has become so erratic, his lying so persistent, his willingness to fulfill the basic functions of the presidency — like

  • reading briefing books,
  • consulting government experts before making major changes and
  • appointing a competent staff — so absent,

his readiness to accommodate Russia and spurn allies so disturbing and his obsession with himself and his ego over all other considerations so consistent, two more years of him in office could pose a real threat to our nation. Vice President Mike Pence could not possibly be worse.

The damage an out-of-control Trump can do goes well beyond our borders. America is the keystone of global stability. Our world is the way it is today — a place that, despite all its problems, still enjoys more peace and prosperity than at any time in history — because America is the way it is (or at least was). And that is a nation that at its best has always stood up for the universal values of freedom and human rights, has always paid extra to stabilize the global system from which we were the biggest beneficiary and has always nurtured and protected alliances with like-minded nations.

Donald Trump has proved time and again that he knows nothing of the history or importance of this America. That was made starkly clear in Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s resignation letter.

Trump is in the grip of a mad notion that the entire web of global institutions and alliances built after World War II — which, with all their imperfections, have provided the connective tissues that have created this unprecedented era of peace and prosperity — threatens American sovereignty and prosperity and that we are better off without them.

So Trump gloats at the troubles facing the European Union, urges Britain to exit and leaks that he’d consider quitting NATO. These are institutions that all need to be improved, but not scrapped. If America becomes a predator on all the treaties, multilateral institutions and alliances holding the world together; if America goes from being the world’s anchor of stability to an engine of instability; if America goes from a democracy built on the twin pillars of truth and trust to a country where it is acceptable for the president to attack truth and trust on a daily basis, watch out: Your kids won’t just grow up in a different America. They will grow up in a different world.

The last time America disengaged from the world remotely in this manner was in the 1930s, and you remember what followed: World War II.

You have no idea how quickly institutions like NATO and the E.U. and the World Trade Organization and just basic global norms — like thou shalt not kill and dismember a journalist in your own consulate — can unravel when America goes AWOL or haywire under a shameless isolated president.

But this is not just about the world, it’s about the minimum decorum and stability we expect from our president. If the C.E.O. of any public company in America behaved like Trump has over the past two years —

  • constantly lying,
  • tossing out aides like they were Kleenex,
  • tweeting endlessly like a teenager,
  • ignoring the advice of experts —

he or she would have been fired by the board of directors long ago. Should we expect less for our president?

That’s what the financial markets are now asking. For the first two years of the Trump presidency the markets treated his dishonesty and craziness as background noise to all the soaring corporate profits and stocks. But that is no longer the case. Trump has markets worried.

.. The instability Trump is generating — including his attacks on the chairman of the Federal Reserve — is causing investors to wonder where the economic and geopolitical management will come from as the economy slows down.

  • What if we’re plunged into an economic crisis and we have a president whose first instinct is always to blame others and
  • who’s already purged from his side the most sober adults willing to tell him that his vaunted “gut instincts” have no grounding in economics or in law or in common sense. Mattis was the last one.

We are now left with the B team — all the people who were ready to take the jobs that Trump’s first team either resigned from — because they could not countenance his lying, chaos and ignorance — or were fired from for the same reasons.

I seriously doubt that any of these B-players would have been hired by any other administration. Not only do they not inspire confidence in a crisis, but they are all walking around knowing that Trump would stab every one of them in the back with his Twitter knife, at any moment, if it served him. This makes them even less effective.

Indeed, Trump’s biggest disruption has been to undermine the norms and values we associate with a U.S. president and U.S. leadership. And now that Trump has freed himself of all restraints from within his White House staff, his cabinet and his party — so that “Trump can be Trump,” we are told — he is freer than ever to remake America in his image.

And what is that image? According to The Washington Post’s latest tally, Trump has made 7,546 false or misleading claims, an average of five a day, through Dec. 20, the 700th day of his term in office. And all that was supposedly before “we let Trump be Trump.”

If America starts to behave as a selfish, shameless, lying grifter like Trump, you simply cannot imagine how unstable — how disruptive —world markets and geopolitics may become.

We cannot afford to find out.

The Democrats’ Best Response to Republican Power Grabs

In Michigan and Wisconsin, lame duck Republican-majority legislatures are enacting laws to limit the powers of incoming Democratic governors. Two years ago in North Carolina, the same happened. These moves are particularly striking examples of recent aggressive Republican procedural hardball. Whatever the right rules are for the separation of powers, they should apply to both parties and not be changed opportunistically.

.. Should they go tit-for-tat and escalate procedural shenanigans, rules-stretching and rules-breaking? Or should they strive, leading by good example, to maintain a system of norms that have provided political stability in the hopes that a more moderate, reasonable Republican Party will re-emerge?

.. Retaliating in kind could aggravate already deep polarization and wreck what’s left of our political norms. Restraint, on the other hand, would establish new norms that establish electoral disadvantages for Democrats and embolden Republicans.

.. There is a better option, and it also happens to be the best option. Democrats can use the Republican hardball against them by weaving together the Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina cases into a larger story to take to voters in 2020: the indictment of Republican attacks on democracy accompanied by an aggressive reform agenda for strengthening constitutional norms and democratic procedures.

.. But a very clear narrative or popular revulsion — or both — can change that. Examples are found in the Progressive Era around the turn of the 20th century and again in the immediate aftermath of Watergate, when procedural reform gained traction, for better or for worse, and both term limits and campaign finance reform had moments of widespread popular enthusiasm. There’s good reason to think that the next two years offer the opportunity to create such a corruption narrative and to take advantage of what’s likely to be growing revulsion.

.. President Trump’s administration has made this job easier: The midterm election results showed that its scandals and disgrace have already focused voters’ attention. That’s not the time for retaliation and escalation. It’s the time offer prescriptions for rebuilding the rules that accompany a diagnosis that helps voters make sense of how badly wrong things have gone. Democrats can try to punish Republicans at the ballot box by trying to strengthen rather than weaken democratic norms.

The obvious place to begin is with the White House itself. Proposals to

  • require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns,
  • give teeth to the Emoluments Clause,
  • strengthen anti-nepotism rules that should keep unqualified family members out of sensitive offices,
  • extend conflict-of-interest rules to include the president, and
  • turn blind trust norms into binding rules

won’t be hard to understand under Mr. Trump. They will reinforce voters’ distrust of the president while also offering ways to prevent his abuses from becoming standard practice.

.. Republican procedural abuses at the state level precede the Trump administration, but they can fairly be connected to it. Most important is disenfranchisement. Democrats should emphasize the sustained nationwide Republican effort to limit access to the ballot and offer proposals to

  • restore the Voting Rights Act,
  • end felon disenfranchisement,
  • undo restrictive voter identification rules,
  • ease registration,
  • protect early voting and
  • ensure that voting places are more widely and evenly distributed.

Not only has Mr. Trump been on the wrong side of those issues, encouraging state crackdowns on imagined millions of noncitizen voters; but voting restrictions in narrowly won Midwestern states got him closer to the White House in the first place.

.. Other proposals, from statehood for the District of Columbia to gerrymandering reform, then make sense as part of the same effort to strengthen representation and fair democratic practice.

.. This is also the best approach for Democrats in the short term because they’re not in a strong position to retaliate even if an angry activist base wants them to. Despite some losses last month, Republicans remain in control of more governor’s seats and more state legislatures. More important, making things worse right now really is the wrong thing to do. If Democrats follow a course of unrestrained but legal tactics, we could find ourselves embroiled in even more severe dysfunction and a constitutional crisis. Tit for tat is sometimes necessary to enforce norms, but escalation in an already seriously polarized environment is dangerous.

.. If Democrats can offer a unifying indictment tying Republican attacks on democratic norms to Trump administration abuses, along with a coherent package of serious proposals to restore procedural fairness, voters will have a way of making sense of new examples of Republican sharp dealing.

.. Proposals to shorten lame duck legislative sessions and to constrain their authority, for example, would reinforce the idea that Republicans have been the party of procedural abuses and unfairness while still setting forth a good neutral rule.

.. This is the alternative to doing nothing or making things worse: seek to punish Republicans in 2020 by offering a vision of how to make things better.