‘The emergence of a third party is among us’ – Interview with Lincoln Project Co-Founder Rick Wilson

Joe Biden won the US presidential election with 306 electoral votes. But incumbent President Donald Trump has yet to concede, and the Republican Party seems to be at a crossroads after four years of Trumpism. What direction will the GOP take going forward?
The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson offers a very bleak outlook into the GOP’s future. He says ‘the Republican party has sold out itself to Trump’ and what follows Trump will be more dangerous, because it will be more sophisticated.

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trump supporters rallying for him again
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they won’t accept that their president
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lost the elections
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and they’re determined to keep him as
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their leader
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around 73 million americans voted for
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trump
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making them a formidable force of force
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that also
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threatens to run out of control
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he loves america he loves america he
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does not quit on america
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and that’s why america will not quit on
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him
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i’d like trump to start a new party if
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he wanted to
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the republican party is changing real
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fast so we’re
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we’re gonna be represented by the
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soldiers the veterans uh the
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hard-working people of this country
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not by the corrupt politicians that sit
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up here and get fat on our money
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and steal everything from us
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there are many who want to take the
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republican party down a more
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moderate path to strengthen their case
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they talk about this man abraham lincoln
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he was the president who won the civil
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war and ended slavery
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and he was a republican he is the man
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anti-trump republicans turn to when they
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want to invoke
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reason and moral values into present day
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arguments
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the lincoln project is a political
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action committee
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set up by former republicans to prevent
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donald trump
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being re-elected i want to hear their
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thoughts on the future of the gop
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from rick wilson one of the co-founders
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how could donald trump happen
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well donald trump was not just about the
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republican party it was about american
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culture
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and this is a country that has become
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largely addicted to
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and mediated by reality television and
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so
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the man they saw on the apprentice for
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14 years
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on television looked competent smart
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steady brilliant negotiator great deal
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maker great businessman
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of course we all know in the real world
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that was never
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even close to donald trump’s actual
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character or who he really is
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as a person and a leader but that was
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something that
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between fox and reality television
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republican voters were insulated in this
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uh sphere of irreality of fantasy
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and so donald trump uh reached the
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republican
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presidential stage at a moment where
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where republican voters had become
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increasingly isolated from reality of
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any kind
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and had become increasingly addicted to
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the kind of defiant
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uh oppositional nature of
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fox news and of their own facebook
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groups and their own online
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communities and as those moments um
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you know evolved in the 2016 election
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it became harder and harder for actual
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republicans who had
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you know the ideological predicates of
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the past limited government
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personal responsibility you know strong
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international relations and good
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relationships with our allies
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all of those things were washed away
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because donald trump
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gave them entertainment and
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i mean you you are a former republican
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was there any sense
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how dangerous it could be letting him
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in well i was screaming about how
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dangerous he was since 2015
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and by the by the middle of his
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administration by around 2018
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there had been a massive schism in the
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party there were only two types of
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people left
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those who understood how dangerous he
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was and would speak
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and the vast majority who understood how
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dangerous he was and wouldn’t speak
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you know there’s there’s a secret here
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that most republicans the vast majority
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of the elected officials
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do not like donald trump they are not
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trumpists they are afraid of them
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but they don’t like him they don’t
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regard him or admire him
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now i will say that that doesn’t fix the
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problem
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because with donald trump there is never
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a limit to which he will press these
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folks as we saw this week in america
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where
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17 republican attorneys general in the
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states
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um went out and and pushed hard
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to to have the supreme court invalidate
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the 2020
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election now these people they’ve
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abandoned
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all of their you know former political
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and ideological predicates
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for trump uh and so what you’ve seen is
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a radical transformation of the gop
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into the trump party what what should
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the gop
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do with all these trump supporters i
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mean 73 million voted for him maybe not
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all trump supporters but
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you know i mean what should what should
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the
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the gop do luckily it’s not my problem
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anymore
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you know good riddance um but look
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they have to have a painful
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reconciliation with what they have done
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there has to be a look back at the way
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they have corrupted the party on trump’s
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behalf
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and until they do that i don’t think
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there’s a real solution
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going forward because he has been such a
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transformative figure
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the republican base vote the republican
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the ordinary republican voters there’s
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only one thing they hate more
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than a democrat and that’s a republican
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who hates donald trump
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and so they’re going to be driving the
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party further and further into the
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trumpet space which is authoritarian
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which is nationalist which is highly
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regimented around the obedience to the
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dear leader
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you know it has frightening historical
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precedence and what i worry about as a
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former republican and knowing the sort
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of character of the people still in the
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party
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i’m worried about the more competent
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smart
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presentable version of trump that’s
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going to come down the pike in a few
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years
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that to me is um
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an enormously concerning uh impact of
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trumpism
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what could come out of that asking as a
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german
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well yeah what could go wrong as i like
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to say
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um yeah those sort of things as i said
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there are a lot of historical precedents
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that are not good
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um and not just the german precedent
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there are many many other nations
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um that that have gone down this
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authoritarian statism
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uh and it always leads to an abuse of
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power it always
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at the minimum two abuses of power uh at
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the maximum to the worst case scenarios
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and and i’m afraid that trump has
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conditioned a generation of republicans
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to believe
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that if they don’t get their way that
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they don’t need to work within the
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constitution of the united states that
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they can go an extra constitutional
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extrajudicial extra political route
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which may involve violence
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which may involve the generation of of
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enormous risks
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for the future of one of the world’s
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longest running and
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most robust democracies rick um
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i talked to republicans i have the
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feeling that they are not understanding
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what is going on
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no a lot of them when you’re talking
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about reconciliation but
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from what i i mean experienced the last
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couple of days
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working on this piece i think that they
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don’t quite
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get it no they they don’t understand it
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and they don’t understand that that
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without donald trump
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as the figurehead of their party they’re
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going to lose a meaningful number of
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their own voters
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those voters have become members of a
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trumpist movement a faction
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if you will and that’s not going to go
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away
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his son will pick up the mantle when
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donald trump dies or his daughter
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or people that imitate him very closely
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uh will pick up that mantle and there’s
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nothing that can be done
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about that because the republican party
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has sold itself to trump
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there is no institutional republican
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party left to push back against trumpism
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what does that mean politically for the
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united states and for the rest of the
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world so to speak
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well it means that we have a that the
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emergence of a third party
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in the us is is upon us and that party
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is not
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an american party that party is
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dedicated to authoritarianism
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that party is dedicated to the worship
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of a single family
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um that party is is oppositional
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to anything that gets in their political
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way and that opposition manifests itself
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in ways that are not traditionally seen
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in the american political space
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look the american political space has
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long had a center left
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and a center right and and the the edges
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of both parties
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were not terribly influential and there
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was always a tug of war
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between those center left center right
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voices now
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we have a voice on the extreme right of
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trumpism
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which is um which is driven by again
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that oppositional defiance
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of traditional norms and values and laws
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it’s driven by a hatred of immigrants a
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hatred of
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various races it’s driven by a hatred of
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the elite the educated the experts um
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and that’s a recipe for a country
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that has a major political party that
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does not look like anything we’ve had in
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our history
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there’s never been a true large scale
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i mean we had you know george lincoln
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rockwell
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you know and then we had some of the and
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you had lindbergh in the bund
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back in the 30s that was growing into a
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political force
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but they never manifested at the level
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that the trumpest party is manifesting
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itself
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and that’s something that is that is
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concerning a lot of americans who
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believe
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regardless of their ideology whether
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they’re conservative or progressive or
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whether they’re
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moderate or they’re liberal it’s
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concerning a broad spectrum of americans
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to say
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you know this is a pathway that leads to
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a very bad outcome in this country
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and the concern is rising and it’s right
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to be it’s right to be rising
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and that’s why our group the lincoln
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project has stayed in this fight
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we we know that defeating donald trump
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was only the first step
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trumpism is a more dangerous and more
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pernicious movement
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than anyone could have accounted for
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even a couple years ago
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but it has this very powerful allies in
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the media it has a very powerful ally in
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facebook which allows
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all these these alt-right and
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proto-fascist and
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and and openly fascist groups like the
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proud boys
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to to organize and to use it as a
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bullhorn and to proselytize and
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and to propagandize the american people
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and so we’re seeing
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uh an enormous risk that what follows
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trump is is more dangerous
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because it’s more sophisticated than
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donald trump ever was
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last question rick um what should uh
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the western world learn from this
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example
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you know how dangerous is it when you go
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to bed with the devil as we say you know
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sure and get out of it so what what is
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your message kind of you know
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well look there is there is a clear
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message for for folks in europe
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uh especially because there is a rising
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uh tide of rescission from the
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democratic norms
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that define sort of the atlantic charter
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field and the the eu’s
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uh original mission that recision is
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happening
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all over europe i mean you have erdogan
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in turkey who
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is essentially a dictator um you have
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people
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um who are very alt-right who are who
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are trying to
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you know put on a suit and tie and it’s
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not just the clownish sort of le pen
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types it’s you know people who appear
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presentable who say some of the right
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things
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but who are part of this global
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alt-right movement this global
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this global rising tide will zombasha in
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in albania of all things there’s a guy
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who you know looks presentable he
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doesn’t come out you know wearing a an
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armband
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but the things he says and wants to do
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are enormously dangerous
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if you’re going to look at modern
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european democracies or modern or modern
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western democracies
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writ large and these risk factors have
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appeared in
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asia in south and central america in the
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united states obviously
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and across europe and that’s one of the
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reasons that again our group is fighting
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so hard
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to to in america now
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increasingly abroad to face these kind
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of challenges
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from this from this far right uh
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racially inflected movement
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that has grown i mean look if you look
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at the governments of albania and poland
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and hungary
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you are not looking at things that that
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that the post-war
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consensus would have recognized um as
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embracing the values that that we all
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believed
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shaped the western civilization in the
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in the years after world war
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ii and in the years after the collapse
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of the soviet union
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and so it’s enormously troubling it’s a
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fight that we’re in now and we’re going
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to be in for
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for apparently quite a long time are
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there any leaders in the republican
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party who could kind of take over again
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do you see any figures there may be
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leaders in the republican
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party but it’ll be a smaller party i
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mean look there are guys like mitt
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romney
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and adam kinzinger uh and and some of
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the folks in georgia
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who have said no the president not you
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know was not cheated
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um but that courage is
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is very rare few and far between
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i mean when you’ve only got uh 27
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members of congress in the republican
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side who have acknowledged that joe
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biden won the election
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you’ve got a much smaller party than you
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once had so
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as the conservative side splits the
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trumpist party will be
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two-thirds to five-eighths uh of
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of what was the gop and there’ll be a
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smaller romney sort of republican party
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and that’s not an effective um that’s
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not an effective political party at the
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national scale
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at that point that’s a disturbing
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outlook
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yeah i don’t sleep a lot so and did you
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see like
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how do you schedule how do you kind of
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see the next kind of two years or so
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evolve
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what’s going to happen well i think
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you’re going to see an awful lot of
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republicans
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trying to destroy joe biden’s
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administration very quickly
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they’re going to use legislative tactics
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in the senate particularly
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to deny joe biden the ability to do
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coveted relief
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or health care relief for our hospitals
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and doctors and nurses who have suffered
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so badly during the course of covet
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you’re going to see them block his
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appointments as much as they can
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so their idea is to train wreck
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joe biden’s administration the first two
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years
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so they can recapture the senate at the
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same time you’re going to see a whole
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crop
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of new trump-ist style candidates
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emerging tom cotton josh hawley marco
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rubio mike lee
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ted cruz they’re going to all be running
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for president in 2022
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and you’re going to have donald trump
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and his he’s on paper running for
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president
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but you’re also going to see his son
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preparing to run for president 2022
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so there will be a strong set of
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incentives to keep driving that
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authoritarian statism and and that that
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sort of new
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fascism message of trumpism in the next
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two years to four years
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because that is where the republican
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base has been transformed and that’s
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where those people will go and run to
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try to get their votes
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rick thank you very much i hope we can
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talk again in some
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i would love to that’d be great this is
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an ongoing conversation in the world
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absolutely i’d love to i’d love to see
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because this is kind of well this is
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what we experience as you said in many
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other countries as well
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so stay safe thank you very much you too
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great to talk to you on this i’ll talk
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to you soon

Our politics fails us, so here’s what to do

We can re-engineer the system to create a new political centre, says Charles Wheelan of Dartmouth College and a former candidate for Congress

Strikingly, data from Beyond Conflict, an NGO that promotes reconciliation in conflict areas, show that Americans feel “dehumanised” by the opposing party—a sentiment often associated with political violence—at roughly the same level as Israelis and Palestinians viewed each other during the Gaza War in 2014.

Moreover democracy is being asked to deal with policy challenges that have longer time horizons and more complexity than in the past. So the urgency to fix problems can seem less apparent: it is more like termites in the basement than a collapsing roof. Complexity also opens up a space for demagoguery. Beating back Hitler was no easy feat—but the need to do so was easier to explain than why universal health care requires a health insurance mandate.

Many voters are convinced that politicians are selling them out. They have a point. When I ran for Congress in 2009 as a Democratic candidate in Illinois, I went hat-in-hand to rich donors, as all candidates must. After one meeting with a group of private-equity types, one of them pulled me aside and asked how I felt about the “taxation of carried interest”—an arcane policy that lets major investors pay less tax on their earnings.

I told the fellow that income was income, and that “carried interest” ought to be taxed the same way as everyone else’s paycheck, and not as capital gains.

“That’s too bad,” he said, and walked away. He did not write me a cheque. I lost the race.

.. It did not matter that I was taught by economists at the University of Chicago and took classes from three Nobel Prize winners. Political issues devolve into protecting one’s niche perks. In this case, some of the wealthiest people in the country cared about one issue: whether they could pay a lower tax rate than the people who make their lattes and mow their lawns. More cunning candidates tolerate this to get into office.

The constant need for fundraising also drives partisanship. Emails with subject-lines like “Help me strike a compromise to bring down the deficit” are certain to remain unopened. But drop into an inbox “The Republicans will end Medicare” or “The Democrats are killing babies” and the contributions will flow, helping to make the partisanship ever more toxic.

In this environment, the biggest threat to a candidate is not from an opposition party with a different set of policies but from the extremist end of his or her own party. Hence the rise of the word “primary” as a verb, as in “The Democrats may primary him.” The optimal strategy is ideological purity, even if it means getting nothing done as a legislator.

Now for the really dangerous part: changing demographics have made the electoral college and the Senate increasingly out of sync, as population grows in blue states and wanes in red ones. By 2040 it is possible that roughly 70% of Senate seats will be controlled by 30% of the population. If we are looking for something that can ignite the current partisan tinder, this is it: a prolonged period in which the political will of the majority is thwarted by a minority opposition.

There are lots of ways to do this but the two boldest ideas are to create an independent group of centrist legislators to act as the “king makers” to pass legislation, and to implement something called “ranked-choice” voting that would make it harder for candidates on the political extremes to win election. Consider both in turn.

First, the legislators. It is easy to imagine that a bipartisan group of prominent politicians could step aside from their parties, band together, and create a new movement of the centre. I called this the “fulcrum strategy” in my book “The Centrist Manifesto” in 2013, and it is similar to the recent moves by Labour MPs in Britain, now joined by a few Conservatives.

Just a small handful of defections would go a long way to changing America’s political dynamic. It could provide a pragmatic center of gravity, restore a shared political narrative, rebuild the connective tissue between the parties, and place a healthy check on the Trump administration and whoever comes after, in a way that is less partisan than the Democrats today.

Could it happen? Absolutely. Here is what Jeff Flake, a former Republican senator from Arizona said at a conference this month at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government: “With three or four Rs and three or four Dems, if they come together now, or just about any time—the Senate rarely has more than a three-, four-, five- or six-person majority on either side—you could really change that place. You could create a completely different power structure. And that would be very healthy right now.”

Joel Searby, a political consultant working to rebuild the centre ground of American politics, says there is “high interest” in doing something like this. Mr Searby has met with chiefs of staff for a handful of senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to pitch the fulcrum idea. “They’re taking meetings with me in their Senate offices, and they know exactly what I’m there to talk about,” he says.

Moreover the Senate just got a new member who is less beholden to the political establishment than most: Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 who is also a former governor of Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the country. He has been a critic of the president from his own party. Will Mr Romney be the guy to change American politics forever? Or could it be the senator for Maine, Susan Collins? Or West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, a Democrat in a red state? It will only take a few.

The same fulcrum strategy could work at the state level. For all the talk of “red” and “blue” states, the fact is that many state legislatures are as narrowly divided as the Senate, meaning that a mere handful of centrists could band together to restore sanity.

In fact, in Alaska this just happened. After the mid-term election in 2018, a single Republican lawmaker refused to be the 21st vote that would give his party control of the 40-person legislature. Instead, he negotiated a governing coalition of eight Republicans, 15 Democrats and two independents. Committee chairs will be shared across parties and there is an independent speaker of the house.

The public seems receptive to this. After all, the two most popular governors are Republicans in blue states: Larry Hogan in Maryland and Charlie Baker in Massachusetts. This suggests that there are politicians able to cross the partisan divide and that voters will embrace them.

Politics needs to evolve with the times like everything else. The Republican Party emerged to deal with the thorny issue of slavery. Emmanuel Macron built a new party in France and captured a parliamentary majority. If economists can count almost 5,000 breakfast cereals in America, why should its citizens settle for just two political parties?

Precedents exist, such as Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid party that emerged in 2012. There are also examples of tiny factions that exert outsized influence, such as small, religious parties in Israel and Japan. A centrist faction can play the same role in America.

Then there is the issue of voting. There is a powerful change that would be a force for moderation: replace the primary system with a “top four, ranked choice” voting system. Yes, it needs a better name. But it’s the best way to hold elections with multiple candidates.

It works like this: In the first round of voting, the four top vote-getters advance. In the second round, voters rank those four candidates.

If no candidate wins an outright majority, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Those who voted for that candidate get their second choice instead. And this process of counting the next-best-candidate continues until one person gets a majority.

This system has three huge advantages. First, it minimises partisanship. Candidates would no longer compete to attract support from the most ideological members of their party but from all voters, which would have a moderating influence.

Second, this would create space for new political competition since independents and third parties would no longer present a “spoiler problem”. For example, Ralph Nader would have been eliminated in 2000 after the first round; most of his votes would probably have gone to Al Gore, who then would have become president.

Third, ranked-choice voting also creates an incentive for candidates to behave more civilly because it is important to be many voters’ “second choice”. Maligning other candidates—and all the other nasty tactics of modern elections—would carry a higher price.

.. The political landscape could change quickly. Reforms like the “fulcrum strategy” and “ranked voting” will make it easier for independents and members of new parties to get elected. Public support for both parties is in secular decline. And much of the partisanship is negative partisanship, meaning that party identification is driven mostly by loathing for the other side. A solid majority of Americans say that the country needs a third major political party.

.. Indeed, the data from Beyond Conflict found that voters believe that members of the other party think worse of them than they actually do. It turns out that we have not dehumanised each other to the same degree as the Palestinians and the Israelis; it only feels that way.

.. There are four faces on America’s Mount Rushmore monument: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. With democracy under siege, it is worth thinking about each of them.

George Washington was an independent and warned about political “factions” in his farewell address. Thomas Jefferson said the greatest evil was “a Division of the Republic into two great Parties.” Abraham Lincoln was part of the new Republican Party that arose when the two extant parties could not manage the issue of slavery. Teddy Roosevelt made a third run for president with his own “Bull Moose Party.”

What the four leaders carved in stone share is an unease with partisanship, a willingness to challenge political orthodoxy, and an unwavering belief in democracy. Those are the right principles to bear in mind as we look to strengthen the foundations of our system.

Could Evan McMullin tip the election?

“He can’t do anything, but he hurts us in Utah,” Trump complained. “If for some reason we lose Utah, that could have a very devastating impact on the overall.”

McMullin, a Utah native, promptly tweeted: “@realDonaldTrump, Yes you’ve never heard of me because while you were harassing women at beauty pageants, I was fighting terrorists abroad.”

.. The funny thing is a lot of people in Utah are Mormons, and they don’t drink coffee,” he said, sitting down over hummus and ice water at the Hawk ’n’ Dove on Capitol Hill. “So, we’ve done zero campaigning in coffee shops. If Donald Trump were truly interested in the state and in the voters, he might know a thing or two about that.”

McMullin added with a smile that dessert is “what we do in Utah. We have a lot of desserts, a lot of sugar-infused treats, and that’s what we do instead of coffee.”

.. After leaving the CIA in 2011, McMullin — who has an MBA from Wharton — became an investment banker for Goldman Sachs in San Francisco.

.. In the “Meet the Press” green room on Sunday, McMullin ran into Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, who had joined in mocking the Utahan in the joint interview with Baier, saying: “Nobody ever heard of him.” In person, it was all different. McMullin recalled: “He said it was truly nice to meet me, and I reciprocated, and we wished each other well.”

.. McMullin is the key player in one of two “not-impossible scenarios” that would throw the election into the House. Under what Krueger calls “The Utah Scenario,” if McMullin takes Utah’s six electoral votes, Clinton could wind up with 267 and Trump with 265, both short of 270.

..The LDS Church-owned Deseret News wrote a jaw-dropping editorial in October calling for Trump to resign his candidacy, which essentially outlines why Trump is the antithesis of Mormonism.”

.. “That means the Republican Party is headed more quickly to problems than perhaps the Democratic Party is. But it also means the conservative movement can emerge anew in a more viable way.”