Artwork for podcast Mark and Carrie
06/24/2020 - Controlled Burn
22nd June 2020 • Mark and Carrie • Mark and Carrie
00:00:00 00:39:04

Share Episode


Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown's Watson Institute, and Carrie Nordlund, political scientist and associate director of Brown's Master of Public Affairs program, share their take on the news.

On this episode: Covid-19 surges in some US states amid reopening and quarantine 'fatigue'; the EU's potential ban on travelers from the US; the Supreme Court's surprising decisions on DACA and LGBTQ rights; the evolution of Black Lives Matter protests and calls to defund the police; workshopping slogans for liberals; the results of this week's Democratic Congressional primaries; calls to tear down statues of racist figures from history; the joy of watching TikTok users mess with Donald Trump.


DAN: Hey there. This is Dan, the producer of Mark and Carrie. If you like this show, we highly recommend you check out Watson's other podcast, Trending Globally. You'll hear more in-depth conversations about politics and policy from some of the world's leading experts, including, occasionally, Mark and Carrie. You can find it by subscribing to Trending Globally on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to podcasts. All right, on with the show. Thanks.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, hello there. Welcome to Mark and Carrie. We're back, summer edition. You know, ready with our tropical drinks and our sun umbrellas. Or just continuing to stay at home. What are your--

MARK BLYTH: With headphones. With headphones, yes. This is the headphone episode. Because people have been complaining about the quality of our sound recording. So OK, that's fair. You're going to listen to it, you should have better sound, so we're wearing headphones. So this is the headphone edition.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, and we're both physically distanced from each other and anyone we know.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly, exactly. And not that that's a segway into what we're going to talk about today, But let's make it that way. It turns out that the distance between people has collapsed, and that hasn't necessarily been a good thing, has it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, it has not. In fact, today, June 24th as we recorded this, is the third highest day since April of infections in the US. We're at 35,000. The big increases are in the Southern states. Florida, Texas are the big ones.

And seemingly, I think, public health officials are now saying that there's no waves anymore. They've gone to a metaphor or analogy of a forest fire, that it will just burn until there's no more forests left.

I laugh because I don't know what other reaction to have to that.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. You can go-- well, you know, there was the tsunami, but now we just have the forest fire. Which fits with the past 18 months. It started with Australia burning.


MARK BLYTH: And then we heard, as we mentioned before, we had-- what was it called called again? Death hornets. No, murder hornets.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, yeah, murder hornets. Yes, yeah.

MARK BLYTH: So that's good. All right, interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Do you think it's over it, Blyth? Americans specifically, are we just COVID, and we're just out?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, so I sent you that film that I did, right? The Mustang and the Volvo?


MARK BLYTH: Right, so I mean, basically that's what I was getting into, which is, America can't shut down. Right? It can't. The whole thing works like a Mustang flying down the highway in fifth gear. The turbo charger's on. It's rocking. It's going fast. You try and park this thing suddenly in gear, and all the bits fly off.

So we tried that, and doing so had a huge unemployment spike. Megan Greene actually pointed out an interesting argument as to why that might not be as bad as it seems, and I'll get back to that in a second.

But essentially, in contrast to the European approach of keeping people in place, because you have these airbags, right? We basically allow the whole thing to crash, and then we try and restart the motor. Well, the question is, can you restart the motor in the middle of a pandemic? Well, we're damn well gonna try. And what that does is, it shows up in a new series of infections.

Now, if you can manage this as such that you don't crash your local hospital systems, if you can manage this in such way that it is infecting younger people, who seem to be much more robust to it, you can shelter the old. There's some evidence perhaps that the virus is attenuating in its effects, in the sense that you've actually taken out the weakest already. It's very Darwinian and brutal, right?

So in a sense, it goes to the forest fire model. And it's a question of managing the forest fire. And eventually, it burns itself out. So the metaphor isn't entirely inappropriate, but going back to lockdowns and shutdowns, And I just checked the news before we came on, and it seemed that New York's now going to ban people from Texas.

Well, I don't know quite how you're going to do that in the open borders US, but you know you can see those things going up. I mean, the key thing with all this is, just wear a bloody mask. I mean, at the end of the day, right, I mean, just don't go to beach parties, and wear a mask, and we'll all get through it faster. It's that simple.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I guess that's-- I mean, that's the part. Well, you don't-- a beach party, an indoor beach party would be a real problem. But just wear a mask, which has become, of course, so politicized. And the stories of people getting yelled at for wearing a mask, and of course the president doesn't wear a mask.

You just wonder where-- I mean, I don't wonder. I know where this is coming from, in terms of where the divide between the politicization of a mask and not has come from. But you just think everyone should just wear a mask, and yet you walk around, and maybe 55, maybe 40 to 45%, maybe 30% are not wearing a mask.

MARK BLYTH: No, absolutely. I mean, sometimes I'll go out with a dog, right, and I've got it around my neck.


MARK BLYTH: But if I'm passing someone else, I'll just pop it up, because it makes them feel more comfortable, at least in the bourgie neighborhood I live in, right?


MARK BLYTH: But it does serve a purpose. It does seem to effectively slow down the transmission of the virus. I'm reminded of all this in something that we've mentioned before, which is Greta Thunberg's line that when you argue against climate change, you're having an argument with physics, and physics doesn't care.

And this is exactly the same. The virus doesn't give a damn about your political preferences.


MARK BLYTH: It doesn't care about your demand for freedom. Which, by the way, completely misunderstands what the conception of freedom is. Because your freedom ends when you harm someone else. That's the whole point of the masks. But whatever. At the end of the day, we're not doing any more lockdowns. We're in a forest fire.


MARK BLYTH: Let's get there. There we go.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I do wonder, though, and especially thinking about the continued-- the people who are most vulnerable to this, of course, are the people that have the most interaction with other humans. So people serving at the restaurants that everybody is out and all of this kind of stuff, that if it were to your bourgie neighborhood, if it were all the financiers of the world who were getting it, if we would go to lockdown.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And of course, that's the counterfactual.

MARK BLYTH: Totally. Yeah, I know. Unfortunately, we can't find all the [INAUDIBLE] financiers in the world, give them COVID, put them in one place, and then run the experiment. Sadly, we don't get to do that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know we can't put them on David Geffen's 50 billion trillion dollar yacht. That's true.


CARRIE NORDLUND: It looks as though Americans are not going to be traveling anywhere, except maybe not outside of our borders, or even within our state borders, given what the EU has plans for.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, so they're talking about basically banning, what is it, Brazilians, Russians, and Americans, because they have the highest infection rates. So once again we're in great company.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, seriously.

MARK BLYTH: Basically, sort authoritarian despots who don't really give a damn. Hey, that's us. That's the vibe we're in now. It's not good in the following sense that heavily tourist-dependent countries that have already been locked down, like Italy, right? Could do with a healthy dose of American tourists showering dollars all over the place.

But at the same time, Italy went through the worst of this, and they don't want it to come back. So they're caught between a rock and a hard place. But I do wonder how much of this is revenge for the other stuff that America has been pulling against the Europeans in the past month or so, which we will get onto shortly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I did wonder that point. And then I did think about that a bureaucrat in some beige building in Brussels had done the cost-benefit analysis of letting the people come to Italy and spend their money there versus the effects of letting all these infected Americans into their countries and having another spike.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we can talk about this now as well, because it does segue into it. I mean, part of this is this stuff that's been going on in general between our great allies in Western Europe and the United States.

And Trump in particular, as you know, always had it in for the Germans, right? So we had at his Tulsa rally going on about, Merkel, she's great, but at the same time, they don't do the defense spending.

And he's right, and they're not. Now, if this is a real issue, then fair enough. Some people say yes, some people say no. But the fact is, he's pulling troops out of Germany. He's going to put them in Poland.

Now, if I was an American soldier, I'd be really pissed off, because Germany is a pretty nice place to spend three years when you do your tour. Back end of Poland? I don't think it's quite the same, but nonetheless they're going to do that. He's showing solidarity with the people who stand up to the Russians.

There's the whole issue of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. Basically, at the end of the day, the Germans have been buying gas and oil from Russia all the way through since the nineteen-fifties, right? Even during the Cold War, they were great customers. Never once did they shut off the pipelines.

So the Germans are like, "we can buy gas from these guys." And the Americans say, "no, you need to buy our gas and oil. We need to put it on tankers and ship it to you." They're like, "no, that'll cost a fortune. We'll just get it from the Russians." To which the Americans say, "you mean those bad people that we are protecting you from?" So that's good.

And then the one that finally pushed it over the edge, there had been these long negotiations at the OECD headquarters in Paris between the US and the EU, basically over taxing digital companies. Because they make enormous amounts of money.

And then also not just the digitals. Also things like Starbucks, that basically generate huge amounts of sales, but then report tiny profits, because of the way they adjust and avoid taxes and all this other stuff.

So there's two discussions going on, and the first one is basically a minimum corporate tax rate. The US is into that. But they've completely pulled out of taxing the digital ones and said to the Europeans explicitly, "you come after our digital companies, because we're the ones who benefit from this, we being American shareholders, American corporates, that's perhaps not American people, but we benefit from this. So if you tax them, we're going to put tariffs on your wine, your cars, the whole lot, right?"


MARK BLYTH: So the whole transatlantic thing really is under stress in a way it hasn't been before. So I can't help but wonder if they're like, "well, screw you. You don't get to come to the Parthenon for your summer holiday." It's kind of like the EU's first line of revenge.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But back to your point about the Russians. What a bipolar relationship. I don't even know what that the US has other than "don't buy the bad Russians." But then we're going-- the administration at least wants to protect them politically in some ways.

So I mean, that sort of stuff of like-- I think it's gotta be so confusing to Europeans or just people anywhere thinking about this, about our relationships with countries and how one day Angela Merkel is the best, and then she's like the monster from the East.


CARRIE NORDLUND: You know, all of these. I mean, just in thinking about diplomacy and policies, just what day are we on? And I guess the diplomats are just like, just move on and do their thing. But just in thinking about the framing of issues? God, it's so confusing.

MARK BLYTH: Well, from what I hear now, essentially the Europeans have just given up on the US. I mean, at the diplomatic level. They're making their own deals. They're doing their own thing.

And it's not as if they've got a great alternative to turn to in China, because China has basically made it plain that it wants to basically be the leader of the pack. You have to choose. You take Huawei, you piss off the Americans. You don't take Huawei, you piss off the Chinese. One or both of them are going to stop buying your cars.

They're not in a great place, but Europe realizes that, and essentially is, I think, moving towards a position of going beyond recognizing that and thinking, what do we do?

After all, we're 450 million people. We're the richest part of the planet. Our problem is political. We're basically a collection of nation states that don't like each other. How do we get past that?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and a really simplistic view is that the EU may ban Americans, they may not ban Chinese. So in that regard, if see which way they're leaning, if there's any tea leaves to be read from that decision.

MARK BLYTH: Speaking of bans, we had a visa ban.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, there was a visa ban.

MARK BLYTH: So basically American companies get good results because they're on a technological frontier. And they control the intellectual properties around those technologies.

But the basic science behind that is done in American labs, majority of those labs are in American universities. And I think the figure is 1/3 or more of the bench work is done by people on those visas.


MARK BLYTH: So basically we're willing to shoot our technological advantage in the foot to make a few points before the election.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And the thing that's so confusing to me on this ban, well, is that point, and then also just that there's seemingly no context for why this is happening other than politically, that there's a demand for the workers, and yes, just shooting ourselves in the foot. I mean, there's nothing else to say about it.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, well, I mean, basically I think Trump calculates that nobody at Google is going to vote for him, so screw Google.


MARK BLYTH: Right, and basically the notion that this is protecting American jobs in a pandemic is just totally ridiculous. It's got nothing to do with it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, this point, this goes into a question that I've been thinking a lot about in terms of elections, the election. There's an election coming up in a few months, if we're able to vote in it. Is this a base election, or is this an election where you motivate those that don't normally vote, and that's where the election's gonna be won or lost?

And obviously Trump thinks this is going to be a base election, and he's constantly playing to his base. But I'm not necessarily sure that that's the real strategical move in terms of--

I mean, Democrats clearly see this as "put the Obama coalition back together." Get those that are really excited to the voting booth, barring all the stuff, and that's where we're going to win the election. And Trump is playing this base election.

So that's something that's interesting to see. And I know we're gonna talk about the primary results, but interesting to see how this will play out, because I mean, so much of this from Trump's presumptive is just all base stuff. There's nothing.

At the Tulsa rally, there's no policy. And I mean, not like he's a big policy person to begin with, but it was all a defense about the ramp and the wa-- you know, all of this that were just theatrics much more than actual anything even of [INAUDIBLE] substance.

MARK BLYTH: Well, I think about in a very similar way. It's not as if people who six months ago were like, "you know, I'm on the fence about Trump. Let me see how I feel about this. I'm going to join his coalition." All he has is the base. The thing is, the base is big, and the base will go out and foot.

Where I'd twist what you're saying a little bit is, I hope that they're not thinking about putting the Obama coalition back together again, because we don't have Obama.


MARK BLYTH: And that moment has passed. I think what they are harnessing, or they're able to harness is there's a whole bunch of people who have been hurt by the pandemic, a whole bunch of people who have been basically seriously reawakened to injustice in society in all its forms, because of the protests. And that's what's going to basically push. That's what's really making it, less than putting the coalition back together. But that's a minor detail.

Let's talk about more major stuff. Who knew the Supreme Court wasn't a political body?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. I know. And the Chief, John Roberts, is really intent on making-- I mean, OK, who knows what the chief really wants, but on the outside looking in, it appears as though the chief is intent on making sure that the executive branch understands that they are their own independent branch, and they are not part of the executive branch.

And I think there are 16 decisions left. I think the prediction is, tomorrow there'll be more decisions. And there's some big ones that are still out there--

MARK BLYTH: So what are the big ones? What are the big ones that are coming up?

CARRIE NORDLUND: So we have two on President Trump, one about his taxes. We have one about faithless electors. So the electoral college, a favorite topic. You could have a faithless elector in a state decide not to go for the direction that the state went. In fact, there were three last presidential election. And what's the penalty on those faithless electors?

And then essentially it's abortion, a case out of Louisiana. Those are the-- and there's a couple other ones, but those would be, I think, the headline-grabbing ones.

And then last week, the two decisions that I think gave the left a lot of hope were that transgender rights were secured under the Civil Rights Act, and then not secure or not a permanence of the defer of DACA, but merely that the Trump administration did not dot its i's or cross its t's.

And as a professor, you can appreciate that, right? You didn't do the basics of handing in your paper, so I'm not going to accept it. And that's essentially what the court said. You didn't administratively do what you were supposed to do. And so just on the basis of that-- they didn't say anything about the policy, but we're not going to let you go forward with this because you didn't do the right stuff.

MARK BLYTH: I thought there was an implicit critique of the policy in it, in the bits that I read, in the sense that what they focused on was they didn't basically do a harm analysis, right? They didn't say who's going to be harmed with this.

The way the administration is approaching this is, that's irrelevant because these aren't American citizens, so we can remove them. If you're saying that you have to calculate the harm done by this, then implicitly you're basically disagreeing with that categorization. You are putting them in the camp of people who count.

Which is signaling, I think, in some way that you can't just basically treat these as non-people. You have to do a harm analysis. I don't know where that goes with that, but it at least read interesting to me in that way. So we-- mm-hmm? Go ahead.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I was just going to say, there's an interesting part in the transgender rights decision, and the dissenters, specifically Brett Kavanaugh, just wrote some really interesting prose about pirate ships, and just vehemently opposed to what was happening.

And of course, the transgender decision was written by Neil Gorsuch. And this is the part about the base that I was thinking of. Trump puts the two really conservative justices on the court, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, and that the transgender decision is that-- I mean, that moves away from the base. And is the base now upset with the president, because on this specific case they didn't get the verdict-- the decision that they would have wanted?

So again, independence, this good of the third branch of government.

MARK BLYTH: All right. So let's move on a bit. Let's talk about the protests. The protests seem to be evolving.


g-- evolving into, I think, a:

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, all of these illegal fireworks every night.

MARK BLYTH: I know, which is funny, because basically I grew up with a society in which we threw a lot of fireworks around, and literally we threw them each other, so I'm quite comfortable with it. It's really interested being here on the East Side of Providence. You'd think people were getting artillery barrages coming down on them rather than just a few fireworks going off for a few hours.

But OK, taking that to one side, what seems to be happening is it's becoming more ritualized, institutionalized, professional in a sense. The notion that this is all going to turn into mass property damage and white people are going to turn against it seems to not be playing out at all.

And the public opinion swinging in favor of it seems to be solidifying. So how are you reading all this?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think that's such a great point about the public opinion, something that you saw just really quickly swing in the other direction around just the term Black Lives Matter and support of Black Lives Matter.

What's been interesting for me is the "defund the police." And there's been a lot of discussion around, what do you mean "defund the police"? Isn't it "reform the police"? And defunding, you don't want to have police, there's no white line order.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And I think what's underlying that is, of course, the least glamorous word we can think of, and that is incrementalism. And at the policy level, of course, cities are not going to just instantaneously stop funding the police. I think New York is $6 billion, and they're thinking about taking $1 billion away from the police.

But I think that what's difficult, and this is along the same lines of Americans being over COVID, is for us to focus our attention and understand what the policy actually is, and that it isn't going to radically change like public opinion has, but it will be these incremental changes.

I mean, Minneapolis city council has said that they are pro-defunding the police, but there are several hurdles to actually accomplishing that. And I think this is both the good and the bad of policy is that there can be a shock to a political or policy system, but it takes a while for that change to actually be felt and for that for that to have impact as well.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, no, it's fascinating what's going on. I mean, there's something about the American reformist liberal left, which they need to all do a course in marketing.


MARK BLYTH: So I was talking to Stephanie Kelton the other big, who has this great book out, The Deficit Myth. It's all about modern monetary theory, all the rest of it. And why MMT people are really interested in is their big policy sticker plaster that solves everything is the job guarantee.

Now, if you follow the logic of it, right, basically the Fed the guarantees asset prices when there's a failure, right? But there's no equivalent in the labor market. So if we had in a basically rather than the Fed buys assets, the government buys workers, and you keep that as a permanent option, you can effectively get rid of minimum wage and all that sort of stuff, and also have a shock absorber for when you have recessions.

Sounds like a good idea. But then you call it in America an individualist, you got to make your own stuff here America, the job guarantee, every nightmare of inefficient bureaucracy and jobs for the boys and all that comes leaping out of the whole thing.

So why would you call it? Same with "defund the police", right? As I understand it, what it means is, we've massively cut back on local services for two decades because we just gave everything away in tax cuts. And in response to that, the only thing you spend the money on is basically the police.

So the police have become everything from social workers--


MARK BLYTH: --to homeless advocates as well as crime fighters. So what we want to do is, take all that stuff away from them, and then retrain and get them to focus on the core without shooting people too much, right? That that's very much it.

So we call it "defund the police." I mean, it's almost as if they got the policies, and then they went to the people who hate them and said, "hey, if you wanted to name this so you could defeat it, what would you call it?" And they went, "oh, how about 'defund the police?'" And they went "brilliant", and ran off with it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: No, I mean, the slogan part, the marketing part I think is crucial, because I hear defund the police, and usually defund, "defund abortion" is take all the money away from abortion.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, right, exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And so I mean, "reform the police" is a lot less exciting, and incrementally reform the police--

MARK BLYTH: Is even worse, right, exactly.


MARK BLYTH: Well, how about "repurpose the police"?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Or, right, "reallocate funds to other places."

MARK BLYTH: That's not really a slogan. But you know what I mean? You know?

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's hard to put that stuff on a--

MARK BLYTH: "Let the police let the police be police." Right? Don't expect them to do anything else.


MARK BLYTH: Right? Exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Actually, on this point, Blyth, I have looked up some stuff prior prepping for this. And in Bend, Oregon, Pacific Northwest state, they do-- the first responders are mental health workers and social workers. And that has changed everything in this.

And I know it's a small city, and it's pretty homogeneous and all that sort of stuff, but just to your point about who the first responders are, whether it's a big group of people, whether there's one person who's drunk, they are whatever is going on with them, just to think that the first responders are somebody without weapons on them has got to be-- I mean, that's a sea change, and that also just is a signal to everybody that it's not a criminal act, that we're not going to treat people who have other stuff going on in their lives as criminals.

MARK BLYTH: Mm-hmm. Yeah, no, absolutely. But I mean, in fairness, there's something else here that people put in the background. They do it here because, in a sense, they're so used to it, they don't really think about it. And also Europeans, they think about it, get shocked by it, and then forgot about it. Which is, there are more guns than people in the United States. Right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's such an-- wow.

MARK BLYTH: So if I was a cop, I would be armed, right? If I'm a New Zealand cop, there was a New Zealand cop who was killed last week. It was like the whole nation shut down for two days. That never happens.


MARK BLYTH: People-- I come from a place where police still don't have guns.


MARK BLYTH: Right, and trust me, Scotland's got some right head cases in it, but the police know how to deal with that without shooting people. So there is this whole thing of, you have a culture of violence, which all of this is embedded in, and a culture of firearms that all this is embedded in. And if I was a cop, I'd want to be armed if I went into a house. I don't know what I'm going into.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. No, right. You don't know. That's exactly the point.

MARK BLYTH: You don't know. That's the problem, right? So it's a multifaceted issue.


MARK BLYTH: But the interesting thing, to go back to the polls, this is why I think you can't put this one back in the bottle. This is the second wave of the American Civil Rights Movement. It's finally pushed past that threshold. Cornel West had a brilliant line in a CNN interview that he did, where he said, if people weren't protesting, what would that say about our society, given how we treat these people?

CARRIE NORDLUND: That's such a-- that's a great point. I heard--



MARK BLYTH: I'm just going to say, and when you go, "yeah, that's such a great point", it tells you how far we've come as a society that we actually think that that's right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Yeah, I mean, similarly, I heard-- I mean, and I think this has actually even changed in the last week, that at the beginning of the protests, we were still debating whether or not racism was good or bad, or we were treating racism--

MARK BLYTH: Were we really doing that? Holy God, it's worse than I thought.

CARRIE NORDLUND: We were treating racism as if it were a debate, and that quickly moved to something-- slightly better wording than what I had initially started with, but I think that was right, that we were still debating it to some extent.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, it was an if rather than a given.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, that's exactly right. And you segued so nicely into this, was the result, some of the results out of yesterday's primaries, out of New York and out of Kentucky.

And one of the results is that very-- I mean, Alexandria Occasio Cortez, so a 30 year member of the House of Representatives, Eliot Engel, who is the chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee was ousted by a young African-American man, Jamal Bowman. And he unseated him, so that would be a pickup for the Congressional Black Caucus, but really also thinking about--

I mean, I was thinking about this in two ways. One, Pelosi's power as Speaker of the House gets a little bit weaker after you have these long-term, long-serving Democrats-- of course, she's going to be worried about her concentration of power.

But also thinking about what does the general election look like, and is there, to your point, going to be this second wave, where we see a huge number of black elected officials?

I don't know if you saw. It was on CNN or MSNBC, but they had all the tiles up, and it was like six or seven candidates running for office, and they're all black, all black people running for office, and you just think, if this is a wave, this is pretty incredible.

MARK BLYTH: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Well, we'll see how far they get away with it. I mean, there was also Kentucky, because that one didn't work out too well, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, because there's been called, I think, just as we got started, that Amy McGrath won against the democratic opponent. It was a black--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, but to me, this is not just getting more African-Americans in positions in power in the party. It's what they represent. They are part of that left shift in the party.

And what's also striking about them is the age.


MARK BLYTH: This is also a generational shift. The Democrats, the mainstream Democrats are old.


MARK BLYTH: They are seriously old. Like most people retire when they're 65, 67. They've been going for 10, 15 years past that.


MARK BLYTH: Think of Biden, think of Pelosi.


MARK BLYTH: These people-- so what you've got is an actual-- not just the sort of an ideological split. You've basically got a generational shift, whereby people from this generation have different problems, have different concerns, respond to different issues. And as that generation moves from the stage as they inevitably will, they are going to be the ones that take the Democrats forward in a different direction.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And I think it's really interesting to think about that the leadership of the Democratic Party, and all long-serving senators, long-serving House members, et cetera, are just not interested in the generational change, because their hold on their power, they can't call their buddy who they gave money to in the last Senate race or the last House race to vote in a particular way.

And so it's not just about power in terms of having my coalition together in the House or in the Senate. It was also about their power as the leadership of the country as well. And so that's what's interesting to see, the shifts in this, and to see how they react, given the context for the ways-- the times in which this is happening.

MARK BLYTH: Mm-hmm. Yeah, absolutely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I'm really curious to get your take on this. Tons of statues are coming down. I think the most offensive is the Robert E Lee. I mean, he lost. His lost. He was on the side of losers in the Confederacy, but that big like 5,000 foot statue of him in Richmond, Virginia. There's been all sorts of projections on him, Black Lives Matter, over the last few weeks, that Governor Northam has said that there have been plans for at least a year to take that down. But lots of other Christopher Columbus statues being taken down.

MARK BLYTH: Everybody. Everybody who--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, yes, but also in the UK, too.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, yeah. No, no, Churchill was a racist. Yes, but I mean, look, I get it. But at the same time, so was every one of that generation, right?


MARK BLYTH: The major medical and scientific institutions of the United Kingdom and the United States in the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties believed that eugenics was real and accurately described the human condition.

So it would literally be an almost impossible, unless you were on anticolonialist struggler, which meant that you essentially were ideologically 50 years ahead of everybody else, to not to be a racist by that token.

So do we despoil everything? I totally-- I remember I was in South Carolina, and I was at the Moore school of business, giving a talk. And I went on a talk in one of the parks downtown by, where they had the government buildings.

And it was shocking, because I didn't know who these statues were. And I went through, and it's like, see this guy? Yeah, he was a doctor. And what did he do? Well, he basically invented this amazing technique, which has led to a great survival amongst women and pregnancies, breech births or something like this.

Yeah, but you know how he got it? Well, he basically experimented live on 80 African-American woman, on freed slave woman in the eighteen-eighties. And you basically go from one atrocity celebration to another.

And I remember just saying to the tour guide, I guess if I was African-American and I was walking through here and I actually knew this, I mean, I get why this is really problematic.

And they were like, it's more than problematic. It is continued repression. If you think like one definition of freedom, which is a good one, is freedom from domination, then what this is a kind of cultural domination, an everyday wearing down of your sense of self, and your rights, and your dignity.

Because this is what we valorize. We valorize the people who have made advances for all of us by murdering your people.


MARK BLYTH: It's kind of outrageous. Now, can you put Churchill in the same bag? Well, here's the thing about it. We live in divided societies, but the one thing that Brits agree on, because they did two big polls at the end of the two-thousands, was who was the most-- at the end of the lost decade. Sorry, the last century. That's how old I am.

On who was the best Briton ever. And Churchill topped it like 80th percentile, 90 percentile, Churchill, Churchill. So basically, if you're trying to win friends and influence people to actually sure how these monuments to these people like Cecil Rhodes and all the rest are deeply problematic, perhaps not going straight for the most popular Briton of all time might have been a good idea. But I get where it's coming from.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But to you, I mean, this is along the same lines of Jefferson and Washington, and the whole discussion of, well, why don't we take down the Washington Monument or rename it or whatever?


CARRIE NORDLUND: And to me, at least a line, though not the line, would be, at least take down the losers. The losers of the Confederacy, they lost. That seems like an OK line to me. If they didn't win something, at least we can take down those statues.

MARK BLYTH: It's not as if the Germans have got a Rommel statue, because he was a nice Nazi, right? I mean, at the end of the day, they went, right, we won't be commemorating this stuff.

So yeah, everyone has to have a reckoning with their past, but the one in the United States is the most problematic and the most overdue.

CARRIE NORDLUND: The Germans took--

MARK BLYTH: I mean, the other thing, most of these statues went up in the nineteen-thirties.


MARK BLYTH: I mean, that's the other thing about it. I mean, they were basically Jim Crow reminders of your subordinate possession. That's what's deeply problematic about them.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Didn't the Germans do a bunch of taking down of stuff post-WWII?

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah, but the Russians helped them by basically destroying all the buildings in the country. But yeah, they did actually take down a whole bunch of stuff, absolutely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So Juneteenth was last Friday. And there's a lot of talk, of course, of it being a federal holiday. Which I generally support. And what is interesting on the Twittersphere, and I know, you know, Twitter, but there were a lot of comments saying that it comes too close to the 4th of July, and so a lot of corporations, private companies probably wouldn't give it as an official holiday.

And so the people that would get it would be white people, who can essentially work from home and take the day off themselves, and that those who actually-- black people, brown people, they wouldn't get the day off. And so the inequity of that.


CARRIE NORDLUND: That did make me pause for a second, and think more about whether I supported it as a federal holiday.

MARK BLYTH: So I just read-- I mean, speaking of the inequities, you try and right a wrong and you create another harm, there's a graduate student of mine named Josh Weiss-- hi, Josh.


MARK BLYTH: And Josh has this book coming out that he did with some other people, and the research that he did in the book was basically on what happened to the jobs of the African-American middle class. Because there was one in the '50s and the '60s, and it collapsed.

And a huge number of them ended up being workers, not just inmates in the prison-industrial complex.


MARK BLYTH: So one of the major things that reformers want to do is basically shut down the so-called carceral state. The United States is 4% of the world's population, 25% of the prison population, and African-Americans are five times overrepresented in that grotesque system.

But here's the thing. If you shut it down, you actually massively harm one or two of the jobs that semi-skilled African-Americans hold, and one of the industries where they have a high number of workers, where you earn more than minimum wage.


MARK BLYTH: So the ultimate irony is, even in cleaning that up, you create harm to the very population that you're trying to help. I mean, it's just brutal.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, it's the most obvious point, but it shows how interconnected all of this is. We can't just take one slice of it and say, this is social justice and doesn't have anything to do with economics or all the other policies.

MARK BLYTH: No, exactly. I mean, and this is why the policing aspect, which is driving the protest, is the most obvious and the most pernicious. Again, to go to that idea, if America relishes and treasures a notion of freedom, then freedom from domination should be the basic freedom, and therefore as a right, and it's right to focus on it. But it is only one aspect of it.

That stat that I quoted last time, I think it's up on my Twitter site, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, median net worth for white families in Boston, $247,000. Exactly the same for black families, $8.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's just incredible.

MARK BLYTH: Right. Now, you cannot get that degree of inequality unless you have institutions which systematically produce and reproduce the inequality.


MARK BLYTH: So this is just-- the policing is the most obvious part, but it's just one part, and it all hangs together.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, but it's hard to get projects around income inequality as we know, because that sign is not as exciting.

MARK BLYTH: Totally.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So as we end--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, as we end-- so if have you done anything-- you live in DC. Is the weather getting awful yet?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, it's a swamp.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, it is the swamp.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, the 3 H's, hazy, hot, and humid, and--


CARRIE NORDLUND: It's just-- yeah. Here's my thought on ending something fun. I'm curious to hear your perspective on this. TikTok and the impact that the teenagers had on Trump's rally.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah!

CARRIE NORDLUND: And I mean, I just relish the thought that-- and he says you are of this age, and they had booked a couple of tickets. But the pushback by the Trump campaign that they had vetted all those interested and--

MARK BLYTH: Totally didn't happen. Didn't happen, didn't happen.


MARK BLYTH: Right, right. And you basically got completely cleaned by a bunch of teenagers, right.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I think it's brilliant. I mean, in a way, people should be thanking them, because essentially what they did was social distancing at the rally.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, seriously, yeah. I mean, it was pretty incredible. I think they said 6,500 showed up, something like that. And all the sea of blue empty seats, the symbol of that. Are you cooking out a lot?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, I mean, the weather up here is lovely. Because we have the reasonably hot, not hazy, and not too humid at all. So that's nice. So I might after this-- we have the great fish shop here in Providence, shout-out, called The Fearless Fish. And they do a fish share. So I'm going to pick up a couple of sea bass, and I'm gonna stick them on the grill tonight, so that'll be very nice.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, that sounds lovely.

MARK BLYTH: Exactly. It's a shame you're not local. You could have come over and had a socially distant meal. What we did is, we've got a big table at the back end of the garden, so you literally can have people at one end and the other end and all that. But of course, what happens is, the wine starts flowing, and then everybody's--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, suddenly, you're sitting one inch apart.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, one inch, right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: You're shouting for a little while of it.

MARK BLYTH: Yes, exactly. That summed it up. All right.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, thank you for listening. We will-- I think we're going to be back for the summer, right? At least a couple more times.

MARK BLYTH: No, no. We're going to go through a minute. I mean, it's lovely to chat every two weeks. I mean, we'll keep doing this one. I think I'm going to put the Rhodes Pod on hiatus, because we've got some really good copy coming out now, and that'll keep us through July.

So I think I'm going to put that one on hiatus, but I think we should continue, so long as people want us to.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, and it seems like there's still stuff to talk about.

MARK BLYTH: Every week, they keep generating new stuff. It's amazing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I wish they would just stop now, and just-- they, who, the amorphous they.

MARK BLYTH: It's the old about history, one bloody thing after another.



Well, thank you all for listening, and we'll talk to you next time.