Ezra Klein on Face the Nation

Smart People Saying Smart Things

If you’re like me, any more talk of this election cycle will cause you to double over wrenched with pain. This post is very different; I promise. It does not promote/favor a candidate, party or a political persuasion (liberal/conservative). So, hang with me for just a second. If you enjoy some deeper thinking about some tough questions, you’ll be glad you did.

Ezra Klein
Ezra Klein

I’ve always found Ezra Klein to be crazy smart, astonishingly informed, and surprisingly insightful as a political observer. Add to that mix his ability to clearly articulate his thinking, and you have a guy to whom I genuinely enjoy listening. His perspective and the questions he explores make a lot of horse sense to me.

Molly Ball
Molly Ball

I recently encountered his podcast series, The Ezra Klein Show. In his October 4th show he has a conversation about the election with Molly Ball from The Atlantic1. You can read about it here and stream it online here. This conversation is brilliant and thought-provoking, unlike anything I’ve encountered about this presidential election. I am highly recommending you listen to it in its entirety. They discuss some non-partisan issues that are really worthy of everyone’s consideration.

I personally really need to come up to speed on several of the issues they put on the table for discussion. These are concepts that I haven’t paid much or, in some cases, any attention to. Both Ezra and Molly are challenging their own past ways of thinking about politics and elections as a whole.

In their talk they discuss how Trump has effectively changed the conversation, and elections may never be seen the same way again. Do policy positions of candidates even matter any more? Have they ever really mattered the way the pundits have historically framed them, or has that always been a politely accepted fiction? Do policy positions take a back seat to identity politics?

I hesitate to highlight any one topic they discuss, because this conversation is so varied and excellent. But here is just one interesting tidbit from their dialogue:

We have reached a pivot point in US history that will be of truly historic magnitude. People will look back at a profound shift that has taken place but not been named, not been discussed. When Obama went into office in 2008, the electorate was 54% white Christians. As Obama leaves office, just 8 years later, the electorate is only 47% white Christians. This fact is the result of both birth rates and the rejection of the Christian church by an unprecedented number of Americans.

Trump has effectively tapped into the angst of white and white Christian Americans who feel this but have no socially accepted language to discuss it. Ezra believes that most white Christian Americans don’t mind if others get ahead, but they have no way of talking about their fears and sense of ethnocentric change without using the language characterized as racism from a position of entitlement.

The language for this conversation doesn’t exist yet. As a result, people spin off into the safe space of identity politics using imprecise language and creating toxicity in the information commons we all share. This gives rise to tribal assertions for power in language and behavior. “Identity is a powerful force in human nature.”

They speak of the fascinating ways in which Trump has been a thoroughly unique candidate that will not be easy to ever replicate in the future. They describe the ways in which this election cycle has unmasked “something” about our political process that will never be able to be undone. And then they end their conversation asking, moving forward after the election, “how do we pick up the pieces?”

When you have an hour you can dedicate to some really enlightening conversation, I strongly recommend this podcast to you. Again, here is the link to the audio podcast. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes at this link.

Please, no comments unless you actually listen to the podcast. All comments about the content of the podcast are welcomed.

  1. I am astonished at how well she speaks off the top of her head–wholly developed thoughts without stammers, doubling back–just precise wholly thought out sentence and paragraph structure from start to end. And she has flawless diction! Damn!