WooCast's Politics & Polls
Summary: WooCast is a podcast series produced by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Spin. It’s used by public relations gurus and politicians to shape an image or message, thereby influencing the public’s perception of a story. And it’s engrained in American politics, as presidents and presidential candidates both have used the art of spin to frame stories and public opinion. To discuss the art of spin, David Greenberg, a professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, joins this episode of Politics & Polls. Greenberg’s book, “Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency,” examines the rise of the White House spin machine, from the Progressive Era to the present day, and the debates that Americans have waged over its implications for democracy.
Drawing connections between the past and present often sparks fierce debates within the American political landscape. In this episode, Eric Foner, one of America’s most distinguished historians, discusses these interpretations of history and how they relate to today. His latest book, “Battles for Freedom,” explores this “use and abuse of American history,” unearthing the hidden history of American radicalism. Finer is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America.
The Civil Rights Movement is often looked back upon as a time when social activism sparked real political change. During that time, the United States saw some of its greatest leaders guide the country through turbulent years. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy provided different models of leadership, which some argue are needed today. In this episode, Professor Julian Zelizer interviews Steven Levingston, nonfiction editor at the Washington Post, about the battle over civil rights. Levingston is the author of "Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle over Civil Rights", “Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Époque Paris” and “The Kennedy Baby: The Loss that Transformed JFK.”
President Donald Trump has spent his first months faced with a potential scandal involving Russia, an issue that’s only grown since the election with discussions and investigations about possible obstruction and collusion. In recent weeks, this has dominated national political debates, especially in Congress and the White House. Benjamin Wittes, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, joins this episode of Politics & Polls to discuss where things stand in the Trump-Russia scandal. The Lawfare blog is “devoted to sober and serious discussion of ‘hard national security choices.’” Wittes, a journalist who focuses on national security and law, is also a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of “Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo”, published in November 2011; co-editor of “Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change,” published in December 2011; and editor of “Campaign 2012: Twelve Independent Ideas for Improving American Public Policy,” published in May 2017 by the Brookings Institution Press.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of Politics & Polls! In this episode, Professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang reflect on everything that’s transpired over the past year from the presidential campaign to President Donald Trump’s election.
America’s experienced a blitz of political twists and turns in the past few months, which may cloak some of the deep-rooted challenges still facing the nation. Still looming large in the background are issues related to the political process — like democracy, gerrymandering, voting laws and federalism. In this episode, the focus turns toward the structure of politics with special guest Heather Gerken, one of the country’s leading experts on constitutional law and election law. Gerken is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School and founder of the “nationalist school” of federalism; her work focuses on federalism, diversity, and dissent. Hailed as an “intellectual guru” in the The New York Times, Professor Gerken’s scholarship has been featured in The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, NPR, The New York Times, and Time. At Yale, she founded and runs the country’s most innovative clinic in local government law. Gerken is also a renowned teacher who has won awards at both Yale and Harvard and was named one of the nation’s “twenty-six best law teachers.” Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit and Justice David Souter of the United States Supreme Court. She then served as an appellate lawyer in Washington, D.C., before joining the Harvard Law School faculty in 2000. Gerken came to Yale in 2006 and became the inaugural J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law in 2008. She will serve as the 17th dean of Yale’s Law School, starting July 1, 2017.
One of the ongoing challenges in American politics is appealing to younger demographics - not simply through elections and voter turn-out but engaging young people with the political process. Today’s young people - and even some adults – find politics difficult to digest and unappealing, presenting challenges in the ways that Americans learn, interpret and analyze politics. Gabe Fleisher, a 15-year-old student in St. Louis, is looking to change that with his newsletter “Wake Up to Politics,” which is sent to 36,000 readers every morning. Our youngest guest to date, Fleisher discusses his newsletter and how to make politics appealing in this episode of Politics & Polls.
Race remains a potent political force in America, as evidenced by the 2016 presidential election. Despite the progress that’s been made, race continues to infiltrate many areas of public policy from health care to education to employment. Professor Eddie Glaude from Princeton University joins this episode of Politics & Polls to discuss current race relations in America. Glaude, chair of the Center for African American Studies and William S. Todd Professor of Religion and African Studies at Princeton.
President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media persist while journalists continue to grapple with how to cover such a tumultuous presidency. Amidst the clamor, new voices in journalism have risen to the top, positioning themselves as political power players in a media-saturated world. Among these voices is Lauren Duca, an award-winning journalist at Teen Vogue. In December 2016, Duca penned an essay, “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America,” which argued that Trump relies on deceit to undermine the truth so his critics question their own judgment. The essay quickly went viral, generating more than one million views to date. Duca joins this episode of Politics & Polls to discuss her essay, her work at Teen Vogue and the future of journalism under the Trump administration.
More than 100 insider sources helped journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes lift the veil on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the many avoidable missteps that turned a winnable election into a stunning defeat. Allen and Parnes’ new book, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” digs deeper to illuminate a flawed campaign that resulted in a defeat that shocked the world. In this episode, professor Julian Zelizer interviews Allen and Parnes about their #1 New York Times best-seller.
Washington has been hit with a trifecta of catastrophic events in the past week. First, President Donald Trump fired Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, justifying his decision by pointing toward Comey’s mishandling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump later changed course, admitting he fired Comey for continuing the investigation about Russia’s role in disrupting the 2016 election. Just days later, news broke that Trump shared classified information about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office — a decision defended by Trump and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Trump’s national security advisor. Now, Comey has returned to the spotlight following media reports that he wrote a memo about a conversation in which Trump told him to end the Michael Flynn investigation. (Flynn was forced to resign his role as national security advisor after just 24 days, due to his secret communications with the Russians.) How have the dramatic events of this week changed Washington? What’s next in the ongoing saga of the Trump presidency? Is an investigation or impeachment possible? Professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss this and more in episode #44 of Politics and Polls.
President Donald Trump pledged to bring jobs back to America during his campaign, appealing to a strong middle class base that’s been struggling with stagnant wages and few job opportunities. Since the 1990s, death rates among this demographic — specifically middle-aged white Americans without college degrees — have been on the rise thanks to opioid addiction, alcohol abuse and suicide. This same pattern isn’t seen in other parts of the world, reversing decades of progress. Economist Anne Case, whose landmark study with co-author Sir Angus Deaton first detected the rise in mortality rates, joins this episode to discuss why “deaths of despair” are plaguing middle-aged white Americans. Case, who has written extensively on health over the life course, is the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She also serves as director of the Research Program in Development Studies. Case and Deaton’s research on midlife mobility and mortality has been cited in hundreds of media outlets around the world. For this work, she received the Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Case also was awarded the Kenneth J. Arrow Prize in Health Economics from the International Health Economics Association or her work on the links between economic status and health status in childhood.
In his campaign promise to make America great again, President Donald Trump vowed to “bring jobs back to America” and revitalize the nation’s labor industry. Now, one hundred days into the Trump presidency, some might be wondering: Where are all of those jobs? Believers say job creation is right around the corner, while critics argue little has been done, as Trump has mostly focused on rhetoric instead of policy. In an effort to untangle such labor issues, professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang interview Christopher P. Lu ‘88, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor. In this episode, Lu provides an inside look at the Department of Labor as well as the Trump transition.
The first 100 days of Trump’s presidency have been a whirlwind of victories and setbacks, leaving Americans with mixed opinions about President Trump and how the next four years could unfold. While his approval ratings are at historic lows and he has yet to enact any major legislation, his supporters have been pleased with the burst of executive actions and his defiant stand against the political establishment. How has President Trump done, and how does he compare to past presidents? Why is the first 100 days in office used as a barometer in the first place? Do these presidential beginnings predict the course of an entire term? In this episode of Politics & Polls, professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang interview political historian Meg Jacobs, a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Jacobs explains the concept of evaluating a president’s first 100 days and how she thinks Trump’s faring from a historical perspective. Jacobs, who is married to Zelizer, is the author of “Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America,” and, more recently, “Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s.” She is currently working on a new book with Viking Press about the history of the New Deal and World War II.
From Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the looming federal budget negotiations, the 115th U.S. Congress currently has a full plate. What other challenges might today’s Congress face in the months ahead? In this episode of Politics & Polls, Professor Sam Wang interviews Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) about what’s next for the Affordable Care Act and how Rep. Lance has been handling recent (and sometimes contentious) Town Hall meetings. A key “moderate conservative” in the Republican caucus, Rep. Lance shared his views about maintaining key payments to keep health care insurers afloat. He also talked about what it would take for him to approve an independent investigative committee to look into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and Donald Trump's taxes. Rep. Lance is a graduate alumnus of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2008 and re-elected to a fifth term in November 2016 to represent New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District. Lance previously served on the House Financial Services Committee and is now on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which focuses on national energy and environmental policy, health and health facilities, interstate and foreign commerce, consumer affairs and consumer protection, and travel and tourism. Prior to being elected to Congress, Rep. Lance served as a member of the New Jersey State Senate beginning in 2002, and held the position of minority leader of the Senate from 2004 to 2008. He is the third generation of his family to serve in the New Jersey State Legislature, following his great-uncle, H. Kiefer Lance, and his father, Wesley L. Lance. In Politics & Polls, he reflects on the transition from state politics to the national scene.