WooCast's Politics & Polls
Summary: WooCast is a podcast series produced by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Some feel these are the worst of times, that we’re living in an America fraught with political discord and governmental dysfunction. But how bad is it in American towns? Writers James and Deborah Fallows traveled 100,000 miles across the country to find out. Using a single-engine prop airplane, the husband-wife team visited dozens of towns from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Allentown, Pennsylvania. They interviewed civic leaders, immigrants, educators, artists and more, turning their interviews into a book, “Our Towns,” released this week by Pantheon Books. James Fallows joins Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang in this episode to discuss the book and an account of a country busy remaking itself. James Fallows has been a national correspondent for The Atlantic for more than 35 years, reporting from China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe and across the United States. He is the author of eleven previous books. His work also has appeared in many other magazines and as public-radio commentaries since the 1980s. He has won a National Book Award and a National Magazine Award. For two years, he was President Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter. Deborah Fallows is a linguist and writer who holds a Ph.D. in theoretical linguistics and is the author of two previous books. She has written for The Atlantic, National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times and The Washington Monthly, and has worked at the Pew Research Center, Oxygen Media and Georgetown University. She and her husband have two sons and four grandchildren.
Comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner sparked a flurry of controversy this week, as she took several jabs at members of the Trump administration, some of whom were in the audience and on the dais. Julian Zelizer was in attendance at this year’s dinner hosted by the White House Correspondents' Association, which was founded in 1914 under President Woodrow Wilson’s tenure as president. Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss this year’s dinner in this episode.
The battle over voting rights has been one of the most contentious issues in American politics over the past five decades. The country has celebrated a number of advancements and achievements, only for some of them to be overturned later. It’s an issue that continues to resurface, as it’s at the heart of the American democratic process. Joining today’s episode to discuss voting rights is former civil rights attorney Gloria J. Browne-Marshall. She’s an associate professor of constitutional law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. Browne-Marshall litigated cases for Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. She’s the author of many articles and several books including “Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present,” which includes a chapter on voting rights and race. Her forthcoming book is “Black Women and the Law: Salem Witch Trials to Civil Rights Activists.” An award-winning playwright of seven produced plays, her most recent work, “Diversity,” examines marriage choices.
In this special episode, Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss social media’s influence on politics in front of a live audience. Their discussion was the keynote presentation at Princeton University’s Social Media Day held April 13 on campus. The episode was also broadcast on Facebook Live.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress this week, answering questions about the platform’s use of personal data. The social media giant has been under fire regarding the spread of fake news on the platform throughout the 2016 U.S. elections, and revelations political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of 87 million Facebook users. In this episode, Julian Zelizer discusses Zuckerberg’s testimony and the power of the internet in politics with award-winning journalist David Kushner.
Questions about democracy have been front and center in the United States, especially since the 2016 election. What is the state of democracy both in the United States and around the globe? How are our democratic institutions faring in the modern age — especially given new and emerging threats like “fake news?” In this episode, Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss the overall health of democracy — and whether it’s in danger — with Steven Levitsky, professor of government at Harvard University, and co-author of “How Democracies Die,” with Daniel Ziblatt. Levitsky’s research interests include political parties, authoritarianism and democratization, and weak and informal institutions, with a focus on Latin America. In addition to “How Democracies Die,” he is author of “Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective” (2003), co-author (with Lucan Way) of “Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War” (2010), and co-editor of “Argentine Democracy: The Politics of Institutional Weakness” (2005); “Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America” (2006); and “The Resurgence of the Left in Latin America” (2011). He is currently engaged in research on the durability of revolutionary regimes, the relationship between populism and competitive authoritarianism, problems of party-building in contemporary Latin America and party collapse and its consequences for democracy in Peru.
President Donald Trump’s moods and temperament are a hot topic for journalists, lawmakers and academics. In fact, earlier this year, a psychiatrist from Yale University actually briefed Democratic lawmakers on president’s mental state, which she called “dangerous.” The analysis, by Dr. Bandy Lee and others, received criticism given that she and others haven’t actually examined President Trump. She joins the podcast this week to explain her position, which is described in her book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” Lee is an internationally recognized expert on violence. Trained in medicine and psychiatry at Yale and Harvard Universities, and in medical anthropology as a fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health, she is currently on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine’s Law and Psychiatry Division.
President Donald Trump tweeted choice words last weekend about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election. Trump then added another lawyer to his team — Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who has spoken aggressively against the Russia investigation. Both moves concern many lawmakers, who worry Trump may actually find a means to have Mueller fired in an attempt to quash the examination. If Mueller is fired, has he positioned the investigation so it can continue without him? This and more is discussed in this episode of Politics & Polls as Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman joins the show. Note: This episode was recorded on March 14, 2018, before President Trump posted tweets calling out Mueller for the first time. That same day, an opinion piece by Shugerman and his colleague Ethan Leib appeared in the Washington Post (link below), explaining how a part of the Constitution could stop Trump from abusing his pardon power or from firing Mueller. They also published a piece in Slate (link below) arguing Sessions also may not fire Mueller. Jed Shugerman teaches at Fordham Law. He has a bachelor’s degree, a J.D., and a Ph.D. in American History from Yale University. He is the author of “The People's Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America” (2012) on the evolution of judicial elections and politics in America. He is currently working on anti-corruption emoluments litigation against the Trump administration, and he is writing about American prosecutors, and the “faithfully execute” fiduciary limits on the executive branch. He writes about law and politics at shugerblog.com. Washington Post: http://bit.ly/2GaWBvo Slate: http://slate.me/2IGE74k
Music has long been an important avenue for political discussion. This episode features Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, a Southern rock band whose music has tackled a number of contentious political issues from class to race and even partisan politics. Cooley and Hood co-founded the Drive-By Truckers in 1996, and the band has produced nearly a dozen albums since. For decades, their hard-driving sound has blended the classic sounds of the South with literary skill and sonic power. Their latest album, “American Band,” is perhaps their most explicitly political yet, capturing the many tensions America faces in the age of Trump. Cooley and Hood chat with Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang about rock-and-roll, progressive politics and the dirty South in this episode.
Is President Donald Trump a threat to American democracy? This is explored in a new book by The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr., a regular on MSNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered and ABC News’ This Week. He joins this week’s episode to discuss this new era of politics and what it means for American democracy. Currently a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, Dionne started his journalism career in 1975 at The New York Times before joining The Post in 1990 as a political reporter. He has been writing his column for The Post since 1993 — it appears in more than 240 newspapers. Dionne is the author of six other books, including “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported,” “Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism – From Goldwater to Trump and Beyond” and “Why Americans Hate Politics,” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was a National Book Award nominee. He has edited or coedited seven volumes, including most recently “We Are The Change We Seek,” a collection of President Barack Obama’s speeches. Dionne also serves as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor in the foundations of democracy and culture at Georgetown University. He is visiting the Woodrow Wilson School as part of its Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Leadership through Mentorship Program.
President Donald Trump’s recently passed tax bill included a sizable tax break for many American corporations, slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent. While the tax cuts have increased cash flow for businesses, they also raise questions about the power of corporations in Washington through lobbying, campaign finance and political mobilization. Author and academic Gordon Lafer joins this episode of Politics & Polls to discuss the corporate tax cut and his new book, “The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time.” Lafer is a political economist and is an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center. He has written on issues of labor and employment policy and is author of “The Job Training Charade” (Cornell University Press, 2002). Lafer has served as an economic policy analyst for the Office of the Mayor in New York City and has testified as an expert witness before the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and state legislatures. Lafer is the founding co-chair of the American Political Science Association’s Labor Project, and has taught as a visiting faculty member at the University of Massachusetts’ Union Leadership Academy and at the Universidad Latina de America in Michoacan, Mexico. From 2009 to 2010, Lafer took leave from his faculty position to serve as senior labor policy advisor for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.
Today, the nation faces a series of major policy challenges revolving around immigrants and refugees. In this episode, Julian Zelizer talks to NPR veteran Deborah Amos about how President Donald Trump has used executive power to move the country rightward on these issues and what the impact has been on local communities. Amos also talks about the state of journalism in 2018 and its future. Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” and “Weekend Edition.” Amos travels extensively across the Middle East covering a range of stories including the rise of well-educated Syria youth who are unqualified for jobs in a market-drive economy, a series focusing on the emerging power of Turkey and the plight of Iraqi refugees.
As the earth continues to warm, life - both in cities and rural areas - will undoubtedly change. Urban centers, which contribute the lion’s share of carbon into the atmosphere, are at a greater risk, especially those in coastal zones where sea levels are rising. In this episode, Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss the future of cities in an age of climate change with eco-justice scholar and author Ashley Dawson. Dawson is the 2017 Barron Visiting Professor in Environmental Humanities at the Princeton Environmental Institute. His book, “Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change,” offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities. Dawson also is a professor of english at the CUNY Graduate Center, and at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. He specializes in postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and environmental humanities with a particular interest in histories and discourses of migration.
2018 has started off with a bang under President Trump, especially with the release of a controversial memo about the Russia investigation by Rep. Devin Nunes (R- Calif.) The three-and-a-half-page memo, written by Nunes' congressional aides, accused the F.B.I and Justice Department of using their surveillance powers to spy on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser suspected of being an agent of Russia. The news has led some to wonder whether the memo is skewed and misleading. Others say the Russia investigation is corrupt. A classified Democratic memo is expected to soon rebut the Republican memo, though President Trump may redact parts of it. Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang discuss the memos and their influence on the country’s government institutions in this episode.
Best-selling author and radio host Charlie Sykes is among the leading conservative voices standing in opposition to President Donald Trump and the alt-right. His latest book, “How the Right Lost Its Mind,” presents an impassioned, regretful and deeply thoughtful account of how he believes the American conservative movement lost its values. In this episode, Sykes discusses his book and the state of conservatism with professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang. Sykes visited the Princeton University campus in December 2017 through the Woodrow Wilson School’s Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Leadership through Mentorship Program. One of the most influential conservatives in Wisconsin, Sykes is a contributor and analyst for MSNBC. Previously, he was the host of WNYC’s “Indivisible.” He is the author of eight additional books, including “A Nation of Victims,” “Dumbing Down Our Kids,” “Profscam,” “The Hollow Men,” “The End of Privacy,” “50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School,” “A Nation of Moochers,” and “Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education.” He also was co-editor of the National Review College Guide. Sykes has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Salon, USA Today, National Review, The Weekly Standard and other national publications. He has appeared on the Today Show, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, PBS, the BBC, and has been profiled on NPR. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of the website Right Wisconsin.