The Politics of Everything
The Political Power of Protests

The Political Power of Protests

June 17, 2020

After three weeks of protests against police violence, the energy of the demonstrations remains undiminished. Episode 10 of The Politics of Everything explores what is motivating the actions, the political effects they’ve already had, and what’s to come.

Hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk to Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the founder of the African American Policy Forum and a regular contributor to The New Republic, about the connection between police killings and Covid-19’s disproportionate toll on black Americans. Osita Nwanevu, a staff writer at the magazine, explores how protest shapes policy. And Patrick Blanchfield, the author of Gunpower: The Structure of American Violence, explains “coptalk”—how police use euphemism and officialese to paper over the harms they commit.

Vaccines Don’t Make Money

Vaccines Don’t Make Money

June 3, 2020

Victory in the so-called race for a coronavirus vaccine rests on the skills of a handful of private companies whose primary motivation is hardly the public good. Can the Big Pharma deliver what we need to recover from this pandemic and prevent others from occurring? On Episode 9 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene interview Alexander Zaitchik, a regular contributor to The New Republic, about patent monopolies, the history of vaccine development in the United States, and the promise of alternative models of drug production.

Later in the episode, Alex and Laura talk with the book and film critic Lidija Haas about Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld’s counterfactual novelization of the life of Hillary Clinton.

Is Baseball Safe?

Is Baseball Safe?

May 20, 2020

Will the United States get a baseball season this year? Do we deserve one? What is at stake—economically, emotionally, mortally—in the effort to start up sports again? On Episode 8 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk to David Roth, a former editor of Deadspin and a frequent contributor to The New Republic, about the challenges and questionable wisdom of reopening sports in a country still battling a pandemic.

Later in the episode, Laura and Alex consider the plight of the New York City subway system, which recently suspended late-night service. Given the MTA’s drastic budget shortfalls, it’s hard not to wonder whether New Yorkers will ever ride trains at night again. What is the post-Covid future of public transit?

Reimagining the Post-Covid Economy

Reimagining the Post-Covid Economy

May 7, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted the usual functioning of the national economy with shocking speed and violence. Now, as states around the country move to “reopen”—in most cases far earlier and faster than is safe—and politicians hold forth about how best to restart economic activity, it seems imperative to consider the nature of the economy getting restarted. Do we really want to go back to the pre-pandemic status quo? How can we remake the system so it works better for everyone?

For Episode 7, The Politics of Everything assembled an ad hoc council to address these questions, asking six guests to offer their best and least expected ideas for reform: Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Jason Linkins and Katie McDonough, deputy editors at TNR; Libby Watson, a TNR staff writer; and TNR contributors Aaron Timms and Liza Featherstone.

The Polarization Problem

The Polarization Problem

April 23, 2020

Political polarization is something liberals have grown fond of naming as an obvious societal ill. And it is bad—but does it need to get worse before it can get better? On Episode 6 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk to Osita Nwanevu, a staff writer at The New Republic, about the history of polarization, its role in politics today, and what gets lost when you to try to find the sources of political division in evolutionary psychology, as Ezra Klein does in his recent book, Why We’re Polarized.

Later in the show, campaign reporter Walter Shapiro describes how newspapers buried or outright ignored the 1918 Spanish flu, and how, in an unnerving parallel to this moment, the shoddy media coverage encouraged state and local governments to do as little as possible about that long ago pandemic.

The Socially Distanced Protester

The Socially Distanced Protester

April 9, 2020

Collective action under lockdown

Much of the emotional power of a march or demonstration comes from being there. Successful labor organizing likewise depends in part on the intimacy and convenience of working near other people. Can you trust that your colleagues will risk their jobs for a strike when, as with many gig workers, you’ve never met? Is it logistically possible to organize when social distancing measures prevent you from gathering in person? On Episode 5 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk with Micah Sifry, author of The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet), about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting political participation. Digital platforms can help us communicate—and even rally—but at what cost to our privacy, not to mention our enthusiasm? It’s hard to imagine a swarm of heart icons on a screen inspiring lasting political commitment. Who does virtual protest leave out, or leave cold? 

Later in the show, Josephine Livingstone and Alex Shephard, both staff writers at The New Republic, discuss what our entertainment choices during the lockdown can tell us about how we process a crisis. If top 10 lists are the measure, Contagion may be the ultimate pandemic movie … but there is a case to be made for Jaws.

HEATED: Kate Aronoff - It’s a Great Time to be Evil

HEATED: Kate Aronoff - It’s a Great Time to be Evil

April 3, 2020

You may remember Emily Atkin from the first episode of The Politics of Everything, "Are Kids Bad for the Planet?" Emily has launched a new limited-run podcast, HEATED, that shows how Covid-19 and the climate crisis cannot be separated. Here is Episode 2 of HEATED.

On the show, The New Republic staff writer Kate Aronoff shares some creative policy solutions to the climate and pandemic crises. We couldn't help but notice that Washington has zero interest in creative policy right now. Quite the opposite: The fossil fuel and legacy polluters are clamoring for some of that sweet, sweet Covid-19 relief money, jamming their usual policy agenda while Republicans are shamelessly screaming that it’s “not the time” to talk about climate. This seems like a good moment to have a serious heart to heart with your congressional representatives.

An Emergency Decades in the Making

An Emergency Decades in the Making

March 26, 2020
Was the United States ever prepared for a pandemic? 
 
How does an outbreak evolve into an epidemic and finally a pandemic? In Episode 4 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene discuss how the coronavirus crisis has been mishandled by the Trump administration, as well as the history of institutional and governmental response to public health crises. Their guest, Laurie Garrett, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer and the author of The Coming Plague, a book about emerging diseases in the twentieth century. The current fiasco may feel like it came out of nowhere, but it’s the result of countless concerted policy decisions. “You can’t do public health by privatizing it,” Garrett points out. “The societies that have tried have seen it fail.” 

Later in the episode, Walter Shapiro speculates about Biden’s choice of vice president. Media hype notwithstanding, chances are the selection won’t be all that consequential—unless, that is, it’s a really bad one.

The Electability Trap

The Electability Trap

March 16, 2020

Do "electable" candidates really win?

It’s impossible to know whether a political candidate is electable until they’ve actually been elected—but that hasn’t stopped pundits from speculating ad nauseam about the question. Episode 3 of The Politics of Everything investigates where the concept of electability comes from, the nature of the historical moments in which it crops up, and the risks we invite by using the term. How central to Joe Biden’s appeal is his ostensible electability? What do supposedly unelectable candidates have in common? How much are voters prizing familiarity or “safety” over policy, and will this calculation get us into trouble? Hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk to Seth Ackerman, the executive editor of Jacobin; Matt Karp, a historian at Princeton; and Rebecca Katz, the founder of New Deal Strategies, a progressive consulting firm.

Later in the episode, campaign reporter Walter Shapiro considers how coronavirus may shape the rest of the Democratic primary. Will the convention be held as planned in Milwaukee? Does anyone care if it isn’t?

Why the New Right Loves Nootropics

Why the New Right Loves Nootropics

February 27, 2020

The ideologies behind mind optimization.

A class of supplements bills itself as neuroenhancers or nootropics—compounds you don’t need a prescription for that promise to augment your mental functioning without side effects. A notable subset of the people interested in these brain pills—and sometimes hawking them—are on the right. It’s not hard to see how today’s pressures might make a person want to amplify their cognitive abilities, but is there something about the idea of chemically optimizing one’s mind that meshes especially well with conservative politics? In Episode 2 of The Politics of Everything, the Australian writer Richard Cooke joins hosts Alex Pareene and Laura Marsh to talk about vitamin regulation, the history of amphetamine usage in the arts, how nootropics fit into the tradition of right-wing snake-oil peddling, and the unmistakable influence of the movie Limitless, which celebrates a mysterious substance that vastly improves its protagonist’s brainpower—and spurs him to commit a murder.

Later in the episode, campaign reporter Walter Shapiro calls in from South Carolina with a dispatch on the state of the primary race and his reflections on the possibility of a contested convention.