The Politics of Everything
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.

Are Kids Bad for the Planet?

Are Kids Bad for the Planet?

January 27, 2020

The fraught decision to have children—or not have them—in an era of climate crisis. 

Is it irresponsible to bring a child into a warming world? For some who are plagued by this question, the problem is the carbon footprint their offspring will leave. Others anguish about the difficulties their children will encounter on a ruined planet. But is population the proper target in our efforts to combat global warming? In the inaugural episode of The New Republic’s new podcast, The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk to Emily Atkin, a contributing editor at the magazine, about her investigation into how climate anxiety may be altering a whole generation’s approach to reproduction—and whether it really should. Laura and Alex also discuss the future of Alex’s vaping habit, and check in with veteran campaign reporter Walter Shapiro about the state of the 2020 presidential race.


Introducing: The Politics of Everything, a new podcast from The New Republic.

Hosted by literary editor Laura Marsh and staff writer Alex PareeneThe Politics of Everything is a podcast from The New Republic about the intersection of culture, politics, and media.

Produced by: Talkhouse