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Making sense of the post-Trump political landscape… Both the Republican and Democratic parties are struggling to defend the political center against illiberal extremes. America must put forward policies that can reverse our political and governmental dysfunction, advance the social welfare of all citizens, combat climate change, and confront the other forces that threaten our common interests. The podcast focuses on current politics seen in the context of our nation’s history and the persona ...
 
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show series
 
A few years ago in Obion County, Tennessee, a homeowner called 911 to report that a trash fire in his backyard had gotten out of control. The operator told him, however, that because he had forgotten to pay his $75 annual fee, the newly privatized city fire department wouldn’t help him. The fire brigade eventually showed up to prevent the blaze fro…
 
As America’s partisan divide becomes ever wider, deeper, and angrier, many Americans from both red and blue tribes are increasingly worried about the possibility of a new civil war. Jeremi Suri, a professor of Public Affairs and History at the University of Texas at Austin, says that these worries are in a sense misplaced “because the Civil War nev…
 
Richard V. Reeves, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., is internationally recognized for his scholarship on equality of opportunity, with a focus on divisions of social class and race. But in recent years, he has become concerned about a less-scrutinized axis of inequality: the myriad ways in which boys and men are falling b…
 
Gays and lesbians have been part of America and its politics since the country’s foundation. Still, historically the stigma attached to homosexuality meant that any person whose alternative desires became publicly known was immediately banished from politics as well as mainstream society. James Kirchick has written an epic narrative history, Secret…
 
In the wake of the FBI's search of former President Donald Trump's private residence in Florida, right-wing social media erupted with violent threats against law enforcement and political opponents. One enraged Trump supporter launched an armed attack against an FBI office in Ohio. A New York Times article on the rise of political threats and actua…
 
As the United States faces a new era of competition with Russia and China, many analysts and observers have urged the country to respond by making more significant investments in military capabilities and strategic technologies and strengthening its overall global defense posture. But Michael Mazarr, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corpora…
 
“Moderate Republicanism” seems to many people today to be a contradiction in terms. But during the 1960s and ‘70s, not only were moderate Republicans a force in electoral politics, but moderate Republicanism also became a significant political movement. The leading moderate Republican activist group of that era was the Ripon Society. Emil Frankel c…
 
Greg Sargent is one of America's most prolific and insightful political opinion journalists. He is co-author of the Washington Post's The Plum Line blog (along with Paul Waldman) and is the author of the 2018 book An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in An Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics. Although his columns tend to re…
 
The post-Trump era has been a time of extraordinary political ferment on the right. Stephanie Slade, senior editor of Reason magazine, has had a front-line view of these new political developments. She is both a libertarian and a Catholic, and has written extensively for both libertarian publications and for religious publications, such as the Jesu…
 
For decades, the standard history of conservative intellectuals in the United States in the 20th century has been George Nash’s magisterial The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945. Now, a young scholar, Joshua Tait, has produced a study of conservative intellectualism that compares favorably to Nash’s in its depth of research a…
 
What is moderation? The term is used both positively and pejoratively in today’s political discourse but rarely is it defined. Aurelian Craiutu is a professor of political science at Indiana University in Bloomington who has, perhaps more than anyone else, tried to define moderation and its manifestations in politics and philosophy over the past se…
 
In 1989, in the wake of Republican president Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection, political scientists Elaine Kamarck and Bill Galston issued a wake-up call to the Democratic Party. It came in the form of a widely discussed paper entitled “The Politics of Evasion: Democrats and the Presidency,” which called upon Democrats to bring their party back…
 
Henry Chauncey Jr. – better known as Sam – became a dean at Yale during the 1950s when he was still a college senior. He has been affiliated Yale in various capacities ever since. From 1964 to 1971 he was special assistant to Kingman Brewster Jr., Yale’s controversial 17th president, who transformed and modernized the university along meritocratic …
 
For decades, Mona Charen has been one of the most prominent authors and political commentators on the right. A speechwriter for such Republican luminaries as Nancy Reagan and Jack Kemp, she worked in the Reagan White House and has written a nationally syndicated column since 1987. But while she has held fast to the principles that made her a star i…
 
Has America lost its mojo? In this episode of the Vital Center podcast, we speak with the Niskanen Center's vice president Brink Lindsey about how the American government no longer seems capable of accomplishing significant, important undertakings — and how that failure is endangering liberal democracy both at home and abroad.Brink describes his pe…
 
Philip Zelikow’s eminent career has spanned academia and public service in a way that makes him a modern-day counterpart to the Wise Men who created the post-World War II global order. He has served at all levels of American government, from holding positions in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon to winning election to his town…
 
Jackie Calmes is one of the country’s foremost political reporters. As the Wall Street Journal’s chief political correspondent, the White House correspondent for the New York Times during the Obama administration, and now a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, she has an unparalleled knowledge of how Congress and American politics have changed in r…
 
Richard Nixon’s legacy will be forever tarnished by the Watergate scandal that led him to become the first and only U.S. president to resign from office. But Nixon was also a political mastermind whose impact continues to resound in both domestic and world politics.John R. Price served on the domestic policy side of the first Nixon administration, …
 
A. B. Stoddard is one of the country's sharpest and best informed political commentators. A former congressional reporter and producer of ABC World News Tonight, as well as a current columnist for RealClearPolitics, she has seen politics from the inside and up close since the 1990s. And when she warns that both parties, and the country, are in a da…
 
In September 1787, an onlooker is said to have asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government he and the other delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall had given the United States. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.” Can we still keep it? That’s the question at the heart of Tom Nichols’ provocative…
 
In this era of deepening polarization and intensifying tribalization, Americans have fewer and fewer contacts and communication across partisan lines. Philippa Hughes is a Washington, D.C.-based social sculptor and creative strategist who has long attempted to bridge our divisions by bringing people together for meaningful conversations about art a…
 
Red tape rules America. Philip K. Howard joins Geoff Kabaservice to discuss how thousands of nonsensical laws hamper any good the government can do. Years-long environmental review harms the environment because it means that infrastructure isn’t updated. Regulations intended to protect people destroy small businessesAnd America isn’t about to chang…
 
What accounts for the increasing extremism of the Republican Party, and the polarization that has resulted from it? It at least partly stems from what many may view as an unlikely source: a decline in leadership by large American corporations, a group Mark Mizruchi refers to as the American corporate elite. Here, Mizruchi joins Geoff Kabaservice to…
 
Laura K. Field’s work in political theory didn’t used to focus on today’s political arena, but when prominent conservative intellectuals started backing the authoritarian, populist messages of Donald Trump in 2016, she began looking into the intellectual roots of conservative thinkers. She joins Geoff Kabaservice today to discuss how today’s “react…
 
In this episode of The Vital Center, host Geoffrey Kabaservice and Jonathan Rauch discuss the "deliberate, sustained, sophisticated, and very effective attack on the system we rely on to make and obtain knowledge" in our democracy. Fighting back against disinformation involves more than throwing up our hands and wishing it never happened. We have t…
 
R.R. “Rusty” Reno is the editor of First Things, an ecumenical and conservative religious journal that seeks to advance what it calls a religiously informed public for the ordering of society. In this episode, Reno joins Geoff Kabaservice to discuss his book “Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West,” religion, i…
 
Political veteran Chris Vance joins host Geoff Kabaservice to offer some insight into his time in the Washington state Republican Party - how they won elections on a local level, what role moderate ideas played in winning elections, and how everything changed once Trump became the Republican nominee for President in 2016. Concerned by the ideologic…
 
Liz Cheney has been ousted from the Republican Party...for speaking the truth about election results. Anyone Republican who opposed Trump is also on thin ice, and effectively must worry about being ousted for their views. And when it comes to passing good policy, Democrats don't have all the answers (or the majorities needed to pass legislation) ei…
 
As Republicans embraced anti-elitism under Trump, Democrats reacted by embracing the values of the upper-middle class. The result, according to historian Matt Karp is a party that often - intentionally or unintentionally - distances itself from the working class, which it used to champion. The professional class has made all opposition the "other,"…
 
"One of the few things that both left and right can agree upon nowadays is that both the "establishment" and the meritocracy ought to be overthrown. But in all of these discussions, there's little awareness that there is a history and a scholarly literature behind these concepts. And all of that in one way or another draws upon the work of the soci…
 
For years, Democrats have provided training and resources to women looking to run for office through organizations like EMILY's List. Republicans have not, and the current demographics of Congress show the results. That's one of the reasons sisters Kodiak and Ariel Hill-Davis helped to found Republican Women for Progress, which provides policy-mind…
 
William F. Buckley was a public intellectual, commentator, and founder of National Review, the magazine that arguably launched the modern conservative movement as we know it today. Would there even be a conservative movement without Buckley's leadership? And if so, is he responsible for the Trumpist turn Republican Party has taken? Does Buckley bea…
 
During the Trump years, political commentator and strategist Linda Chavez held out hope that the more moderate elements of the Republican Party would make a resurgence. But the widespread denial of the 2021 election results was her breaking point, and she openly left the party. She could no longer associate with a group that embraced conspiracy the…
 
What motivated the rioters to buy plane tickets and storm the Captol? Was it a pre-meditated, organized coup or something more spur-of-the-moment? And what's the future of the Republican Party, given that so many base voters still support Trump? The Week's Damon Linker joins Niskanen's Geoffrey Kabaservice to discuss the intellectual, psychological…
 
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