Soft launch of my podcast: The Long Game

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is the man standing in the middle of that cube in the distance, talking on his cell phone in Cleveland on the day when the RNC outmaneuvered anti-Trump forces at the 2016 Convention Rules Committee, the week before the convention. The Rules Committee outcome was the most decisive blow to the efforts to open the convention, and a few days later on the first night of the convention, a last gasp effort made some noise but fell short.

Check out the first episode here. It’s also on iTunes. I’ve done four or five interviews already that I’ll be putting out in the coming days.

The first episode tells the story of how I found myself in the middle of a screaming crowd on the floor of the Republican convention in Cleveland last summer, thinking about 1968 and Teddy Kennedy and puzzling over why then-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and his lieutenants were working to crush a rebellion on the floor.

The Cleveland convention was a bizarre moment, where the RNC used what remaining power it had to help nominate a candidate, Donald Trump, whose victory demonstrated how little power the party still had over the process of deciding its nominee.

As I worked on a book during that same time that took me through the history of the nominating process over the past half-century, I realized that the parties used to have more control. And the nomination of Trump, who was not the first choice of a majority of Republican primary voters, made me wonder if the process and the party’s role in it deserved reconsideration.

But to engage in that process of rethinking primaries and the nominating process dredged up a whole host of questions about how ordinary people think and feel about authority, expertise, and what exactly our democracy is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to work.

The questions I started asking go to the root of how we solve problems in this modern age, when people don’t trust each other or institutions. And so I’m gonna explore some basic questions: what are institutions, and why are they important?

Feedback is welcome and wanted. Let me know how I can improve, be clearer, and what issues or questions you’d like addressed.

We’re at a difficult time in our history. This podcast, I hope, will be a small contribution to make some sense of how we got here, and how we move forward.

In 1972, journalist David Broder wrote about the problems in the country, which seemed pretty overwhelming at the time. He looked back to the challenges that America faced thirty years before that, as the Nazis captured Paris in June of 1940 and prepared to invade England. The United States remained on the sidelines, but journalist Walter Lippman exhorted his peers with these words:

“You took the good things for granted. Now you must earn them again. It is written: For every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill. For every hope that you entertain, you have a task you must perform. For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer.”

Broder felt that in the early 70’s, the nation would need to rouse itself as it had in the face of the Nazi threat. He wrote:

“The cost of being an American citizen is going up. If this nation is to survive and meet its challenges, many of us will have to sacrifice some of our personal luxuries to help pay for the society’s neglected needs. What is more, we will have to give up the idea that we can escape from the consequences of our civil irresponsibility by purchasing private passage for our families to the segregated suburbs, to the private schools, and to the protected professions. It is going to cost us time and energy and thought, diverted from our private concerns, to make government workable and politics responsible again in America. Our parties, our government will be no more representative than we make them, by our own commitment and participation. If we do nothing, we guarantee that our nation will be nothing. There is nothing for nothing anymore. Our choice is simple: either we become partakers in the government, or we forsake the American future.”

Those words seem as relevant now as ever.

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