What's Tony Thinking

Pod Save America


“Pod Save America” is the title of a podcast that some former Obama staffers started in 2016. I listened for a while, but opted out on that one.

But I did become, during the pandemic, very appreciative of podcasts and continue to listen to them while working out at the Ballad Health Club or on walks in the woods.

This weekend I listened to two real zingers that I want to mention and commend to you.

The first was a “Free Press” interview done by Bari Weiss with Dean Phillips. If you’ve never heard of Dean Phillips that’s the problem. He’s the little known Congressman from Minnesota who has managed to get on the ballot in 40 states for the Democratic nomination for President. He was also the creator/ founder of Talenti gelato before running for Congress. You gotta love a guy who makes ice cream!

Is Phillips just a spanner in the works? A impudent three-term congressman who is only adding further difficulties to President Biden’s re-election effort? That is clearly what the Democratic Party establishment, and its subcontractors, think. Phillips has been shunned by that cadre. MSNBC won’t even interview him.

Phillips knows he is likely ending his political career for odds that are ridiculously long. So why’s he doing it? He thinks that Uncle Joe can’t win. Fair or unfair the majority of voters, including Democratic voters, say they think Biden is too old and not up to the job for another four years.

To be clear, Phillips loves Joe and has fully supported him . . . until now. He thinks Joe has done a great job but needs to pass the torch, as he implied he would back in 2020. It’s not that Phillips thinks he himself is the best choice. His “dream ticket,” he says, is Gretchen Whitmer (Gov. of Michigan) and Raphael Warnock (Senator from Georgia). But Whitmer wouldn’t even talk to him. He’s running because he believes someone has to do it.

In the interview he makes several telling points, including noting a parallel to the GOP where Republicans trash Trump in private while hailing him in public. Behind closed doors Dems are wringing their hands about Biden running again. But no one will say that in public. To add insult to injury, the Party has done everything in its power to keep anyone other than Biden from being considered by the its voters, including making Biden the only candidate on the primary ballot in Florida, North Carolina and California — among others. I found Phillips’ argument compelling. He is very articulate. Give it a listen.

Second podcast that arrested my attention this past weekend was the “Good Faith” podcast with Curtis Chang. Chang interviews the Atlantic writer. Tim Alberta, about his new book, The Kingdom, The Power and the Glory: American Evangelicals in An Age of Extremism. It’s a book about how American evangelicals have gone completely off the rails onto the MAGA sidetrack.

One of the things that makes Alberta especially interesting is that he knows the world of American evangelicalism from the inside. His father was the pastor of large, conservative church in Michigan, Cornerstone. Alberta understands the code-language, the paranoia of some and the leaders who have sold their soul for well more than 20 pieces of silver.

He socks it to that bunch, “the shepherds,” a.k.a. pastors of conservative and right-wing churches who know what they are doing is playing on people’s fears and grievances, stoking all of it to fill their churches and drive their brand. And because he is an insider, and someone for whom Christian faith remains central to his life, he is able to go toe-to-toe with the false shepherds over texts of Scripture. The other side of being an insider is that he has been attacked as a traitor and receives death threats more often that he gets the mail.

One of the things that Alberta argues is that many evangelicals have long been conditioned to believe, and do now believe fervently, that America — the nation they love — is at the very edge of the abyss. Given that, all means to the end of saving America — God’s chosen nation — are permissible, including supporting Donald Trump.

It struck me that this fear has a parallel on the left, where many are convinced that American democracy is in desperate peril and that with a Trump victory in 2024, American democracy will be over. Apocalypse now — for both sides.

Again, I don’t think there’s an equivalency. At this point, the far right seems more dangerous, in part because led by Mr. Nasty they are more inclined toward violence and to threats of the violence to get their way. But I do note that the extremes on both sides feel as if they are in the final battle, that it is now or never, to the ramparts.

Two great podcasts that got me going. Give a listen if you are so inclined.

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