The American Crisis: The View from Flyover Country, Part 1
In episode 5, Gaslit Nation looks at the decades of American crises that gave rise to Trumpism and paved the way for Russian interference in our democracy.
Gaslit Nation 005
Hillary Clinton: I recently read a powerful quote that summed up a lot of this for me. It's from a book of essays called The View from Flyover Country by a journalist named Sarah Kendzior. And she talks about the dangerous ideology behind these attacks on the social safety net. And here's what she says:
"When wealth is passed off as merit, back luck is seen as bad character." Think about that for a moment. She goes on to make this point, "This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor, but poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatize those who let people die, not those who struggle to live."
Sarah Kendzior: Hi. I'm Sarah Kendzior. I'm a journalist and a scholar of authoritarian states, focusing on the former Soviet Union.
Andrea Chalupa: I'm Andrea Chalupa, a writer, journalist, who covers Russia and Ukraine.
And we are your newscasters for the apocalypse.
Sarah Kendzior: This is Gaslit Nation. This is episode number five, where we bring you through Trump's trail of terror and all of the corruption, which many have refused to see or take head on for the last few years.
We've been around since June, but Andrea and I have been investigating this subject for a very long time. We first started looking into Trump, into his Kremlin connections, into his mafia ties, and into other touchy subject matter back in 2016, when we desperately tried to warn the country of what was coming.
Sarah Kendzior: Our first three episodes of the podcast deal with the year 2016 in detail, and all the warning signs, some of which were proclaimed openly by Trump, that were not heeded. Now we're into our fifth episode, which features an interview with, well, me, but hopefuly you're going to stick around for that anyway…
Andrea Chalupa: Big celebrity interview.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, yeah, big celebrity interview. But before we do that, we're going to go and give a rundown of the last two weeks of news, which in Trump time is several decades. So Andrea, what has happened?
Andrea Chalupa: Well, Sarah, we had a massive block party on Twitter, the night that the verdict came down that Paul Manafort was found guilty, and our justice system still works to a certain-
Sarah Kendzior: To an extent.
Andrea Chalupa: ... extent in America, so that was a hugerelief. Yeah, to an extent.
I just want to say Sarah and I, the weekend we were waiting for the Paul Manafort verdict was one of the worst weekends of our lives. It's like waiting for the verdict of your rapist, the rapist of your democracy. This is a guy that has widely reported serving the Kremlin since as far as we know [since] 2005, furthering the Kremlin's interest across Europe, in Western businesses, in media. He's been also a close friend of Donald Trump's and a neighbor in Trump Tower. Paul Manafort is the smoking gun of RussiaGate.
And waiting for that weekend, why would the jury take so long? Of course we had our concerns that they were being threatened, that there might be Trump supporters that just can't accept the facts, and the judge might have been throwing ... the judge was quite eccentric with the things that he would say against the prosecution, little weird quips that he would make.
Sarah and I were a nervous wreck that weekend. We went through the whole rich palette of human emotion. We lived like the three act structure of a screenplay. At one point I even turned into a werewolf. It wasn't like Werewolf in London. It was more like Teen Wolf. What do you say, Sarah?
Sarah Kendzior: [Laughs] Yeah, pretty much.
Andrea Chalupa: More Teen Wolf. And then when that verdict came down, holy mackerel, I was working in Brooklyn at the time, at a desk, and I just got up from my seat, and the first person I see is a long lost friend that I first met in Kyiv in 2005, and he just happened to be standing there talking to someone else. And I come out of nowhere and I side-tackle him. And the next thing you know, I leapt up in his arms and my arms are outstretched in the air, and I just announced to the whole world, "Did you hear about Paul Manafort?" And then my friend and I-
Sarah Kendzior: The sequel.
Andrea Chalupa: And my friend and I sit down and continue to catch up. I haven't seen him in years. He was there at the very start of this whole wild journey that led to Sarah and I coming together through Gaslit Nation.
So I just parachuted into Kyiv, fall 2005. I saved up a bunch of money working through college. My family did not want me to go. Even my sister tried to convince me not to go. She thought it'd be too dangerous to go there alone, and she's even trying to convince me, "Go to Australia instead. The guys are hotter," but I went. I went to Ukraine, because I had with me my grandfather's memoir, which he typed up in Ukrainian shortly before he passed away.
My grandfather wasn't a writer, but it was important for him to document everythingand bear witness to everything that the Soviets did to him. So he described being a little boy watching the Czar's army being pulverized by barefoot and tattered Bolshevik soldiers. He barely survived Stalin's genocide famine in Ukraine, which I ended up making a documentary on and then a feature film on. And he was arrested as a young father during Stalin's purges.
So the night the Manafort verdict came down, I was catching up with Misha from Kyiv, and he was looking at me with amazement in his eyes, recounting the whole journey that I'd been on. And I was speaking from my heart about how all these years what has sustained me is everything that my grandfather went through, everything that Stalin and the Soviets tried to do to him and that he survived.
I feel like being here in a relatively, relatively free country, I have no excuse but to keep speaking and keep fighting. And they tried to make my grandfather disappear and silence his voice, so we're going to keep going. And it was just a really beautiful moment to have that encounter right at that moment when the news broke, that Manafort is guilty. Mana-guilty.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. Obviously I was relieved. I shared your concerns about the judge and the jury. You know when it's a Manafort, a Roger Stone or Trump related production that they're going to pull out every stop. But while ecstatic for you, and I agree with everything you're saying, I'm frustrated that it took this long.
The first thing I did after I heard the verdict was, I was contacted by my editor at the Globe and Mail who wanted me to write an Op-Ed and my Op-Ed is basically why was this guy not in jail decades ago. In the third episode of Gaslit Nation, we started off with this speech that Robert Muller gave in 2011, where he describes this new nexus of criminality centered around the Russian mob, expansive in his adherence. And I'm just going to quote a couple lines of this again. And as I'm talking, just think about Paul Manafort.
So he says that, "There are groups that are likely to come and control the US government and the economy." Then he says, "These groups may infiltrate our businesses. They may provide logistical support to hostile foreign powers. They may try to manipulate those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, these so-called iron triangles of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders, pose a significant national security threat."
There is nothing in that paragraph that does not describe Paul Manafort to a T. And it also describes Michael Cohen, who on the same day as the Manafort verdict, pled guilty. So I'm still stuck with this question of why were these guys allowed to run around, committing crimes in plain sight, for decades, and also advising the Republican Party, being active with various corporations and groups, doing it very openly, with no repercussions and with this thought of what? This is all just going to magically work out? This isn't going to bring about some kind of disaster?
I think everyone is aware that white-collar crime is not punished enough. We've been rightfully complaining about that since the 2008 economic crash, that nobody was punished for it. And now you really see though, how broad those ramifications spread when people are not held accountable.
At the same time, though I do think this was a significant win. I mean, imagine if he had not been guilty. Imagine how we would feel then. I think the last bulwark against autocracy is generally the judiciary, and this is a sign that we're still able to have a fair trial and that people still can be held accountable. There's definitely a note of hope there as dark as this general scenario may be.
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and Sarah's going to kill me for doing this. She doesn't know I'm doing this, but I simply don't care. I think it's funny ... The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America by Sarah Kendzior, my cohost. Yes. If you can't get enough of Sarah Kendzior's voice like I can't, then you can check out her book on Audible.
Other books we love include the all-new Don't Think of An Elephant! by George Lakoff, a thin little book, so it'll be a short little listening about the power of the word when it comes to political rhetoric and how Democrats can do better there, and how Republicans use Orwellian language to make things worse.
And then there's also On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Centuryby Tim Snyder, who we're huge fans of. So you can get all those great titles, including Sarah's book, on Audible.
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Speaker: There's no words there to play us out.
Andrea Chalupa: It was dark, and Manafort is the swamp, so I think what's going to happen is, he's very much the tip of the iceberg, and the sleaziness of the business dealings he's been doing and his links to furthering the interest of corruption, it seems to be predominant of course on the Republican side. But at the same time, I think we're going to see, as time goes on, Democrats as well, Tad Devineand others, who have blood on their hands, blood money in their pockets for serving these types of interests. We're just getting started here and it is a golden age for investigative journalism because Manafort is the North Star. You need to go to him and understand him as a case model, and then look for similar signs elsewhere across parties.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And I think it's going to be a painful process, and my hope is that one, this information will be revealed because we know that stories have been censored, we know that journalists have been threatened, we know that we don't know the full scope of what happened. And also that once this information is revealed, especially if it's through Mueller's probe that people are able to act on it, willing to act on it, willing to take that responsibility, which is to your country first over your party, over your money, over your self-interest.
And on that note I think we should switch to talking about John McCain, who died last week. And whatever you may think of his track record ... and I will say that I personally oppose a lot of the decisions he made, the policies he voted for. He was a Republican, and those just aren't my views ... he was a public servant. He was a career public servant. He was also a military veteran who sacrificed for his country, who was tortured for years, and I think in many of his best moments really did show integrity and a willingness to tell the truth.
And of course that's part of why Trump hates him. And I'm going to read a little bit, if you don't mind, from an article that I wrote for Fast Company back in April, when I was talking about Trump and the idea of sacrifice, because I think that Trump is misunderstood. A lot of people think of Trump as this kind of ultra macho guy, the sort of manly figure who is very interested in taking risk, taking chances, is irresponsible in that, to put it lightly.
There are a lot of reasons that Trump hated McCain. McCain was one of the few Republicans to take him on until the very end. And I think that a lot of it is tied to this notion of the concept of sacrifice, and Trump's own aversion to risk.
"Trump is someone who's always functioned best in scripted reality, supplying his tabloid fodder, playing a successful version of himself on The Apprentice. He's a guy who demands attention, but shuns scrutiny. He needs to be a brand because he's terrified of being a person. And as you may recall, in July 2015, Trump insulted McCain who was tortured as a military prisoner in Vietnam by saying he's not a war hero. 'I like people who weren't captured.' These comments shocked the audience, but it is completely in line with Trump's worldview. What offends Trump about McCain is not that he was captured, but that he was willing to risk being captured, especially for a cause greater than himself.
Serving one's country is a sacrifice, and sacrifice terrifies Trump. The idea that one would risk oneself, out of love, or loyalty, or duty, is absolutely alien to him. Sacrifice to Trump is a sucker's bet, a gamble beyond his comprehension, but one he is all too willing to let other Americans make, which has been shown time and time again in his denigration of other veterans."
So that's what I think is at the heart of Trump's loathing for McCain, and one thing that worries me obviously is I feel sad for [McCain’s] family, that he's passed, for his friends, but I'm also concerned about the direction of the Mueller probe, the intelligence investigations and McCain's contribution to that, because McCain really was willing to stand up and fight for what's right in terms of Trump, Russia and corruption.
He and Lindsey Graham were among the first politicians to call for an investigation, and unlike Lindsey Graham, McCain remained resolute into the very end. So I'm wondering with McCain's death, what knowledge of this investigation dies with him, and how does it put the investigation itself at risk.
Andrea Chalupa: That's a very good question. I mean, it's sad because we have one party rule, and that could continue on if Russia is determined to hack elections, to go in Republicans’ favor. We've seen that, there'd been many reports of that so far, and Republicans themselves seem to have no problem supporting Trump's agenda as long as they stay in power and can enrich themselves off the US government with their votes.
We see this time and again, so it's sad that we've lost somebody that came close to being an ally, even though he was far from a perfect ally of course with his voting record which is problematic, but-
Sarah Kendzior: But he was an ally on this issue.
Andrea Chalupa: He was a clear ally on this issue. I mean, he did engage with Paul Manafort. They were on some yacht back in the day together, and then I think [oligarch Oleg] Deripaska was there, Frank Foer mentioned that one of his first pieces on Manafort. But then when McCain was running again, he made sure the Manafort stayed away because he knew this guy was serving the Kremlin. So yeah, he was on RussiaGate, a very strong voice, but there's just so much he could do against his own party.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, exactly. And there are things that McCain was advocating for very staunchly in the last years before he died. One of those, of course, was an investigation into Trump, and Trump's Kremlin ties, and Trump's corruption in general, but other things were related to our national security and should really stun Americans that McCain is such a lone voice, or was such a lone voice within his own party on this. For example, McCain was a fierce advocate for the Magnitsky Actfor sanctions on Russia because of their human rights violations. He was a very strong advocate for NATO. He was interested in countries like the Baltic countries and visiting them and making sure that they would remain safe from Russian aggression.
And another thing he was bringing up towards the end was cybersecurity and the vulnerability of not only our elections, but of things like our electrical grid to hackers. He would often bring this up kind of spur of the moment in the middle of discussions on other things, like during the sessions hearing for example. So that's what kind of gave me the impression that of everybody in the Senate, McCain knew the most among the Republicans, he certainly cared the most, and I hope that he at least passed that information along to somebody because you certainly can't count on his former friend Lindsey Graham [who did a] 180 [who has] gone from being an opponent and critic of Trump to Trump's little lap dog who just parrots out the Republican propaganda line which is, "I don't know." I mean, I have my theories about that.
Andrea Chalupa: I want to go back to your point about ... so, it's really ironic because you and I, before the reemergence of Kremlin imperialism in a very big way under Putin, you and I spent years being as liberal as they come, as antiwar as they come, and then Kremlin imperialism threatening parts of the world that you and I have covered for years, studied for years, speaking out about that, on the importance of standing up to it, obviously with nonviolent means, but just showing a strong united front against it, I felt people like us were immediately neocons. We were thrown into that category.
I can't even tell you. People on the front lines, the liberals, investigative journalists, in countries like Ukraine, they looked up to McCain, they needed him. Ukraine was a forgotten part of the world before the revolution. I can't even tell you how many times I told people, "Yeah, my family is from Ukraine," and they'd say, "Russia? You're from Russia?" People didn't understand the difference. It's like saying America and Canada are the same country.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. You're absolutely right. That was true so consistently for McCain, including in positions where there was really no imperialistic or financial gain for the US. For example, the main country I researched was Uzbekistan, and in 2005, the dictator of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, massacred about 800 civilians, and then blamed a fictitious terrorist group for those crimes.
McCain was the first Senator, and I think really the only Senator in the US to strongly condemn that, to call for an investigation. When I would meet Uzbek dissidents in 2008 in the United States and ask who they're voting for, they were all like, "John McCain. John McCain. He's the only one who knows where Uzbekistan is. He's the only one who cares about Uzbekistan."
So that whole side of McCain's personality really interested me because it was pretty selfless, it was brave, and it mystifies me that he wasn't able to show that same sort of fortitude when it came to standing up often for American citizens in terms of harmful domestic policies, or standing up to the political pressures of his own party, because I think his instincts were in the right place. He'd witnessed torture firsthand, he'd witnessed dictatorships firsthand. So he knew exactly how awful they could be, and I think that that's yet another reason he was such a staunch critic of Trump.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. And there's definitely that weird split personality of McCain that we're dealing with - domestic versus foreign policy. My friends are involved with the Syrian revolution, who lost family and friends in Assad's massacre in Syria, they also had that same feeling. I have one friend who when out and campaigned for Obama, and McCain became somebody that he really looked up to and worked closely with try to get Syrians the support they need to try to stop being slaughtered by Assad.
I'm going to read a quote from a journalist in Ukraine, Maxim Eristavi, who's on the front lines of covering corruption in Ukraine and civil rights in Ukraine, especially gay rights. And again, these are liberals, these are investigative journalists. These are people that are typical hipsters as part of the Brooklyn world domination of hipsterdom, which is rapidly spreading. Like Kyiv in 2005 when I first got there is notlike Kvyi today, which is transformed. All the waiters and everyone having neck tattoos.
So I'm going to read what Maxim Eristavi said about the passing of John McCain. "Not my place to comment on McCain's domestic legacy, and I never expect anyone to be faultless, but let's not play down the fact that for many oppressed people abroad, including mine, his flamboyant solidarity has always been a bright light amid darkness of global indifference."
And that's it. It's global indifference. It's people that can't tell the difference between Ukraine and Russia and why they should care in the first place. McCain understood why we should care.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrea Chalupa: In the weather report on the political purge, we have the latest soon-to-be victim of Trump's temper tantrums, and that is Bruce Ohr, a lawyer in the criminal division at the Department of Justice. Bruce is, again, one of those heroes, American heroes that we're just learning about because the president is so determined to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation.
And this guy just seems like the coolest person ever, and somebody needs to option the rights to his story and make a Marvel superhero movie about it.
Sarah Kendzior: That is definitely the priority here, Andrea. Definitely the priority. [Laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: That is the priority. We need to keep a record of all of this somehow in the culture. So Bruce Ohr. Do you want to talk about Bruce Ohr, because I could spend 50 minutes on Bruce Ohr, because he's phenomenal.
Sarah Kendzior: I will just say, well, why is Trump interested in Bruce Ohr? Bruce Ohris a career staffer who has been focused on Russian organized crime. So that's the significant thing here, is that you know Bruce Ohr is part of this broader pattern of persecution that Trump is been engaged in since taking office, of trying to fire or threatening all of the intel and FBI officials who have knowledge of the Russian mafia and likely knowledge of Trump's relationship with the mafia. And this includes Preet Bharara, Comey, Andrew McCabe, and of course Bob Mueller.
Bruce Ohr was also a contact of Christopher Steeleof the famous Steele dossier, and is likely extremely well-versed in Trump's mafia ties. Well, I generally tend to think that Trump is not particularly worried about these investigations because he views himself as above the law in this very deep and fundamental way. He's never faced repercussions, and he assumes that in his position of president he can act as an autocrat, he can rewrite the law, but I think his anxiety about Bruce Ohr in particular, that he's now brought him to national scrutiny, and therefore along with that brought the Russian mafia and Trump's ties with them to national scrutiny ... we've been talking about that for a while, but it really hasn't hit the mainstream press as much. Maddow's doing a show about Semion Mogilevich. All these things are happening. I don't know. What are your thoughts on it?
Andrea Chalupa: I think the surprise election of Donald Trump can be seen as a marriage of sorts between the Russian mafia in the West and the Russian mafia in the East. They're so many deeply woven interlapping connections, and that's just a fact. It's out there. And this has been reported for years, it's all on the public domain.
Bruce Ohr has been on the front lines of investigating all of this. Bruce Ohr was somebody that knew how to stand up to the Russian mob, and he knows where all the bodies are buried, which is a terrible metaphor to use in this case. And yeah, I think that at the end of the day, we have to just accept the fact that we have a Russian mafia asset in the White House. it's not just a Kremlin asset. Putin's Kremlin is a mafia state. We have a Russian mafia asset in the White House.
Sarah Kendzior: Yes. And by accept we don't mean sit back and take it and settle. We mean acknowledge that this is the reality, we mean refuse to be gaslitas you have been for the last few years, with people constantly playing down this connection
The best way to tackle this problem is for us to discuss it openly. And it isdeeply frightening. We have had this wave of deaths and attacks on people who've been investigating this case, people who are implicated in this case. And it's obviously an incredibly frightening position to be end because this mafia is a global kleptocracy. It's a transnational alliance. It's not the kind of thing people think of with the Sopranos or the Godfather, or something like that. It's new. It's essentially replacing governments throughout the world.
You of course see this in Russia, but you also see it in Hungary, and Turkey, and you see other countries participating like Saudi Arabia and Israel. It's frightening, but yeah, that is absolutely how Trump should be seen, and it's how Trump should be handledby our own government and by the intelligence services. And if our government was doing its job, if Congress was doing its job, Trump would be out because he's committed so many crimes in plain sight just during his tenure, and then of course add to that the previous 40 years of crimes.
He should absolutely be out and so people need to be asking the very tough questions about why there is so much hesitancy, so much fear. Obviously there are Democrats speaking out, and there is a limited ability of the Democrats to do anything with the GOP dominated Congress, but this road ends in hell for everyone. This path is unsustainable.
So I think as we move through the midterms, I think it would benefit everyone if these problems were discussed in a more forthright way instead of being played down either to make people feel better, or to keep people in denial. Because if the last two years have taught us anything, it's that that does no good.
Andrea Chalupa: Exactly. I want to say it's insane that we're just all tiptoeing around this issue, and just living with the fact that Trump is in the White House. You have those Russian mafia in the White House. I don't understand how we can just go on accepting that and allowing him to push through Supreme Court justices. It's just a surreal ... you live with this pit in your stomach constantly, just that, "Is anyone going to do anything?"
Sarah Kendzior: Yes. Exactly.
Andrea Chalupa: It's like, when are we going to just stop being in denial as a country and come together and accept the facts that have been out there in the public domain for years. Is anyone going to do anything? That's the question this show is going ask every episode until someone finally does something.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. And one of the terrifying things you just raised is that the type of people who could do something, for example the Supreme Court, if certain rulings come their way, Trump is now picking those people. He's packing those courts, he's doing everything he can to entrench himself in office, to consolidate his power. And this was completely predictable. This is why you and I back in 2016 or before the election, desperately pleaded with people to not let him get in because once he gets in it is going to be very hard to get him out.
And I remember in November saying you have two months, and we can maybe do an episode sometime about what should've been done-
Andrea Chalupa: Oh yes.
Sarah Kendzior: ... in those two months.
Andrea Chalupa: Yes. And I'll try to ... parallel universe fantasy. I will totally do that.
Sarah Kendzior: The alternative reality.
Andrea Chalupa: We'll cosplay it.
Sarah Kendzior: It was very difficult. There was no precedent for this situation. It was understandable to some degree that no one knew what to do, but the one thing you should always do is tell the truth, is inform the public, is be forthright about the danger, because if people know the danger then they're able to fight it. And the fact that so many people are just waking up to this now, are in shock, is a real detriment to everybody whether we're just dealing with our life on a day-to-day basis trying to imagine our futures, our children's futures, or trying to fight a political battle, like the midterms.
In the midterms now, once again, are a battle that Trump is proclaiming is going to be violent. Last week he blamed the impending midterm violence on the Democrats, claiming that they will, "Overturn everything that we've done, and they'll do it quickly and violently." And also the first part of that sounds really awesome. I'll be completely psyched if they overturn everything that he's done. I think they should because he's an illegitimate president. You shouldn't be there.
Andrea Chalupa: Absolutely.
Sarah Kendzior: The violent part, we all know Maxine Waters, the big tough Democrat who beats up Michael Tracy.
Andrea Chalupa: Well, she did brutalize Michael-
Sarah Kendzior: Michael Tracy.
Andrea Chalupa: What was his name? Far right troll. Yeah, she did brutalize Michael Tracey, like shoved his face in the concrete-
Sarah Kendzior: Very intimidating woman, very intimidating. [Laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: ... and kicked him a couple times in the ribs. Yeah.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. So there's always a lot of bullshit.
Andrea Chalupa: We caught it on video.
Sarah Kendzior: There's so much bullshit from Trump's little fan base about the evil violent Democrats who are almost always black leaders, because they're just perpetrating racist stereotypes that are all lies and that are patently absurd.
But this claim of violence has another angle besides demonizing the Democrats, because they made the same allegation in 2016. Back then, Roger Stone proclaimed that if Trump didn't win the election, there is going to be a bloodbath. And that bloodbath was not going to be done by the Democrats, but it was hinted by both Stone and Trump, that the bloodbath would be carried out by his own supporters. And you may recall, Trump at that time was encouraging his fan base to commit acts of violence, he was offering to pay the legal bills for those who committed acts of violence.
I think that that is ... if we're going to see violence, that is much more likely to be the source. We've had a huge uptick in violence from white supremacist groups, from militia groups, from other supporters of Trump, from people committing hate crimes. I think it is possible we're in for it, but the fact that Trump, as the President of the United States is out basically using projection once again, in the worst way possible, threatening the nation, while also defaming the Democrats at the same time - I think is an ominous sign for November. I'm dreading November.
Andrea Chalupa: They're getting their brown shirts all riled up and ready. That's Bannon's role. Bannon is the guy that gets the Nazis worked up and stocking up on ammunition and all types of nerdy equipment, so they feel like they're in a militia.
And Bannon's active again. Bannon is set on far right European domination and working with leaders there. And guys like Milo, white supremacist Milo [Yiannopoulos], they're the ones that go around to the base and get them incredibly worked up and ready, and work them like a blunt force instrument to intimidate people and make the opposition feel like the situation is hopeless, and that they should even stay home and not vote and et cetera, et cetera.
So that's how this whole operation works. And it's very similar, and reports we're seeing on how the Kremlin comes in to infiltrate governments and empower militias on the ground, and work with these white supremacist groups to get them all worked up, and that's what it is.
There was a report on a Russian man who went to go fight in Ukraine for of course the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, and when he got there, he was so disappointed to see that it was just like a Mad Max wasteland of all of these drunk militias thinking that they're Rambo. He was like, "This is not what I signed up for. I thought I was fighting for the glory of Russia but these guys are a bunch of Steve Bannons carrying rifles basically."
So yeah, that's the operation. That's the playbook, to intimidate people.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. But go out and vote anyway. Ignore this playbook. Go out and vote.
Andrea Chalupa: Absolutely. The way you deal with it is making fun of them and just showing up anyway, using your voice anyway.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. And also taking care of your community, and making sure people are protected.
Andrea Chalupa: Exactly. And taking care of each other and yourself, and self-care has never been more important.
When we're saying on this episode “why isn't anyone doing anything, we've essentially been invaded, why isn't anyone doing anything?” Now it's come to us, the people, to do something. It's all on us now, so we all have to engage in creating the Blue Wave that we want to see wash out all this corruption come November, knocking on doors, making phone calls.
And we're going to today have a very special interview with an organization that will help you do just that, Crush The Midterms. If you're lazy like I am ... I'm not lazy at all. We're doing this goddam podcast. I can't even make that joke! [Laughter] I may be the opposite of lazy. I was going to be like, "If you're ... This is so convenient. It's like losing weight in a pill.”
But crush the midterms will hold your hand and in a matter of seconds get you a personalized plan on how you can help Democrats take back the Senate and House. And we're going to talk to someone from Crush The Midtermstoday to break it down for us.
And that's it now. It's on all of us, the people, because the institutions that are supposed to protect us, they're too slow, and they build again and again opportunities to stop all this. So now it's on us-
Sarah Kendzior: Absolutely.
Andrea Chalupa: ... this November.
And I have to add, that weekend of hell, when we were waiting for the Manafort verdict, and Sarah and I were constantly on the phone holding each other, one thing that did make me feel better was ... I said to my despair, I stared my despair in the face and I said, "I'm not gonna listen to you. I'm going to go out to Staten Island, get that ocean breeze in my hair, and I'm going to knock on doors." And I didthat, because here in New York City we have a very important swing district. Max Rose, a Democrat, and army vet, who is running for Congress against a Republican who supports Trump.
And I knocked on 70 doors for him that day, and my mood completely transformed. And if you're somebody that is afraid to go up to a stranger's house to talk about politics, which is intimidating and it does feel awkward, I'm telling you one consoling fact is, most people are just not home.
You're going to get, like out of 70 people I think I talked to 14. And out of those 14 people everyone was so polite, and one woman was leaving. She was packing up her house and moving to Connecticut, and she tried to give me her entire dining room set, her chandelier, all her glasses. I could've gone shopping in that woman's house if I wanted to and totally stocked up.
So what I'm telling you, canvassing is a great way to be a tourist in your own country, and check out people's beautiful rose gardens, and get some fresh air, and really make a connection neighbor to neighbor in the community that is America, a community that we have to fight for more than ever. Like our lives depend on it because they really, really do.
I have a special surprise for you, Sarah Kendzior. Are you ready for the surprise? I'm so excited. Okay. So this is an incredibly special episode of Gaslit Nation. It is the Axl Rose of all episodes of Gaslit Nation because it is the birthday episode. Yes, September is the birthday month for Sarah Kendzior when God gave us this beacon of light to help us through, this human Xanax, for me anyway. I think you terrify most people. I think you terrify most people, but for me, you prop me up and I get through my day because of you.
But I want to just say, if you love Sarah, if you're a fan of her work like I am, celebrate this birthday month of September by tweeting at her: GIFs of Axl Rose, one of her all-time favorites, or George Michael, another one of her all-time favorites.
And I realized why these guys are your favorites, because you're like a hybrid of both of them. You've got that absolute sweetness, and generosity, and end silliness of George Michael, but then you're also this unchained beast and completely terrifying like Axl Rose. And that's your personality in a nutshell and that's why I love you. And I swear I could not have made it this far emotionally, I don't know what kind of state I would've been in, maybe like a vegetative state, if it weren't for your friendship.
I want people to know, because I know you quite well and I've heard all of your war stories. Sarah Kendzior has survived so much, so much to get to where she is, and I know all of it, and I'm in awe of all of it. And if you think she's strong, you've no idea how incredibly tough she is.
And I want to tell you that I love you from the bottom of my heart, and ... oh my god, every episode I cry. It's going to be like Oprah's favorite thing. It's like, these are the things that make Andrea cry, like every episode. [Laughs]
But I want to say, August 2016, I started following you on Twitter. I remember it very well because you were one of the few voices speaking out about Trump and Russia, but when you came into sharp focus for me, when you became Venus de Milo emerging from the waves, that was from something you tweeted shortly thereafter, and it was a poem about freedom by a Uzbek writer, Cho'lpon, and this was the tweet where you just came blazing out of the mess of twitter and straight into my heart.
And I thought, "Whois this girl? She's earnest as hell." And I didn't know you then. And you continued to this whole thread, comparing his poetry to that of Langston Hughes', and that universal longing for freedom that we all have inside of us. And I was really taken by you at that moment, and I never forgot it, and I wanted to dig that up for your birthday episode, and to tell you thank you on behalf of your millions of fans out there and around the world. You're helping us get through this time and you're absolutely propping me up in more ways than you even realize. I'm so grateful for your friendship, you have no idea.
Are you crying? That is the best ... that is a great ... yes, you are. Yes, you are. I'm going to be replaying this part for the rest of my life. It's like the best part of the podcast.
Sarah Kendzior: Hey guys, it's Sarah. I cut out of that heartfelt tribute because I didn't want people to hear me cry. As you know, I'm outspoken on politics, but I'm also a pretty private person as Andrea, my sweetest friend, my kindest friend knows very well.
I have to say that as horrifying as the ordeal of covering this political crisis has been, the one good thing that came out of it was making a friend who's really more like a sister to me. So thank you, Andrea.
To continue on my reluctantly self-indulgent theme, back in June, when Andrea visited me in Saint Louis, she insisted on interviewing me about my book, The View from Flyover Country, which had just come out, and describes a lot of the social and political breakdown, which led to Trump. So here it is.
[Aggressive Guitar music] The View From Flyover Country – Interview, Part One
[Media Clips – Numerous speakers]
Increasingly, there are also mounting concerns about what constitutes a good job at a fair wage, in an era of rising inequality. It's a story that won't go away.
Like, oh my gosh, there's an autonomous robot inside of a Lowe's. Awesome.
But what may look awesome for Lowe's, and many of the nation's other businesses, could spell anxiety for American workers. For decades, automation has eaten up more American jobs than global trade, according to economists who warn that the job losses may be poised to accelerate.
I don't think we began to grapple with what that would mean for the economy if these jobs started to really go away in vast numbers.
Last year I would say that I probably only earned like $5,000 to $6,000. I actually had a bank account, but I don't right now. It was so much things just got in the negatives.
One of the reasons that a lot of people Holmes County are still unbanked or underbanked is the lack of jobs.
They need a small dollar loan to make ends meet. There are not many alternatives to payday lenders.
Some people can't wait on a check. It's about basic needs being met. I will say the housing condition is for the most part deplorable, but without mobile homes it'd be a lot of homeless people.
I'm actually having to work three jobs, and my husband works three jobs as well, and we're still not able to get ahead.
Back when I was a kid, my father worked, my mother stayed home. My father's income was enough for us as well.
When I was growing up, that was achievable, the white picket fence, being able to own your own home.
I feel like we can never catch up.
It's like you're stuck.
You got to get the millionaires and the billionaires in Washington to start worrying about the working class people, because they-
You think they don't know, don't care?
I think they forgot.
Two facts. Over the past 30 years, the US economy has been growing, but those at the top are getting more and more of the money. The top 20% have 14 times the wealth of the rest, the 80%, the largest inequality on record.
And for the first time in half of century, the majority of the young people in the middle class are not earning as much as their parents did.
So how does the US fare in the global context? After taxes, American ranks second for income inequality in the developed world. One survey of top global leaders pegged income disparity as the second greatest trend facing the world.
[End Media Clips]
[Aggressive guitar music]
Andrea Chalupa: Today I'm joined by New York Times best-selling author, Sarah Kendzior.
Sarah Kendzior: Hi. Yes. The co-host of the podcast. No conflict of interests at all. [Laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: I'm hugely excited. This is massive. I can't stop talking about how huge this interview is.
Sarah Kendzior: Thank you, Andrea.
Andrea Chalupa: I'm honored that you would sit down-
Sarah Kendzior: You have no bias, so thank you. Totally objective observer.
Andrea Chalupa: Okay. I don't even know where to start with your book. I will say, to get it out of my system, I will say I came back from four months in Europe, completely jet lagged, and I had to read your book. And I have friends that write books, but I never read them, and I claim to have read them and I congratulate them on their books, but this one I hadto read because I was going to see you soon, and we're doing a podcast, and everyone wants to talk to you about your book. You’re everywhere now. You're selling out auditoriums. So I was like, okay, well, I better read this book, because we're going to do a podcast about it, which was my idea. I insisted on it, because you're credited for predicting the rise of Trump, and I understand now fully why, because everything in your book lays out the coalition of stupidity and arrogance in America that got us here.
Trump is the Frankenstein monster that income inequality created, that hyper-capitalism created. He's just like the natural swamp beast that would emerge, and your book is this horror story that lays the groundwork of how we got here.
So of course I had to read it, and I had to tell you ... I'll take a pause now because as you can see I'm overwhelmed with excitement [laughs] ... I had to tell you that I just devoured your book. I was so amazed that I know you, and that you're my friend, and that you're a master, and that people 100 years from now are going to be reading this book-
Sarah Kendzior: Good God, Andrea. [Laughs]
Andrea Chalupa: Stop. I mean, because I know you and you're obnoxiously modest, I have to know talk about myself for a second if you don't mind.
Sarah Kendzior: Please do.
Producer: Make sure you said the title.
Andrea Chalupa: Well, whatever. The producer's like, "Make sure you say the title of her book." Your damn book is called ... what is it called again? The View from Flyover Country. The New York Times bestseller, The View from FlyoverCountryby my friend, Sarah Kendzior.
So now we're going to talk about me. Just so you understand how head over heels I am over your writing ... I know your writing obviously. I read your articles, we DM all the time, we talk all the time, so I know you. I know you. I know how brilliant you are already, but what really blew me away ... so as a writer, as a writer myself, Sarah, I obsess over the written word. Just to give you some examples of this, I wrote out the entire novel The Great Gatsby, just to feel what good writing felt like coming out of my fingertips and just catching all the gorgeous subtle intricate patterns-
Sarah Kendzior: Such a massive nerd Andrea. I had no idea ... I was kidding. I love that, I love that.
Andrea Chalupa: That's why we're friends.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah, exactly.
Andrea Chalupa: And I got that idea from Hunter S. Thompson, whose writing I also studied religiously, and for the last three years or so, I have edited my screenplay, which you read, which brought you to tears, okay?
Sarah Kendzior: That's true. It did.
Andrea Chalupa: Which brought you to tears. So my screenplay has been edited by a three-time Oscar nominated director, who's an absolute master filmmaker, who's an auteur, who directs some of the most incredible films and-
Sarah Kendzior: And her name is?
Andrea Chalupa: Agnieszka Holland. But we're not talking about me today. This is your podcast-
Sarah Kendzior: I'm just saying for the audience-
Andrea Chalupa: This is your podcast-
Sarah Kendzior: ... in case they want to know.
Andrea Chalupa: So just so you understand ... and I cling to Orwell. I cling to Orwell to help as therapy, getting through these times. So I read his essays, I read his books.
You, my friend, are a living Orwell. You have the same empathy and urgency in your writing.
And your writing is stunning, stunning.
And coming back from those four difficult months in Europe, I was jet lagged, I was tired, but I had to finish your book. So what ended up happening was, reading chapters of your book became my reward for getting through the tasks I had to do when I came back home, like catching up on emails, catching up on life. And that's how I sped through it. I said, okay, if get out of bed and you do this little task, you get to read, as reward-
Sarah Kendzior: God, Andrea.
Andrea Chalupa: ... 10 pages of Kendzior's book. [Laughter] And that's how I finished it so quickly. And what was really beautiful was when I landed in Saint Louis to see you, when I landed in Saint Louis I was finishing your book at the exact same time, and it was this beautiful powerful moment. It's no surprise that you're selling out auditoriums, and you're a New York Times bestseller, and Hillary Clinton breaks through her silence coming out of the election by quoting your book.
My dear, they're going to be reading you 100 years from now and understand how we got here.
You're immortal now, and nobody can take that from you.
Sarah Kendzior: Gee, okay. Okay, okay. Enough, enough. I'm very flattered, I'm very glad you like the book-
Andrea Chalupa: This is my interview. This is my interview-
Sarah Kendzior: I am not the new Orwell. I am not-
Andrea Chalupa: You need to stop talking right now. [crosstalk]-
Sarah Kendzior: ... and thinking that there will be books 100 years from now-
Andrea Chalupa: That's true. That's true.
Sarah Kendzior: ... and this will be part of the books that people use to heat their homes when they burn them for fuel.
Andrea Chalupa: But that is so funny. Okay. You need to stop talking because this is my interview. This is my interview. If you have to interview me for something. I'll let you command it, but this my interview-
Sarah Kendzior: Fine. Well then ask-
Andrea Chalupa: ... I'm asking the questions, I'm-
Sarah Kendzior: ... me something.
Andrea Chalupa: I'm being a fan right now. Just let me go crazy.
Sarah Kendzior: Okay, okay.
Andrea Chalupa: Okay. So let's start with a question, because I still have comments.
Sarah Kendzior: I feel like I'm back in academia.
Andrea Chalupa: Okay. So, what really fascinated me is throughout the book, it's all income inequality no matter what you're talking about. Whether you're talking about the role of the media, or the decline of the media, or academia, that is the specter haunting everything, is income inequality.
And as I've said before to you, reading your book made it clear to me that there is no way that an establishment candidate was going to win the 2016 election. The pain was too deep, the crisis was too deep that we really needed someone to come in and just take on the entire system because this system had betrayed us.
And how did you ... I don't even know what to ask you. I just want to make comments on everything though-
Sarah Kendzior: I can comment back to that-
Andrea Chalupa: There you go.
Sarah Kendzior: ... because I actually would like to comment on the idea of establishment, because I think that that's a word that isn't used properly to describe any of the candidates of the 2016 election. It was used to describe Trump, it was used to describe Sanders, it was even used to describe Hillary Clinton in the sense that she was a woman and that this was the first female candidate on a major party ticket.
They are all part of the political establishment. Sanders is a career politician, Trump is a career quote"businessman," but somebody very enmeshed into wealthy society, somebody who is in a position of power for his entire life. And I think what people have mistaken for establishment, antiestablishment now means you show compassion, you show concern, you have a basic sense of functional human empathy. And the fact that that's so unusualand rare and unexpected in a political candidate, that's what we call antiestablishment, is this acknowledgment of pain, this acknowledgment of suffering – it’s troubling, because that should just be the baseline standard for any citizen, and for any politician.
I think Sanders' concern about our economy was genuine. I think that that passion of wanting to talk about that issue in frank terms was real. I think Trump obviously was a complete con, but he was able to still capture that sense of pain. He has an instinct for it, he preys on it like a vulture, and he exploits it for his own gain.
But you're absolutely right, people were fed up. They thought Obama was some sort of exception to this rule, and I do think Obama cared about improving the US, but that doesn't mean that he was able to do so. And there's a number of factors that determine that, that are not just about Obama as an individual. It's about the GOP, it's about Congress, and it's about money, it's about Wall Street, it's about the aftermath of a recession and the refusal to acknowledge that that recession did not end for I think the majority of America, and certainly, as you’ve seen through being in Saint Louis, it certainly did not end here.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. Americans are craving to go back to normal. But the reality is we're being hit by a lot at the same time right now, the income inequality crisis, the environmental apocalypse that's coming. Mother Nature's fighting back with these killer hurricanes, these killer storms. We're not going to have normal ever again.
Sarah Kendzior: That in a way is a good thing. There’s been cries to go back to normal, and I keep thinking, normal is people being unable to pay their bills, normal is economic inequality, is a feeling of futurelesness, a feeling of despair. Normal is systemic racism and institutionalized discrimination and all of these things that we've been struggling with throughout American history, But I definitely feel like we started down a downward spiral around the election of George W. Bush and the wars that came after it.
Andrea Chalupa: I knew that was the apocalypse, when he won.
Sarah Kendzior: I didn't know that. I mean, I knew it was bad, but I didn't think that we would still be fighting this Afghanistan war, what is it now? 15 years later. No, 17 years later.
Andrea Chalupa: The rise of ISIS, all of it.
Sarah Kendzior: And then the same thing is true for the recession, and that we were hurt in this way. So I don't know it's going to come out of the future of Trump. I mean, this can go in a number of directions, some of which are truly frightening, not unprecedented, because we've seen atrocities, we've seen dictatorships, we've seen in ethnic cleansing and things, I think he may actually do.
If we managed to somehow avoid that though, I think that we're in for a restructuring of American society that hopefully will be positive, that hopefully will address these problems head-on, and give people that are marginalized and have been historically left out of American society and left out from opportunities, a chance to participate in what should be a great democracy, but has never completely fulfilled its promise.
Andrea Chalupa: Right. My background, I started off my first job out of college as a community organizer. I've never sort of fallen into that trap. We saw Obama being treated like a rock star. American voters, especially young voters needed some rock star before they're willing to go out and vote and hit the streets, and it was like, where were you when boring John Kerry was running and the stakes were just as high if not higher?
So I don't believe in a candidate who should ever be a messiah figure, rock star. Politicians are politicians. None of them should be trusted, none of them should be exalted ever.
Sarah Kendzior: They shouldn't be heroes.
Andrea Chalupa: No.
Sarah Kendzior: I think that's really dangerous when people make heroes out of politicians, when they build these cults around them, whether it's -
Andrea Chalupa: Or they expect that. They're like, "I'm not going to care about this election unless I have David Bowie running for president. And it's so dangerous.
And I think that's part of America. One of our most important and largest exports is of course entertainment, and I feel like we totally succumb to that as we need entertainment and to be excited, and our hearts set on fire all the time with an election. That's not always going to happen, and what you get is a decline in the electorate, people just not caring and going out and not being organized. And then you have an election like Trump, where we're all playing catch up from the years when weshould'vebeen paying attention, and should've been engaged and involved, and protecting our democracy.
One thing that really struck me when I was working as a community organizer was, I was on the street trying to sign up voters, and I stopped one guy, turned out to be a European. He's from Denmark, and what he said to me really stuck with me. He said, "I knew America treated the rest of the world badly ..." and he was of course referring to George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq. He said, "I knew America treated the rest of the world badly, but I didn't realize how badly America treated its own citizens until I came here."
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. I think people are shocked. I mean, often when I bring people here through Saint Louis, through areas that we've driven through, they ask, "What happened here? Was there a riot? Was there a bomb, was there a tornado?" And I'm often just like, nothing happened. This is apathy. This is abandonment. This is decades of discriminatory policies. This is decades of wealthy people hoarding resources while people are still living in these areas. People are taking bricks from crumbling houses and trying to sell them for food. People are taking copper out of these abandoned places and trying to sell that for food. People are struggling for basic survival. And I think that's been the case in cities like Saint Louis, which has been declining for multiple decades.
And in this book, it's called The View from Flyover Country, there's this assumption, which is now true, that this is about the Midwest, that this is about the heartland. And of course, I do live here, so it is about that in some sense, but it's more that my perception, my perspective about America is informed through living here, through having that be my daily view. And it's not just the inner-city as Trump would like to call it, because he lives permanently in a Grandmaster Flash video, [laughter] but it's the suburbs.
I write about the end of malls, I write about suburban poverty. We have all these new forms of poverty and abandonment that we didn't have before, and much in the way that Saint Louis was ahead of its time in terms of innovation and trade, back when it was this major hub of America due to the Mississippi River, due to railroads. It produced people that had these visions of what America was, people like Mark Twain, or Walt Disney, or Chuck Berry. They came out of Missouri. They all kind of created this fantasy of America, they all were ahead of their time.
And the worst aspects I think of America were also ahead of their time in Saint Louis. Poverty, racial strife, decay and abandonment that people won’t address. And I think when people think I'm ‘prescient‘ –
(How do you pronounce it? This is my level. I read a lot and then don't talk so fancy.) They believe I can see things in advance. I think it's in part because the environment I'm in is often the first to experience tremendous pain, and then that pain expands throughout the country, so more and more of America looks like Saint Louis now. It's not so unfamiliar. I think a lot of people are sharing in these experiences. So we're bellwether state. We always were, but now we are kind of in the worst way possible.
Andrea Chalupa: And I think the danger of ... you know, we're just saying like what is Trump going to leave behind, what are we going to have to deal with, and I think it's just going to be an increase of that learned helplessness.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. And different expectations. I mean, that's something that really shifted, I've noticed over my lifetime, especially in terms of the economy. I have a lot of sections about unpaid labor and how that became normalized as an expectation of the recession.
Andrea Chalupa: Exactly, across media.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. And it's like you stop expecting honest media or non-racist police. People, they expect kind of the worst things to exist on one hand, and then they just, really, like, that's life, or they deny that these things happen. But you what you're lacking is kind of an acknowledgment of this institutional breakdown andan insistence that wrongs be righted, the atrocities be stopped.
Andrea Chalupa: Not just the way things are.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. So I'm always saying now, because this book did not become dated because of these issues underlie what came next, so then they also have not been resolved on their own. But we are in a new era now with Trump, and what I keep telling people is, there is a difference between expecting autocracy and accepting it. And I do think that we should expect it. I said that before the election and I'm certainly saying that now, is children are being held in cages away from their parents against their will, but you never ever accept it, you never just settle, you never say, "I give up, and you've won, and we're just going to forget it, because these institutional forces are too powerful." You have a moral obligation, an obligation of conscience.
And one of the most disconcerting things I've seen in the last few years are people in positions of power who really can do something about these problems, refusing to, not having a sense of ethics, a sense of conscience, like being so cynical, or apathetic, or treating it like a ratings grab, or treating it like a joke. That's the thing I think I'll never understand. I understand how these institutional breakdowns happened, and I certainly understand the pain that they caused people, but I don't understand the people who can see that pain, with their own eyes, and either decide to look away or decide to just kind of make a snarky remark, or decide to equivocate.
I - I will never understand those people, but those of people who also need to be called out and try to figure out the motivations behind it, because it's extraordinarily damaging, and I shouldn't be some sort of exception to a rule.
I do think more and more journalists are picking up on how bad things can get under Trump. I think that they finally kind of accepted what they've been denying for a long time, that this is an aspiring autocrat who will take it as far as he can go. But time is not our friend in the situation, so I hope that if my work does anything, I hope it inspires empathy in people, and inspires a sense of urgency because it's something that we need.
[End of first part of Interview]
Andrea Chalupa: So I am here with a very exciting interview, with Marisa Kabas, a writer and activist in Brooklyn, who has like Prometheus, given fire to humanity with her brilliant site and just working on the brilliant team called Crush the Midterms.
Marisa, tell us what is your site and why is it so wonderful and I'm obsessed with it, I used it, and it got me out into the field knocking on doors and talking to voters, and everyone needs to Crush Midtermsright now, so please Marisa, tell us what it is exactly.
Marisa Kabas: Sure. First, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here. And you and Sarah are amazing, and this is so cool.
So first off, Crush the Midtermsis a tool that is meant to help people take back agency over their activism. So it helps you make a personalized plan for volunteering and donating in the days and weeks until the election, which are quickly dwindling, so you answer a few super quick questions about issues that matter to you, what kind of skills that you can offer to a campaign, how much time and money you have, if any, to spare, and it calculates a plan that's just for you to make sure that we win this thing in November.
Andrea Chalupa: Excellent. Now, what do Democrats need to do to take back the Senate, and what are the polls saying about their chances for doing that?
Marisa Kabas: The Senate is tricky. It's going to be a really tough battle. As far as polling, it's really hard to say. There actually hasn't been a ton of super recent polling. I've seen one in four chance, I've seen one in three, but I would concentrate more on the specific polling for the specific races. There're a few that we need to hang onto. Basically there are 35 seats up this year, and 26 currently held by Democrats.
So not only do we need to hold onto those. We need to gain two more in order to wrestle back control from Mitch McConnell and his gang of evil cronies. So the few that we need to hang on for sure are Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia and Indiana. So we need Bill Nelson, and Claire McCaskill, and Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Manchin, and Joe Donnelly to really give it their all and really just try to hang on to those as best we can.
Then we get into the tossup arena. A few big tossups that people are talking about are Nevada. We have Congresswoman Jackie Rosen going up against Senator Dean Heller. He's the incumbent, he's been there since 2011, but as you'll recall, he totally betrayed his constituents during the healthcare fight last year. So we're really looking to flip that seat and give it to - not just a woman, but a really awesome woman who would really have their interests at heart.
And then just this week, Arizona had its primaries and Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema won her race, and she'll be going up against Republican rep. Martha McSally, who is not quite as insane as the people she was running against, but is still no friend to the Democrats.
And then of course we have Tennessee, where Marsha Blackburn, who is I would describe a ‘Pence-ian’ Republican, is going up against former governor Phil Bredesen.
And then of course there's Beto, Beto O'Rourke, everyone's favorite. It's still very much a long shot but they changed the rating from solid red to lean red, and it's really been Beto's week. I'm sure a lot of people saw that the Texas Republican Party was trying to catch Beto in some sort of weird thing this week on Twitter, but it totally backfired. And he's just having a real moment. There's this video of him answering a question about the NFL protests, and I saw that it's been viewed 44 million times on NowThis News. So everyone's just really in his corner, but that side, it's going to be really tough.
We have to just watch state-by-state, knock on every door possible, and pray like hell.
Andrea Chalupa: Absolutely. Everybody needs to show up and put their time in, really. What about the House? How is it looking for the House? What do we need to do there? What do Democrats need to do in order to take back the house? What are the chances like for that happening?
Marisa Kabas: The House, it’s looking a little bit more confident as is every two years, all 435 reps are out for real action, so it's kind of pandemonium. And in order to have a majority, one party needs 218 seats. So as of now, according to Real Clear Politics, it's looking like 199 seats are pretty solid for Democrats, 193 are pretty solid for Republicans, and then there are 43 tossups. The interesting thing is that of those 43, 41 of them are currently held by Republicans.
So, we have our work cut out for us, but that said, according to a bunch of places, there's about a 72% chance of Democrats taking back the House. There are a lot of Republicans who announced their retirement from Congress this year, a total of 26, so there's a ton of room for change.
There's one race I've been really watching and really I'm hopeful about, is Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey's 11th District. She is a veteran and she used to be a prosecutor, and she's just [got a] really, really strong record and really seems to care about the people in her district, and she's running for a seat that was vacated by a guy named Rodney Frelinghuysen. You might remember him from last year. Someone in his district put together a group to try to get him to hold a town hall because he hadn't held one in years.
They just wanted a town hall, and he freaked out, and the woman who spearheaded it worked at a bank, and he tried to get her fired from the bank that she worked at because she was just trying to put pressure on him to hold a town hall.
So everything is just ready for change. I mean, I was out in the field last week canvassing on Long Island, in Peter King's District for Liuba Grechen Shirley. They just changed that rating from strong Republican to lean Republican.
Everyone's just saying we need a change. And they even changed the rating of another King District, Steve King in Iowa, and he's facing an aggressive campaign from a Democrat named JDScholten.
And it's a really exciting time, and it's kind of a magical feeling to see all this change happening, but it's important to remember that's actually not magic. There are real people on the ground making it happen.
Andrea Chalupa: Exactly. And we need more to join them. The thing I love about your site, which I'll say a million times to everybody I meet is Crush the Midtermsis like a personal assistant to getting involved in the midterms. Within seconds, you just enter some simple data and it just spits out a personalized plan for you, and I love that so much because I'm incredibly busy. We're all extremely busy and just juggling too much, and this held my hand and got me out into the field. I love that.
So what advice to you have for people with their very busy lives, to getting involved and being part of the change that we desperately need?
Marisa Kabas: I think you hit the nail on the head. It's meant to be like a personal adviser, and it's also meant to show you that being civically involved - it shouldn't take over your life. You should find a way to incorporate it into your life and not the other way around.
So using this tool, Crushthemidterms.org, you select how much time you have, how far you're willing to travel. So it's kind of working within the parameters of what's comfortable and able for you.
So my best advice going into the homestretch and the midterms is yeah, it's great to see encouraging polls and see that it looks really good for Dems in a lot of places, but try not to take too much stock in the polls and just keep your head down, and make every call, knock every door, talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends, the guy at the corner deli. I think it's really easy to say there's a blue wave coming, but we have to actually make that wave happen. It's not going to happen out of nowhere. We need to power the wave.
Long story short, don't shut up until the polls close on November 6th.
Andrea Chalupa: If you want the blue wave to show up, then you have to show up. And you can do that easily through Crushthemidterms.com. Thank you so much-
Marisa Kabas: Dot org.
Andrea Chalupa: Dot org? I'm the worst spokesperson for you. Crushthemidterms.org, Crushthemidterms.org. I will get that tattooed on my face. Crushthemidterms.org.
Thank you so very much, Marisa. You are incredible. Thank you for all your hard work and everyone in the Crushthemidterms.org team. We appreciate it, and we encourage everybody to check it out, get your personalized plan today to help make the blue wave happen.
Marisa Kabas: And we're also really active on Twitter right now. So if that's your thing, we'd love for you to engage with us for all midterms all the time. We're @Crush18midterms. Hit us up.
Andrea Chalupa: Sarah and I received an originally composed songjust for Gaslit Nation from a listener, and we're tremendously honored. Thank you so much, Nik Farr. We love our song. Here it is. We encourage all of our listeners to check out Nick Farr on Spotify. That's Nik, N-I-K F-A-R-R, and on Twitter, @Nik_Farr.
And we want to thank our tenacious editor for this episode, Karlyn Daigle, for being so awesome. Thank you so much Karlyn.
Gaslit Nation is presented by Dame Magazine, on the Critical Frequency Podcast Network. Other podcasts on the Critical Frequency Network include Range, Fury, and Tell Me About Your Mother. Check them out.
This episode was produced by Andrea Chalupa, with additional support from Critical Frequency. Our theme music is by David Whited, additional music is by Martin Wissenberg. Our cover art was drawn by Lukasz Lysakowski. Illustrations for each episode are drawn by James Guffman.