Dear Graduates: The Gaslit Nation Anniversary Special
Our little podcast is 1-year-old. We cannot express our gratitude enough to our Patreon donors and all our listeners who helped turn a fledgling biweekly show that we thought only our moms and our far-right stalkers would listen to into a community, giving us the independence we need to speak out on the issues of the day. We end the show by giving advice on how to survive encroaching authoritarianism and list some of the things we are grateful for – and that we will continue to fight for, odds be damned – in the year to come.
Sarah Kendzior: I'm Sarah Kendzior. I'm a journalist and the author of the book The View from Flyover Country.
Andrea Chalupa: I'm Andrea Chalupa, a writer and the screenwriter and producer of the upcoming journalistic thriller Mr. Jones.
Sarah Kendzior: And this is Gaslit Nation, a podcast examining corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of autocracy around the world.
Andrea Chalupa: And we are interrupting our summer reading series, the Get Un-gaslit reading series, to bring you a special anniversary celebration of Gaslit Nation.
Sarah Kendzior: One year. One year of hell, man. [laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: One year of hell.
Sarah Kendzior: In Trump time we've actually been on the air for like several centuries, because that's how it feels.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, we're two 70-year-old-something toothless women cackling around a whiskey bottle in a fishing shack somewhere far away, emotionally speaking.
Sarah Kendzior: Pretty much, pretty much. Yeah, and this is actually, this is just like how we started the show last year. We ended up taping it in June, which I guess we should say we're doing right now in case the apocalypse happens in the interim, and airing it in July, which is what we did before. So yeah. What should we talk about, Andrea?
Andrea Chalupa: Well, let's look back on how he got here, because I think...it's romantic. [laughter]
Sarah Kendzior: Very romantic. A beautiful love story.
Andrea Chalupa: So romantic. I would just say the origin story of Gaslit Nation, and I think it's important for anybody who has any curiosity about the origin story Gaslit Nation, or aspires to start a podcast, or elevate their voice in the world and fight for your own seat at the table. Because if Sarah and I pitched this series—
Sarah Kendzior: It would be completely rejected. We never would have gotten this on, so we built our own thing. But you go on and explain it.
Andrea Chalupa: So if you listen to the very first three episodes of Gaslit Nation where we go over the 2016 election like a crime scene, and go through all the forensics, you'll know how Sarah and I met, which was through the hashtag #TrumpSexTape, which was launched on Halloween night, 2016.
Sarah Kendzior: Fittingly.
Andrea Chalupa: And that's when she came crashing in my DMs. And we both saw the soft far-right coup with the Kremlin's very aggressive wealth, deeply-funded and sweeping help. And we were screaming about that and being labeled all sorts of things. It was lots of fun. And we went through a baptism by fire sort of friendship. We were basically boiled alive for several weeks together, so now we're like fused through that alchemy.
Sarah Kendzior: This is not going to make anyone want to start a podcast, Andrea. [laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: You too can grow up to be a mutant broadcaster with special powers. But so basically that's where it all began, and we stayed on the phone constantly. We were on the phone at like 3:00 a.m. on election night itself after the results had come in, and the world was shocked that Donald Trump had managed to steal the election. Or had won the election, as it was perceived by so many people at the time. It's amazing. You have to ask: how would he have done if we didn't have all that Kremlin help, and that dirty, dark Russian money floating around through his campaign and the RNC, and so forth? But yeah, we always had these conversations, the ones you hear on the show. We had those constantly throughout November and the years that followed, and we always sort of said to ourselves, "Wouldn't it be funny if we had a podcast, because what you just said was really interesting, and I think people should hear it to make sense of what's going on the world." And that was the joke we had. "Oh my gosh, you just podcasted," because Sarah would go on a rant while I'd be listening to her doing my dishes. And so we do this to each other. What you hear, it's like how we talk to each other.
Sarah Kendzior: We basically wanted an audience beyond just ourselves and the various espionage bodies that are probably listening into our phone calls. But what we didn't expect, and I want to get this out early, because it's important, was for the show to be successful. We basically thought it was going to be like our moms and our assorted stalkers listening to it. And so I want to express our deep gratitude to the Gaslit Nation listening audience, to our Patreon donors, to everyone who's supported us. Since we launched, there have been more and more women starting political podcasts, which we think is awesome. It's been great to see this kind of domination of the podcasting world by white men mostly in coastal cities. It's become much more diverse, and I don't think we necessarily created that. I think we're part of a broader movement in general, a changing of political discourse and who has a voice in it. I'm glad we didn't wait for our seat at the table and just built the table ourselves.
Andrea Chalupa: Yes, and as Sarah pointed out, our expectations could not have been lower. Our self-doubt could not have been higher. We really launched Gaslit Nation thinking, "Well, they're all gonna make fun of us." We thought maybe if we're lucky one episode might get some traction further down the road when we'd figured out what we're doing, but largely they're going to ignore us, and they're going to smear us and make fun of us, like they normally do. That's what we're signing up for. I wish we could take and bottle the self-doubt that we had and spray it all over our enemies, who could use more self-doubt. I can't even tell you. We kind of looked at each other and then just like Thelma and Louised it off into the Grand Canyon. And why would we start a podcast if that's how we felt about it? Well, we felt like the stakes were incredibly high. It was 2018, going into the midterm election, and we were just angry. Our anger basically overrode everything else, and that's what got us to finally get our act together and launch a podcast together. And I think this sort of enough is enough moment came when I was on set in Poland working on Mr. Jones. I would check in on American Twitter, and it would be like opening up a box and seeing all these screams coming out, like hitting you in the face. It was seriously like the final scenes of the Titanic. And I was just not wanting to come home at all, and I kept extending my stay in Europe working on the film. I kept finding excuses to avoid going home. Finally, I said to Sarah, "We're doing this podcast. I need something to come home to. I just can't go home otherwise." I flew back from Poland. I had maybe one week in New York City, where I live, and then I flew straight to St. Lewis. So I basically went from set on the film to your living room, Sarah, to launch Gaslit Nation.
Sarah Kendzior: Yep. Where it began.
Andrea Chalupa: And I remember us looking at your dining room table with recording equipment set up, and looking at each other and going, "Well, we could always edit." [laughter]
Sarah Kendzior: And edit we did. [laughter]
Andrea Chalupa: And we sat across from each other for three hours and just went through 2016, and what it felt like, and what we saw, and how painful that was, and just what we learned from it.
Sarah Kendzior: It's one of these things. When we do a show like this, it's almost like doing a constant living rerun, because what we've discovered is that every week there's some revelation about a notable figure embroiled in this crisis. For example, Bill Barr being up in Russia's business for many, many years and not having that come out in the confirmation hearings. There are always things in the past that emerge that give some clarity and insight into the current scandal, and so we're kind of forced to constantly relive not just 2016, but to re-evaluate everything, to kind of have this ongoing revision of history. And so today one of the things we wanted to do is kind of go over the last year, because what's amazing is we first started recording the show in June 2018. We thought things were pretty dire. We were in the middle of the Mueller probe, and we thought the news pace was very fast, and initially we had this kind of lofty goal of slowing things down and contextualizing them. And we did add context, I think, to current events, but it was like being at the beginning of a hurricane and not knowing it, and it still hasn't stopped a year later. Because I think within our first week there was the Helsinki summit.
Andrea Chalupa: Oh my God. That was like, "Welcome to Gaslit Nation." The Helsinki Hell Summit, where Putin is up there on the podium saying, "I want this, and I want this, and I want this. Now that I rule the world, you're gonna bring me this, and I want Bill Browder locked up in a cage so I can taunt him." It was this crisis after crisis as soon as we launched.
Sarah Kendzior: Yep. Which was, I mean, we didn't have to explain what the title meant anymore. But it's not quite how we how we wanted the world to go. I mean that's something that's honestly been a little frustrating with doing these shows. People think, you know, we're in it to win it for ourselves, whereas we really do think of this as a program to kind of discuss national affairs, international affairs, crises that often don't make it into the mainstream media. Or, if they do, they're played down because there are constraints. There are corporate constraints, there are people who are worried about seeming alarmist, seeming hysterical. Andrea and I don't really share those concerns. We wanted to bring a lot of that information to the fore but, damn, you know? What a year. I'm just kind of looking back. We started with Helsinki, within a couple months of that and the kind of realization nationwide that yes, Trump is a Kremlin asset. Yes, that has been playing since 2016. Yes, the government seems to know about it. And no, they didn't do anything about it. We went right into Kavanaugh and the Kavanaugh hearings, September 2018 and "The Death of Checks and Balances." And so you know those were those were very hard shows to tape at the time. I think one thing people really underestimate is the toll that this year has taken on American women. Especially women who are survivors of sexual assault, which is most women, certainly most women for sexual harassment. But in your personal life, I guess you have the choice, I don't know if you have the choice of whether or not to think about it, that's not really true. But as journalists, you have no choice but to cover for example, the Kavanaugh hearings. Regardless of your mood, regardless of your mental state in your heart and whether you feel like you can, and so that's been difficult, not just for us, but I think for the vast majority of female journalists, it was hard in that respect. It was hard to take the constant onslaught of misogyny. But, one of the hardest things was the result. You know, was the loss of checks and balances. I remember thinking when he got in and there were all these unanswered questions about him. There are questions about why Judge Kennedy had retired. There are questions about his finances, about massive debts that were suddenly paid off. There are, of course, questions about his history of sexual assault that remained. I don't know if there are unanswered. But there certainly were not consequences that he faced for them. But at the time, I think people had this kind of impression that as bad as he would be, they weren't put in a ringer. They weren't really rigging the Supreme Court. This wasn't really some kind of Republican coup. There is still this clinging to what remained of institutionalism and respect for that. And I think in retrospect, hopefully, people have woken up. I remember Senator Patrick Leahy saying basically this is the end. That the Senate is no more, like we don't have a system of checks and balances. We're just a useless nonfunctioning branch. And to hear that from a senator was really something. And I think we're seeing the results of this play out. We're seeing a lot of movements that have been in play by the Republicans for decades. For example, overturning Roe vs. Wade starting to come to a head with the erosion of that right on a state level, with the aim of getting it to a Supreme Court whose ruling is preordained. So, that's a frightening thing.
Andrea Chalupa: We kept saying in September of 2018, that with Kavanaugh, the judiciary in general, that's how, once they take the judiciary that those are the cage bars. That’s when the cage doors shut. And if you look at any sort of struggling democracy and kleptocracy around the world, it's the judiciary that protects the corruption, protects kleptocracy. So that was such a horrible month for us emotionally that was really tough and we were just so new to what we were doing and I think in general we were struggling with the rapid fire news of just how the global stakes of everything coming to pass as we knew it would finally from Helsinki, to the Supreme Court getting packed by these ideological judges. And, I think it was just the realization of "are we too late?"
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah and I think we're still seeing that play out because of course as this is playing out as Kavanaugh was being appointed, as we had those crazy hearings with unhinged Lindsey Graham and other actors who, at one point used to be critics of Trump, and had fallen in line. That's been something we've been observing over the last three years is just how people fall in line.
Andrea Chalupa: Susan Collins.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. Anyone that you think you can count on can be taken in.
Andrea Chalupa: The system will not hold. And the Republican Party, it turns out, will not keep them in check. Which was a revelation for some people at that time! And so with the sky falling, you and I were also struggling to understand the ins and outs of even running a podcast and how it all worked and working together. There was like a couple episodes that we recorded that we didn't even tape because we so dumb and struggling. We actually launched the show with the help of Dame magazine but it was like a temporary arrangement. Then we had to get shoved out of the nest, we had to like fly out of the nest eventually because it was a temporary arrangement with Dane magazine to help us learn the ropes and then get started from there. And that was just, we were like such little fledglings. In a hurricane, learning to use our wings in a hurricane. Then October comes and it's a month before the midterms. And before you and I could even afford it, before you and I even knew what we were doing, we went weekly. This is a crisis! We're gonna go weekly? Then we start launching all these contests saying, "If you knock on a thousand doors with us, you'll get signed copies of Sarah's book." I have to tell you now, Sarah found out about that contest in real-time, when we were recording.
Sarah Kendzior: Yes, I did! A lot of books went out.
Andrea Chalupa: I knew she'd be cool with it because the stakes are very high. So we just made it work. It was so terrifying and gut punching and all of it. And we just kept showing up and doing it. No matter how tired and exhausted and confused we were, we just kept showing up and showing up and showing up.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah that's what we have to do. I guess one of the reasons we're telling you this is, I think sometimes people in media, they like to put up this facade of professionalism or that everything comes easy. I feel like we need to take down that facade, because what I would like to see is more women getting involved in this. More women writers, more female Podcasters, or just more interesting people being in our media system. I think the media system needs to be broadened and I think it's good, in a way, for people to see the struggles that we incurred and that other people incurred, and that you can, in fact, get over these hurdles. Because what we need right now is transparency. We need honesty. Andrea and I were joking the other day that you can make an encyclopedia of criminals from this administration. There's so much left to be discovered. There are so many crises that we're facing simultaneously. We wish that there was better attention to that sort of thing instead of the core intrigue like Tales From the Palace that a lot of outlets have been churning out. That's something else and maybe we'll get to that a little later. I think that's changed over the last year is we've lost a lot of investigative reporting. If you look at the shape the media was in in 2018, what they were focusing on in terms of criminality. They were digging a lot deeper. With the decline of the Mueller probe, with its abrupt termination, there's been a loss of deep investigative research into all of these parties that have hijacked our government. We will continue to bring them up. There are other people out there doing a good job and bringing them up. But I think people want to look away from this. Understandably, I think the horror of it overwhelms them. The complexity of it overwhelms them. There are so many interlinked strands that it's difficult to to keep up. But it's necessary to do so.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, and it's necessary to stay engaged and that's why we did the podcast because we wanted to help people stay engaged. Whoever would benefit from it, even if it was five people, that was enough for us. You and I are on the phone all the time and have been for years, because we help each other stay engaged. Just the other day, you were visiting in New York City. Our editor Nick Torres was here with us, and I was cleaning up my bedroom, making my bed while you and I were chatting away talking about what we talk about on the show.
Sarah Kendzior: Oh, yeah. And we're just as much fun in real life.
Andrea Chalupa: And Nick, our editor, was like, "Wow, you guys really do talk about this stuff." Yeah. That's what you hear on the show is pretty much what we talk about all the time when we're together and it helps us stay engaged. And so any sort of area of interest that you have, any friend you have in that area of interest that helps you stay engaged, start a podcast about it, start a Patreon and support yourself. Get going even if even if your voice shakes. You'll find your voice over time. And you'll figure things out over time just like we did. And help will show up for you if you show up again and again.
Sarah Kendzior: If you build it they will come. Speaking of that, we had the result of the midterms, this is like the high point of optimism of Gaslit Nation I think was the "Blue Wave" episodes right after where Andrea was ecstatic. She now lived in a blue trifecta. And I have to give credit to Andrea for pounding the pavement and really getting out there and putting in all of this effort on the ground to elect more progressive and fair-minded candidates. Meanwhile, I was out in Missouri dealing with Claire McCaskill. At the time, I kept wanting to cover this on the show and this is one of those moments where I'm like, "Do I speak what I'm thinking?” Or do I stay honest, which in this case would be silent to an extent, and hope that Claire McCaskill would win. What I said is what I meant, which is that when you vote for a candidate, you're not just voting for that candidate, you're voting for a balance of power. What I wanted in 2018 was for the Democrats to take the Senate, to take the House, and to bring accountability to the Trump administration. And so I emphasized that in my attempt to get people to vote for the Democrats in Missouri. What was frustrating at the time, and the reason I'm bringing this up now is because it has relevance to what's happening and I've never really talked about it. Claire McCaskill in 2018 in Missouri just torpedoed her own campaign. She went around trying to pander to Trump voters, while simultaneously calling the Democrats of St. Louis crazy and radical and emphasizing that she was not one of them, which was interpreted by many black people in St. Louis and in Kansas City as a veiled racist remark. These are largely black cities and certainly more progressive Democrats, as an insult. And what she did was alienate her base, and it's possible she would have lost anyway. I think that we need to look at things like voter suppression and possibly even interference with Missouri. You also need to look at propaganda, dark money. There are so many factors in play in this election. So I'm not just saying this, but I am kind of giving a warning to the Democratic Party that this is a losing strategy. This attempt to inauthentically play the moderate that chastises the base. It's just, it's not the way to go. I see it happening now with people like Joe Biden and I see the opposite happening in a lot of the other candidates. Whether it's Warren, Harris, Buttigieg, O'Rouke, they're not doing that. They're generally speaking, not insulting, their base or alienating people. They're trying to express what their principles and what their policies are. And so I hope that people look at McCaskill's run and learn the lessons from it. Because, while Andrea lives in a blue trifecta, I live in a Red Handmaid's Tale, so it's really not what you want on a national scale.
Andrea Chalupa: Certainly, but you have to fight to get that trifecta. And it's not going to come without fighting and smart organization. I think what people are waking up to is that grassroots power is the only real power we have left. Grassroots power is the only reliable power we have left. And you can build movements. You can build movements that benefit election cycle after election cycle. Just like you saw John Ossoff in Georgia coming so close. And then, right after him, you have finally a big victory with the Democrats with Lucy McBath coming in. So you have right now, Lucy McBath, an African-American woman holding Newt Gingrich's seat. That's where the rabid Republican terrorist squad came from was Newt Gingrich coming into Congress. Now that seat is held by Lucy McBath. So that's a perfect example of what progress, persistence, and smart organization looks like. And so as dark-red as things may be wherever you live, just chip away. Just chip away, chip away, and shine your light and just keep showing up. We have the Gaslit Nation Action Guide, GaslitNationpod.com which shows you an entire buffet of options of how you can find your group, your family where you will be inspired and informed on how to keep showing up and just planting seeds and planting seeds. Those seeds will, election cycle after election cycle, continue to grow. And that's what this is all about; the persistence and refusing to give up. I can tell you from the few cases of success stories. There was a man who was trying to sue the Kremlin. I don't have the details off the top of my head. But, there was a businessman that went after the Kremlin where he felt that he was wronged by the Kremlin. I think they, in typical Putin fashion, stole money from him and he refused to give up. He refused to walk away, refused to say "that's it." And it was an incredible story of tenacity and he finally got somewhere with it. And so the whole key in life when you're dealing with these forces that we're up against, is you have to outlast them. Even if it's something that you build and leave behind after your final breath. You have to outlast them. And if you look at Orwell's work, he has a brilliant quote that says, "We are the dead." Which means, we're the generation that may not see the fruits of our labor. But at least we're planting the seeds that are going to outlast us. So we may all be the Living Dead, just doing all of its essential work that's going to fertilize the ground for future movements, future generations. But understand that they need us and that all of us need each other right now.
Sarah Kendzior: Exactly. Great David Bowie song based on it. I had to bring that up. Yeah. Speaking of things that died, the government died shortly after the midterms. Our jubilation over the Democrats taking the House, which at the time, we erroneously thought was going to lead to accountability for the Trump administration being enforced by the Democratic House was taken away when, in December 2018, the government shut down, the longest shutdown in U.S. history. And at the same time, a number of players from the Trump administration left, leaving us with a bunch of acting positions. Well that's always been the case, we've had this sort of rotating nightmare, Ferris wheel situation going on for the last couple of years. We lost James Mattis as secretary of defense. I always thought he got there by accident because Trump casts, people he doesn't hire them. He had catchy nicknames, he had been in the military, he looked the part. So, I think he accidentally got in there as a fairly competent person because he had the name "Mad Dog" and Trump like that. Anyway, he may have been what was keeping us from engaging in various wars that we've seen set to you lob on to, although who knows. And he left, we then got Whitaker as the A.G. The Mueller probe was chugging along. But, that shutdown was scary for a number of reasons and we covered it quite extensively. One of them was, as we said on this show many times, the Trump administration intends to strip the U.S. down and sell it for parts. And the question as to whether they would be able to carry out that scheme always had to do somewhat with the question of leverage. One of the reasons I became very alarmed at this administration early on, was in spring 2017, when they first began to propose completely repealing Obamacare with no solution in mind. And normally in the past, the GOP would not necessarily do this because they would know that this could potentially cost them an election but they were doing it brazenly. They were doing it smugly. They didn't care about who they hurt. And to me, that implied they don't think that there's going to be free and fair elections in the future. It implied that we were at the end of a coup instead of the beginning of one. I became very alarmed about that. I was right to be. Despite my article about that for Marie Claire, it landed me a hit piece. I think it was the new Republican in other publications saying, "Look at this silly little girl so worried about authoritarianism." Andrea got her share of those as well. It eventually ended, and you know, I don't know. Do you have thoughts?
Andrea Chalupa: I wish those remained hit pieces. I wish all those people that wrote the pieces attacking us could be celebrating now. But what idiots. What alarmists, Silly Nancys we were.
Sarah Kendzior: We would be having our own Gaslit Nation "we were so, so wrong celebration" show like—
Andrea Chalupa: "Sorry guys false alarm!" We're just sitting back in these lounge chairs breathing in all this fresh-air democracy. But yeah. No, so we regret that those hit pieces did not age well. We regret that very deeply, we assure you. So where are we now?
Sarah Kendzior: So the shutdown has ended. I was gonna go to the end of the Mueller probe which followed afterwards, unless you've got anything you want to add about what the shutdown meant. I meant we did an entire shutdown episode.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, the shutdown was bad. It was Battle Royale, the original version where it's like, "Can you fly? Will your plane fall out of the sky? Will the air traffic controllers be too sleep deprived and stressed by having to work extra jobs on the side to support their families?” That was atrocious.
Sarah Kendzior: Well, it also, though, when I look at it in retrospect, and when I look at what the Democratic leadership in the House has been doing since, I'm looking at the shutdown in a different light. Because what happened, of course, was the House gets in. We assumed that one of the first tasks of the House would be combating corruption in the Trump administration and potentially moving for impeachment. Right off the bat, Rashida Tlaib, for example, is like, "We're going to impeach the mother fucker." And that, at the time you need to remember, was not a controversial idea. That was something that Democrats had been talking about since 2017 when the first articles of impeachment were filed. And the reason that Democrats are talking so much about impeachment is simple, because Trump commits an impeachable act every single week and did so for two years. So yes, you don't really have to ask, well why did they want to impeach Trump? It's because Trump committed a multitude of impeachable offenses that threatened our national security, public safety, and sovereignty. This is basic stuff. During the shutdown, Democratic inactivity on all those fronts was explained by the fact that, of course, they had to deal with the shutdown. They had to deal with the pragmatic effects of it, the effects of it on the economy, the effects on things like national parks, which were being destroyed, and also just as a kind of ultimate example of GOP obstructionism, of a mentality that certainly predates Trump. You know, that we saw with Mitch McConnell all throughout the Obama administration. This "we're going to do whatever we want. We're gonna destroy whatever we want and there's nothing you can do about it." And that's a frightening thing to have to deal with. And of course, Trump shares this as well. The GOP wants a one-party state. Trump wants to be an autocrat. Together they work as this kind of battering ram on American democracy. Then when it ended, that's honestly when things, our saddest episode, our worst week was that week in the beginning of March. The shutdown had ended. Manafort had gone to court twice, was declared a person who had led an otherwise blameless life by a judge who had been previously threatened. There had also been a jury that was previously threatened. This is something we talk a lot about on this show are the number of threats public officials and others have received. That's what happens when a transnational crime syndicate controls your government. For some reason, they're not given the attention that they deserve. Roger Stone also was in court threatening judges. He faced no consequences, still hasn't as of the taping of this show. He's still, you know, rolling around talking about putting out books. Manafort has been moved to Riker’s. But anyway, the point of this is that was already a very dire week. And then, what we didn't know is that shortly after that Manafort sentencing, the Mueller probe quietly ended on March 5th. Mueller met with Bill Barr. We don't know really what the circumstances were of that meeting. We don't know fully what was discussed and we don't know whose idea was it at this point in time to end the probe. But what we did know unfortunately, was that all of our suspicions about the efficacy of this probe were bearing out. And you know Andrea and I, unlike the "Mueller is going to save us" crowd, had doubts about the Mueller probe since 2018. And those doubts were based on how the probe had actually worked and the lack of repercussions for key actors. The lack of indictments, the lack of interviews of people like Kushner or Ivanka, Steve Bannon or Julian Assange. You had the Manafort fake plea deal. Which seemed, very obviously fake when it happened, because Manafort does not plead, Manafort does not cooperate with prosecutors. He's like a crime machine. You had people like Papadopoulos and Van der Zwaan doing extremely small sentences. And worst of all, you had these plea deals that went absolutely nowhere for people like Flynn, who are serious dangers. Not just to American democracy, but to the world. This is a maniac trader who wants to profit off of nuclear material. How much more dangerous can you get? Mueller is very insistent that Flynn not go to jail, that he not be sentenced. And so that gave us some doubts. Then Bill Barr, the Iran-Contra cleanup guy, gets hired. Finally replacing Whittaker and that was the end of the probe. But not the end of our discussion about it. What are your thoughts? What memories do you have Andrea?
Andrea Chalupa: This wonderful week, all of my memories are in the Gaslit Nation transcripts available on our Website GaslitNationpod.com. But when you read our transcripts it's like, "Wow. That happened, and that happened." It's like all the little details of the horror show. But I think the power is still ours, because we can out organize them. The power is still ours because we can refuse to give up. So, I think what we're experiencing are some birthing pains of a transition and to a more aware electorate. And I think that has given me hope. So when Barr came out with his cover up and the mainstream media fell for it, and the New York Times and Washington Post ran headlines saying Mueller exonerates Trump. Which, of course, we now know and anybody who'd been paying attention the entire time knew, it wasn't true. You still had polling coming out saying that Democrats, Republicans, Independents overwhelmingly wanted to see the report. They were not ready to submit to Barr like the mainstream media had. They wanted to see the report. So I think we're living in times that are at a dangerous crossroads and people are paying attention. They're paying far more attention than the establishment gives them credit for. I think it's in the benefit of the establishment including cable news to create a reality show and to divide us and to create conflict when the actual reality is that everything is becoming harder for families. And on top of that, you have all this anxiety of a deliberately chaotic administration and a lack of accountability and corruption and widespread corruption and power corruption. And when you have this sort of atmosphere, people's lives are on the line and they know it and they want to protect themselves. They want to protect what they love. And when you want to protect your family, you're paying attention, and you care and you are fighting for your life. You are literally fighting for your life. So I do believe that that energy exists out there, and it's going to overwhelm whatever "divide and conquer" strategies and whatever lack of moral leadership the establishment tries to inflict on us. I think that the last power we have that's reliable, it's going to save us and get us through this storm, is the local level; is the grassroots, are the families across the political spectrum that are like "what is going on? I want my country back. I want to feel safe."
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah absolutely. We've talked in the show a lot about "savior syndrome", about this false belief that there's going to be some sort of official, some sort of authority figure who's going to swoop in and make everything better. You know, this belief that the worst can't happen. It goes all the way back to 2016, where it was like Trump can't win the primary, he can't win the general, he'll be checked and balanced. If it was really bad, Obama would say something. If it was really bad Comey would say something. And then these saviors began to emerge like Comey who's going to save us, Mueller is going to save us. And ultimately that turned into Pelosi is going to save us. Every time somebody is going to save us it's always said that they have a "secret plan." It parallels the Q-Anon sort of mentality of just trust the plans, sit back. Things will work out. All these things that don't seem to make sense to you, actually have some sort of internal logic that you as a mere citizen are not entitled to receive, and we always say that is total bullshit. I mean first of all, in the vast majority of cases, there is no secret plan. Second of all, yes, as a citizen you're entitled to know what your representatives are doing. You're entitled to know their opinions, their logic, their justifications for policies that structure your lives. You should never forget that that public servants are there to serve the public. To go back to that week in March where the Mueller probe ended and at the time we had no idea, nobody knew that it was over. We got the Barr memo a few weeks later and it was only in April that we found out that that was the week the probe died. I still find it fascinating that the Mueller probe died the day after the House Judiciary Committee sent out their list of 81 requested individuals to be subpoenaed to get documents from, to get testimony from. Nothing has really come of that list as of yet. And then suddenly, the Mueller probe shuts down. So, in my mind, that's evidence of a clamp down. It's evidence of intimidation of all of the individuals who are trying to enforce accountability. Which brings me to the weird situation, which hopefully by the time the show airs may have been rectified, of Nancy Pelosi and what she's doing. Because in that same week, you get Paul Manafort with his very light sentences and the praise bestowed on him by a judge. You get Mueller shutting down the probe or being forced to by Barr. We don't really know. And then on March 11th, Pelosi comes out, says very clearly, “I'm going to make news. We are not impeaching Trump.” Basically, no matter what you want, no matter what the base wants, no matter what the Constitution decrees, no matter what laws he breaks, she said at the time he's not worth it. Which, for us, was just horrifying. Because when we heard that, the way we interpreted that statement, and I think we were right to do so, is America is not worth it. Americans are not worth it. The most vulnerable citizens, migrant kids kept captive in cages stolen from their parents. They're not worth it. Jamal Khashoggi butchered, Washington Post journalists savagely murdered. He's not worth it. We're living in atrocious horrible times. Times where we need to fight as hard as we can. And so we were just absolutely baffled and horrified that the leader of the House Democrats, someone who finally had some power, because for two years the Democrats didn't have any power. We didn't have any of the branches, it was very difficult to actually pass legislation and move things forward. So they sort of had an excuse for that. The idea that there would be accountability. That the Democrats would stand up for America, for the American people was part of what propelled the blue wave. That's why people were out in the streets, wanting to take their country back. It was, in many ways, not a partisan thing. It was not about party politics. It was about democracy. It was about rights. It was about principles. And so that was a shocking situation and two months after, three months after that, we're still in it. Where support for impeachment is growing and growing. We have major presidential candidates all advocating for it. We have at least 60 members of the House, including a Republican, advocating for it and we're just left with the barrier of Pelosi who won't even open an inquiry. It's not a matter of like getting the vote and then we impeach and then we all kind of get out of there, it's just opening an inquiry, presenting information to the public, hashing out all of the issues that you know we've discussed on this show and that Americans are so deeply and rightfully concerned about.
Andrea Chalupa: Well you can't play by the same old rulebook when the rules have been torn up. It's not the same country. Things are changing. Things are changing. And so you have to be responsive to the energy on the ground. And that's your base. I mean the Republicans do well because their base is their boss. The Democrats did extremely well, historically well, in a midterm election because the base drove that victory. The base was the boss and the Democratic establishment benefited from that energy. We go into this in our interview with Greg Sargent of The Washington Post. So maybe some of this is that repetitive by now but it's just the simple fact that if you show up for your base your base will show up for you. That's called leadership.
Sarah Kendzior: If you've learned anything from this show, everybody is quite a mixed bag. And there's in every individual lessons you could learn about what's effective. Sometimes there's a difference between what's effective and what's moral, and what you would like to learn are the pragmatic strategic tips that allow somebody to thrive as a political actor. But you don't want to abandon principle, abandon morality at the same time, and I think that that's honestly, on a smaller scale, like within the Democratic Party, that's something that people are trying to reconcile. They think they can't have it both ways. They think they can't have a good strategy and play to win, while also preserving what's right and standing by their principles and taking what seemed to be rebellious stances that really are. When you're advocating for healthcare, when you're advocating for action on climate change, and when you're advocating for impeachment you're actually reflecting a majority position that's been painted as radical. You know that's been painted as rebellious, was actually, I think, common sense. And so yeah, that brings us into the 2020 territory and probably by the time this airs there will have been debates. Our favorite Nazi hunter, Elizabeth Warren, will have kicked some ass.
Andrea Chalupa: We love Nazi hunters, and that's what we need in a time of Nazis, is a Nazi hunter like Elizabeth Warren. Any woman with a plan, and any woman with a proven track record like that is someone that I think we could trust. And she shows moral leadership again and again. She's been on the forefront and she's taken the knocks and she really believes in what she says and does her homework and shows up for us. And I'm really excited to see her fire up so many people in the base and fire up so many people on the ground. I have big faith in her and how she's planting a lot of important seeds right now that we desperately need planted. So it's going to be an exciting election thanks to Elizabeth Warren.
Sarah Kendzior: Yep. And we will be covering that when we return with live immediately taped episodes starting, I think, in early October. So what we're hoping to do is to kind of counterbalance what we expect to be the continuing misogyny that's surrounded campaign coverage, historically, as well as in this election. Right now it's June, and we're beginning to see the tide turn a little bit in the coverage of candidates like Warren and Harris, who are leading candidates but sometimes had aspects of their personalities or their demeanors emphasized over their actual policy plans. You know, Warren has broken through that big time by just plan, after plan, after plan, and is now known as a person that has plans, that has solutions. Which, as far as campaign strategies go, is about the best you can be. Considering, of course, that her plans actually have substance. It's amazing to me that this is thought of as such a remarkable thing that she's doing. It's so unusual. It's like, wow. Warren actually thought through these policies and came up with solutions that worked for the public. It's like, "What a novel idea." When everyone else is looking for slogans and images, I think in so many ways she's changing the expectations of what a campaign should be, what a candidate should be, and for the better. I think she's raising our standards at a time when our standards have completely plummeted because of Trump. And I don't want to be all like Elizabeth Warren fangirl, it's not my style, but that is how impressed I am by her. I kind of thought for 2020, I'm going to vote for the person who's not Trump, and that's still true. No matter who it is, I am voting for the Democrat. That is not Donald Trump. But I kind of thought that's probably about as good as it is it's gonna get. With Warren, I actually see it as a transformative figure. I see someone who does seem to be looking out for the general public, for everybody. [Someone] who has really thought through her plans and policies, and who has the capacity to possibly turn things around. You know no matter what happens in 2020 we're in for a lot of trouble. We're in for a lot of chaos.
Sarah Kendzior: A lot of instability unfortunately, I think we're in for violence if we do get to a point where she was able to become the president, which is it's like an overwhelming thought, it’s almost difficult to contemplate. I don't know. I said earlier that whoever wins, if a Democrat wins, they're going to be stuck dealing with the shit from like the last four years and beforehand left behind by Trump. The destruction of all of these institutions the destruction from within of our country. And I just want somebody to like shovel up that shit. And so Elizabeth Warren in that sense is like the shit shovel or of my dreams. That's what I look for in a candidate, that's what actually inspires me. So yes, it's interesting to contemplate. I like her because she makes me think about an alternative future. And I've seen a lot of people reacting to her this way with the sort of jolt. You’re jolted out of the Trumpian reality, jolted out of the reality show into a future that you can envision raising your children in and thriving in and not constantly having to be in a reactive mode. Not constantly having to defend yourself from all of these hostile forces. And so hopefully that's what will come to pass. But as Andrea always points out, it’s the grass roots that make that possible it’s people's hard work and determination. They make that possible. So if you like her or if you like any other candidates, I don't want to be like you must vote for this person, that's not the message we're trying to send at all. Whoever you like. Go and fight for that person, unless that person is Trump, and then you know, find a new show.
Andrea Chalupa: I think we should close off our anniversary special with advice to young people who are inheriting this world and who are looking at this historic time of, "Wow, how do we navigate all this?" And I think you and I should just look back on when we were 22 years old. We faced that, at a time of George W. Bush, Iraq war, 9/11. So at 22 years old, when we were just leaving college, entering the workforce, it had that same feeling of global collapse and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding through the sky. At the same time, my gosh so much has gotten better like when we were 22, in our early 20s, gay marriage was being debated. Now it's the law of the land. You have according to PewSocialTrends.org, you have far more women in positions of power than you did when Sarah and I were 22 years old. You've also had the rise of social media which, of course, has been abused by tyrants and continues to be abused. But at the same time, it's a level to the playing field and elevated a lot of marginalized voices. So for instance when we were coming up there was Howard Dean, the governor of Vermont which was a trailblazing candidate who really fired people up and was progressive and everyone rallied around him. The Democratic establishment of time wasn't thrilled about him, didn't see him as a winnable candidate against George W. Bush. And so a stupid little scream that he made in a campaign rally, which was nothing, lost him the election. Then you had John Kerry who no one was thrilled about swooping in and being the safe bet, and if Twitter was around, they would have protected Howard Dean and they would have fact-checked this stupidity in the media. They would have named and shamed anybody that dared treat this non-scandal as a scandal. And Howard Dean could have stood a chance of going through. So what we want the young people to understand is Sarah and I graduated college into a very dark world, a very dark place and things are about to get darker. But at the same time, there was a great deal of hard-fought progress that was won along the way that improved the quality of life for countless people. So never lose sight of that.
Sarah Kendzior: Yeah. No, I agree with that. I mean, I think this is typical on this show. My view of the last 15 to 20 years is darker than that. You know, it was crises after crises. You know I was 22 and 9/11 happened and then the Iraq war and then the financial crisis and then the austerity period and then the rise of Trump and the rise of the authoritarianism that I'd studied my whole life and had dreaded my whole life. But one thing I have learned is that things don't always get better, but you get stronger. You can get stronger by living through those things and surviving those things and as you survive this. That's nothing to be humble about if you are able to get through these tough times. The other thing I've learned from having a lot of ups and downs myself during those decades is that you should fight on behalf of others. I think before you fight for yourself, I think if everyone is looking at who is the worst off, who is struggling, who needs help, who is vulnerable, and focusing there. If everyone was doing that, we would be able to lift each other up and back each other up as a society. And that's also a power that no regime can take away from you. When they take away rights, when they change laws, you're still left with your conscience. You're still left with your values and you're still left with how you treat other people and that's something that you choose. You still have that power. So I encourage you to use that. I encourage you to reflect on what your own moral compass is. And also, you know as Andrea brought up, social media to really remember that freedom of speech is not always guaranteed. I mean, yes, it's guaranteed in our Constitution, but as autocracies rise freedom of the press, freedom of speech is always something that's under attack. So treasure this while you have it, document what is going on, spread the word, form alliances with similar minded people and fight back and treasure your right to the written and spoken word.
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah. And I would add advice to that is stand in your truth. Always stand in your truth and just focus on what that truth is and don't allow anybody to gaslight you and abuse you. Just point out the simple truth nothing outside of yourself exists like what you know inside yourself to be true. Believe your eyes and your ears and just speak from there and your voice will be heard by those who need to hear it. And that is exactly what Sarah and I have practiced all these years. And I would say also refuse to be perfect. Yeah you are a human being. None of us are perfect. Even the decision makers you're going up against throughout your entire life. They're not perfect. Never ever forget that that none of us are perfect and so just don't make a commitment to being perfect ever cause that's impossible. Make a commitment to always keep learning and to always stay curious and honest, honest with yourself and just don't be afraid to just say how you feel about any situation. I think when you're scared, I think when you're navigating a new place, new work environment, a new city, if you're scared, have conversations with yourself. Why are you scared, and what scares you the most? And that's what I did when I was in my early 20s and I went off to Ukraine alone to backpack. My parents didn't want me to go. But I went anyway, and I had to saved up the money and I just showed up and I started having conversations in my head with myself because I was scared and a beautiful voice kept answering my concerns that I had developed such a strong bond with myself and learning who I was and I think it's so important to check in with yourself as you go through life. That's what's going to strengthen your intuition and draw you to the people and experiences you need to ultimately get where you know you deserve to go.