A weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker's executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden.
Big Tech Turns on Trump
In late 2019, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. This week, the President was impeached a second time, for inciting the January 6th insurrection against the government. Perhaps as significantly, several tech companies, including the biggest social-media platforms, have severed ties with the President, suspending or eliminating his accounts, and many of the country’s largest corporations have halted donations to the Republican members of Congress who objected to certifying the election of Joe Biden. Sheelah Kolhatkar joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss Big Tech’s new opposition to Trump’s rhetoric and the role that social-media platforms play in government.
Lawrence Wright on How the Pandemic Response Went So Wrong
The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine mark what we hope will be the beginning of the end of the global pandemic. The speed of vaccine development has been truly unprecedented, but this breakthrough is taking place at a moment when the U.S. death toll has also reached a new peak—over three thousand per day. How was the response to such a clear danger mismanaged so tragically? The New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright—who has reported on Al Qaeda and the Church of Scientology—has followed the story of the pandemic unfolding in the United States since the first lockdowns in March. Wright walks David Remnick through key moments of decision-making in the Trump White House: from the response to the first reports of a virus to botched mask mandates and testing rollouts, up through the emergency-use authorization of the vaccine. The Trump Administration bears much responsibility for the bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Wright also finds ample evidence of larger, systemic breakdown. “The magnitude of our failure,” he tells David Remnick, “is unparalleled.”
Democrats Take the Senate, and a Mob Storms the Capitol
On January 6th, pro-Trump fanatics stormed the Capitol, galvanized by the President’s claims that the 2020 election had been stolen. That day, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were declared the victors of their respective Senate run-off races against Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, two champions of Trump’s incendiary theories. Charles Bethea, a New Yorker staff writer based in Atlanta, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss whether this is the end of an era or just the beginning.
The Republican Rift in Georgia
In the past month, a fracture has opened up in the G.O.P. between those who grudgingly accept Joe Biden’s win and those who falsely claim that the election was rigged. In Georgia, supporters of Donald Trump have turned on Republican election officials—in some cases, with threats of violence. The Atlanta-based staff writer Charles Bethea explains why this rift is dangerous for Republicans. Georgia’s two incumbent Senate seats are up for grabs in a runoff election in January; the G.O.P. needs to retain at least one to maintain its majority and to give Mitch McConnell near-veto power over the Biden agenda. But the more that the President and his followers attack the election, the less likely Republican voters are to turn out to vote—which would create an advantage for the Democratic Senate hopefuls. Bethea spoke with Gabe Sterling, an election official in Georgia; Lin Wood, an attorney who is fuelling conspiracy theories; and voters at a Trump rally in Valdosta.
The Rise and Collapse of the Grand Old Party
The Republican and Democratic Parties can seem like permanent institutions, but their agendas today bear little resemblance to what they once stood for. Political parties have repeatedly died out in American politics, often after periods of instability and infighting. [Jelani Cobb](https://www.newyorker.com/contributors/jelani-cobb) joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how drastically the two major parties have changed over time, and whether Trumpism has wrecked the G.O.P.
Abigail Spanberger and Ayanna Pressley on the Democratic Rift
In November, when the Democratic Party lost seats in the House and a hoped-for victory in the Senate fizzled, centrist Democrats were quick to blame left-leaning progressives. Rhetoric about democratic socialism and defunding the police, they said, had scared away moderate voters, who rejected Donald Trump but voted for Republicans down ballot. Abigail Spanberger, who represents the conservative Seventh Congressional District of Virginia, made that argument on a post-election call with fellow House members which was then leaked to the press. She tells David Remnick that the Party cannot achieve anything without bipartisan dealmaking—however unwelcome it may be to progressives. But Ayanna Pressley, who represents the liberal Seventh Congressional District of Massachusetts, doesn’t buy it. In order to prove Democrats’ value to voters, she says, the Party must stand up for ideals and not seek compromise. Pressley feels that a sufficiently populist approach to pandemic relief, for example, can sway Republican voters. “We know, before the pandemic, [many] families didn’t have four hundred dollars saved to weather a disruptive life event,” she points out. “And I’m sure many of those families were Republicans. So the ultimate persuasion tool is impact.”