25 episodes

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

KCRW's Left, Right & Center KCRW

    • News

Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.

    Is Russia’s war endangering democracy?

    Is Russia’s war endangering democracy?

    It’s been nine months since Russia invaded Ukraine, starting a war that has killed at least 200,000 military personnel and approximately 40,000 civilians, according to U.S. officials. 

    Winter is fast approaching, and it seems like both sides might be gearing up to fight well into next year.


    At the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit, world leaders issued a statement saying they “deplore in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” They demanded a “complete and unconditional” withdrawal from Ukraine. 

    Thousands of Russian citizens have fled the country to avoid the draft, while others have been arrested for protesting their government’s actions. Are Russians responsible for President Vladimir Putin’s decisions? And could this be the moment a lasting empire falls in Russia?

    Plus, Russia is not the only democracy worldwide that has shifted in recent years. Leading up to the recent midterm elections, President Biden said repeatedly democracy itself was at risk, a sentiment shared by the majority of Americans. Is America’s democracy adjusting to current society or are we falling into authoritarianism?


    Host David Greene discusses with special guest Anne Applebaum, historian and staff writer at The Atlantic, about what’s at stake for the future of Russia and Ukraine, as well as her recent article, “The Russian Empire Must Die.”


    Plus, Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, joins on the left; and Sarah Isgur, staff writer at The Dispatch, on the right, weigh in on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legacy after her announcement to not seek reelection to Democratic leadership.

    What made Pelosi special? How did she become an enemy for Republicans? And where will House Democrats go from here?

    • 50 min
    Dems make final push during lame duck session

    Dems make final push during lame duck session

    The balance of power in the nation’s capital has finally been decided — Democrats will keep control of the Senate and Republicans grabbed the majority in the House, though by slim margins.

    And as both sides decide their party’s leaders, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced she would not seek reelection for Democratic leadership.

    But before a new Congress begins its work next year, the lame duck season has begun. The Democrats have already secured bipartisan support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect same-sex marriages if the Supreme Court decided to overturn that right. It earned 62 votes — enough to overcome a filibuster — so it may be on its way to becoming law. 

    With all its technicalities, is this a good bill? What does it say about this moment in American culture that 12 Republicans supported it? 

    And Democrats are also eager to move the needle on the DACA program that protects “Dreamers,” but why? How are Republicans responding with calls for more border security?

    What other legislation can we expect to see coming down the pipeline over the next two months?

    Plus, Donald Trump announced his presidential bid for 2024, despite being blamed for his hand-picked candidates losing. Are Republicans ready to move past Trump? 

    Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, on the left; and Sarah Isgur, staff writer at The Dispatch, on the right. 

    And special guests Jim Hobart, partner at Public Opinion, and Margie Omero, principal at GBAO Strategies, weigh in on exit poll trends and why certain issues deeply resonated with voters. 

    • 50 min
    Republicans didn’t get a red wave. What does it mean for 2024?

    Republicans didn’t get a red wave. What does it mean for 2024?

    Millions of people cast their ballots in the 2022 midterm elections this week — though votes are still being counted — and neither Democrats nor Republicans saw the results they expected.

    A sitting president’s party often takes a beating in a midterm election, so Democrats were preparing to lose their majorities in the House and Senate. Despite sky-high inflation and sinking approval ratings for President Biden, Republicans won far fewer seats in the House than anyone predicted. And some competitive Senate candidates, like Pennsylvania Republican candidate Mehmet Oz, underperformed. 

    There’s still a chance, though much smaller than before, that Republicans could control both houses of Congress. Was this a repudiation from voters on both sides? Could this election be the start of a reckoning in both parties?

    The issue of abortion played a large role in this election, especially for Democrats. Plus, inflation and the economy were top of mind for most voters. But much of the conservative messaging focused on crime and immigration. 

    Did Republicans misread their base? Did they suffer for promoting abortion bans, when the majority of the country doesn’t agree with that stance? And what did Democrats get right in their campaigns?

    Plus, a healthy portion of Republican candidates that questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election and backed by former President Trump lost their bids. Meanwhile, more moderate conservatives won by significant margins. 

    Did Trump’s handpicked candidates harm Republicans overall? Will this showing encourage the GOP to move past Trump’s hold on the party? 

    And what does all of this mean for the 2024 presidential bid?

    Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, on the left; and Jim Hobart, partner at Public Opinion Strategies, on the right. 

    And special guest Molly Ball, national political correspondent at TIME Magazine, weighs in on how this election could reshape politics and discusses her cover piece for TIME Magazine, “How Democrats Defied History in the Midterms and What it Means for 2024.” 

    • 50 min
    Crime, inflation, democracy: What will sway voters?

    Crime, inflation, democracy: What will sway voters?

    With only a few days before midterm elections, a number of key races across the country are heating up, putting the capital’s balance of power on the ballot. 

    A recent NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist national poll shows the country has swung by six points in favor of Republican candidates, who are now more confident they can take control of the House.

    For Democrats, who are trying to hold onto their slim majority, a loss of control could bring their agenda to a standstill. But would this give President Biden more freedom to negotiate with less pressure to please his party?

    This week, Biden delivered a speech and said this election is specifically about our democracy, addressing the hundreds of election deniers running for office across the country. But many voters say the price of gas, inflation and the economy are their top issues this cycle. 

    While it made sense for Biden to speak about preserving democracy, should he have addressed the economy or inflation? Will Democrats suffer at the ballot box for not laying out their vision for the economy?

    Plus, the issue of crime in Wisconsin has taken center stage in the Senate race between incumbent Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Mandela Barnes. Did progressive messaging around public safety and crime hurt Democrats?

    And another significant Senate race in Nevada has Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro fighting to hold onto her seat against Republican Adam Laxalt. Are Democrats wrongfully assuming they’ve locked down the Latino vote? And will Republicans be able to peel off that voting bloc?

    Host David Greene discusses with Elizabeth Bruenig, staff writer at The Atlantic, on the left; and Sarah Isgur, staff writer at The Dispatch, on the right. 

    Also, a man broke into Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco last week with the intention of kidnapping her and breaking her kneecaps. While the Speaker was in D.C., the man attacked her husband, Paul, with a hammer and fractured his skull. How did Nancy Pelosi become a target for far-right extremists? And how can politicians ensure their words don’t lead to violence?

    Special guest Molly Ball, national political correspondent at Time Magazine, weighs in on the rise of political violence and discusses her bestselling biography about the Speaker called “Pelosi.”

    • 50 min
    Scaring voters — just in time for Halloween

    Scaring voters — just in time for Halloween

    Midterm elections are a week and a half away, which could alter the balance of power in the nation’s capital. Millions of people have already cast their ballots, and overall voter turnout is projected to be one of the highest ever for a midterm. 

    The Senate race in Pennsylvania could be crucial for Democrats to pick up and hang onto control. The fight between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz is narrowing, and the candidates debated for the first and only time this week. Oz attempted to appease both sides on the abortion debate, but did he alienate everyone instead? And how will Fetterman’s ongoing recovery from a stroke this summer sit with voters? 

    Plus, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are holding events throughout the country to advocate for their parties. Both are using scare tactics — just in time for Halloween — to persuade voters the other party has become too extreme.

    Is this argument more effective for Republicans or Democrats? And, is this actually a country full of political extremists? 

    Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, on the left; and Sarah Isgur, staff writer at The Dispatch, on the right. 

    And, special guest Kimberly Atkins Stohr, senior opinion writer at the Boston Globe, weighs in on the future of affirmative action in higher education. Atkins Stohr discusses how universities could uphold diversity if the Supreme Court strikes affirmative action down, and her recent column “Affirmative action in college admissions is at risk.” 

    And finally, a Halloween treat of Sarah Isgur’s secret skill.

    • 50 min
    Republican-led Congress could tie up Biden agenda

    Republican-led Congress could tie up Biden agenda

    With nearly three weeks until the midterm elections in November, Republicans may have a good shot at gaining the majority in both the House and Senate.

    Democrats saw boosted support over the summer after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but that enthusiasm may be waning. The tide may be turning for Republicans, despite trailing Democrats just one month ago. A New York Times-Siena College poll shows a bump in support for Republicans in recent weeks. 

    Plus, President Biden’s approval ratings plunged over the summer to record lows because of high gas prices and inflation, and they still haven’t completely recovered. Nearly half of likely voters say they strongly disapprove of Biden’s job performance.

    Republicans only need to pick up five seats in Congress to gain the majority, and just one for control of the Senate. So, what would the first changes a Republican-controlled Congress would make? And how would a conservative legislative branch work with Biden on matters like abortion, Russia’s war against Ukraine, or a possible recession?

    Host David Greene discusses with Mo Elleithee, executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, on the left; and Sarah Isgur, staff writer at The Dispatch, on the right.

    Plus, the new Supreme Court session is in full swing, but many Americans are questioning if the highest court has become too politicized. Special guest Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate and author of “Lady Justice: Women, The Law and the Battle to Save America,” weighs in on judicial gender parity, and why she’s worried about an uprising among those in the legal profession. 

    Despite President Biden’s promise to unify the country, our politics seem more divisive than ever. Are universities to blame? And is an overrepresentation of liberals in higher education changing our political sphere?

    • 50 min

Top Podcasts In News

The Economist
John Spencer
Selim Karakaya
BBC World Service
BBC World Service
BBC Radio 5 live

You Might Also Like

Josh Barro, Very Serious Media
Josh Barro and Ken White
Slate Podcasts
FiveThirtyEight, 538, ABC News, Nate Silver
Vox
New York Times Opinion

More by KCRW

KCRW
KCRW
KCRW
KCRW, Allison Behringer
KCRW
KCRW