255 episodes

Corbyn! Trump! Brexit! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting. TALKING POLITICS is the podcast that will try to make sense of it all. Each Thursday, in Cambridge, David Runciman will talk to the most interesting people around: novelists, comedians, historians, philosophers - and even a few politicians - and ask them what they think is going on... Democracy is feeling the strain everywhere. What might happen next? How bad could it get? As the crazy stuff happens, TALKING POLITICS will be on it. It’s the political conversation everyone is having: please join us.

TALKING POLITICS David Runciman and Catherine Carr

    • News

Corbyn! Trump! Brexit! Politics has never been more unpredictable, more alarming or more interesting. TALKING POLITICS is the podcast that will try to make sense of it all. Each Thursday, in Cambridge, David Runciman will talk to the most interesting people around: novelists, comedians, historians, philosophers - and even a few politicians - and ask them what they think is going on... Democracy is feeling the strain everywhere. What might happen next? How bad could it get? As the crazy stuff happens, TALKING POLITICS will be on it. It’s the political conversation everyone is having: please join us.

    Trump vs Iran: Is it for Real?

    Trump vs Iran: Is it for Real?

    David and Helen talk to Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor at the Economist, about the fallout from the killing of Soleimani and the future of American power. Is Trump a madman or is he a realist (or is he neither)? What sort of threat does Iran pose to American interests in the region and the wider world? And what has all this got to do with oil and climate change? Plus, in the week Trump's impeachment trial gets underway, we ask who or what can limit the power of the presidency.


    Talking Points: 


    The narrative on the killing of Soleimani has changed: was this a victory for the United States?
    - The shooting down of the Ukranian plane has put the Iranian leadership on the back foot and constrained their ability to weaponise the outrage against the United States.
    - But when the dust settles, it might not play to America’s advantage.
    - The Quds Force will carry on.


    There is a tension between the need to reassert American power in the region and the problem of Iraq.
    - The Americans may be more disliked in Iraq now than the Iranians.
    - The Americans are playing with a handicap; the Iraqi political class shields Iran, but not the U.S.
    - Iran will always be in the region; America won’t be there forever. 
    - If the U.S. does withdraw, the Chinese and the Russians will get more involved. 


    Trump wants to get out, but the collapse of the Iran Deal is pulling him back in.
    - This is not unfamiliar: Obama wanted to pivot to Asia and get out of the Middle East, but he couldn’t do it.
    - Americans have been obsessed with the Persian Gulf for decades.


    Executive power vs. American power: which one dominates?
    - Executive power enables this kind of American power. 
    - Bush, Clinton, and Obama have all increased executive power.
    - A key difference is that in the Trump administration there are fewer checks on the use of this power within the executive branch. 


    Mentioned in this Episode: 
    - Helen’s piece in The New Statesman. 
    - The William Barr profile in The New Yorker
    - The Atlantic on Obama
    - The Macron interview with The Economist
    - The Economist briefing on aircraft carriers
    - The 2017 National Security Strategy 


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

    • 45 min
    Predictions for 2030 with Azeem Azhar

    Predictions for 2030 with Azeem Azhar

    An extra episode with Azeem Azhar, tech entrepreneur and host of the Exponential View podcast and newsletter. We talk about Azeem's predictions for what will shape politics and technology over the next decade, from climate change to artificial intelligence. Plus we discuss the Dominic Cummings agenda: will the UK government really be able to harness the dynamism of the tech start-up mindset within the hidebound structures of Whitehall? 


    This is the first of a two part special - you can find the other half of this conversation in a couple of days at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/exponential-view-with-azeem-azhar/id1172218725 Azeem's newsletter is here: https://www.exponentialview.co/ and the blog by Dominic cummings here: https://dominiccummings.com/ For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

    • 40 min
    What's the Future for Labour?

    What's the Future for Labour?

    We are back for 2020 to talk about Labour's future after Corbyn. How can the party move the argument beyond Brexit? Does the voting system help or hinder Labour's chances of returning to power? And what to do about Scotland? Plus, we ask how much damage would be done if the next leader turns out to be the only man in the field. With Helen Thompson, Chris Brooke and Chris Bickerton.


    Talking Points: 


    Electoral Reform seems to be a perennial issue for the Labour Party.
    - Starmer says he wants to win a majority—but it’s hard to see how. 
    - Would electoral reform get Labour any closer to winning? 
    - In 1987, Tony Blair pointed out that there is a real risk of collapse for centre-left parties under proportional representation systems.
    - We often think of alliance politics as being anti-Tory, but look at 2010: sometimes it works the other way.
    - First Past the Post keeps Labour in place as the only alternative government.


    Is England a broadly conservative country or an anti-conservative country whose electoral system doesn’t reflect society?
    - It’s hard to know—there does seem to be a core conservative voting bloc. 


    One reason that pessimism isn’t evenly distributed in the Labour party despite the defeat is that people think the biggest problem was fighting an election with an unpopular leader.
    - Corbyn and Brexit may have been sufficient conditions for a Labour defeat.
    - Would Labour fare better with a different leader?
    - The generational divide poses a challenge—how can Labour appeal to over 65’s without alienating young people.


    The leadership election appears to be Keir Starmer’s to lose.
    - Will the fact that he’s facing three women be a problem?
    - Rebecca Long-Bailey has a lot of prominent support, but she’s not a great media performer.


    Mentioned in this Episode:
    - Tony Blair for The New Statesman in 1987
    - Daniel Finkelstein’s column on Keir Starmer
    - The YouGov poll on the next Labour leader
    - The 2019 election, broken down by age


    Further Learning: 
    - David’s lecture on the generational divide in politics
    - Our YouTube video on Labour leadership


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

    • 47 min
    The Great Abortion Switcheroo

    The Great Abortion Switcheroo

     In the final episode of our American Histories series, Sarah Churchwell tells the incredible story of the politics of abortion during the 1970s. How did evangelicals go from supporting abortion to being its die-hard opponents, what did the switch have to do with the politics of race and what have been the lasting consequences for American democracy?


    Talking Points: 


    A lot of people think that the U.S. abortion debate started in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, and that evangelical republicans have always been anti-abortion. Both assumptions are wrong.
    - There weren’t many laws against abortion in the United States until after the Civil War. 
    - After the Civil War there were large waves of migration. This led to a rise of nativism. Many early abortion laws were rooted in scientific racism and anxieties over ‘race suicide.’


    Initially, the Democrats pandered to the Catholics by taking on a more pro-life position.
    - Evangelicals were not particularly politically active (with a brief exception in the 1920s and 30s). Republicans wanted to change this.
    - Roe v. Wade was fought on a right to privacy issue. Abortion was seen as a thing that white, middle class people did in their home.
    - Evangelical Christian magazines, even in the years immediately after Roe, tended to characterize abortion as a question of indiivdual health, family welfare, and social responsibility. 
    - Yet by 1978, this had completely flipped. What happened?


    After Brown v. Board desegregated schools, a bunch of white Christians created whites-only Christian academies and claimed tax-exempt status. 
    - Anxiety about the federal government interfering in Christian life got caught up in itself. 
    - Abortion for many became a proxy issue: it was easier (and more politically acceptable) to oppose abortion than integration.


    Today the battlelines feel entrenched and we could be moving towards the repeal of Roe v. Wade.
    - But these are not immutable dividing lines in American politics. 
    - This doesn’t mean that abortion isn’t extremely important to many evangelicals: it is. But it’s important to recognize the contingency in what questions are politically central. 


    Further Learning: 
    - Sue Halpern on how Republicans became anti-choice
    - More on the origins of the religious right
    - NPR ‘Throughline’ podcast issue on evangelicals and abortion


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

    • 32 min
    Deporting Mexicans

    Deporting Mexicans

    Gary Gerstle explores the forgotten history of Mexican deportations from the southern United States in the 1930's and asks how it fits into the longer story of US immigration policy up until today. From open borders to 'Build That Wall': what's next?


    Talking Points: 


    Immigrant labour has always been vital to U.S. economic development.
    - The United States presented itself as being a different kind of society. This was partially ideological, and partially a labour imperative.


    In the early 20th century, the labour imperative became less acute. 
    - America still thought of itself as a Protestant society.
    - In this period, the United States implemented draconian immigration restrictions, including racialized quotas.
    - The fear of revolutionary organized labour also affected quotas. The Jews and the Italians were targeted due to anxiety over communism and anarchism.


    Immigration from Mexico has always been a slightly different story.
    - The restrictive immigration laws of the 1920s excluded the western hemisphere. Mexicans were still coming in large numbers because agricultural corporate interests needed Mexican migrant labour. 
    - But because this was land-based immigration, there was more flow back and forth. Much of this migration was temporary, or at least the powers that be thought that it could be.


    In the 1930s, over 500,000 Mexicans were deported, mostly by state and local governments.
    - This was mass expulsion with little due process.
    - The idea was that Meixcan labour was driving down wages; but the forces at work were much greater than immigration, and deportation didn’t solve the agricultural crisis.


    The ongoing need for labour led to the creation of the first guest workers’ program in the 1940s (the Bracero Program). 
    - The United States was still treating Mexico as a controllable surplus labour pool, but there has always been seepage.
    - In the 1960s, the immigration system was overhauled again to make things more egalitarian: but this disadvantaged Mexicans.
    - There’s another key overhaul in the 1980s to allow for the right to asylum. If Trumpism continues, these laws will likely be reversed.


    Further Learning: 
    - America’s forgotten history of Mexican-American ‘Repatriation’
    - More on illegal deportations in American history
    - The archives of the Bracero program, the first Mexican guest workers system


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

    • 30 min
    The 15th and the 19th

    The 15th and the 19th

    Sarah Churchwell tells the tortured history of the campaign to secure votes for women and how it was tied up with another campaign to suppress votes for black Americans. From the 15th amendment in 1870 to the 19th amendment in 1920: why the promise of enfranchisement is often not what it seems.


    Talking Points: 


    The struggle for votes for women and votes for black people have been linked from the beginning.
    - Some activists wanted to do both at once, but slavery was deemed more urgent. 
    - Of course, in practice, white lawmakers soon stripped the 15th amendment of its practical power by passing laws such as poll taxes and grandfather clauses.


    Many suffragettes believed that if they supported the 15th amendment, Republicans would turn around and recognize their claims, and that black legislators in particular would argue for rights for women.
    - It didn’t work out that way.
    - Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Antony felt that they had been betrayed by the Republican cause.


    The 19th amendment is explicitly modeled on the 15th amendment.
    - But it passes in part because people are convinced (correctly in the short term) that it won’t lead to the enforcement of the 15th amendment.


    Another thing that happens in this moment is the 18th amendment, or prohibition. 
    - Temperance was extremely important to many politically active women at the time.
    - At the time, women had no rights within marriage, and no redress against domestic violence or poverty.
    - But it was also about nativism. Drinking was associated with certain immigrant cultures, especially catholic cultures. 
    - Temperance gains traction in part as a way of criminalizing suspicious foreign conduct.


    Further Learning:
    - How racism almost killed women’s right to vote
    - Brent Staples op ed on the rift between white and black women going back to the suffrage fights
    - Interview with Lori Ginzberg in NPR about her biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton
    - More on African American women and voting rights


    And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy

    • 29 min

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