Conversations with Bill Kristol features in-depth, thought-provoking discussions with leading figures in American public life.
Whit Ayres: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Road to 2024
What did the midterm elections reveal about Donald Trump’s strength in the Republican Party? What are the central tensions in the GOP as we head into 2023—and what are Trump's chances to win the nomination in 2024? Might Republican elected officials, donors, and other elites coalesce around an alternative candidate like Ron DeSantis? To discuss these questions, we are joined again by veteran Republican pollster and strategist Whit Ayres. According to Ayres, the unmistakeable pattern of losses by MAGA-aligned, election-denying candidates indicate that Trump’s position in the Party is weaker than before. But unwavering support from what Ayres calls the Always Trump faction of the Republican electorate still gives Trump a significant advantage heading into 2024. However, developments in 2023, including decisions of Republican elites to mobilize on behalf of a single challenger to Trump, could prove decisive. Kristol and Ayres also discuss how Democrats might respond to the prospect of a third Trump candidacy, and how that might affect Joe Biden’s decision to seek reelection.
Ronald Brownstein: After the 2022 Midterms, What’s Next?
What happened in the midterms? What can explain why the 2022 midterm elections defied expectations and countered the trends of recent history? Will Trump be challenged successfully for the Republican nomination? Will Biden run again?
To discuss these and other questions, we are joined by Ronald Brownstein, Senior Editor of The Atlantic. In a Conversation after the 2020 elections, Brownstein noted how evenly divided and deeply entrenched the American political landscape had become. Summing up the 2022 midterms, Brownstein argues there has been surprisingly little change in the electorate since 2020, and moreover the country continues to trend toward fewer swing states. Yet strong opposition to Trump and the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade allowed the Democratic coalition to perform better than expected in midterms. What comes next? Brownstein and Kristol discuss what the data from Tuesday suggest, and what this means for our politics as we look towards 2024.
Frederick Kagan on Ukraine: Where Things Stand—and the Stakes for the Future
Eight months into the war, where do things stand in Ukraine? According to Fred Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, Ukraine’s stunning battlefield achievements have dramatically altered the dynamic of the war. As he puts it, Russians no longer have the ability to conduct offensive operations in Ukraine. That’s over. Russians have fundamentally gone over to the defensive. But serious challenges remain. Ukraine can reconquer or secure several strategically significant territories, without which Ukraine will remain highly vulnerable to future Russian attacks. The questions emerging from the war are momentous: What will come of Putin’s nuclear threats? Is there an “off ramp” from the conflict? Are we in a new Cold War? Kagan’s thoughtful examination of the present situation and reflection on its consequences help us see how a Ukrainian victory is necessary for the free world.
Ray Takeyh on Iran: Are We Witnessing a Revolution?
Iran today is in some kind of revolutionary stage…. All social classes are united behind the idea that they want the extinction of the regime, and all social classes seem to be united on the proposition that reform is not possible. So argues Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and one of the leading historians and analysts of Iran. In this Conversation, Takeyh analyzes the momentous events in Iran following the killing of the 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police last month. As Takeyh argues, the regime faces the greatest threat to its rule since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Takeyh shares his perspective on the complex political, social, and security dynamics in Iran and what to look for over the next weeks and months. Kristol and Takeyh also discuss what the US and the West should do to give the protest movement the best chances to succeed.
William Baude: On the Supreme Court after Dobbs
After the historic Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, what should we look for as the Supreme Court begins a new term? How will the Court handle controversial subjects such as affirmative action and religious freedom? How should we understand the current Court’s jurisprudence? To discuss these questions, we are joined by University of Chicago law professor William Baude. According to Baude, with its emphasis on originalist jurisprudence, the Court has become more willing to take bold actions—and likely will continue to do so this year. Yet Baude argues that the centrality of the Court today in settling the most controversial matters in our politics is as much a consequence of the failures of Congress as the judicial philosophy or temperament of Supreme Court justices. Kristol and Baude also discuss similarities and dissimilarities with eras like the New Deal when the Court acted as a counter-majoritarian force against a popular and unified Congress. Kristol and Baude also consider the threat of election subversion, a theme Baude addressed in greater depth in a memorable and important Conversation last year.
William Galston: The Politics of Abortion after Dobbs, the 2022 Midterms, and Beyond
How has the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade affected the course of the 2022 midterm elections? How has it affected the standing of the two political parties? To discuss these questions, we are joined by Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William Galston. According to Galston, the galvanizing effect of the Dobbs decision on Democratic voters has eaten into the advantage the out-of-power party typically has in an off-year election. Swing voters who view Republicans as too far from the mainstream on abortion, and other issues, threaten to upend GOP hopes of a Red Wave in November. At the same time, Galston reflects on the Democrats own vulnerabilities, particularly on cultural issues, which could hurt their electoral chances in November and beyond.
Midterm results while encouraging, the Trumpist right is still dangerous and active. We cannot let our guards down.
Thanks Bill for having great guests.
April 26, 2022 - state of Ukraine War
Intelligent & classy as always. Fred Kagan is a national treasure.
Bill Kristol’s podcast is informative and interesting.
I always learn something from each episode. I highly recommend this as a must “listen” for anyone who wants an intelligent thoughtful way to
make sense of what is going on in the world today.