Greg Sargent is one of America’s most prolific and insightful political opinion journalists. He is co-author of the Washington Post’s The Plum Line blog (along with Paul Waldman) and is the author of the 2018 book, An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in An Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics. Although his columns tend to respond to the most heated and prominent issues of the moment, his column is notable for drawing upon a wide range of experts who help connect the political stories to a larger social and political reality.
Sargent’s work includes a particular focus on the American right and the particular dangers it has come to pose, in an era of Trump-inflected populism, to American democracy. An Uncivil War examines the history of the counter-majoritarian tendencies on the right and concludes that “the plight of our democracy is the result of deep structural factors and problems that go well beyond Trump and long predate him.”
In this podcast episode, Greg discusses the deeper significance of recent national stories (including several primary elections and the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings), the shifting bases of both the Republican and Democratic Parties, and the evolving forms of post-liberalism on the right. He raises what he considers the Democrats’ “fundamental failure to reckon with the Republican Party of today,” and his view of what needs to happen to avert emerging authoritarian threats. He also talks about his education and journalistic experiences before coming to the Post, and reveals the obscure meaning of “The Plum Line.”
Greg Sargent: The perpetual need to create liberal elite plots around every corner just literally doesn’t allow for an empirical or values-based look at what something like tightening accessibility to lethal firearms might actually accomplish.
Geoff Kabaservice: Hello! I’m Geoff Kabaservice for the Niskanen Center. Welcome to the Vital Center Podcast, where we try to sort through the problems of the muddled, moderate majority of Americans, drawing upon history, biography, and current events. I’m honored to be joined today by Greg Sargent of the Washington Post. He is an opinion columnist covering national politics. Greg is one of the two writers of The Plum Line blog, along with Paul Waldman, and is the author of the terrific 2018 book An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy In An Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics. Welcome, Greg!
Greg Sargent: Thanks for having me on, Geoff.
Geoff Kabaservice: Greg is one of our sharpest opinion writers. I refer not just to his intellect but to his razor-edged opinions, which shall we say have been known to engender a certain amount of resentment from parties on the receiving end. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from reading your columns, Greg, and I am in awe of the Stakhanovite frequency with which you produce them.
Greg Sargent: I’m in awe of what you’ve done too, Geoff. You’ve helped me enormously over the years.
Geoff Kabaservice: You’re very kind, Greg. Just so readers know, if I’m counting correctly, you authored or co-authored 34 columns this month. I don’t know how you do it. But before we get into the substance of your writing, can you tell me something about your background and how you got into opinion writing?
Greg Sargent: Sure. I took a bit more of a traditional journalistic path at the outset than I think a lot of opinion people do today. I started out writing for a small weekly newspaper in southern Manhattan that was actually a community newspaper. I was able to move from there to the New York Observer, and then ultimately to New York Magazine. But at that point I started to become much more interested in the liberal blogosphere, because what was happening then was that the Iraq war was really getting underway and there were obvious major failings with the way the mainstream press was handling George W. Bush and the invasion. It felt to me like the liberal blogosphere was doing something new and exciting, and really explaining to people what was going wrong with some of our major institutions in a way that you really couldn’t get pretty much anywhere else. So I took a detour from there into liberal blogging at Talking Points Memo, run by Josh Marshall, and then went from there to the Washington Post Company.
Geoff Kabaservice: Where did you grow up and where did you go to school?
Greg Sargent: I grew up in lower Manhattan — in Greenwich Village, actually. In those days, it was a little bit different than it looks now. I went to public schools all the way, including Bronx Science — which is, for your listeners, a public, special high school for kids who pass a certain test to get in. And it was a very good school. Then I went from there to Hunter College and SUNY Purchase. I did a year in Paris abroad, as part of an exchange program, and ultimately graduated from Hunter College. I then kind of blundered around and waited tables, and then eventually found my way into this journalistic stuff at the small community paper. And from there, I was able to get out of waiting tables for good.
Geoff Kabaservice: That’s an interesting trajectory. I actually have a bit of a personal connection to some of those institutions you mentioned. Hunter College is one of the constituent colleges of the City University of New York, and I was a fellow at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College about a decade ago, which actually is in the townhouse that Franklin and Eleanor used to live in. So I acquired a certain knowledge of and respect for Hunter College. And my dad also went to the Bronx High School of Science.
Greg Sargent: Did he really?
Geoff Kabaservice: Yeah. I remember — diverging here a little bit — that about a decade or so ago, Christopher Hayes came out with a book called… I always want to say it’s Our Crappy Elites, but I think it’s actually called Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy. He went to the Hunter College High School, which is I realize is separate from Hunter College itself…
Greg Sargent: That’s a different thing entirely, yeah.
Geoff Kabaservice: …but Hunter College High School is one of those public, competitive-admission high schools like the Bronx High School of Science. He focused on, I think it was a 2010 graduation speech, at which the speaker had said of the whole Hunter College experience, “I don’t deserve any of this, and neither do you,” pointing to his fellow graduands. And that was kind of the big pushback that we started to see against meritocracy in the name of racial equity. Were those things that people talked about at Bronx High School of Science back in your day?
Greg Sargent: Well, I was busy playing poker in the cafeteria, so I probably wouldn’t have participated in those conversations. Actually, in fairness, I did also play a fair amount of chess. In those days, there were some — since you want some personal stuff, I’ll throw some out there — in those days, there was a very vibrant chess scene in the Bronx Science cafeteria. It brought together kids from all over the city, different classes of all kinds, who would just get into these really very robust competitions that could sometimes end up in violence when things went wrong.
Geoff Kabaservice: As chess games so often do, yes.
Greg Sargent: We think passions run high in politics. Chess is a completely different thing entirely. But no, that was not something that was discussed that much in those days at Bronx Science.
Geoff Kabaservice: I actually found the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” to be quite fascinating as a glimpse into that world as well.
Greg Sargent: It’s a really interesting world. I think that a lot of people don’t really know quite what it entails. You go to a place in New York like Washington Square Park, or certain parts of Central Park, and you’ll see all these kind of rough-looking chess hustlers around. These guys are making a real living doing that stuff, although I haven’t been in New York in a number of years so maybe they’ve been cleaned out of there in some way or other. But it was really quite striking how back in the ‘80s and ‘90s you could go to a park and you would see all manner of very tough-looking characters playing incredibly good chess. It could be just a really great diversion to just watch that stuff happen.
Geoff Kabaservice: Chess, of course, is its own form of meritocracy.
Greg Sargent: Well, yes. I think that’s right.
Geoff Kabaservice: You I think were an English major at Hunter, is that right?
Greg Sargent: Yes.
Geoff Kabaservice: How’d you go from Bronx Science to being an English major?
Greg Sargent: I missed Stuyvesant High School by maybe two or three points. Being someone who grew up in the West Village, Stuyvesant High School was just a short bus ride across town; in those days, it was at 15th and 1st. And because I missed it by two or three points, I ended up commuting to the Bronx for four straight years, which was a long commute through some pretty rough territory. That doesn’t really answer your question, but I went to Bronx Science because it was the best school on offer for me, not necessarily because I had an interest in science. And you didn’t have to have an interest in science to go to one of the specialized science high schools. They also had high-level academics in all sorts of other fields, and plenty of people who were at Bronx Science were into the arts, or into reading, or hoped to do something in government or politics. I think people think of those schools as being entirely science-oriented, but they’re really not. They had a very wide gamut of people from all over the city with all sorts of different interests. They’re very interesting places.
Geoff Kabaservice: What did you take away from your time in Paris?
Greg Sargent: I learned to hitchhike to the south of France without getting, you know, killed. I did that a number of times. I actually did become close to fluent in French after the year was up, but not necessarily through school learning. It was through talking in everyday situations. Learning another language was a real eye-opener for me. The amount of concentration and dedication it took was very, very substantial, and it was very rewarding too. I ended up reading a lot of newspapers in those days in order to try and figure out what was going on around me because I was in a foreign setting. And that kind of got me more and more interested in newspapers as a possible way forward.
Geoff Kabaservice: Speaking of newspapers, did you have any models or strong influences on the journalistic or writing side?
Greg Sargent: I was actually really fortunate to get blessed with a great editor at my very first job. His name was Jan Holdenfield. He passed away a number of years ago. He was a magazine writer who wrote about things like Woodstock back in the day. He had some personal troubles and ended up sort of disappearing from journalism, and then found his way back into it by getting an editor-in-chief job at this small community paper in southern Manhattan. Yet he turned out to be a brilliant editor. I will say that Glenn Thrush, who is at the New York Times, was also at this paper when I was there. So we both learned from this guy, and he just kicked the living shit out of us, day in and day out, to make us write well. He was quite an influence.
Geoff Kabaservice: What was the name of that small community paper?
Greg Sargent: Downtown Express.
Geoff Kabaservice: I take it it’s no longer around?
Greg Sargent: I don’t know. I would not think it is.
Geoff Kabaservice: Okay. So you came to the Washington Post and you are one of the two writers, along with Paul Waldman, for “The Plum Line” blog as it’s called. What’s the significance of the title, “The Plum Line”?
Greg Sargent: I’m really glad you asked that, because we’ve been getting this question for many years, and often the emails have a lot of snark in them about how “You’ve misspelled ‘plumb,’ P-L-U-M-B, you moron!” The significance of it is actually that it’s a cross between “plumb line” and the Plum Book, which is — I don’t think many people know this, but it’s a legendary insider’s guide to DC that existed some time ago. So we merged the two together to come up with “Plum Line.” I’ve been happy with it ever since — the name anyway, if not the blog.
Geoff Kabaservice: Oh, you should be happy with both.
Greg Sargent: Yeah, well…
Geoff Kabaservice: There was actually a piece in Politico in January 2009 by Ben Smith, who of course has gone on to other things, entitled “Sargent’s back.” Smith wrote: “Greg Sargent, whom junkies got to know at TPM over the course of the cycle” — by which he meant, of course, the 2008 election cycle — “has a new blog up, the Plum Line, at the new Washington Post site WhoRunsGov. The site appears to be meant to be a sort of more reliable Wikipedia for government officials.” I’m not sure anyone would say that now. But anyway, what was interesting also was that there was a description of the blog — and I don’t know if you wrote this, or Paul, or someone else — but it said that the goal of the blog would be “to chronicle the new D.C. order — as perceived and experienced by the people building it, as well as by the people who are resisting or at least coming to terms with it.”
The blog said it would be about political power in DC as seen through the eyes of those who were wielding it, “But this blog emphatically won’t be just about who’s up and who’s down, who’s in and who’s out. You read endlessly that Washington is a town that’s obsessed with power politics – no kidding – but presumably many of those who come here to work as political and policy professionals are interested in, you know, getting stuff done, in making policy and governing. So this blog will also be about policy, as seen through the eyes of those who are making it, and governance, as seen through the eyes of those who are trying to do it right. The aim is to report to you how the players themselves perceive what it is they’re trying to do, and why they’re doing it. And of course to bring you plenty of news breaks and useful analysis.” How has that basic goal stayed the same or changed over time?
Greg Sargent: I think it’s important to remember that when we first started Plum Line, Paul Waldman wasn’t there at that point. It was as the blog for WhoRunsGov, which was really meant to be a nonpartisan site — in the sense that it would act, as you said, as a Wikipedia for players throughout the political world, both Republican and Democrat, both conservative and liberal, and so forth. And so originally the blog was understood to be a bit more nonpartisan and a bit less opinionated. But eventually the Washington Post opinion section, which is obviously separate from WhoRunsGov…
Let me clarify. WhoRunsGov was owned by the Washington Post Company, but was not the Washington Post. When Washington Post Opinions decided it wanted to hire a couple of new opinion bloggers, one of them was me. The other was Jennifer Rubin. What they did was they moved my blog from WhoRunsGov over to Washington Post Opinions. And then at that point it was really a full-fledged liberal opinion blog, as the counter to Jen Rubin’s full-fledged conservative opinion blog.
Geoff Kabaservice: As she was then.
Greg Sargent: As she was then.
Geoff Kabaservice: When did Paul come aboard?
Greg Sargent: God, I want to say probably maybe as early as 2012 or 2011, but I would have to… I don’t know exactly. I’d have to go back and check.
Geoff Kabaservice: And what is the division of labor between you and Paul on the column?
Greg Sargent: I edit the blog, which means that I edit Paul’s stuff. Then everything we do is overseen, obviously. I write my pieces, he writes his pieces. I edit his pieces, and we sometimes — more and more lately — collaborate on pieces in order to — for efficiency purposes, really — in order to be able to do a little more reporting, in the sense that one person can be writing and the other can make a few calls.
Geoff Kabaservice: Is there any difference in your approach than Paul’s?
Greg Sargent: I think I come from more of a reporting background, whereas Paul really is newer to the reporting game — although he does do some to inform his opinions. Generally speaking, I think I end up doing more interviews and trying to bring in more facts from congressional sources and so forth than he does, but that is in no way meant to cast aspersions. He’s a terrific writer and thinker, he just comes from a different background than I do.
Geoff Kabaservice: In a way, your column does remind me of “Inside Report,” which was co-written by Rowland Evans and Robert Novak over the course of several decades. It was a six-times-a-week column, and it mixed in reporting and editorial opinions. I guess if yours is the counterpart of Evans and Novak, what’s kind of notable is how different it is from their typical inside-baseball reporting on politics.
Greg Sargent: Yes, we definitely do not strive to be an inside-baseball-type blog.
Geoff Kabaservice: What’s so unusual and really notable about your column is that nearly every one of your pieces will draw upon an interview you did with some person of notable (but often highly specialized) expertise, who can allow you to connect the political story of the moment with a larger social or political reality. Of course, you’ve frequently consulted with a number of us at the Niskanen Center for our center-right views on policy and politics, and we’re extremely grateful for that. But you cover a very wide range of people.
Greg Sargent: I feel very strongly that an opinion piece is improved dramatically by even the addition of just one additional outside voice. I sometimes say that when you do an opinion piece, if you quote someone saying something, you move the ball in another way. I really, really feel, I have to confess, somewhat incomplete if I do a piece that doesn’t have something like that in it.
Geoff Kabaservice: Just to cite one example from the last week or so… Your column on May 25th was entitled “How Democrats can address our hopelessness about child massacres.” You spoke to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who is a longtime sponsor of gun control legislation since the Sandy Hook school shooting — and of course here we are back in another school shooting tragedy coming out of Uvalde, Texas. In that sense, that’s probably the kind of reporting that a lot of people do. But part of what’s notable about this latest school shooting tragedy is the widespread expectation that nothing is going to happen as a result of it: that the Democrats in Congress will advance legislation and Republicans will block it, and that’s the end of the story.
So to address that, you actually went to Stanford political scientist Francis Fukuyama, connecting this phenomenon to what he’d written about in terms of the “political decay” of advanced societies. This decay, you wrote, “flows from complex processes that include interest group capture and the entrenchment of patterns in our institutions that constrain them from keeping pace with evolving problems.” And that is the thesis that Fukuyama put forward in Political Order and Political Decay. How did it occur to you to make that connection?
Greg Sargent: I had been looking for an opening to call Fukuyama about this topic for a while now. And it occurred to me that the Senate’s failure to pass Build Back Better, which is Joe Biden’s series of proposals on climate and inequality and childcare and so forth — it occurred to me that that Senate failure seemed to reflect something like what Fukuyama was talking about. I mean, if we’re facing growing challenges in the form of a climate change emergency and soaring inequality and widespread child poverty, and the Senate can’t act to fix those things simply because the fiftieth vote happens to belong to a Democrat who’s from a state that Donald Trump carried by something like 40 points, then it seems like there’s something fundamentally wrong with the institution vis-à-vis keeping pace with societal challenges.
And I had been waiting for the moment to bring that up with Fukuyama, maybe to do an interview with him, but this just seemed like such a glaring example of it. Mass shootings are on the rise, everyone wants to see action, everyone’s deeply frustrated by congressional paralysis, and yet it can’t act. And so, in this case, the filibuster’s the problem, as opposed to the problem being simply who the fiftieth senator is — although I should say that Manchin is also the primary obstacle to doing away with the filibuster to pass gun safety reforms or anything else. And so it just occurred to me that Fukuyama might have interesting things to say about how his monumental theory of politics and political order and so forth illuminated this. And he did, I thought.
Geoff Kabaservice: I agree. And I thought that was a representative column of yours in the sense that you’re dealing with some very big concepts, and yet you are making it comprehensible to a general audience in only about 850 words.
Greg Sargent: Well, we try to boil the stuff down and make it accessible. I mean, that’s a big aim of ours, so I appreciate you noticing that.
Geoff Kabaservice: But sometimes, like today’s column, for example, your column will actually be in the form of an interview, which will extend to something more like 1500 words. And so today, your column was on “How the AR-15 conquered America, as revealed by an industry insider.” And this is largely in the form of, essentially, a kind of edited transcript of your conversation with Ryan Busse, who was a former firearms industry executive. I thought that also was fascinating and revealing.
Greg Sargent: He’s a very interesting guy and he took it to places that I really didn’t expect. I went into this expecting him to talk about the firearms industry and how it has tried to shift the culture in a violent direction and then exploit that for profit — which he did. But what was very interesting to me was when he talked about this cultural shift being fed in some sense by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, by the War on Terror, by the imagery of American soldiers abroad getting beamed into living rooms, by the kind of Islamophobia that was coursing through all this. And when he brought that up, I really wanted to explore that with him some more — which we did. And I think that’s a really interesting point, and I hope it gets debated because I have not seen that get much attention. And if it’s true, if he’s right about this — and I think he probably is — then the cost of the Iraq War and the War on Terror is… Put it this way, this adds yet another tally onto the cost of the Iraq invasion and the War on Terror.
Geoff Kabaservice: Yes, absolutely, and particularly in permitting the rise of what Busse called “the idea of civil war/race war with heavily-armed citizen patriots as your warriors.” That’s quite an alarming development.
Greg Sargent: I thought that was alarming, yeah. And I’m glad you picked up on that, Geoff, because I thought that was very interesting too. What’s interesting is this overlap between the types of right-wing influencers who are prone to talk about “Great Replacement Theory,” who are prone to demagogue about the anarchist/leftist terrorist threat that’s overrunning the country, the overlap between those influencers and those who constantly fetishize the AR-15… It’s clear that something profoundly deranged is going on here. It’s not just a bunch of hobbyists out shooting for fun. And, by the way, we did try to draw a distinction between this sort of derangement and the millions upon millions of gun owners who surely don’t see it in these terms at all. I just wish those gun owners could be mobilized against the kind of deranged tendencies that are being loosed in their midst.
Geoff Kabaservice: I completely agree. There’s a mix, in your stories, of responses to the political story of the moment with longer-term analyses, and sometimes those coincide. For example, you and I had talked about the Great Replacement Theory that you just mentioned, and as it happened, that Great Replacement Theory was what drove the Buffalo shooter on the same day that your column came out.
Greg Sargent: Can I just say, Geoff, that I really appreciate that you’re available early in the morning for the interviews. These days, with the internet being what it is, people who are very easily accessed at strange hours really are an enormous boon to people in my situation.
Geoff Kabaservice: I’m happy to do what I can. But what drives your selection of subjects?
Greg Sargent: I try to look for something where I perceive there’s a kind of a hole in a debate; where there’s maybe not a connection being drawn that should be drawn, or maybe there’s kind of a failure of terminology on our part. In this particular case, that really applies, right? Great Replacement Theory is something that we’re all just trying to get our heads around right now, but the ideology is really getting mainstreamed. And, as I think you pointed out to me in your quotes, there’s really a long history and tradition that leads to this point. And for people to just think that this is just sort of a momentary spasm of radicalism seems to me to miss something much more fundamental about what’s happening. And that’s why I came to you for that, in particular.
Geoff Kabaservice: Well, thank you. I just mean this as an observation and not as a criticism… I think if an alien came down from space and could only learn about contemporary American politics from your column, the alien might think that the Republican Party was the party in charge of everything, given the preponderance with which they appear in your columns. Across the last month, for example, just in terms of some of the headliners you’re writing about: Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Perdue, Stefanik… You kind of go down the list. Why is it that you have found yourself writing so much more about the Republicans than the Democrats, even though the Republicans are shut out of both the White House and Congress at the moment?
Greg Sargent: I think this goes back to a couple of things we talked about before. One is that they wield outsized power because of the counter-majoritarian nature of our institutions, and that’s something that needs to be spotlighted with regularity. And the second is that I think there’s a sort of failure of our discourse to really capture what’s going on with the Republican Party that’s much more serious as a failing than, say the way the discourse captures what’s going on with Democrats. And in this sort of constant search for holes to fill in these conversations, we often end up focused on that. I will say, we do try to write about Democrats a whole lot. And interestingly, to feed back to what you’re talking about here, one of the things we regularly talk about, Paul and I, when it comes to Democrats is their fundamental failure to reckon with the Republican Party of today.
And we really do try to write about that a lot, and also about failures of messaging around the economy. That’s why we call senators like Chris Murphy and Brian Schatz pretty regularly to try and feature voices who are saying something a little different than what many mainstream Democrats are saying about the way forward in this particularly challenging moment. But I think that’s actually a fair point you raise about the proportionality. I just think the reason for it is kind of rooted in the stuff we’re talking about, the counter-majoritarian nature of our institutions — which gives them, frankly, a ton of power to stop a lot of what Democrats want to do. And then, of course, their own radicalization, which I think that our daily political coverage often fails to capture adequately.
Geoff Kabaservice: Along those lines, you devoted a considerable amount of attention across the past month to the Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee, Doug Mastriano. Why have you singled him out in your coverage?
Greg Sargent: Well, Doug Mastriano sort of sits at the nexus of a lot of these pathologies, right? He’s essentially a White Christian nationalist, and pretty open about his desire to bring White Christian nationalism to his understanding (if that’s the right word for it) of how democracy should function. Mastriano is also running for governor of Pennsylvania on an explicit willingness to subvert future election results — I should say, on an explicit willingness to use the power of the governor’s office to subvert future election results. Now, here’s a good example of how our discourse, I think, fails to capture the seriousness of the moment. It’s often explained to readers as being something along the lines of, “Oh, he’s a purveyor of Trump’s big lie about 2020,” or, “He is a Trump loyalist who tried to help overturn the 2020 election.”
And that’s all true, but it makes it sound as if he’s kind of a backward-looking figure, he’s obsessed with some weird mythology that happened a few years ago, he’s just doing it to sort of signal his loyalty to the Trump movement in some sense that doesn’t have actual real-world implications. But here you’ve got a guy who’s explicitly saying, “Put me in the governor’s office so that I can subvert future election losses. Put me in the governor’s office so that a Democrat doesn’t win this state again in the presidential race as long as I’m there.” And to answer your original question about the proportionality of attention here, Josh Shapiro is running on a vow to certify the rightful winner of the presidential election. Now, does that deserve… That deserves attention, but I think the outlier here that is the thing we should be kind of talking about is Mastriano.
Geoff Kabaservice: Yeah. In that sense, it’s more the man bites dog story than the dog bites man story. The relationship between today’s populist/conservative Republicans and the media is obviously a big subject and was very deeply involved with Donald Trump’s rise. So I want to go to your 2018 book, An Uncivil War. For those who aren’t familiar with it, I highly recommend it. But what’s also interesting about it is that in no way is it sort of a repackaging of columns, which people in your position sometimes do to produce books.
Greg Sargent: I’ve noticed that, yeah.
Geoff Kabaservice: From what I understand, you had to take a leave of absence, and you clearly engaged in a really deep study of a whole corpus of political science to try to understand where we are at this current political moment.
Greg Sargent: Well, I was still writing once a day…
Geoff Kabaservice: Wow.
Greg Sargent: …throughout the whole period.
Geoff Kabaservice: I’m shaking my head. People can’t see that, but I just don’t even understand that. But anyway, go on.
Greg Sargent: The Post very generously allowed me a little time in the afternoons to work on it, and so I did that. And I really appreciate you noticing the political science dimension. I tried to crunch through a lot of the work on this, and I don’t know if I succeeded or not. I think there are plenty of mistakes I think I made, and I would probably do it differently today. In fairness, at that point, Trump hadn’t been impeached twice and hadn’t tried to overturn our constitutional order, so I was kind of operating from a position of disadvantage there.
Geoff Kabaservice: It’s hard to think back to those golden days of 2018 before we knew what real trouble was, of course.
Greg Sargent: In retrospect, maybe a lot of this was kind of foreordained by the stuff we were seeing from Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller and Trump himself. Trump was engaged in an extraordinarily corrupt effort to cover up the Mueller probe and bury its findings. And so maybe we could have reasoned from there that his corruption was going to only continue to expand — particularly if, as it seemed likely even then, he would have trouble getting reelected.
Geoff Kabaservice: But the book does seem incredibly prescient in foreseeing that Trump was a threat above all to the continuation of constitutional liberal democracy in America.
Greg Sargent: Right. And one thing that I think we all struggle with a little bit — me included, all of us — is to get the balance right between saying that Trump represents something extraordinary on the one hand, and on the other that a lot of these tendencies were present in the Republican Party for some time now. And that’s, of course, your topic. You know that topic, I guess, as well as anyone alive.
Geoff Kabaservice: Thank you. But if I were to actually quote your own sentence back at you, you wrote that “The plight of our democracy is the result of a series of deep structural factors and problems that go well beyond Trump and long predate him.”
Greg Sargent: Yeah. Well, I tried to get the balance right. I mean, we’re stuck in a strange argument — and this really ensnares a lot of liberals, I think. We’re stuck in this place where if you start to talk about the threat Trump represents or represented, you’re turning your eyes away from our structural problems. On the other hand, if you focus solely on our structural problems and the long-running anti-democratic tendencies on the right and in the Republican Party, you’re taking your eyes off the ball of the degree to which Trump really did represent an exacerbation. And it’s hard to get that right. What do you think, Geoff? You know the Republican Party’s history better than anybody. Isn’t Trump both a continuation and an exacerbation?
Geoff Kabaservice: Sure, in all kinds of odd and interesting ways. Matthew Continetti’s new book on The Right points out that Trumpism actually has considerable resemblances to the conservative Republicanism of the 1920s; that in some sense he actually goes back to the kind of Harding/Coolidge model of a party nominally focused on the working class, all about protectionism, extremely hostile to immigration and cultural difference — but also at the same time, kind of about normalcy, which Trump really is not.
But the other thing is that it just seems to me that the Republican Party is really struggling to come to terms with the fact that its base is now in the working class, and that at some level it is responsible for crafting policies that address the needs of that class. And on the other hand, it hasn’t fully left behind either its sort of basic allegiance to the donor class or its resistance to governing. And those things would be true whether or not Trump had ever been president, whether or not he runs for office again in 2024.
Greg Sargent: I think you put your finger on something important there, that the allegiance to the donor class is still really quite strong as evidenced by the fact that Trump… It’s not exactly clear what he campaigned on, because if you looked at his plans, they were sort of similar to standard Republican plans on taxes and healthcare. But there’s no denying that on the campaign trail and in speeches, he sent strong signals that he was going to take on Wall Street plutocrats in a way that represented a fundamental break with Republican plutocracy. And indeed, bolstering that picture, he deliberately triangulated himself against the Paul Ryan-style hatred of the safety net. And so you could maybe argue that he was sending signals that he would support a kind of Herrenvolk welfare state. Whatever it was, he strongly seemed to suggest a change in direction.
And then, once in the White House, he stocked the place with plutocrats and essentially dropped any real interest in raising taxes on the wealthy — and in fact delivered a multi-trillion dollar tax cut for corporations and the rich. And now we’re in a strange situation where Republicans who are trying to carry on the sort of Trumpist essence that you referred to — i.e. the sense that they now represent the working class in a way that they didn’t before — you have those Republicans campaigning against “woke capital” and so forth, and “globalist capital” and so forth. But at the same time, they still don’t support actual policies that would cut down on legitimate globalist capitalists, such as a higher global minimum tax which would make it harder for multinational corporations to evade taxes. And so there you have that tension.
I do think that in people like Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, there is — in some sense they do represent something different in that they acknowledge that markets are creatures of government, and that we can use government and politics to change market and even distributive outcomes, something that the Republican Party of Paul Ryan just basically doesn’t treat as an existing truism at all. But it’s really hard to sort of parse out where they end up with that stuff. It never gets that far. The cultural stuff always seems to subsume it in some sense.
Geoff Kabaservice: Yeah. And again, to return to the discussion of the moment, Republicans are saying that gun control can do nothing to stop Uvalde- or Buffalo-type shootings, that it’s all a mental health issue. And yet their credibility on actually doing anything to fund mental health is about zero at this point.
Greg Sargent: This brings up something I’d love to bounce off you as a longtime observer of the right, and someone who’s been very shrewd on what the New Right means. So when I think about something like gun control, or government actions amid a global pandemic health emergency, I think those are things that could build a sense of solidarity among citizens. We’re all agreeing that this problem is unacceptable, that it’s harming people, innocent victims. We need to act together in some sense or other to mitigate that harm. This would reinvigorate a kind of sense of civic virtue. And you have New Rightists like Josh Hawley and Blake Masters and J. D. Vance sending a strong signal that they really do think of populist right-wing politics as inculcating virtue.
And yet when it actually comes to things that we could do in terms of collective action that would foster virtue, that would protect people, that would reinvigorate our sense of purpose, they just disappear, they’re MIA. And they go straight back into the conventional kind of Republican dorm-room level libertarian bromides that we’ve heard for a long time and they’re supposed to be against. What do you think of that, Geoff?
Geoff Kabaservice: I think we’re talking about two sides of the same coin. I think it’s impossible to preach virtue in the citizenry if you don’t practice it in your own right as a member of Congress. And clearly these people’s whole stock in trade is division — and not just division but savaging your opponents as un-American and evil people. Certainly there are some people on this New Right who have openly trafficked with the QAnon conspiracy, which in its own way is more depraved and destructive than even the John Birch kind of radicalism that I saw back in the 1960s. And I think this also speaks to an absence of gatekeepers at all levels of the Republican Party and to some extent in the broader discourse as well.
Greg Sargent: Yeah, I’d like to try to add to that if I could. There’s something in this form of virulent right-wing populism that really tends toward a posture of perpetual enemy-hunting. And that perpetual enemy-hunting seems to me to be fundamentally at odds with the very goal of creating a politics that brings out virtue in people.
Geoff Kabaservice: I fully agree. And again, we don’t know what the future holds here necessarily. But it was very instructive to look at the report that came out on the Southern Baptist Convention, and how the same voices that are so scourging of perceived lack of virtue in others were themselves actively engaged in evil, and were using the tenets of Christianity to cover up their own vices, basically.
Greg Sargent: That is certainly a very glaring example of it. I think of someone like J. D. Vance as saying something like this: “We’re going to fight the globalists who are trying to loosen the bonds between us, who are trying to dissolve the civic bonds between us, who are flooding our communities with consumer goods to essentially put us to sleep so we stop thinking politically.” This is more or less what he’s saying, more or less what that type of right-wing populist says.
And yet when there’s actually a chance to do something that involves summoning a sense of civic responsibility and mutual support, they just vanish into thin air, and it just becomes yet another liberal elite plot. The perpetual need to create liberal elite plots around every corner just literally doesn’t allow for an empirical or values-based look at what something like tightening accessibility to lethal firearms might actually accomplish.
Geoff Kabaservice: I’m in considerable danger here of throwing your own observations back against you, because you have written a lot about the New Right and this movement toward some form of post-liberalism on the right as well. But I was sympathetic up to a point with the critique, because you’ve recognized that this is essentially a rebellion against the Republican Party as much as it is against the Democratic Party. And there are indeed problems of the left-behind parts of America that neither political party seems particularly interested in addressing. And the failures of the neoliberal system, if you want to call it that, to provide a decent living for people made them susceptible ultimately to the kind of Trumpian demagoguery that we’re seeing now.
My problem is that when I put out my piece four years ago in the Times on what a Republican New Deal might look like, it was predicated on the idea that the Republican Party would take seriously their responsibilities as the party of the working class, and therefore it would actually much more resemble the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt than the party of Paul Ryan. But they haven’t crossed that bridge somehow or other.
At this point, they’ve only come around to thinking that government is good if you can use it as a club with which to attack your cultural enemies. They haven’t come around as believing that government, and being in a position of responsibility in government, gives them any responsibility for the welfare of their own base.
Greg Sargent: So I think I would give them a little bit of credit in this area, in the following way — at least some of them. I do think some of them are fundamentally serious about breaking with the “pseudo libertarian/plutocratic” ethos of Paul Ryan’s Republican Party. They really do appear to agree that market rules are set by politics, that distributive outcomes don’t exist in this kind of pure free market, this place where there’s nothing but the “free” market. They seem to be willing to say that because of this we can actually structure government in a way that produces more desirable social outcomes. But it never really quite gets to where, say, progressive economists take it.
And here’s something I’d love to run by you and see what you think of it. I wonder whether the fundamental difference between economic progressives and this type of right-wing populist on economics — granting them good faith — is that the former, the progressives, take the concept of moral equality a little bit more seriously.
And the reason I bring this up is if you look at a proposal by like a Tom Cotton in the right-wing populist space, it might be something like “tax the shit out of university endowments to fund vocational education.” Now, progressive economists would be 100% for funding vocational education more, or whatever education people want to get in order to realize themselves, from the liberal perspective.
For Tom Cotton, though, the policy must have a punitive element. As you said, it must be wielding a cudgel against some liberal elite somewhere. And also the end result is something closer to hierarchy than equality. If the primary thing they want to fund is vocational education, that doesn’t seem particularly liberal, right?
Geoff Kabaservice: I never quite know to what extent the proposals that come out of the mouths of politicians on the right are performative or seriously intended. But my general acid test is: Can you in any way picture these Republicans getting some of their Democratic counterparts to sign on to it? And when you include something so punitive as the idea that you’re going to tax Harvard out of existence, it’s obvious that that’s not something Democrats are going to support. So it’s pretty much just posturing for the base and the Fox News outlets of the world.
But on the other hand, what you’re pointing to is an area where a Republican Party reorienting toward a working-class base, and a Democratic Party that still on some level thinks of itself as the party of the people, could find an awful lot of common ground, particularly on issues like vocational education. And yet the debate either gets drawn toward “Abolish the universities” or, on the other hand, on the Democratic side, “Do away with school debt.” And it seems that a possible chance for collaboration gets lost in the midst of culture war.
Greg Sargent: I think that’s right. And what I really wonder… I agree with you that you can never really quite tell how performative some of the stuff is. But if you take it at face value, if you grant it the presumption of good faith, I still don’t see in what sense they take the basic insight that government can be restructured to produce better social and distributive outcomes; to what degree they take that to a place of actually trying to achieve something close to liberal moral equality. And they just don’t seem there.
Geoff Kabaservice: I think, again, it gets lost in tribalism. Donald Trump, in his early days in office, proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure bill and even had the heads of a number of large construction unions in there to support this bill taking shape. Fast forward to today and Trump is trying to get people to primary out of office any Republicans in the House who actually voted for the Democrat’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Greg Sargent: You highlighted a point… I actually wrote a piece about this very point. And I think people forget this, but I’m going to bring it up because it’s an obsession of mine and I hope that your listeners find it interesting. But just after Trump won, Steve Bannon, who is the keeper of the flame of populist Trumpism, gave a really important interview where he said, “We are going to spend $2 trillion to $3 trillion on infrastructure. We’re just going to throw money at shipyards.” I don’t know why he talked about shipyards. Maybe he’s thinking about… Didn’t he do a stint in the Navy maybe?
Geoff Kabaservice: He has a fondness for yachts.
Greg Sargent: Maybe it could be that, yeah. But anyway, so Bannon said, “We’re going to remake the Republican Party and we’re going to create, summon into existence a massive multiracial working-class realignment.” And when I read that, I was like, “Holy shit, what if they actually do that?” And of course that quickly ran aground because Steve Bannon lost interest in the economic side of Trumpism, and quickly became obsessed with his efforts to keep out desperate migrants. Remember, one of the first things he did, and it was a disaster, was the Muslim ban. And he and Stephen Miller obviously prioritized keeping desperate migrants in as terrible a situation as possible, and keeping them out at all costs, above any kind of economic goal for Trumpism. And what you say about Trump attacking Republican primary candidates for the explicit reason that they supported infrastructure just goes to show you how hollow that aspect of Trumpism always was.
Geoff Kabaservice: To turn the focus back to the Democrats for a moment… In your book you correctly anticipated the Democrats would be back in power by 2021, but to your credit, you didn’t just stop there. You then sort of thought about to what extent Democrats should try to unilaterally disarm themselves in the face of what you call Republican “constitutional hardball,” which I guess is a term that you borrowed from [Mark] Tushnet, the legal scholar at Harvard. So if I’m reading you correctly or remembering this, what you basically said was that the Democrats shouldn’t actually fight fire with fire. They should not imitate what the Republicans have done in terms of breaking norms, or engaging in their own kind of constitutional hardball. But they should also strive to make the system more rewarding for fair play.
How do you feel about what the Democrats have done to this point versus what they should have done in the face of what likely is going to come along in the midterms this year and in the presidential election in 2024?
Greg Sargent: So can I first say that I think this is a really complicated question, hard to get right. So I don’t think I would say that Democrats shouldn’t fight fire with fire ever. So take, for instance, gerrymandering. If the Republican Party is going to say, “No, you cannot outlaw partisan gerrymandering. We’re going to oppose and filibuster any effort to do that so that we can gerrymandering to our heart’s content in an effort to win the House” — if Republicans are going to do that, I think there’s a reasonable argument that Democrats in the states where they have the power to gerrymander should go ahead and do that, if only because what we’re really talking about here is a national battle between two parties over the makeup of the House. And in that case, in a case like that, I think Democrats are essentially playing by the rules that Republicans are insisting on, as opposed to unilaterally disarming themselves. So I think, in some cases, fighting fire with fire is legitimate.
But more broadly, it seems to me that the general goal should be to take the weaponry off the table for both parties wherever possible. And so you asked whether Democrats had succeeded in doing this or had tried hard enough. I think they did try. People forget this, but the House passed several major bills overhauling democracy, including an end to partisan gerrymandering. And in the ultimate perverse irony, of course, the counter-majoritarian institution of the filibuster killed it in the Senate. And so clearly Democrats have been trying to take the partisan weaponry off the table for both sides, but have been frustrated by a couple senators from West Virginia and Arizona.
So I think that it’s hard to get this balance right. I don’t think that Democrats should start suppressing the votes of working-class whites the way Republicans try to suppress the votes of democratic constituencies. To me that would be a bridge too far in the direction of fighting fire with fire. And by the way, some leftists criticized that idea back when I said it. But I think you could argue that some things — like maybe a much more aggressive approach to some of the judicial wars — would be fair game. It would be fair game to gerrymander if Republicans are going to insist that the national battle over the House be infected by gerrymandering. It’s hard to figure out how to both stand for the proposition that we should disarm and pursue fair play on the one hand, while on the other not unilaterally disarming. It’s very hard to figure out how to get that right.
Geoff Kabaservice: It did seem to me that in your book you were calling for Democratic prudence at the least when it came to abolishing the filibuster.
Greg Sargent: Yeah, I think I was wrong about that. And in my defense, this was before Trump had tried to use military money appropriated by Congress for Ukraine to strongarm Ukraine into manufacturing a scandal to defeat his domestic opponent, and before he got impeached for that; before Trump spent months trying to overthrow an election and destroy our constitutional order with the support of many in the Republican Party, and before he got impeached for that; and before Trump incited a violent mob attack on the capital in order to carry out his procedural coup, including directing the mob essentially to bay for the head of his vice president. So I think things are now… Having watched the way Manchin has used the filibuster in such a bad-faith way to frustrate basic advances that would preserve democracy and fairness, I think I was wrong about that.
Geoff Kabaservice: What is to be done, in your opinion? What should the Democrats be focusing on in the lead-up to the midterm elections, in the lame duck, and then in what may be a Republican-controlled congressional era?
Greg Sargent: I’ve said this in a couple pieces, and I should probably credit Brian Beutler over at Crooked Media for this idea, which I think is an important one. But I think Democrats have to be clearer about what they would do if they were able to, say, gain two more or three more senators in the 2022 elections. Instead of just saying, “Give us more senators and we’ll codify Roe,” they should say, “Give us more senators and we will have 50 votes to reform or suspend or potentially end the filibuster, and here’s what we will pass with that newly created power.” To develop Brian’s argument a little bit, in my view that would have a civically important goal, which would be to address the widespread dismay about the paralysis of the system and the face of things like the mass murder of children in Texas and the Buffalo shooting. I think Democrats should be telling voters, “You do have recourse to get around the problems in the system and the obstacles in the system that are preventing us from acting.” And I think that would be a way of telling voters that all is not lost, that they do possess some power and recourse and agency here.
Geoff Kabaservice: How do you feel now about some of what might be the more small-bore or focused reforms that you recommend in the book, such as pushing for automatic voter registration, having neutral commissions draw district lines, maybe even trying to seek a compromise with the Republicans on voter ID in exchange for making ballot access easier?
Greg Sargent: I would be fine with a compromise like that, just to start at the last thing you mentioned. I think that there would be a way of structuring voter ID in a way that would mitigate any harms or suppressive effects it could have. And if we could get Republicans to agree to making voting easier, it would be a worthwhile thing to do. And I’ll probably get some shit for this, but it seems to me that having bipartisan buy-in to democratic reforms, if you can get it, is a positive. Might as well try to get that. That isn’t to say Democrats shouldn’t do purely partisan reforms to democracy and protections for democracy, if they can and if they must, if Republicans won’t participate. But I would think that getting bipartisan buy-in would be a positive in and of itself.
Greg Sargent: On automatic voter registration, yeah, I think that would be a big step forward. And I will tell you, I still don’t understand this, but the entire lesson of the Trump 2016 victory and the Trump 2020 run — in which he built on his 2016 totals and got unprecedented numbers for a Republican, in which he inspired tremendous turnout in his parts of the country — I would think that Republicans would look at that and say, “You know what, there is this constituency out there that we can activate in our favor. Let’s make it easier for them to participate.” I do not understand why they don’t take that set of facts, that set of circumstances, and leap from there to more voter suppression. Well, I do understand it, but I would like them to think about those factors as reasons to make participation easier, not harder.
Geoff Kabaservice: How do you feel about some more ambitious reforms you proposed in the books such as instituting limited terms for Supreme Court justices?
Greg Sargent: Well, clearly a lot more important right now, right?
Geoff Kabaservice: Yeah. How would you see the possibility of the Senate passing Electoral Count Act reform?
Greg Sargent: I think there’s a chance. I don’t know how good a chance there is. And by the way, I think there may be some Democratic obstacles to this at some point too, which we shouldn’t turn our eyes away from. It’s plausible that you could see some defections among liberals, both in the House and in the Senate, over an ECA reform that doesn’t also include measures to combat voter suppression. I don’t think that should derail it, but it may. As for Republicans, I think it’s still a pretty tall order to get to 10 Republicans, although it seems like there’s something close to that in some of these working groups.
Greg Sargent: I don’t really see why Republicans would oppose reforming the ECA, and here’s why. It seems to me that if I’m a Republican who doesn’t want to come under pressure from Donald Trump in 2024 (or a Donald Trump imitator in 2024) to steal the election for him, I try to make it harder to steal the election so that I don’t get pressured. We talk endlessly about the fact that a few very heroic and well-placed Republicans helped stave off disaster, and that’s absolutely true. So take Georgia governor Brian Kemp, or Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, or some of the election level officials in some of the other swing states. They did perform heroically, but they were under tremendous pressure to do the opposite. We’re talking about a mass movement that was mobilized by Trump chanting about vote-counters that they were corrupt and threatening people. And if you’re a Republican, do you want to be in that situation again?
Geoff Kabaservice: I would think not. But I have almost come to despair of making rational arguments to Republicans about what’s in their best interest. I did notice that you were alert to the fact that former Republican member of the House from Wisconsin James Sensenbrenner had pushed forward a bill to update the Voting Rights Act and that Democrats didn’t seize on this. Do you feel that was a missed opportunity or that there never really was a chance that even a Republican-sponsored bill to do that would find any success in Mitch McConnell’s side of the Senate?
Greg Sargent: As a general matter, as a close reader of Twitter you probably have noticed that whenever somebody suggests anything like a Democrat should try to reach a compromise of Republicans on something, you get met by a flood of LOLs and about maybe a thousand little videos of Charlie Brown and Lucy.
Geoff Kabaservice: Yes, yes. At any suggestion of bipartisanship, you better enjoy the ratio to come.
Greg Sargent: Right. Yes, exactly. But I think as a general matter, Democrats have to pursue these opportunities where they can. Take the current situation right now. Chris Murphy is trying to get a deal with some Republican senators on fairly modest gun reforms in the wake of the horror in Texas. And this, again, is getting hit with a flood of LOLs, and Lucy and Charlie Brown and the football, and so forth and so on. But if you really think about it, the horror of the situation really requires Democrats to try to pursue this to whatever degree they can, even if it seems hopeless. And so I just don’t see why they shouldn’t pursue these things when they can. It’s not like it deprives them of the opportunity to do it by themselves at some future time, if they get two or three additional senators. And to be clear, I’m not making the silly political argument that, “Well, if they pursue Republicans, it will show that they’re unreasonable.” I don’t think that’s why Democrats should pursue Republican support, because Republicans don’t pay a price for that kind of thing.
I think Democrats should pursue Republican support on the off chance that it’s remotely a possibility, especially on something like guns. And by the way, that points to a real perversity about this situation. I think it’s more than likely that Mitch McConnell is saying that he’s open to some sort of gun safety deal precisely because he wants to get headlines saying, “Republicans are open to some sort of gun safety deal,” at the moment when public angst is at its height over the most recent shooting. And then he fully intends to essentially let the deal fall apart, or he fully intends that 10 Republican Senator won’t materialize. And once public anger has died down, it’s a little easier to say, “Well, Democrats asked for too much. We were willing to talk and they’re just crazy.” And so the perversity here is that precisely because the situation is so terrible, requiring Democrats to pursue whatever opportunity exists for action, Mitch McConnell is putting them in a terrible spot. His bad faith is really compelling them to pursue Republican support because there’s no other option. And I find that to be a deeply perverse fact about the situation.
Geoff Kabaservice: If I were to find any grounds for hope in your book, though, it’s that you interviewed people like Chris Jankowski, who had put forward the REDMAP project that really, coming out of the 2010 election, allowed Republicans to redistrict majorities in so many states. And yet even he feels now, as he spoke to you, that we need guardrails, that this system is just causing too much dysfunction to our country that we can’t sustain ultimately. Do you think there is going to be some kind of move back in that direction of realism, if you want to put it that way, on the Republican side?
Greg Sargent: I think you’d be better positioned to answer that question than I would, because you really understand how this party works on a level that I don’t really. But it’s hard to be optimistic, isn’t it? After all, we’re in a situation where no matter what comes out about the January 6th insurrection attempt and the monthslong plot to overturn our election… no matter what comes out about those things, Republicans are still trying to frustrate even the most basic accounting into what happened. They’re still refusing to even admit that something uniquely terrible and threatening happened and that our political system needs to act in response. And so having seen that, it’s hard to know what talks them back into a posture along the lines of what you’re suggesting. But if you have an optimistic note to add here, I’d love to hear it.
Geoff Kabaservice: I tend not to be much of an optimist. But again, the recognition of someone like Jankowski that we are in a really bad situation… I have to believe on some level that most Republicans in office haven’t gone fully over to the populist-authoritarian party, that they retain enough of the old Republican Party (even of the Reaganite Republican Party) that they care about the country and aren’t willing to put it through the things that Donald Trump would put it through. I realize that’s not much grounds for hope, but I actually found your conclusion to be inspiring, which is that “the only option is for all inclined to keep slogging away at it wherever possible.” And I think that’s probably the lesson that I would like to take from your book as well.
Greg Sargent: Well, I appreciate that. I wish I felt as optimistic now as I did then. But Republicans don’t even need a virtuous reason to support reforms like fixing the Electoral Count Act. They can do it out of pure self-interest. They can do it because they don’t want to be the guy who Trump harangues viciously and violently for weeks because he won’t help Trump steal the next election for him — or a Trump wannabe. They can just say, “Okay, well, we’re just fixing this little hole.” Trump will try to say that anyone who supports reforming the Electoral Count Act is his enemy. But now you see people like Mitch McConnell moving away from Trump in certain areas, and you hear a lot of talk about how Trump’s grip, when it comes to the anti-democracy tendencies that he’s tried to unleash, is weakening a little. You saw that Georgia governor Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, survived their primary challenges.
Greg Sargent: Yes, what happened in Pennsylvania with the Republican gubernatorial primary was terrible. But there are some glimmers that in order to survive Republican primary politics, you’re not required to vow to overturn future election losses. And so you’d think they’d be able to get to something as technical as ECA reform if only in their own interests. But I just don’t know if that’s going to happen.
Geoff Kabaservice: Well, let’s hope for the best. Greg, thank you so much for talking with me today.
Greg Sargent: Thanks so much, Geoff.
Geoff Kabaservice: And thank you all for listening to the Vital Center Podcast. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred podcasting platform. And if you have any questions, comments, or other responses, please include them along with your rating, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks as always to our technical director, Kristie Eshelman, our sound engineer, Ray Ingenieri, and the Niskanen Center in Washington, DC.