Rank #1: The Secret to Bernie’s Startling Success
Republican disarray deepens after New Hampshire: Rick Perlstein explains the dilemma of the GOP establishment, as their chosen candidates continue to slide. Also: The startling success of Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire. It’s not just that he’s from the state next door, says D. D. Guttenplan. And Hillary’s problem is bigger than “the messaging.” And Jane Mayer of The New Yorker examines the secret efforts of the Koch Brothers and their billionaire friends to move the Republican Party to the right—the far, far right.
Feb 10 2016
Rank #2: Bernie Is Bringing the Reagan Era to an End
Bernie Sanders is the leading edge of the historical forces bringing the 40-year Reagan era to an end, says Richard Parker of Harvard’s Kennedy School. Plus: Obama’s legacy for black America is mostly symbolic, Gary Younge argues—the wealth gap between black and white Americans has grown over the last eight years, along with black poverty. Gary writes for The Guardian and The Nation. Also: the real politics of hope—Rebecca Solnit talks about untold histories and wild possibilities—her new book is Hope in the Dark.
Mar 23 2016
Rank #3: Naomi Klein, Rebecca Solnit, and Zack Exley: How Organizing Can Still Win
Naomi Klein reports from Standing Rock on the victory there over the Dakota Pipeline—the lesson, she says, is that resistance and organizing can win. Plus, Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark, says “when big dangers arise, you have to think big.” She finds grounds for hope in the Standing Rock story. And Zack Exley, who organized grassroots supporters in the Bernie campaign, talks about the campaign for a Brand New Congress in 2018.
Dec 07 2016
Rank #4: Chris Hayes: Donald Trump Is a Law-and-Order President In the Worst Possible Way
How we got from the events in Ferguson to the election of you-know-who: Chris Hayes talks about race, incarceration, and politics in his new book A Colony In a Nation—Salon called it “a dark book for a dark time.” Plus: Although Trump was the least Christian of all the Republican candidates, white Evangelicals voted for him overwhelmingly, despite the work of some prominent Evangelical leaders. Sarah Posner of The Nation Institute analyzes the political deal that Evangelicals made—she wrote about the issue last month for The New Republic. And Gary Younge explains what it’s been like talking about kids killed by guns—on call-in shows on talk-radio. His book Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives recently won the Anthony J. Lukas Prize.
Apr 05 2017
Rank #5: Donald Trump's Cruel and Unusual Budget—Plus the Supreme Court on Voting and Trump in Saudi Arabia
All budgets are political statements—Trump’s, submitted to the House on Tuesday, represents a cruel attack on the weakest and most vulnerable, in order to slash taxes for the wealthiest. And the assumptions behind the claim that it is “balanced” could generously be called “unusual.” George Zornick comments. Plus: The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts had been gerrymandered to weaken the black vote in the state. Ari Berman explains. Also: Trump’s weekend visit to Saudi Arabia was an embarrassment in many ways, and sinister in others. Joshua Holland has the details.
May 24 2017
Rank #6: The Trump Reelection Scenario: Thomas Frank; plus Adam Hochschild on Guns and Gary Younge’s Return to Muncie
Trump is the most unpopular president in history—but could he be reelected in 2020? Thomas Frank says it wouldn’t be hard—if the economy continues to boom and wages go up, even a little. But the Democrats can stop him—if they change their ways.
Also: Adam Hochschild on guns in Trump’s America after the Parkland shootings. He talks about armed militias, about the law in Iowa that permits the carrying of loaded guns in public by people who are blind, and about why the Koch Brothers are major funders of the NRA—even though they are not especially enthusiastic about guns.
Also: Gary Younge returns to Muncie, Indiana, to talk to Trump supporters—and opponents—a year after Trump took office. He found supporters still enthusiastic, and opponents mobilized as never before. Gary spent the month leading up to the 2016 election in that rust belt city.
Apr 18 2018
Rank #7: 2019 Will Be the Worst Year of Trump’s Life: John Nichols on politics, Sarah Jaffe on the LA teachers strike, and Sean Wilentz on slavery and the constitution
What will 2019 be like for Trump? Will it be like Nixon in 1974—the Watergate year, which ended with his resignation? Or more like Clinton in 1998—the Monica year, which culminated with an impeachment trial in the Senate in 1999? He won that vote easily and came out more popular than before. John Nichols looks at the investigations coming up in the House, leading us to conclude that 2019 will be the worst year of Donald Trump’s life.
Also: The LA teachers’ strike is, among other things, a battle over the future of the Democratic party: will it embrace austerity and the steady erosion of social services, or will it fund the progressive agenda? Sarah Jaffe reports.
And Americans have always struggled over the place of black people in America, starting at the beginning, with the Constitution. Was the Constitution a pro-slavery document? Or, as Lincoln argued, did it point toward abolition? We ask Sean Wilentz—his new book is No Property in Man.
Subscribe to Start Making Sense wherever you get your podcasts for new episodes every Wednesday.
Jan 23 2019
Rank #8: Donald Trump: The View From the Rustbelt
Gary Younge has spent the last several weeks in Muncie, Indiana, reporting on politics in the rust belt. Trump voters there, he says, know his faults, but want “something big” to change their world. Plus, Katha Pollitt asks whether Trump’s misogyny will spark a wave of women’s political action. Also, Tom Frank talks about email: he says the John Podesta emails—released by Wikileaks—tell us much more about how America is run than Hillary’s do. And Adam Shatz argues that Obama’s presidency provoked a white backlash—and rekindled a spirit of black resistance—both of which are prominent features of this year’s campaign.
Nov 02 2016
Rank #9: Naomi Klein: To Fight Climate Change, We Have to Radically Rethink What Is Possible; plus Dahlia Lithwick on Trump’s ‘Emergency’ and Manuel Pastor on Calif. vs. Trump
Naomi Klein says the Green New Deal needs to follow the example of the New Deal of the 1930s, when nothing would have happened without “massive pressure from social movements” that “changed the calculus of what was possible.” Naomi is a contributing editor at The Nation and author of several number one bestsellers, including “This Changes Everything.”
Plus Dahlia Lithwick talks about the national challenge to Trump’s “national emergency”—the constitutional issues, the political issues, and the dangers of treating as normal his rambling, fact-free, egomaniacal performance in the Rose Garden announcing his “emergency.” Dahlia writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast ‘Amicus.’
And we’ll also look at California’s resistance to Donald Trump: Manuel Pastor will explain the past, the present, and the future of the fights over climate justice and immigration between the biggest state and the worst president. Manuel’s new book is “State of Resistance.”
Feb 20 2019
Rank #10: ISIS and American Muslims; Republicans and American Guns
Laila Lalami talks about what ISIS wants from American Muslims; Joan Walsh explains the real reason we don’t have gun control; and we remember Chernobyl—Amy Wilentz and Tom Lutz talk about writer Svetlana Alexievich, the new winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Dec 09 2015
Rank #11: Norman Lear: Donald Trump Is the Middle Finger of the American Right Hand
Norman Lear, who created "All in the Family," reflects on why it succeeded in the Age of Nixon—and on what is different about political satire in the Age of Trump. Plus: The Nation's Zoë Carpenter reports on Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who has taken the lead in fighting for an alternative to the GOP's repeal and replacement of Obamacare. And: Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post discusses what happened when Paul Ryan's hometown lost its GM plant. Her new book is Janesville.
Jun 07 2017
Rank #12: James Comey’s Self-Justification Is Just ‘Not Good Enough’—Jonathan Freedland, plus Lawrence Wright on Trump and Texas and Margaret Atwood on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale'
James Comey’s monster best-seller, A Higher Loyalty, is “a plea for exculpation,” says Jonathan Friedland, but its self-justifications are “not good enough.” Jonathan is a columnist for The Guardian and a best-selling author.
Also: How long will Texas remain a red state? Lawrence Wright says demographic and political change is underway, and that Betto O’Rourke’s campaign for the senate, challenging Ted Cruz, is a crucial one. Wright’s new book is God Bless Texas.
Plus: The Handmaid’s Tale, that feminist dystopian novel, is beginning its second season as a TV series on Hulu this week. Margaret Atwood talks about the significance of The Handmaid’s Tale in the Age of Trump (recorded a year ago, just before the first season’s premiere).
Apr 25 2018
Rank #13: Donald Trump’s 'Great Respect for Women'
Katha Pollitt has some words for Trump and his defenders after the groping tape and the second debate, where he argued that ISIS “chopping off heads” was worse than his statements about women who will “let you do it” if you are “a star.” Plus D.D. Guttenplan reports on the campaigns in Ohio—he found a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Clinton among Democrats there. And Nation columnist Gary Younge talks about children killed by gun violence in America—in his new book, Another Day in the Death of America, he profiles ten kids killed by guns on one typical day.
Oct 12 2016
Rank #14: Republicans and Impeachment: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly--Joan Walsh, plus Andrew Bacevich on Afghanistan and Azadeh Moaveni on ISIS Women
Oct 02 2019
Rank #15: Mourn, Resist, Organize: Our Tasks Now
Katrina vanden Heuvel says there’s no denying the magnitude of our defeats. We need to mourn our losses—but then we have to resist, and organize. Plus John Nichols analyzes the changes we need in the Democratic Party. And Laila Lalami talks about the most vulnerable group in the Trump era: Muslims in America.
Nov 09 2016
Rank #16: How to Beat Trump in 2020: John Nichols on Strategy, Michael Kazin on Southern Democrats, and Katha Pollitt on Women
The Democrats’ picking Milwaukee for their convention in 2020 indicates how that Wisconsin is a key battleground the party must win in order to recapture the White House. John Nichols talks about what it going to take for the Democrats to carry Wisconsin—and Michigan and Pennsylvania—and about the far-reaching tasks that face the party after four years of Trump.
Also: southern Democrats were an all-white party before the voting rights act of 1965; and then, as LBJ predicted, its members all became Republicans. And yet throughout the 20th century Southern Democrats in Congress supported Progressive legislation—as long as it didn’t help black people. Historian Michael Kazin comments—and talks about the party in the South now, where Stacey Abrams and Betto O’Rourke are building something new.
Plus: Halfway through Trump’s term, and the week after International Women’s Day, it’s a good time to look at the big picture of where women stand in the US and in the world—where the US ranks in terms of women’s political representation, legal equality, and recent reports of discrimination and violence. Katha Pollitt surveys the good news, and the bad news.
Mar 13 2019
Rank #17: Sasha Abramsky: Trump Is Like a Cornered Animal. Plus: David Cole and Paul Mason
The "new normal" of daily disasters for the White House make Trump more dangerous and irrational, Sasha Abramsky says, and more likely to adopt fascistic tactics. Plus: conservatives argue that the courts have gone too far in rejecting Trump's travel ban as an unconstitutional attack on Muslims—David Cole of the ACLU responds. And Paul Mason analyzes the British elections in the wake of Trump's troubled trip to Europe.
May 31 2017
Rank #18: White Nationalists in Charlottesville & DC: Eric Foner; plus Bob Dreyfuss on Manafort and Robert Lipsyte on Trump and Golf
Plus Bob Dreyfuss on Paul Manafort, and Robert Lipsyte on Trump and golf
Aug 17 2017
Rank #19: How the Democrats Can Beat Trump on Tax Reform
Harold Meyerson says it’s time for the Democrats to move beyond simply saying “no” to Trump and challenge him with alternative tax proposals that would really help working class people. Harold is executive editor of The American Prospect. Plus: The New York Times has published two articles suggesting that Ivanka will save us from her father. Needless to say, Amy Wilentz doesn’t agree. Also: This week we are celebrating the 90th birthday of Harry Belafonte—he’s been a central figure behind the scenes of the civil rights movement since the 1950s, and he did some amazing things on TV in the crucial year of 1968. Joan Walsh explains.
Mar 01 2017
Rank #20: Our ‘Insane Clown President’—and the Women Who Marched Against Him
Matt Taibbi says “Trump made idiots of us all.” He covered the campaign for Rolling Stone—and his new book is Insane Clown President. Also: The Women’s March last Saturday was glorious—what’s the next step? Joan Walsh comments—and responds to David Brooks’s argument that the marchers focused on the “wrong issues”: reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change—which, he said, are only “for upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities.” And Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the Law School at UC Irvine, is suing Donald Trump—for violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits officials from taking money or gifts from foreign governments. To determine whether and how much he has received from foreign governments, the plaintiffs are seeking Trump’s tax returns.
Jan 25 2017