39 minutes | Dec 14, 2022
Is It Time to Break Up With Your Political Party?
In her two years hosting “The Argument,” Jane Coaston has changed her mind about many things — from court packing to police reform (though not on whether we should contact alien life). But this year, she has changed her political party; once a proud card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party, Jane is now a registered independent. And she isn’t alone: Kyrsten Sinema, former Democrat of Arizona, just became an independent, and we heard from many listeners of “The Argument” with their own experiences of why they switched their political party affiliations. Now wading in new political waters, Jane really wants to know: What happens when your party leaves you behind? In the final episode of “The Argument,” Jane calls on former congressman Justin Amash of Michigan to help answer that question. While in office, Amash changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent, and then to Libertarian, which made him the first sitting Libertarian Party member in Congress. The two share strong opinions about what the Libertarian Party stands for today and discuss how political parties — whether big or small — should amass power. Mentioned in this episode: Elizabeth Nolan Brown’s work at Reason.com Jane’s 2016 interview with then-candidate Gary Johnson (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
30 minutes | Dec 7, 2022
Should America Intervene in Haiti? ‘Go to Hell’ and Other Views
The United States has a long history of military intervention in other countries. Today, Haiti is in crisis. The country is facing gang violence, extreme hunger and intense political turmoil, sparked largely by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year. And with a call from acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry, requesting international military assistance, the United States faces a familiar question: To intervene or not to intervene? To discuss, Jane Coaston brings together New York Times Opinion columnists Lydia Polgreen and Nick Kristof, who both have firsthand experience in Haiti. Their careers covering crises in other countries have shaped how they view U.S. intervention in the country and elsewhere around the world. “There are more problems in international relations than there are solutions, and I think Haiti, right now, is one example of that,” Kristof says. Mentioned in this episode: “‘This Is It. This Is Our Chance.’ It’s Time for Everyone to Get Out of Haiti’s Way.” by Lydia Polgreen for The New York Times “The Other Afghan Women” by Anand Gopal for The New Yorker (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
33 minutes | Nov 30, 2022
The One Thing Democrats Can Control — and How They Should Do It
Are the Democrats, finally, in array? They’ve just had the best midterms by a sitting president’s party in about 20 years, and passed significant legislation in 2022. And now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is stepping down after nearly two decades as leader, without the specter of intraparty battles. So what comes next for Dems, and what should the party’s future strategy be? Today on “The Argument,” Jane is joined by two writers with close eyes on the Democratic Party. Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin and the president of The Nation magazine. Michelle Cottle is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times. They assess the place progressivism has in the Democratic Party, what the incoming generational shift in leadership will bring and how Democrats must win. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
33 minutes | Nov 23, 2022
Best of: Is the News Media Setting Trump Up for Another Win?
This week, we're bringing you an episode from our archives that's more relevant than ever. After former President Donald Trump’s recent announcement of his 2024 White House bid — and his reinstatement on Twitter — there’s the matter of the media: What role should the press play in preserving democratic institutions? When we first asked this question back in December 2021, Times Opinion columnist Ross Douthat pushed back on media critics like N.Y.U. associate professor Jay Rosen, who asserted that the press should strive to be “pro-truth, pro-voting, anti-racist, and aggressively pro-democracy.” Ross disagreed, claiming that such a stance could feed more polarization. Together, Jane, Ross and Jay debate how the press should cover politics, and Donald Trump, in a democratic society. Mentioned in this episode: “Can the Press Prevent a Trump Restoration?” by Ross Douthat “You Cannot Keep From Getting Swept up in Trump’s Agenda Without a Firm Grasp on Your Own” and “Two Paths Forward for the American Press,” by Jay Rosen, published in PressThink in May 2020 and November 2020, respectively. (A full transcript of the episode is available on the Times website.)
26 minutes | Nov 16, 2022
Has Donald Trump Lost His Grip on the Republican Party?
Donald Trump is running for president — again. Yet the results of last week’s midterms and the red wave that wasn’t signaled that perhaps Trump’s hold on the Republican Party isn’t so strong after all. But now that he’s back on the presidential stage, what does it mean for the future of the Republican Party? Today on “The Argument,” Jane Coaston convenes two conservative writers to provide an analysis of the party now. Ross Douthat is a columnist for Times Opinion and Kevin D. Williamson is a national correspondent for The Dispatch. Together they discuss the G.O.P.’s post-midterm vibes, how a Trump vs. DeSantis battle could play out and what the conservative movement really stands for. Note: This episode contains explicit language. Read more from this episode: Kevin D. Williamson’s guest essay, “Why Trump Could Win Again” Ross Douthat’s newsletter for New York Times Opinion and his column “Did Ron DeSantis Just Become the 2024 Republican Frontrunner?” Sohrab Ahmari’s guest essay, “Why the Red Wave Didn’t Materialize” (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
25 minutes | Nov 9, 2022
Donald Trump Was the Midterm’s Biggest Loser
As midterm election results continue to trickle in, one thing is clear: There’s no predicting American voters. After an unexpected showing for Democrats in tight races across the country, Jane Coaston speaks with the Times editorial board member Michelle Cottle and Times Opinion columnist Ross Douthat to recap what happened at the polls. Together they discuss how the Democrats won “the expectations game,” who had the worst night (Donald Trump) and what the clouded results reveal about the bigger story of American democracy. “What we are looking at is an electorate that is feeling unsettled, and neither party made the case that they were going to provide the strength, stability, normalcy to create a wave election,” Cottle says. (A full transcript of the episode will be available on the Times website.)
34 minutes | Nov 2, 2022
The Price of $5 Donations: Is Small-Dollar Fund-Raising Doing More Harm Than Good?
As midterm frenzy reaches its peak, your inbox might be full of imploring fund-raising emails with increasingly desperate headlines: “Just $3 can make all the difference.” “Can you chip in today?” “Ultimately, it’s up to you.” In theory, the small-dollar donation model is a good thing: It enables voters to have a say in who their candidates are and counterbalances the influence of superdonors and industry lobbyists. But as extremist candidates increasingly adopt grass-roots approaches and self-fund-raise their way into Congress, could small-dollar donations be doing more harm to our democracy than good? Today’s guests come to the debate from different positions. Tim Miller is a former Republican strategist and current writer at large for The Bulwark who believes that there are real dangers to the grass-roots model. “Our online fund-raising system is not only enriching scam artists, clogging our inboxes and inflaming the electorate; it is also empowering our politics’ most nefarious actors,” Miller wrote recently in a guest essay for Times Opinion. On the other side is Micah Sifry, a co-founder of Civic Hall and the writer of The Connector, a newsletter about democracy, organizing and tech. Sifry thinks that, yes, small-dollar donations fund extremists, but they can also enable progressive politicians to hold powerful interests accountable as independently funded candidates. “Some politicians are going to get money for their campaigns who I disagree with, but you’ve got to live with that because the alternative is oligarchy,” Sifry says. Mentioned in this episode: “The Most Toxic Politicians Are Dragging Us to Hell With Emails and Texts,” by Tim Miller in The New York Times “Fed Up With Democratic Emails? You’re Not the Only One.” by Lara Putnam and Micah Sifry in The New York Times “Don’t Blame Our Toxic Politics on Online Fund-raising,” by Micah Sifry in Medium (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
35 minutes | Oct 26, 2022
‘Maybe Gen Z Is Just Kinder’: How America’s Youngest Voters are Shaping Politics
Members of Gen Z (Americans under 26 years old) have come of age during the Trump presidency and a pandemic, in an era of protests over police violence, attacks on reproductive rights, rising economic inequality, and frequent school shootings. These young people are calling for major changes, but many aren’t confident that politicians will act with the urgency necessary to carry them out. As Gen Z voters consider the midterms, they are prioritizing the issues, not party allegiance. But with a history of low turnout, and disenchantment with politics across the spectrum, will young voters be moved enough by the issues to show up at the polls? And if so, will there be enough of them to sway decisive races? Today on “The Argument,” Jane Coaston convenes three voters in their early 20s to talk about how their families and communities have affected their politics, what matters most to them at the ballot box, and what they wish older Americans and politicians understood about people their age. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
30 minutes | Oct 19, 2022
Has Polling Broken Politics?
Election Day is just three weeks away — and that means it’s peak polling season. For political hobbyists, polling is the new sports betting: gamifying elections to predict outcomes that haven’t always proven accurate. If the 2016 election revealed anything, it’s that polls are sometimes off — very off. So as America faces another high-stakes election, how much faith should we put in them? On today’s episode, Jane Coaston brings together two experts to diagnose what we’re getting wrong in both how we conduct polls, and how we interpret the data they give us. Margie Omero is a longtime Democratic pollster and focus group moderator. Nate Silver, who prefers to call himself a “forecaster” rather than a pollster, is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight. Together, the two tackle how polling both reflects and affects the national political mood, and whether our appetite for election predictions is doing democracy more harm than good. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
39 minutes | Oct 12, 2022
Is America Headed for Another Civil War?
America is divided and battling many different internal “wars” — over politics, culture, language, religion. Is it possible all this internal division could culminate in a civil war? Today’s episode of “The Argument” brings together Jamelle Bouie and Tim Alberta to assess. Bouie is a Times Opinion columnist and historian of America’s Civil War. Alberta is a staff writer at The Atlantic and made the case that the F.B.I. Mar-a-Lago search is the tipping point for political violence that could put our democracy at stake. Mentioned in this episode: “The Civil War” documentary by Ken Burns “Oklahoma City” documentary from PBS “Bring the War Home” by Kathleen Belew “What Comes After the Search Warrant?” by Tim Alberta in The Atlantic “Why We Are Not Facing the Prospect of a Second Civil War” by Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times “Bad Losers” by Tim Alberta in The Atlantic (A full transcript of the episode is available on the Times website.)
31 minutes | Oct 5, 2022
Are You ‘Third-Party-Curious’? Andrew Yang and David Jolly Would Like a Word.
For years, hopeful reformers have touted the promise of third parties as an antidote to our political polarization. But when so many of the issues that voters care about most — like abortion, or climate change, or guns — are also the most divisive, can any third party actually bring voters together under a big tent? Or will it just fracture the electorate further? Today’s guests say it’s worth it to try. Andrew Yang and David Jolly are two of the co-founders of the Forward Party, a new political party focused on advancing election reform measures, including open primaries, independent redistricting commissions in every state and the widespread adoption of ranked choice voting. Yang is a former Democratic candidate for president and a former Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City. Jolly is a former Republican congressman and executive chairman of the Serve America Movement. Together, they joined Jane Coaston live onstage at the Texas Tribune Festival to discuss why they’ve built a party and not a nonprofit, what kinds of candidates they want to see run under their banner and what Democrats are getting wrong in their midterm strategy right now. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
30 minutes | Sep 28, 2022
After Dobbs: What Is Feminist Sex?
What is good sex? It’s a complicated question that feminists have wrestled with for decades. From destigmatizing premarital sex to embracing no-strings-attached hookup culture of more recent decades, feminism has often focused winning sexual freedoms for women. But some feminists have been asking if those victories have had unintended consequences, such as the devaluing of emotional intimacy in relationships. So: What kind of sexual liberation actually makes women freer? And how do we need to reset our cultural norms to get there? In the final installment of our three-part feminism series on “The Argument,” Jane Coaston is joined by Nona Willis Aronowitz and Michelle Goldberg. Willis Aronowitz is the sex and love columnist at Teen Vogue, and the author of “Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure and an Unfinished Revolution.” She’s also the daughter of Ellen Willis, a leader of the pro-sex feminist movement in the late 1960s and after. Goldberg is a Times Opinion columnist who has been writing about feminism for decades. The two discuss what it means to be sexually liberated, the limitations — and the rewards — of monogamy and just how much the individual choices people make in the bedroom shape the broader feminist movement. Mentioned in this episode: “The Case Against the Sexual Revolution,” by Louise Perry “I Still Believe in the Power of Sexual Freedom,” by Nona Willis Aronowitz in The New York Times “When Sexual Liberation Is Oppressive,” by Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
32 minutes | Sep 21, 2022
After Dobbs: Feminism Beyond the Gender Binary
As the feminist movement has regrouped in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, one of the more surprising debates that has emerged has been one about semantics. Some feminists argue that using inclusive phrases like “pregnant person” in reproductive rights advocacy minimizes the experiences of cisgender women. So where do trans and nonbinary people fit within feminism’s big tent? And if the trans rights movement and the feminist movement are fighting for many of the same things — most critically, the protection of bodily autonomy — why can’t they get on the same page? In part two of our series on the future of feminism, Jane Coaston is joined by two trans feminists and writers, Dr. Jennifer Finney Boylan and Thomas Page McBee. Together, they discuss how the gender binary has informed their own identification, how they’ve felt supported — or left behind — by mainstream feminism, and how they want the two movements to work together going forward. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
44 minutes | Sep 14, 2022
After Dobbs: Does ‘Big Tent’ Feminism Exist? Should It?
For decades, the story of the American feminist movement seemed like a progression of hard-won gains: Title IX, Roe v. Wade, the Violence Against Women Act, #MeToo. But in a post-“lean in” and post-Roe America, the momentum seems to have reversed, leaving some feminists to wonder: What are we fighting for? And who is in that fight? So this week, “The Argument” is kicking off a three-part series to dive into the state of feminism today. In the first episode, Jane Coaston brings together two people who have helped shaped how we think about feminism. Anne-Marie Slaughter is the chief executive of New America and wrote the influential 2012 Atlantic essay “Why Women Can’t Have It All.” The article was critiqued by our second guest, Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (and a Times columnist). Ten years later, the two women discuss what’s next for feminism — personal disagreements included — and debate Jane’s fundamental question: Is feminism an identity that you claim or an action that you take? (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
34 minutes | Sep 7, 2022
What Should High Schoolers Read?
Book banning has surged in America’s classrooms. The free speech advocacy organization PEN America has compiled a list of more than 1,500 reported instances of books being banned in public schools and libraries in less than a year. As students head back to school, what are the books we do and don’t want our kids to read? And what are the values America’s students are meant to take away from the pages of books? So on this episode of “The Argument,” Jane Coaston is talking to two writers and teachers to figure out what high school English syllabuses should look like in 2022. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a contributing Opinion writer and novelist who has taught high school English and creative writing, and designed English curriculums for for-profit companies. Esau McCaulley, also a contributing Opinion writer, is an associate professor at Wheaton College. Greenidge argues that at their best, English classes and the books read in them should be a place to find mutual understanding. “When you’re talking about what we should read in English class, you’re really talking about how to make a common language for people to talk across,” Greenidge says. But the question of whose stories are included in that common language — especially when it comes to what makes up the Western canon — is especially fraught. And to McCaulley, how teachers put a book in context is just as important as what their students are reading in the first place. “That’s what makes discussions around the canon complicated,” he says. "Because the teacher has to be able to see these texts as both powerful and profoundly broken, because they’re written by humans who often have those contradictions in themselves.” Mentioned in this episode: From New York Times Opinion: “What Is School For?” (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
43 minutes | Aug 31, 2022
Best of: Does the Supreme Court Need More Justices?
Today, we're re-airing one of our most timely debates from earlier this year: Reforming the Supreme Court. This episode originally aired before the Dobbs decision was released this summer. 2022 is a big year for supporters of Supreme Court reform. Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that gave women nationwide the right to have abortions, has been overturned, and the debate around changing the way we structure the bench — in particular, packing the court — is getting only more heated. The past decade has brought a shift in the makeup of the court — from Brett Kavanaugh, appointed despite sexual assault allegations, to Merrick Garland, blocked from confirmation, and Amy Coney Barrett, rushed to confirmation. It’s the culmination of decades of effort by Republicans to make the courts more conservative. And now Democrats want to push back by introducing some radical changes. Today, Jane Coaston brings together two guests who disagree on whether altering Supreme Court practices is the right call and, if yes, what kind of changes would make sense for the highest judicial body in the nation. Russ Feingold is the president of the American Constitution Society and was a Democratic senator from Wisconsin from 1993 to 2011. Russ Miller is an attorney and law professor at Washington and Lee and the head of the Max Planck Law Network in Germany. Mentioned in this episode: “Americans No Longer Have Faith in the U.S. Supreme Court. That Has Justices Worried,” by Russ Feingold in The Guardian, published in October 2021. “We Don’t Need to Reform the Supreme Court,” by Russ Miller in Just Security, published in February 2021. “The Future of Supreme Court Reform,” by Daniel Epps and Ganesh Sitaraman in Harvard Law Review, published in May 2021.
46 minutes | Aug 24, 2022
Best of: Cancel America's Student Loan Debt! But How?
Today, with the Biden Administration weighing whether to extend the federal student loan payment freeze, we're re-airing one of our most timely debates from last year: Canceling student loan debt. The problem of student loan debt has reached crisis proportions. As a college degree has grown increasingly necessary for economic mobility, so has the $1.7 trillion in student loan debt that Americans have taken on to access that opportunity. President Biden has put some debt cancellation on the table, but progressive Democrats are pushing him for more. So what is the fairest way to correct course? Astra Taylor — an author, a documentarian and a co-founder of the Debt Collective — dukes it out with Sandy Baum, an economist and a nonresident senior fellow at the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute. While the activist and the economist agree that addressing the crisis requires dramatic measures, they disagree on how to get there. Is canceling everyone’s debt progressive policy, as Taylor contends? Or does it end up being a regressive measure, as Baum insists? Jane hears them both out. And she offers a royal history tour after Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Mentioned in this episode: Astra Taylor in The Nation: “The Case for Wide-Scale Debt Relief” Sandy Baum in Education Next: “Mass Debt Forgiveness Is Not a Progressive Idea” Astra Taylor’s documentary for The Intercept: “You Are Not a Loan” Sandy Baum for the Urban Institute: “Strengthening the Federal Role in the Federal-State Partnership for Funding Higher Education” Jane’s recommendation: Lucy Worsley’s three-episode mini-series “Secrets of the Six Wives”
28 minutes | Aug 17, 2022
Trump, Dr. Oz and Our Political Cult of Celebrity
Celebrities. They are ubiquitous in American culture and now, ever increasingly, in our politics. From Donald Trump to Dr. Oz, the memeification of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — the power of celebrity has gripped our democracy and society. We want our elected officials to be superstars, but is that a good thing? So today, host Jane Coaston is joined by Jessica Bennett, contributing editor to Times Opinion and Frank Bruni, a contributing Opinion writer, to discuss our modern celebrity politics phenomenon and how it’s shaping our cultural and political realities. “I’m distressed that we’ve conflated celebrity and politics because I think it gives politicians the wrong goals, the wrong motives,” Bruni says. And a lot of that is on us — the fans. “We place values on celebrities that may not actually represent them, and they become something outside of themselves,” Bennett says. “They start to represent something that has nothing to do with the person who’s actually there.” Warning: This episode contains explicit language. Mentioned in this episode: “Dr. Does-It-All” by Frank Bruni in The New York Times Magazine “He’s Sorry, She’s Sorry, Everybody Is Sorry. Does It Matter?” by Jessica Bennett Sign up for Frank Bruni’s newsletter for New York Times Opinion here. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
31 minutes | Aug 10, 2022
Your Blue State Won’t Save You: Why State Politics Is National Politics
Last week, Kansans voted in overwhelming numbers to protect abortion rights in their State Constitution — the first instance since the overruling of Roe v. Wade in which voters have been able to weigh in on the issue directly. But local battles aren’t just limited to abortion. There’s guns. There’s school curriculums. Most crucially, there’s voting rights. As national politics becomes increasingly polarized and stalemates in Congress continue, how we live is going to be decided by local legislation. It’s time we step into the state houses and see what’s happening there. So on today’s episode, guests Zack Beauchamp and Nicole Hemmer help Jane Coaston understand what these state-level legislative battles mean for national politics. Beauchamp covers the Republican Party for Vox, and Hemmer is a historian of conservative media and an associate professor at Vanderbilt University. Both share the belief that state governments have become powerful machines in influencing the U.S. constitutional system, but to what extent that influence is helpful or harmful to American democracy depends. “This idea of the states as the laboratories of democracy, being able to try out different policies and different programs and see how they work in the state — that’s great,” Hemmer says. “But they’ve become these laboratories of illiberalism in recent years. And that’s something that we have to reckon with.” Mentioned in this episode: “Why the G.O.P. Should Be the Party of Voting Rights” by Nicole Hemmer “Republican Control of State Government Is Bad for Democracy” by Zack Beauchamp “Democrats Chase Shiny Objects. Here’s How They Can Build Real Power.” From “The Ezra Klein Show” with Amanda Litman. (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
33 minutes | Aug 3, 2022
What’s God Got to Do With It? The Rise of Christian Nationalism in American Politics.
Christian nationalism has been empowered in American politics since the rise of Donald Trump. From “Stop the Steal” to the storming of the U.S. Capitol and now, the overturn of Roe v. Wade — Christian nationalist rhetoric has undergirded it all. But given that a majority of Americans identify as Christian, faith also isn’t going anywhere in our politics. So what would a better relationship between church and state look like? To discuss, Jane Coaston brings together two people who are at the heart of the Christian nationalism debate. Katherine Stewart is the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism” and has reported on the Christian right for over a decade. Esau McCaulley is a contributing writer for Times Opinion and theologian-in-residence at Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago. Stewart feels that the movement is paving the way to something with graver consequence. “This is a movement that wants to promote theocratic policies,” she says. “But theocracy is really not the end point. It’s sort of a means to an end, which is authoritarianism.” McCaulley agrees the danger is real. But to him, there’s a place for faith-informed arguments in the public square. “When you try to enforce your religion as the base of your argument and the sole way of being a good American, that’s Christian nationalism,” he says. “And when you’re saying, well, hold on, here is a value that I want to advocate for, perhaps this is my best presentation of the issue, let’s vote and let society decide — I think that’s the best that you can hope for.” Mentioned in this episode: “Christian Nationalists Are Excited About What Comes Next” by Katherine Stewart in The New York Times “How Religion Can Help Put Our Democracy Back Together” by Richard Just in The Washington Post Magazine (A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)