#179 Election Special: Our Take

What are the most inspiring, exasperating, unique, important, and first-in-our-lifetime results from the Midterm Elections? In this special edition, Jim and Richard give their Quick Fixes take on how American voted.

We discuss: Donald Trump's turnout gift, why the economy played a far larger role than election analysts admit; the serious problems that now face both Republicans and Democrats, the insidious impact of gerrymandering, how celebrities failed to motivate voters, and why the handwringing about money in politics has been put on hold for now.

From Glenn Reynolds' view that the result was more of a purple puddle than a blue wave, to why the year of the woman shattered fund-raising and attention-getting glass ceilings, this record-setting election can be interpreted in a variety of interesting ways.

As for what's next? Jim and Richard discuss the power of small solutions and why the new Congress must focus on legislation as well as investigations.

#177 Bridging Divide Renewing Democracy: Minnesota

Polarization is tearing us apart. Bullying and bluster are two of the most common ingredients in American democracy.

How can we renew democracy and restore the sort of trust that is essential for governance? This episode looks at the constructive and energetic responses of two local and national groups in Minnesota.

We visit a Living Room Conversation discussion on race at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and speak with the co-founder of Better AngelsBill Doherty, a University of Minnesota Professor, who is working with others to bridge partisan divides.

We also meet Tiffany Wilson-Worsley, a family and community specialist in Minneapolis, who works as a facilitator for discussions on race relations.

"We have this pervasive need to be human with one another," she says. "There are so many divides, and I think the goal is to bring us all together to get to know one another, but also to grow together."

Both groups promote guided conversations in a safe space, and establish ground rules for difficult discussions. They aim to build trust among participants of various viewpoint, social class, gender, ethnic and racial backgrounds.

#176 Bridging the Divide: Iowa

American democracy is in crisis and politics have become weaponized with name calling and personal attacks. Trust in national institutions and the media is at an all-time low.

Congress and The Supreme Court are much more likely than in the past to cast predictable party-line votes. As a nation we are failing to make creative solutions, based on compromise.

This episode is the first of three to report on local efforts that push back against the toxic impact of tribalization and political polarization. 

"This is not just a shake our fists at what Donald Trump has brought to our national discourse," Kathie Obradovich, Opinion editor at The Des Moines Register, tells us. "It goes deeper to our ability to speak to and understand each other."

"People who used to put party politics aside and work for common interests are just fewer and fewer. The number of prominent moderates in Iowa politics I can count on one hand."

In this episode, we report on the work of Revive Civility Iowa, a project of the National Institute of Civil Discourse, to bring a series of tools that help people overcome the degradation of our public dialogue. A two-hour workshop in Des Moines was organized by The Ray Center at Drake University, which works to improve civility and promote ethical leadership. 

More than two-thirds of Americans feel our incivility is a crisis. "How Do We Fix It?" looks at how neighbors, family members and local communities are responding in positive ways.

This episode is partially funded by "Renewing Democracy", an initiative of Solutions Journalism Network

#175 Bridging Divide. Renewing Democracy: Carolyn Lukensmeyer

Never before in living memory has America been so deeply divided, and this paralysis threatens to weaken and corrode democracy. Ideological silos have become much more common among both conservatives and liberals.

One opinion poll says 7 in 10 Americans believe that our politics have reached a dangerous low point. And most say the climate is a new normal— not temporary.

This is the first of four “How Do We Fix It?” episodes leading up to the Midterm Elections that discuss local and national attempts to push back against political dysfunction and the lack of rational, respectful debate. Forthcoming episodes will report on new initiatives in Iowa, Minnesota and North Carolina.

Carolyn Lukensmeyer, is a leader in the field of deliberative democracy and social entrepreneurship. She is the Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse

“Voters are frustrated, worried, and angry with their leaders and ashamed of how our political process works these days. Heated rhetoric and a dramatic shift away from bipartisan collaboration pervade national politics, leaving us unable to solve the major challenges confronting our nation,” the group says.

#174 Lessons from Reagan: Bob Spitz

At a time of fractured politics and failed leadership, what lessons can be learned from Ronald Reagan-- one of the most significant presidents in our history?

Considered a dangerous outsider by critics when he was elected in 1980, he appeared to be enthralled with happy endings and disinterested in many of the finer details of economic and social policy. And yet America's fortieth president presided over an economic boom and successful peace talks with the Soviet Union that helped lead to the end of the Cold War.

Our guest, best-selling biographer Bob Spitz, is the author of "Reagan: An American Journey", a richly detailed, riveting, and carefully balanced account of a remarkable life. The book looks clearly at Reagan's policy failures on AIDS, Iran-Contra and Star Wars missile defense, as well as his achievements and great skill as a communicator. 

"Reagan came to power at a very important time in our history," Bob tells us. "We had come through the Vietnam War, Watergate, a succession of failed presidencies-- and the country needed someone to pick up its morale. Ronald Reagan was the right man at the right time."

Unlike Donald Trump, another outsider with the aim of shaking things up and overturning establishment views of government, "Ronald Reagan didn't have a hostile bone in his body," says Bob. "Reagan was not a narcissist in any shape or form. He thought about the good of the American people above everything."

#166 Populism: Bigger Than Trump? Salena Zito

Was Donald Trump's election a one-off event, or did it represent a fundamental realignment of American politics?

Washington-based political experts wrongly called the 2016 election, and our guest, Salena Zito, author of "The Great Revolt", argues that they keep blowing it today. Democrats who ignore the concerns of those who went for Obama in 2012, but then backed Trump four years later, do so at their peril.

We examine the spread of populism that is reshaping American politics on the right and the left, and why it may have much more staying power than critics would like to admit.

Despite President Trump's weak approval ratings, the coalition that brought him to the White House is largely holding together. Salena drove many thousands of miles on back roads, speaking with hundreds of Trump voters in ten Great Lake swing counties while reporting for the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, and contributing to The Atlantic. 

She takes them seriously. From "red-blooded blue-collared" conservative populists to "rough rebounders" and "girl gun power" supporters, we learn why so many believe that Trump stands up for working people against powerful corporate interests.

"Modern populism today is a healthy skepticism of large things, big institutions, big government, big entertainment, big sports," says Salena. "This coalition isn't just impacting the ballot, its having an impact on how we shop and how we consume things."

In this episode we look at the roots of populism, but also take a skeptical view of its future.

#163 The High Cost of America First: James Bacchus

President Trump has withdrawn from international agreements, criticized NATO, The European Union, and attacked the policies of Canada, Mexico, Britain, France and Germany-- all traditional allies. He praised President Putin, and continues to sow chaos in the international trading system, reportedly threatening to pull the U.S. out of the World Trade Organization-- W.T.O.

This last step, above all, could have the most serious impact on the American economy, damaging businesses, destroying jobs, and weakening U.S. influence around the world.

In this episode, we look at solutions for climate change, sustainable growth, the need for smarter international co-operation, and the reason why the W.T.O. is so crucial to the future of the global trading system. 

Our guest is former Florida Congressman James Bacchus, Director of the Center for Global Economic and Environmental Opportunity at the University of Central Florida. He was twice the chief judge of the highest court of world trade at the W.T.O. in Geneva, Switzerland.

Jim's new book is "The Willing World. Shaping and Sharing a Sustainable Global Prosperity."

"I believe our President is a pessimist," he says. "He doesn't really believe in America or the American people, despite all he says about putting America first."