tv Discussions on the Constitution Politics Civic Discourse at the Atlantic... CSPAN October 6, 2018 10:01am-11:13am EDT
like to thank everyone for watching c-span "washington journal." willus tomorrow where we have more conversations about what is going on with the kavanaugh nomination. join us tomorrow morning, and have a good day. ♪ next, a discussion about politics and civil discourse, then florida senator marco rubio talking about the importance of bipartisanship in american politics. after that, a senate hearing on train safety. , a discussion about the
constitution, politics, and civic discourse, part of an event hosted by the atlantic and washington, d.c. features two panels, addressing political desk interpreting factors and in the second, they talk about the press, the communication style of president trump, and how information and this information are shared and received. bob: welcome to the atlantic festival. the eventresident of take and we begin three days of conversation on the most pressing issues of our time.
let's be honest, we come together at a moment of national crisis. the rule of law is under threat. our institutions are failing, and the constitution, a document that has held this country together, is being tested as it has few times in our history. that is the lighthearted topic for today. [laughter] bob: the health of the u.s. constitution and our systems of government. every those few times decade when the legislative branch is called upon to provide a device and consent and the executive branch nomination to the highest court in the judicial branch. it is a constitutional trifecta and we are fortunate to have with us two senators at the red-hot center of the debate, jeff flake and chris coons. our program is in many ways a live version of the most recent issue of our magazine.
i hope you got a copy as you came in. is democracy dying? issue, our writers examine the very notion of democracy throughout the world and the impact of technology, bias, and the decline in civic produce a patient on the health of our systems. during this is test turning this issue into an event was made possible through our partnership with the national constitution center, and i thank them for their support. [applause] we begin with the conversation about the underlying themes in the magazine. joining us, jeffrey rosen, ceo and president of the national constitution center, and contributor to the atlantic. [applause] marcus, a columnist at the washington post. [applause] bob: abram candy, director of
-- andist research winner of the 2016 national book award. [applause] bob: leading the conversation, the atlantic editor in chief jeffrey goldberg. [applause] much.y: thank you very can you hear me? can you hear me now? it is our really getting better, the state of our country. thank you very much for coming. we had quick introductions. these people are well known and esteemed so i do not have to introduce them. one more note about the special issue that you have or will get, it developed out of a conversation about a year ago i was having with jeff in which i asked him a simple question.
i said, what would james madison currentour kermit -- moment? he answered in a 6000 word, perfectly formed essay. we published it on my phone. it was so easy. haveew and grew until we when i think is a really fantastic issue with jeff and ibram and a bunch of other people. for this conversation, let's go right at the topic of our first conversation, we seem to be in a crisis, and i want to ask each of you in turn what you think pressing -- what is the most pressing aspect of this the greatest threat to the continuity of our constitutional form of government? let's start with you and maybe you can channel the madison down
-- madisonian quality. sen. flake: thank you for asking this important question. what inspired me to the answer was a passage from federalist 55, in all very large assemblies, no matter what character controlled, passion never fails to wrest the sector from reason. even if every athenian had been socrates, athens would still have been a mob. mind. is on madison's he is convinced that direct to -- democracies where passions can be unchecked, will lead to demagogues. he devises the entire american system to create cooling mechanisms that slow down public discourse so that reasonable majorities can prevail. what the piece tries to do is note that all of the cooling mechanisms madison put in place are under siege.
college is polarized more than ,ny time since the civil war with red and blue america living in different echo chambers and communities, the president competing directly with the people. a tweeting president is a madisonian nightmare. with the prospect of 5-4 represents the -- and social media, facebook and twitter, have sped up public immigration so it makes possible the formation of digital mobs undermining the advantages of the extended republic which madison felt would make it hard for mobs to discover each other. he thought passion could dissipate before it forms. for madison, a mob can be a majority or a minority. the fact that we may have parties that are ruling that do not have the support of the majority of the whole is not an
answer to the madisonian problem . he defined a mob as any group animated by a passion for any reason devoted to self interest rather than the public good. that is the terrible crisis our country is going through. >> i would also like to say i can quote large tracts of the federalist paper but i made the personal choice not to. sen. flake: it is a party trick. >> only in washington is that a party trick. [laughter] >> the biggest threat? i am here today as are designated quads i optimist. optimist. the biggest threat may be a corollary or outgrowth of the mob that jeff is so eloquently disclaiming about, which is the wobbly us leg of the stool, our feckless legislative branch.
i hope jeff flake is not in the hall yet, don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. if you think about elements of the national arrangement that too adequately over the last difficult months. the judiciary, well too adequately and we will see how that precedes. thanedia, more well adequately, despite the scary fact that last month we had one white house press briefing. that is a scary part of our constitutional arrangement, but nonetheless, we persist. and then, you know you have the excesses of an unchecked leads me towhich the feckless branch, the legislature. i do not think it is passion
that is motivating them, though it may be the passion of the mob creating this agreement. this is -- it is fear. they know what is right and they are afraid to many of them, too often, to stand up and say it. , many lawmakers that i speak to in the crass realpolitik situation of if i "he" who he meaning shall not be named, and his mob of followers and twitter followers will the siege my office through social media, through telephones, and they will crush me at the ballot box. they will not necessarily crush me in the general election, but we have this unfortunate primary situation going on. we have an arrangement that i think madison and his buddies
could not have conceived of. ,t is not unique to this moment but it is uniquely bad at this moment, where we have a legislative branch that is too often cowering in fear of doing what it knows to be the right thing. that is my dig, the gloomy piece of my hat, that is the biggest threat. >> in your excellent piece for the atlantic, you talk at length about what remains america's original sin. can you give us in a minute or two, the thesis, and talk about the way in which the perpetuation of racism prevents us from being the more perfect union that we all dream of? ibram: sure. usethe piece i decided to lincoln's speech in 1858, in which he made the case that a house divided against itself
cannot stand. he believed his government cannot permanently endure half slave or half free, or become all one thing or the other. in the piece, instead of thinking of the divide right now between slavery and anti-slavery , we should think of the divide between racists and anti-racists. it is sort of original sin, this persisting division is essentially between those who are led to believe that the problem in our society is people , particularly people who do not look like them, people who do not live in their neighborhood. others i think have come to recognize that the problem is policy. really, from the founding of this country, we have had racial inequity. people have been trying to understand why this neck a exists and -- inequity exists
and persists. is it bad policy or bad people? fundamentally we will have to come together and recognize that it is bad policy and that by thinking it is bad people, we fundamentally remain divided. it is difficult for a nation to persist permanently with such searing division. i am wondering if the system was designed to grapple with the level of demographic change, change in relations to gender, differences from region to region, the formation of all kinds of -- a faction is what madison was worried about. is this country simply becoming word in ai use this technical, narrow sense -- too diverse to actually unify around
a single creed, a creed encapsulated in the declaration of independence and constitution? you are so right to say lincoln as well as madison, and lincoln as directly channeling madison went in his speech, which i found since the piece came out after reading your amazing piece, 1838, the young men's lyceum of springfield -- wink and is afraid of mobs. he is saying the abolitionist newspaper creator lynched, seeing african americans and white people lynched. ic spirithe mob-ocrat is in the land. we are passionate by -- led by passion. i fear that we will be seduced by demagogues like caesar. , theys to these young men only solution is reverence for the constitution and the laws.
let it be taught from every cradle, let every mother and father teach it to every traveling babe. we must imbibe this reverence for the constitution and it has to become a political religion. it reminds us that things have been very bad before. we are more polarized than at any time during the civil war. >> we are more polarized than any time since the lead up of the civil war? jeffrey: after the civil war, the divide between republicans and democrats was as great as it is since then. it has not been as great since then. in 1960, 50% of the most conservative democrats overlapped with 50% of the most liberal conservatives. if this decade is analogous in some ways -- i'm trying to be cautious about how i phrase this
1850's, what the is the next decade? do either of you see any cause to believe that we are going to wake up one morning and go, we need to reimpose restraint on our behavior and speech to recognize the fact that we are trying to live together in one country under one system. do you see anything to make you happy? anything at all, really? it is early. ibram: i see people existing. i see young people sort of imagining and dreaming of a different world. on the other hand, i see people arming themselves. i see people joining organizations that imagine that their people are experiencing genocide and they are seeking to take america back. they see their president basically championing that effort. i also see those people terrorizing more americans than any other group of people.
americans, particularly white americans, particularly middle income white americans imagining more of an antiracist egalitarian society is against their interest, which it is not. there are many ways in which i see it getting worse, and you see the violence. 1850's, think about the a lot of the violence was occurring on plantations. a lot of this did go on, on plantations. there was a lot of proslavery theorists who were upset about abolition in the north, speaking out against slavery. bob: we are going to take questions in a minute, but let's go to ruth for comment on this. this is a question i get, you get, anybody from the so-called mainstream media gets this question all the time -- how do you reach that 30% to 40% of
americans, mainly nonwhite and not "coastal elites," how do you reach them with your fact-based discourse about the way the country is going, the divisions in the country, the behavior of the president? have you figured out how to bridge that divide? ruth: yes, but i cannot tell you. [laughter] bob: but if you join amazon prime, however. [laughter] bob: but go into this a little bit, i am curious to know how you think about this because it does seem to me that we can divide up america into many different kinds of tribes, but there is the tribe that no longer believes what we believe to be flawed, but earnest effort to present observable empirical reality so that people can make informed decisions. how do you get over that chasm? ruth: i want to get into my
designated optimist role for just the second. bob: this is self designation, by the way. self designation as well, which is not to say naive dupe. self designated optimist. 1860's -- though let's recall the 1960's. 1968 was a very scary moment, a very scary year, rioting in streets, college students rioting and killed. a nation really torn apart. bad places atn many points in our history and we have healed. now,e are at a bad point is it is a point that trump obviously a cause and a symptom. because we were not in a good place as a nation going into the election, but at the same time, 3 million more
votes for hillary clinton, oddities of antiquated electoral college systems -- i am not blaming you. of bad, potentially malign ask that yielded this -- this, we could be having a different conversation. i think back to the night when barack obama was elected president of the united states and we thought of our country in a different way. that is a little bit of happy talk on a situation that i agree is not the perfect moment now. one thing that is -- increasingly concerns me that we have alluded to but have not talked about is the role of , away from she said her microphone, in exacerbating
all of this. thexacerbates the mob, regional demographic sorting that creates the pre-existing tribalism. bob: we are going to talk about that in the next panel. the op-ed oversee page at "the washington post" and the opinion section online. we have been, since the election -- during the election, especially since the election, extremely dedicated to the proposition that we need to -- that people can say liberal "washington post," and people can dismiss us starting with an trickling down from the president, but that we need to -- theou have tried this home for vibrant, intellectually honest, robust debate that includes and reflects the reality that people voted for
donald trump and we are serving it to people. you know what? it suggests that our readers, wherever they are on the political spectrum, are able to consume across the political spectrum. there will be people who never buto "the washington post," i think we need to and all of our colleagues across the media landscape need to serve people two things. one is facts, because they really matter. the second is respectful discourse across the ideological divide, because if we cannot have that we really are in trouble. please also keep these questions short and in the form of a question. good morning. >> good morning. i am andy bloom. some have called for a constitutional convention to be within four or five years. what are your thoughts? madison was avidly
opposed to another convention. he thought it was amerco the first one worked. [laughter] jeffrey: a divine providence. bob: that is because it was done largely in secrecy. jeffrey: imagine a tweeting convention. if the south had tweeted out their position, both sides would have dug in their heels and it would have been impossible to compromise. the transparency of congress has committed -- contributed to polarization. the same state legislators who were creating mobs right repeal the whole thing. 27 states have called for a constitution convention for a balance budget amendment. you only need seven more, so you could in their he have one. we have had debates at the national constitution center -- and i have to explain where we are -- the only place in america
created by congress to bring liberals and conservatives together for constitutional education and debate, having debates in philadelphia and online. conservativesnd write about each clause of the constitution. we have a debate and the audience voted. initially everyone was for it. when david souter got up and said, imagine at this moment we want to run the risk of a rogue convention appealing the first amendment, the audience changed its mind and voted against. it would take two thirds of both houses of congress, which is unlikely to happen because congress does not want to restrict itself in this way, or two thirds of the state legislatures could call a convention of the states and that would have to be ratified by three quarters of the state legislatures or conventions held in the state. even if the convention goes on,
it is unlikely a totally crazy proposal could get through three quarters of the states. ruth: i am with madison. [laughter] bob: are you with madison? ibram: i would like some amendments. [laughter] bob: those are in the atlantic tent. amendments, we are selling them here. -- new amendments, we are selling them here. >> do you think you could name five democratic values that all the tribes of our current nation could agree to? congress shall make no law reflecting freedom of speech, abridging the freedom of conscience, allowing unreasonable searches and seizures, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects shall not be violated and no warrants shall be issued
that upon probable cause -- ruth: that is so awful. jeffrey: i teach this stuff. now, the reveal -- bob: the red bull, that is doing this. [laughter] jeffrey: the reveal, these are the values. we ascribe to them, a brace them -- and brace them. bob: we have been on college campuses and you do not see among certain millennials a reverence for the idea of first amendment in the way that you used to. there is a broad school of thought that says freedom of speech is a way that the ruling majority, white male overlords of this country used to suppress and marginalize people. you have heard this argument. the not know if you buy argument. these things are not universally understood to be good things anymore. indiscernible]
the whole theory of the government is in the second amendment of the declaration of independence. ruth: i think i'm going to go dark now. bob: it is an emotional roller coaster appear. ruth: i love those words, but i think at the point where you explained why we should not have a constitutional convention, explain why it is a little bit up in the air about whether we really could get the vast agreement on those propositions today. bob: go to this question on the first amendment for starters. ibram: one of the things i think millennials -- and i am a millennial -- have been making the case -- ruth: i have always wanted to meet one of you. [laughter] ibram: they are not articulated as such, but what they are saying is there a such thing as
unfree speech. speech that iss violent, that is damaging, and that is the speech of course that they are pushing back spaces and onir their campuses. to your point about democratic values, i would say all men are created equal, but i think i would sort of advance that and develop that to our time to say that all groups are equal. but ak it is very subtle very interesting difference, because when you say created, certain groups become inferior and therefore we have to be civilized to develop them. if you say all groups are equal right now, we can literally talk to each other on the same plane. bob: time for one more quick
question if we have it. >> good morning. rosen,ry impressed, mr. with your recitation abilities. i can do the preamble of the constitution to jingle bell rock. my question is, there are some out there -- my father being one of them -- who are conservative. they say they are not supporters of donald trump but that he is important because he is putting the issues on the table. my question is, is despite all of the disparity that we have and the inability to have civil discourse in this time, is there some productivity to having an office? did we need trump or are we better for it? bob: three quick answers. thing that comes to mind is something happening in my profession that i have
never experienced before, which is all of the attacks on the media as an enemy of the people and how chilling that is, and for all the ferocity of being yelled at by people at trump rallies as liars and scum. people are coming up and thanking me and my colleagues in a way that i find kind of unsettling and unwarranted, but still really quite lovely. and heartwarming, thanking us for what we do. that goes to the question of whether there is a kind of ,ajority for enduring values and those thanks are something we did not get into journalism for, it is not why we do it, but it is a lovely byproduct of this horrible era. ibram: can i say very briefly that i think for those who are resisting the power in the white house, if there was a different
power that they supported, they would not be looking in the mirror for power. they would not be looking to organize power in their own communities. i see people doing that all of , literally waking up each day and looking in the mirror and saying, how can i change this country? as opposed to expecting those in washington, d.c. to do it. jeffrey: we are nonpartisan so we cannot take a position at i can say with total nonpartisan certainty, it is a healthy part of democracy that you describe -- understand constitutional structure matters. institutions matter. it is not a joke to have the senate blow itself up for partisanship. we have an opportunity, in fact a duty, to study this document, all of these wonky things. separation of powers, checks and
balances, federalism, even the contracts clause itches designed to stop state mobs -- is designed to stop state mobs against debtors instead of creditors. i want to thank these three great panelists, and we will see you again shortly. [applause] >> thank you. i have to agree with the last question. i instinct was that jeff rosen should record a schoolhouse rock on the constitution. those of you of a certain age will remember that. i would like to thank the organization for hosting us in this beautiful and historic building. i would like to welcome frank develop some of
gallup's findings on trust. [applause] was discusssignment trust in government in five minutes and i will discuss impacts on the history of world kind -- mankind. let me just make a few salient points. as i stand here, i want to make it clear that i represent the american public. my job is -- and people often get mad at me at cocktail parties because they say, what do you think about the death penalty and i will say a majority of americans still support the death penalty. you think?hat do i try to support what the american public leaves because that is my job at gallup and has been it decades, to understand what people are thinking and feeling. trust in government is low, let's get that out of the way.
that are numerous examples if i had a traditional powerpoint i could go on for 30 minutes showing you slides. the perceived honesty and ethics of members of congress are down there very close to used car salesman and lobbyists -- if there are lobbyists in the room, i apologize, but they are at the bottom of our scale. 37% to 30% of americans are satisfied with the way the nation is governed, which means a significant majority is not, and the litany of things could go on. trust in government on some indicators is up slightly in recent survey work, partly because republicans after the first year of having not been sure they have come around and the numbers have come up some because republicans are saying, our control of the presidency and legislative branch has produced more positive results. it is fair to say that trust in government is quite low.
some of these comments were very germane is a key point from the perspective of the public is this is not new. i found a nice quote from dr. george gallup from decades ago, way back in the 1970's. "i am so disturbed by the disillusion the americans have expressed of the workings of the political system." the founding fathers would not , or james shocked madison here, saying there is discord, tension between the american people and their elected representatives. there has, however -- and this is a key point i wanted to make and then an inversion -- i am not a constitutional expert like mr. rosen, but i nevertheless have some views. i think where madison was concerned about the factions of people and they need to get an elected representative body to adjudicate and moderate and deliberate, to come up with
better outcomes than the people themselves, we have seen a flip and we now have the people who i believe in deeply, sitting here saying, we are concerned about the factions of our elected representatives and we the people need to deliberate and adjudicate and moderate these people. it is the american public who are wondering, what can we do about this? a key factor is ideologues. i love that word. we have people who now believe they know what truth is and anybody who disagrees is incorrect. .hat is what i call ideologues one of the most important pieces of data we have shows 12% of americans leave their elected representatives should be principled, 10% shade in that direction. the vast majority of americans electedo not favor our representatives being ideologues and sticking to principles at all costs.
we want them to be non-ideological, take views to congress, and trade-off and deliberate. what can be done about this? ideologues who take their principles to congress and are willing to trade off when they get there. this seems unlikely, and there are a lot of reasons for that, including the way our elections take place now. points out that most representatives get reelected even though as a body americans say they do not like or represent what they do. we could also elect more non-ideologues to congress to be our representatives, and would be more likely to do the things the american public wants them to do. how likely is that? .hat is questionable as well there are probably four things the american public would favor. one is redistricting, which is underway in a lot of places and very difficult to effectuate in most states.
the second would be higher turnout themselves, to get the american public to turn out in higher numbers. that is tricky. the american public thinks this would be great if we could all turn out but they themselves are not the 1 -- are the ones not turning out. the third thing would be a third-party. a significant majority of americans favor a third-party, 's are nothe's and d doing a good job. michael bloomberg, the independent candidate, gave up. even with my billions, i cannot get elected as an independent so he will have to run with one of the two major parties. a fourth solution might be something similar to the tea party, that would be a compromise party movement. how is that? i am not willing to push it forward but if you had a charismatic leader we might see
more elected to office who could represent the idea that ideological rigidity is not what the public wants at this point. they want people who can trade-off and come up with decisions. how likely are these to happen? we will wait and see. maybe we will ask our two senators how likely that is to happen. back to dr. george gallup -- and this shows my bias, my own attempts to supplement my own ego in favor of what the people said -- and the reason i raise that at the outset is i think that would be great for our elect did representatives to supplement their own egos and say, you are not more brilliant than most people in this country. you might have ideas but your ideas are not necessarily more brilliant than the ideas from the collectivity of the people. push the ego down, say, let's try to find a solution rather than adamantly sticking to this
particular concept i have come up with. dr. george gallup said -- the judgment of the american people is extraordinarily sound, which i would adhere to. in closing, dr. gallup said in 1978, and i would adhere to at this moment -- the public is almost always ahead of its leaders. thank you very much. [applause] bob: thank you for those insights. the emergence of a compromise party sounds attractive but increasingly far-fetched at this moment in time. we want to spend a few moments exploring what is behind the dwindling trust that frank newport talked about. his findings suggest a few important questions, at a time of division and so-called fake news, how can trust in media be restored? given the growing dysfunction in washington, how can trust in the institutions of government be restored? please welcome back jeffrey
rosen, and also atlantic contributing editor and cohost of showtimes the circus, alex wagner and along with them, jeff goldberg. i probably could have just sat here. -- jeff: i probably could've just sat here. we will sort of pick up from where we were on the subject, with the notable addiction -- addition of alex. alex: thank you. jeff: the noticeable addition of alex. maybe we can start with the question i put to roof marcus -- from a -- ruth marcus -- from an ideological standpoint one of the hardest things people in the press are facing, how do you convince people who are ideology, tribe,
religion, religion, whatever it is, predisposed not to believe things you and the press know to be true because you studied it empirically? you are on the road a lot talking to many trump voters. talk a little bit about your experience in trying to convey not the that the msn is enemy of the people, to borrow a phrase. them i try to reassure that i am not a hologram orchestrated by the clintons. [laughter] alex: that is not true. i do not do that. i am not an advocate. i am a journalist. jeffrey: you are an advocate for the idea that the press stands for the truth. alex: and it is remarkable, ego to trump events and rallies, and the resistance to what we think of is commonly shared fax is pretty profound, on everything
from family separation policies to airstrikes in syria. , therer of things literally exists an alternate reality where none of the things we know to be true are true. one of the things that you cannot do when you are interfacing with trump supporters or people who do not share these facts or a belief in these facts, is not to put them on the defensive. my tact is to understand what they think to be true and question them repeatedly -- for --mple, on family such a separation someone said that was an obama era policy. i tried to dig into exactly what they thought obama had done to dictate this policy and how it was the obama administration. if you ask people enough times, you eventually get to the kernel of the thing they think is true. that is where it is easier to sort of debunk what is false.
usually in all this they are remaking on the dark side of the internet or fox news, there is some sort of thing that is a kernel of veracity around which an elaborate sort of fake theory has been built. what part of the critique of the mainstream media emanating from trump supporters from the right, what part do you actually agree with, if anything? do you see some reason, some justifiable reason to be able to have this resentment and mistrust? alex: yesterday is a case in point. there is a feeling that the mainstream media does not cover legitimate wins. the renegotiating of nafta is a legitimate win for this white house. it has been completely overshadowed by the kavanaugh function -- situation. it feeds the narrative that, even when he does something that
is actually good and and an accomplishment, it gets no coverage. i do think that because most media is generated and taped and broadcast out of coastal cities like new york and d.c., there is a lack of understanding about what matters to people in the middle of the country and how they think of the world. we have tried to correct for that since 2016 since so many of us missed the story. if you do not live in ohio, azeri, fatah, -- missouri, nevada, you will not understand the crosswinds. if you overlay that with the stories we cover and the importance we give them, it gives a sense of injustice in terms of whether we are fair in our coverage. talk about the history of the partisan press. we feel as if we are in a hyper partisan moment in american history, but the truth of the matter is, for much of american history, the press has been
almost entirely partisan and divided, echo chambers and filter bubbles and all the rest in the predigital era. , if about that and tell us you see some cause for hope that we are in a trough right now but we go in and out of these things in kind of -- instead of being in a terminal decline and two caps who do not accept any set of common facts? jeff: the press of the 1800s etc. current one seem mild, the insults that people hurled at each other, thomas jefferson and john marshall calling each other the great llama of the mountains -- and we are trying to figure out what that means. alex: is that a compliment? jeff: it is the worst thing to be a llama. im going to try that on lindsey graham tomorrow.
you are the great llama of the mountains. jeff: it has something to do with monticello and looking down on everyone. alex: liberals and the ivory tower. obama mountain. of hamilton and burr was inflamed by the press. or madisonl gazette, wrote his essays defending the constitution and the federalist papers appeared in the newspapers, is a very anti-federalist organ. at the same time, these things have limited reach and were distributed slowly. in 1891 --his essays madison in his essays in 1891 expresses the hope that at some point and enlightened class of willalists, the literati
slowly disperse reason across the land and people will take time to read complimented -- comp of gated arguments. the bad thing about having a big country is people cannot discover facts. the good thing is the passion that mobs cannot formalize because the press, it travels that all these particles -- that reason will prevail. right now it is the speed of deliberation. we have been partisan before, the press has been partisan before, but we did not have twitter. now, everyone is a journalist. it is a wonderful, empowering thing that people can express their opinion in real-time, but it allows for the quick formation of mobs in a way that has undermined the institutional media. jeffrey: a question for both of you -- can our form of democracy survive twitter and everything it stands for? you go first, because i
want to think about it. alex: when we look back on the trump presidency, assuming he is one day no longer president -- [laughter] alex: i think we will talk about a lot of things. one of the longest lasting pieces of his legacy may be the fact that he revolutionized the way presidents communicate with the american people. his twitter habits have changed our democracy. they have changed journalism in terms of what we cover. they have shifted the sale in terms of what is important. most tweets are not the important -- knock the most important news out of the ballpark. jeffrey: he is strategic. alex: journalists are constantly defending why it is worth it to cover a tweet. this is the president of the night -- united states -- jeffrey: a presidential statement. alex: obama tweeted but he was
not as promiscuous. jeffrey: obama tweeted about national parks he was visiting. alex: it was very strategic. twitter is the closest thing we have two inside trump's brain. jeffrey: there is no filter. .lex: there isn't the expectation, it will be interesting to see if the next president, whoever he or she may be, what he or she does with that media. as complicating and difficult as it is for us to all navigate, it is in incredibly useful tool. jeffrey: twitter is the opposite of a cooling mechanism, it is a heating mechanism, so can we survive? the most alarming twitter study recently couple of weeks ago, people who are exposed to the opposite point of view on twitter become more polarized, not less. they did in their heels and it has to do with the way that people divine themselves tribally.
the hope that by listening civilly to different points of view, people could collaborate, is not true when the tweets are short and fast. in these kind of settings, when you bring together people of different perspectives, the coolest thing the constitution center does is this weekly podcast where i call up the conservativeal and politician of the week, and we have two scholars on treason. the definition of "treason" is really wonky. once the sides debated it, the conservatives decided there was a stronger case for treason against the president if the facts were proven, then he thought before hearing the arguments. that suggests when you take the time to disaggregate and time -- the central question is time. i want to plug greg wieners book which notice -- notes the
centrality -- mike is someone i this is quixotic -- jeffrey: this is quixotic. you are talking about a podcast. alex: podcasts are available on parchment. jeffrey: they can be mailed to you. compare that to the demagogues of the left and right in their ability to communicate to millions of people. it is not a fair fight. jeffrey: that is where the institutions come in and you must have strong institutions of congress to check the presidency and the supreme court to check the senate and the house and the president and the executives at the institutions are doomed by twitter -- and we were just talking about how twitter undermined congress. the case for cameras in the courtrooms is different. said you could have federal marshals in every
house forcing you to watch the argument from beginning to end, he would enforce it but now snippets are being taken out of context. now that is march through that you can reduce the arguments to a contextual. worry thehat point, i institutions have real lies to the only way they remain relevant and the people maintain their jobs is by inflaming passion. look at lindsey graham, sitting judiciary, giving a dramatic monologue. he is not the type of person who does that. believea lot of people whether or not this is fair, the 2016 becausewon hillary clinton could not connect with voters. whether you have -- when you have institutions whether they are the presidency or the senate
or the house where success is predicated on making an emotional connection, why get rid of social media if it fosters that connection? isfrey: the looming question our ability to snap back to previous norms, correct? after the trump presidency, do we just revert to form or is the genie just out of the bottle? alex: as a member of the media, we talk about there is this that trumpwledgment has been very good for the media because people are reading more, discussing more, tuning and more . it is hard to imagine the media saying at the end of this -- and the voters have been inoculated as well -- let's take a break here it is in it good to zero? everybody wants a break to some degree, but if politics goes back to the status quo pre-trump , i do not know if anybody will be relieved. i don't know. i feel like there is an incredible appetite.
it will not always be able to operate in this level of frenzy. jeffrey: people like the circus. alex: like i said, the stakes feel incredibly high. people are incredibly invested and that is legit. that has nothing to do with this other thing, which is the game of it all. jeffrey: isn't there reason to -- putting my phone on the scale of what i hope it would return to -- that each residency is a response to the prior pregnant dutch presidency? what are the chances that the next president is the most boring person ever to achieve the highest office? jeffrey: the contingency of history is so striking and buchanan, followed by lincoln or the catastrophe of johnson picked by accident and then so forth, anything is possible. the scariest possibility we are
talking about now is are these changes structural? theedicine was right and mac democracy leads to demagogues, the next president is most likely to be a celebrity liberal or conservative. alex: i do not think donald trump is president because barack obama was boring. in terms of policy and other things, the back-and-forth, but this other thing of the trump presidency which is frenzy, passions inflamed, that is just a separate thing entirely. i think that exists as an inflection point in history less than a national -- natural sine curve. think there do you have been insufficient sanction lie, president who, when a untruth, misleading statement is pointed out, does not correct but doubles down? that is one of the innovations
of this presidency, i would say. this is just observable truth, that all politicians lie. when you catch them on a lie, they trim, they walk things back, they sometimes apologize. here we have a system in which there is no quarter is given. obviously, he is rewarded for this, or insufficiently sanctioned. it is not where the institutions failed it is where the norms failed. where they sufficiently strong? alex: i think it is partly institutional. there is an and tire wing -- an entire wing of conservative media that does not ask into fact checked himself and viewers digest that media. calculation, it does not matter what the mainstream, fake news, liberal voters think. it only matters what my people
think and what the media they watch believes i should do. i think if fox news was issuing corrections about the thousands of lies this president has said publicly, that would be an issue for this white house, but they don't. alex said something very important about the transformation of politics into emotion, and once the personal becomes political people react to the facts through their unconscious biases, or to use the fancy word, people tend to believe the tribe or person who they personally identify with. as early as jefferson, the founders understood the malleability and difference between facts and opinions, but it becomes more opinion -- important to support your camp than to consider facts on the other side. that is a real problem. alex: can i use one example of that? i keep going back to the cavanaugh nomination because it provides so many to
things in play. there is a thought that he perjured himself, and the left is somehow moving the goalposts. which is a direct admission that somehow the truth is actually just a set of goalposts that can be moved here and there across the field. >> i want to go to some questions i have here. hi, i'm jean golden. you have talked about the current atmosphere of being that is like a circus. i can only agree with it not because it is exciting, but i am thinking of the circus act where it is coming from the high wire without a safety net, because i am anxious all the time and i am worried about our safety net, meaning, as you point out, the congress not working as well and other parts of the government
not working as well with checks functioning ast a safety net for us. thank you. alex: is there a net, jeff? .effery: in the constitution the net is the constitution. what will the constitution say if the courts are delegitimized? it is impossible to understate the significance of the role that john roberts is going to be playing in this new world. if we have a supreme court that hisontinually overturning visions 5-4 votes, regardless of isther judge cavanaugh confirmed or not, the court will appear to be illegitimate in the eyes at least of half of the country. he is concerned about this and the justices are concerned about this. justice kagan said last week, the whole court legitimacy depends on popular acceptance, and once that is gone the rule of law is under siege. >> let me ask you this directly -- did brett kavanaugh disqualify himself in the supreme court because he
launched what i think everyone would agree was a pretty ferocious attack on liberals, the left, the clintons, and so on. how is that nonpartisan? jeffery: i can very strongly describe the arguments on both sides. the argument in favor of him disqualifying himself are that after that screed, he could never be accepted as nonpartisan in any case, which involved the people that he denounced and he will be asked to recuse himself, and he will also be so angry that it is impossible for him to view things fairly. for that reason, even if he is innocent of the charges, that he cannot function effectively as a judge. the argument on the other side is that justice thomas did go through similar allegations and made a similarly angry response after he was confirmed to the court. he said, i would have stayed now the 20 years, but
liberals have kissed me off so much i will stay forever. proved to be a judge respected and even much liked by his fellow justices, whose opinions have been distinctive, interesting, great to teach as a law professor and have a strong -- for example, the statement on constitutional original is in, and his supporters would say his anger has not influenced his decisions on both sides. [inaudible] dan, i want you to return to the idea stated earlier that everything that a president, whether it is this president or any other president says is therefore significant and important and must be covered. news editors every day make decisions on what news should be featured and printed, as opposed to other news.
why is it that whatever the president says, let's take tweets as an example, is significant that it has to be covered? lot. and trump tweets a not every tweet is covered. i think there is some bar, but you have to understand that people are fascinated by this president. we are enraged by him, aboard by people feelim, but very strongly about this president. there is a strong calculation that is made, and this is a reality of our new 80 a about viewership and audience. they want to know. there is a circular -- the snake is eating its tail. if they were not said so many 20 tweets -- trump tweets, maybe they would not care as much. but let's say an inflammatory tweet from the president of the united states talking about a policy that matters or a supreme court justice -- whatever it is, there is a feeling that that deserves to be covered. even in the two
previous presidents i covered, they traveled with stenographers. the stenographers capture every word spoken by a president, the president of the united states. you could argue that the tweets are actually more important, because they are a direct window into what he is actually thinking in real-time. this is the most powerful person in the world. and man who controls a nuclear arsenal that could destroy the entire world. these are presidential ,tatements -- these are direct give us direct insight into how he is thinking, what he is thinking, what he is doing, and i do not see any way around them. if these were delivered serially and orally in a press conference, we would carry them live. i cannot imagine why we would not focus on them and try to interpret them and understand what this means for his presidency and america. >> a quick points to support the question. gossip attains the dignity
of prints, it crowds out the space in the public mind available for discussions of matters of public return. you might be right. the gatekeepers do ignore it, and we are reduced to the same politics is personal. have time for one more short question, am i correct? there is somebody with a mic back here. hi, i'm from san juan, puerto rico, and glad to be here. my question goes back to your changetatement about that twitter and technology has had on politics. if you look at american history, many presidents have tried to go above and beyond or around the media to reach the people. fdr had the fireside chat. tv --arr, lbj, reagan had lbj, and reagan had tv.
so is it more about the character of the person in the office than technology? alex: all of those parallel mechanisms to communicate with the american public were considered. obama went around the media all the time. we did not love it, but it was a concerted effort to get their message communicated and it was an orchestrated effort. the tweets that are issuing forth from 1600 pennsylvania avenue -- they are at 4:00 in the morning, misspellings, emotionally charged, off-the-cuff. they are not considered dialogue with the american public, and that feels really new, and that might be the personal, the politician itself. there is -- i do not know if there is any other politician or presidential nominee that would think to issue the tweets that this president had. it changes the dynamic of what is acceptable to issue forth to the american public. jeffery: the central points -- you can blame it all on the
election of 1912. [laughter] when it that is comes back to the progressive era in history, and they insisted for the first time that the president was the steward of the people that should channel popular will, and taft was a constitutionalist. technologies have changed, twitter is quicker than the radio and the gramophone, but it is populism. the difference between jfk and fdr, who were accountable to different political parties, and theodore roosevelt and trump were insisting that they alone represent the people and they alone can say that. it is a common edition of populism and --, nation of populism and new technologies. jeff and alex, thank you very much. [applause] the senate has been in
session all night debating the nomination of judge brett kavanaugh to be the next justice of the u.s. supreme court. yesterday, the senate voted to limit debate to 30 hours. that allotted time will run out at about 5:00 p.m. eastern today. there are, however, indications that the senate could vote on the confirmation as early as 3:30 p.m.. right now, there is a protest going on in front of the u.s. supreme court building. the crowd has been growing for the past hour. take a look at that. this is live coverage on c-span. >> we believe you. we believe you. we believe you. we believe you. we believe you. we believe you. we believe you. we believe you. i am here from colorado. [cheering]
[inaudible] they refuse to see it. [booing] >> we were in his office and he stayed on the senate floor because he did not want to see us. [booing] i am sick and tired of being silenced. they are on the wrong side of history. [cheering] there are so many strong women i have met here today and yesterday. and i just want to commend all of you and all of the women who have come before who have been fighting this fight for way too long. [cheers and applause] america is better than this. s, deserve better than thi and we will not stop fighting. [cheering] >> we deserve better.
we deserve better. we deserve better. we deserve better. we deserve better. we deserve better. we deserve better. we deserve better. >> my name is camelia. proud washingtonian, and i am so happy to be here today with all of my sisters and my ladies. student,blic school and i am so proud to be a public school student, and my ladies are so strong. my school is so diverse. but i am tired of hearing girls in my school silenced, being stripped of their innocence, not being able -- justice. theirannot focus on school work, on their lives, on their social status is and
things, regular teenage because of the way that the boys are treating them every day. prove howust goes to bad it has come to be. i would like to ask everyone to on november 6. it is so important to me. [cheering] thank you so much. again, a vote on the bretttion of kavanaugh to be a supreme court justice is expected this afternoon in the senate. live coverage and the debate can be seen now on c-span2. senator marco rubio talks about the importance of working across party lines in the senate, and answers questions from georgetown university students on politics and governing.