Episode

8/8 How Republicans Are Taking Advantage Of Our Broken US Federalism w/ Jacob Grumbach

August 8, 2022

Sam and Emma host Jake Grumbach, professor at the University of Washington, to discuss his recent book Laboratories Against Democracy: How National Parties Transformed State Politics. First, Emma and Sam tackle the successful passing of Biden’s Build-Back-a-Bit, filled to the brim with goodies for the fossil fuel industry as a ransom tradeoff for even thinking about a green transition, and run through the punitive damages ordered against Alex Jones in the wake of his libel trial. Then, they’re joined by Professor Jacob Grumbach as he dives right into his book the inspiration he took from Louis Brandeis’ concept of federalism as “Laboratories of Democracy,” bringing it into a modern assessment of the relationship between US Federalism and Democracy. Next, he walks Sam and Emma back to the formation of US Federalism in the wake of the US Revolution as a compromise between a political structure that emphasizes national unity for strength and one centered around preventing tyranny through state autonomy (aka allowing for the continuation of the industry of slavery), leading up to Brandeis’ arrival on the Supreme Court in 1916 and his assessment of the ideal of federalism. They then work through what changed over the fifty years since 1970, with the nationalization (and centralization) of everything from corporate and social media (including the disappearance of local news) to political fundraising and interest groups, all while the national parties coalesced around their corporate leaders, unifying internally while polarization grew. This gave birth to a radicalism pipeline for the Right, starting with mass messaging on the level of national media and the party apparatus and trickling down to the footsoldiers of state implementation (as seen, particularly, with the recent fights over CRT). Next, Professor Grumbach walks through the various crises of 2020 that brought to the forefront the failures of our federalist system, including the COVID pandemic, the backlash (and backlash to the backlash) to the murder of George Floyd, and the wider crisis of democracy, discussing how it shined a light on the inefficiency of a decentralized public health system, the paradox of Governor and Mayoral power being trumped by their police departments, and more. They wrap up the interview by tackling the anomalies of Brandeis’ post-war era, in terms of economic compression and political de-polarization, and diving into the necessary importance of large-scale organizations in helping us situate ourselves within these massive political systems, and how the right already capitalizes on it.

And in the Fun Half: Emma and Sam dive into Brett Kavanaugh’s expertise in avoiding accountability, from his severe debt that just happened to disappear in the run-up to his nomination to the recent revelation that Trump’s White House covered up over 4,000 tips on Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations. JR from Philly helps us parse through where the hell Alex Jones’ money came flowing in from, Rick Scott is pressed on support for Masters and Walker, and Kim Crockett asks if we can just eliminate voting for disabled folks as a treat. Aaron Rodgers can’t take a jab – physical or comedic – Kowalski from Nebraska talks climate change and labor, Spencer from Minnesota gives some primary previews, and Robert from Rochester discusses the Right giving up the game with their “wage-driven inflation” rhetoric. Mike from Rhode Island talks midterms, plus, your calls, and IMs!

Check out Jake’s book here: https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691218458/laboratories-against-democracy

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