The Score: Democracy’s Future, Book Festival, Beer Rules
This week on The Score – What is the future of representative democracy in America? What’s coming up at the 25th Annual Virginia Festival of the Book? How does the federal government regulate the beer you drink?
Last week, on January 24, the UVA Center for Politics hosted its 20th Annual American Democracy Conference. I was able to talk to five of the speakers, including former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who dropped some very strong hints that he will be running for President in 2020. In a brief interview, as he left the conference venue at Alumni Hall on the Grounds of the University of Virginia, McAuliffe told me he will decide on a White House run by March 31st. (Excerpts of a transcript of the interview appeared earlier on Bearing Drift; you can read them here.)
In addition to serving as governor of Virginia, McAuliffe was chairman of the Democratic National Committee (like his predecessor as governor, Tim Kaine) and is co-author (with Steve Kettmann) of the 2007 book, What A Party!: My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals. You can follow him on Twitter at @TerryMcAuliffe.
Obenshain, Begala, Ramadan
Obenshain, Begala, and Ramadan are not a double-play combination but rather three of the four panelists who discussed the current political situation and the future of American democracy at the UVA Center for Politics’ conference last week. These were the three I interviewed. (The fourth panelist, Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times, slipped out before I had a chance to talk to him.)
First up was Kate Obenshain, former chair of the Republican Party of Virginia. She noted that, when Barack Obama became president, he said
that he was going to heal our divisions. He actually intensified our divisions. Instead of disagreeing with conservatives and Republicans on policy ideas, he disagreed on moral grounds, and he accused Republicans of being somehow morally flawed, being racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever, that that it wasn’t that there was a reasonable difference of opinion, but that their ideas were actually morally repugnant.
That’s when you saw a sort of deterioration. It’s not the first time it’s ever happened but you saw this deterioration in discourse and you saw sort of an abandonment of a traditional philosophical discussion about what ideas are going to be the best for the future of our country.
And then, of course, when Donald Trump became president, you saw that on steroids. So I think right now, what we see is a left that is frenzied in their hatred of this president and a president who doesn’t care and is willing to hit back blow for blow. You have a real disintegration of civility and discord and ideas being promulgated, because we’re not talking about ideas, we’re talking about how evil people are.
After I talked to Obenshain, I pulled aside Democratic political consultant Paul Begala, who worked in the Clinton White House and has advised candidates in the United States and foreign countries. The last time I saw him at UVA, he spoke at the 2016 Virginia Film Festival on a panel discussion with film makers DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus about their documentary film, The War Room, which looked at the inner workings of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign.
I asked Begala about his experience working overseas in other political environments. His response:
Politics is subsidiary to culture; culture matters most… Even in Britain, which seems to be very like America, it’s completely different. It’s completely different. And I love that, you know, some of the systems are different but the cultures are different. I’ve worked in Israel. In Israel, nobody worries about voter turnout. Now, because they face a daily existential crisis. I wouldn’t want to be in the threat position they’re in, when their whole region wants to murder them. But I will say this, every Israeli is up to date. I say, “every,” but everyone I met, you don’t ever have to worry about turnout. And that’s, that’s a terrific thing. So it’s a different culture — when your culture is that you’re a tiny island of democracy, when everybody wants to kill you — by God, you use that democracy. And it’s just it’s interesting. I’ve learned a lot doing that.
Paul Begala is co-author (with James Carville) of the 2003 book, Buck Up, Suck Up . . . and Come Back When You Foul Up: 12 Winning Secrets from the War Room, and author of It’s Still the Economy, Stupid: George W. Bush, The GOP’s CEO (2002), as well as other books. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulBegala.
I also spoke with former Delegate David Ramadan, who just a couple of weeks ago wrote an opinion piece for Bearing Drift called “The Unembraceable Trump,” which addressed Democratic gains in the 2018 elections. We talked about that and other topics.
I asked him about the problem of passing major pieces of legislation without any votes from the opposition party — such as Obamacare in 2010 or the tax reform package in 2017 — and how that makes those laws contentious in the absence of political investment by both sides. His reply:
It starts with having a political system first that understands that and having more center right and center left candidates that run for election that win election so that they can work together later. If the base is charged, if this tribalism continues to exist on both sides of the aisle, if you got the far liberals on the left, calling themselves socialists, and you got the fringe on the right that wanted to be a white America and that’s who we’re afraid of during our elections — and let’s face it, that’s what both sides are afraid of – that they cater to the extreme.
We’re going to end up with candidates that cannot work with each other. We’re going to end up with Congress that doesn’t work with each other.
Now on the national level I alluded my speech as well that they really need to change their system a little bit there. There’s no more debate in Congress. They don’t meet, they don’t sit on the floor together they don’t do lunch together, they don’t argue, they don’t even have hearings anymore. They don’t know each other when they show up.
You look at C-SPAN and there’s somebody sitting there giving a speech to an empty floor there. They probably need to go back and learn a little bit of how the system was set up and get their asses in their chairs every day for hours meeting and knowing each other and arguing with each other. And I think they’d be able to work with each other better.
David Ramadan is on Twitter as @DavidIRamadan.
Six years ago, when I was still active in the Republican Party, I enticed former White House counselor Karl Rove to speak in Charlottesville at the local GOP’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner. (For sake of accuracy, there have been two such annual dinners since 2003, the last one in 2013.)
Rove was back in Charlottesville for the UVA Center for Politics conference, and I asked him a few questions after his speech, which included an extensive exposition on the paralyzed state of American politics during the Gilded Age, which I captured on this video.
Not surprisingly, Rove is the author of The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters (2015), as well as a memoir, Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight (2010). You can join his 670,000 followers on Twitter at @KarlRove.
For Book Lovers
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, which is sponsored by Virginia Humanities. The festival takes place in late March, but I got a preview of the books and authors who will be on display there from Jane Kulow, the festival’s director, who also told me a bit about how the Virginia Festival of the Book got started.
On the topic of deciding what kinds of books and authors to feature at the festival, Kulow said:
We feel a strong responsibility to program widely. One of the things that we care very much about is that the festival be accessible to all and that we offer something to almost any reader whether whatever their age, whatever their interest, or the level of reading, so we know that we will present each year a number of mystery, romance, poetry, non-fiction topics, a number of topics for young readers, for children’s books. And within the area of non-fiction, there are a lot of topics that were we care very much about offering as well, whether it’s art or sport, or current affairs or history, and we try to get a little bit of everything. So there is something for everyone.
The schedule for the Virginia Festival of the Book can be found on the festival’s website, vabook.org.
Last week The Score had an interview with attorney Alan Gura about a law suit against the federal government brought by a craft brewery whose operations are being hampered by the partial government shutdown.
Continuing our conversation about beer regulation, I spoke to Caleb Franz of the MilLiberty Initiative, who follows these issues. He was in his office in Colorado, so we talked by telephone. He noted that
I would agree that one of the bigger aspects of, really, the American experiment in freedom has been the advent of the craft beer revolution.
The recent government shutdown, now that it’s been the longest in history, has really illustrated, I think, how intertwined the government has become into the marketplace. For something like a government shutdown to have such an effect on the craft beer industry, where you have a lot of — especially a lot of the smaller micro brews and nano breweries, they’re the ones that are directly affected by this government shutdown — because a lot of the lot of the bigger craft industries across the nation, they’ve already been okayed by the government before the shutdown happened.
Now it’s getting to the point to where, because of how regulated the craft beer industry is — which is better than what it has been in the past but still too much for my sake — we’re really seeing the effect of how much government intervention can do damage to our economy.
Caleb Franz is also on Twitter, as @CalebFranz.
To get a flavor of Karl Rove’s speech at the University of Virginia, this episode of The Score includes his answer to an audience member’s question about immigration policy and whether there is an authentic crisis at the southern border.
From the Archives
Earlier in this week’s episode, we talked to Kate Obenshain. Back in 2013, I ran into her at the Conservative Political Action Conference and asked her about her book about President Obama, which had just been published. The book is called Divider-in-Chief: The Fraud of Hope and Change.
Perhaps her most pertinent comments on that occasion came at the beginning of the interview, with this unsolicited endorsement of a certain web publication:
I read Bearing Drift and just love it. It’s my one connection with Virginia. As I’m looking at all this national stuff, I always go to Bearing Drift when I need to know something about Virginia.
You can follow Bearing Drift fan Kate Obenshain on Twitter, where her tag is @kateobenshain.
Next week’s episode of The Score is still in production. If you come back, you’ll find out not much after I do about the news, reviews, and interviews that will be included in the show.