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John Avlon: Winning Back the House from the MAGA Minions

February 28, 2024
Notes
Transcript
The MAGA crew in the House is against majoritarian democracy and thinks bipartisanship is bad—Democrats are the only big tent party now. Avlon explains his moment of moral clarity in deciding to run for Congress. Plus, what happened to his former boss, Rudy Giuliani?

show notes:

Avlon’s essay on 9/11

Tim’s Playlist:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0dApY6YT48kTh6j9xFDQch?si=duwnuIpGRxeVWDSkrwaD1w&pi=u-QDtY_MnOS0mV

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:00

    Alright y’all. We’ve got a great guest this Wednesday, somebody who’s gone native. He’s left to commentary it, and now he’s running for Congress. It’s gonna be a great discussion. Few quick show notes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Remember, it’s Wednesday. So if you’re looking for my hot takes on Michigan and and the other news of the day, pop on over to the level feed where I’ll be with Sarah and JBL running through all of that. I’m getting lots of emails, getting feedback. People like the outro music that that Jason has been so adeptly putting in to the end of these episodes. If you wanna know what the songs are, I created a playlist on Spotify, will be in the show notes today, and then we’ll put it in the show notes every Friday.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:38

    So if you’re looking for what the songs were that week, just pop on to that Spotify playlist. Also, if you guys have not checked out shield of the Republic, it’s a foreign policy podcast that we’ve been putting on at the Bulwark. It is wonky. It is educational. It has amazing guests.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:55

    You know, generals and majors are listening to it and coming on. So if you wanna know what is happening in Taiwan, Turkey, Israel, Ukraine, Check out shield of the Republic. My buddy, Eric Edelman, is the cohost along with Elliot Cohen, and this week, coming out tomorrow. They got Liz Cheney. I think you’ve probably heard of her.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:12

    So make sure to check out shield of the Republic and check out tomorrow’s episode in particular. Lastly, JBL is on the special members only just between us podcast this week with Mona Charen. So if you wanna support the Bulwark, become a member. Sign up. Go to the bulwark dot com slash free trial.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:30

    You can get just between us. You can get the secret podcast. And, you can get access to, some of these shows where we show a little bit more lag, you know, when we think that, when we think that there aren’t any interlopers listed in. So Check out all of that. Up next, my man, John Avlon.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:54

    Hello, and welcome to the Secret Podcast. We’re bringing back our spirit partner, John Avlon, who’s left the commentariat and officially announced last week that he’s running Congress is a Democrat in New York’s first congressional district. Welcome back, brother. And, congrats getting in the arena.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:09

    Thanks, man. Yeah. It feels good. You know, it’s obviously a a a big leap, but if not now, when it’s the most urgent time in our lifetimes. And I just didn’t feel good about just offering opinions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:23

    As much as I love my job.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:24

    Well, could you do me a favor? Could you just do me one favor, though? I mean, we’re gonna get to your campaign, and I wanna hear a little bit more about the Avalon story. But could you just indulge me and be a pundit for one question? Could we do one punditry question at the top?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:37

    Just bring your old see if see if those old muscles are still working one weekend of the campaign. Alright. Last night, we had a Michigan primary.
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:45

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:45

    There’s a lot of consternation out there because thirteen percent of the Democrats voted uncommitted in Michigan. I’d point out that in twenty sixteen, John Casey did about ten points better than that, in his run against Donald Trump. And, I don’t remember any profiles or obsessions or bedwetting about the Hoover Miller Rhino vote and, you know, what it means for us, the centrist who like consensus, but, there’s a lot of concern about the kind of progressive vote that that voted uncommitted yesterday. So I’m I’m curious how you handicap what we saw in Michigan less than
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:18

    I think you’re you’re right that this is about an expectation of game, not about reality, when you impose perspective on our political debates, sometimes the outrage Olympics are diminished You know, one of my favorite, sites in addition to the Bulwark were fans in our house, the Hoveland household.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:33

    We appreciate that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:34

    Is, taking Goddard’s political wire. Read it for years. Great digest. And he he did a really useful analysis, basically making the case that I think when Obama ran for reelection you know, undecided number was essentially the same. So this is about gaming expectations in the media falling for it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:50

    And the, you know, the Biden administration probably not pushing back or campaign pushing back effectively enough on it. But you’re right. It’s a totally artificial benchmark. So you impose from perspective and everyone takes a deep breath. Or should.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:01

    Okay. So you’re taking a deep breath. No panic right now.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:04

    No. Other I mean, especially when you start dealing with, like, the, you know, how will positions on warm peace impact the domestic election? That seems like the worst kind of hang ring. You do what’s right, and that’s usually good politics, as John McCain used to say.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:17

    Tom McCain had some good wisdom. Okay. So I wanna get into like the details of the campaign. We’re nerds. So I kind of want a nerd out on the district and your opponent.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:25

    But, you know, I was thinking about this interview and I was like, for me, John Avlon kind of like emerged out of whole cloth as a centrist commentator, you know, sometime in the mid aughts. You know, we’ve got to hang out a bunch, which I have always enjoyed, but, like, I don’t really know your origin story. So I would love I kind of want to just do a little bit before we get into the present day of going back and, like, what was the political spark for you? You know, talk to me about Young John.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:52

    I love the origin story. I feel like, this is like a deep cut marvel segment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:04:56

    Yeah. Yeah. Wolverine. We’re doing wolverine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:59

    We’re doing wolverine. I dig that. I was a big wolverine fan once part time. So in terms of just what got me excited about politics was being excited about American history. And that came disproportionately from my grandparents.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:13

    My grandparents were immigrants. My grandfather’s born in Argentina, Greek Family, came through Alice Island at the age of three serving World War two by their grandfather’s family was wiped out in the Spanish influenza epidemic and came here on a ship, stowaway, and then was adopted by a family. And I think immigrant families, especially when they achieve the American dream have a deep appreciation for America that they communicate. Like, there’s a sense if you’re the grandson of immigrants that you have in obligation to the opportunities they provided as a family, but also as a country. So my grandfather in Youngstone, Ohio, served in World War two, you know, we’re always talk about Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman and and and these people were incredibly real and relevant to his life.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:56

    He even had a copy of the Dewey defeats Truman, forty eight newspaper in the basement. And that was hugely, hugely informative for me. And so I was one of those kids who would love reading, like, books about Abraham Lincoln or, you know, just meet the presidents, you know, Teddy Roosevelt, all that stuff.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:10

    Those little blue cover biography books? Was that you in second grade?
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:14

    I guess. I I, you know, I I I think that a lion on spine, you know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:18

    The line. Okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:19

    But but but they they were great. You know, politics is history in the present tense. That’s one of my sort of poor beliefs and overly quoted aphorisms. So it gives us a chance to interact with that. But I also think there’s a certain, especially in America you know, because we’re the only nation not founded on a tribal identity, but on an
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:39

    idea, that kind of civic
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:39

    firmament, the making old stories new again is really important. That’s why I’m passionate about applied history. It’s why, you know, in addition to being a columnist and editor and, you know, analyst anchor, I write history books. I love that. And it’s it’s applied history.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:53

    Right? It’s it’s a different take to different cut Washington’s farewell address. Was the subject to one Lincoln’s plan for
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:59

    how
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:59

    you would a piece after winning the war, but also using the second inaugural as a text. It’s about useful wisdom, and it’s about making those old stories new again because America really depends on that. And of course, that imposes perspective on our politics. You realize the times that we’ve been fragmented at looks like, you know, our country’s falling apart the forces that lead to that fragmentation are similar. So you can impose some clarity on the political choices.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:24

    Like, it helps if you hear the echo. And if you hear the echo of segregationist arguments, then, you know, you’re probably on the wrong side of things, you know, but also the kind of it is possible to offer unifying leadership in divided times, but that requires a, you know, in Lincoln’s case, a reconciling leader. And if you look back to the founding fathers principles, you know, Washington spent most of his farewell address warning about hyperpartisanship and polarization. They call faction, but we would recognize. You know, he says it it inflames.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:49

    They’ll found a jealousies and false alarms leads occasionally to riot and insurrection.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:53

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:54

    This is hugely relevant wise stuff, and that’s why in most of my writing as columnist and as a commentator and as historian, It’s all different takes on the same issue that I know we’re all in a common cause. Warning about the dangers of hyper partisanship and polarization and then hopefully proposing solutions for how we can you know, reunite as a nation, because democracy depends on it. And and that’s one of the things I love about about what you guys are doing at the Bulwark and and the whole loose coalition sometimes called, like, democracy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:23

    The pro democracy movement. We’re doing it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:25

    Yeah, man. Sorry. I’ve I’m rambling because I can talk about that forever, but it’s really important to
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:29

    I think that there’s a direct line between what you’re talking about, and this was another thing I wanted to get into is this, the threats that you saw that Washington warned out with factionalism the wisdom of of the Lincoln Second inaugural. Talk to us about how that ties to, like, your rationale for getting in this race now. And, like, what what you see as the as the reason why you need to actually be in the arena, not on not on the CNN side.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:53

    As much as I loved my job and my colleagues, and, think CNN does great
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:58

    work.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:59

    I didn’t wanna look at my kids and say that I could have done more when it mattered most. I think this is one of those moments in our history. If there’s ever moral clarity and moral urgency around an election, it’s this time. We’ve never had a major party nominee campaign or or on authoritarian platform while praising dictators who already tried to destroy democracy on the back of a lie, who not only that is using that election lie as a litmus test for party loyalty and succeeding. That’s not sinister.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:25

    Nothing is. That’s not dangerous to our democracy. Nothing is. And so it seems to me that simply you know, as much as I love doing what I’ve done, I don’t think commentary and opinion is enough. If you have an opportunity to do something different, And, in this case, the opportunity to flip a seat where we live with a candidate who’s embraced, you know, rebraced Donald Trump, first term Republican, and I was looking at the field of candidates.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:52

    And I said, you know, this is a chance to to put our ideas in action and do some good. In a measurable, meaningful way. And, obviously, they’re real sacrifices. You know, we got a young family, you know, not as young as yours, but we got a young family. And so this was a really serious decision, but I didn’t wanna look back and feel like I could have done more when it mattered most.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:10

    And I feel like this is an all hands on deck, not a drill moment. And You gotta get off the sidelines and roll up your sleeves and and get in the arena, and it’s been hugely invigorating and rewarding. But I understand why, you know, it’s tough. Right? This is, you know, Steve Bannon with his flood zone with shit stuff has made public service seem indecent and dangerous.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:31

    To people’s reputations, their finances, everything else. So what does that do? That’s designed to sort of seed the public ground to people who don’t mind, you know, waiting through shit. You know, it feels like deal on some extremes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:41

    And he’s winning that battle on the republican side, by the way. Look at my Gallagher. Right. Like, as you’re getting in, you see, look at my Gallagher’s a little Morris Rogers, these people are just like, nope. Not worth it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:50

    Not worth it. I’m leaving.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:51

    And that’s a real loss. Right? I mean, you know, to our country. I mean, you know, so many good Republicans you know, have been run out of their party or decided to abandon ship. And we all know the problems.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:03

    Right? It’s it’s the rig system we’re district doing. It’s closed partisan primaries, it’s it’s a party that has become radicalized and and requiring lives as a litmus test. On the Republic side, so we have one big tent functioning party in America left. That’s a democratic party.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:16

    And there’s no substitute for victory. Gotta win, but it’s been fascinating to see it on the other side as well. It’s really it’s been fascinating. So I’m I’m loving it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:24

    I wanna hear about that because, look, before you before you end, we’re gonna have just a big agreement about the radicalization of the Republican Party. We’re just gonna have a heated agreement and about your opponent, Nicklilota, who’s a total mega freak. But I am interested in in, you know, sort of how you see yourself fitting the democratic coalition. Right? Because your brand was always you know, kind of like, I I’m a centrist guy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:45

    I wanna it’s about political reform. It was about, you know, initially, you were part of, like, kind of no labels one point o before this sort of bastardization of labels we’ve seen lately, how do you see yourself fitting in the democratic coalition today? Particularly New York where it’s extremely wide. You know, you have Jamal Bowman, types who are who are very far to the left, you know, kind of DSA curious if you almost. And then you have a lot of moderate.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:09

    You know, Eric Adams is the mayor of New York who’s, like, Sure. A kind of a mega Democrat. If that’s the thing, I mean, the Democrat party in New York is unwieldy. So, like, where do you see yourself fitting in that? World.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:20

    Well, first, I I think it’s healthy to have big tent political parties. And, in New York in particular, we’ve always had a sort of a reform wing of the democratic party that’s, I think, has been essentially centrist. And and interested in in strengthening democracy. If you look at the the Senate seat held by Bobby Kennedy and Moynihan and Hillary Clinton, you see a a straight line in that regard. I’m not a a DSA kind of guy, and my beliefs are pretty constant.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:43

    The Magor Creek Clear belief bi partisanship is the problem. It’s actually the solution. Right? And and that doesn’t mean you need to be consistent about your principles and values, but but you also need to solve problems and and, you know, democracy that requires constructive compromise. So I think this is actually very much about putting those ideas that I’ve been developing and articulating into action.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:03

    In terms of this campaign. I mean, this is a swing seat. It is a swing district. The lines in New York just got moved again yesterday. So This is a district that Biden had one Sarah Longwell, and they just moved the lines to have Trump winning it narrowly, but it’s a swing disc.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:16

    Yeah. What’d you think of that? Let’s just we’ll do a little nerdy stuff first. So because I saw that number yesterday. It looks it was moving.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:21

    So your district ends up being kind of a narrow trump district, trump plus one or two. Is that final? What’d you think about that
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:28

    It appears to be final. I would have rather them have left the lines alone. I’ve been a very, you know, public critic of redistricting, you know, because very often as we see in Texas and North Sarah Longwell, it’s done for naked partisan advantage or some kind of collusion between the two parties. I would have preferred it stayed where it was, which was r plus three. Now it’s a little more Republican, but still absolutely winnable and well within the defines of what makes the swing district especially with the right kind of candidate.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:53

    But look, our country needs more swing districts. Right? One of the driving factors that that’s proven our politics is too many safe seats where people have lifetime employment unless they lose a close partisan primary, which which makes them vulnerable frankly to ideological extortion. And that’s where you get Republicans, especially doing things like voting in a way that doesn’t actually reflect what they believe or what they think is good for the country. But they’re looking over their shoulder and hoping that someone else votes in a way that’ll reflect, you know, the national interest and their personal beliefs.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:22

    That’s sick. That’s psychotic. So look, more competitive districts, the better. And and if you mean that, then, you know, put it into action. You know, my beliefs that we need to build the broadest possible coalition defeat Donald Trump, defender democracy and win back the house from his mega millions like Nickelota.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:38

    Like, we need to do that. Right? We need to reach out to independent voters. We need to the democratic base. We need to reach out to the reasonable Republicans who are left who recognize that Donald Trump is the opposite of, you know, anything resembling constitutional conservative.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:51

    I think we could do that. This is a great testing ground, and I love the idea of putting ideas into action. I feel a certain frustration about simply occupying the world of ID ideas. I love writing books. I love history.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:02

    I’m gonna continue to do it in some capacity. I’m sure. But the idea of actually getting the arena and actually putting putting these ideas in action is to me thrilling and did to do at a time when it matters most. This isn’t a no this is no ordinary time as they say. And so let’s go.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:15

    With you, how are we doing that? How are you getting the, you know, soft Republicans? How are you getting people maybe even that voted for Trump didn’t last time now, how do you get into the load? Is there anything you learned from Swazzy?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:27

    Yeah. No. No. I think Swazzy Swazzy, gave a lot of a really good lessons. You know, my first campaign event the Huntington Town Democratic Committee, which now is a little more in in Swazis district, but basically it’s a joining district.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:39

    Right? I think Swazzy showed that you can if you’re strong in the center, if you play offense on the issues, Right? Democrats are always on on defense. I’ve heard real frustration on the part of of voters about this, you know, active democrats being like, why are we always on defense? Why don’t we lean into issues?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:55

    Why don’t we actually play offense. And, you know, and and if people are concerned about crime and immigration, talk about it. Don’t say, oh, that’s not really a thing. Talk their concerns offer solutions that are consistent with our values, and I think that’s exactly right. And I I do think there’s strength in the center.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:12

    That’s just obvious electoral math And to me, look, I’ve gotta win a primary first. I wanna be real clear. So that’s the first test. And and the day I got in, not only did the national Republican congressional committee attack me immediately, first time because they thought they weren’t gonna have to contest this seat. Now they know they do.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:27

    Sure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:28

    But as a, you know, radical left, you know, liberal hack But, you know, one of my opponents, in the democratic primary is trying to attack me as a, you know, shadowy co founder of no labels you know, secret Republicans. So, you know, please.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:42

    Welcome to the game.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:42

    Yeah. Give me give me a break. And exactly, you know, if you’re getting that means you’re probably doing something right. But most importantly, what I think it does is it it shakes up the race. And what a lot of Democrats have told me is is there was this sort of glum sense that the seat wasn’t gonna be contested.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:56

    That that it wasn’t being treated as the swing district, it actually is. Because there hadn’t been a candidate who could shake things up and energize the base and try a different kind of politics,
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:04

    And he won pretty handily last time for people not familiar. Right? Like Lolodah won the time in twenty two, not in twenty, but twenty two. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:11

    That
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:11

    In twenty two. And and just to, you know, because this is a political nerdfest. Twenty two is not my election in New York because Lee Zelda, the former congressman who held this district was running for governor.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:20

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:21

    And so, you know, he had not only really high name ID, but but I think Democrats said, well, you know, that’s his home district. Let’s fight elsewhere. That’s a one off. I I believe. I also think the Trump Coalition as you do has only shrunk since twenty twenty.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:35

    And so I think even think that benchmark is off now. The independent motors affect things particularly nationally, we’ll see. But I think New York has a chance to and will make a a very strong statement. The other candidate who’s in the race right now I respect for anyone who gets an arena. I really do.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:50

    I’ve new found appreciation for it, blaming. It’s not easy. You know, someone who, you know, I voted for and wanted to succeed, But, you know, she spent eight million dollars and lost by double digits. You know, there were twenty thousand voters who went Biden, Zelda, in that race. There’s no reason to rerun that play.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:06

    Try something different. If you’ve, you know, had a photo of you taken holding a a defund, the police sign, that’s not gonna go away. It’s probably gonna get worse, not better.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:17

    So you mentioned this statement. I wanna pull it actually up because as somebody used to be a practitioner of the trade, it’s interesting to watch the development of the kind of language that comes out of the, Republican committees these days. Here’s what they said about your announcement. We look forward to litigating this smug liberal hacks past So voters can see just how lefty and the rest of the modern democratic part, excuse me, modern democrat, at least I didn’t say demon rat. Modern Democrat party have become.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:46

    There’s just a little a little childish, maybe. So, yeah, how are you gonna push? I hear you. You got a primary okay. You know, the point of this is beating nickel load in the end.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:56

    So, like, how do you push back against these freaks?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:58

    I mean, look, this is one of the things. I think it’s gonna be real hard to paint me as a scary far left liberal. Cause I’m not. I mean, we talk about liberalism, not that they actually want to. And the dangers of ill liberalism, you know, and
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:11

    classical liberalism. Yeah. We can talk about that a little bit. Liberal democracy. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:16

    Sure.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:16

    Defending liberal democracy, diverse liberal democracy at home and abroad. But look, that’s that’s a cut and paste to hit job. And I think people recognize that it’s fundamentally false, and it feels counterfeit. Right? That’s the problem with all sort of political boiler plate as people catch on to the fact it’s b s sooner or later, but also candidates matter.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:33

    And and whether you can credibly paint someone as that negative stereotype that you depend on to demonize the other side and win elections. That’s just not gonna work with me because of my record and what I’ve done with my life. It’s just ain’t true. You know, what I really care about is finding a way to reason together, off common facts and solve problems. What you say, I mean, I’ve been an an apostle for the vital center.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:56

    In effect. I mean, I care about this stuff. And I think right now, I mean, it’s very clear that the Democratic Party is continuing that tradition and the Republican Party has utterly abandoned it. Unfortunately, and I think there’s some good Republicans who are persuadable Absolutely because they feel abandoned by their party because they have been.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:14

    Let’s talk about then the issues. Like, obviously, maybe not obviously, but I presume we all agree. Number one issue here is preserving our democracy and making sure that Donald Trump isn’t president that Nikola Lotta isn’t helping him do a soft coup come next January. But what else? Like, what what are the other top things that, like, you think you’d really care about?
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:34

    Well, yeah. So I wanna be clear. That’s what motivates people like you and me about the the broader stakes of the selection. I very much buy into this idea that we need to focus on stakes of the selection. But
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:45

    Yeah. They got lives.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:46

    Both folks, that’s not necessarily what’s gonna motivate them. Right? I I think but I think there’s a way to square the circle in important ways. I think people have been really disillusioned and frustrated and feel alienated by the failure of our democracy to solve problems for them. And I think that’s actually been one of the key issues.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:04

    And also just affordability, and frankly, the the long term squeezing of the middle class, it’s not a coincidence to me that that the, you know, exactly the time the middle of our politics have been hollowed out is in the wake of the middle of our economy being hollowed out. The middle class feeling squeezed for decades. And I think rebuilding the middle class is something that is is an urgent need for the country. It’s the kind of thing that can pass the UNu test and focus on on reuniting us, and it’s a real need in here in Suffolk County. Because look, this is something Democrats can do, and Biden’s got a good record on even though it’s only beginning to be felt, you know, whether it’s the infrastructure bill.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:35

    The bipartisan infrastructure bill the bipartisan chips Act. The downstream effect to that is gonna be enormously powerful for rebuilding the middle class in America, and that’s a record we need to build on. Talked about affordability. People talk about it all the time. Average cost of the house out here is over six hundred thousand dollars.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:51

    Okay. Well, what are you gonna do about that? And I’ll tell you one thing, and this always blows people’s minds, but Donald Trump and Republicans raised our taxes. They took away the state and local tax deduction that a lot of New Yorkers dependent upon and they did it out of spite as part of a political stunt and they’re not gonna they’re not gonna reverse it because they’re so invested in the red state blue state divide. So part of my messages, Democrats, you know, gonna you’re gonna bring that to next year back.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:18

    You know, you’re gonna get more money back in your pocket. And I think Democrats can do more.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:21

    We found our first disagreement, maybe average on that one. I live in Louisiana now. So whatever, we don’t need that deduction up there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:29

    Well, you know, all politics is local, but but I actually, you know, it it is necessary for a bunch of, of reasons as much as I love Nola. I think, you know, expanding the child tax credit. We did it for one year during COVID. It cut childhood poverty in half. That’s something that Democrats can do that will really help put, you know, money and and Suffolk family pockets.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:48

    But I think also, like, you look at the way the immigration is a real concern for folks. And It’s not just fear mongering from the far right, although that’s certainly contributed to it. And obviously, I, you know, I think immigrants make us better. That makes better economically, culturally. On the grandson of immigrants, one of the greatest moments of my life was giving a keynote address at a naturalization ceremony at Mount Vernon two years ago.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:09

    It was amazing. We need more legal immigration. We need less illegal immigration. We need a comprehensive immigration bill. But what the country just witnessed?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:20

    And this had something to do with Swazzy winning, I think. What the country just witnessed is the the profound cynicism and cowardice of demanding a a border security bill to pair with Ukraine funding and Israel funding and funding for Taiwan. And then abandoning it at Donald Trump’s request. Because they’d rather fear monger and fundraise off the issue than fix it? That, to me, that’s a firing offense.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:42

    And Nick Laotta puts out a tweet mocking Oklahoma senator James Langford for having shepherded that deal through. A deal that Wall Street Journal said was the best deal that anyone would ever get. And and and that to me just typifies everything that’s wrong and why this cat in particular is far too far right for the district. And by the way, it doesn’t even live here. You know, Anthony Gardarina.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:00

    He’s another congressman. He he literally can’t vote for himself in the election. So it’s just ridiculous, but it’s it’s the Maga it’s the Maga minion thing. It’s the Trump flunky thing that that pisses me off.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:12

    Yeah. I’m happy you brought that up because that deal, I was a little flummish sometimes, you know, the Democrats occasionally flummox me. And, there was a debate in California in that Democratic Senate race. Well, I guess it’s a it’s a jungle primary there. So Garvey’s on there too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:25

    The Republicans’ Garvey, it’s Schiff, it’s Katie Porter, and they asked them if they would have supported the deal. And they all said no. Everybody said no. Now their reasoning is different from the loader. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:37

    Like, they’re worried that in a democratic primary out there, that they’re gonna come off as too anti because of the because of the immigration issue on there.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:45

    And I just I looked at that
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:46

    and I was like, that is frustrating. That is the frustrating element of this primary politics every that people can’t just, like, look at this deal and say, hey. Like, it’s okay to say it’s not perfect. I don’t agree with every element of it. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:58

    But if you look at that, and you realize that immigration’s a problem. You realize Ukraine’s a problem. I mean, isn’t this like how shit’s supposed to work?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:07

    It is how shit’s supposed to work. And by the way, you know, Go go back to the constitutional convention. If you’re venerating the past all the time, go study anything about American history that shows that constructive compromises the essence of how you get, you know, deals done in a democracy. In that point about imposing history on things. What Republicans are doing by blocking Ukraine Aid?
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:29

    It makes them complicit because they’re compounding Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, an actual invasion. I mean, this is a serious damn thing. This is about and and history is also really clear. You stop aggression. You stand up to bullies.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:44

    If we don’t do this, it’s not gonna just Ukraine. Right? This is about the trajectory of the twenty first century. You know, Ukraine today, Taiwan tomorrow, you stand up to authoritarian aggression. You’re saying that Joe Biden has been right about from the very beginning, the running struggle of our time is autocracy versus democracy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:00

    We need to be on the side of democracy, the United States of America. That’s what we stand for at Home and abroad. Donald Trump doesn’t. And the fact that the party that prides itself on backing freedom, that it was, you know, part of a robust international foreign policy tradition during the cold war from Eisenhower Howard through Reagan and on would go neo isolationist at the drop of a hat and effectively enable and rational and justify Vladimir Putin. That is a civic sin of the first order, and all those cats can’t be allowed to forget it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:28

    They are hanging out the brave people of Ukraine and their democracy to die for domestic reasons that they don’t even believe. And even worse, If they let it for a vote, it would pass. They’re blocking it out of fealty to Donald Trump.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:43

    They’re on vacation. What? What’s this happening? The the government’s gonna shut down in a week.
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:48

    It’s a total disgrace. But we we’ve seen that game of chicken over and over again. You know what happens is is it you get a super majority of Democrats and a small number of Republicans to ensure that the national interest has felt. Republicans are absolutely incapable of governing. Basically, not just in the national interest, just period governing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:06

    They need Democrats to pass anything. This is just a fact. Right? This is not an accusation. It’s just a fact.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:11

    Like, they’re running the house and they can’t pass anything because their majority is so small and that they have a far right faction that refuses to vote for any
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:19

    No. Nancy Pelosi had a really small majority as well, and she got over there were over three hundred pieces of bipartisan legislation passed in the first years of the bid administration. When Nancy Pelosi was speaker and Democrats had a fifty fifty split in the senate. Again, this just goes to show the asymmetry in our politics that bipartisanship become a partisan virtue. Democrats believe in, at preach, and practice by partisanship.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:41

    Republicans can’t run the government at all. Let alone in the national interest. They’re captive to the extremes in their party and they keep rolling over for him. And enter or, you know, nominating them again.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:52

    The extremes kind of the median in the party Oh, it’s the other thing. You know, you wrote in twenty ten. I’ve said that I was I wonder if it’s, like, you wrote that book in twenty ten about that. Yeah. Wingnuts.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:02

    At the time, I I gotta just I gotta confess. I was like, I don’t know. Avlon might be overstating it a little bit. You know, like, Avlon might this might be a little hair on fire. Like, we’re still the, you know, we still nominated Cane.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:16

    Romney’s around the corner. Like, it’s not as bad as he says it is. And I I think that you had me beat on that one by a couple of years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:23

    I didn’t wanna be right. And and my wife, would have agreed with you, at that time. Our first date was my my first book Independent Nation. And one of the really fun things was not only debating her, but seeing her mark up the copy of my first book with things like wrong in the margins and all that stuff. And, you know, Trump has brought us closer than ever.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:43

    Politically.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:44

    I know a little bit about that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:45

    And it was a little echoes. I remember when I started doing the extremes beat as a columnist, the daily beast, and what came into the book’s wingnuts, And the whole point was it was like, this is happening. Pay attention, but also look at the history behind this stuff. So, you know, it was glenn beck at the time and look at the churn on this stuff. You know, well, to understand this, you need to understand job search site.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:06

    You know, at the time, the dredge report had a banner ad across top after Obama’s elected, and the country was feeling pretty good with like seventy percent approval at the time. And calling for massive resistance, to the election of Barack Obama, and then you’re like, oh, wait. You know, that’s the slogan of the white citizens councils. And I’m not even sure that was conscious. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:23

    It it’s like thesynaptic Twitch, this sort of lizard
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:27

    brain, but
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:28

    make America great again was not conscious. It’s like Donald Trump knew the history of that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:32

    No. Exactly right. But but but when you when you understand the history, it’s the it’s old Harry Truman line. The only thing new in the world’s the history you don’t know. And, when when you understand the history and you can listen for, you know, it’s the, you know, history doesn’t repeat, but sometimes it rhymes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:46

    So when you know how to listen for what rhymes, that’s very clarifying. Or shouldn’t we? We’ve had some really bad presidents. God knows. Andrew Johnson, probably chief of mine.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:56

    And a few that followed him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:58

    But what we’ve been dealing with in our country has been, is without precedent, but there should be real moral clarity.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:06

    So, okay, two other things for you. The abortion issue, I’m interested in how you kind of see how you wanna talk about that. This time around. I think in New York, I assess that part of the reason why the red wave did hit in New York and California. Maybe not as much as they thought, but why why a lot of Republicans got elected in twenty two is because a lot of voters just didn’t really think that abortion was a threat there, you know, as in the same way in other states.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:37

    Right? Like, it didn’t this issue didn’t feel as real kind of in these blue parts of the country. And and I boy, I think that’s gonna be different twenty twenty four with Mike Johnson to speak of the house and Donald Trump coming up as president.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:49

    So I’m
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:50

    just I’m just wondering how you’re thinking talking about and campaigning on that issue.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:53

    I think you’re exactly right that it’s gonna be different in twenty four defending women’s reproductive freedom is basic. It’s fundamental. It’s under threat. We shouldn’t be surprised. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:06

    They’ve been telling us. I mean, when people tell you who they are, believe them, And, you know, now we’re fighting over IVF. Are you kidding me? I mean, you know, other than some outtake from the handsmaid’s tale, I mean, if you actually want families, you know, IVF is something you wanna encourage, not not punished, but this is the problem with extreme ideology imposing itself on people’s lives. Look, this is something that they’re you know, we’ve seen the eight states, including deep red states that have pushed back against ballot initiatives to further restrict abortion.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:38

    But yet Republicans are still pushing a national ban. That’s clearly at the top of the agenda. And you and I remember when people said, oh, no. No. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:46

    It’s never gonna happen. But we saw we saw Republican judges lie to the American people and lie to the Senate about this. And then overturn at the first chance they got. And I think people realize, oh, you’re taking away of freedom. And by the way, look, this is the most difficult personal decision that a a woman can make.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:02

    And I firmly believe that it should be between a woman, her doctor, and her god, not the government. I don’t think that’s a radical statement. I think that’s something vast majority of Americans can agree on. And the fact that we are back here fighting this fight is, you know, kind of akin to the fact that we’re for back fighting for liberal democracy. Things, people thought were safe, art because radicals and extremists hijacked the political process.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:28

    And they’re also, you know, run they’re running against majoritarian democracy. I wrote a little comment about this looking at Mike Johnson and the Mike Lee stuff. Anything majoritarian democracy is the problem. Rather than the solution, you cannot overstate how dangerous and extreme that is. And so that alone is is reason for for us all to to roll up the sleeves and get involved in in our democracy because it’s not a spectator sport.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:51

    This is real.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:53

    To meet that radical and extreme side of the same, because I, you know, I’m for kind of if they’re reasonable reforms. This isn’t what, you know, reasonable limits. Like, this is what is happening though. No. And for me, here’s my one piece of pro bono political advice for you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:05

    In some ways, Mike Johnson, I think, is as District voters can be educated about him. Might be scarier than Trump.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:12

    Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:12

    You know, in New York. In New York, you know, because to some of these people that don’t take the democracy threat as seriously, which I I get because they have regular lives and and it’s kind of esoteric Mike Johnson is a Christian radical that wants to be in their sex lives. And I think that that is gonna be a a very dangerous and scary element of for a for a New York district. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:32

    And, you know, if you’re voting for Republican for Congress, you’re voting for Mike Johnson. You’re voting to empower
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:38

    Right.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:38

    That man and his agenda. And it’s not about being a person of faith. I’m a person of faith, but being a person of faith has nothing to do with being a bigot and wanting to sort of, you know, ignore fundamental tenets of our country. You know, like one of the basic tenets of liberal democracy being like, let’s keep religion and politics, you know, separate. Let’s not have our religion driver politics.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:59

    Which is also founding father’s wisdom. But, yeah, I I I completely agree with you because you can’t separate the two. It just so happens that of the eighteen Republicans who represent districts Biden one, which this was in in twenty twenty. Lelota was the first one to hug Donald Trump the hardest. You know, putting out statements saying he’s a middle finger to New York said, you know, okay.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:22

    Not run away from that. You know, unlike Lee Zelton, he didn’t vote to overturn the democracy after the attack on the capital or at least Defonic. You know, other New York Republicans,
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:31

    but, like You didn’t do a list Jamie or Adam Kinz or any of those folks did either though.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:35

    And god bless those folks. That’s why we need to build the broadest possible coalition right now. You know, I think that’s the real opportunity. I remember I interviewed him, you know, I’m convincing her, and he said he hadn’t gotten outreach from the Biden campaign. And it wasn’t that he was feeling needy for attention.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:48

    It was more sort of guys that we gotta build the broadest coalition right now. And so let’s do that. We just gotta win.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:54

    Adam might be a little needy. He likes getting texted.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:56

    Hi,
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:56

    Adam. He’s great.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:57

    Okay. We gotta end with Rudy. I’m sorry. We have to do it. Sure.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:00

    You worked for Rudy back right out of college. In around in in two thousand and one. Different Rudy. So let’s do that first. I have one question for you about that time about nine eleven.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:08

    I wanna end with that, but let’s just do the Rudy of it all first. Sure. You saw it. I’m close. Was it all was it there?
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:13

    Did you see this the crazy Rudy? Is it the is it the Scotch? Is it the power? What is it?
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:19

    What happened?
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:19

    So let me let me put all this in in context for folks. So my actually first, you know, you asked early about my origin story, and I I told you about sort of being a kid and being interested and how I got interested in politics and history. The first campaign that I really got excited about was Bill Clinton, nineteen ninety two and ninety six. And I’ve I’ve volunteered on both. And I was a subscriber to blueprint, the DLC magazine.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:43

    And and the DLC approach made a a lot of sense to me. Right? And, Brooklyn, politically, like, Democrats have lost three elections in a row with more than forty states and he turned that around. So doing something right there. And if you look back in the Clinton Blair politics, that’s something I we need to take another look at because they actually anticipated a lot of problems in the decline community that led to Trump.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:03

    That’s another podcast for another day. After the ninety six campaign, Rudy Giuliani was a pro choice pro immigrant pro health care pro gay rights republican. He was basically DLC in an urban context. You know, he has to say to be locked into partisan politics doesn’t permit you to think clearly. He clearly stopped thinking clearly.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:24

    And, I think it’s because he got locked into partisan politics. And it among other things, it’s a cautionary tale about how Donald Trump he leads people to destroy their reputations in the service of a lie to see him destroy his reputation. And and, obviously, the most one of the most pivotal points in my life and you alluded to it. One of the most defining moments in my life was nine eleven. I was there when the towers collapsed, I wrote an essay about it, the some people speak oddly, I’ve called the resilient city that recounts what I was doing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:53

    But, you know, my team and I, I was chief speech writer in the city hall at the time, and we wrote three hundred and forty three firefighter Yolgies. So if you wanna obsess over Rudy, you know, that’s the most form of the moment of my life. You know, the police officer, Bewilges, and and the way that the city and the nation briefly united in unimaginable suffering and why we need to always stand strong against terrorism and reverence. Always one bad day away from being the number one issue, but those moments that time forever defined me just fundamental ways. And what happened to Rudy?
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:29

    I think Donald Trump happened to Rudy. It’s evident with regard to when the man lit his reputation on fire and had to declare bankruptcy. And and there’s no resemblance.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:38

    I know. They would’ve renamed Legordia after him if you were to just shut
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:41

    up and grind red wine
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:42

    and just did nothing else. It’s really odd. It’s just unbelievable. I I do I wanna end with those eulogies though because I reread that essay this morning before this. It’s moving.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:52

    K.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:52

    This was hoping you could talk about that. I mean, just that experience and, like, learning about all those folks’ lives and maybe how that bound you to New York, and and if there’s any memories that stand out from from that process and learning about all those fire fighters?
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:06

    I mean, so many. You know, the the first thing is we were determined normally if it for firefighter in New York does the community stops. And all of a sudden, we’d lost more people in a day than we’d lost in the history. Right? I mean, it was just three hundred and forty three something.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:25

    The mere fact of the example they set in their death, running into the fire. Is the most powerful example of what we do in a democracy and it should never be forgotten. That real heroism is about thinking about something bigger than your own short term self interest. You’re run towards danger to help people. And the firefighters remind us, you don’t need to be perfect to be a hero.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:56

    You just have to do what’s right when it matters most. And in writing all those eulogies, you have an appreciation for one of the the the majesty’s a democracy, which is that we’re nation up for and by the people, and everyone’s got the capacity. To stand up what it matters most and do what’s right. And that example then becomes eternal. I learned the importance of, you know, as tragic as it is to leave kids.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:24

    I think one of the transformative things about having a family is you automatically adjust your perspective for something bigger than yourself. And even, I’ll never forget, Terry Hatton was the captain of rescue one, and his wife, Beth Hatton, was with her when the towers fell. We found out the night of, the night before his funeral that she was pregnant. And little Terry is, is graduating a college about.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:50

    Oh my god.
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:51

    And, Beth lives in Dicks Hills. She she lives here in Pennsylvania County. And when I I drove by the other day, a fire station out on the south fork, and very subtly there was a three forty three. Outside on a stone tower. And my son asked what’s that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:12

    You know, and so you start to have those conversations. But I think it’s so important to remember the sacrifice and the heroism that day. The fact that we responded as a civil society to evil that we have that capacity within us. And that while we can’t wait for disasters Natural or man made to United Assistant. The fact that that’s been strained at all, I think speaks to how deep the rot has got.
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:44

    But I still also believe that we can, we have the inherent capacity to unite. There’s always more than United’s than devices as Americans. And, we need to show that more in our day to day lots, and that’s a way of honoring and respecting those examples. The best examples from American history and to echo it in some small way in our own lives. And now I believe directing it towards defending our very democracy itself.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:13

    Hey, man, brother. I really appreciate you sharing that with us John Avlon. He’s running New York’s first district john avlon dot com. If you wanna learn more or support
  • Speaker 3
    0:41:20

    Thank you.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:20

    His efforts will be talking to you. Keep us posted as the campaign goes on, brother. We’ll see soon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:25

    Absolutely, brother. And thanks to everything you guys do forward.
  • Speaker 3
    0:41:28

    My famous last one. Banner intern. Sound an option. Whatever. I love.
  • Speaker 3
    0:41:53

    And that’s all. We this is good if this is good one. Some would light up the way before. You were the one. Made me feeling I and I love Whatever is waiting for you.
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:46

    If this is good, If this is goodbye.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:59

    The Secret Podcast is produced by Katie Cooper with audio engineering and editing by Jason Brown.
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