“We are driven to do the right thing.”

 
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By Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers and Pantsuit Politics. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
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We talk about the pandemic, mask wearing, “wokeness,” Trump, and how we process trauma. This is a hard conversation, but one that comes from a place of deep care. We know everyone will find something to disagree with here, but we hope you are challenged and encouraged, too.

Thank you for being a part of our community! We couldn't do what we do without you. To become a financial supporter of the show, please visit our Patreon page, purchase a copy of our book, I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening), or share the word about our work in your own circles. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for our real time reactions to breaking news, GIF news threads, and personal content. To purchase Pantsuit Politics merchandise, check out our TeePublic store and our branded tumblers available in partnership with Stealth Steel Designs. To read along with us, join our Extra Credit Book Club subscription.

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Beth: [00:00:00] Those of us who feel that the last 40 years were the wrong thing for America are so driven to do the right thing and not to do the right thing in like really broad, ethical strokes, but to get everything right, a list of things where we say the right words, we talk about them in the right places we speak at the right times, we don't speak at the wrong times. I think that that drive to do the right thing is keeping us a little bit frozen around mask wearing and social behavior.

Sarah: This is Sarah

Beth: And Beth.

Sarah: You're listening to Pantsuit Politics.

Beth: The home of grace-filled political conversations.

Sarah: [00:01:02] Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Pantsuit Politics. Today, we are talking about vaccines and masks. And James Carville and we promise those things are related. You just gotta stick with us, but first, if you like what we do here at Pantsuit Politics and want to support us, one of the easiest ways to do that is by sharing the show with your friends and family, and whether that's on social media or the next time you're chatting together, feel free to like take their phone and show them how to do it. I have done that several times.

Personal endorsements are really the best way to bring a new listeners to our community into podcast generally. So still lots of Americans out there not listening to podcasts. What is wrong with y'all? So we need y'all to go out there and convert, convert people to listening to podcasts because they're a blessing.

Beth: [00:01:43] And our show is made better when you do that. For example, being able to put together vaccines and masks and James Carville is a direct result of the wonderful conversations that we have in this community. So Sarah, you posted a couple of articles as homework on our [00:02:00] Patreon page and on our Instagram feed and maybe we should start by just a brief overview of what those two articles were about.

Sarah: [00:02:07] Well, let's start with the first one, which is called "The Liberals Who Can't Quit Lockdown" by Emma Green. It was on the Atlantic. I posted on Patreon. I posted on Instagram. I posted on my personal Facebook page and it sparked quite the reaction. Here's the expert that spoke to me.

It says those who are vaccinated on the left seem to think overcaution now is the way to go, which is making people on the right question the effectiveness of the vaccine Gandhi told me, and Gandhi is a epidemiologist quoted in the article. Public figures and policymakers who try to dictate other's behavior without any scientific justification for doing so erode trust in public health and make people less willing to take useful precautions. The marginal gains of staying shutdown might not justify the potential backlash.

Now, before we, even in this conversation, I want everybody to take a deep breath with me. This is a loader topic. Obviously [00:03:00] I've been a Democrat from the age of 18. I love liberals. I love progresses. I count myself among them, but we do not have a monopoly on being right or righteous and I am worried that a lot of times in these conversations, especially if there is even a tiny piece of the conversation that touches on the Trump administration, which of course any COVID conversation does, it becomes well, we're not them so we're right all the time.

We said this in our book, we said this all the time, neither side has a monopoly on being right all the time and we can also be wrong without being bad. And that's the thing I really want to emphasize. I am not mad at anybody. I do not think anybody out there who is choosing to be overly cautious is a bad person or a bad citizen. I am in no way, shape or form going to confront them on the street ever. No, never. I'm not angry at them. What [00:04:00] I am looking for is a little bit of self-awareness and a cultural, societal, inner party, even conversation where we can learn about what has happened to us over the past several months in order to grow and do better in the future. That's my pitch.

Beth: [00:04:33] I think that's a good opening. I feel a little bit awkward because I don't care so much about being a good liberal. I'm just, I'm new to the party and am in the party because I care about continuing to have a functioning democracy within the context of a Republic and I think that that is really been threatened over the past four years. I do care a lot about being sensitive to other people and [00:05:00] I think that that gets perceived about me as sort of a wokeness or a radical leftist kind of thing.

My language would be I just care about other people's varying experiences and so one thing I want to acknowledge out of the gate in this discussion is that it is a blessing to be in the United States where we can have arguments over what appropriate post vaccination behavior looks like. The entirety of the rest of the world does not have the good fortune of more supply than demand on vaccines when India is suffering in such a devastating way right now, And so there's a, there's a roughness to this debate from the beginning that is wrapped up in the United States was really effective at producing and distributing vaccines and didn't share them from the get, go with the rest of the world and that has created insular conditions, which is like the whole story of the United States right now, right.

[00:06:00] We have all of these things going for us, which insulates us enough to tear each other apart over what we do in the confines of our spaces so that's important to me to recognize and I think as I consider what the goals have been of our public health guidelines from the beginning of the pandemic, it helps me to track what was the most pressing concern at each point and what's the most pressing concern now.

And so the sort of lockdown behavior, even when some of us in retrospect will criticize aspects of it, which I think is a fair and important exercise. I was all on board with that lockdown behavior in the beginning because we didn't know what we were dealing with and what we knew was really scary and really threatening to our ability to be able to get our arms around it and so that, to me requires something different than where we are over a year out where we really [00:07:00] do understand both what we're dealing with and what our capabilities are, because I think now our most pressing concern is how to get the most people vaccinated.

Sarah: [00:07:09] Well, it feels like the conversation shifted to me and that's what I'm trying to bring some awareness around because it went from, we don't understand the risk to, we must continue to do this until the risk is eliminated and I am just trying to say that I don't think that's the right direction to go into. I'm not mad at anybody. Right? I just want to keep emphasizing this. Like if you feel traumatized and if you feel, look, you know, we were all traumatized. Every single person. I don't care if you were a hedge fund, billionaire escaping to the Hamptons with a support staff, every single American at one point thought, Oh my God, what if I die from this? And that is traumatic.

And some people had much more intense experiences from that. [00:08:00] Some people are not with us today because of COVID like, and I'm not trying to downplay that. That is traumatic. That is stressful. I was reading a piece in Scientific America that my friend Dylan sent me about cave syndrome and th they described it as post COVID stress, like a PTSD and I think that is a reality.

I just think it becomes, this is the way to be because of science and because of the risk, when, what you're really talking about is the absence of risk is the goal, which I don't think can ever be the goal, as opposed to. This is the reality. This is where a lot of people are. How do we care for each other as we're dealing with this, instead of just putting it all on the individual to handle that anxiety by continuing to lock down.

Like it's it's, I'm not, again, I'm not mad. I'm like worried. I'm worried. I want to see people in a place where the society and the [00:09:00] leadership leadership is what I'm really talking about here like, and you've gotten really good at articulating that and like teaching me to say, like, we're not talking about the reactions from the public, we're talking about where we need leadership on this. And I think we need leadership to say, yes, there's real anxiety, but you don't need to accommodate that anxiety and try to use science to justify it because science can not help you get to risk elimination.

That risk elimination is not a reality even with herd immunity so which now they're saying is probably not realistic. So let's talk about how we can assess risk, how we can really depend on the science instead of politicizing it, because both sides in this debate have politicized science period. Both sides have rejected science that they didn't feel like met their goals and if you cannot see that about your own side, We need to have a conversation.

Beth: [00:09:55] And I don't want in any point of this conversation to minimize the risks that still [00:10:00] exist for certain populations in our country. You know, I understand that parents are having a really hard time trying to figure out what it means that adults are vaccinated and kids aren't. I understand that there are families with especially vulnerable kids who would say, yeah, I'm trying to get the risk to zero because as a parent with a kid who I don't know what would happen as zero risk is really the only thing I can live with. I totally understand that.

So again, I think you're right, Sarah, to just point out, I'm really thinking through what is the example for sort of averages here, not what do individuals choose when individual decision making is really fraught. But it's really tough because the whole pandemic has demanded of us a collective mindset. I thought the Washington Post put it really well by saying we are at an inflection point where so many people have been vaccinated and [00:11:00] our public health systems are able to deal mostly with what's happening in terms of infection rates, that this shift is more individual than societal, that you are doing more of an individual risk calculus. And I can respect all manner of individual risk calculations. I really can.

I do want to make sure that the collective task which to me again, the most important collective priority right now is encouraging people to get the vaccine, I want to make sure that there is enough of an example out there about how liberating it is to have the vaccine that people are encouraged to do it and I worry a little bit that again, on a broad societal level, you do what you need to do in your house but on a broad societal level, I worry that we aren't showing people that like I do trust the science. I do trust the [00:12:00] vaccine and I feel real confident that whether I'm at a baseball game or in target, I'm protected.

Sarah: [00:12:09] Yup. Yup. Because it's so hard because even as we move to individualized, I'm going to start using the term harm reduction, because I think that's really what we should focus on, because again, risk elimination, even with COVID, even with our kids, there's no zero right risk for our children ever period. They live in the world. So that's, that's just something like, I try to remind myself all the time for my mental health. I think as we move to that individualized harm reduction, there is a cost to saying like, You do you. We do that a lot in American life. And I think what's frustrating for me is the same people who I feel like are saying you do, you are the same people saying like, but I'm doing it for all of you.

Well, if we're, if we're really about, if this is really about, [00:13:00] I'm trying to be aware of that, I could still spread it, even though it's a minuscule risk because I'm so concerned with being a good citizen. Listen, we talk about citizenship all the time on the show. It is of a top priority to me. Like that's a very limited view of the impact of your decision. That's what's worrying me is I think there are bigger costs. In the same way that I think that blue States, progressive communities were wrong.

I'm going to say this as clearly as I can. Not because I am mad at anybody who chose this, not because I can't see how we got there, but now on the other side, we can do some under Monday morning quarterbacking and see that there, the risk for shutting down school exceeded the risk of spread or infection from COVID with our kids and I think the longer we deny that the worse it is. We need to own where we politicize the science and we decided that the science told us one thing, but it agreed with Donald Trump and that wasn't good enough for us. And I saw this [00:14:00] in conversation and conversation and conversation, and that's hard.

And again, I'm not like you're bad, all is lost, but I just think we need to be clear-eyed about that. The science has told us something very, very clearly. Not there's no risk because they can not assure that ever, but that the risk of reopening school was low and the cost of keeping it closed has been enormous, enormous to teenagers, mental health, to women's economic participation, all of that and I just, if we're framing our individual decisions Out of this civic participation, and I'm really worried about my fellow citizens, then I think that's wonderful, but we need to be honest that the impact on our fellow citizens is broader [00:15:00] then sometimes we want to acknowledge,

Beth: [00:15:03] I think that's right. I also think that, and here's the connection to me, to the James Carville piece, which if you let me set that up in case you haven't read it. James Carville spoke to Vox about what he views as a risk for the democratic party and he said it very plainly in James Carville fashion, which is always, I think, fun to hear and read, even if you don't agree.

Sarah: [00:15:27] And if you're a youngen, which we have some, James Carville was a very famous Clinton campaign consultant. Now, I honestly, wasn't really a consultant when Clinton ran for president the first time, he was just a plain old campaign worker. He's married to a famous Republican Mary Matlin.

Beth: [00:15:43] Now, now a libertarian.

Sarah: [00:15:45] Now libertarian, Marius, and now he's sort of a famous democratic talking head.

Beth: [00:15:52] And he has colorful. Okay. He has a strong Southern accent, very plain-spoken and so he said to [00:16:00] Vox that everybody in the democratic party knows that wokeness is a problem and he was really clear that he's talking about wokeness, basically driven by white college educated people who want to be in front of everything and want to be right about everything. And he, and he referred to this now don't get mad. He referred to this as kind of everybody acting like we're, we're constantly in the faculty lounge and some professors got mad about that.

Now, if you're a college professor, I don't want you to feel disparaged. I think it was a somewhat useful metaphor to be able to say, We are discussing issues through the most pure academic framework, and then expecting the general population to adopt that jargon. He said, Republicans are a party of slogans and Democrats are a party of jargon and it's a problem and to me, the connection between this conversation about vaccines and mass squaring and what James Carville had to [00:17:00] say much of, which I do agree with, is that we are driven to do the right thing.

I think those of us who feel that the last four years were the wrong thing for America and I firmly put myself in that category. Those of us who feel that the last 40 years with a wrong thing for America are so driven to do the right thing and not to do the right thing in like really broad, ethical strokes, but to get everything right. A list of things where we say the right words, we talk about them in the right places we speak at the right times. We don't speak at the wrong times. And, and I think that that drive to do the right thing is keeping us a little bit frozen around mask wearing and social behavior.

And it again shows how insular, white college educated upper middle class to upper class people are from others' [00:18:00] experiences because when you're having a discussion about being overly cautious as a sense of civic duty, I do think it diminishes the experience of people who never had the benefit of staying home. Who delivered our mail. Who went to Amazon plants and got those packages out the door that we needed to keep living our lives as comfortably as we can and many of us lived quite comfortably during the pandemic and I'm one of those people.

I think that we, we show how insular our definition of being a good citizen is when we decide that we have to stay in March of 2020 behaviors despite the fact that. Any adult who wants the vaccine now can have it.

Sarah: [00:18:50] And here is what else I hear a lot, especially from people who felt abandoned by their state government, like a lot of people who felt like their [00:19:00] governors were just leaving them to fend for themselves. They say a lot of like, well, I don't trust my fellow citizens. I trust the science, but I don't trust my fellow citizens, which I hear that and also if the science is saying, it doesn't matter how bad your fellow citizens are, the vaccine protects you, then that that's important to remember. But I feel like what happens there, that the desire to be right is defined and the defensiveness, if I was doing it for the right reasons and you are criticizing my behavior, comes from my motive was pure and the motive is only defined in opposition to the other side.

My motive is always pure because I'm not a Republican. My motive is always pure and how dare you attack my decision-making because I'm not Trump and I disagree with Trump and that means that I care and I'm right and I'm following the right rules. And I see, and I [00:20:00] think that's a little bit of what James Carville is getting at too, right? That, cause there's a paternalism there. I trust the science, I'm doing the right thing because you suck and you won't. And like people feel that.

People feel that and some of the, like the vaccine hesitancy we're going to have to overcome, which is the bigger societal impact I am worried about. I am both worried about the impact of that attitude, not just because I think it is harmful to other people, but also because I think it is harmful to people who do feel traumatized, who did have just horrendous calculations to make based on disability or immunocompromised family members. Like again, like, I think this is hard on everybody and that is why I am concerned and I think james Carville is in that his, about his end goal is to win is concerned about everybody. Like it's not just, I feel good popping off about wokeness. It's that I care about the things woke people care about, and I want to achieve those things, which means we have to win the election.

[00:21:00] Beth: [00:21:00] I was my version of hot. You know, I run, I run kind of cold, as we say often here. I was my version of hot for a good three, four days about Marco Rubio dunking on Coca-Cola and other companies in Georgia for taking a stand about Georgia's voting law when they weren't taking an equally fervent stand about the treatment of Qyghur Muslims in China. I was really hot about that. I care very much about what's happening in Xingjiang and also that is not my standard. My standard is not, well, if you have to speak out about this happening across the world, and if you don't, you can't criticize what's going on in your own community. That's bananas, that's bananas.

And I bring that up as an example, because I think there is a version of being a liberal Democrat that goes like it's not worth criticizing anything within this party because the other [00:22:00] party is so bad and I don't, I don't want any part of that. I think that's bananas. Yep. And I'm not even really criticizing a lot here. I share your concerns.

Sarah: [00:22:10] I'm just caring. I swear to God, I'm just caring for this party I love so much

Beth: [00:22:16] I share your concern, that we are using language that continues to fuel a divided America. I share your concern that we are in a place where the democratic party tends to send a message that unless you are really present with suffering constantly, and in every space, you're not doing your work and so around COVID to me that looks like, unless you are really present with how many people have died, which I don't think our psychology is wired for. I don't think that our brains can [00:23:00] handle half a million people having died largely unnecessarily from this crisis. That is, that is a big lift. And I don't think it's my work to do, to try to, to feel that all day, every day.

I can care about it tremendously. I do. Listen, there were 10 solid days when I thought my mother was going to die and I could not do a thing about it, not even sit at her side in the hospital. And that is something that I will carry for the rest of my life. And that affects me in different ways all the time and always will. I am not asking anyone to move on or to buckle up or anything like that. I am just saying, I also need to be able to continue to live my life in a joyful way that helps me connect with other human beings.

And right now I have questions about whether, for example, and you know, my husband and I talked about [00:24:00] this when he was on the podcast and people did not like it, but I will say it again. I have questions about whether it makes any sense at all for the two of us fully vaccinated and six feet apart from other people outside to wear a mask. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me and I have questions about whether people who are hesitant about getting the vaccine are going to be motivated to get it if their reality is still sitting outside six feet apart from other people wearing the mask.

Sarah: [00:24:28] It's so hard because I believe there is a real role that trauma plays in our polarization. I've been thinking about this a lot. We've been working on this in our second book. America has done such a terrible job of dealing with national traumas. We're not really good at individual traumas and so what I'm saying is not this isn't [00:25:00] a trauma, or it is just move on. What I'm saying is recognizing trauma is not the last step in our national healing. And I'm not saying we know the steps because we've been so sh*t at it in the past. We don't, but I want to learn, and I feel that way about racial justice.

Like I cannot like. I affirm the trauma as fully and completely as I can as a white lady and also I need some leadership on what comes next. For better or for worse, I think there's a little bit of that that spoke to me from James Carville, which is we all agree what comes next. If you're a Democrat and you agree that Donald Trump was awful and traumatic for our country and that COVID was awful and anxiety producing for so many people and that racial justice is a top priority, great. What comes [00:26:00] next? What do we do after that? Because saying there will be an after does not negate the affirmation. Like it does not say because we will not stay here in the trauma that there was no trauma. I just, you know, I'm, I've not done a lot of therapy, but I feel like I haven't done enough to know that.

Beth: [00:26:22] Yeah. Because what therapy really teaches you is that you keep living and you create, you take the trauma and you integrate it into who you are as a person and you keep living and it scares me a little bit on that front when the reaction to a photograph on Instagram, for example of leaders who we know to be vaccinated, it scares me a little bit when the reaction to that is where are their masks? They should be setting a good example by wearing their masks.

I kind of think they're setting a good example by showing that they got vaccinated and that now they can gather together. I like to me, [00:27:00] that is the pressing need right now. I know not everybody's there and again, I'm not mad at you if you, if you aren't. I really don't want us though, to, to be stuck here for longer than we have to be stuck here and I feel the momentum around staying stuck and look, I acknowledge that I'm sitting in Kentucky where our leadership has made public health a priority from the beginning.

It has to be infinitely more frustrating to be in a state where there have been no restrictions and no sentiment that it's even important to behave personally, in a responsible way. That's gotta be so frustrating if we no longer had a mask ban in Kentucky right now, I wouldn't be mad about it because I do think our government here in Kentucky has been really serious about educating people on what the choices are [00:28:00] and what the responsibilities are and how our behavior impacts other people.

And I think we've got enough vaccines now that if we said to people, you got them, just make your choices in the world, I think that would be a fair thing to do. I would not be upset at all if those restrictions were lifted and the governor just said like, Hey, if you aren't vaccinated, I've done my very best to tell you what the risks are. I've done my very, very best and now we got to all make our choices and operate in this space and those choices are not equal for everybody. And that sucks. That really sucks, but they aren't in any space.

That's to your point about school closing Sarah, I wanted to circle back to that to say it is not that you don't care about teachers when you say we've gotten it wrong on schools and it is not, people are making the argument, this blows my mind, a form of white supremacy. The reality is lots and lots of people getting COVID hurts people who were already marginalized more than people who [00:29:00] weren't and the precautions of trying to guard against the risk of COVID hurt people who were already marginalized and people who weren't. Both paths hurt marginalized populations more.

I don't think it's fair, honestly, as a white person, to use the marginalized experience to argue for what I want anyway. I want to be sensitive to it and I care about it and I want to be responsive to it and I want to do any work I can in the world to make things more equitable in the longterm but I don't think it's fair in this situation where it is clear that both paths continue to harm groups that were already being harmed in a normal society to use that, to hammer home what I think the outcome ought to be anyway.

Sarah: [00:29:59] To your [00:30:00] argument about being in different situations, of course, that's true always in America and I think living in a state where you felt like the governor was not protecting you is more than just frustrating, it's scary. I felt that the entirety of the presidency of Donald Trump, I felt like I was on my own and that is really scary. And I agree with you. And also, I don't want us to stay in that fear. I just don't think it is good for us. And that doesn't mean like buck it up, be brave. It just means, okay, let's talk about how fear works on us, because one of the biggest critics of the Republican party is that they use fear to motivate people and I want to make sure that we don't do that either.

And I think there was some of that with school closings. I think that, that there was some praying or at least being overly, no, I don't know if overly responsive, but it's just like letting fear rule the day instead of the science, instead of the experts telling the expert, all of a sudden scientists like, or economists like Emily Oster were getting these crazy letters saying that she was supported genocide because they were saying something we [00:31:00] didn't agree with and I just think that that is really, really damaging to our, to our civic fabric. Like, and I think that we have to own the damage because it's, again, just if one side is horrendous, it's not in proportionate to how perfect the other side is. We can still screw up too.

Beth: [00:31:21] And it is okay to have some failures because a crisis is going to have failures. I think part of the reason I feel really comfortable about the way that COVID has been managed, particularly in Kentucky is because my professional history is helping people through divorces then corporate bankruptcies than human resources issues, all scenarios where perfect is not available. Where behaving correctly is not an option.

It's all about prioritization, making the best of tough situations and, and getting comfortable with the fact that a lot [00:32:00] of the human experience is difficult and harmful and something that has been really important to me from the beginning of COVID is to never tie the behaviors that I was trying to exhibit myself to some sense of morality, because I worried from the beginning and you probably heard me say it on the podcast, that people who got COVID would feel like they had morally failed and it is a virus, not a sin.

And I really have been concerned and I, I remain concerned about people who get COVID feeling isolated and shunned, not only because they have to quarantine, but because people treat them like they really messed up and I don't think that's good for our management of coronavirus and I don't think it's good for the way we talk about disabilities. I don't think is good for the way we talk about health in general. It's really important to me that we don't tie these things up together [00:33:00] and I think that that's another kind of panic that I have about the culture Wars around masks and vaccines right now and even some of what James Carville was describing.

It is counter productive at some point to tell people, well, you're using the wrong word so I'm separating from you, when in my life experience, if you sit down and talk with someone who hates the word privilege about whether some of us have an easier path in life than others and that skin color is a part of that or what language you were born speaking is a part of that or how much money you grew up with as a part of that, I've not met anybody who disagree. Yeah. There's so much opportunity. If you're willing to say, like, I'm not going to do the jargon right now, I'm going to put this in my own words and try to connect with you as another human being and I'm open to what your experience of things that have been hard and unfair in life look like as we try to [00:34:00] connect through this.

Sarah: [00:34:01] I totally agree about the moralizing. We had a beloved Patreon person comment and just give this long asterisk about how she got COVID and I thought you do not owe that to us. You do not have to explain to me how you got COVID

Beth: [00:34:16] and I a hundred percent understand why she did it. A hundred percent.

Sarah: [00:34:19] Yes and I'm like, but I just, that breaks my heart. You don't owe that to anybody in like, look, here's where I think the James Carville thing connects to one other piece I want to talk about from David French called "Will a God Gap Dune Dreams of a Democratic Dominance," because his point is that currently the democratic party holds the most religious and the least religious communities.

You have educated white people who are abandoning religion at a rapid pace, and you have communities of color that are some of the most religious in our Count. And I think the presence of that. Moralizing, especially as it appears in woke culture [00:35:00] is a manifestation of that because people want to moralize and I get it. You know, I think that that is a human need that is important. To really think through and feel like that you are doing the right thing. That you are, and listen. I'm an Enneagram one. Like I don't, when I am concerned about righteousness, I am always talking about myself forever and always. Okay.

And so I think that we want to do that. Like my, what I've been saying a lot recently is like Twitter ain't church, but we sure want it to be. Like, we want to find a place where we can call out the centers and mark ourselves among the angels. Even those of us who would never, ever, ever step foot in church and again, I don't think this is something we're going to strip out of the national psyche, even in, in the same way I'm not looking to strip out people's anxiety or fear. That was a normal reaction. What I am looking for is integration and evolution, and to recognize what's happening, why we have that human need and [00:36:00] find healthier ways to meet that need without exacting that toll on our fellow citizens.

I want us to be the best citizens available to us, and we have to be connected to each other in order to achieve that like we can't intellectualize it in our own head. We can't do it through a Twitter thread y'all like, it's not, it doesn't work that way. We have to work on each other. We have to say. I know you were so scared and you were going to die and I know I was scared I was going to die. We get it. We cannot stay here. I am worried for you that you are stuck in this spot. I want you to live a full life. We can't just stay in.

I see the toll of racism on you and it breaks my heart. And I want to throw my body over your child and let nothing ever bad happened to them but we can't just stay there. Like we have to work with each other and connect with each other in order to move forward, instead of just, we have to carry each other out of that trauma [00:37:00] instead of just shaming and scolding as a reaction to it in order to signal how seriously we take it. We have other tools available to us besides shame and scolding and moralizing to say that we think something is wrong.

Beth: [00:37:15] And I'm for using those tools. I'm for using the vaccines. I'm for reparations. I'm for a lot of the tools available to help us really in a way that could have some momentum propel us beyond some of these traumas. Not that it fixes it, that it is a tool that you bring to help the problem and help move it forward. I'm for those things. I don't want to take anything away from anybody's suffering. I want to figure out, especially from our leaders, I want to figure out how we say, okay, let's gather ourselves and say, what is the next phase look like?

I think this is really hard and I also think we make it a lot harder than we need to and I wonder, [00:38:00] you know, if you're in a community where people are lying about their kid having COVID and sending them to school anyway, I wonder how we might change. To me like how do we attack that problem instead of having the same mask fight that we've had for the past year. That's a distinct problem, especially now that we have vaccines, we have more access to testing. What do we do to attack that problem?

It's not that I think we're out of the woods here. I don't think we're going to be done with this. I put myself every day, just like before 20/20 election, every day, I had a moment where I thought Beth, Donald Trump could win this election again. You're going to have to figure out how to carry on. How are you going to do that? Just sit with it for a second. So everyday now I tell myself, Beth, we're not going to get to herd immunity. You're going to live with Coronavirus. What's that look like? And so in those moments, I just think like, let's see, let's focus on the new problem and how to fix the new problem instead of saying in yesterday's argument.

[00:39:00] Sarah: [00:39:00] Because that is like a civic betrayal. That is a betrayal. The feeling that you live in community with someone who would act so selfishly or what you perceive to be so selfishly. It is a betrayal and betrayal is traumatizing and that is not, again, that's something we need to articulate and deal with and address just like you said. And I think what James Carville is saying is we have tools and we can address it, but we can't do Jack shit if we lose elections.

And in some ways I agree with that and in some ways I think the problem is bigger than anything an election can solve. I think you need what we talked about, the emotional leadership that I really do believe Joe Biden is providing. You know, that teaching us that, Hey, we have hurt each other. We have betrayed each other and also we want to continue forward and I think part of that is gets to something before I answer, I want to hear what your answer is that James Carville says in the article. I think this is just [00:40:00] the, like, this is the meat of the whole entire thing.

He says someone like democratic congressmen, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. She's obviously very bright. She knows how to draw a headline. In my opinion, some of her political aspirations are impractical and probably not going to happen but that's, it's probably the worst thing you can say about her. Now, take someone Marjorie Taylor Green, the new Republican Congresswoman from Georgia. She's absolutely loonier than a tune. We all know it and yet, for some reason, the Democrats pay a bigger political price for AOC than Republicans pay for Green. That's the problem in a nutshell, and it's ridiculous because AOC and Green are not comparable any way.

I want to hear why you think that Democrats pay a bigger price for AOC than they pay for Marjorie Taylor Green.

Beth: [00:40:45] I think it's because Republicans have understood for a long time what you just said. That a lot of our biggest societal problems can not be explained or solved by policy, doesn't mean we shouldn't use policy or that [00:41:00] policy is unimportant. It is, and we can, and we should. And also, I think a lot of Republican voters are comfortable with a super big tent. Communities get to send whoever they want to, to Congress. I don't want Congress to do much anyway. When Congress passes something, usually I think the harm of it is going to be worse than any possible good that could come from it so what difference does it make?

I think it's why, you know, we talked a little bit about Noah Rothman's piece on Patreon. Noah Rothman has a new piece in Commentary saying that Republicans have a self-harm problem, because a lot of the party doesn't care about winning elections as much as they care about pissing off people who are liberal or staying in the faces of people who are liberal or generally feeling like you can't tell them you can't be the boss of me and that's cultural more than it is political and the party got there by elevating cultural issues for the [00:42:00] last 30, 40 years.

When you look at what happened around reproductive rights, for example, that is a cultural conversation as much as, or more than a policy conversation. You know how I know, because I asked people who are against abortion, if we had policies in place that would get us to almost no abortions happening, would it be important to you for it to be illegal? And they say, yes, they want it to be illegal even if it wouldn't make a difference to the outcomes at all. That's cultural more than it's political and so to me, what AOC represents to Republicans is cultural. It is a lot about a fresh face, right?

Someone who demographically is different than who has been in leadership before and the feeling that creates that all the people who look like people who've been leading in leadership before are not welcome anymore, because it can't be that new people are welcome. It has to mean that if new people are welcome, the old people are out. [00:43:00] It represents using the right language about things, language that people have decided they abhore.

It means policies that sound like the government would be doing something that might change something about my life and I don't want that. And so I think that that's why Marjorie Taylor Green can just be sort of a side show and it doesn't matter but what AOC represents is culturally powerful, and that is the problem.

Sarah: [00:43:28] I'm trying to train myself to this stop seeing everything through the filter of the respective basis. Because when James Carville says, we pay a price, it's not with each other's basis. Right. You know, we're not paying like Republicans, aren't paying a price for Marjorie Taylor Green among their base because the base, it doesn't matter and I, and Democrats, aren't paying a price among the base because they're going to support AOC, it doesn't matter right? S o what we're really talking a bit about is that [00:44:00] center person who doesn't live and breathe politics who is moderate or a swing voter voted for Trump, voted for Obama, and that person matters tremendously.

So why do I think AOC hits them harder than Marjorie Taylor Green? And I think it's because a lot of the sloganeering from the Republican party is cultural like you said, and it's invitational as opposed to oppositional. It's we don't think you're that bad. We think you're fine. We think things are fine. Now I think this is really hitting the limit of its lifespan, for what it's worth, coming out of pandemic, articulating that everything is fine as an interesting approach, but I think there's that sense of like, Well, she's like not mad at me. She's mad at things and she's a little wacky, but she's not mad at me.

Whereas I feel like with AOC, whether it's her message or not, and definitely, I think there's a racial [00:45:00] component. The articulation is like, no, you're wrong. Like you are the problem and if you don't agree on the problem with me, you're even more of a problem and so it's oppositional instead of what I think James Carville is trying to articulate, which is a, we see you. We want to help you, which I think AOC does. I think AOC probably has a decent, better than decent understanding of particularly the economic challenges and does see them and wants to help and once articulate, but like it still comes off as oppositional. It still comes off as check these boxes, or we're not on the same page.

And not that I don't think the Republican party has boxes you've got to check, but I don't think they push that as hard with independent voters. I think they do it inside their own party right now, but I don't think they do it as much with the centrists. I don't, well, I don't know if they did or not. I don't think it comes through as much with centrists and moderates.

[00:46:00] Beth: [00:45:59] And a lot of those gettable centrist, moderates, slight lean one way or another voters, I don't think that they like the message of, let me help you. I think that's a cultural thing. I think that there is an implicit criticism in, let me help you for some people, because there are people who make a lot less money than I ever have as an adult who work incredibly hard and are very proud of it and feel condescended to, by the notion that they wouldn't and they're not wrong in that feeling. Who am I to tell them that they're wrong in that feeling?

You know, and I think that that is that education gap again, where I have had an office job my entire adult life. Even in high school, my job was working in a bank. You know, I have worked in really comfortable environments that have been all about politics and [00:47:00] hierarchy and, you know, the, the hard part of my jobs has always just been about other people, not about how it's hot or exhausting or physically demanding. It's a totally different life experience and I think even though I know representative Ocasio Cortez has had those jobs, right? Like she has worked in an experience that connects more with those voters than I do.

I still think the way that she and others package that message to some people and I'm sure some of this is regional, too, like this sort of rural identity, it just comes across in a way that's condescending. This is not a criticism of her. This is the problem. AOC's message shouldn't have to connect with rural identity voters. It should have to connect in her district for her to win elections and the nationalization of everything is a big part of the problem here too. There is a piece of me that wishes we lived in a reality [00:48:00] where Marjorie Taylor Green was a representative from one district in Georgia and if they think she's bananas they can not elect her again. But that's not the scene anymore and I have a big problem with that. Not being the scene anymore.

Sarah: [00:48:15] But when you want to look or win elections, you have to accept the rules of the game.

Beth: [00:48:18] Yeah. And when you look at the scene, as it is, I think you can see why it is easier to say, well, yes, this person says things that are incomprehensible and totally detached from reality but her reason for being is to protect the status quo. That's easier than here's a person who very competently expresses transformative ideas and people being resistant to a person who competently expresses transformative ideas.

Sarah: [00:48:51] Right, right. No, I definitely think there's a status quo versus change that is very scary, but you know, hopeful change can motivate people in the same way fear can. [00:49:00] It's a bigger lift and that's the reality of the democratic party as well. Like that's our lift. Forever in all ways, you know, not forever and always, we've shifted over history, but you know what I mean? Like right now we're not gonna, you know, he talks about this in the article.

Like we Democrats don't play to fear cause we would lose a lot of our base. It doesn't work. My estimation, unethical, even if it did and so, like, it is a bigger lift to do hopeful change. It is. And so I think that not adding other lifts would be helpful, you know what I mean? Like let's just focus on the one hard thing we have to do, which I think Joe Biden's administration has been very good at. Like, we're going to focus on the one thing, guys. We're not going to get swept up in everything. It's like the one thing. We're going to do, the one thing we're going to do it really well, but. That again, that's hard to, in a big tent, cause everybody's one thing is different.

Beth: [00:49:50] And it's okay for everybody's one thing to be different if we all agree that it's okay for everybody's one thing to be different and I think the sort of [00:50:00] undercurrent of what James Carville is saying and, and what we're talking about with COVID precaution.

Sarah: [00:50:07] And what Twitter makes worse.

Beth: [00:50:09] Twitter makes worse every day is the sense that no, everybody should be unlocked step on everything. This one thing, and it is not hopeful change if you're in an environment where if you step away at all from what is the right way on this particular topic, you're going to be shunned or even called out. I mean, look, I don't know why we're in this space as Americans, where if we're not being affirmed, we feel attacked. I don't know why that's our situation, but it is and again, if you want to do electoral politics, you got to accept that as the reality and I think that is a deep problem we need to address.

I think it is a deep problem that professors heard faculty lounge in James Carville's interview and felt attacked by it and that's not a problem just with professors. We're all walking around, feeling disrespected. We're all walking around, feeling like [00:51:00] nobody really gets what it's like to be us. Nobody sees our struggle. That's bad. We have to work on that as a country. And I don't think policy gets us there.

Sarah: [00:51:17] I was listening to Ezra Klein's podcast. They were talking about cancel culture and Natalie Wynn ContraPoints was on there and her book recommendation was the book and the title was Conflict Is Not Abuse and I'm going to get the book and I'm going to read it, but I'm already convinced from the title and I think that's part of it is like, well, if you disagree with me, that means that, it's abuse and it's not the same thing.

And I think you're exactly right if we don't work on that and that doesn't mean again, that if you feel that you're a bad person, like we don't want to, the, the cure for moralizing is not more moralizing. I'm not here to do that. I do have to watch myself because I'm an Enneagram one, but like, I get it that doesn't fix it. [00:52:00] But I think awareness and, and facing our discomfort, like we said, integrating what we've learned from mask on.

Like I both, let me tell you some things I can hold both at the exact same time and not feel an ounce of conflict. Mask are a pain, and they're a massive amount of waste and I would like to see a dialing down of mask usage because I think they're a waste problem and they are also just an inconvenience in my life and I don't mean putting them on, I mean, managing them for my three children primarily, and also I will be integrating mask wearing next flu season. I don't see any conflict between those two positions.

I just don't. I can hold both things and I don't feel if you disagree with me on one or the other, I don't feel attacked. You know, like I just feel like this is what integration means. This is what like holding these things mean and a country as big and complex as ours is like, sometimes we're going to find agreement in the mean, you know what I mean? And like that that's okay.

Beth: [00:52:56] Your driving force is righteousness. My driving force is care, [00:53:00] right and so I don't care about being woke. I care about being sensitive to other people because I'm sensitive. It doesn't take a whole lot to hurt my feelings fairly deeply. It's not a good thing. I'm not bragging. It's just a part of who I am and I acknowledge it and so the reason-

Sarah: [00:53:18] And yet you have been in a partnership with me for several years, it's very impressive. See that's integration right there.

Beth: [00:53:24] The reason that I worry about language a lot and the way language shuts down these conversations is because I think we have said using the right words is the only way to show that you care and in doing so we've put aside some real care.

Like I, 100% think that there are people in this country who would say get the policy right for me, I don't care what the words are. Treat me with kindness and respect, I don't care what the words are. Now, there are certain words that it is so clear they hurt [00:54:00] people and we don't use them and everybody knows. It's like smoking now. Like we all understand, like smoking is bad for you. Don't do it right and their-

Sarah: [00:54:09] It should not be radical to say language is important and also not the only thing.

Beth: [00:54:12] and not the only.

Sarah: [00:54:13] It is not a radical position.

Beth: [00:54:15] Language is not more important than real care for people and real interest in people and a real understanding of like, what is your experience of this? What would you like to be called? Do you want to identify with this group or not? Let me not assume that you do. Do you support this policy or not? Let me not assume that you do and I do think caring about education and social class and other aspects of life that are not pure conditions of birth, although they are certainly tied to them is really important too.

So for me, that care leads me to say like, how can we step back from what feels to me like a bunch of really [00:55:00] loaded assumptions about how everybody feels that are not bearing out in reality. A whole lot of people who are not white voted for Donald Trump and for Republicans up and down the ballot in the last election so I just want to stop making assumptions here and have real interest and real care for my neighbors.

Sarah: [00:55:23] Did we fix it?

Beth: [00:55:25] I don't think we fixed it.

Sarah: [00:55:27] Are we done?

Beth: [00:55:28] I think we might've said enough for today. Yeah. And this is the kind of conversation like where I can say 100% of people listening to this conversation are going to disagree with us about something and that's fine with me. That's fine. I think that's important.

Sarah: [00:55:42] I still love you and I hope you still love me. Like we could, they could coexist.

Beth: [00:55:46] Yes. I want that. You know, because I want us to all think together about that. We have problems to solve. There are some real problems up there, you know, and the problems will not cease to be, if everybody is aiming. [00:56:00] Yup that doesn't get us anywhere and so I, I do want you to disagree where you do and let's discuss it and discuss it with your people.

And, and let's put our best, most creative thinking to the test of what do we do about the people who are lying about having COVID and what are we do about the economic inequality that has been exacerbated by COVID and what do we do about structural racism and on and on and on.

Sarah: [00:56:26] It maybe this, the good place to end. Let me say, I got so much of this wrong. I got so much of it wrong. I was excessively hard on my parents. You know, like I think that my, you know, members of my family, I was hard on them. I tested those relationships because of my fear surrounding COVID. I think there were some times I got lucky when I was frustrated with the precautions and I took risk other people wouldn't. I think there are times [00:57:00] when I am alienating people with my adherence to language rules instead of listening to them and inviting them into the conversation.

I think there are times when I'm so wanting to check the right boxes to be seen as having the right motives and caring about the right things that I miss the goal altogether. I do all these things all the time and, you know, I just want to be clear on that too. Like this isn't coming from a, like, Self-righteous situation it's because I care about the people who are still locked down and feeling a lot of trauma and anxiety and fear. It's because I care about the democratic party and I want them to succeed in elections because I think their policies will help the most people.

It's because I care deeply about activism and achieving and restoring a sense of civic connection. It's because I cared deeply about all these things. And on that note, we're going to [00:58:00] wrap it for today y'all because we're emotionally spent. Thank you for joining us for this very intense conversation. We do look forward to hearing from all of you. We love you so much. We hope that you have the best weekend available to you and keep it nuanced y'all until we talk to you again on Tuesday.

Beth: Pantsuit Politics is produced by Studio D Podcast Production.

Alise Napp is our managing director.

Sarah: Megan Hart is our community engagement manager. Dante Lima is the composer and performer of our theme music.

Beth: Our show is listener supported. Special thanks to our executive producers.

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612 episodes