What does Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse think about the results of the 2020 election? The answer might come as a surprise: Even though the Democrats took the White House, on balance, Ben thinks the election proves that “We are a center-right nation, and even if people don’t have a philosophical embrace of limited government, [that idea] has a broad, functional embrace.” During this talk—originally part of The Dispatch’s post-election program What’s Next: Election 2020 and Beyond – Jonah asks Ben about how responsible Americans might stop our national politics from being run by political addicts, as well as asking him what he thinks about the assertion that he went through a “quiet period” in his Trump criticism, and addressing his controversial connections to Big Runza (Nebraska’s finest delicacy™).

 

As we close in on the end of the year, Jonah’s rumination proves to be a pretty sizable roundup of all the news that has been fit to print throughout the week. In addition to discussing attempts to relitigate the series of unfortunate events surrounding Jeffrey Toobin, the inaccuracy of our current Cold War metaphors in regards to China, and the ongoing conflict over wealth inequality, Jonah also finds the time to dip into several classically nerdy topics. Such subjects include the accidental genius of bad Kung Fu movies, how They Live isn’t nearly as Marxist as the academy would have you believe (and the fact that they try to prove that it is “just helps to prove how dumb Marxism is”), and how David French’s taste in films has made Jonah a nihilist.

 

AEI Fellow, author, and Washington Free Beacon founder Matt Continetti comes back to the program, and Jonah gets to pick his brain about… well, a ton of different things. From his expectations for the Biden presidency, to the shockingly progressive staff of the incoming administration, to the Georgia runoffs and a critical reappraisal of the neoconservatives’ role in deradicalizing the left, Matt provides deep and nuanced answers to the biggest stories of the day as well as the issues of bigger philosophical significance to conservatives. He and Jonah also dial in on some of the upcoming decisions that those on the right will have to make in the near future – decisions that may define basic points of conservative doctrine for a long time to come: What should be counted as a conservative “win,” either in politics or culture? Is conservatism going to be big-tent or selective in its coalition-building? And what should the conservative position on China be, as it becomes clearer that the nation may have grown into a superpower that shares very few of our values?

 

Jonah is joined by Scott Winship – the director of Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and fresh off the heels of his position within Senator Mike Lee’s Social Capital Project. Jonah asks Scott about the persistence of poverty in American society, and what progress has been made both recently and over the long term. Then, they get into why some of the obstacles that have to be removed in order to lift poor people up are more intractable than others. In part, Scott thinks that these difficulties “show how we’re hardwired to think about these problems in economic terms rather than in terms of social bonds,” and that certain data may blind us when searching for the real issues.

 

After describing the inner workings of a longstanding lunch among his friends that has become an institution unto itself and envisioning what his ideal “no rules” podcast might be like, Jonah asks the fundamental political question of our moment: What’s the matter with Texas? Jonah talks about how the state’s election lawsuit has released another swathe of intellectual dishonesty among right-wing tastemakers, as well as the “Kraken Caucus” (or is it the Kraken Kaukus?) more generally, and how the Constitution endorses trial by combat for picking elector slates (well, kind of). This is followed by a rumination on “corruption” in both its classical and modern sense, the updated Hunter Biden story (and the reaction to it), and how imprecise language mars our debates about censorship: “We use ‘censorship’ to mean both a government action as well as the exercise of editorial judgment that we don’t like.”

 

Conservative commentary has managed to find at least one point of withering criticism when it comes to America’s cities. This critique points out that, while cities are the places where unique innovation and exciting things are happening all the time, the local Democratic political machines (and, strangely, their voter base within the city) are constantly trying to zone, regulate, and tax that innovation and excitement out of existence. But here he comes—a knight in shining armor, making a glorious return to The Remnant: Reihan Salam, president of the Manhattan Institute. Reihan talks to Jonah about how conservatives might be able to envision a way out of obstinacy in America’s metropolitan centers, as well as addressing concerns about the GOP’s electoral future in cities, and explaining why politics often take a more radical left-wing form in cities compared to everywhere else in the country. (“Democrats are living in places that are immensely unequal, so arguments around redistribution carry a lot more purchase.”)

 

On this edition of The Remnant, Jonah went around the (metaphorical) corner of the (also metaphorical) office and got colleague Sarah Isgur to come on the program for all sorts of legal-beagle nerdery. Sarah explains the constitutional provisions kicking into effect that are helping to slow down the chaos surrounding the November election results, what on earth is going on in Texas, and much more. Classic Remnant wonkery is then balanced out in the latter half of the show, as Jonah and Sarah both share their spiciest takes on The Queen’s Gambit and why it may not live up to the hype.

 

Jonah flies solo once more in a podcast filled with the hottest of takes: Biden’s foot-breaking story is not only totally true – it’s also just kind of lame, weed saved George H.W. Bush’s life, and, most controversially of all, The Walking Dead still has some redeeming qualities. He also discusses why you should take John Bolton’s advice in The Dispatch seriously, and “Eurosclerosis,” the fanciest word of the day.

 

We have another Remnant first-timer on the show this week, as Jonah is joined by old friend, well-traveled military writer, and Marine veteran Bing West. With a discipline that only a Marine could muster, Bing joins the program to talk about his upcoming novel, The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War, which uses Afghanistan as a backdrop to tell the story of men in combat who “do their duty, even when it becomes clear that there will be no reward.” Jonah also probes Bing’s brain about the overall strategic value of the Afghanistan war, the abiding faith of American soldiers in an era of secularism, how to break up the perverse friendship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and most important, how a small, tri-fold shovel is sometimes the most valuable piece of equipment a soldier can have.

 

Today, Jonah is joined by Virginia Postrel – former editor-in-chief of Reason magazine and author of many of the latter-day holy tomes of libertarianism, such as The Future and Its Enemies – to talk about her new book, The Fabric of Civilization. Virginia and Jonah do a deep dive into several moments in which the changes in textile manufacturing created giant, revolutionary, consciousness-shifting ripple effects regarding how civilizations viewed their relationship to markets and the economy. In particular, Virginia addresses how the un-guilded spinners of Europe were like the Luddites before it was cool, why textile-making would be one of the most laborious processes in the world without advanced technologies, and what made cotton fabric from India so special that “the French treated it much the same as the American government treats cocaine.” At least that kind of wild protectionism confirms a long-held American instinct: Never trust the French.

 

On this episode, Jonah is joined by Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review. It’s an eclectic mix today, as the duo gets into a good deal of punditry surrounding the Trump campaign’s election challenges and then move onto the future of conservatism (or “conservatarianism” in Charlie’s case) as a whole before tying the whole thing up around the Thanksgiving theme of gratitude. As a freshly minted American living through a relatively chaotic period in our politics, what is Cooke grateful for when it comes to the U.S.? During this holiday season, Jonah thinks we might all do well to be grateful for the fact that “we still live in a country where following politics is essentially a hobby … and isn’t a matter of survival.”

 

After filing a more-spirited-than-average G-File, Jonah joins us for the weekend Ruminant. Today, he talks about how certain individuals associated with Trump seem determined to end their careers in ignominy, as well as discussing many other phenomena, such as America’s oversaturation of elites, the necessity of reading people with whom you disagree, the inadequacy of applying the left-right spectrum to American politics, what the possible consolidation of fringe-right news stations might look like, and how genuine post-Trump conservatism “is almost, in certain way, the same as [if it was] pre-Trump.” And, of course, the most exciting news in Jonah’s world right now? How a calmer political environment means that he can write about more interesting stuff.

 

Jonah’s return to The Remnant features a guest with “The most important hair in public policy,” Ryan Streeter from AEI. While Ryan’s magnificent mane isn’t captured in the final product, his spot-on analysis of the causes of American stagnation (and what we can do to get out of it) certainly are. Why is fulfilling work so hard to find for a great many Americans? Which of the structures meant to stand between the individual and the government do our current policy regimes totally fail to support? Are all politicians really just heartless hacks? And what factors are the advocates of working-class Republicanism forgetting when they envision the future of the party? Lucky for us, Ryan thinks about this kind of thing for a living, and therefore has more revealing answers than you may find anywhere else.

 

Jonah the Globetrotter has once again scattered to the four winds, temporarily leaving The Remnant once more in the capable hands of David French. Today, David speaks with his good friend Yascha Mounk, contributor to The Atlantic and founder of Persuasion. Mounk talks us through the current conditions within mainstream media outlets and how those institutions have the opportunity to lower the temperature of American discourse now that Trump is leaving office. David also talks about how a Biden administration might be expected to behave, and Yascha mentions that much of the conventional wisdom about the presidential election results are not only misguided, but that they often “underestimate the intelligence of the American people.”

 

This week’s Ruminant sees Jonah reach his final form, as he begins with post-election punditry before seamlessly transitioning into a brand of deep-cut, Grade A political-nerd eggheadery the likes of which are rarely seen even on this vaunted podcast. Listen as Jonah effortlessly bounces in a positively pinball-esque manner between Whittaker Chambers, Orwell, AOC, Joe Manchin, James Burham, Cicero, and obscure Italian Communist Party intellectuals, in a display that will both amaze and delight.

 

On today’s program, Jonah chats with an old friend who will definitely NOT polarize the Remnant audience whatsoever (If we wish hard enough then it has to come true, right?): National Review’s Kevin Williamson. Williamson is out with a new book, Big White Ghetto. Jonah sets up Kevin for a heaping helping of rank punditry to start things off before moving into some book-talk and some eggheadery. In addition to Jonah’s efforts to make Kevin explicate his self-described political ideology (“anarcho-capitalist Eisenhower libertarian”), the two also discuss the ways in which America’s titular big white ghetto actually, well, became a ghetto, and what the solutions might be for the people who feel trapped in struggling communities. In Kevin’s mind, part of the issue is that no one in politics is comfortable saying something that is obviously true: “Cities and towns disaggregate and disincorporate over time, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But this is also why I’m not running for office.”

 

In the Before Times, when we’d all walk around bookstores putting our dangerously diseased digits on various tomes without a care in the world, did you notice a recurring phenomenon? It’s been the case for the past few years that the nonfiction sections of any major bookstore are filled with a glut of “Trump era” books – either memoirs from officials, books attempting to psychologize the man himself, or vaguely rant-y polemics that are big on rhetoric but light on substance. What if, hypothetically, you wanted to torture yourself by entering a purgatory-like state in which you read around 150 of those things? That’s what Carlos Lozado – book critic for the Washington Post – did so that you don’t have to.

Today, Jonah speaks with Lozado about how he was able to synthesize the “Trump canon” into a set of identifiable narratives about this moment in American politics, eventually resulting in his own new book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.

On this weekend’s Ruminant, Jonah asks why we have to make American politics even more difficult than they already are. Why is it that, in an election that reveals Americans’ contested preferences so obviously, that we have to continue to turn up the heat by piling on additional conspiracy theories about the rigging of the election? Maybe, as Jonah thinks, this simply reveals a series of “deeply unpatriotic commitments” among our political and commentariat classes. He makes his way to greener pastures by talking about our glorious canine companions, and by addressing some of the supposedly highfalutin concerns of those on the right looking to out-think the market in our populist moment.

Show Notes:

At a moment where punditry can feel relatively grim – mostly due to the feeling of instability resulting from this endless election – Jonah wanted to have on someone who was capable of a different variety of punditry. Who fits the bill better for a political commentary of “pluckish optimism” than National Review’s Jim Geraghty, who displayed his infinite humility by choosing not to wear his brand new “Remnant 10-Timer” Championship Belt on the Zoom call? Jim gives his analysis regarding many of the questions that will remain for conservatives after the election is decided: Whither goes the GOP? (A “multi-ethnic, working class, populist party?) What is the correct story to tell about Latino voters and Trump? (And why is the mainstream media adopting the most racist interpretation of this situation rather than the most accurate?) And, most importantly, is Mar-a-Lago Trump’s Elba, or his St. Helena?

Show Notes:

On this momentous day, in which the very nature of American politics may be defined anew for the foreseeable future, Jonah wanted to have on Razib Khan, director of science at Insitome, to talk about the most relevant, up-to-the-minute, topical subject so that, in this consciousness-shifting moment, we may be able to hold on for dear life and come up with a coherent worldview amidst the chaos. That subject, you ask? Dog genetics. How did Man’s Best Friend become such a highly variegated species – some big, some small, some smart, others dumb, and on and on with countless other variables? Razib fills us in on the state of research into canine development over the last 10,000 years, why the regional variations between lineages of dog are so distinct, and how the new frontiers of this genetic research seek to address “how these animals became what they are, and how they evolved alongside humans in response to environmental pressures.” We also get to hear Razib voice what may be the most controversial statement of our political era: “Wolves are smarter than dogs.” Tune in to hear Razib defend this heretical stance.

Show Notes: