Talking with Charlie (11/9/2021)

Conversation 5:

Charlie’s Tuesday podcast had him talking with Shannon Freshour, Democratic operative and politician in Ohio (Nov. 9, 2021).

The lead off has Charlie bringing up Rep. Paul Gosar, who Molly Jung-Fast of The New Abnormal podcast calls the dumbest politician alive (his own family members are against him and his views), and his Twitter post sharing of a small anime clip from Attack on Titan with him as a character beheading Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, of New York. 

This should not be normal or appropriate. It is just becoming commonplace though.

It is the current state of the Republican party, Gosar will remain a member in good standing. No consequences.

In contrast, news is coming out that they plan to also strip committee assignments from all 13 members who voted with the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Bigoted nut job and you’re a-okay.


Dare to vote for up bipartisan infrastructure deal and you sir are a traitor.

National Republicans are turning into living purge party, a revolution eating its own children, consuming itself from within.

Now, enter that day’s guest Shannon Freshour. 

She clearly defines herself as a centrist Democrat, or as she put it a “get shit done Democrat.”

Bounced off a couple of ideas, in particular discussing the theatre of the absurd with conservative figures like Dennis Prager. Charlie said he was disappointed because he thought Prager once was a good and sincere thinker and he realizes now he was wrong. Prager went on a Newsmax program and said vaccine mandates and the outrage they are causing scenes like he has never seen before. He says that being non-vaccinated is worse than how people with HIV were treated during the height of the AIDs. 

Where was he in the 1980s? He has no idea and this false equivalency is disgusting and awful. Is he taking lessons in fallacies from Ben Shapiro or something? The scare around AIDs was oppressive and horrible. It still has lingering effects today as Shannon noted. She pointed out that in 2020 they finally reduced the time between when a gay man last had sex and his ability to donate blood went from a year to just 3 months. Why? Because of AIDs..

We are all living in a theater of the absurd.

The same kind of absurdity is what is currently happening with the to the candidates running for senator in Ohio for the Republican nomination: JD Vance and Josh Mandel.

Both men seem to be waging a race to see who is the most deplorable. And there’s another man by the name of Mike Gibbons in this race was even worse than those two. They played one of his ads. It boiled down to the position that Mike appears to be a psycho Christian warrior who sees anything on the left as evil incarnate. Is this Newt Gingrich’s wet dream? This is not normal but it appears it might be for some in Ohio and elsewhere.

Charlie asks:

Are these candidates accurately reflecting what the Republican party in Ohio wants?

Shannon’s Answer:  

The polarization is so bad and the Republicans have gotten such a hold of that power that they’ll do anything to keep it because they’ve gotten very corrupt from the power.

The worst consequence is that all of this partisanship and domination of Republicans in much of the politics, that it has encouraged the Democrats to write those people off as unreachable. Shannon sees this as a problem and it is a mistake. She points out that this ignoring of the rural vote forces Democrats to try and squeeze more votes out of urban areas. It is not sustainable.

The Democratic party remains, more than the Republicans, a coalition party. A big tent. It needs to stay that way too; it needs to push it as its true asset. Losing it can come from progressives and other holding bills hostage. This was for Shannon “the dumbest thing” she’d ever seen.

I want to say a bit more here about absurdity and the devolution of politics in this country.

For the most part this is not as new as we think it is, however, the tone and willingness of those at the top to go along with it is. Leadership is having to lead; it is having to do unpopular things sometimes to keep whatever it is leading moving along. Democrats have some leaders but not enough and Republican leadership, on the whole, gave up its soul in 2016 to Donald Trump. They made a calculated move to think they could steer him where they wanted him to go and it was like the big bet that loses and you go broke. 

The consequence is that any principles, on the national level, are subject to a 1984, Orwellian style of rewriting to fit whatever reality men like Donald Trump and those he has inspired want it to be. You either play along or else.

As for the Democrats, with the other party not really caring that much about honest debate and disagreement, or democracy in some cases, the burden to do more is on their shoulders. Part of this is overcoming the bias of attention in the media all around that is given to fringe groups. For Republicans it is the Freedom Caucus and alt-Right, and people like those of Marjorie Taylor-Green. For the Democrats it is AOC and the Squad and the Progressive Caucus. 

The reality is that Democrats have to be more united, or else there will be no chance to have debates and make policy in the future.

Shannon pointedly addresses what Democrats need to do and I want to recount those here now:

She says that as Democrats we:

– We have to get better at messaging because we suck. We believe that the effort and the outcome should speak for themselves. They never do. 

– We don’t believe in selling things because it seems crass, but we have to do this to win.

– We need people who can get out there and sell this because it took 50 years for us to get here and we need trumpet it.

– We don’t talk about our accomplishments and we have to in this day and age more than ever.

This urgency is born out in a poll that Charlie brings up to discuss. The poll looked closely at working class and infrequent voters. 

It determined that racial issues are a problem, but it is also how it is approached that matters. It tested some messaging and found that one message can turn off another when race and ethnicity is the focus. 

The worst performing sound bite was the called a “woke moderate” and that message did the worst. The message was perceived as “talking down to people,” a major problem that Shannon noted. The most successful message was a unifying message of standing up for working class against powerful and elite. This message brought together rather than divided the working class by racial lines. It is what many would call a populist message.

The uninformed nature of voters out there is staggering as Shannon pointed out with an anecdote about being a poll worker the other week and having people come in wanting to vote for Senator, the position JD Vance and Josh Mandel on the Republican side are gunning for, but that primary and election are not until next year. It is perhaps benign but also a staggering characterization of where many voters are at in rural areas and states like Ohio.

Another open question worth pondering and I am sure will be discussed more is what has happened to the quality of political leadership in this country: 

Why are things that used to disqualify politicians are now somehow excused?

Shannon is a get things done Democrat. She doesn’t care where the idea comes from, if it is good for everyone, that is the way we should go regardless of where it comes from. We cannot become like those we oppose and the ideas we oppose. That is the right attitude and it absolutely should be THE ATTITUDE of ANY and ALL politicians.

All for now.

J C Evans


The Bulwark Podcast: “Shannon Freshour: A View from Outside the Beltway”

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