Matt Yglesias on Popularism, Joe Rogan, and Getting "Back to Normal"
On this week's episode of the Very Serious podcast, Matt reconsiders his support for Bernie Sanders
First, a programming note.
It’s Thursday, and we’ve released the Very Serious podcast today instead of tomorrow. That’s because Friday is Jobs Day, and I want to write to you about the Omicron-driven employment numbers we’re expecting to see tomorrow (so stay tuned for that). We’re also going to experiment with when during the week the podcast comes out. If you have opinions about when you'd like to get the podcast, please email us. However we land on the schedule, there will still be the same four (sometimes five) weekly issues of the Very Serious newsletter, just possibly in a different order.
When I posted on Twitter that Matt was coming on the Very Serious podcast and asked you for questions, two of you had a fair one: So, what do you guys disagree on? I think we found some good areas of disagreement in this conversation, for example, about the usefulness of objectivity in journalism and our levels of satisfaction with the courts.
One area where we no longer disagree is about the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, since Matt has gotten Biden-pilled and says his piece endorsing Bernie Sanders for the nomination “holds up really poorly” — a sentiment I must say I agree with.
But mostly I wanted to talk with Matt about popularism: the idea that politicians get ahead by doing popular things and drawing attention to them. This idea sounds obvious enough (though there has been a weird fashion in recent years for the idea that impressing swing voters isn’t important and you win by turning out your base) but the practicalities are still a challenge: As pollsters Kristen Soltis Anderson and Brian Stryker described to me two weeks ago, it can be hard to figure out not just what voters like but what they really care about. So while Matt has some advice for Biden on COVID and normalization that he thinks would help Biden be more popular, as he acknowledges on the podcast, the evidence from polls on what would actually make voters happy on COVID right now is less than clear.
I also talked with Matt about Joe Rogan, and whether there’s anything practical to do about the unfortunate situation of him offering up his large podcast platform for anti-vaccine crankery. Some people want to “cancel” Rogan — indeed, some people have wanted to cancel him since long before this specific controversy — but if you somehow drove him out of Spotify’s walled garden, his audience would only grow because he’d be back hosting a podcast that’s available on many platforms instead of just one.
Matt was a guest on Rogan’s show for his One Billion Americans book tour, and he gave me some intel on what Rogan’s deal is. He also argues the best way to try to influence Rogan’s audience is to appear on his show if invited — and that the only likely outcome of a progressive “boycott” of Rogan is to drive him and his often apolitical listeners into conservatives’ arms, to the detriment of both liberal political goals and the promotion of good vaccine science. (Dear Joe, if you or your producers are reading this, I’ll come on your show. Email me at email@example.com.)
Anyway, that’s the show, and I encourage you to listen and subscribe. It’s available on all the usual platforms (including Spotify!) but statistically, we see that most of you listen through Apple Podcasts, and the link for that is here.
I’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow with some thoughts on the jobs numbers.
Until then, I am very seriously yours,
Great conversation. Already shared with a few folks to highlight what constructive, nuanced discourse sounds like!
Really fun and interesting conversation with you and Matt. I hope he's able to come back for future episodes.