tv In Depth Ross Douthat CSPAN November 12, 2021 8:00am-10:01am EST
c-span2, ask and find a full schedule on your program guide or watch online anytime at week if tv.org. ,. ♪ >> up next it's booktv's monthly in depth program with author and new york times columnist ross counterat, his books include most recently the deep places, the memoir about his 5-year struggle with lyme disease. .. my wife and and i set out o fulfill a fantasy and we're appropriately punished for it. we were living in washington, d.c. we had at that point to little
girls. we o were planning to have more kids. we lived in a very small rowhouse not that far from the capitol dome, and we were both from new england from connecticut. our families were from the northeast and we this idea of escaping from thede corruptionsf the beltway and the swamp, and giving at a d.c. and getting back to where we had grown up. in my case especially i had this idea when going to live in the country, have farm, raised chickens, spend a lot of time outside with our kids, not spent all our time on your phones and computers. sold a lot more for what we expected. the dc market was crazy back then and we took the money and, you know, i like instead of doing something sensible like investing in bitcoin, you know, we plotted all in the 1970's farmhouse with 3 acres, pasture,
stonewalls, basically everything that you imagine when you imagine the new england country side and unfortunately while we were in the process of making this move literally right after we did the inspection on the new house, i suddenly became really, really sick with what started out as pain in my neck and then my head and became this sort of full body mixture of migrating pain, throat and bowel problems. we were still in washington at that point. we had bought the house but we were going the move in late august. for those 3 months i saw probably 12 doctors in washington, d.c. i worked my way up to the head of infectious diseases at one of the major hospitals and none of them could figure out what was wrong with me and they all sometimes gently and sometimes less gently suggest that i was under a lot of stress and i was
having some kind of anxiety-driven breakdown and in some way the pain and everything was all in my head. and it was only when we moved to connecticut, dragged ourselves to what had been our dream house and now a stephen king type scenario that i started seeing doctors, oh no, we see things all of the time. you certainly have a tick-borne illness, lyme disease which i probably acquired literally while walking the overgrown property of our dream house in that -- late in the may. the story of the deep places is first the story of the crazy descent insomnia and the story what happened once we got to
connecticut, lyme disease is a controversial condition. people who have it and don't immediately get better, there's all kinds of medical debate about what they should do next. keep taking antibiotics or stop and wait for the residual pain. i took antibiotics and they stabilized me. i was able to sleep 5 hours a night instead of 1 hour a night. that kind of thing. i didn't get better quickly. and so i was sort of caught in between these competing schools of medicine and ended up basically having to conduct a lot of very strange experiments while living in rural isolation with my pregnant white and our two little kids. so it's sort of a mix, a story about chronic illness and the strangeness of chronic illness and the struggle to treat it in the book and it's also sort of a new england style gothic
melodrama i guess instead of the devil the villain is a tinny crawling insect. >> does that also include some of the research that you were doing for alternative cures to lyme disease? >> yes, the title, you know, it tries to reference a few things at once and one of the fact that the bacteria gets deep inside your body. people with lyme disease ends up with symptoms in their joints, deep in their muscles. there's the literal sense. but yeah, ending up in a way the metaphor that i use, you sort of fall through the floor. you think of sort of medical consensus and the successes of official american medicine, solid hardwood floor that's under your feet most of the time and most of your life from
childhood vaccinations through whatever treatments you get for diseases along the way and when you get a sickness that either can't be diagnosed which was true at first for me or that doctors struggled to figure out how to treat, you basically fall through that floor and you end up a lot stranger underneath where there are people who can help you. there are doctors that helped me a great deal. i wouldn't have gotten as well as i've gotten without them but you have the grope around yourself. first do a lot of strange research. i head a lot of papers and testimony and all kinds of things and you have to try things on yourself. you're the only person who actually knows what -- what will work or what does work. you're the only person who can say this combination of antibiotics seems to help me and that up with seems to do something and then you sort of push even beyond that into the
real fringe and when you spend years being sick and i was sick almost two years before i started to see any sustained improvement, your cost benefit calculus changes a lot and you become open to let's say having a chiropractor putting magnets all over your body and having nurse practitioner pumping vitamin c and down the list of strange things that i never would have expected trying in the life that i had before i got sick. >> why is lyme disease controversial? >> lyme disease is controversial because there is a very simple fix for let's say 75% of people who get it which is you take 4 to 6 weeks of antibiotics and the disease is wiped away or you feel better, mostly better and you go on with your life and then there's this group of
patients that doesn't get better or relapse it and there's no simple system that nobody has figured out that helps autolove them get better quickly. and so the official consensus is we don't know why these patients are still sick but because we've already treated them with antibiotics and you don't want to overtreat people with antibiotics, you assume that the disease itself might have been wiped out and whatever robs problemsremain are residual ande kind of psychosomatic. it's all in your head situation. that's sort of the official view. it's closest to what the cdc says, the center for disease control says about treatment and there's other group of doctors, there's quite a lot of them. serious people but outsiders of the official consensus. look, if someone is sick and you
treat them and they are still sick, they probably still have the same disease. and you should continue treating them until they get better and so these are the doctors that a lot of patients in my situation and eventually seeing and what they do is they run, you know, sort of extended courses of antibiotics, combinations of antibiotics and the other complication here is that ticks can carry more than one disease and sometimes not -- not sometimes but quite often the doctors think people who are sick with lyme disease will also have something called bicia, bartanella., other microbes that are carried by the ticks and you have to treat them too. that's sort of to polarization right there. on the one side you have a consensus that works for most people who get the disease but not all. and that takes a sort of -- we don't want to do any harm. the residual cases and on the
other hand you have a experimental minority of doctors who are willing to treat people for long periods of time. >> in your column today in the new york times, how i became extremely open minded, this is one of those very bad questions where i'm going to combine two topics that are unrelated. number 1 is i want to ask you about the machine and then i'm going to read a quote from your article talking about how you became open minded and what it means to you. human psychology makes us see coherence and simplicity in our understanding of the world. so people who have a terrible experience with official consensus and discover a weird outsider idea that actually seems to work tend to embrace a new rule to replace the old one. that official knowledge is always wrong and outsider knowledge is always right.
now this is a key dynamic in political and medical debates. the conspicuous elite failures in the last 20 years have encouraged narratives with plausible critiques of the system without paranoia but insiders only see the paranoia and his allies at the gates so they pull up the drawbridge and which controls the outsiders' belief that the establishment has blinded itself and only they have eyes to see. >> so i will try to combine those two questions because i obviously combined them myself in the column. i was trying to draw basically some lessons from some of my weird experiences. weirdest experiences with this
life on the medical fringe with some lessons for how we think about political debates which is the stuff that i write about most of the time in "the new york times". so the weirdest experience, probably the weirdest experience. there were a lot of experiences trying to treat lyme disease. there are machines called ripe machines that are named for a man named royal ramen in the 1930's who claimed to have figured out the frequencies and audio and radio or electromagnetic frequencies at which organisms, microorganisms bacteria will vibrate and break apart and shatter and die and you can treat illnesses by pumping waves, frequencies through people's flesh and knocking out the mike ropes that were in them. so this is an idea that is i
would say extremely far outside the existing medical consensus and there are a few studies that you can find here and there. there was a study at the -- i'm not sure which university in georgia but a university that killed e kholy in goat meat with sound awes. maybe there's something to this but in general the world of machines the world from what looks in the outside like similar lattans and salesmen peddling the machines that probably don't do anything, right, to people who are really sick and desperate. and i was really sick and desperate and there are a lot of people who have lyme disease and use the machines and swear by them and at a certain point i acquired one of these machines and it's the craziest thing. you get this machine and looks like a computer in the 1980's sifi movie and has buttons and
you hold onto handles while you run it and there's this book, not just lyme disease. it claims the list frequencies for every illness under the sun. it seems crazy, right? in fact, when i used the machine it worked in the sense that it generated in my body physical reaction that is were pretty much identical except much faster to the reactions that i would get when i was really sick and take a high dose of antibiotics. obviously this is a personal experience and what goes on your body isn't accessible to you the viewer and interviewer and someone can read the story and say, well, it's just the power of suggestion. it's just the placebo effect. all of that is intellectually possible but i can tell you
physically i'm 100% certain that this machine -- did to me some version of what it claimed to do. anyway, it's up in my attic. i use it from time to time. that's the long story of the machine. but connection to politics, right, there's lots of people who have machine experiences meaning not that everybody is buying these machines and using them to treat their illnesses but there are lots of people who have something happen where they are like, whoa, what i thought was true about the world isn't true or what the political system told me doesn't seem to be actually true. and lots of people have had those experiences in our politics over the last 20 years from, you know, 9/11 through the
iraq war through the financial crisis through the way that, you know, experts made all of these predictions about the benefit of trade with china that did not work out for significant portions of the country. you can go down the list. there have been serious moments that people have had in politics that say wait a minute, the experts said this, saddam hussein had weapons of mass destruction and said the housing bubble would never burst. they said opening to china would be good for america and would make china more liberal. none of these things happened, right? so you have this -- this deep skepticism about sort of elite political narratives just as you can end up with skepticism about official medical narratives and so the question is what you do then and what -- what i think the challenge is, once you had one of those experiences, you obviously are going to be skeptical of the establishment of sort of official consensus, official ideas, that's inevitable but you don't want to assume that everything outside
of the establishment is right. the establishment got a bunch of things wrong, therefore, i'm going to trust outsiders the way i used to trust the establishment. i feel that's the mistake of the fringe. so you have this populist mistake, right, oh, the cnn and the liberal media got all of these things wrong, so i'm going to trust absolutely everything that i hear from conservative sources oring in. in fact, what you want is a skepticism that runs both ways. you want to be able to say probably the establishment gets some things right and i have to still be open to that but i feel to recognize that there are truths about the world that are not captured by the establishment consensus and i have to be open-minded basically in both directions. that's ultimately what this piece is arguing for from its strange right machine beginnings. from open mindedness towards not just the possibility that the fringe gets things right but also the establishment also gets
things right too and you have to use your own, you know, your own things to put a picture of the world together that includes both of those possibilities. >> do you have the country house or have you left the place? >> it was a stephen king experience. my wife is a writer too. we were two writers living in the home where the husband's sanity is a little uncertain. i kept writing my newspaper column but my wife was afraid that she would come around my laptop and see all work and no play, make ross a doughboy. we had little kids and didn't want them to go in the field and
all of the things that we imagined about the house we didn't actually want because i was so sick and all of the things that were required of us was too much. eventually we abandoned ship. took a massive real estate lost and ended up in new heaven, connecticut which is actually where i grew up. we didn't want to go back to dc. we wanted to stay near our family. that's where i live now and it is a -- it's, you know, it's not a full ending to the story and i'm not 100% better and one of the things you find with chronic illness you do have to reconcile yourself to the possibility that you won't get to 100% but most of the time i'm at 90 or 95% as i said. i do my treatments much -- much less frequently than i did when i was at my sickest and i do hope that i will be fully well in 2 years, i haven't made the
absolutely full recovery that i wanted from the beginning. >> when you hear people regarding the covid crisis say trust the science, follow the science, what's your reaction? >> my reaction is that science is not an authority but a process, right? so you do want to trust scientists methods, you want to trust people who do science well and you want the trust scientific results but you can't assume that the first thing that the cdc or the fda says or does especially under crisis conditions is correct. so, you know, really with covid we lived for months the way people with mysterious chronic illnesses live all of the time. we had this mysterious pathogen that, you know, was obviously much more of an immediate crisis than a chronic illness like lyme disease. it's actually killing people by the tens of hundreds of thousands and we didn't know enough about it to know, you
know, we didn't -- at first we didn't know how contagious it was, how it was transmitted, you know, endless unanswered questions. our tests for it at the beginning weren't that great. we went through a whole crisis with the fda where they botched the rollout of the testing so you couldn't test for it effectively and then a lot of the things that were said so confidently at the beginning, who says it's not airborne. cdc or surgeon general and others say you shouldn't wear masks, all of those things end up getting reversed and all of the treatment that is we did, it's unclear now whether we were right to put so many people on ventilators, for instance, in the first few months. there's a lively debate about that. it's all a case study and how there's -- when you're dealing with something that science doesn't understand, you to accept that conventional wisdom will shift a lot and you can't,
again, you can't just assume that there exist this white-coated authority called science that has all of the answers and that you would absolutely trust. with that said, you know, you also don't want to assume that official science is always going to get something wrong. at some point it was official science that delivered vaccines at much more earlier than anyone expected initially, right, so there have been really triumphs for initial medicine, official science in this process. and, you know, i say at the end of the column you were citing that i'm the guy who i have the machine in my attic but i also got the covid vaccine without too many problems early on and that's sort of an example of at least in my case how i try and strike the balance between skepticism of official science and willingness to recognize the sciences achieved. >> speaking of striking the balance, how did you get to the new york times and how do you
describe your politics? >> i got in "the new york times" by being fortunate of coming of age as a journalist early in the internet era. i graduated from college in 2002 and in my 20's i worked as junior editor at the atlantic magazine as my day job and then i did as one does a lot of writing on the side. i wrote some books. i wrote endless freelance essays, book reviews, all kinds of things. i had a personal blog that this was the beginning of blogging. the golden age of blogging, i guess, you can look back and say. so i was sort of there doing a lot of different kinds of works at a period when the internet was just transforming journalism and in third ways transforming it for the works in the sense that the internet very quickly, you know, weakened the position of all kinds of -- all kinds of
american newspapers and my wife was a newspaper reporter, she was at the baltimore sun by the time we got married and i watched firsthand how the economic effects of the internet hallowing out of the economic basis of newspaper, classified ads, all the things that used to pay for the newspaper all went to the internet and that was devastating. there was that kind of turmoil where people were just losing their jobs. but then there was also a demand for people who seemed like they sort of knew how to write on the internet and i think that that, you know, being someone who had sort of moved back and forth between old school journalism, the atlantic was a very old-school magazine but also writing on the internet and having my own blog and being engaged in those debates. i think all of that made me seem like a good person for a
national newspaper and we are bringing bloggers on board or figuring out how to integrate the new -- the new journalism into the old system, i guess. so that was part of the story and then the other part was that i am a -- i'm some sort of religious conservative and the times at that point had never had a -- i believe had never had a sort of explicitly religious conservative on its op-ed page and i think there was a desire from the people who ran the newspaper to add that kind of voice to the discussion and so in that sense i was in the right place at the right time which is a large part of what you need to do to get an extraordinarily fortunate job like the kind of job i'm lucky to have at the paper. >> well, it was in 2011 that your book bad religion came out and i want to read a quote from
that. the equip of christian belief has led inevitable to plurality and private virtual life. >> yeah, that's strong stuff, man. yeah, so that was a book i wrote about 3 years after i started at the times and the argument in that book, that book was partially a history, storytelling, a book about the decline of institutional christianity in the united states from the 1960's till what was back then the present day of 2011 or 2012. as institutional religion declines what replaces is not the rule of secular reason with richard and daniel and all of the new atheists sitting around and making rules for everyone without any reference to god.
that's not what happened. as institution religion declines you get sort of deinstitutionalized forms of spiritualty and religious beliefs that are more individualist in many cases and more consumer oriented, are less theological and have less to go back to the quote, you started less of a strong moral impact on the lives of the people who practice them. you sort of go from a world of, you know, billy graham and martin luther king and sheen as sort of leading figures of american religion to a world of joel olsteen, prosperity gospel and christianity and, you know, one thing that i tried to do in the book was actually take the
prosperity gospel and i don't think that kind of religious stuff is just sort of superficial and empty. i think it has some actual theological ideas that people find appealing for a reason but fundamentally to go from a world of reasonably christian churches to spiritualty provided by the rural figures is a change for the worse and important change that has affected just about every part of our society including politics. if you look at politics on both the right and the left, what you see is a lot of free floating religious energy, energy that used to be channeled into the first congregational church or your catholic perish or your
synagogue. instead it's channeled to political identity. and this leads to political intolerance and phenomena where, you know, it used to be that people -- if you asked them, would you be comfortable if your son or daughter married someone of a different faith people would be a little uncomfortable and if you asked them would you be uncomfortable if they married somebody of a different political party they are more they would be more likely to be comfortable with it. now that is reversed. now people are more comfortable, catholics more comfortable with the idea of his son marrying an evangelical or an atheist than a republican is with the idea that his daughters going to a democrat, are democrat with the idea that her son is going to marry a republican. we had sort of taken -- >> we are going to briefly leave this program to keep our commitment to live gavel to gavel coverage of congress. the u.s. senate gaveling and for
brief pro forma session. live coverage here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the parliamentarian: washington, d.c., november 12, 2021. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable jon tester, a senator from the state of montana, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate stands adjourned until 3:00 p.m. stands adjourned until 3:00 p.m.
>> the senate returns a legislative work on monday at 3 p.m. eastern to consider a treasury department nominee. when the senate is in session you can watch live coverage here on c-span2. right now we take you back to booktv. >> meaning not greek or russian orthodoxy but just sort of the idea of a kind of religious establishment and then a bunch of religious experiments at the fringes. for a long time that establishment was just mainline protestantism, the core protestant denominations and then experiments would be the latter-day saints or christian science or the shakers or the transcendentalists, ralph waldo emerson, those kinds of people. these things existed. america had a really strong institutional religious center that eventually included roman e catholics and to some extent jews as well by the 1950s.
and then it had all this while energy at the fringes. what happens in the '60s is that the center falls apart and never really put itself back together. so variety of reasons the sexual revolution, economic and technological changes, political changes, a lot of different forces at work. the protestant mainline sort of collapses. its membership diminishes dramatically. it stops being this kind of central force in american life. in a way it really was down to the '60s. people who have come of age today have no idea just how large the startup old-line protestant churches used to loom in american life. that falls apart. catholicismol rose to the second council, tries to go through this big modernization effort but then falls into this civil war between liberal catholics and conservative catholics over starting with issues about the sexual revolution that also including issues about liturgy, have mass,
what the mass should be like him all these kind of things that are going on all the way to the present day. sort of burns as hot as ever. so you have a catholic civil war, and you have this resurge in evangelicalism where it becomes a more important part of american political life especially, but it's not strong enough to actually fill that center. so the religious center ceases to be these kind of strong institutional christian churches and becomes this, you know, sort of mix of new age spirituality and pop spirituality and joel osteen type prosperity gospel tube stuff. that's what it means to say the heretics won. it's not that there weren't heretics ask religious freelancers in america before the '50s. there always were. that's always been part of who we are. but what there used to be in america were very strong, solid,
intellectually and socially influential churches as well. and those have just gotten much, much weaker with no sign of them making a comeback. even though, again, lots and lots of americans still believe in god and are still religious, the institutions themselves have fallen on hard times without obvious hope at the moment of recovery. >> host: so are we a christian nation, in your view? >> guest: we are a -- [laughter] we are a nation that's more christian than we are anything else. but not in a, not this a sense that would have been quite recognizable to the america of 1945 or so. so we're still, you know, if you said what is the primary theological influence on american life, it's still christianity even for many people who think of themselves as secular or post-christian. sort of general christian moral
frameworks still matter. and even, you know, if you look, again, at sort of how, like, the -- even just sort of the way that, like, you know, sort of race and identity is framed on the progressive side of politics right now, the idea that, like, you know, you sort of center politics around people and groups that have been victims. and their victim is status makes them somehow, you know, sacred and have a kind of authority, right? like, that's an important part of, i think, progressive ideology in the last ten years or so. that clearly owes a debt to christian ideas about, you know, god himself as a sacrificial victim who's, you know, whose victim status is a source of the sacred for christians, right? so you can still trace these christian lines in contemporary debates. but, i mean, it's, you know, saying america's a nation of
heretics, which is the subtitle of that book, of "bad religion," is one way to get at this reality, right? we're still heavily influenced by christianity, but overt christian beliefs and practice are in steep decline. and, you know, and there is, i think, a lot of religious energy that aspires to be post-christian, like especially among younger people as you look at sort of the interest in astrology and neopaying anism and wicca and these kinds of things. there is a quest -- or eastern spirituality to some extent. there's a clear desire among people with religious impulses for religious resources and ideas and so on that are fully post-christian. but all of that hasn't condensed into, like, an actual the post-christian religious edifice, right in it's bits and
pieces here and there. it hasn't actually come together into, you know, like a silicon valley tycoon performing pagan sacrifices on the capitol rotunda or something. there's no formal post-christian religion. there's a lot of christian influence and a lot of fragments floating around at the same time. >> host: ross doubtat, spiritual but not religious. what do you think when you hear that? >> guest: i think that this part reflects exactly this kind of desire for a way of encountering the things that religion is supposed to put you in touch with, ultimate meaning supernatural experience. maybe supernatural beings, the for that matter, define moral guidance without doing it inside the framework of either christian orthodoxy or a
traditional, a traditional christian church. and, obviously, this applies to judaism and to some extent islam as well. there are similar impulses there. it's just, you know, the average person who i says i'm spiritual but not religious is someone whose grandparents would have attended a methodist catholic church, right? so they have some cake of sense of, you know, institutional religion means old-fashioned christianity. i've left that behind, we've left that behind. i still have these religious impulses, but i don't want to satisfy them or sort of pursue them within, within traditional frameworks which are seen as either constraining or just simply out of date. like, how could you possibly go back to that. but i think adultly people who say they are -- fundamentally people who say they are spiff spiritual but not religious are religious. they just are desire to be post-christian. the fundamental impulse is there. i don't think there's a real
difference between spiritual impulses on the one hand and religious impulses on the other hand. the distinction is how are you trying to fulfill them and through what kind of experiences n what kind of community with what set of ideas framing what you're doing or trying to experience or find. >> host: well, let's go back to 2008. that's when ross douthat's book "brand new party: how republicans can win the working class and save the american dream," came out. you talked about issues such as income inequality and school choice and a crisis of authority when it came to crime issues. was it a playbook for 2016? >> guest: i mean, i think we -- the book accurately foresaw one of the deep trends that gave us the donald trump presidency and has given us our current political divide, which is that
america was polarizing around education where college-educated voters were moving into the democratic party, non-college-educated voters were moving into the republican party. and the republican party which has this traditional image of the affluent and the country club was becoming -- well, we quoted the then-governor of minnesota tim pawlenty who said, he was a republican, and he said we're not the party of the country club, we're the party of sam's club. and that wasn't completely true when he said it, still isn't completely true now. the republican coalition has a lot of rich people in it, but the republican coalition has become much more working class. and this is extending beyond the white working class right now. so, you know, the biggest trend is that white americans without a college education have become more likely to vote republican. but in the trump era and, you
know, we're still waiting to see but quite plausibly in the elections of the post-trump era, you're also seeing some minority seat -- voters move toward the republican party. and, again, they're likely to be middle to working class voters who are sort of following this kind of polarization that's happening across racial lines. so oddly, american politics is slightly less racially polarized but more class and education polarized than it was before trump came on the scene. so that was what we foresaw. what we wanted was a republican party that sort of leaned into this transformation with an aggressive policy agenda especially on economic policy and family policy to really help and support the american working class which has struggled in a lot of ways with, you know, the impact of trade and globalization and the opening to
china, with sort of social disarray. and when we were writing, the opioid epidemic wasn't on the scene yet, so we were talking mostly about family breakdown, out of wedlock birthrates and so on going way up for less educated americans. now, of course, you have the terrible drug epidemic ravaging a lot of working class communities. not only working class communities, but them especially. so in an ideal world, we would have a republican party that had a strong agenda, social and economic agenda, oriented toward meeting the needs of those voters. and i don't think we've had that. i think we've had sort of gestures at it from trump, but a lot of what trump offered instead was just sort of, you know, a politics of celebrity and grievance that won voters but didn't actually sort of offer a long-term, a long-term policy vision for what the republican party should do for them. and so i think the question in the ohs-trump era -- post-trump
era is you had the realignment that we imagined. could you have the policy, policy agenda that we imagined. and, you know, i'll be perfectly honest, i'm not incredibly optimistic about that. and i think trump's own influence over the republican party makes it hard to develop policy, because policy is not really what donald trump is all about. >> host: well, in 2020 your book, "the death -- decadent society" came out. what's your definition of decadent? >> guest: this my definition, stagnation drift and repetition and a really high level of wealth and development. so it's basically a condition that societies get into when they have really succeeded. you can't be decadent unless you've been triumphant and successful before. but where, you know, a sort of
you have loss of energy, you have these complex systems get built up, and they get really creaky, basically. they don't work as well. innovation declines, birthrates decline. people become less likely to start companies and write the great american novel, and all your movies become superhero movies. so that's, it's sort of an account of what i think has happened really in the whole western world, but especially the united states over the last 40 or 50 years. the book starts with the moon landing as a kind of peak of mid century american achievement. since then economic growth rates have slowed down, birthrates have fallen below replacement level. most people think our political system doesn't work as well as it used to. intellectual debates have gotten stale. so it's this sort of twilight, in-between a peak and real
decline. the book is saying we're not at real decline, which is good. obviously, this is something that's debatable. i don't think we're there. i think we are sort of stagnant, unhappy in our stagnation with lots of social problems associated with stagnation. but you still could imagine a kind of renaissance or rebirth without having to go through something like, you know, the actual collapse that, let's say, russia, for instance, went through in the 1990s, right? or to be more extreme, you know, the empires of the past experienced at the end. >> host: from your booker "the decadent society," as a leader for a decadent age, trump contains multitude. he was both an embodiment of our society's distinctive vices and a would-be rebel against our torpor and repetition and disappointment. a figure who rose to power by
attacking the system for if sclerosis while exploiting that same decadence to the very hilt. >> guest: yeah. so trump, i mean, trump was complicated. still is complicated. as we await, as we await the trump restoration, right, in 2024. but, yeah, i think trump's campaign in 2016 was in part a kind of rebellions against -- rebellion against the stagnation that i'm describing, the kind of decadence that i'm describing. trump comes in and basically says, you know, the elites who have been running the country have, you know, sold out our interests and let our industrial base hollow out and let, you know, american carnage take over our societies, and is we want to get back to the future that was promised. we want to make america great again. and, you know, that, i think, was sort of central to his appeal.
and also, i think, to bernie sanders' appeal in the same election, right? that you had these figures in both political parties, hillary clinton and jeb bush being sort of the obvious examples who sort of stood for the establishment as it's existed for the last 20 years in american life. and so if you have trump as a populist and sanders as a socialist saying, you know, weren't we promised more than this? weren't we promised more than this sort of technocratic management of slow? you know -- slow growth? where are the flying cars? where are the moon colonies? where's the surging economic growth? where's the future, right? so i think that was crucial to trump's appeal. and, yes, it was nostalgic in certain ways, but it was nostalgic for a mid-century america, an america in the '50s and '60s that believed that the future was just going to get better and better and better. so that's trump as, like, an anti-decadent figure. but then trump himself is obviously decadent, right?
[laughter] he's a guy who's, you know, been married three times and sleeps with porn stars and, you know, is a sort of, you know, kind of personally corrupt in various ways and is not actually interested in the work of government, but is a kind of creature of reality tv whose main concern throughout his presidency was how he was being covered on the cable news shows that he watched all the time, right? so it's this sort of dualism where trump runs and wins, to everyone's surprise, by campaigning against decadence and stagnation, but then as a president, you know, he represent ares sort of, you know, the pop culture form of decadence, the guy who plays the great businessman on tv. and the guy who, you know, played the president. that was what he wanted to do. he wanted to occupy the presidency as a reality television office, and he didn't do many of the things he promised to do like an infrastructure bill.
the sort of basic things that he promised didn't happen, and in the end he lost re-election because not enough people once a real crisis hit wanted this kind of reality tv president in charge. but he may be back. >> host: well, your colleague at "the new york times," frank bruni, has a column this morning, behold the rise of the sordid trumper. emulating trump without embracing him is the new republican strategy. is that the way to go? >> guest: yeah. i mean, that's the way you have to go. there's no future in republican politics right now to you say, you know -- if you say, you know, donald trump and all his works are evil, and i will cast him into the outer darkness. you're just not going to function as a republican politician with that kind of message. and also it's the wrong kind of message, i think for some of the reasons we've just been talking about. the transformation of the republican party into a more working class party and the idea
that you should have this sort of, you know, rebellion against a decadent establishment, those are powerful changes and powerful ideas. and to be a leader on the right going forward, you need some version of those ideas incorporated into your pitch and your argument. and so figuring out how to do that without, you know, also going in for, you know, trump's endless twitter warfare against his enemies, his family's corruption and his, you know, conspiracy theories about, about how the election was stole, that would be the sweet spot for a future republican party. sort of trump is populism without trumpist, certain elements of trump's personality and air now ya. paranoia. whether you can do that while trump himself is still around though, i think, is a open
question. you can do it and win the governorship of virginia, you can win a senate seat. you can do it below the presidential level. but i don't know if there's a model for doing it in 2024 if trump himself is actually there on the ballot saying, you know, why would you want this imitation of trumpism when i, donald trump, am right here to deliver you the genuine article again? especially because republicans have, you know, they've sort of been forced to at least tacitly accept his narrative that he really won the last election. and if you accept that, any version of that narrative, then he is sort of the rightful leader of the party, right? he's like the exiled king, you know, waiting to come back to his throne. so that, i think, is a big problem for the republicans in moving beyond trump. as long as you have the idea that he really beat biden and the democrats stole it, then it's hard to see how someone else comes along ask says put me this charge of the party when trump is right there saying, you
know, i won, i'll win again. you have to make an argument that threads a really narrow needle. you have to say, look, you know, the election wasn't really fair to trump last time, but i, ron desantis, i, glenn youngkin, can beat the democrats more handily, so you should give the nomination to me even though you still like trump. that's the argument you have to make. it's a challenging one. it's not a normal kind of political argument, i think. >> host: well, mr. doubtat, the day after election day 2021, you tweeted this out, that i should say that i have revised my relative pessimism/optimism index about the near future of american conservativism from 10 to 90, from 15 to 85. >> guest: so still pretty pessimistic, yes. the change, the change in optimism from the virginia outcome from a republican
perspective was, you know, one of the, one of the concerns that republicans had and still have was that, you know, trump brought all kinds of new voters into the party. he really did. he got much higher turnout in certain areas, rural areas especially, than past republicans had. and he got a lot of voters who hadn't voted before to cast ballots for him, nonvoters, right? and this was something, you know, this was why, how he was able to win in 2016 even as a lot of traditional suburban republicans switched to the democrats, and it's how he kept it close even this 2020 as even more of those suburban voters went for joe biden, right? so the question was if trump isn't leading the republican party anymore, maybe you win a few of those suburban voters back, but you probably don't energize trump voters or the party's base in the same way. and so it's a wash, and
republicans are still, you know, end up behind no matter what, right? and in the, these elections that didn't happen. in fact, youngkin and this also happened in new jersey this a slightly different way, republicans were able to win back suburban voters especially on issues around education and schools and still got really good turnout from trump voters, rural voters especially and, i think with youngkin -- we're still going to take a while to parse this, but also continue to make these modest inroads with hispanic voters which were also important to trump's success in keeping it close in 2020. so that's a very optimistic model for the republicans, that you can have candidates who get the mitt romney voters from 2012, get some of those voters back. still get the really high rural
turnout, add a more hispanic voters, and suddenly if you translate that to the national level, that is a winning coalition. that's a coalition that wins the presidential election outright. doesn't have to win the electoral college. that's a reason for optimism. the reason to stay pessimistic is, again, at least for the next four years i don't know how in presidential politics you get out from under trump's shadow. and trump does not win back enough of those suburban voters himself, i don't think. although, you know, who can say what will happen in 2024? >> host: well, good afternoon and welcome to booktv's monthly "in depth" program. this is where we invite one author on to talk about his or her body of work, and this month it's new york times columnist and author ross douthat. he establish -- published his first week in 2005 three years after graduating from yale, and-called "privilege."
next came "grand new party: how republicans can win the working class and save the american dream." he had a co-author on that book which came out in 2008. bad religion: how we became a nation of heretics, came out in 2012. and then a book about the future of the catholic church, "change the church: pope francis and the future of catholicism." in 2018, "the decadent society: how we became the victims of our own success," came out last year. and his latest book, which is a hem missouri, "the deep places: a memoir of illness and discovery. with the we've spent the last hour talking with mr. doubtat, and now it's your turn. if you'd like to participate in our conversation this afternoon, 202 is the area code can. 748-8200 for those of you in the east and central time zones.
202-748-8201 if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones. now, we've set aside a line for text messages only, and here's the number. 202-748-8903. that's for text messages only if you have a question or a comment you'd like to make. please include your first name and your city, if you would. and there are several ways of getting us on social media. you can e-mail email@example.com. you can also tweet, make a comment on facebook @booktv is the handle that you want to remember if you go to twitter or facebook. we'll run through those numbers again, so if you didn't get a chance to write them down, we're going to begin taking those calls in just a few minutes. mr. doubtat, we mentioned your book "privilege." you graduated from harvard in 2002, wrote that book in 2004. harvard is a terrible mess of a
place, you write, an incubator for an american ruling class that is smug, stratified, self-congratulatory and intellectually adrift. why did you choose to go to harvard? >> guest: oh. i mean, who wouldn't? [laughter] i chose to go to harvard because i was the kind of person who goes to harvard. i was an ambitious young meritocrat who wanted to join that ruling class. that was part of it. and then there was another part of me that i think had an idea of a harvard that existed that didn't exhale twist and that this was, hopefully, the better art of myself that sort of imagined a place that was actually devoted to, you know, the best in thought and imparting a serious, humanistic education to its students.
and, you know, so i think i had both motivations. i had vaulting ambition and, you know, a sort of serious intellectual desire. and the ambition found at harvard what it expected to find and wanted to find which was sort of an entry point into the american elite. and the intellectual side of me found that it could get the harvard education that it had imagined, but it had to work incredibly hard to find it and put it together on its own. so inside elite universities you can find a great education, but it's no one that's going to give it to you. you have to sort of piece it together. so if i look back at my time in college, i would say probably one year out of the four i did the kind of intellectually serious work that i imagined that when i got there that harvard was supposed to deliver.
and the rest of the time i was sort of caught up in the pursuit of sort of preparing for if, preparing for professional success. and then there were some, you know, some romances and too much drinking and a lot of other things that i kind of embarrassingly put into that memoir and hope that my children never, never read. so, you know, it was college, right? it's a mixed bag. >> host: is the four-year liberal arts model outdated at this point? >> guest: i don't know. i mean, i think it is outdated in the sense that it doesn't work for lots and lots of >> it doesn't work for lots and lots of people who did go to college. it's outdated in the sense if you live in a society where you're aspiring to get 30, 40, 50, 60% of high school students to go onto college, you should not expect everybody to spend four years in, you know, weird
ivy brick campuses, having that kind of experience. i don't think it makes sense. and i think you need a lot more flexibility in the models that you have for higher education if you, you know, if you want to live in a world where higher education is the norm. you need more two-year programs and flexible programs that people can manufacture in and out of and programs that people can go to while working a part-time job, and so on. and continuing education people can go back to while in the work force for a while. it should have some equivalent of an edgecle education, available easily to someone who has, you know, in the real work force from 18 to 27 and you can go back to college at that point. but the system isn't set up to are that kind of flexibility. so aum of that is to say, yes, to some extent the model is
over extended and using this archaic golden ticket to punch, not everyone works as well. there are virtues in having schools that maintain that model, especially if they can actually focus on, you know, on intellectual work and intellectual preparation. and i think that, you know, it's a failure for our elite that they don't get as much, and i'm including myself in this indictment. they don't get as much out of the four years as they should. and the point of that is to get a feel for ambition, learning things what happened before 1965. right? like a big chunk of our sort of
masters of universe whether they're in silicon valley and so on, don't know the world outside of a relatively narrow elite american of kind of band and i think it's a failure of education and high school as well as college that they don't have that range of cultural and historical knowledge and grounding. but i don't think it would get better if you just did away with the four-year experience altogether. >> well, let's take some calls. ralph is our guest. the new york times columnist and karen is calling in from tampa. good morning to you or good afternoon to you. >> good afternoon. mr. douthat, my question is, i'm very -- i'm confused by the conservative christianity's
concept of the minionism to take control of seven cultures. seven mountains, family, religion, media, entertainment, business, and government. how, why do they -- to me this conflicts -- is in conflict with the constitution on a very basic level, that is with the idea in article 6 that there should be no religious test for anybody, for any qualification of office and also, that there should be -- the government in no way make any law of establishment of religion. >> karen, do you know where dominionism comes from? >> okay. that's -- i would like to understand more about that, but-- >> all right, let's see if mr. douthat help us out. >> sure, yeah, i'm happy.
dominionism, there are a bunch of different ideas that go under that label, but they're sort of an extreme form that's a very unusual perspective and not a major influence on our society which is basically the yoid holds at that christians are obligated to set up a kind of theocracy and figures with names like rj rush, who are associated with in idea who like you're supposed to set up a sort of iranian theocracy style state except modeled on christianity, christian principles rather than shia islam. that's sort of a narrow and small group. and then there's this larger idea i think you're getting at with the seven mountains of culture, which is basically a perspective on the idea that, you know, it's usually evangelical christians are
supposed to increase their influence everywhere that they find themselves and if they're in business, they're supposed to, you know, have greater christian influence in business. if they're in politics, supposed to have greater christian influence in politics. and i guess i would say to your specific question about the constitution that, you know, there's always been this balance in american life where we have the separation of church and state. we don't have formal religious tests for office. we don't have an established, a single established space, but religious groups have always been tremendously influential in sort of launching reform movements and doing things in our politics that are religiously inspired. so we haven't actually separated religion and politics. we've only separated church and state. and so, you know, if you go back to the 19th century and look at these important movements, the abolitionist
movement, heavily, overtly influenced by certain ways the evangelical christian of that area a, the social gospel in the late 19th century and you have prohibition and people don't look back on necessarily as a huge success, but with a huge reform crusade motivated by religious sentiment and then all the way down to martin luther king, if you read the letter from birmingham, jail or listen to the "i have a dream" speech and these are religious documents making cases to a country mo he isly christian using christian arguments. so there's a version of christian or any religious engagement with politics that's inevitable and inescapable. as long as you have people serious about their religious beliefs and they think their religious beliefs could be implications and they could be religious or conservative implications. you're not going to tell you can't bring those into politics because they're religious.
that's never been how american society works and that's not realistic to think that's how it would work. the question then is when does that lead to a kind of, you know, a kind of practical intoll against that does foul afoul of the constitution and the separation of church and state. and basically what you see, they're working back and fourth on that line, where, you like it seems like they'll push too far. like prohibition was basecle baptists telling catholics, i'm stereo typing here and i apologize, telling catholics how much guinness they can drink and so on, right? like the -- that -- but that push and pull is part of the democratic politics. i guess my advice to you in reading about these tendencies in specifically evangelical thought is to say, well, look,
this kind of engagement is inevitable if you have a society where people take religion seriously. the question is where does it cross a line. what's the difference between having christian motivations for your politics and trying to impose too much, too many theological beliefs on the society as a whole? but that's where the argument is, i think, it's not-- if people take christianity seriously or any religion seriously, they're going to want it to have some influence in society. you can't have a kind of perfectly secular society if many people's deepest beliefs are religious. >> and ellen, you're on with author ross douthat. >> hello mr. ross douthat. i want to speak about the united states conference, of catholic bishops who will meet november 15 and begin their
meeting regarding eucharistic revival. and the diminishment of faith for many reasons, but for serious reasons because of the pandemic, which closed many churches, et cetera. i'm going to read two sentences, hopefully. pope francis, who has explicitly identified the united states as the source of opposition to his pontificate preached this month that communion is not the reward of sinners-- i'm sorry, not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners. this-- i'm a catholic, very devout and i believe the sacrament of reconciliation, repentence
before receiving the bread of holy jesus. >> and ellen, we're going to get this on the bishops meeting. >> and ellen is right. we've been talking back and forth of the weakness of institutional religion and catholocism has obviously been through a tough couple of decades with the sex abuse crisis and aftermath and the pandemic has put stress on a lot more churches, a lot more people who were luke warm occasional church goers falling away and that's not the core of catholic believers, that's not the core of any church, but churches thrive on having a core and also a periphery, if you lose the periphery, it has a lot of negative consequences for the church itself and its influence. so this is a baseline reality and part of that reality is
this sense that a lot of catholics have sort of lost the sense of the sacred around the eucharist, around holy communion, which, you know, in catholic thinking is literally becomes the body and blood of christ, it's not just the symbol, it's this particular sort of sacredness. and so the bishops, i think, have a general concern about, you know, how effectively do you restore at that sense of the sacred and how do you get catholics who are attending mass, to take the mass itself more seriously? but then could he existing with thattings, you have the political controversy where the president of the united states is a catholic, he rather clearly diverges from the church's teaching on abortion and he takes communion every sunday. and there's a big argument in the church about, you know, i think ellen is right, it's fair to say that the pope is more on
the side of letting, you know, sort of not withholding communion from politicians who stray from church teaching or deflect from church teaching where some american bishops think that you need to do it. and i suppose i should offer an opinion. i mean, i think the-- the problem for the church is that it doesn't have the general credibility that you would need to effectively publicly call a politician to repentance. right now because of the sex abuse crisis and other stuff, people who aren't devout catholics and even devout catholics don't take the bishops at arbiters, and if they say we're going to take joe biden's communion, one, i don't think that enough priests would go along with it to make it enforceable and it would
make the church look partisan to people who are, you know, sort of on the outskirts of catholocism. so, that's -- all of that means probably, one, i don't think they're going to do it, there's not going to be an official church statement from the conference of catholic bishops saying that joe biden shouldn't take communion, that's not going to ham. even the idea itself, it's hard to see how it would be effective, but then there's also the problem, right, that you know, democrats, catholic church has been trying to dialog with democratic politicians who are pro choice. the idea it's better to have a dialog than a hard line of people from the church. and over that dialog the democratic party has become more pro-abortion, not less pro-abortion, including joe biden who used to hold less
than what he does now. and it's know the clear that that dialog is gaining anything for the church and all of this is a long way for the church is faced with this sort of impossible choice, they could withhold communion from joe biden and it would look partisan and seem ineffective or they could continue with a dialog that's gotten them nowhere over 40 or 50 years and those bad choices are what religions face when they're in a period of decadence or decline unfortunately. >> and question from florida, why are the working class voting for republicans who have hardly done anything for them? >> so there's, you know, do we have another two hours to answer that question? [laughter] >> so, there are a number of answers to that. one, the simplest way to look
at it is to say that working class americans tend to be more culturally conservative and this can take a lot of different forms. sometimes it means they're more religious, sometimes it means they hold more conservative views about race or immigration. sometimes, and this is increasingly important, it just means that they don't -- they feel sort of condescended to and progressism, most of the world of the elite of the democratic party is formed. so if you frame it in really specific -- really specific cultural example from the present, right? so there is this shift in how liberal politicians are expected to talk about women
and pregnancy because of the desire to be inclusive of trance gender people. where official democratic party rhetoric, at least in some documents say pregnant person instead of pregnant woman or birthing person instead of woman, woman giving birth. and these -- this kind of slightly esoteric and academic mode of speaking is more likely to be alienating or seem totally bizarre to working class americans overall than college educated americans. so that's like a small particular example of a larger pattern, which is that there's deep cultural alienation between working class americans and sort of well-educated progressives. so you have that alienation. then you have the fact that on economic issues working class voters are still a little more
likely to be close to the democrats on a bunch of issues than they are to the republicans because the republican party's economic agenda has been traditionally to cut taxes for all americans, but especially upper income americans and not do that-- not do much else and the democratic party's agenda has been more likely to redistribute money to the working class, but there are two-- a couple of things have happened in the last five or six years especially that have bridged that divide a little bit on economics and one is the fact that under donald trump, the republican party sort of walked away from a lot of its message that it's had with mitt romney and paul ryan about cutting or reforming entitlement programs. so that was an issue that really turned off a lot of working class voters who depend on medicare and social security and that was part of how barack obama won reelection in 2012 was basically saying, to working class voters, you know,
i know you don't love cultural liberalism, but the republicans are going to cut your medicare and i'm going to protect it. but so if trump, in the trump era republicans took those issues off the table, basically said, you know, yeah, we're sort of nationally committed to medicare reform and we'll put something in the budget that supposedly will change the system over 20 years, but basically we're not going to make those cuts, not going to do the paul ryan agenda anymore. and at the same time, trump also made a lot of promises, some of which he kept, some of which he didn't, on trade and infrastructure where he sort of pitched himself directly to working class voters who felt like they had been left behind by the agenda of both political parties under globalization. so in both of those ways, he moved the republican party a little closer to a lot of working class voters on economics. and that still happens now, like if you look under the hood
of glenn youngkin's campaign in virginia, he campaigned on more money for schools and cutting the gas tax and falls on working class than upper middle class voters. and you see the republican doing a modest economic outreach to voters who have a strong cultural reason or set of reasons for not wanting to vote for progressives. when you put that together. the republican party moving toward the economic center and a democratic party whose elite at least are moving more to the cultural left. that's how you get working class voters shifting pretty steadily rightward more than they already had under, in the ronald reagan and george w. bush era and why it's happening to some extent for hispanic voters. this was a shock in 2020 that trump was able to win a bunch of hispanic voters.
but in fact there are many hispanic voters culturally conservative, and economically moderate and will not vote for a rigid libertarian republican party, but will vote for a republican that says, look, we're presiding over a good economy, pre-covid. trump was willing in the end to spend a bunch of money on covid relief, and you know, the republican party was basically moderate enough on economics to get more culturally conservative latinos and do better in florida and texas than democrats expected. so, anyway, there's a lot more to be said, but that's a somewhat condensed attempt to describe the dynamics in play. >> jim in california, thanks for holding, you're on with author ross douthat. >> thank you very much for taking my call. i live in an area which is fairly poor, very white, some
hispanic, a pretty good number of native americans, and i don't find that the connection with the democrats, the both color concept and everything, has any resonance at all. i don't see this concept that these people, blacks, indigenous, people of color belong together. i don't know what people of color really means because many people, you know, what is that, what does that mean in terms of a society that has become much less racially-- in spite of what's being said on the left. much less racially denominated. people don't-- >> so jim what would you like mr. douthat to respond to that nugget of the question? >> the issue, the whole issue of the fact that the rural poor are just as poor as the black
urban poor and have just as many problems, if not more, in some aspects, other aspects. but in the medical area, for example, vast number of people are dying very young where i live and there's no reason for that except the complexity of the system. >> i tell what you, we're going to have to -- a lot there, mr. douthat, anything that you'd like to unpack? >> yeah, let me try and take two points from that really interesting set of comments, right? and one is that, if you're -- yes, if you're wondering connected to the previous question, why do working class whites not respond well to current democratic party messaging? part of it is precisely what the caller was suggesting, right, that democratic party messaging especially in the last few years has focused a lot on the idea of white
privilege as a powerful force in american society. and to the extent that white privilege manifests itself, and it does, it manifests itself motorsly among the upper and upper middle classes and if you're a lower middle class white person or rural white person and you're told you have white privilege you're going to look around and say what are you talking about? i don't see -- i don't see that privilege at all. right? and that, you know, that's a reasonable position to take. if you're one of joe manchin's voters in a poor white state like west virginia, you know, the extent to which you're going to relate to a liberal message that says basically that the primary purpose of the democratic party's agenda is to close racial gaps, like that's just not a message that you're going to relate to. even if sometimes the policy in question would help you, right? sometimes the democrats end up, you know, with a policy that
actually would help, you know, rural white voters, but it's being sold as a policy that's about closing racial gaps and it's, you know, again that message falls flat on the underprivileged or not exactly privileged white working class or white poor. and that's one place where the caller is onto something. and just in the beginning, you have a lot of voters who are native american, who are often immigrants, hispanic immigrants, african-american who don't see their vision of america in the progressive narrative of oppressive whiteness as if, you know, all encampusing force and they see
as a spoke person for minority voters. but the activists represent activist groups and bureaucracies and don't represent what the voters themselves think. they have again, a lot of hispanic voters who believe strongly in the idea of the american dream and that they're getting ahead in america and doing well, and their ethic background or the color of their skin isn't an impediment. so as liberalism spends all time talking about race and racial oppression to the narrative the voters say, i face discrimination here or there and that doesn't describe my experience. and then you'll get, i'll stop here, and distill it to a single point. there was a moment when democratics referred to latinx,
as the most inclusive, nongender specific, nongendered way to refer to latino voters, because it was a way of escaping the genderness of romance languages, right? but there are no hispanic voters who actually think of themselves as latinx. if you do the polls of hispanic americans and say how do you describe yourself, you get 1 to 2% of people latinx. so you have democratic politicians doing outreach to minority communities using a term of art that the minority communities themselves don't recognize. and that's a very strange way to do math politics and again reflects the way that elite progressivism has basically undercut what should be a lot of the democratic party's national advantages with voters. >> next call for ross douthat comes from donald in new york city. hi, donald. >> yes, good afternoon. mr. douthat, i'd like to know,
what are some of the religion-- who are some of the prominent religious writers to the viewpoint such as perhaps -- and also, if i understand you and your family experienced conversion due to pentecostalism and then into ka catholocism and i wonder if you could talk about the experiences in the conversions. >> tell you what, let's leave it at those two, donald. mr. douthat, it's all yours. >> back to front, yeah, when i was a kid we did a kind of tour the american christianity and we started out as episcopalians and my mother, specifically, had experiences at--
kind of faith healing service that the service that is were held with this woman whose name was literally grace in high school auditoriums around connecticut where people would basically have what were described and experienced as encounters with the holy spirit where they would be prayed over and fall on the floor and you know, be slain in the spirit is the language the pentecostalist language used to describe it. so this was sort of a pivot point in my childhood and if people, my mother's name is patricia snow and she's actually written a couple of essays about it that you can find on the internet if you're interested in a more direct description. i was more an observer of this. my parents both had these kind of experiences and we sort of went through a phase of sort of going to pentecostalist services and we drove all the way to toronto for this
religious revival there at one point. but for me, i watched the experiences, i didn't have them myself. i'm not really a mystical personality or maybe god just decided that i didn't need whatever my parents were getting. then when we ended up sort of, as becoming roman catholics, i think for my mother especially, there was this kind of mystical bridge there where she went from having mystical experiences under protestant auspices to reading catholic mistics, theresa of avala and sort of using the catholic bridge to roman catholocism. for me it was intellectualized. i read chesterton when i was a teenager, who were influential
and i was also very happy to sort of enter, as an awkward teenager, i was happy to enter a church where you just memorized the prayers and nobody asked you to pray . spontaneously and not just tell how the lord came, and that was a condensed version of the ark. and chesterston and lewis, predictable to have read. one writer i like to recommend especially to people who are sort of maybe halfway in and halfway out of religious belief, but really interested in these questions is a polish philosophy kolcowski. and he wrote a title "is god happy" and he wrote a book with
one word title "religion", but has a long subtitle if you look it up on amazon, but a really, really smart sort of raised catholic, sort of semi catholic, really interested in religion writer, who i sort of came to later in life who had a certain influence on some of my writings on religion, so, that's another name, a more obscure name to throw out there as an influence for people interested in this kind of stuff. >> and christine is calling in for middleboro, massachusetts. christine, good afternoon. christine? sorry about that. john is in lucerne valley, california. john, please go ahead with your question or comment for ross douthat. >> hey, greetings, ross. as a columnist for the new york times, i wanted to see your take on the 1619 project, that
is based, many historians say, on faulty history and advocating crt and racial conflict as opposed to the more positive virtues character ethics by the 1776 project. >> thank you, sir. >> mr. douthat. >> the 1619 project is something that was put together in part by the new york times magazine and my colleague nicole hannah jones played a big role. and i think there are a bunch of different things going on in the project and in the controversy going around it and part of what it's trying to do, i think, is just basically, you know, have a more complete history of slavery and the black experience in america. and i think this is part, in general, of what, you know,
the-- some of the ideas that are sort of in play in debates about education and changing ideas about history right now i think just that. we've had this sort of over simplyfied narrative about slavery and african-american history that, for instance, doesn't focus enough on, you know, the real nature of life under segregation, and what happened to african-americans after the civil war. and things like the controversy over confederate statues, for instance, i think are part of that where, you know, basically white america for a certain period of time told a story about american history that was mostly about sort of knitting the country back together after the civil war that left a lot of the story of black america out and minimized, you know, some of the worst things that went on under segregation, i think, and you know, overly romanticized certain figures in the confederacy. so that's a long way of saying
that i think there's a big part of the 1619 project that is just trying to do that basically, trying to tell a more complete history around slavery. but then there's also this particular controversy around an argument about the american revolution and you know, where there's sort a specific question of whether the founding fathers and the american revolutionaries were actually like worried about that slavery was going to be abolished by the british and so maybe the american revolution was fought in defense of slavery and then connected to that, there's this sort of historical school that argues that the cotton economy was incredibly important, more important than a lot of people think to the development of american capitalism and so therefore, there's sort of this -- slavery is basically in both
cases that slavery is closer to the root of the american revolution and american capitalism than conventional wisdom holds. and you know, i wouldn't want to get into a long argument with my colleagues. i would just say simply that i think the argument that it's the connection of the founding to slavery and the connection of early capitalism to slavery. i think those arguments are overstated and maybe ended up overstated than some of the pieces in the project. but it's more an argument for historians than for columnists, but that, i think there's a distinction there that's important, right? which is that there's a general desire for a more complete accounting of slavery and racial history that i think is entirely reasonable and i think there's a specific argument about the nature of the american founding and how, you know, sort of how compromised it was by slavery where there's
a very live and important controversy that, yeah, where i would be on i guess what we think of of the more conservative side of the debate. >> and in july, this past july, you wrote a column for the new york times called the excesses of anti-racist education and you specifically cited two books, robin d'angelo's white fragility. and kennedy's how to be a ent anti-racist. why those books? >> because between them sold 1.2 zillion companies in the period around the george floyd protests, but i think there's a sort of, they represent how a certain kind of progressive ideology on race cashes out in practice in views of public
policy, in views on sort of how we should deal with racism, like kind of corporate anti-racist trainings that you hear so much about come often straight out of robin d'angelo's work or other work like hers. a lot of pushes to do away with or revised gifted academics and standards i think are connected to the argument in kendi's work, that those kind of programs themselves are effectively racist, they're not sort of revealing differences, they're creating differences so they need to be done away with. and all of that is stuff that i fundamentally disagree with and i think is taking a, again, similar to what i said in answer to the last caller, i think there's a generally admirable desire to make america a more equal society
and to sort of do more justice to the particularities of the black experience with progressive energy right now, but to the extent the way it catches out is through, you know, corporate anti-racism training or doing away with, you know, gifted education programs, or calculus requirements in california schools, or talking a lot about, like toxic whiteness to third or fourth graders. i'm just really skeptical that that is going to have anything like-- that that's going to actually have anti-racist effects, and in fact, i think it's actually more likely to ratify certain racial divides than to break them down. >> well, it was two years prior to those two books coming out that you coined the term woke capitalism in 2018. how did that occur to you?
>> i think that i stole is from another bearded catholic journalist named matthew walter. i'm not 100%. i get credit fairly often for the term, but i want to say i'm not 100% sure i coined it, but it's a resonant term, but it reflects a large part of corporate america decided that there was this piece of progressivism. the piece that does diversity training and of robert d'angelo that corporate america could get on board with and fold into their hr processes and attempt to build corporate culture and that's what you see all over now. you know, the odd thing, right, is that we had an earlier caller asking about, you know, the place of evangelical religion in america and separation of church and state. historically in the u.s.
there's the question how business relates to religion, right? and you have various points where, sort of business seems very secular and materialistic and various points where it sort of takes on some elements of religious culture, so in the 1950's, you had a sort of, in the cold war era, a kind of conflation of american capitalism and christianity, now you have a conflation on the left of sort of corporate culture, especially in silicon valley and elsewhere, with, you know, sort of semi religious progressive ideology where, you know, the corporation will stage a land acknowledgment where they talk about the land the meeting is held on was taken from a native american tribe right before they get into their third quarter strategic report or something. and it's super weird, that's one thing to be said about this, it's just, very weird to
sort of watch to sort of watch the incorporation of these -- this kind of, again, slightly academic progressive rhetoric, into corporate hr speak. but in part what it reflects is the extent to which this is seen, i think, by people who run big companies, in part as a way to sort of give something to progressivism avoid the bernie sanders version of progressivism. american corporations would much rather, you know, construct diversity programs and trainings along the lines that robin d'angelo suggests in white fragility than to bernie sanders styles tax rates. this is a way for corporations to say look, we're progressives, too, don't tax us, we've got diversity programs and anti-racist training programs, right? it's in a sense, an attempt to
divide the left and have the cultural left and corporations sort of working hand in hand, so as to prevent the economic left from, you know, raising the corporate income tax rate too high. and that's the cynical reading on it and that's not the only thing going on, but one of the things going on. >> a text for you, mr. douthat. as a fellow harvard alum usually impressed with ross, i wonder why he eye pierce before a profane word yale. and what's with that school, let me tell you, that's the only studio available in new haven and anytime we can avoid doing a video uplink interview is a good day so we've made progress from the uplink is a studio with great audio and that type of thing, hopefully next time in person. that said do you have any connection to yale? >> yeah, i mean, the texter will be even more disappointed
to hear that, now, know the only have i profaned my harvard background by appearing before this yale back drop, but i have even co-taught a couple of classes at yale since returning to new haven and you know, i did grow up in new haven so he obviously had the bull dog taint in me at some level to begin with and it's sort of bubbled to the surface, but i will say that, you know, if harvard wishes to preempt yale's kind invitation to me to occasionally co-teach a class by offering me a tenured faculty position, i'm more than happy to take them up on that offer anytime. so, if the president of harvard is watching right now and wants to bring me home, i'm fully available. >> phil, buffalo, new york, please go ahead with your question or comment for ross douthat. >> ross, what will it take to get chronic lyme disease recognized as a real disease so
that heck insurance companies stop purse cuting doctors who treat chronic lyme. >> phil, do you have lyme disease? >> no, my significant other does. >> thank you, sir. >> i'm very sorry, phil, and i do know what you're going through. i do offer two plausible answers, generational change in the medical system where you have basically, you know, this is a very longstanding phenomenon in science, where it is less likely that you convert people who believe, who are sort of committed to an existing paradigm and more likely that a younger generation comes along and takes over that recognizes that that paradigm is wrong and a different paradigm is needed and you can in some places at least, you can see this is happening, that there really are a certain group of younger
doctors and researchers who recognize that chronic lyme does exist and it almost certainly is caused by, you know, the persistence of an actual infection not just by inflammation or psychosomatic issues and there's a lot of interesting research going on at places like johns hopkins and columbia, tufts and elsewhere on treatment. so, i think part of what has to change is just, you know, in 20 year's time you'll have a different group of doctors and researchers as the dominant forces in the debate and hopefully influenced by the research that's going, that's already happening right now, and you know, i mean, the book that i wrote on this subject is not designed to just be an entry in that debate, but hopefully it does offer a summary of the reason to believe, the reasons to believe that this is real. but then the other thing and this is connected, these two things are connected, the other issue, right, is that as you
must well know, even for doctors and researchers who are ready to treat chronic lime, there isn't a single treatment protocol that everyone agrees works. and i myself with the resources of, you know, being a semi prominent journalist with a lot of sort of financial resources at certain points at my disposal. it's taken me six or seven years to get as well as i've gotten and i'm still not all the way well and a lot of people even spend with the best doctor spend long periods of time to find what works for them. the closer you can get to a single clear, you know, this drug works most of the time and this protocol works most of the time and answer to the question of how you treat chronic lyme disease the easier it is to overthrow the paradigm that says you shouldn't treat it at all. right, like it's not enough
basically to have, well, to put it in old fashioned scientific terms, it's not enough to say, you know, that the system of the solar system has a lot of problems in it. you need galeleo and pecurnikus to say to get to it. and the doctors to say a treatment of lyme than the crazy things that i and maybe your significant other deal with, as the system as a whole, okay, we can switch from our, you know, our mix of denial and agnosticism to embrace this clear alternative that we have strong evidence that it actually works. that's combined answer, generational change and more clarity in the question of how you actually treat this
indamnable infection. >> and we ask about favorite books, watership down, watership down, great gat bye, the ever lasting man, a book the secret history and what is that about? >> no, it's only, no, no, i'm not nearly that impressive. no, i meant the secret history, which is a novel by donna cart which is named off the secret history. because it's a novel about classic students who get involved in a-- i shouldn't give it away, but it's given away early in the book, in a murder. a cult of classic students at a small liberal arts college in the northeast. so. >> host: it's by donna tart. >> by donna tart, and she also wrote, the gold finch was her well-known book that came out a few years ago.
>> of course. but tried to pick novels because as a newspaper columnist you write mostly politics and ideas, but in fact the books that tended to stay with me throughout my life have been more likely to be fiction. >> currently reading victor hugo's less "les miserables." >> and we have a eight-year-old and five-year-old and we're listening to the sound track and we've listened to it on car trips. at one point maybe you should read the victor hugo novel. it's approximately 1400 pages and i believe i've read 500 pages. i cannot guarantee you that i will finish. i struggle a little bit to read, in spite of their
influence on me to read novels in my everyday existence as someone who's always reading twitter instead. so "les mis" is a real challenge, but it's remarkable to sort of step into that kind of novel because there's really nothing, no novelist who writes like this today. and you have the sort of basic story and then what strikes you most about the book is just the extraordinary confidence that hugo has that he's right about everything, the world is totally comprehensible, it's getting better every day, you can put the french revolution together with ref ka catholocism and they will work together and they're going to pause and tell you about the battle of waterloo and all about the battle of waterloo. so it's just like, it's really an immersion in well, i would say to go back to one of my own
books, a nondeadent society and also a literary style defined by this aggressive novelistic arrogance and if you pick it up and pick up a con it emery novel. i was reading a novel by salary rooney, a talented novelist of rirms. and the sally rooney nfl is this thick, minimalist, and the characters, the universe is mysterious and i have radical ideas and i would like to be religious, but i can't make it come together. and you turn to hugo and the students are mounting the barricades and hugo is monologuing, and it's just different modes of civilization, our own versus the 19th century and interesting to have that feeling even if i don't get to the end of the book and i know how it ends because i've
obviously heard the sound track to the musical many times. >> i think that sound track is about 1400 pages long, too. >> it's an extensive sound track, but very, very good, i have to say. >> bo is in stuart, florida, hi, bo. >> hi. thank you very much for the program. it's very interesting, excuse me, i have a slight lisp. i'm very old and i have been observing things for about six decades, long ago i was religion editor of the pittsburgh post gazette and i loved some of the priests and nuns and catholic organizations, but i believe the catholic church is unable to change, unable to evolve because by today there really should have been a division, a section of the priesthood that would allow a married clergy.
women should be able to have the same authority as priests and offer holy communion and it seems to me that catholic church is declining in the western world and in 50, 100 years it will be a shadow of itself. so i would like to hear, mr. douthat's response. >> well, thank you very much for calling in and ross douthat, you only have two to three minutes to expound on what that big question that the caller asked. >> probably for the best. i mean, yes, the story of catholocism in the western world is already a story of decline and i would think in the next 20 years in the u.s. that would continue. and i think the problem is more complicated than the caller suggests. we have plenty of examples and
models, protestant churches, episcopal church, lutheran church in germany and elsewhere have done exactly the things that we've said rightly that catholocism hasn't done. they have married clergy, and female priests and shifted issues on theological and moral and in most cases they have the same problems that catholocism has or worse problems, a steeper institutional decline, a greater loss of cultural influence, so whatever is happening to institutional religion in the western world, it's not just a simple matter of these churches haven't kept up with the times, they need to become more liberal on certain fronts because we have models that tried that and they have not had great success. and i think the challenge for catholocism in the 30 seconds left is to-- it's slightly different, it's to adapt without losing core
elements of catholic tradition that are still attractive to a lot of people, right? and i think priestley celibacy comes with a lot of problems and contributes to the churches problems in various ways and presumably you could get a few more priests if you allowed married clergy. at the same time the virtue of celibacy is an ancient christian principle and through thousands of years and if it's not anymore, it's the very reason for existence is somewhat called into question. so that, i think, gets-- maybe is a way at getting at the challenge. right that christianity can't survive if it doesn't seem to be offering something that's actually timeless or actually connected to the church of jesus christ, which was, you know, the early church was extremely big on celibacy and the same for the eucharist and
communion we were talking about earlier. it's not how do you adapt it's how do you adapt while preserving the essentials without which you wouldn't have anything to preserve at all. and if i knew exactly how to strike at that balance i would be in rome right now writing memos for the pope instead of being here with, you know, all of you fine people ross douthat, new york times columnist author now of six books, the most recent "the deep places" a memoir of illness and discovery, an accidental book, not one you were planning on writing. what's your next book going to be about, do you know yet? >> i do not know for sure, no. i don't plan to get infected with any new diseases, god willing, so probably not another memoir. maybe something about religion and these questions about belief in god that we've been talking about here, but maybe something totally unexpected
like a fantasy novel. who can say? >> thanks for spending the last two hours were book tv. >> it's been a great pleasure, thank you so much for having me. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast, every saturday american history tv documents america's story, and on sundays, book tv brings you the latest nonfiction books and authors, funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more including comcast. >> do you think this is just a community center? no, it's way more than that. comcast a partnering with a thousand community centers for wi-fi for low income families to get the tools they need to be ready for anything. >> comcast along with niece television companies support c-span2 as a public service. >> with the u.s. senate not in session, join us all this week for book tv. tonight a look at some of our recent in depth programs.
we begin with an author on politics, faith and conservativism in america, includes privilege, bad religion and decadent society, america before and after the pandemic. two hours later our guest is roxanne dunbar ortiz. she discusses native american culture and history, the women's liberation movement, founding of the united states and more and her books include outlaw woman and indigenous people of the united states and the 1776 commission, she talks about critical race theory, the 1619 project, immigration, and more. and her books include, be the women, the 1776 report, and the recently published black eye for america. that starts tonight at 8 eastern on c-span2 and also access our programs on-line at book tv.org or follow along on
c-span now our new video app. >> c-span offers a variety of podcasts that have something for every listener. weak days, washington today gives you the latest from the nation's capital and every week, book note plus has indepth interviews with writers about their latest works. ... next it's a booktv's monthly "in depth" program with the story and activist roxanne dunbar-ortiz. her books include "outlaw woman" and a recently published "not a nation of