MMITM Ep 36 - Empathy Vs Values: with Activists and Authors Gregg Hurwitz and Billy Ray

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Voice over 1: From CurtCo  Media.

 

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Bill Curtis: This  is  a  show  about  what  drives  conservatives,  what  motivates  liberals,  and  how  we  might  be  able  to  talk  to  each  other,  reach  each  other  with  mutual  respect  and  understanding  that  can  lead  to  a  better,  more  productive  society.  This  is  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle.  I'm  Bill  Curtis.
( singing)

 

 Did  you  know  that  studies  have  shown  that  the  vast  majority  of  people  don't  feel  heard?  Voters  don't  feel  heard,  women  don't  feel  heard,  men  don't  feel  heard,  and  people  of  color  don't  feel  heard,  and  cops  don't  feel  heard  either.  That's  because,  frankly,  we're  not  very  good  at  listening  to  each  other.  Listening  takes  skill  and  a  lot  of  mental  processing.  Talking?  Not  so  much.

 

 Now,  why  would  we  invite  two  very  famous  and  talented  writers  onto  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle?  Billy  Ray  and  Gregg  Hurwitz  will  be  addressing  the  heart  and  the  mission  of  this  podcast:  how  we  can  talk  to  each  other  and  really  hear  people  with  differing  political  views.  Now,  in  full  disclosure,  Billy  and  Gregg  will  show  us  how  they're  doing  it  to  help  Democrats  get  elected,  but  I'll  be  here  to  ensure  that  we  listen  to  both  sides,  and  so  will  Ed.  Let's  introduce  our  panel.  Firstly,  as  usual,  our  co- host  Pulitzer  prize- winning  historian,  bestselling  author,  worldwide  lecturer,  and  the  widely  quoted  socially  distant  and  Zoomed  in  authority  of  everything  historical  and  constitutional,  Ed  Larson.  Nice  to  see you,  Ed.

 

00:01:26
Ed Larson: Thank  you  so  much,  and  I'm  excited  to  have  these  two  guests  today.  Wow.

 

00:01:31
Bill Curtis: Also,  Zooming  in,  Jane  Albrecht.  She's  an  international  trade  attorney  who  represented  US  interest  to  high- level  government  officials  all  over  the  world.  She's  been  involved  with  several  US  presidential  campaigns  and,  in  full  disclosure,  she's  president  of  the  Malibu  Democratic  Club.  Nice  to  see  you  again,  even  remotely,  Jane.

 

00:01:50
Jane Albrecht: Always  good  to  be  here,  and  I'm  thrilled  to have Billy and  Gregg  here  today  too.

 

00:01:55
Bill Curtis: Now  for  our  special  guests.  Billy  Ray  is  probably  best  known  for  writing  the  Oscar- nominated  screenplay  for  Captain  Phillips,  and  he  won  the  Writers  Guild  Award,  as  well.  He's  written  and  sometimes  directed  films,  including  The  Hunger  Games,  Richard  Jewell,  he  was  directed  by  Clint  Eastwood,  Flight  Plan  with  Jodie  Foster,  and  many  more.  He's  also  the  writer  and  director  of  The  Comey  Rule,  based  on  James  Comey's  book:  A  Higher  Loyalty.  It'll  be  on  Showtime  in  September.  We  also  like  him  because  he's  a  Dodger  fan.
 Gregg  Hurwitz  is  the  New  York  Times  internationally  bestselling  author  of  22  thrillers,  including  the  Orphan  X  series.  His  novels  have  won  numerous  literary  awards,  and  he's  been  published  in  32  languages.  He  publishes  academic  articles  on  Shakespeare,  and  he's  taught  or  lectured  at  USC,  UCLA,  and  Harvard.  In  the  course  of  researching  his  thrillers,  he  swims  with  sharks,  he  sneaks  onto  demolition  ranges  with  Navy  seals,  and he's gone  even  undercover  into  mind- control  cults.  Gregg's  editorial  pieces  have  appeared  in  the  Wall  Street  Journal,  The  Guardian,  The  Huffington  Post,  and  now  finally  he's  on  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle.
 Gregg  and  Billy  have  worked  together  pro  bono  on  political  races  since  2016.  They've  helped  candidates  with  messaging,  speeches,  debate  prep.  Focusing  on  Democrats?  Yes,  but  it's  about  how  to  make  arguments  that  our  Republican  friends  may  actually  respect.  They've  also  written  and  produced  many  political  ads.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  there's  one  I  really  want  you  to  see,  so  we're  going  to  place  it  on  our  website  that  features  the  Shining  City  on  a  Hill  speech  by  Ronald  Reagan.  You  simply  must  see  it  and  you'll  understand  what  really  moves  us.  Today  you'll  see  that  these  guys  are  truly  impassioned.  Billy  Ray  and  Gregg  Hurwitz,  welcome  to  both  of  you,  and  thanks  for  joining  us.

 

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Billy Ray: Thank you.

 

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Greg: Thank you.

 

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Bill Curtis: You  guys  have  also  talked  about  how  we're  not  so  good  at  listening  anymore,  and  for  your  political  messaging,  you  two  have  made  communicating  an  art.  Can  you  tell  us  about  that?

 

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Greg: Well,  one  of  the  things that  I  think  is  really  important  that  we've  boiled  a  lot  of  this  down  to  is  understanding  the  different  value  structures  and  ways  that  conservatives  versus  liberals  take  in  and  hear  information,  in  terms  of  Big  Five  personality  theory.  A  lot  of  people  are  more  familiar  with  Myers  Briggs,  which  is  the  cliff  notes  to  Big  Five  personality  theory.  There's  different  traits  structures.  Liberals  tend  to...  higher  in  certain  traits  like  openness  and  empathy,  and  we  tend  to  communicate  through  those.  Whereas  conservatives  tend  to  communicate  or tend  to  have  a  value  structure  that  prefers  high  conscientiousness  as  a  value  set.  Both  of  these  are  absolutely  essential  value  sets.  One  of  the  things  where  we  find  polarization,  is  when  people  only  communicate  in  the  language  and  through  the  value  set  of  their  own  listeners  or  people  who  are  likeminded.
 We  have  a  breakdown  of  discourse  that  happens  in  the  middle  of  good  faith,  enlightenment  discourse,  people  only  communicate  among  themselves  in  their  own  language,  and  their  values,  which  drives  the  left  further  left,  and  the  right  for  the  right  until  what  we  have  is  black  and  white  thinking  and  the  denigration  of  anyone  who  doesn't  think  like  us.

 

00:05:17
Bill Curtis: What  should  they  do  instead?

 

00:05:19
Billy Ray: I'll  give  you  an  example,  thinking  of  high  empathy,  high  openness  arguments.  Democrats  tend  to  be  higher  in  those  things.  They  communicate  in  that  language,  as  Gregg  said.  A  classic  Democrat  argument  is, " Don't  you  care  about  Jimmy  Kimmel's  kid?"  To  which  Republicans  say, " I  care  about  Jimmy  Kimmel's  kid,  but  I  can't  take  care  of  everybody's  kid."  It's  not  that  they  lack  empathy.  It's  that  in  a  hierarchy  of  values,  it  falls  below  conscientiousness.  What  you  have  to  do  as  a  Democrat,  we  believe,  is  make  arguments  that  are  not  high  empathy  arguments,  but  are  arguments  that  are  actually  designed  to  reach  who  cares  about  the  robustness  of  the  community  as  a  whole.

 

 These  personality  traits  are  fixed.  You  can't  go  up  to  an  introvert  and  turn  him  into  an  extrovert.  By  the  same  token,  it  does  not  help  a  Democrat  to go up to a  Republican  and  say, " Why  can't  you  be  more  empathetic  like  me?  I'm  a  better  person  than  you  are  because  I  have  higher  empathy."  It's  important  to  note  that  high  conscientiousness,  which  conservatives  score  so  well  in  codes  for  better  health,  a  longer  lifespan,  more  stable  marriages,  and  better  careers.  While  Democrats  are  condescending  to  Republicans  saying, " Why  can't  you  be  more  like  us?"  Publicans  are  saying,  we're  fine.  Over  here  with  our  longer  lifespan  and  our  better  careers  and  our  better  marriages.

 

00:06:37
Bill Curtis: You've  done  an  analysis  to  understand  the  driving  psychology  behind  conservatives  and  Democrats,  right?

 

00:06:46
Billy Ray: I  think  under  everything  in  a  conservative  voter,  the  thing  that  unites  them  politically  is  a  fear  of  chaos.  If  you  go  back  and  look  at  every  argument  that  Republican  candidates  make,  classically,  the  subtext  of  it  is  always, " Democrats  will  bring  chaos."  It's  why  Ted  Cruz  is  out  there  right  now  tweeting  that  all  Democrats  are  anarchists  and [inaudible 00:07:07].  It's  why  Mike  Pence  is  out  there  saying, " Joe  Biden  wants  to  defund  the  police,"  when  he  knows  that  not  to  be  true  because  he's  trying  to  paint  a  picture  that  Democrats  will  create  less  safety.  It's  why  the  Willie  Horton  ad  worked.  It's  always  the  attack  that  Republicans  make.  What  we  try  to  talk  to  democratic  candidates  about,  they  have  to  attack  the  fear  of  chaos  that  makes  a  Republican,  a  Republican,  and  they  have  to  paint  themselves  accurately,  I  believe,  as  the  antidote  to  chaos.

 

00:07:36
Bill Curtis: You  defined  it  as  conscientiousness,  which  you  said  paired  to  orderliness  and  industriousness.  Doesn't  our  society  need  those  attributes,  at  least  for  some  people  to  be  their  driving  psychology?

 

00:07:48
Greg: Absolutely.  It's  the  job  of  conservatives  to  make  sure  that  we're  moving  slowly  and  not  throwing  out  the  baby  with  the  bathwater  as  we  start  to  innovate  and  change.  That's  why  they  like  to  have  boundaries  around  gender,  around  countries.  It's  the  job  of  liberals  to  say, " Okay,  granted  we  need  to  have  boundaries  around  a  country.  We  need  to have  an  immigration  system  that  obeys  the  law,  but  if  we  make  a  wall  that  is  too  impenetrable,  then  new  ideas  and  people  won't  get  in  and  will  stagnate  and  die."  The  good- faith  discussion  about  the  ways  that  those  two  value  sets  need  to  work  in  operation  for  the  betterment  of  society  are  when  society  functions  the  best.

 

00:08:30
Bill Curtis: Gregg,  the  other  day,  you  were  talking  about  how  conscientiousness  results  in  better  marriages,  better  finances,  better  health,  longer  lifespan.  What's  wrong  with  that?

 

00:08:40
Greg: Nothing's  wrong  with  that  at  all.  It's  wonderful,  but  we  also  need  risk- takers,  right?

 

00:08:45
Bill Curtis: That  leads  to  chaos,  right?  Risk- takers.

 

00:08:48
Greg: No,  not  if  it's  in  balance.  Look,  the  left  and  the  right  get  off  course  in  predictable  ways.  We  see  what  happens.  It's  (inaudible)   tasks,  it's  infighting,  and  it's  a  constant  cannibalization  of  their  own  side.  It's  a  very  predictable  manner.  There's  a  reason  why  a  lot  of  the " cancel  culture"  has  emerged  from  the  left.  Whereas  when  the  right  gets  off  course,  it  tends  to  feel  more  like  authoritarianism  and  a  different  set  of  values.  Either  side  on  their  own  can  get  off  course.  It  can  get  out  of  whack.  What  we  need  to  do  is  to  try  to  have  the  conversation  in  the  middle  where  we  actually  are  complementing  each  other  in  the  values  that  we  are  proposing  and  having  good  sense  management  between  the  two  poles.  We've  completely  lost  that  over  the last four  years.

 

00:09:31
Billy Ray: Just  to  circle  back  to  what  your  original  question  was,  which  was, " Do  risk  takers  create  chaos?"  No,  they  don't.  I'll  give  you  an  example.  I-

 

00:09:40
Ed Larson: Maybe  not  create,  but  they  risk  chaos.

 

00:09:42
Greg: Yeah.

 

00:09:43
Billy Ray: Okay.  The  question  is, " How  do  you  define  chaos?"  In  other  words,  the  Republican  argument  against  something  like-

 

00:09:49
Ed Larson: Anything  I  can't  control.

 

00:09:51
Greg: Okay.  Wait  a  minute.  The  Republican  argument  against  gay  marriage  for  10  years  was, " It  will  destroy  the  institution  of  marriage."  The  idea  was  if  you  allow  gay  people  to  marry  that  somehow  heterosexual  marriage  won't  count  anymore.  That  was  a  very  serious  argument  that  conservatives  made  over  and  over  and  over  again,  completely  wrong,  and has  now  been  proven  to  be  wrong.  There  is  no  version  of  Republicans  going  back  and  saying, " You  know  what?  We  overreacted  on  that  one."  Instead,  they're  going  to  double  down  and  they're  going  to  say, " Oh,  Democrats  want  to  take  all  your  guns  away.  Democrats  believe  in  eight  and  half  month  abortions."  It's  all  the  same  argument.  It's  selling  this  idea  that  Democrats  equal  chaos.  What  we  have  found  is  that  in  the  era  of  Donald  Trump,  the  opposite  is  true.

 

00:10:38
Jane Albrecht: The  other  thing  it's  important  to  remember  is  that  while  these  can  be  dominant  characteristics,  it's  not  like  one  side  has  only  high  conscientiousness  and  the  other  side  only  has  empathy.  There's  a  mix  of  both  traits  in  both  sides.  It's  just  which  is  dominant.

 

00:10:52
Greg: That's  right.  In  fact,  Jane,  that's  an  excellent  point.  There  is  a  staggering  amount  of  agreement  in  America  right  now.  We  believe  hard  work  and  innovation  should  be  rewarded.  We  think  everyone  should  play  by  the  same  rules.  We  believe  in  opportunity.  We  believe  in  a  baseline  of  medical  care.  We  just  have  different  views  of  how  to  do  it.  We  believe  in  preserving  fields  and  streams  and  oceans.  We're  in  massive  agreement,  conservatives,  and  liberals  alike.  If  you  remove  social  media,  which  basically  thrives  on  descent,  discord,  and  dopamine  hits  of  outrage  and  virtue  signaling.  We  have  the  mainstream  media,  which  outrage  and  adrenaline  equals  eyeballs.  You  have  lobbyists  who,  if  we  ever  figured  out  that  the  percent  of  Americans  who  favor  a  bill  has  literally  0%  impact  on  whether  the  bill  will  pass.

 

 They  are  all  about  having  us  be  separated  all  the  time.  Politicians,  when  they  go  to  raise  money,  have  to  paint  all of  these  differences.  To  Jane's  point,  of  course,  conservatives  have  empathy.  Of  course,  liberals  have  high  conscientiousness  or  Billy  Ray  wouldn't  have  written  5, 000  screenplays  by  his  21st  birthday.  These  are  all  traits,  and  these  differences  are  very  small  if  we  can  figure  out  how  to  not  let  them  be  toxically  magnified,  and  then  just  start  to  believe  this  matrix- like  web  of  polarization,  that  we  have  unwittingly  plugged  ourselves  into  all  the  time.

 

00:12:16
Ed Larson: There  are  certain  issues  that  have  been  magnified  by  one  side  or  the  other  because  they  are  wedge  issues.  Issues  like  abortion  and  abortion  rights.  Issues  like  guns  and  gun  control.  Those  issues  have  come  so  much  to  dominate  the  discourse  and  to  drive  this  wedge  between  us.  Those  are  big  issues  this  time.  I  mean,  Trump  ran  on  some  of  those  and  equally  at  the  gut  level,  the  Democrats  have  run  on  those same  issues  from  the  other  side.  They  shouldn't  be  so  fundamental,  but  they  have  become  voting  issues  for  so  many  people.

 

00:12:57
Bill Curtis: Ed,  I  think  the  reality  is  that  a  lot  of  the  issues  you  just  mentioned  really  are  exploding  because  of  the  extremes  that  Gregg  was  talking  about  before.  Let's  take  guns,  for  example.  Most  conservatives  think  that  it's  okay  to  have  some  regulation  for  guns.  It's  the  extremes  that  don't  want  any  regulation  at  all  so  that  we  should  be  able  to  go  purchase  a  small  nuclear  weapon  if  we  so  choose.

 

00:13:24
Ed Larson: I  don't  know.  I  talked  to  a  lot  of  people  on  these  issues.  You  talk  about  abortion,  that's  just  so  important  to  them,  and  they  care  deeply  on  that  issue.

 

00:13:36
Jane Albrecht: Let  me  make  an  observation.  What  you're  talking  about Ed,  is  the  culture  war  issues.  The  reason  they've  been  picked  particularly  by  the  Republicans  is  that  they  completely  feed  into  the  fear  versus  the  openness.  They  play  very  well  for  that  purpose.

 

00:13:52
Greg: Well,  I  want  to  agree  with  something  that  Ed  said.  I  think  the  two  issues  where  we  have  fundamental  core  differences  are  on  abortion  and  are  on  the  rights  of  the  LGBTQ  versus  the  rights  of  religious  leader.  I  think  those  are  two  fundamental  and  core  issues.  If  there  can  be  a  conversation  that  is  not  depicting  the  other  side  as  being  either  hatefully  misogynistic  or  murderous,  but  an  understanding  that  we  come  down  on  very  different  sides  of  an  issue  of  freedom  versus  religious  value  sets,  and  we  can  talk  about  them  in  ways  that  are  humanizing.  I  do  think  there's  a  lot  of  ground  to  be  picked  up.  Often  some  of  the  most  conservative  folks  about  the  issue  of  abortion  and  pro- life,  aren't  comfortable  necessarily  with  government- mandated  pregnancies,  for  instance.  There's  nuts  and  bolts  issues  that  I  think  there  can  be  good- faith  discussion  about  how  freedom  and  libertarian  values  interfere  and  where  they  begin  and  end,  as  long  as  we  are  vilifying  of  one  another.

 

00:14:50
Billy Ray: I  would  add  quickly  to  that,  Ed.  Gregg  and  I  have  worked  with...  I  think  it's  31  first  time  candidates  running  for  house  or  Senate,  and  then  another  30  or  40  that  are  actually  current  members  in  the  house  or  Senate,  all  on  the  Democrat  side,  about  messaging.  Not  one  of  those  Democrat  candidates  has  ever  said  to  me, " The  most  important  thing  to  me  is  to  take  people's  guns  away."  Not  one.  Yet  you  look  at  Donald  Trump  who  is  sitting  on  the  tarmac  in  Ohio  saying, " Biden's  going  to  hurt  God  and  Biden's  going  to  hurt  guns.  He's  going  to  take  your  guns  away."  It  is  a  panic  button  issue  for  Republican  candidates.  It  is  not  an  aggressive  agenda  for  Democrats,  and  it  never  has  been.  That's  one where  the  messaging  is  getting  in  the  way  of  where  we  actually  agree.

 

00:15:42
Bill Curtis: Interesting.  Well,  we'll  be  right  back  with  Billy  Ray  and  Gregg  Hurwitz  in  just  a  minute.
( singing)

 

00:15:53
voice over 2: On  medicine,  we're  still  practicing.  Join  Dr.  Steven  Taback  and  Bill  Curtis  for  real  conversations  with  the  medical  professionals  who  have  their  finger  on  the  pulse  of  healthcare  in  the  modern  world.  Available  on  all  your  favorite  podcasting  platforms.  Produced  by  CurtCo  Media.
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00:16:14
Bill Curtis: We're  back  with  Billy  Ray  and  Gregg  Hurwitz.  Gregg,  before  the  break,  you  were  talking  about  polarizing  issues.  Now  you've  discussed  an  analogy  where  political  positioning  can  be  compared  to  cults.  Can  you  explain  that?

 

00:16:29
Greg: Yeah.  I  wrote  a  thriller  early  in  my  career  about  mind- control  cults.  There's  certain  key  ventures  that  you  see  or  key  actions  in  cults.  You  can  see  this  in  large  cults  like  North  Korea  or  in  specific  or  smaller  cults.  One  of  the  first  things  is that  they  aim  to  inoculate  people  to  outside  information.  You  do  that  from  displacing  them  from  family  and  friends.  The  cult  leaders  are  a  step  ahead,  so  they  say  to  their  members, " Look,  your  friends  and  family  aren't  going  to  understand  you.  In  fact,  they're  going  to  be  so  jealous  and  so  envious  about  the  progress  that  you  made  here,  that  they're  going  to  even  call  us  a  cult,"  right?

 

 There's  a  strong  inoculating  effect  against  any  information.  As  we're  talking  to  people,  one  of  the  things  that  we  have  to  realize,  and  this  is  something  I've  been  thinking  a  lot  about,  is  we  can't  go  right  at  Trump,  and  we  can't  go  right  at  them  in  terms  of  insulting  him.  If  you  just  say  he's  a  cult  leader,  he's  a  hypocrite,  he's  an  idiot,  he  conned  you.  Then  people  start  to  feel  terrible  about  themselves,  and  what  they  find  is  that  they  will  claim  to  their  ideology  and  their  beliefs  more.  What  you  do  is  you  try  and  open  up  a  sliver  of  cognitive  dissonance  within  them.  That  Reagan  ad  that  you  saw  and  liked  very  much  is  what  I  was  doing.  Is  to  paint  the  difference  to  good  faith  conservatives  to  say, " Here's  how  your  party  has  moved,  in  my  estimation."
 The  conversations  we're  having  now.  We're  having  conversations  about  class  injustice,  about  race,  about  police  forces  we  would  never  be  having  in  year  three  and  a  half  of  a  Hillary  Clinton  presidency.  We  just  wouldn't.  It  would  be  a  very  similar  trajectory.  That's  the  same  trajectory  that  saw  no  real  wage  growth  for  working- class  people  for  40  years.  I  don't  know  if  I'm  quite  ready  to  commit  to  this,  but  in  a  lot  of  ways,  I  wonder  maybe  America  did  in  fact  choose  the  right  poison  in  2016  of  those  people  who  felt  not  seen  or  heard  or  represented  in  the  ballot.  He  gave  voice  to  a  lot  of  things  that  Americans  knew  for  years.  The  game  is  rigged.  The  elites  are  condescending  and  sanctimonious.  Politicians  don't  care  about  you  as  much  as  they  care  about  corporations.

 

00:18:37
Bill Curtis: You  said  the  Democrats  had  lost  the  communication  with  their  base.

 

00:18:41
Greg: Right.  Maybe  he's  the  imperfect  messenger  who  was  dropped  in  the  middle  of  this  with  his,  what  I  think  are  base  instincts  and  divisiveness  and  lack  of  care  and  competence  and  lack  of  care  of  anyone  but  himself,  to  give  us  an  opportunity  to  really  look  in  the  face  a  lot  of  the  divisions  that  we've  taken  our  eye  off.  As  much  as  Billy  and  I  did  all  those  years  that  we  didn't  do  very  much  in  politics.

 

00:19:04
Bill Curtis: You  say  that,  but  is  he  the  guy,  then,  to  take  it  forward  from  here  and  fix  it?

 

00:19:08
Billy Ray: One  of  the  ways that I think about it,  Bill,  is  the  person  that  you  would  pay  to  do  demolition  on  a  building  is  not  the  architect  who's  going  to  build  up  from  that  emptiness.  They're  not  the  same  skillset.  We've  just  had  the  demolition  for  four  years,  but  that's  not  the  person  that  you  would  want  to  rebuild  things.  We  talked  to  candidates  all  the  time  about  saying  to  Trump  voters, " I  get  what  was  fun  and  what  was  funny  about  Donald  Trump  in  2016.  I  get  that  it  was  funny  to  watch  him  on  the  Libs."  The  fact  is  the  democratic  party  had  lost  touch  a  little  bit.  I  understand  why  it  was  appealing  to  look  at  somebody  who  was  saying, " I'm  going  to  blow  the  whole  damn  thing  up."  I  get  that.

 

 Here's  the  issue.  Now  it's  four  years  later,  he  did  blow  the  whole  damn  thing  up,  and  we  are  facing  a  problem  in  COVID  that  only  a  federal  government  can  solve.  We  don't  have  one.  Don't  get  sucked  into  the  argument about  big  government  versus  small  government.  This  is  about  effective,  competent,  robust  government.  We  don't  have  one.  He  got  it  out  of  there.  That's  why  you're  worried  to  death  about  your  mom  in  the  nursing  home.  That's  why  your  15- year- old  kid  just  did  spring  quarter  on  your  couch.  That's  why  you  and  your  husband  both  lost  your  jobs  because  there  are  certain  things  that  only  a  federal  government  is  big  enough  to  stop.  We don't have  a  federal  government  that's  competent  to  do  it.

 

00:20:26
Bill Curtis: Ed,  come  on  in.

 

00:20:28
Ed Larson: I  agree  with  the  points  that  Gregg  and  Billy  had  been  making  just  now.  He  ran  on  those  issues,  but  he  also  ran  on  some  positive  issues.  He  ran  that  he  would  change  the  Supreme  Court.  I  know  a  lot  of  people  who  voted  for  him  because  they  thought  he'd  get  new  Supreme  Court  nominees,  which  he's  delivered  on.  He  ran  on, " Build  a  wall,"  and  he  sort  of built  it.  He  certainly  has  grown  a  lot  of  muscle  and  weight  into  stopping  immigration.

 

00:20:53
Billy Ray: I'm  sorry.  He  ran  on  four  promises. " I  will  bring  back  manufacturing.  Your  healthcare  will  get  better  and  cheaper.  Mexico  will  pay  for  the  wall,  and  I  will  drain  the  swamp."  He  had  a  Republican  House  and a  Republican  Senate  and  went  oh  for  four  on  those  promises,  which  means  either  they  were  not  good  ideas  or  he  is  not  an  effective  leader.

 

00:21:11
Ed Larson: Sorry,  but  I  think  he  also  ran  on  build  a  wall,  on  closing  off  immigration.  He  ran  on  less  regulation  to  unleash  business.  The  Supreme  court  was  a  huge  issue,  appointing  new  judges  to  the  Supreme  court.  Of  course,  he  had  the  recent  death  of  Scalia  to  play  on, and  he  ran  against  China.  I  think  he  ran  on  those  issues,  and  people  think  he  delivered  on  them.

 

00:21:32
Greg: I'd  like  to  just  jump  in  with Ed, to talk about  something  that  actually  just  happened  now  on  the  podcast  in  real  time  because  this  is  always  interesting.  Ed  raised  a  couple  of  points  about  things  that  Trump  delivered  on,  and  he  was  pretty  quickly  shut  down.  It  doesn't  cost  us  anything  to  concede  ground  when  it  is  correct.  China  and  the  trade  arrangements  with  China,  we're  not  bueno.  If  you  talk  to  CEOs  in  Silicon  Valley,  that  was  not  a  good  arrangement.  Trump  called  it  out,  and  he  tackled  it.  He  did  promise  the  Supreme  court,  and  he  delivered  the  Supreme  court.  There  are  a  few  things  that  he  did,  and  it  accrues  to  our  validity  and  grasp  of  reality  if  we  can  agree  and  concede  in  certain  areas  where  he  did  do  things.

 

 For  me,  I  think  what's  very  important  is,  is  we  can't  fall  in  love  with  our  politicians  any  more  than  we  can  hate  them.  Hating  Trump,  to  me,  is  an  exercise  in  futility.  Pretending  that  Joe  Biden  also  is  Nelson  Mandela  and  Robert  Kennedy  rolled  into  one  is  additionally  something  I  don't  think  is  important.  I  think  the  most  important  way  that  we  can  talk  to  people  is  to  join  on  the  aspects  that  are  correct  and  not  turn  it  into  that  every  speck  of  Trump  is  vile.  We  can  all  have  different  opinions  about  where  that  falls  and  that  every  aspect  of  what  we're  advocating  is  positive.  The  point  of  a  democracy  is  that  nobody  gets  everything  that  they  want.  That  we  all  agree,  imperfectly,  that  through  our  different  skillsets  and  through  our  different  structures  and  values  that  we  all  wrangle,  and  fight  and  we  move  very  slowly  and  imperfectly  towards  the  light.

 

00:23:05
Bill Curtis: Billy  getting  back  to  the  premise  of  the  show,  how  is  it  that  we  communicate  with  the  never  Democrat,  the  friends  that  we  have  that  we  want  to  have  a  conversation  with,  and  get  them  to  feel  that  Biden  will  not  be  the  chaos  president?

 

00:23:23
Billy Ray: The  very  first  thing  that  I  would  say  to  Republican  friends,  and  I  do  have  them,  is  I  don't  like  chaos.  I  like  order.  I  like  stability.  I  like  security.  I  like  safety.  I  like  things  that  are  dependable.  I  can't  live  my  life  if  I  don't  have  those  things.  As  I  look  around  me  right  now,  I  see  an  economy  in  freefall.  I  see  a  virus  not  being  checked.  I  see  patients  lining  up  in  parking  lots  because  they  don't  have  enough  ICU  beds  to  get  in.  I  see  people  questioning  whether  or  not  an  election  is  going  to  take  place.  I  see  a  post  office  under  attack.  I  see  chaos.  In  every  respect  of  American  life,  I  see  chaos.

 

 That  is  not  what  people  were  signing  up  for  when  they  signed  up  four  years  ago  to  support  Donald  Trump. There  were  62  million  Americans  who  did.  You  have  to  honor  that.  You  have  to  acknowledge  that.  When  I  look  at  what  Joe  Biden  is  talking  about,  it  is  about  restoring  stability.  The  build's  been  knocked  down  to  the  ground.  Who's  going  to  build  it  back  up  again,  better  than  it  was  before?  I  believe  Joe  Biden  gives  us  the  basis  of  that.

 

00:24:40
Bill Curtis: You  have  advised  dozens  of  candidates,  but  you  guys  don't  accept  any  money  for  what  you  do,  which  in  our  society  is  somewhat  rare.  Can  you  explain  that  to  me?

 

00:24:52
Billy Ray: I  would  never  ever  take  money  for  this.  I  consider  that  this  a  service  to  my  country.  I'm  terrified  by  what's  happening  to  our  democracy.  I  find  that  to  be  a  much  bigger  issue  than  guns  or  anything  else.  I'm  talking  about  the  fundamental  ideals  of  what  makes  America,  America.  They've  never  been  more  under  threat.  I  see  a  country  in  which  30  or  40%  of  Americans  don't  seem  to  care  that  foreign  governments  want  to  influence  American  elections.  That's  a  real  problem  for  me.  I  would  not  accept  money  to  try  to  turn  that  aircraft  carrier  around.

 

00:25:23
Greg: One  of  the  things  that  we  remarked  at  times  is  that  we  ask  for  no  money,  no  credit,  and  no  permission.  If  you  don't  need  those  three  things,  you  can  pretty  much  move  the  world.  Billy and I have  been  spending  10,  12  hours  a  day,  some  days  pro  bono,  1518.  The  minute  that  I  start  to  take  money  and  make  money,  the  minute  that  somebody  is  going  to  employ  me,  I  have  a  different  responsibility  set.  I  have  to  listen  to it.  I  don't  just  mean  that  they're  going  to  tell  me  something  that's  crassly  corrupt.  I  mean, " Do  I  shave  5% off  my  opinion  to  make  it  work  with  somebody  because  I'm  reliant  on  them?"  There's  all  these  ways  that  corruption  comes  into  play.  If  we  are  fortunate  enough  to  win,  the  number  one  thing  that  I  want  is  that  we  can  get  corporatism  out  of  politics  and  out of  the  American  economy  to  whatever  extent  makes  sense.

 

00:26:08
Bill Curtis: The  other  day  you  said  that  to  persuade  people  you  need  humility,  and  the  liberals  haven't  been  very  good  at  that.  What  do  you  mean?

 

00:26:17
Billy Ray: Gregg  and I  are  both  storytellers.  When  Hillary  ran  in  2016,  I  thought  there  was  a  great  lack  of  humility  in  that  she  never  told  her  story.  Say  what you  want  about  Donald  Trump,  he  told  the  story.  His  story  was, " This  country  should  be  run  like  a  business.  I'm  a  businessman.  I  alone  can  fix  it."  That's  a  story,  right?  People  were  ready  to  buy  into  that  story.  Hillary,  I  think,  kept  approaching  it  from  a  point  of  view  of, " This  guy  is  such  an  asshole,  there's  no  way  you're  going  to  vote  for  him.  I  just  don't  believe  for  a  second  you're  going  to  vote  for  this  guy,  and  therefore,  I'm  just  going  to  show  up  and  tell  you,  I'm  Hillary  Clinton,  and  you  got  to  check  the  box."  There  was  a  lack  of  humility  there  too.  You  have  to  engage  people  on  an  emotional  level  in  both  screenwriting  and  in  politics.  These  are  intellectual  exercises  that  are  designed  to  elicit  an  emotional  response.  I  think  she  lost  sight  of  that, and I think  we,  as  a  party,  lost  sight  of  that.

 

00:27:15
Greg: We're  in  a  marriage  right  now.  Let's  take  the  metaphor  into  the  personal.  The  country  went 51%,  49%  in  the  popular  vote  for  Hillary.  We're  split.  We're  married.  We're  not  going  to  get  rid  of  anybody.  We  don't  get  to  get  rid  of  Kansas  or  Virginia  or  Florida  or  Alabama,  so  what  do  we  want  to  do  about  it?  When  you  have  an  argument  within  a  marriage  or  with  a  best  friend  or  with  your  kid,  one  of  the  traits  that's  absolutely  essential  is  humility  and  is  owning  your  piece  no  matter  how  small  it  is.  Even  if  you  can  come  back  and  go, " You  know  what?  I'm  absolutely  furious  about  this  blowup  that  we  had."  This  5%,  I'm  going  to  own.  Or  this 90%.  Here's  the  piece  for  me.

 

 That's  always  the  way  that  we  can  start  to  loosen  things  up.  We  better  wake  up  and  figure  out  that  we  don't  have  all  the  answers.  I'd  love  nothing  more  than  a  competent,  good- faith  Republican  and  conservative  movement  backed  by  moral  upstanding  people  who  actually  adhere  to  free- market  capitalist  and  conservative  values  to  have  respectable  discourse  with,  to  figure  out  our  respective  blind  spots  to  move  the  country  forward.  I  would  love  that.

 

00:28:22
Bill Curtis: As  we  close,  I'm  going  to  steal  the  last  word  because  I  think  we'll  all  disagree  on  some  issues,  we  agree  on  a  remarkable  number  of  them.  One  thing that  we  can  all  here  agree  with  is  that  we  all  want  to  return  to  fundamental  decency  as  Americans.  Billy  Ray  and  Gregg  Hurwitz,  thank  you  so  much  for  joining  us  today.  This  has  been  a  spectacular  conversation  as  we  expected  coming  in.  Jane  Albrecht  and  Ed  Larson,  thank  you  too.  Billy  and  Gregg,  how  can  people  find  you?  How  do  they  follow  you?

 

00:28:54
Greg: They  can  find  Billy  on  CBS.  What's  the  night  that's  got  the  Comey  Rule?

 

00:28:58
Billy Ray: There's  a  mini- series  that  I  made  called  the  Comey  Rules,  an  adaptation  of  James  Comey's  book.  It  airs  on  Showtime  September  27th  and  28th.  I  look  forward  to  the  robust  conversations  that  I think  will  follow.

 

00:29:12
Bill Curtis: Well,  that  should  be  interesting.

 

00:29:14
Greg: I'm  on  social  media.  Most  of  more  of  my  social  media  is  about  the  thrillers  that  I  write.  I  do  talk  a  bit  about  politics.  I'm  also  over  at  Thinkspot.  It's  a  website  designed  for  thinking  that's  unplugged  and  out  of  the  box.  I'm  over  there  a  bit  on  occasion  with  stuff  that's  more  political,  and  I'm  publishing  op- eds  primarily  to  talk  across  the  aisle  at  The  Bulwark  quite  a  bit.

 

00:29:35
Bill Curtis: Excellent.  Ed,  if  someone  wants  to  follow  you,  you've  had  quite  a  few  articles  published  lately,  how  do  they  find  you?

 

00:29:41
Ed Larson: Use  Google  and  look  them  up. I've quite  a  few  in  the  Hill,  some  in  the  Atlantic,  recently.  Of  course,  for  my  books,  both  the  new  edition  of  Summer  For  The  Gods,  with  the  new  afterward  and  Franklin &  Washington,  which  was  out  earlier  this  year.  Those  can  be  got  at  your  neighborhood  bookstore  or  your  library.

 

00:29:59
Bill Curtis: Okay.  Jane,  if  someone  wants  to  get  ahold  of  you  at  the  Malibu  Democratic  Club,  how  do  they  do  it?

 

00:30:06
Jane Albrecht: It's  going  to  be  a  busy  fall.  It's at www. malibudemocraticclub. org.

 

00:30:12
Bill Curtis: Billy  Ray  and  Gregg  Hurwitz,  thank  you  so  much  for  joining  us,  and  thanks  for  joining  us  on  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle.  We'll  see  you  next  week.

 

 If  you  like  what  you  hear,  please  tell  your  friends,  and  please  leave  a  comment.  Yes,  we'd  appreciate  it  if  you  gave  us  a  five- star  rating.  You  can  also  subscribe  to  the  show  on  Apple  podcast,  Stitcher,  Spotify,  or  wherever  you  listen  to  your  favorite  podcast.

 

 This  episode  was  produced  and  edited  by  AJ  Mosley  and  Mike  Thomas,  and  it  was  audio  mastered  by  Michael  Kennedy.  The  theme  music  for  Politics:  Meet  Me  in  the  Middle  was  composed  and  performed  by  Celleste  and  Eric  Dick.  Thanks  for  listening.
( singing).

 

00:30:51
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