Hello and welcome to technically the second Inside The Newsroom podcast newsletter, although chronologically it’s the first. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I spoke to Dave Weigel from the Washington Post in London. Dave’s forgotten more politics than many of us know, so I had to get a newsletter together for the episode, even if it’s slightly late. We covered a bunch of topics which you’ll find below, so if you find them super interesting, you can listen to the entire conversation above. Dave writes the The Trailer newsletter for the Post, and has a book on progressive rock music called "The Show That Never Ends."
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For my American friends who are fortunate enough to have been spared by the sh*tshow that is Brexit — it’s even got a sh*t name — here’s the latest… On April 11, Theresa May accepted the EU’s offer to extend the UK’s departure by six months to October 31. As if leaving on Halloween is a good idea... The UK can still leave the EU with no deal before then, and May 22 is the last day it can do so, because the European Parliament elections will take place a day later. Fun.
Are UKIP Back?
The Nigel Farage-led UK Independence Party infamously failed to convert almost four million votes in the 2015 general election into a single parliamentary seat. They then flirted with political wasteland with just 600,000 votes in the 2017 snap general election after their Brexit wish came true a year earlier. Fast forward to 2019 — Farage has left the party and Brexit may not even go ahead — and membership of UKIP has surged 50 per cent in the past 12 months. The far-right party has doubled down on its racist positions with the appointment of Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) as a “grooming gangs advisor.” No seriously, that’s actually real. You know a party is wayyyyy too extreme if it's too much for Nigel.
The rise of populism
Volodymyr Zelensky's election as president of Ukraine is the latest political earthquake, as the actor and comedian rode a wave of populism and anti-corruption to oust Petro Poroshenko. The most common misconception about populism is that it only comes from the right. My colleagues at The Guardian analyzed troves of data and found that populism comes from both sides of the aisle, and began around 20 years ago. In 2003, 23 million people were under populist rule. That figure is now a whopping 2.5 billion.
Will the ‘Bernie effect’ bite Sanders in the butt?
Talking of populism… Bernie Sanders undeniably changed the Democratic Party in 2016, energizing millions of voters and shifting the party’s platform way to the left in the process. But will Bernie’s newfound celebrity actually be a hurdle for him in 2020? In 2016, Bernie had a clean slate and just Hillary Clinton in his way. This time around, his progressive policies overlap with the likes of Elizabeth Warren, and to a lesser extent Beto O’Rourke, along with a handful of the other bajillion candidates.
What's Obama up to these days?
Barack Obama has slowly re-entered the political fray with a number of secretive meetings with more than a dozen declared Democratic 2020 candidates. The likes of Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke and Corey Booker have all been likened to Obama, in what has been branded by some the “Obama Primary”, because of the weight a formal (though unlikely) endorsement from the former president will carry. Any endorsement from Obama might be enough to put one of the candidates over the top, in part because 54 percent of people in a recent WSJ/NBC poll said they felt positive about Obama, which is relatively high for a former pres.
While Obama is very much Democratic royalty, voters did reject Hillary Clinton's somewhat continuation of his administration in 2016. For all those who'll line up to liken themselves to Obama, there are numerous candidates who'll separate themselves and point out that the former president didn't do enough. A prime example is on healthcare: Obama introduced the Affordable Care Act, which provided health insurance to an additional 21 million people, but the likes of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are campaigning on Medicare for all.
Right-wing media damage
Time for a book recommendation… How did the far right-wing of America become so prominent? “Network Propoganda“, according to three Harvard University researchers. Their book — Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics — chronicles a study of millions of online stories and social media posts across the news spectrum. The researchers found that the right-wing media (cough, Fox News, InfoWars) sowed “confusion and distrust in the broader American ecosystem.” In contrast, there were “no significant Web sites on the left that parallel the chronic falsity of those on the right.” Chronic falsity. Ouch.
Below are some relevant podcasts with guests I’ve had on in recent weeks. Next up on the podcast + newsletter is Richard Deitsch.
Thanks so much for making it all the way to the bottom. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to get a newsletter about a cool news topic in your inbox every time I release a new podcast (1-2 times a week). You can find me on Twitter at @DanielLevitt32 or email me corrections/feedback or even a guest you’d like me to get on the podcast at email@example.com.