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Departures Interview with Kurt Andersen

This week we are pleased to be joined by Kurt Andersen, a polymath Peabody-award winning journalist, novelist, and radio host to talk about his latest book, “Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America.”

But before we get into the prerecord discussion of the book, we couldn’t resist bringing Kurt back on the show for an update following one of the wildest weekends in American politics, as President Donald Trump was hospitalized for his COVID-19 infection and all the bizarre behavior that has ensued.

Asked by host Robert Amsterdam what he makes of this bewildering but not unexpected turn of events, Andersen compares the experience to watching a television series, as Americans are left to wonder why the writers are trying to cram too much incident not just into the last episode, but the last 30 minutes.

Judging by the video of the maskless ceremony in the Rose Garden last week, Andersen argues that Republican elites had “convinced themselves that the fantasy they were purveying, that this isn’t really a problem, was true.”

Andersen’s book “Evil Geniuses” spans a much broader section of recent American political history well before the election of Donald Trump, focusing on the early 1970s, highlighting many events and trends that made it possible to arrive to our current moment. Much of the book focuses on the willing role played by later Democratic administrations of advancing and consolidating a version of liberal economic policy that would later decimate social equality in the country, right at the same moment that the country began to stagnate culturally, with an emphasis on deepening nostalgia for decades past.

Andersen discusses with Amsterdam why he chose to focus on this particular inflection point, when America stopped becoming more progressive and equal, and turned toward rolling back the New Deal consensus and put in place a different system that prioritized “market-based solutions” for all social problems.