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Opinion

Democracy Works: What makes a campaign deplorable?

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Mary Stuckey

Political campaigns in the United States, especially those for the presidency, can be nasty—very nasty. And while we would like to believe that the 2020 election was an aberration, insults, invective, and yes, even violence have characterized U.S. electoral politics since the republic’s early days. By examining the political discourse around nine particularly deplorable elections, Mary E. Stuckey seeks to explain why.

Stuckey is the Sparks Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State. She specializes in political and presidential rhetoric, political communication, and American Indian politics.

After the interview, Michael Berkman and Candis Watts Smith discuss how the despicable discourse Stuckey describes trickles down to local politics, particularly school board races in the current election cycle.

Episode Transcript

Michael Berkman
From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University, I'm Michael Berkman.

Candis Watts Smith 
I'm Candice Watts Smith

Jenna Spinelle
I'm Jenna Spinelle and welcome to Democracy Works. This week, we are talking with Mary Stuckey, Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences here at Penn State and author of a new book called deplorable the worst presidential campaigns from Jefferson to Trump. And in that book, Mary takes us on a real tour de force through the history of presidential campaign rhetoric and and how that has shaped the course of those elections. And, you know, I think aside from listeners of this show, and other political podcasts, the vast majority of people really only pay attention to politics every four years when the presidential election comes around, or that's one of their their attention is most focused on politics. So that's why it's kind of important to take a look at what's being said here, and how it really shapes the course of politics throughout history.

Michael Berkman
Yeah, Jenna, it is a tour de force she goes through, because through lots of campaigns up through 2016, even 2020, a little bit with a focus on what she refers to as deplorable or despicable language. And we could we could allow her to explain that herself during your during your interview. But I think your point is well taken that this is what people are paying attention. And Mary's Point is, this is when some of the language gets really anti democratic, and, and hurtful.

Candis Watts Smith 
What I appreciate about Mary's book, and just Mary as a scholars that she invites readers to provide other examples, right. So yeah, she focuses primarily on presidential campaigns. But you know, the fact of the matter is that we see this kind of language across the, you know, partisan aisle, across time, and at different levels of governance, and you know, of government. I think, you know, for me, just the idea of looking at what people are saying matters, you know, I think we kind of all have grown up in the sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt us. But in politics, they do words matter, especially when they come from a place of authority and power. Right. They we've seen these play out. abstractly, we've seen them play out in real ways over over the past few years, especially because those are the examples that we can think of, but certainly over time,

Michael Berkman
Yeah. I mean, Candace, I think one of the points that Mary makes really quite well, is that the idea that candidates, elected officials are making it okay to speak this way, is significant. And, you know, sometimes Trump's appeal has been described in in terms of saying out loud things, people wish they had always been allowed to say out loud, but felt like they weren't able to. And there's a strong element of that in here.

Candis Watts Smith 
And you know, what I think one of the things that comes out is that none of what we're seeing is inevitable. Much of it is strategic. And we've seen upticks in anti Asian American and Pacific Islander, you know, towards those Americans violence against them, violence against Latinx, you know, immigrants, I'm thinking about the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, you know, Asian Americans in Georgia, but beyond right, because of Trump's rhetoric toward COVID. threats to the lives of Governor's I mean, you know, this kind of incendiary rhetoric a political leaders, you know, we've seen the kind of effects of violence out of that rhetoric to Mary Stuckey really just kind of really makes clear that it's not seeing more deplorable campaigns, we're not seeing it, we're not seeing anything new. But it a reading of history. And looking back, we'd see patterns, we see patterns of exclusionary language, we see patterns of encouragement of authoritarian procedures, we see patterns of rhetoric that constrained who is, you know, understood and treated as first class citizens and as Americans. And it's when we look through a longer lens of history, we can see one that this isn't new, but to that we haven't learned our lesson or maybe we have learned our lesson, which is that this kind of rhetoric works to turn out certain kinds of voters With certain aspirations visions of this country, you know, and what that you know what their view is for our future, you know, in the US,

Michael Berkman
but what has changed? Is the technology, the sort of periods have deplorable language, or deplorable discourse tend to happen when there are new technologies or when old technologies are used for new purposes. So there's clearly some kind of interaction there that's going on in terms of, of, you know, how, how do we learn about what's going on in the world? Or what's what's going on in going on in a campaign?

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah. And we I think we'll we'll talk more about media in the interview. You're right, Michael, that is part of the the framework that Mary lays out for what makes campaign deplorable or not. But I think that that is a good place to head to the interview. So let's go now to the conversation with Mary Stuckey.

Mary Stuckey, welcome to Democracy Works. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mary Stuckey
Thank you for having me.

Jenna Spinelle
So there is a lot to cover in your book, deplorable. It's really is a tour de force through history. But I thought we might just start with with a bit of framing. Can you tell us what how you define deplorable and what it is that makes a campaign deplorable?

Mary Stuckey
That's a really great question. Of course, the book started shortly after the 2016 election, and arose largely out of frustration I had that people kept telling me how Trump was uniquely terrible, and the only, you know the worst thing that had ever happened. And we've never seen anything like this. And of course, anyone who studies either political science or history or the history of rhetoric, as I do is like, wait, what? No, we've had plenty of terrible people, which is a difficult thing to also argue when you are a fan of democracy, right? That there is this real tension between acknowledging the horribleness and also having something that looks like faith in the system. And so this book really arose out of a need to address that tension in a way that felt reasonable. The word deplorable is obviously a nod to Hillary Clinton's use of the basket of deplorables in the 2016 election, but also the subtitle right is the worst presidential elections from Jefferson to Trump. And there is an argument that could be made right for every election to be deplorable.

Jenna Spinelle
No, I was gonna say, and to that point, you know, you you set out several elements that comprise a deplorable election, perhaps as a way to, to make sense or, you know, somehow categorize these these elections or, you know, put them on on a scale from from best to worst or somehow make sense of them. Right? Can you walk us through what what those elements are, and maybe even how, how you decided what they should be, as you were thinking about how to categorize all these campaigns.

Mary Stuckey
So I want to make one thing super clear at the beginning, which is that a deplorable election isn't deplorable, because of who won? I'm not even remotely interested in the partisanship questions. There has been plenty of terribleness on all sides of the partisan files, because of course, the party system isn't always just two sides. So I think there's plenty of terribleness to go around. And I'm interested in questions of democracy, not questions of partisanship. And that that's really important for me to underline at the get go for all kinds of obvious reasons. And so what makes an election deplorable then is not who wins? It's the kind of anti democratic language that gets circulated. And that language is always floating around in our politics. I chose elections, because those are moments in which everyone's paying attention. And because they're bounded in time, right, so they're super study bubble. But the language itself is what creates a deplorable election, and it's what I call despicable discourse. And it's despicable because it's overtly or implicitly exclusionary. It serves anti democratic ends. It's often grounded in a particular kind of fear appeal. And it sometimes suggests that citizens have no power to affect the outcome and that power should be ceded to the government. So there's all kinds of different ways in which it functions to create a less healthy democracy, and those are the kinds of things that render an election deplorable.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, so you, you mentioned 2016. And you're right. There has been a lot of commentary and discussion about that election, including a lot on this show. So I don't want to necessarily rehash that let's let's pick a different example further back in history to help solidify some of these concepts. One of the things that particularly struck me one of the the campaigns you covered was 1924. Can you walk us through what what you saw as deplorable? What was the despicable discourse in that campaign?

Mary Stuckey
So 1924 is a really interesting campaign. And it's one that of course, everyone I'm sure is massively familiar with, and just has the details of that campaign right at their fingertips. It is a campaign in which the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan was so prominent across the nation, that not a single national politician could make a sustained argument against the violence of the Klan. There's a lot of really good work on the second version of the Klan, you know, in the 1920s, how it becomes almost this weirdly civic organization, you know, they had picnics, which is just an image that I never been able to get out of my head, like what was it like to go to a clan picnic. And the so many members of the clan were present at Madison Square Garden at the Democratic National Convention that they called it a clambake. And they were unable to actually pass a resolution in that convention against the violence of the client, one of the potential candidates for the Democratic slate William McAdoo, when he got nominated, the crowd started screaming, you know, cuckoo, cuckoo McAdoo, which is actually harder to say, than you would think. And the so that that kind of baseline of overt racism that structured, the whole campaign definitely marks that one as deplorable. So that was actually one of the easier calls to make.

Jenna Spinelle
And there's also I think, you this is this is a theme that goes throughout the book, certainly present in 1924. But even back to some of the the campaigns and elections leading up to the Civil War, there's this unwillingness from the candidates and just those in power in general, to denounce the anti democratic forces in the you know, in 24, was the KKK. But going back, it was that, you know, the pro slavery South rights. So can you talk more about how that plays in the, you know, sort of refusal to confront some of these anti democratic forces in the campaign?

Mary Stuckey
Yeah, there's two really important pieces of, of literature that come out of political science on this. And one of them is deep roots, right, which is just a wonderful book in a super depressing way. Because the argument that those authors make, is that it's that there are moments in which communities make choices. And if you choose an anti democratic road, it becomes very difficult to change that path. There's also literature coming out of political science, that indicates that there are moments where there are some kind of political rupture, where change actually becomes possible. And elections, by definition, are potentially ruptures. Right. So there's both real positive possibilities that can come out of these moments and really quite negative ones. And my favorite example, here is Nelson Rockefeller. Right, because in 1964, when Goldwater is running, and there's charges, there's so many charges of racism, and Jackie Robinson says, you know, who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, remarked very specifically on the racism he encountered and saw at that moment, and Nelson Rockefeller, a moderate Republican, made a very clear argument that and told the Republican Party essentially do not go down this road. If you go down this road right now, it is is going to be very, very hard to come back. And the Republicans booed him off the stage. And yet that moment where they acted in this aggressive, very ugly kind of way toward Nelson Rockefeller helped highlight the dangerous rhetoric. And of course, you know, Goldwater had his own sets of issues around that that didn't help at all, but Rockefeller by acting out, because the other thing that comes out of political science is that we know that when elites point to certain kinds of discourse and say, That's racist, that's undemocratic, and make that argument, people listen. And it makes the dog whistle politics much more difficult. And so in 64, Rockefeller makes that claim in 68, when Richard Nixon invents the Southern strategy, and instead of being the Goldwater fan, so the Goldwater supporter, overt kind of racism does a much more polite coated version of that. Rockefeller who knows exactly how this is working, there's an over 80 page memo in the Rockefeller archives on the Southern Strategy detailing it, Rockefeller absolutely had access to this information, and he stays silent. And that starts the Republican Party, I don't know if he'd spoken out he could have actually single handedly changed the course of how that goes. But his silence is very much and the silence of all moderate Republicans is they are absolutely complicit in the direction that the discourse in this country has taken since that moment,

Jenna Spinelle
kind of another theme that that comes up throughout these elections is the presence of third parties. And this is one where, you know, I know some people in in political science sort of points to this notion of we need more parties, you know, having having a third party might help strengthen democracy. There's those types of arguments that are out there. But I think if I understand your argument correctly, you see it as you know, the the elections that have third parties tend to be more on the deplorable side of things. Can you talk a little bit more about where where third parties fit into this? You know, how you're thinking about campaigns and elections?

Mary Stuckey
Yeah, that's such a, it's a mess. What I'm thinking actually is, is confused in my own brain, because at some moments, it's really clear that having third parties out there, provide an outlet for this discourse and give it a platform and allow more attention. But then it's launched like the Dixiecrats, right, actually become a focus for some really ugly rhetoric. But then, when the main parties say, oh, yeah, no, you're just a Monroe, you know, you're just a minority party, we're gonna stuff you in the corner, then they get like some attention, but also, they get treated as a despicable minority and dismissed. And so there's a utility to that. But also, they're giving it a voice, but they're giving it a small voice. So it's an easily dismissable voice, but maybe that voice will, you know, capture a large party. So one of the things that opens the door to deplorable elections, is a lack of faith in the system, a strong system where people believe that things are fairly equitable, where people believe that the process is fair. And often white people are believing this right? Those elections, when the system is strong, then it's easier to push back to speak over racist discourses. Now, this is itself problematic, right? Because the 1950s every everyone, all the white people were like, yes, the system's totally fair. And all you have to do to believe that is ignore Jim Crow. And so it really depends on who we're talking about seeing the system is fair and how much power they have. But it is very clear to me that the less legitimacy a system hat the system has at any given time, the more likely it is that people will start listening to despicable discourse.

Jenna Spinelle
And, you know, you bringing up the the 1950s there, I know you sort of cites the the campaigns of that era as examples of what you describe as traditional campaigns. I'm wondering if you could Talk just more about what that means. And also like, Who defines what traditional is? I think we can all if you ask people on the street, they could probably conjure some image of what they think of as a traditional election. But where where do those things come from?

Mary Stuckey
This is really interesting, because I gave a little talk to somebody as class over the summer and 19 year olds in the class kept saying, you know, I just wish that we could go back to the days when you know, and I'm like, when more those days, right, point me to a moment, and they got very frustrated and annoyed with me. And one of them said, Look, I'm 19 years old, and I will Okay, fine, be ignorant, but don't also claim. I can't pick a moment when this is true. But I know it was true. Right. And I did not get a lot of love in that class, which is fine, right? But there is this notion, we have that some time. Back in the past, you know, politics were functional, and they worked and everyone got along. And yes, that's absolutely true. If you ignore the fact that in the 1950s, Eisenhower was terminating the sovereignty of Indian nations, Jim Crow was operative. You know, women weren't exactly you know, what I would call equal citizens with men. Right. And so if you ignore certain kinds of systemic inequalities, then yeah, that's a super traditional election. And of course, the trick there is that those inequalities are baked into our constitutional system. And so who do we blame for discourse that becomes despicable. And I, and yeah, it's more likely that white people will exercise and it is almost always white people who exercise despicable discourse. And they're more likely to do that, when they when the economy is bad when they feel threatened by immigrants, African Americans, other people of color when they have perceived cultural threats. This is where the fear appeals that I talked about before, tend to come in. So the more secure white people feel, the less likely they are to exercise exclusionary discourse, which is, you know, not super surprising. But there are also ways that you can discuss inequality, systemic inequalities without resorting to fear appeals. And those ways are preferable to the ones that I'm styling as despicable. Which doesn't mean that I'm sort of like yay traditional elections are perfect. Let's just ignore you know, black people. No.

Jenna Spinelle
Yeah, I mean, I guess I have we have we figured out how to do that though are there there there moments or or points in in campaigns, you can think of where we have talked about the about systemic inequalities in a way that does not resort to those those fear appeals.

Mary Stuckey
So the closest I can come in the modern. And by saying modern I am, of course, revealing my age rather than yours. In a modern sort of world, right, would be Franklin Roosevelt. And Roosevelt, it should be I need to underline was not great on issues of race. He was much better interestingly, on issues of gender than that he is often given credit for the 1930s were a really super interesting decade that way. And he was bad on race. I mean, 12 years in office, not a single civil rights bill. So I'm not holding him up as a model of this. But he did talk about class inequality. And the metaphor that he used was that of the neighborhood, which if you think about neighborhood as geography, we can see how that could be super problematic. But he didn't, he talked about neighborhood. As you know, the whole nation was a neighbor that we needed to think about things in communitarian. And specifically because the Civil War is still a thing, even in the as late as the 1930s. He was worried about sectional differences. He had concerns about urban rural divides, and very much, of course, about class question. And he dealt with all of those through the metaphor of the good neighbor. And he could use religious metaphors and references that are probably impossible because he was very overtly Christian. And that gets trickier now. But there are metaphoric possibilities. To talk about community and to put things in a communitarian rather than individualism frame would be a great Great place to start, whether neighborhood is your metaphor or not?

Jenna Spinelle
So, you know, one of the things and this is maybe a fear appeal in and of itself perhaps is, you know, people out on the stump tonight I'm talking about the fate of our democracy is at stake here, particularly in the time since 2016. I think we've heard that a lot. I mean, you go back to 1800. And sort of talk about No, that was a time when actually the fate of democracy was was at stake. So can you refresh our memories on on that, and then you know, how to think about some of these more recent claims about democracy being at stake in a particular election, you know, compared to what was happening back then?

Mary Stuckey
Sure. I mean, yeah, at least we haven't had a duel on the floor of the house, right. So there's something to be said for dueling no longer away of managing political differences. I had, you know, in this class that I referred to one of the students was talking about this is the most polarized we've ever been. And I said, well, there was a civil war. Right. So there have been moments where we have been more fractured than we are. I fear appeals are tricky, right? Because if you say, the assault on the Capitol on January 6, January six threatens democracy, you are not wrong, right? insurrections are generally considered bad for democracy. And I'm not gonna say democracy is not at stake. So sometimes fear appeals are not bad. You know, I think the example I use in my book is alarm calls are great. And if you are an Impala, and there is a lion nearby, you know, a fear appeal is not a terrible idea. So the question then, when you're thinking about politics is when is it really a lion? And when is somebody saying, Oh, look, Lion, in order to get you to put them in power? And those are very different questions. Right? It took Franklin Roosevelt years to convince the American people that the Nazis were a threat. And he used some fear appeals that were pretty sketchy. And sometimes he did things that were a little less than completely honest. But was he wrong? No. Does that make his appeals? Okay. Not super good for democracy. And so if your question is really what's good for democracy, then you have to be very serious about what constitutes a threat to democracy, like what do threats look like? And those are questions that I think are the most interesting questions that people are talking about today. Right, and many of the people that have been on this podcast, right, are actually working very, very hard to specify, this is a danger to democracy for the following reasons. And a lot of the things that I think are important there are you have to be able to give reasons, right? This is a threat to democracy, because because that's kind of how democracy is supposed to work on an argumentative level.

Jenna Spinelle
And this is maybe maybe a good place to start to wrap things up. So you end the book, sort of making the argument that things can change, we don't necessarily have to accept that deplorable elections are inevitable, but only if people demand it. And I'm just wondering if there are any examples, you can can point us to from history of times when people did those things, or, you know, anything we can look to, as as a model of you know, what types of change can come about when when people do sort of step up and and demand more, or perhaps different things from the people who are running for for Office?

Mary Stuckey
Yeah, um, this is a really interesting question, because one of the things I want to go to a big principle rather than a small example, if I can there, because one of the things that seems true to me is that almost every president, even if they got elected on despicable discourse, when they begin to govern start to govern as president of all the people, which doesn't mean that like Richard Nixon became a saint, right when he got elected, not going there. But that he did, however, duplicitous Lee, you know, made more inclusive kinds of arguments as president that there was something about taking that office and One of the things where the things have gone sort of spiraling li wrong is that if one person in one election engages in despicable discourse, and there isn't a follow up in the next election, that discourse can get pushed back to the margins. It's when we don't challenge it. And when we allow it to happen, and one person after another does it that it becomes normalized. And so a think the choice is to say, in this particular instance, in our particular moment, Trump cannot be normalized, right? Like, we have to not let that happen again. And I'm not talking there about his policies, but about the the tactics he used to get elected, the demeaning the gender, the racialism, you know, those things, that if the Republican Party has a responsibility to say, we're not going to do that anymore. So far, they have not, I think, accepted that responsibility, except one or two people here and there. But this is also a problem that white people created. And I think it's super important that white people become the people who make it stop. Right, we cannot put this on the people who are most damaged by this discourse.

Jenna Spinelle
Right now, totally. One that that made me think of of one last question here. So I know you are primarily a scholar of presidential history and rhetoric. But have you thought at all or considered how this despicable discourse trickles down, whether it's to state governments or you know, any anywhere else other than, you know, how far down does it go from, from the White House, so to speak?

Mary Stuckey
You know, I can't decide if it goes down or comes up. Because a lot I mean, I'm a huge, huge advocate of people paying attention to the local, I think the Democratic Party in particular has put so much faith for so many decades on, the President will save us that the neglect of the down ballot is a huge freaking mistake. That if you want to control the politics that matter most in your life, you control the local politics, the state politics, and from then Congress, and you know, the presidency, a strong Congress can actually, you know, Donald Trump did many of the things he did because the Republicans in Congress did not stop him. Congress has the power to make changes. So electing people at that level, and a lot of the toxicity, which I think is obvious in you know, all kinds of ways is county love. If you look, as many people on your podcast have, right, if you look at state level data, it's ridiculous to talk about red states and blue states. It's counties that matter, right? It's the localities, and the toxic stuff that breeds there. Which isn't necessarily Democratic or Republican, because I don't make that argument about despicable discourse. But if you stopping it at the local level is, is crucial, I think.

Jenna Spinelle
All right. Well, we will leave it there. Mary, thank you for this book. And thank you for joining us today to talk about it.

Mary Stuckey
Jenna, thank you. And thank you for all the work this podcast does, which I also think is important in terms of supporting democracy.

Michael Berkman
Great interview, Jenna. And I'm not going to get the image of the clan picnic out of my head for quite a while. I wanted to pick up on something that came up towards the end of the interview where you were where you were talking a little bit about whether or not this kind of language trickles down or trickles up or what goes on. And Mary talked a little bit about local politics and boy, local politics week before election day here are quite a sight. I am struck right now by the vitriol and the the kind of discourse that we're seeing at school board meetings and local politics a little more generally, but really at school board meetings, ginned up over issues of you know, some real like mask mandates and whether or not kids have to wear masks or not. And some just, you know, completely created like around critical race theory and any other sorts of issues. And, I mean, it struck me what listening to that interview because we often think about local policy Six, in a much more favorable way, and as not quite as partisan, perhaps, but also as a place where people cultivate democratic habits. And I mean, de Tocqueville talked about this, and do we talked about this local governments are the schools of democracy. I know my colleague, Eric putter and I wrote a book called 10,000 democracies, where we talk about how school boards were, you know, a small democracy, some of them up in New England still run through town meetings, you know that yet, what we're seeing now is that people are learning at the local level, a really, maybe deplorable form of politics or certainly a kind of deplorable language.

Candis Watts Smith 
Yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, all, you know, obviously, all of these things are endogenous. And I do think that this, like the kind of nationalization of, you know, questions around questions around relevant, an accurate history of the United States. I do not want to say CRT, because that is not what the debate is about mask mandates about all of these things, right, we do see this kind of I think you're right, it's not organic. There are plenty of examples of the nationalization of local and state government, right. For example, as you pointed out, the heritage pointed out, like, excuse me, the Heritage Foundation, having this national tenure school board meeting month or, you know, celebrating the great parent revolt of 2021. And similarly, we see kind of that copycat legislation across states, you know, but I think that also, we see that there are signals sometimes from the local government and state governments that elites pick up on and so you know, some of the ones that kind of have come to my mind are like, proposition 187, in California, which was an incredibly anti immigrant, anti Latinx. Policy, and congressional Republicans saw that a lot of Californians, Californians, were all good on that kind of stuff. And they took that as a signal. And we've seen just basically people run with that.

Michael Berkman
Yeah, absolutely. This is not my phrase, but somebody referred to it as the politics of petulance. Hmm. And I thought that was that was actually pretty good. It is, it's like a massive temper tantrum. But it's being directed in really dangerous and disruptive ways. And, and, you know, returning to a point were making earlier the these are the farm teams for national and state politics. This is where this is where your future candidates come from, they come out of town. They come out of town boards, and they come out of school boards. So it's, it's it's significant. What's what's going on there. And I think one thing I like about Mary's work here is it gives us, I think, a little different frame for thinking about what it is that's going on there in terms of the kind of rhetoric that's being used.

Candis Watts Smith 
The title of the book is the worst presidential campaigns, not the worst presidential elections. And I make this I think that this is important to keep in mind that the campaign's each of them have a great deal of power about how they're going to strategize. And so maybe we might see that one campaign is more decent than the other. So I guess my I guess my I guess the thing that I'm saying is, is that it's kind of like another campaign resource, right? The reason why people don't want go for the public option is because they know that they need the millions of dollars to beat their opponent. And in this case, fear and anger are also read as campaign resources. And so it is helpful for the candidates to drum up those emotions, despite the fact that the long term effects are negative for everyone involved.

Michael Berkman
Yes, especially if your campaign is one based on resentment. And yes, that's right. A sense that somehow I'm being wronged I've been left behind other people are gaining the benefits now and so riling up people about that is is obviously yes a resource It's a strategy so

Candis Watts Smith 
Are we in a glass half full or a glass half empty today, Michael?

Michael Berkman
Why would we be glass half full today? What did I miss?

Candis Watts Smith 
Every No, there's always some there's always like some, like, maybe maybe it could be okay, maybe maybe that's not today?

Michael Berkman
No, I, you know, Mary Mary's book, you know, when I was first reading the book and I thought, you know, some campaigns are bad and some campaigns are okay. Where the rhetoric is really bad. But then as I started to think about what I'm really seeing at the school boards right now feels quite significant to me that maybe we really are seeing a more kind of fundamental shift. And you know why that would be whether it's technology, whether it's because Trump steps over lines, and nobody else would before? Or maybe it's because, you know, we had an insurrection and got away with it. There's nothing about this, that makes me optimistic. And you know, I usually am very sunny, and

Candis Watts Smith 
[Laughter] One thing that I been dreaming about, is that people just say that they've had enough. It's exhausting. Yes, it's exhausting to to go through the like this kind of stuff. For four years. You know, we all kind of watched all sorts of crazy things like we wake up and I say, what's gonna happen today? That's exhausting. I mean, I just would like to believe that enough, people do not want to keep living like that.

Michael Berkman
It's a nice thought. But as you say, you know, it's effective. And so I'm not quite sure that's how, you know, that's how those running these campaigns and running are necessarily going to see it. And there, it really does appropriately put much of the responsibility in the hands of the candidate, not the pump.

Candis Watts Smith 
Well, if any of that happens, we'll talk about it on Democracy Works.

Michael Berkman
Yeah. Excellent. Yeah. Nothing to add after that, Jenna, thanks for a terrific that was a terrific interview. Mary, thank you. Thank you so much for joining us on Democracy Works. I'm Michael Berkman.

Candis Watts Smith 
And I'm Candis Watts Smith. Thanks for listening.