American Dumpster Fire
Photo credit: Rosa Pineda / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) and Eran Kampf / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A conversation with author, journalist, and professor Tom Nichols, who believes that the US has become a nation of adolescents and toddlers.

We have become a nation of narcissistic adolescents. We want what we want when we want it,  and if we don’t get it, we stomp our feet at the ballot box. 

We are not — according to our guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, author, journalist, and professor at the Naval War College Tom Nichols — a serious country. We have lost the ability to solve big problems. 

Nichols, author of the 2017 bestseller The Death of Expertise, takes a caustic look at the political and cultural forces undermining our democracy in his new book, Our Own Worst Enemy.

He explains that the problem is not just our politicians, but the people who put them in office. Americans have come to think that democracy is about the government satisfying our grievances and whims. 

Nichols singles out social media for boosting narcissistic strains and fostering social isolation. He points out that while some like to argue that we live in apocalyptic times, in fact we live in an age of unprecedented peace and prosperity. With so much technology making lives easier, he says, we have become bored. The result plays itself out in an illiberal style of performative politics. He explains how and why January 6 is a perfect example of this.

While there may be plenty of blame to go around, Nichols thinks most of it lies squarely on individual citizens. Nursing personal grievances, often too lazy to do the hard work of a democracy, they have joined up with what he calls “political entrepreneurs,” who have turned rage into a civic virtue. He reminds us that if the pandemic, with its more than 600,000 deaths, can’t pull us together for a common purpose, then maybe nothing can anymore. 

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Full Text Transcript:

(As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to a constraint of resources, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like and hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.)

Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Schechtman. Almost everywhere in the world, liberal democracy is, if not under siege, at least being tested, in a few previous times have would-be autocrats found such fertile ground, but why? The world’s and yes, America’s standard of living is rising overall as Steven Pinker has pointed out, crime and violence is down. The census tells us that diversity is naturally occurring and technology has made life easier. While we are not perfect, the arc of history is bending towards justice. And yet we’re angrier, more frustrated, and more willing to buy snake oil than ever before.

We’re quick to cast blame, quick to believe anything that fits our preconceived narrative, and each side has its Boogeyman and Strawman. But what if the answer to these problems is not out there? What if Cassius was right? — that the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. 

We’re going to talk about this today with my guest, Tom Nichols. He’s a Professor of National Security at the US Naval War College. He’s a columnist for USA Today, and a contributing writer at The Atlantic. He’s the author of the previous book, The Death of Expertise.He’s a former aide to the US Senate and has been a fellow at the International Security Program at the JFK School of Government at Harvard. And I should point out, he has a very active presence on Twitter. It is my pleasure to welcome Tom Nichols here to talk about his new book, Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy. Tom, thanks so much for joining us.

Tom Nichols: Thank you for having me.

Jeff: It’s great to have you here. Have we gotten to a point where the reality of life today is that it really has put a sell-by-date on democracy?

Tom: I think you have to go back and start about 40 years ago, because the real pandemic is we’re living through a biological pandemic, but we’ve had a psychological pandemic of narcissism since about the early ’70s. This has inflated our sense of entitlement, our sense of grievance, our need to constantly be performative in public spaces. Some of that was kept in check by things like the Cold War and by things like resource stringency and the energy crisis, and the terrible economic times of the 1970s, which of course, are now completely forgotten in the midst of history.

After about 1990, this growth of narcissism along with the end of the Cold War, along with a prolonged period of peace and affluence, and really rapid rise in living standards, I think, convinced us that somehow any of our unmet needs, anything that makes us feel bad, any difficulty or real harm that might come to us is not just a part of life, but it’s actually a failure of democracy. It’s a failure of our system of government.

We now spend an inordinate amount of time scapegoating each other and blaming each other for things that are basically, sometimes our own fault, sometimes the faults of others, but I think it’s caused us to lose faith in the idea that we can solve problems as members of the democracy.

Jeff: Yet, in so many ways, we’re fighting the same battles that arguably led to this culture of narcissism. The things, for example, that Christopher Lasch talked about in his book about narcissism back in the late ’70s were that the revolutions of the ’60s, the spiritualism of the ’70s — all of those cultural battles still seem to be with us today.

Tom: Yes. I actually talked about Lasch in the book, and point out how precious he was. A lot of the things Lasch warned about got put on steroids after about 1990 when there was no longer an alternative model in the world challenging democracy. I think that reduced people’s sense of common purpose or common threat. Again, with rising living standards, and, I talked about this for a chapter in the book, with the rise of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, where we now are completely unrestrainable in our ability to yell at each other and criticize each other, and to engage in our own performative foolishness.

Again, I will step forward and say I’m part of the problem. I have a really large Twitter account. I use social media regularly. But a lot of these things that were percolating throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, really became unleashed somewhere, I would argue in the early ‘90s, for a variety of reasons and now have become global and like a wildfire burning out of control.

Jeff: It does seem like these things have become a feature rather than a bug in that the whole fundamental idea of democracy is essentially based on public opinion. Given the nature of how we shape public opinion today, because of social media and the things you’re talking about, there’s no way for the two things not to be conflated, obviously, in a negative way.

Tom: Right. I think one of the problems with this wave of illiberal populism (which isn’t just afflicting us here in the United States; it’s swept through Italy, the UK, Poland, Hungary, Turkey) is that it does conflate public opinion and public passion with democracy. One of the things that I try to argue in the book is that liberal democracy, small-l liberal democracy is not based on opinion. It’s not someone’s opinion about whether you have human rights. It’s not someone’s opinion on whether you get to vote. It’s not someone’s opinion on whether you have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Part of the reason we institute constitutional government is so that basic rights and basic ideas of democracy and liberty are not subject to public opinion. Again, I would argue that it’s part of this narcissistic sense of entitlement that says, “Hey, if 51% of us want something, it has to be right.” Therefore, if enough of us yell loudly enough, we should get what we want even if it’s wrong and I’ll stop here.

You’ll see this when people say, “We’re not sending our representatives to Washington to do what they think is right. We’re sending them to do what we’re yelling at them to do.” That is completely the opposite of representative government in a democratic republic like ours. If that were the case, then we could just all gather in the middle of the country, 300 million at a time, and vote on the budget every year.

We don’t do that, very few countries do. Only a handful of countries have direct democracy, and I think people have really come to misunderstand that democracy is not just a matter of who gets together and yells the loudest, that there are just some things that are protected by constitutional guardrails and principles that are not amenable to flat declarations of public opinion.

Jeff: Yet this seems to grow out of some of the things you’ve talked about in The Death of Expertise for example?

Tom: Absolutely. Part of the reason I wrote Our Own Worst Enemy, is that this problem of democracy was always lurking under the unwillingness of people to admit the limitations on their own knowledge or to become more informed about governing their own country.

One of the things that struck me when I was doing book talks about The Death of Expertise is how many people would eventually ask. They’d say, “Okay, that’s all very interesting professor. Professors like it when people read books and know stuff, but what does this say about democracy?” I would find myself rubbing my forehead and saying, “Well, nothing good”.

I just found myself saying, “You cannot sustain a democracy on willful ignorance. You just can’t.” You can’t make health care policy in a country where roughly a third of the people want to abolish Obamacare but keep the Affordable Care Act, because they don’t know that those are both the same thing. That is actually a true problem, that there are millions of people in this country who don’t know that Obamacare and the ACA are actually the same thing. You can’t make policy in an environment like that.

Jeff: Right. We’ve heard people say they don’t want the government to get involved with their social security.

Tom: Right. They want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare, and you can’t reason with the public like that. When the public becomes irrational and unreasonable simply because it wants what it wants, and it wants it right now, what you’ll have are politicians and political entrepreneurs who are more than willing to pander to that, even when they know better.

One of the things that has really become a striking feature of life in the democracies of the developed West are politicians who smirk and say, “Okay, I’ll go up and say stupid things, because then I get to go to Washington and I know these things are true.” There is an episode in the book where I talk about Boris Johnson, who behind closed doors in London, says, “Brexit is a stupid idea. Nobody knows how to do it. It doesn’t make any sense”.

Then he walks out the door and says, “Brexit is the future of an independent Britain.” He knows better, they all know better, but because the public doesn’t know better, we now do not have democratic representation. We have a class of charlatans who are willing to tell us anything we want to hear. That’s incredibly dangerous.

Jeff: How did we get to this idea of thinking that somehow our grievances should result in a kind of direct democratic participation? California, in some ways, was the bellwether of some of that.

Tom: I don’t want to just ascribe this to easy answers about trophy generations or spoiled kids or any of that stuff, but you really have to go back years to understand that we have mutated from a society of stoic and fairly tough adults. You can go back to my dad’s generation, World War II, or even the people who went through Vietnam, the people who went through the Depression or the terrible years of the mid-1970s. There was a kind of an adult. It’s not to say people were mad and that they didn’t have grievances to express, but they express them as adults.

What’s been interesting has been the degradation of the American public, and the public in other countries, into surly adolescents who think that if the government can’t solve everything, then the government has failed them. I think this is partly a problem of resilience that is created by increasing living standards. It’s the old bit about how you have totally ignored how cheap it is to fly because you’re so angry that the Wi-Fi doesn’t work at 30,000 feet. I think that there’s a lot of that.

Now, I know people listening will say, “But there are hard times, there are people suffering.” That’s true. Interestingly enough, as I point out in the book, these are not the people who are attacking democracy. The people that are largely attacking democracy in the United States, Italy, Poland, and in the UK, in Turkey, are actually the middle class. I think we have a by and large bored and affluent middle class.

As the great writer Eric Hoffer said in 1951, the most dangerous times for people in a democracy who are faced with a mass movement that could upend the order is the prevalence of widespread and unrelieved boredom. I think we have brought that on ourselves, and we don’t know quite what to do with ourselves. That’s a remarkably dangerous thing. You really see it with the January 6th people, the real estate salesman, and the bored middle managers who are instagramming their fun day, trying to burn down the capital. That’s the most extreme version of it.

Jeff: There’s no reason to think, or at least I don’t see anything on the horizon, that mitigates that. In fact, just the opposite. Technology keeps making life easier and more prone to the kind of boredom you’re talking about.

Tom: Yes, there’s a great line from a British writer who said, the problem with modernity is not that it is too hard, but that it is too easy. I had actually thought, and I said this when I was talking about The Death of Expertise, and I really believe that about two years ago, that when the pandemic began, I said, “This is the kind of thing that will snap people out of it.” Normally, what snaps a kind of torpid bored society out of its difficulties is that they have to pull together in an economic downturn or during a war or a pandemic or some other national trial.

In fact, what the pandemic did was revealed just how divided we are. Again, our incredible sense of entitlement that’s like, we developed the vaccine in a year, a ninety-eight percent effective vaccine, and people won’t take it, because they want to be demonstrative, performative, and show their political colors by saying, “I don’t care. I’ll be fine.” Because in American life, everything is always fine. It’s really a shocking thing. You see in other areas as well, I would point out as we’re speaking, we’re trying to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. One of the reasons it’s been so hard, and I say this looking at it as a foreign policy analyst.

One of the reasons it’s been hard to withdraw from Afghanistan is that the American public never want to make an adult decision about this. “Do we stay and tamp down potential terrorist threats and the terrible things that can happen in Afghanistan, but out of potential cost of long deployments and having our men and women overseas? Or do we come home and accept that we are now out of it and don’t have to be there anymore?” What the public wanted was, “We want to be out, and we want to be out with no consequences.

We want the world to be, again, a very childlike expression. We want the world to look the way we want it to look and we don’t want any guff about risks, or costs, or problems, or dangers. Again, you cannot run a democracy that way. You cannot maintain a government on the wish casting of angry adolescence.

Jeff: Yet, to your point, if things like 9/11, the financial crisis in 2008, and the pandemic have not really turned any of this around, in fact, it has gotten worse, what could possibly turn it around at this stage?

Tom: I would love to tell you that I ended the book on a big, optimistic orchestral sweep with the ode to joy, but I didn’t. I could tell you that I might be lying, but I do want to take exception to something here: 9/11 and the pandemic were things beyond our control. I was 40 when 9/11 happened and I remember the country pulling together. I remember people even being nicer to each other in traffic. Now, I live between Boston and Providence. For me to say that people are nice about traffic tells you that’s a big deal around here. It didn’t last, but I did have this sense that we were in it together.

The Great Recession, a lot of what happened in The Great Recession, particularly with the housing bubble, people are not going to like hearing me say this, but we brought a lot of that on ourselves. In the end, we were buying houses that we could not afford. We were getting out on limbs that are unsustainable. In the book, I talked about how we’re already seeing the danger signs and red flags with young people taking out seven-year car loans for cars they simply cannot afford, and eventually, they’re going to default and that will ripple through the rest of the economy.

Once again, we’re going to look at each other and say, “Well, I guess the government is responsible, because they let me take these loans.” We’ve really not been willing to — and this does not let Wall Street and all the bankers with the financial instruments that were floating around out there, I didn’t want any of those people off the hook — but on the other hand, it’s still on you if you walk into a casino with your mortgage money. Even if that casino is rigged, you shouldn’t have walked in there in the first place.

I think we’re just not willing to take a hard look at ourselves and to say, “What do we want? What do we expect? Do we really understand the limits of government? Do we understand our own responsibilities?” I think instead, we’ve just become, again, a society that says, “I want what I want and I want it without a lot of guff from elected officials telling me what things cost or what the risks and problems could be”.

Jeff: Do you find it unusual or odd that in all the years this has been going on, and let’s use your framework of the past 40 years, that there hasn’t been any real adult supervision? That nobody has come along, either an individual, or an institution, or anything else to really attempt to fill that role?

Tom: Well, we’ve had politicians over the years, and I will say until recently, politicians of both parties, but they have almost always been shouted down. I think this really accelerates in the ’90s when politics becomes a tribal sport. Now, depending on who you ask, if you ask Republicans, they say this begins somewhere in the late ’80s. I think most conservatives will pin this somewhere around the defeat of the nomination of Robert Bork. Liberals, I think, will tell you that this begins with the arrival of Newt Gingrich in Congress with the burn it down mentality.

Whoever is responsible, the American public rewarded everyone involved for being purely tribal and team-oriented about winning. We increasingly replaced wonky politicians who knew how to cut deals, the kind of boring guys like Bob Michel, or even Tip O’Neill to some extent, and we replaced them with celebrities. Now that, at the presidential level — that’s always been something of a problem. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan. People love glamour, they will vote for celebrities. This started to bleed down into the nationalization of elections.

Again, I will say that social media put that on a huge amount of steroids. It’s amazing to me to think that people have arguments over, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or — I’m trying to think of a conservative from another — Louie Gohmert in Texas because in an earlier time, you wouldn’t have known who these people were. You voted for your congressmen, you didn’t vote for your member of Congress based on what was happening in New York 14 or Virginia 7 or Texas 6. I’d be willing to bet, if you tested most people today, they could tell you who the celebrity members of Congress are and probably can’t name their own member of Congress. That happens in the ’90s and it burns out of control through into the 2000s.

Jeff: In so many ways, this performative aspect of politics today has become another way to save the boredom that you were talking about.

Tom: That is absolutely right. It’s a way of saying I was meant — and again, the January 6th people were the extreme version of this, but you really have expressed in almost every interview, and I don’t just mean on social media; in the book I talk about interviews that were done with ordinary voters, and caucus-goers, and primary voters — you really get the sense that people say, “I was meant for bigger things than being a medical records office person; I’m going to solve the problem of social justice in America; I’m going to solve the problem of sexual decadence in America; I’m going to solve wars overseas.” Instead of saying, “Look, I go to work. I take care of my kids. I take care of my family. I read a newspaper and I know enough about this to know the person that I want representing me in Washington”.

There’s this extremely performative narcissistic and grandiose approach to politics among ordinary people that is absolutely poisonous. It’s absolutely toxic. It really defeats the whole point of electing sensible and responsible people to go and negotiate problems on our behalf. That’s why I think things aren’t happening now. We send people to Washington not to advocate and fight for interests or to come to some.

There’s nothing wrong with fighting in Congress. George Will has a great line; he says, “If you don’t like people fighting in Congress, then your problem is with James Madison and not with anyone else.” We’re sending people there simply to engage in scorched earth and to defeat the other guy so that you can get the emotional charge of holding up the scalp of your opponents and hooting about it. That’s not a democracy, that’s just mobs versus mobs.

Eventually, what I really worry happens is not that the mob takes over, but that technocrats who have to keep the lights on, and keep the roads paved, and airplanes in the air — I think this is all already happening, and this is why I’m a bit pessimistic at the end of the book — I think while all this yelling is going on between all these uninformed mobs, the technocrats say, “You know what? We’ll just keep things running and we’re just not going to ask the people these questions anymore because we can’t get answers that make any sense, so we’ll just run things”.

Jeff: What responsibility or involvement do you think does the business community have? Because it’s another leg on the stool, and in some ways, it caters to this, it takes the economic benefit from this, but in other ways, it seems to be more adult sometimes. Talk about that.

Tom: The problem is that consumerism is one of the parts of this whole problem. Again, rampant consumerism that I think begins in the ’60s with the permanent institutionalization of a youth culture, and marketing to a youth culture even when those youths are 70 years old. We’ve developed a permanent consumerism that says “I want really great stuff and I want it really cheap”.

At some point, and I had this argument with friends, I come from (I think people should know, I don’t come from an affluent background) a working-class factory town. My dad worked in a chemical plant. My parents were not educated people, but when these changes in the international economy, including globalization, including offshoring, started to happen, I had arguments with people back home and I said, “Look, we can make color TVs in America, but you’re going to have to pay more money for them because American workers need much higher wages and they need healthcare”.

People would say to me, “I’m not paying that, businesses should take less profit.” Of course, these are the same people who say, “But if that hurts the economy or hurts my retirement account, I don’t want them to do that either.” As we became primarily heavily tilting toward an investor society, people said businesses should do whatever pumps the price of the stock up in the short term. I think that’s another problem with business, and where business has to own some of its problems because American business is all about short-term thinking.

It’s all about surviving the next quarter, keeping the stock price high, but I’m going to keep pointing out that the American people are getting exactly what they’ve demanded, which is a lot of junk cheap. They don’t want to be told that maybe you don’t need three (the average American home has between two and three televisions with it) When I was a kid, maybe when you were a kid, Jeff, that was a sign of that [consumerism]; rich people had two televisions. Three televisions was just overkill. That’s not in addition to the computer screens and smartphone screens.

If you count the number of screens per household in an American home, you’re starting to get up to six or seven. You simply can’t maintain that without finding super cheap labor and super cheap parts all around the world to make that happen. People have come to expect it, but they don’t want to know about the costs, and they don’t want to know about why that’s not being made in their hometown. Well, because you can’t make it in your hometown. If you’re unhappy about it, in some sense, you’re getting exactly what you wanted.

Jeff: Is there any place in the world that is trying harder than we are to get this right? Even if not totally successful?

Tom: I think there are places. I point out the placid democracies that seem to be doing better in the short term. I think mostly those are federal systems like ours. I think centralized systems aren’t, like France or Poland or Turkey, with strong executives, tend to be whipsawed a little more easily. I guess I could point to Canada and Switzerland, but even in Switzerland, and I point this out in the book, when I was in Switzerland talking about democracy, and public information, and mass movements, there were — Switzerland is a direct democracy, they literally do get together over a year and do things like vote on the budget — there were Swiss academics and journalists who were saying, “We’re not sure we can keep doing this because our public is becoming less informed, less civic, less cooperative, less willing to negotiate with each other.” Again, I think that rather than point the finger at any one country, I think you have to think about how you maintain the rapid rise of living standards without it leading people to say, “If I don’t get what I want, my government has failed me”.

Even in places that I point to that I think are probably doing it better than we are, they’re worried, they’re a little concerned. Canada has its own nutty right-wing movement. The Swiss are doubting whether they can keep having national referenda on basic issues. There are other parts of Europe. I don’t want to be completely negative, but I think the other thing that’s interesting is that the populist wave seems to have crested and is already receding, at least for now, in places like Italy, and France, and the UK; not so much in Poland or Hungary.

Because one thing that defeats these movements is that populus are really good at gaining power, and then they really, really suck at governing. They’re just not good at running governments. People come to their senses when they say, “Wow, stuff doesn’t work anymore.” Maybe that might be an optimistic part of this.

Jeff: I would argue that’s the most optimistic, that this is like adolescence, a phase that we’re going through, and that it will burn itself out. It seems to be the most optimistic way one can come away from it.

Tom: I want to believe that, and I think somewhere in my heart, I do believe it because I think democracy is the natural condition of a human being. I don’t think any of us really want to get up in the morning and be harangued by some crazy charismatic leader telling us how we should think, and who we should marry, and where we can go and all that stuff. What my concern is, is if we burn down a lot of the foundations of democracy while this phase ranges out of control, it’s very hard to put them back. I worry about entering a dark age where democracy is just completely on the ropes for years.

I think it’s important to point out there are other countries in the world that would be more than happy to see that happen, and to take advantage of it while we are completely wrapped up in our own problems. When I say other countries, I of course mean Russia, and China, and Iran, and the other authoritarian states in the world. If people want a sneak preview of what that looks like, it’s important to remember that the last time we went through a real freefall like this, it was in the mid-1970s.

We were defeated in Vietnam. Our economy was at a standstill. We had an economic embargo on energy that had a script by the throat. We were all mad at each other. We were starting to go to discos, which is always a warning sign. Our opponents in the world really took advantage of that and expanded their power. I think for those of us who study the Cold War, we look back at the late 1970s as a near miss, that that was a pretty dangerous time where things could have gone one of many ways, and not all of them good for us because we really lost our sense of national will, our sense of national purpose.

People forget that Gerald Ford had to go to Brussels in 1975 and basically plead with NATO to stay together, that we had totally almost ceased to function as a unitary country because we were sitting in gasoline. I tell students about gasoline lines, and they don’t believe me. I tell younger students about that and I tell them how I had to sit and get gas on a certain day, because of my license plate. They give me that look that says, “Well, you’re a professor and you’re actually not allowed to lie to us, but we’re not buying that.” Like it couldn’t have happened.

I’m worried that we’re in that social freefall and yet, the one thing that isn’t happening to us is our economy, even after a pandemic, is stronger than it was in the 1970s. The indicators that people really care about. I graduated from high school when there was 10% unemployment and people forget that. Maybe we’ll come out of it, but there could be some dark times ahead.

Jeff: Maybe we’ll come out of this finally differently, that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, that to your point, that some of these institutions (even if this is a phase), some of these institutions may get burned down. They get torched in such a way that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can put it back together again and that we should be thinking about what comes after the Madisonian democracy we talked about because maybe there is something after that adapts to this strange, crazy world we’ve been talking about.

Tom: Well, I push back on that, because I think, principles of liberty and justice —  that have guided us, even when we haven’t observed them, even when we have been imperfect or sinful in our own ignorance or avoiding of those principles — have guided us as I think as a lighthouse in the dark for 250 years. Once you say that human beings have inalienable rights, there’s nowhere else to go. You can’t scale that back and say, “Well, humans have some unalienable rights, and the rest we’re going to give back to governments”.

I’m not so much worried about the structures of government. I talked about this in the book where I said, “Look, there’s nothing sacred about 50 states or the size of the House of Representatives that hasn’t been enlarged since 1913.” We should definitely make those changes. We need to expand the size of the Senate because we’re at the point where we’re basically giving votes to empty real estate now. Those are all reforms that can be undertaken.

I worry about burning down the fundamentals, the basics that say democracy is democracy unless it’s an outcome we don’t like, and then we can have a national plebiscite like Britain did with Brexit. Well, let’s decide things by just everybody time one on one night and see what happens, and if it’s 51-49 we change the destiny of the country overnight. I am innately small-feeconservative about that. I don’t trust public opinion. I don’t trust sudden mass populist movements.

I think constitutional democracy exists exactly to prevent us from doing those kinds of things and forcing us to think and reason and deliberate beyond our immediate emotional upswing. I take your point that, sure, we’re not the same government we were in 1870 after the Civil War. We’re not the same government we were in 1920 when women finally could vote, but the idea that somehow we will no longer be a constitutional republic with certain guidelines about human rights, and freedom, and voting, I don’t want to change those things and I hope we don’t.

Jeff: Tom Nichols, his book is Our Own Worst Enemy. The Assault from Within on Modern Democracy. Tom, I thank you so much for spending time with us.

Tom: Thanks for having me, Jeff.

Jeff: Thank you. Thank you for listening and joining us here on the WhoWhatWhy podcast. I hope you join us next week for another radio WhoWhatWhy podcast. I’m Jeff Schechtman. If you like this podcast, please feel free to share and help others find it by rating and reviewing it on iTunes. You can also support this podcast and all the work we do by going to


  • Jeff Schechtman

    Jeff Schechtman’s career spans movies, radio stations and podcasts. After spending twenty-five years in the motion picture industry as a producer and executive, he immersed himself in journalism, radio, and more recently the world of podcasts. To date he has conducted over ten-thousand interviews with authors, journalists, and thought leaders. Since March of 2015, he has conducted over 315 podcasts for

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