03/23/2021 - Mark Has the Plague

Mark Blyth, political economist at Brown University's Watson Institute, and political scientist Carrie Nordlund share their take on the news.

On this episode: the Atlanta spa shootings and anti-Asian violence in America; the crisis at the US-Mexico border and Biden's political dilemma around immigration; the risks and rewards of the US pandemic relief bill; EU vaccine rollouts goes from bad to worse; the rise and teetering fall of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; the in-retrospect-obviously-doomed relationship of Meghan Markle and the British Royal Family.

You can learn more about Watson’s other podcasts here.


CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, hello, there, Mark. How are you? Welcome to Mark and Carrie, spring break edition.

MARK BLYTH: We're not going to Miami yet, but goddamnit, I wish I was there.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Me, too. Me, too, with my sunburn. Yeah. Where are you in the semester? Are you middle--

MARK BLYTH: Three. Yeah, this semester's shorter, because it started earlier, and we're also doing a summer semester to try and catch up, and all of that stuff. So I'm three weeks towards the end. So all of my students are basically exhausted at this point, because it's been a very intense semester. And yeah, I think basically, they're kind of just looking forward to being done at this point.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Are you teaching the summer session?

MARK BLYTH: No. But I taught in the fall, and I taught in the spring.

CARRIE NORDLUND: OK. I wonder-- just the cycle of faculty who are teaching essentially all of Twenty-Twenty and Twenty-Twenty-One and forever.

MARK BLYTH: No, absolutely, absolutely. So where are you hanging out now? You're always on the go, despite the fact that there are travel bans everywhere.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I know. Well, this is the great thing about having no real responsibilities in life. So I'm coming to you from the swamp at New Iberia, Louisiana.

MARK BLYTH: There's a New Iberia?

CARRIE NORDLUND: There is. (LAUGHING) As opposed to just Iberia. And actually, right on a river, so actually, there are some alligators and a lot of crawfish to be eaten as well. So if you're a crawfish fan--

MARK BLYTH: Fantastic.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But on the serious side of stuff, there have been a few things going on in the world since we last spoke, and one of them, of course, is the shooting in Atlanta. And there are so many ways to take this, and I've been thinking about this, because it happened, and how to sort of talk about this. And I guess I have sort of the micro, like the person who did it and what happened, and then the sort of bigger-picture side of things.

MARK BLYTH: So let me start with this. All right. So we have the advantage, if you will, that you are an American, Asian woman, right?


MARK BLYTH: Right? I believe that's true, right? So there are marked increases in violence, abuse, confrontation, et cetera with Asians in America, including Asian-Americans.

So let's start with the most micro of you. Are you feeling this? Are you feeling this upsurge in hostility and violence in any way?

CARRIE NORDLUND: You know, it's funny. One of my friends asked me that, and I sort of thought about it. And this is something I think everybody experiences in some way when they're not white.

When haven't I been worried about it even in the back of my head or at the front of my head? I mean, I was at a restaurant a few days ago, and this random guy was like, just-- with no mask, either.

It was like, he said, my wife is Filipino. You look Asian. And I was like, I don't know how to respond to that. I don't know what to say.

I mean, so there's that sort of level, which I guess is friendly? Unclear. And then, there's the level of getting yelled at while walking on the street and all that sort of stuff. So I guess I don't know a time when I felt like, oh, you can just kind of relax and not be too worried that people are going to look at you funny or say something weird to you or whatever.

So I think that-- but the violent side of stuff of somebody actually coming, getting in your face, I think I more felt especially when President Trump was doing the politicization, the racialization of COVID at the very beginning of it, with all the terms that he used. So I mean, I guess the violence part-- worried someone's going to get in your face-- more, but I think there was always a low level of like, oh, god, I hope no one bugs me at the grocery store. But I don't know that that's particularly unique either.

MARK BLYTH: Right. That goes against the kind of a pervasive myth that has held, I think, until now, that Asian-Americans are the more sort of integrated or sort of almost white part of the community, and they're super successful, at least as the stereotype goes, relative to other groups, et cetera. But what you point out is like, that's kind of bullshit, right? There's always this kind of background of hostility and otherness and general sort of racialization underneath the surface.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, for sure. And I mean, I have a long, many hours-long lecture to give to you on this, I mean, an academic lecture. But I mean, I was just thinking, you know, it's always been that way. I mean, American history is the history of the other, whoever the other is at that particular point in time.

But I mean, in Seventy-Ninety, the US passes the Naturalization Act, which says only free white people, men, can become citizens, and that sort of sets the tone all the way up to today. So I think the other of-- whether it's people from Central or South America, whether it's Eastern Europeans, whether it's Asians-- I mean, fill in the blank. There's always been some other that the US has been able to play against, and especially African-Americans and, of course, the slave trade.

So I don't know that it's ever not been part of American history for us to be having this conversation in one way or another. I think it's just the group maybe changes in some respects.

MARK BLYTH: So in that case, then, sort of the way that has been framed just now as this kind of sudden and unexpected upsurge of violence and hate, acts of hatred, towards this part of the American population-- in a sense, what you're kind of saying is like, why be surprised? Right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. And I don't-- I mean, this is when I get particularly cynical, and I don't want to be cynical. But it is like, why are we surprised by this, when the country has from Seventeen-Ninety to Nineteen-Sixty said that people from Asian countries can't become citizens, when they've had specific laws barring people coming from China, coming from Japan?

I mean, how is-- I mean, US as a system, as a country, as a political entity has barred this particular group of people up until the Nineteen-Sixties. So this shouldn't be surprising to us. I mean, a lot of this is the media, and you know, it's a story.

And of course, the shooting, too, which just seems so pointless-- but I don't know, Yeah. Big picture-- I don't know that we should really be too surprised.

MARK BLYTH: So let's try and put this into a bigger picture then, right? So the first one is, let's tie this into the fact that China and the United States are no longer friends. They had a summit, and they went to Alaska, and it was almost like the Cold War, right?

Let's meet somewhere in neutral territory, and then let's exchange insults. So you know, clearly, China is not taking any crap from America anymore, and America is not taking crap from China anymore. That's deteriorated, so this is not just Trump, right?

And you mentioned Trump and the racialization of the virus and all the rest of it, the whole sort of-- China's stolen your jobs. Clearly, all this has gone into the mix. But this is all part and parcel, as you mentioned, already of the broader tapestry of America and immigration, and how it sees itself as this open and enlightened immigration country.

But if you look at the southern border just now, the Democrats have got themselves right into an incredible pickle over immigration again with what's going on there. So how do you, as a scholar of immigration and all the sort of stuff-- how do you sort of plug these bits together?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I mean, I think it's so interesting. The new head of the Biden administration immigration policy said on all the Sunday shows last night, that the border is closed. I mean, so that sounds very Trump administration to me.

But I mean, to say-- to have an open border, of course-- that's a huge, huge political move for the Democratic party, especially thinking about how that moves voters. I mean, that's a hot button issues for voters if we're thinking about the midterm elections coming up. But you know, you just-- I think I've said this before, but the US is a gatekeeper. They keep the gates open for some, and closed for others.

And I mean, the fact that the Democrats kind of flirt with that, with saying open borders are somewhat open border, or like not a closed border-- they don't want to stay open. I mean, you're right. That just puts them into such a tangle, and they don't really know where to go with that.

And there's also-- what's the policy? Are we even going to be able to extend anything to the DREAMers? I mean, just the people in the country-- I don't even know if we have a policy for that.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. I mean, it always seems so incredibly fraught. I remember, a couple of years ago, I spoke with Margaret Peters, who's a political scientist at UCLA. And she did a kind of political economy of immigration for the US, and her story, I thought, was just a fascinating, brilliant, and simple story about immigration, which is the following.

Business-- the reason that you managed to get waves of immigration in the United States was that business was a powerful act of bringing the men, primarily because it allows you to make more profits. So it's quite straightforward. Well, this is what you do. This changes once you get to the '70s and '80s.

Because of globalization, market integration, container ships, IT, and all that, you can finally send your capital there, rather than bringing them here. So business support for immigration just collapses, apart from one or two sectors. So it seems as if there's this sudden revanche of nativism, but her argument is actually, no, it's always been there. It's just been massively suppressed by American business interests.

And once they stopped caring, if you will, the real mean reversal to what true American preferences are is, nobody likes immigration. It's a complete vote loser. And it seems that the only people who really think it's a real vote winner are basically Democratic sort of activists who are by two standard deviations to the left of the median voter. Right? So if that's who you are-- if that's who's generating the message, this has really got the potential to damage the way the Democrats are standing.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I mean, the difference between that and then the story-- the narrative that you get about the-- for example, I was watching the hearings of the two appointees to the Department of Justice for the Civil Rights Division coming from immigrant families. And they told their very touching stories of their parents coming here.

And you know, so there's that side of it, which I think people, if they have any sort of emotional-- are, like, that's a nice story, versus what-- so it's hard to bring those two different sides together. But I think you're right. Like, the immigration just in general as a term is just such a loser, so it has to be reframed in some policy way in order for the Democrats-- but honestly, for the Republicans, too.

I mean, if the Republicans were two clicks more moderate on this, they would have a ton of new voters. Because a lot of these communities are sometimes pretty conservative, too, and the Republican sort of conservatism kind of appeals to them.

MARK BLYTH: So it's a poisoned chalice for both.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. [LAUGHS] And just to wrap this up real quick, I was just thinking about how other countries deal with immigration, and I was like, oh, well, maybe France is the model we should be using. I remember-- I've got a few French friends, and they said, oh, we don't see race, and-- you know. But it is also hard to find any sort of model around the world that has policy that is something that we could emulate in some way.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. Well, you know, when France has got basically the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the beheading of teachers, you can hardly say that they are running a great model. Sweden was doing relatively well until they noticed that what they were doing was bringing in lots of people and bonding them in a house in the states miles away from anything and not at all integrating them into society.

Britain, basically, did a reasonable job of making getting all of Europe's 20-year-olds who couldn't get jobs at home, and making them work in shops in London. That was kind of working for a while, but then Brexit kicked that one in the ditch. Yeah, as you say, it's really hard to find a place where this is not contentious.


MARK BLYTH: And you know, the problem is, the birthrates are falling. Pensioners' numbers relatively are increasing. Somebody's got to pay for the pensions.

And if you don't want to do immigration, then you're going to have to pay it with higher taxes yourself. So you know, there's no easy answer to it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Speaking of no easy answer, the relief bill, the COVID CARES Act, was passed. So the one point whatever--


CARRIE NORDLUND: --trillion-dollar--

MARK BLYTH: 1.9 gajillion dollars-- yeah.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Exactly. There are a couple of things I noticed in there as I was reading about it. And one of them, I wondered if you noticed.

So first of all, there is no benefit for Trump. Trump, Vice President, cabinet-- no money that was carved out for corporations could be used by those people, including spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law. So they really were super microscopic about that.

MARK BLYTH: They really went straight for it. Oh, that's brilliant. Didn't know that one.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And then, there is no stock buyback-- and we've talked a lot about this on this podcast-- for the term of a loan, plus one year. So I thought that was-- I mean, they seemed to be at least paying a little attention to that.

But overall, I mean, $1,400 for individuals-- some for couples-- I mean, getting money in people's pockets-- hopefully, they can actually go out and spend it soon, too, with the vaccine rollout. But I mean, it was a pretty-- I mean, I wonder if they'll have to go back again, but hopefully, things will get started soon.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. I mean, it depends. And there's so much noise and ferment about this. This is one of these things, and we spoke about it last time.

And my basic position on it is still the same, that this is essentially a battle in the Democratic party between those who don't think inequality is really the problem that's driving populism, and those who do. And those who do think that unless you spend a ton of money-- because this gizmo called the Phillips curve is basically flat, which means that there's no real trade-off between inflation and unemployment. It means you can run the economy hot, and you can raise wages.

And if you raise wages, then you will have less angry people. And if you don't raise wages and you continue to distort the economy with super cheap money coming from the Fed and it all goes into asset prices and the rich get richer, then you're going to have perma-Trumpism. And I think that's still the case.

I was surprised they got the whole 1.9 through. I'm disappointed that it's taken the form of stimulus checks. I would much rather it was a $15 minimum wage.

If we actually got that, that really would just raise wages right across the space much more effectively. There are sort of concerns about, well, what if inflation comes back? I mean, I'll wait and see.

I think the evidence, as I've said before, is that it's not rushing back any time soon. What we're seeing now is a lot of bottlenecks and supply problems, because you've had a pandemic. You've run down your stocks. You can't get the stuff that you need, and not everything's perfectly in place as it was before.

So things cost more. Purchasing managers' indexes are seeing their prices go up. All of this is before the Biden stimulus hits, so you can't really blame the stimulus for causing that, which suggests that it's more to do with supply side factors, and it's probably temporary.

A lot of noise about interest rates going up, but it depends on what your time period is. If you go back to Twenty-Twenty, they were higher than they are today. If you go back to Twenty-Nineteen, they're basically at 2% today. There were 3% back in Twenty-Nineteen, pre-flip.

So over the long term, I mean, basically, they've been falling and falling and falling since Two Thousand Eight, with a brief uptick around Twenty-Seventeen and Twenty-Eighteen. So that's not telling us much either. So overall, two cheers for the stimulus. I'm sorry it took the form that it did.

If the vaccine rollout continues, I don't think we'll have to go back for more. But there is a legitimate question here, that once you spend all that to get us out of this, if you don't have sustained wage growth or if you do run into an inflation problem, then all the money that you could have spent on basically decarbonization, green transition, like the really important stuff for the next decade-- you know, then the conservatives and the deficit hawks will be like, well, you can't spend it on that. You spent it all on the stimulus checks. So you know, there's a bit of a problem with that, but as I said, two cheers for the stimulus.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And I don't know if they can go-- I don't know if the Biden administration can go back to minimum wage. It just doesn't-- I mean, maybe if they went in Twenty-Twenty-Two, they can go back. But it looks like it's not something that they're going to be able to revisit at least in the next 18 months or however long that is.

MARK BLYTH: So just the other day, I was having a look at something you can check out online, called the Distressed Communities Atlas. And it basically is this index of misery-- so number of unemployed, opioid deaths, and all these sort of things built into an index. And it goes all the way down granularly to kind of the county level.

And if you have a look at this map of the United States, one of the things you can look at is like percentage covered by minimum wage. And you start to get into some of those southern states-- Mississippi, Alabama-- I mean, the percentage of people in those states earning minimum wage or less is astonishing, right?

So on the one hand, well, let's just raise it. Let's raise the base, right? I mean, this is ridiculous that these people are earning so little. And then, the other hand is, yes, but if 30% of those jobs are dependent on minimum wage and you decide to double what the wage is, what's going to happen?

Are you sure you're not going to increase unemployment in the very people you're trying to help? And I think, particularly in the southern states, that's a real worry and a real lock on being able to make people embrace this.

Up in the-- and Boston? 15? Yeah, you can do it. In Biloxi, I'm not entirely sure. We'll see how it goes.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So I have a question and a-- well, I want to give my opinion, and I'm curious about what your take on this is. And this is about the vaccine rollout at health care, which I know we've talked a lot about, and what a huge part of the American economy it is.

I'm wondering, if we got free shots, free tests, if this moves any Americans towards thinking that universal health care might be a good idea. That you were just able to go wait forever to get a test, but it was free, and you didn't pay for anything. I wonder if that moves us anywhere closer to universal health care.

What's your take on that? Does it move the dial at all, or it was just nice?

MARK BLYTH: I think that people like you and I think about this. I don't think most people made the connection at all.


MARK BLYTH: But I mean, so why is the British rollout so effective-- the British rollout and the Israeli rollout so effective? Because they have one integrated national health care system. And once you basically tell them to do it, they can do it really effectively.

The difference is, when you go in to get your check in the United Kingdom, you basically show an ID, and that can be, I believe, as little as showing your electricity bill or whatever. Yeah, hi, it's me. And you know, they just-- you're done. That's it. There's no question.

You go in here. You go to Walgreens, and then it's like, let's verify all this documentation and make sure we've got your health care card. And if you don't have this, you'll have to sign this to show that you don't actually have insurance, and blah, blah, blah. And you just think about all the amount of paperwork that's being generated for something is ostensibly free.

But you know, getting the people to focus essentially on what economists call transactions costs-- kind of hard. And then, to link that up from there to, wouldn't this be better as a single-payer system? Hmm, that's a whole other set of jumps.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Too many jumps to make? Yeah, OK. I was hopeful that we might get-- just because you'd think, hey, but I mean, it was free. It didn't cost-- you didn't-- but yeah, I can see how there are too many mental hurdles to--

MARK BLYTH: Well, I thought COVID itself would do it, in the sense that basically, it would break a lot of these systems. But I mean, the vagaries of financing meant that-- this is not the whole story, but part of it was, when you did the first shutdown and you basically turned hospitals into COVID-only situations, then it's true the hospitals make a lot of their money off those other procedures, but then they were also not spending lots of money on those other procedures.

And it turns out that COVID, apart from the real hospitalization cases, isn't actually that expensive to treat. Consider five years of cancer treatment in comparison, right? So financially, you would think this thing would come along and just bulldoze the whole system, but it actually didn't. Like, the financing system seemed quite resilient.

So is it actually better from a financial point of view than, let's say, the European-type systems? No. They all seem to have weathered it better than expected. The real costs haven't come from supporting the health care system. The costs have come from the slowdown in the economy associated with supporting the health care system.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

MARK BLYTH: And that's what people care about, and that's what they focus on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. And I think your point about all the paperwork and IDs and all of this has-- and just federalism-- has made the US seem so uneven. Well, it is uneven, that you can get a same-day appointment in Mississippi if you're over 16, versus trying to get it in Rhode Island, where you might as well try to win the lottery.

MARK BLYTH: No, absolutely. I mean, where I am in particular, Rhode Island-- I hate to speak ill of my home state, but the idea that they even have a system at this point-- just go on the VaccineRI website and just try and get an appointment. It's impossible. There's never any appointments.

And literally, you go 5 days out, there are no clinics. And there seem to be only two places to get a vaccine-- Middleton Pod, wherever the hell that is, and the Dunkin' Donuts Center. It's like, really? This is the limits?

Oh, no, don't worry. You can do it in a CVS. It's like, really?

Have you seen CVS? I mean, how many people can you fit into CVS at once? You're not exactly doing large-scale stuff here.

So yeah, it's a bit of a mess where I am. However, overall, the United States is doing much better than all of Europe.


MARK BLYTH: So I don't know if you've been following this. I think we talked about it briefly last time, right? But it's like, you know the old adage about when you find yourself in a hole, throw out the shovel?


MARK BLYTH: Yeah. They sent for power tools. Like, they literally sent for a digger just to make sure they could dig even deeper. So the last time we spoke, we got as far as-- they invoked the Northern Ireland border protocol to basically piss off the Brits about the vaccine deliveries and stuff.

And this time, now they're actually threatening an export embargo. So if we make it, you don't get it, and you need to give us some of your stuff, which is absurd. Because particularly for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which they have completely pooed all over-- you had Macron saying it didn't work for the over-65 and Merkel saying she's not going to take it-- really inspiring confidence.

This is the one that you have pinned your hopes on, and you're totally undermining it yourselves, right? It turns out that the nanoparticles-- who knew they were involved-- get made in America and get shipped over to Britain, and then other bits of the vaccine are assembled in the UK, and then sent to Europe. So basically, you can't really do an export embargo, because it's global supply chains, right? The bets are made in different places all over the world.

So the latest scuttlebutt is that they're going to basically tell the Brits off for doing well, which is what they're doing. And the irony of this is, every Brexit guy is just sitting there, going, told you, told you. Because it makes the EU look awful. I mean, the vaccination rates for France and Germany are, like, in the single percentages.


MARK BLYTH: They've completely bollocks up.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I didn't even realize that not even a full vaccine was made in one facility.

MARK BLYTH: No. In one place--no.


MARK BLYTH: And it depends on the type of vaccine. It depends on which one.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But I mean, they-- of course, did they shut down giving AstraZeneca last week, and now, they're regiving it? So I was following the AstraZeneca stuff--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, right.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah. And that was the whole thing about blood clots, and immediately, everybody said, but the background numbers in the population are higher than the background from the sample. So you cannot conclude that this is a-- but so much of this, I think, has to do with, when you're in a hole, keep digging, right? They totally screwed up their contract with AstraZeneca.

Then, they had legitimate supply problems. Then, they published the contract with all the juicy bits redacted, which didn't help at all. And now, they're basically doing this misinformation campaign against the company, and the company's quite really, like, did you guys want your vaccine or what?

Because now you've got it, you people won't take it, because you've managed to do such a bad PR campaign on it. So I think a lot of this is basically, screw the Britz to stop-- basically bullying the Brits, because it's a good dodge, while we try and dig ourselves out of this hole that we've dug ourselves into.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I was just thinking about this in terms of-- I mean, I saw one piece, and I probably shouldn't even mention it, because I just read the headline.

But it just said that Trump administration, before they left, had actually done some good negotiation with the drug companies for this, and the Biden administration is on the receiving end of things. So just thinking about your point that you just made about AstraZeneca and the bungling of the contracts and negotiation-- hard to give too much credit to the Trump administration, but I found that article at least somewhat curious.

MARK BLYTH: Right. The one thing about those guys-- they always said, we know how to do deals.


MARK BLYTH: [LAUGHS] These are a series of bilateral deals. I'm sure they were pretty good.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah, that's interesting. Gosh, OK. So Andrew Cuomo-- do we want to talk about Andrew Cuomo, the rise and the fall, and the rise and the fall of Andrew Cuomo?

MARK BLYTH: OK, but he hasn't fallen yet. I mean, what's happened is another example of-- there have been allegations. No, there have been lots of credible allegations. I mean, there have been lots and lots and lots and lots of credible allegations.

But we used to have a system whereby they weren't just allegations. There was an investigation. And then, after the investigation, you went, OK, you're done, or no, you're not. Right?

And that's a good way of doing things. So for example-- let me give the example in Scotland. So there was this whole campaign against Alex Salmond, who was the ex-leader of the Scottish National Party. And people came forward, and there were all these allegations, et cetera.

And basically, he insisted on taking the whole thing to trial. So he took the whole thing to trial, and he won the case. None of the allegations were proven, and now, it looks like Nicola Sturgeon, his one-time protege, had lied to the Scottish Parliament about it.

It seemed that there was some inside campaign to basically get him fitted up. So if he'd stopped the allegations-- if it'd just been allegations, and then he had resigned in disgrace and walked away from public life, you'd never know. In this instance, what happens is, you go to trial, and it finds out the whole thing's a bit of a political con job, and the whole thing falls apart because it's taken to trial.

So the same with Cuomo-- I mean, there's meant to be an investigation. Let's wait for the investigation. But what it seems is this sort of just constant pile-on, whereby it's like, when is he going to resign?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I have three-- so one is that I'm curious. So public opinion generally hasn't eroded since these allegations have come out. So I do kind of wonder if it's just like they're bigger fish to fry, we're much more worried about pandemic, who cares about Andrew Cuomo, I hated him anyway, and whatever.

But I am curious if there's some part of the sample that says the same thing, like there should be a due process for this. But then, there's the other part, that soap opera part, where you just read these stories about him, and he has no friends.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, I know

CARRIE NORDLUND: Zero friends.

MARK BLYTH: Zero friends, right? And you can also-- I mean, from the allegations that have come out, they're all very similar. They're about humiliation. They're about punishment.

They're about asserting your power over someone. And that all sounds kind of like-- how could I put it-- sleazy, sexual predator stuff, even if there's nothing that's chargeable in that sense. But yeah, it just sounds like a terrible person to work for.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. No, I mean-- yeah. I mean, yeah, he just sounds like a terrible jerk of a human. Yeah, 100%. OK. I will just ask-- did you watch Meghan and Harry on Oprah?

MARK BLYTH: No. God, of course not, but you know you can't escape it. I mean, I know everything about it and all the main points that were said, even though I didn't see it. Because America was obsessed with it for about 10 days.

And for god's sake, it's not even your royalty. Like, why do you care?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh god. I was totally, like, transfixed.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, but why? I mean, you fought your revolution to get rid of the yoke of royal oppression. Now, you're like, what are they up to this week?

They're fabulous! What is with America's fascination over this bunch of German squatters living in government property in London?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, I think it's the accent, and I also think people really are curious about other people's families and the internal workings of people's families. It's fascinating-- and then, obviously, the royal aspect.

But I guess I was just-- hearing Harry say that his dad cut him off and stuff, that's interesting to me just on-- I'd be interested if my friend's dad cut him off. So I guess there is that. But you're right. Like, the continued fascination, of course, with the Diana aspect. I guess I'm articulating why I'm fascinated by it.

MARK BLYTH: You know, I think you're articulating why Americans in general are fascinated by this, which I find fascinating, because I don't find the royals at all fascinating. One of the things that I did find interesting about this was kind of the juxtaposition of expectations.

The royal family actually thought they could take this sort of American actress personality-- like, a real person who's out there in the world with her own stuff-- and she could basically surrender her passport and her driver's license, and she would be totally fine with that. And then, there were her expectations of going into this. It's like, sure, I'll need to curtsy before my husband's grandmother, but other than that, it's just like joining a family, right?

No. Oh, no. This is The Firm. This is the House of Windsor. This is an entirely different thing. So I thought, to me, the most fascinating thing was kind of how these expectations could never actually be realized.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. Oh, that's interesting.

MARK BLYTH: You're kind of watching a trainwreck of expectations that's been several years in the making. I mean, on the one hand, what were the Windors thinking by basically carrying on as normal in the 21st century, particularly when you brought this woman on board, with your tabloids, who are venomous and vicious and racist and race-baiting?

And they're horrible. Daily Mail is disgusting, right? You've got that to go on, and you won't back her up, and she's just basically being held out to dry, held up for sort of ritual crucifixion in the press every other day.

I mean, I don't know if you ever saw any of those things, but my favorite one was about how Kate-- because they love Kate. She's the White Princess, right?


MARK BLYTH: So Kate uses avocados, and avocados are great, and that's why she's got this lovely skin. Meghan uses avocados. They're a crop destroyer that's taken all the water from Mexico, and she's personally responsible for climate change.


MARK BLYTH: I mean, it was just kind of just every day. So I totally understand why they just went, to hell with this, we're gone. But I just also was thinking then about her joining this, and I wonder at what point she just went, this isn't normal.

This isn't just joining a family who's a wee bit weird, right? This is different-level shit, completely different level going on here.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. And of course, so much of what-- thinking about the press coverage, of course-- was that they hung Meghan out to dry. And of course, Andrew, who has serious accusations against him, they totally stood up for.

MARK BLYTH: That is the-- I mean, that is the ultimate hypocrisy in this, right? So basically, the FBI would like to talk to one of the members of your family, who is basically accused of aiding, abetting, and joining in with Jeffrey Epstein. And he gets to keep his salary.


MARK BLYTH: He gets to keep his titles, right? Harry, who actually went to Afghanistan, who is a serving combat soldier, who has real ties to the military, who set up the Invictus Games for disabled servicemen has to get rid of his titles and doesn't get his salary. Ohhh. If they were a real firm, that would be grounds for unfair dismissal and lawsuit.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Great point. Yeah. He should sue them. He should sue them. Listen to us, Harry. Sue your grandmother.

MARK BLYTH: Sue them. Sue the firm.

CARRIE NORDLUND: On that note--

MARK BLYTH: Have we covered everything?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I think we didn't cover Miami Beach, but--


CARRIE NORDLUND: (LAUGHING) I don't know that personally-- what else is there to say except-- what is it, COVIDiots?

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, but-- all right, so I think Miami Beach tells us two things about America's future. Number one, we are idiots, and we'll always be idiots. And hopefully, after a while, there'll be enough of us that are vaccinated idiots, that it doesn't matter. Right?

But I think the other one is that vaccines are not going to be a panacea here. And nobody's actually going to tell anyone this, but honestly, we're going to be wearing masks for a while.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I mean, you think about it-- yeah.

MARK BLYTH: All that social distancing shit? It's just not going to go away overnight. And it's going to be interesting to see what happens with Miami.

Because of course, this is just going to be weaponized, as it usually is. Those who think it's all a con, and the whole economy's been screwed, whatever-- they are going to be poring over the data two months from now to see how many actual infections happened because of Miami madness. And if it's low, that's going to be proof that it's all a con. Right?

Maybe it just got lucky. On the other hand, if it's actually high, all the basically smug liberal Northerners will be putting on three masks and insisting that nobody comes within 500 meters of them.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the weaponization of it is just-- you're so right on that, that Ron DeSantis as governor is going to be, again, the hero or the villain, as it always is. But I'm with you on the masks.

Like, I've thought about that. As travel picks up, there are going to be people wearing the masks on planes, and those who just scoff at that. So that'll be interesting to see how the airlines deal with that.

MARK BLYTH: And they're happy to scoff, absolutely. I mean, my line will be, when I'm wearing the mask on the plane, if anyone gives me any hassle about it, I'll turn around and say, oh, no, no, this isn't for COVID. I've actually got the plague.



And maybe people will be so shocked, they won't know how to respond.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, you didn't bring a mask with you? That's a shame, because I've got the plague. You're all right. Don't worry. You'll be fine.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, on that note, great to see you. We'll talk to you all in just a few weeks. Thank you.

MARK BLYTH: Yes. We'll see where Carrie is next in the world. Where in the world is Carrie San Diego? Where do you think you'll be in a couple of weeks?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I don't know. I might just throw an arrow at the dartboard, and see where things land. I mean, it couldn't get more--

MARK BLYTH: So you're going to go to double 14?

CARRIE NORDLUND: (LAUGHING) Yeah. Or maybe Miami Beach.

We'll see.

MARK BLYTH: Miami Beach, exactly. Next time, Carrie, from Miami Beach.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Reporting from Miami Beach, exactly. Thanks for listening. Bye bye.


About the Podcast

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Mark and Carrie
Mark Blyth, political economist at The Watson Ins…

About your hosts

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Mark Blyth

Host, Rhodes Center Podcast
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Carrie Nordlund

Co-Host, Mark and Carrie