09/30/2022 - Live from Mark's Basement

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

On this episode:

  • Queen Elizabeth is dead, and the UK press can’t stop mourning
  • Britain’s economic dumpster fire
  • Biden and the Democrats doing surprisingly well (but not well enough to keep Congress)
  • Elections in Italy and upcoming in Brazil don’t portend well for democracy
  • Ukraine’s tripwire strategy, and Putin’s increasing desperation
  • Floods in Florida
  • Where is Trump?

Learn more about the Watson Institute's other podcasts.


DAN: Hey, there. This is Dan, the producer for Mark and Carrie. If you like this show, we highly recommend you check out Watson's other podcast, Trending Globally. You'll hear more in-depth conversations about politics and policy from some of the world's leading experts, including, occasionally, Mark and Carrie. You can find us by subscribing to Trending Globally on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Again, that's Trending Globally. All right, on with the show. Thanks.


CARRIE NORDLUND: Hello, and welcome to Mark and Carrie. This is a special back-to-school edition, but then also very even more special because we're in the same place. And I'm in the inner sanctum of your basement.

MARK BLYTH: She has descended to the inner sanctum of the basement. If you're watching this on YouTube, and we managed to actually get a video out for once, then you will see that we're actually live coming to you from the basement, which is a bit weird, but nonetheless, fun. So, yeah, we'll do it.

The reason we're doing this is because it's my birthday today. Yes, it's true happy birthday. I don't look a day over 79, and that's good. And we just decided that she should do come over and we'll do it from here and then afterwards, we'll have dinner and it'll be fun. So that's that. So yeah, and you're all invited, you're all part of it, so that's great. So let's start off with I suppose top of the news was the end of an era, Carrie.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, hang on one sec. I want to make sure that, I wish you a happy birthday. And especially to beat out, the guitars are real too. It's not just--

MARK BLYTH: It's not just cover-- not just faking it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So, yes. Getting into things. So yes, the end of an era. So Queen Elizabeth died two weeks ago, I think it was.

MARK BLYTH: It was, yes. Actually it feels like about 10 years ago given the mourning people, period.

CARRIE NORDLUND: That was a long--

MARK BLYTH: You know what the BBC was called at one point?


MARK BLYTH: Mourn hub.



As a subject of the queen, what was your reaction?

MARK BLYTH: Oh what it always is, which is essentially, I don't know if I really want to say this on the podcast, but I'm going to say anyway, descendants of German immigrants who's lived on welfare her whole life dies in government housing surrounded by family, who's also on welfare.


MARK BLYTH: So pretty Republican sentiment from me on this one. Yeah, I mean you can go through the whole thing about the tourism, and having a head of state, and it's like a force for balance or whatever, I think all of that just completely evacuates when you realize the last person that she met outside the family was Liz Truss, and she died.


CARRIE NORDLUND: No, what does it say about--

MARK BLYTH: You start off with Churchill, and you end up with Truss. I mean, talk about the decline of an empire.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I have a couple reactions just from what you just said, and that is I mean, of course, the talk. And I'll just go totally cynical which is to say, does Charles is he able to keep enough energy in this thing to have it keep going? But you really, I mean, that mourning period, you really again the cynicism, is they had to do this to maintain their power and importance.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah. I mean, it's fascinating from a kind of social science point of view, right? I remember when the queen mom died and Tony Blair was prime minister. And he tried to position himself at the front of all this stuff, because it'd be good for him to do it. And all of these people came out of the woodwork like the Master of the Rolls and Black Rod, and all these people who dress up like 18th century privateers.

And they suddenly appear like no, no, this is ours. We got this. And it was like the whole sort of hidden side of the British establishment, the real power of the British state comes on view. And they sort of like perform their function in fairly costumes. And then disappear, again. And you're like, that was weird.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Where did they go? But the performativity of it, yes. And then I didn't know that there's no inheritance tax for the royal family. So all the land, all that stuff, man, talk about welfare.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah. My God. Absolutely. I mean they reckon that Charles is worth a billion.


MARK BLYTH: And he's never worked a day in his life. So it's quite amazing when you think about it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and then all the stuff that William, or as somebody said, I heard, Billy and Kate from the suburbs.

MARK BLYTH: Billy and Kate, love it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: They inherit all of the stuff with their new titles. And of course tax free as well. So that was quite a cushy deal.

MARK BLYTH: This is very good for the stability of the nation. Very important, yes, absolutely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But I thought it was interesting commentary that there are more countries from the Commonwealth that now, with the death of the queen are like, no, thank you, anymore.

MARK BLYTH: You don't want any Charles visits.


MARK BLYTH: That's just not happening. It's a very different vibe to the whole thing definitely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, so will the sun set of course, on the British? I mean, is this like is this the end? Or at least like, no longer punching above their weight class for Great Britain, the United Kingdom?

MARK BLYTH: So there was an interesting piece by a guy called Ganesh who's an FT writer. And he said what's happened here with sort of the death of the monarch and also the sinking of the pound, and the election of trust and the lunatic sort of tax giveaways to like the people who already have everything, is that it's kind of exposed something.

Like Britain's not America. We know this, right? The pound is not the global reserve asset. Yeah, we know that. But amongst the insiders of the British elite who all attended Oxford, Cambridge, and All-American universities, who basically are here all the time and are part of this global parlay, they actually think that actually much more powerful than they are.


MARK BLYTH: And then there's this moment where it's like, OK, queen is gone. We don't care anymore. And you have this 10 part local currency that's been overvalued for a generation. And now you're behaving like idiots in your government, and you've basically elected people that clearly have no idea what they're doing. So we're just going to short the hell out of it. And. That's what's been going on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, well I'm thinking about the international relations foreign policy side of that. Well, I mean, they've always had a seat at the table. And should they remain at the table given they're not even part of the EU anymore.

MARK BLYTH: Well, that's it. The amount of self-harm that they've done over the past sort of 10 years or so, I mean Brexit could have been something, if you'd actually had a plan and decided to do real public investment. But what you've got now is a kind of like weird libertarian wing of the Tories that we didn't really know was there. Apparently, they've all been in contact with all the same libertarian funders and everything over here that do so well in our politics that you know so well. And yeah, so then it's just like tax cuts for the rich, and we'll burn the House down on the way out. And the markets responded predictably.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well speaking of markets I mean I felt bad for Liz Truss for a second is it 1.1 pound or 1.2 pound to the dollar? I mean, it's almost even.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, no it went down to 103 in overnight trading a couple of nights ago, and stabilized at around 106 of 107.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Did you buy something? Did you buy like a house?

MARK BLYTH: Not yet, I'm just weighing. It's going to go through parity, because it's not going to get any better. I mean, that's the thing about it. Once you've decided that I'm going to cap fuel bills, which is a reasonably sensible thing to do, but you're not going to raise any finances for it. So you're borrowing against the future from an already high debt level when the economy is cratering and has inflation.

So anybody holding pounds is like I think I'd rather hold dollars. So you start getting out of pound. The exchange rate goes down. So the stuff you need to import, which is 2/3 of your food and the British case, starts to go up. So people who are already squeezed in this already terribly low-wage economy, they're not going to thank her for putting a cap on the bill because the cap's far higher than most of them can afford anyway.

And at the same time their purchasing power is getting killed as inflation, the Bank of England has to put up interest rates. It just gets worse and worse. It's like this spiral of doom. And it didn't have to be that way, but Truss came in with a new chancellor and just decided I wonder how much damage we could do in one policy announcement? And they went for it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, in a very short amount of time as well.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, yeah. And it's been great. The British press, there's a kind of, I discovered this when I got jumped in the press a couple of--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, last time we talked.

MARK BLYTH: There's this kind of, there's The Telegraph, and The Times, and all. And now basically what they're doing is they're blaming the left and woke capitalists for shorting the pound. And it's like nobody's buying this. Everyone knows a moronic set of policies when they've seen one, and that's what you've done.

CARRIE NORDLUND: What's the cadence for calling an election?

MARK BLYTH: So they did have the Fixed Term Parliament Act which was something that Labor brought, and I'm pretty sure that they got rid of it. So now I think it's at their discretion, but more or less five years.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, OK. So she could, I mean, so this is--

MARK BLYTH: Oh, she could do it tomorrow. She could totally do it tomorrow. I think there's really only two ways of thinking about what's going on in Britain just now. One, they realize they've been in for 12 years. You can keep switching the government, but we know it's the same people. And in Twenty Ten, Cameron Osborne came in and used the crisis then as an excuse to the British welfare state literally to the bone.

It has, basically amongst all of the rich countries, the worst poorest welfare state, with the worst replacement rates, and the worst terms and conditions. And nobody wants to be on it. They still tell the story nonetheless of strivers and skivers, and all these people living on benefits. If there's anybody still living on benefits, it's surprising they're barely alive. Given the fact to let the real welfare state now was payday loans and soup kitchens, and food banks.

So anyway, this is the first self harm, then you do Brexit, which destroys the your access to the export markets that you need to grow out of this stuff in the name of free trade and exports. And now you're going to do tax cuts with what, over 90% of it's going to go to people who already have more money than they can spend, so it does no fiscal good whatsoever. It just does a huge amount of damage.

So conclusion number one, they know they're out. And they're just basically burning the House down on the way out so that when Labor comes in, they're going to have a hell of a job repairing it. Or number two, even more terrifying, they actually believe this stuff.

CARRIE NORDLUND: And it's not a scorched Earth policy.

MARK BLYTH: No-- no-- I really think this is going to help. It's a bit like finding a nail in your foot, and then decided to remove your leg at the hip.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Great analogy or metaphor. Speaking of nail in the foot, I have some good news for you from the other side of the Atlantic, and that's here in America. Well there's only 768 days until the presidential election of Twenty Twenty-Four. So you can look forward to that. And I think it's 40 days until the midterms.

And of course, so we're past Labor Day. So it's a midterm hysteria. And when you read or you listen to Democrats, or like it's not. I mean, look at Kansas, look at the special election in upstate New York. We're not going to totally be shellacked in this election. But I mean it's still going to be a tough road to hoe. I mean, President Biden I think is now at 42, but he was at 36 at the end of July approval. So it did, that is--

MARK BLYTH: Because in comparison to presidents at this point in the cycle, it's actually not that bad.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, he's still-- I mean he's not at 20, so that's-- and he's going up at least in some polls. So these are all good signs. I mean, it doesn't look like. So in the House, the Republicans will take the House. It's unclear whether the margin or not will be the 20 or 30 seats, it may be less than that.

MARK BLYTH: Is this strictly because of gerrymandering? Because the unspoken spoken thing here is you have a party that will not disavow a president who is spreading a lie about the election being stolen. And they will not contradict him. In a way, the Democrats, I'm surprised just aren't coming out and just doing that, just go for that over and over again. It's like look, they lost and refuse to admit that. Why are you playing with these guys? So why are they still going to win? Is it just gerrymandering?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, yes. I think that's always the tale. And that in 435 seats, that are up, there's maybe 20 that are competitive. I mean, this is true, this is always true. And so gerrymandering of course is the main engine driving that, but that's the margin right there of what the Democrats have right now. And so I mean these close elections are always fought in those. But I think that with the ramped up active state legislatures, that 20 then shrinks to 10 or something. So then we're relying on special elections. And it's just such a bad, bad system.

MARK BLYTH: So essentially what you're saying is the best the Democrats can hope for is to lose the ability to pass any legislation for the next two years, but not to be completely shellacked?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes. Well, and not to have the margin so much so that the Republicans have this full mandate. I mean, they'll think they have a mandate anyway to totally go to subpoena-ville with Biden. And they'll probably still do that. But at least it will force, for example, Kevin McCarthy, who's promised like a 100 seat margin may not be speaker. So maybe it'll be somebody less in Trump's back pocket, I mean, maybe, maybe not.

The Senate is where, I think, things are interesting, which is that, I mean, it looks more possible that the Democrats might hold the Senate in a 50/50. There's a lot. They have to keep hanging on to their 14 seats that they have. So in other math, Republicans have to just gain one seat, but that's been hard because there are all these Trump candidates like a Dr. Oz, who's like not even there, he's doing all this weird stuff. There are all these Trump can't back candidates--

MARK BLYTH: You mean there's a downside to getting people who are a wee bit eccentric to be the face of your party?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Just a tiny little bit. So as we get closer I'm sure there'll be a lot more to say about it in detail. But at least right now, it looks like the Democrats might. There's got to be a lot of stuff that, the wind has to be at their back, but I think it's at least a possibility.

MARK BLYTH: So last time around during the presidential a lot rested on Georgia. It was all Georgia on my mind, right? And Georgia's still on your mind, isn't it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, it's such a good point. The Senate it's very possible it comes down to two Black men Raphael Warnock, who's current, but is finishing out a term, and then Herschel Walker, who's the beloved football star. And they're set up to have a debate and Herschel Walker did this really incredible thing to set expectations of he he's just a country boy. He's not as smart as the reverend, but he's going to try hard in the debate. So like if he can't name all of his kids' names, that's not on him. He's just trying as hard as he can.

MARK BLYTH: Well then again, Boris Johnson can't name all these kids' names either, and he had a first class classical education. So I wouldn't hold that against anyone to be failed enough.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So we'll see what happens in that particular debate. But I just love the setting of low expectations. So if you just show up and you can put some words together--

MARK BLYTH: And then just say, I'm a football star. He's not. So therefore, vote for me.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. Well, and also this elitism too, right? He's the educated Reverend, which is then interesting just thinking about Black politics, Black politics in Georgia, and just that tension that exists.

MARK BLYTH: I wonder if that's a generational shift in the sense of sort of the hold of Black institutions like the church just the center of the community, et cetera. It's just becoming fractionalized. It's like the people who are the center of that community get older and pass. And what you then have is a much more, in a way, representative, like America, fractured African-American community. They're almost as isolated as everybody else now, right? And that leads to people at cultural walk to be able to pull those votes away.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. And like and to be able to take advantage of the superstardom that became part of--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, being a superstar really helps. That's exactly it. I remember thinking it was, I think it was, if you say that the first Trumpers kind that it really was, what's her name? From Alaska.


MARK BLYTH: Sarah Palin, right. It used to be the case that you were a politician, you went on to become a celebrity. But now what you do is you're a celebrity, and then you can become a politician.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, it's not-- I was listening to something that said it's not always true that the sports superstar wins, like Richard Petty, the race car driver. There certainly are cases, but I mean he's pulling in a ton of money. So just on that, it just puts you so far ahead than if you're some no name.

MARK BLYTH: Georgia on my mind. That's not the only place that's getting an election, is it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, this was interesting. So thinking about America, I didn't realize that there was an Italian election coming up. And then you have a far right candidate, when Georgia, who I kept hearing was the first candidate since Mussolini--

MARK BLYTH: You mean Italy rather than Georgia.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Georgia. Did I say Georgia? I meant Italy. Italy. Italy.

MARK BLYTH: Italy, not Georgia. Yeah first far right since Mussolini.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. So I wondered, does she like that comparison? But anyway.

MARK BLYTH: So here's an interesting one. There's two things out of interest. Nobody really just decided to vote for her. What happened is the collapse of the center left wall. A lot of like angry, working class people, which is very common in populism. If I feel that the left has deserted me and my class, I'll just vote for, if you will, the working class right, if you want to put it that way.

So there was that one. Then was the awful performance of Salvini, the Lega, the other party in Italy that's on the right, because there's this coalition to the right. So it's really kind of weird. So if you think the first kind of populist right there was Berlusconi, Forza Italia. So he's still there, it's amazing. The man must be filled with basically piss, vinegar, and formaldehyde. I mean, you know--


MARK BLYTH: --there's nothing else holding the man together, right? And it was going to be the Lega and then Meloni will be the junior partner. And then it all got shook up.

He got nothing. Lega did terrible. And all the votes went to her, right? Now they've being playing "sotto voce--" to show my Italian off. They've been playing soft voice and all the rest of it, "we're not really fascist," et cetera.

One of my graduate students George sent me this video. Twenty Nineteen, Meloni at the World Family Congress, which is one of these places where we can't say Grand Fascist Congress, so we'll just call it family, right?


MARK BLYTH: So they're all there. And it's this speech that she gave. And, you know, it's a very rousing speech. But if you're looking at the-- you can see it on YouTube, the translation of it. She manages to drop these key phrases into it. And it's brilliant.

So the first one is all about why do they hate the family, why do they hate us? Why do they fear us? Because we're proud of our nation, et cetera. We're proud of who we are. We are individuals.

We are not-- number one-- we're not just faceless consumers the way that the-- what did she call them now-- the global financial speculators want us to be, right?


MARK BLYTH: Well, come on that is literally protocols of the Elders of Zion. You might as well just say "the Jews," right? That was straight there, right?


MARK BLYTH: So there's all these references of financial speculators, right? And that's code for Jews, right?


MARK BLYTH: And the second one is halfway through the speech, why do they hate us, et cetera? Because of what we admire and what we care about. We care about God, family, country. That was the three words that Franco used to start the civil war.


MARK BLYTH: And I was like, way to go.


MARK BLYTH: I mean, I want to watch it again and see if she's got any-- or maybe she's got, you know, a Hitler line in there or something, but like, I mean, it's just like facists' greatest hits.


MARK BLYTH: And I'm like, really? I mean, come on. Let's look at this for what it is, please.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and I did hear an interview with a couple of voters that said they voted for her because she puts Italians first and they feel like they haven't been-- they haven't been prioritized.

MARK BLYTH: And this is part of the sort of the downside of being in the EU, right, that you don't have fiscal policy that's meaningful. You don't have monetary autonomy, right? So your government basically takes orders, to a large extent, from what the policy elites in Brussels say.

Why? Because you've got a huge amount of debt. And if it wasn't for the ECB effectively backing up your bond market, they'd go through the roof and you'd be bankrupt and you'd be Greece.

So you don't really have that much autonomy. And after a while, you know, when you've been running a budget surplus for 20 years and your economy has shrunk by 20% in real terms, yeah, people are pissed. I get it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. I was thinking about her in relation to another woman who's elected head of their country. And of course, the United States, we're still not there. And I was thinking, the first woman president is going to be a Republican.

She'll come from the right-- I mean, as sort of a similar model-- and come from the right. Because it's not going to be, it just, you can't see it, especially just seeing where female leaders come in terms of party come from. It won't be somebody from the left.

MARK BLYTH: No, it's always from the right. I mean, you know, Mrs. Thatcher was a trailblazer there, but she wasn't the only one.


MARK BLYTH: I mean, in fairness in Europe now, I mean, you've got Sanna Marin in Finland and you have Mette in Denmark--


MARK BLYTH: --and, you know, they're all center lefties. But, you know, maybe some of the Anglo countries can only bring a woman from the right. Who knows? And then, of course, we've got Brazil.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, well, I mean, I was-- I have read a little bit about this, but not realizing that it's actually coming up in--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, so you've got a guy that they jailed on a dubious corruption conviction, not because he might not have been slightly corrupt or whatever, but because, come on, the entire country was run that way. And so they finally quashed this in the Supreme Court. He gets out he brings the band back together again. He's bringing up Bolsonaro.

And Bolsonaro, who's basically the representative of like the worst type of aristocratic farming and interests, who are burning down the Amazon to provide-- so we can have more chicken or at least soy, that's what's on the table. And Bolsonaro apparently has already pulled a Trump and said, if I lose, it must be fraud.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, it's a smart play.

MARK BLYTH: So that's not going to be-- that's not going to end well.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, you just can't see that-- I mean, it's such an effective line. And I think we're going to hear that coming out of the American midterms with like people-- I mean, the governor, one of the gubernatorial candidates in Arizona, Kari Lake, she's already started sort of setting this up as it's getting fraud.

MARK BLYTH: Why can't people accept that they lose these days? You know, OK, this is the thing.

There's this critique that Europeans have had about American parenting, which they then adopted. Because what always happens is we tell everyone in America they're wrong and then we do it, right? So it went like this.

What is it with you people and everybody in school getting a medal? What do you mean everybody wins? Somebody has to lose for somebody to win, right? And that's a fairly old critique, right?

So, anyway, that's there. And then maybe you bring all these people up and they've never actually lost. So when they run for an election, it's just too much trauma and they can't handle it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, I actually have wondered the same thing, just in relation to everyone gets a trophy--

MARK BLYTH: Your mind works the same way. Interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: --everyone gets a trophy. But I've also thought that, I mean, maybe it's just much more about money and power, meaning that you make a name for yourself and then you get to go on Dancing with the Stars or--

MARK BLYTH: Oh, that's the celebrity power angle. Yeah.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, right, or you get the FOX, you know, the FOX commentary deal or the MSNBC commentary deal. So in order to stand out, right, you have to be even more and more extreme.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, that's really interesting though.


MARK BLYTH: So think about it this way then, right? So let's think of it statistically, right? So imagine sort of golden age quote, unquote, "politics," right? It's kind of quasi normal distribution. Everybody's in the middle trying to basically get the votes, right?


MARK BLYTH: And then you figure it, no, I'm just going to go with the tails.


MARK BLYTH: And I'm going to gerrymander. And all I need to do is capture these guys and it's fine. And then that only works if you keep throwing the red meat or blue meat to the base, right?


MARK BLYTH: And then let's take them out as like the tails of the distribution. And then let's kind of normalize those tails. You'd have to keep getting more extreme to get any attention.


MARK BLYTH: It's interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Normalizing the tails is crucial because that's what-- I mean, the people that Trump endorsed are the tails.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And they won, so now it's like--

MARK BLYTH: That's how you've shifted it out all the time, absolutely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, yeah. OK, talk about normalizing the tails, I get-- I mean, Ukraine and Russia, so he had, Putin has these fake elections--


CARRIE NORDLUND: --was going to annex these four areas.

MARK BLYTH: That was a hell of a segue, by the way. Usually they take a breath.


MARK BLYTH: So talk about normalizing the tails.

CARRIE NORDLUND: We have to celebrate your birthday here, so--

MARK BLYTH: Well, I know. But anyway, you were saying--

CARRIE NORDLUND: I'm motivated.

MARK BLYTH: No, it's a fair point. I mean, it's about normalization, right? So what is he doing?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and I guess, again, I look at this from my perspective as an American, just using the map that he did for Crimea and the world, especially the US, you yell and scream, you're like, that's really bad. But no one's willing to actually put any muscle behind it.

Because you know what the next scenario is. So it's really like you just have to kind of be quiet and hope that he doesn't do more. It just seems like a strange scenario. There's no punishment for him.

MARK BLYTH: But there's a weird sort of echo of this. I mean, it's nowhere near as blatant or as ridiculous, right? But, you know, Bolsonaro is saying I'm not going to admit defeat, right? You're a congressperson in, what is it, Colorado or--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, Arizona, yeah.

MARK BLYTH: --you know, basically, and it's the same sort of, you know, this used to be not just deviant behavior, this was like you're breaking the rules. And now we've basically normalized breaking the rules as being normal. But when you do that, it means there are no rules. And that's when it gets really, really dangerous.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, there's no play for anti-Russian countries, is there, except to just hold.

MARK BLYTH: Oh, definitely not. I mean, all right, so think about it this way. There's one way of thinking about this is the tripwire strategy, right?


MARK BLYTH: So I know that I'm getting my ass kicked on the battlefield. I can throw 3 million people into this and it's not going to make any difference, unless you're just thinking about, I'm willing to sacrifice an entire generation to grind this down.


MARK BLYTH: And, you know, one way to think about this is a contest. And it's a contest between our ability to resupply Ukraine and Russia's ability to throw people into battle--


MARK BLYTH: --and which one wears down first. So one of the ways of shortening this is you incorporate these regions in Russia and then say, this is now Russia. So you're talking Russia. So you need to actually stop because this is now an attack on Russia.

We're really going to up the ante. And then, OK, what do you do in response to that? And also, the pipeline, I mean, that's wow.


MARK BLYTH: That is literally saying, yeah, we're kind of at war with you. We're not admitting it. It is classic hybrid warfare.


MARK BLYTH: So they deny it. You can't prove it. But it happened. What are you going to do?


MARK BLYTH: So they're really in a tough spot. And then they're going to get through the winter OK because German gas storage is at 91%, et cetera, all that sort of stuff. But it's what happens next year if this is still going on.

And given how much the Ukrainians have been damaged and the sacrifices they made and how much it's going to cost to rebuild the country, do they want to quit now? No, they totally don't.

So, you know, what are we going to do? We're going to tell them to back off? Well, if we were going to do that, you should have done that six months ago.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right. I did have a moment, I think this week there is a shooting in Russia, right?


CARRIE NORDLUND: And all of the Russian men that are leaving-- and I didn't know how much hype-- how much of that was hype-- leaving so they're not conscripted into the--

MARK BLYTH: Oh, no, that's very real. I mean, that's basically anyone with a car is like, I'm off to Georgia.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So I thought maybe public opinion, Russian public opinion is what pulls Putin back. Because he's like, you know, he can't survive. Like people actually--

MARK BLYTH: There's a lot of people out in the provinces and places that you've never heard of who are being put on buses with a lot of physical force.


MARK BLYTH: And they are going to fill those trenches whether public opinion likes it or not.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, right, right, not the people who are leaving Moscow.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, it's not the ones who are-- it's not the end game students running out of Moscow, right?


MARK BLYTH: They're over there already.


MARK BLYTH: Finland just shut its border.


MARK BLYTH: Yeah, so--


MARK BLYTH: So the terrible thing is you've got all these people who are like, I really don't want to be part of this. And then they've got nowhere to go.


MARK BLYTH: So, you know, that doesn't help. But at the same time, you can understand why. I mean, do you really want to host 200,000 scared alone financially done Russian men?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Men, yeah, Russian men, right.

MARK BLYTH: So, yeah, it's a bit of a problem, to say the least. So everything is sounding great, isn't it?

CARRIE NORDLUND: So happy as always.

MARK BLYTH: I mean, we started off with the end of an era--


MARK BLYTH: --Britain is an economic dumpster fire, the Democrats thinking that not being completely shellacked is like a good day at the office--


MARK BLYTH: --Italy being run-- if you look between the line-- by fascists, Brazil on the edge, and now Ukraine in a trip wire strategy.


MARK BLYTH: Is there any good news?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, there. Is in a recent interview, President Biden declared that COVID was over. And then very quickly his press team said that it wasn't over, the pandemic. And then all the stuff-- I think maybe it was the pandemic was over, but COVID-- it was a lot of like high stepping, dancing around.

MARK BLYTH: So this is what Democrats do all the time. I don't understand this, right? Republicans will walk up and go, COVID's over. And you would be like, no, as in like, shut up, liberal. And that would be it, right? And the Democrats are like, COVID's over.

Maybe it's not. We don't want to offend anyone. How about someone in the New York Times? Do the health people think not? That's not the science. Are you wearing your mask? I mean, come on.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, I heard this really smart take on it. And that is to say that maybe Biden was actually like standing up and doing a very Republican thing and saying like, is-- no more masks, no more all the long lines for testing, like, yeah, we're moving on.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And so taking that stronger, showing he has a backbone, versus all of the waffling--

MARK BLYTH: But then don't engage anybody else who's like taking this out, going the other way.


MARK BLYTH: I was just up at this American political science annual jamboree in Montreal.


MARK BLYTH: And the other thing, they still had ArriveCAN. Oh my god. I mean, it was just one of those things where I was like, where's my MAGA hat? I mean, seriously, right?

So you have to download the app and upload this and mix that for that-- all right, fine. OK, we'll go through with it. Then I get into the airport.


MARK BLYTH: And because I fly a lot, I know, you know, how to get out of airports really quick, right?


MARK BLYTH: So I got out of the airport within 20 minutes. And I'm in a car. And I'm taking off. And I get the text. And it's like, you've been selected for random COVID test and you need to go to the airport and go-- and I was like, no. So I go and talk to people. And there's loads of people in this conference have all had this thing.


MARK BLYTH: So we all figured out a strategy. And the strategy is, we're all leaving on Sunday morning. So we're all going to get tested on Saturday night.


MARK BLYTH: Because by that point, none of the results matter because we're all back home, right?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, right.

MARK BLYTH: So I did that. I went to this testing place. It's really hard to get testing, but there was loads of people from this conference all cynically doing this, right? And the public health aspect, like nobody in the facility is wearing a mask. I mean, like what level of theater is this at this point, right?


MARK BLYTH: So, you know, we do the whole thing, blah, blah, blah. And we all go home. And then Canada is basically phoning me all the time in French asking me to verify that I've taken a test. And, of course, you know, four or five days ago, they're like, we don't need to do this anymore. And it's like, yeah, you don't need to do this anymore because it's stupid and stop it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: So strangely enough, I drove from Michigan back to Providence, went through Canada. I also had to use ArriveCAN, but they didn't even ask for it. So I did all the stuff. And then I was like, but don't you want to see this thing that I worked so hard for? And they're like, you're good, you're good.

MARK BLYTH: Like, nah. It's fine. We totally don't care.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, so the incentive is less to actually cooperate. Good for you and the other political scientist for, you know, figuring out a way to short circuit--

MARK BLYTH: Well, people who study institutions and rules and they are great until they affect us and then we cheat.


MARK BLYTH: So, you know, what can I tell you?


MARK BLYTH: I now I'll never be able to go back to Canada having admitted that publicly. Oh, Florida--

CARRIE NORDLUND: Man, well, you know Florida, I mean, having traveled there and spent time there.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And those pictures are really kind of stunning.

MARK BLYTH: Oh my, so I was talking to a friend who lives in Naples


MARK BLYTH: And I said, how bad was it? And he said it was eight foot over the beach--


MARK BLYTH: --five foot through the town. And I immediately, I mean, I know this place really well, right? There are multimillion dollar properties right next to the beach. And I've always said, I'm there, like global warming is going to get this one, right? Well, yeah, because the hurricanes are getting stronger.

Because the water is warmer. It's just physics. You might not like it, but it's just physics, right? So these bigger, more powerful slow-moving storms are coming in. They went basically all the way to what's called Airport-Pulling Road, which is 2 and 1/2 miles from the beach, at five feet.


MARK BLYTH: So just think every building being whacked with that.


MARK BLYTH: The whole city center is just done, right? Now just think about the insurance and rebuilding costs on that.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I was going to ask that.

MARK BLYTH: You keep doing this. So here's a weird way of thinking about this, right? Remember you used to talk about like this is a 1 in 100 year storm, right? Well, if you're starting to get it every two years, it's not 1 in 100 years, right?


MARK BLYTH: And if all your models of payments in and payments out are based upon not kind of like, it will only happen randomly, but it actually doesn't, it happens very concentratedly and they build on each other, you can't insure it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah. That's why I wondered. Can you get insurance on those multimillion dollar homes?

MARK BLYTH: It's a very good question. Are you going to be able to get them after this storm?


MARK BLYTH: Probably, but after the next one--


MARK BLYTH: --I don't know. I really don't know if you're going to get it.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's like earthquake insurance in San Francisco. I mean, yeah.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And the politics of this, I was thinking, of course, Ron DeSantis running, running for reelection. He's--

MARK BLYTH: He's like a very different Ron DeSantis when he's on this stuff, isn't he?

CARRIE NORDLUND: He had to be, right? He had to shut down his like nasty stuff with Biden because he had to go ask for federal help.

MARK BLYTH: But also, he was doing the mature statesman thing. He was doing the, this is a terrible storm--


MARK BLYTH: This is something that we need to take very seriously. I want all Floridian state citizens-- I was like, where's all your like usual loony goofy swipes at people you don't like.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, yeah. Well, and so because running against a well-known for governor, Charlie Crist. And so I expected sort of dueling people, you know, trying to steal the microphone. But I had the same impression that he's really was like the statesman sort of thing. And especially given that he's like Donald Trump and it's him for Twenty Twenty-Four and on and on, like it does give you a different look of him. And like he's a pretty smart politician in this way. And not that I want to say this actually matters for anything, but two Ivy League degrees, I believe.

CARRIE NORDLUND: It's something. I think that--

MARK BLYTH: He's clearly not-- So this is an interesting one then because the whole sort of like real Republican thing is rhinos Republicans in name only, right?


MARK BLYTH: And that's the kiss of death.


MARK BLYTH: So he doesn't say that the election was stolen, but he doesn't deny it.


MARK BLYTH: He beats up on LBGTQ people. He does all the stuff he does, which is like this. And he's throwing, he's throwing red meat to the base on this one, right? But then he stands up and he can play the statesman, right? So, you know, I hate to quote Eminem, but would the real Ron DeSantis please stand up?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, and a couple of days before, he had sent the immigrants from Venezuela--

MARK BLYTH: Oh, that was outrageous. That was kidnapping.

CARRIE NORDLUND: But, I mean, I mean, he got more press than--

MARK BLYTH: Oh yeah, totally.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I mean, so just on the media, like the political chess part of it, you're like, wow, I mean, that's kind of-- not on the ethical and moral side of things-- like just kind of stunning to see that--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, he knows how to play stunt play. Definitely.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, yes, yeah.


CARRIE NORDLUND: And I think this question of where Trump is, I don't know--

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, because he's kind of missing in all this, isn't he?


MARK BLYTH: Is it the legal stuff or what?

CARRIE NORDLUND: I don't know. I mean, I think that-- I think there's-- so I have a couple of theories. One is that he's endorsed all these people-- and I don't really believe this-- and that he's actually being quiet waiting to see what happens. But I just don't know that there's a role for him in this right now.

And I do wonder if the legal stuff and the recent, the New York attorney general, like, you know, his whole family has been charged. I don't know exactly what the legal term-- if that-- but he's such a bloviator. You can't imagine that anything would ever make him quiet, but--

MARK BLYTH: So it's a kind of a weird one with the whole New York stuff, not that I've looked deeply into this, but to the extent that I have-- it's kind of weird. Because if you basically are saying that the whole family engaged in systematic fraud, defrauding financial institutions by overflating assets, it's not Al Capone. That's the one that people were saying. It's not tax avoidance. It's RICO.


MARK BLYTH: It's racketeering, right?


MARK BLYTH: Now they have not him with the RICO statute. So what exactly is the charge? And why isn't it a RICO if that's what the public thing is? So I wonder if this is the whole thing about there was a deal on the table and he wouldn't go for it and all that sort of stuff. So it's really interesting to see how that plays out. But I think your other point is actually even more interesting than that he is not a statesman.


MARK BLYTH: He is a rabble rouser. And in moments like this, he just has no role to play.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Right, yeah, he's not standing out-- outside of Mar-a-Lago with a hard hat or a shovel.

MARK BLYTH: Yeah, right, exactly, or, you know, bringing people in because their houses have been destroyed, no.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yeah, that's not him at all.

MARK BLYTH: I wonder how Mar-a-Lago got out.

CARRIE NORDLUND: I was just wondering that, yes.


CARRIE NORDLUND: I was just wondering.

MARK BLYTH: That's interesting.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Well, you know, I was trying to think of maybe something lighter to talk about. But given the string of topics that we have, this is the only thing I can land on that's potentially lighter so it really shows you the state of the world. I've heard really good things about the show Jeffrey Dahmer.



MARK BLYTH: So you're actually saying our light thing to end on is a show of a murderous serial killer.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Correct. Yes, I've heard it's very compelling. I have not watched, but I've heard it's very compelling and that even if you feel the ick factor--

MARK BLYTH: Who plays him?

CARRIE NORDLUND: Oh, shoot, of course now I'm going to forget. Oh, shoot, I can't remember. But someone not super famous, but enough to kind of fall into the part and disappear. But, yeah, you have the ick of like, I don't really want to be watching, but it pulls you in and you can't stop watching. So, yeah, so that was my light thing about a mass murderer.

MARK BLYTH: I was just talking to my nephew Alex there because he's watched a bit more of The Lord of the Rings reboot thing than I have.


MARK BLYTH: And he says I watched episode-- he was like, well, I watched episode three to episode five last night. I was like, how was it? He's staying with us just now.


MARK BLYTH: I said, how was it? And he says, there was honestly, there was this one moment where they had Galadriel walking on a boat. And it was just this sort of slow-mo of her walking on a boat with "ah" going on and lights and all that.


MARK BLYTH: And it lasted about a minute. And a remember thinking to myself, they really haven't worked out the plot for this, I think.

CARRIE NORDLUND: They're having to take up so much time.

MARK BLYTH: They're just like, fill it in, fill it in. We don't know what to do.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Longer, longer. Well, lovely to be in--

MARK BLYTH: Yes, in the basement.

CARRIE NORDLUND: --with the guitars.

MARK BLYTH: In the cave, exactly.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Yes, yes, yes, it was quite a delight.

MARK BLYTH: So now we are going to go off and drink something, but not too much because I have to go to the gym tomorrow because I'm old and that's my plan on staying alive. So with that, we will love you and leave you.

CARRIE NORDLUND: Thank you very much for listening. Happy birthday, Blyth.

MARK BLYTH: See yous all there.


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