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Connecting Trump, Brexit and racial grievance with Mehdi Hasan: podcast & transcript

Chris Hayes speaks with British journalist Mehdi Hasan about the role of racial grievances, from the U.S. to the U.K.

Donald Trump’s victory wasn’t the only 2016 election result to shock the world. Just months earlier voters in the United Kingdom made history when they opted for Brexit, thereby initiating the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

While the two elections took place on opposite sides of the world, the roots of both winning movements can be traced to similar origins. British journalist Mehdi Hasan talks about the role of racial grievances from the U.S. to the U.K., where things stand with Brexit, and how many people are feeling intense "Bregret."

CHRIS HAYES: It's crazy. Every right-wing event that happens in the U.S., it's like Nigel Farage is there.

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah, he met Donald Trump before Theresa May did.

CHRIS HAYES: My favorite was Nigel Farage and Donald Trump in Mississippi at one point. It's like, "What? Did I just take acid?"

MEHDI HASAN: What do they both have in common? They're both rich, upper middle class/upper class folk pretending to be working class populace. The blue collar billionaire. Nigel Farage, is a former city trader, private school boy.

CHRIS HAYES: That's the best part of that. I love that.

MEHDI HASAN: In his pinstripe suite pretending to be the voice of disenfranchised factory workers in the north of England.

CHRIS HAYES: Hello, and welcome to "Why Is This Happening?" with me, your host, Chris Hayes.

When I was 21 years old in the year 2000, I lived in Italy, and I studied in Italy in a city called Bologna, which is the... I'm trying to think of the best way to think of it. It's kind of the Boston of Italy, in that it's the big university town. The arguably the oldest university in Europe. They get into fights all the time about who gets that claim. But arguably the oldest university in Europe is the University of Bologna in Bologna, and I studied there. And this was a period of time in Italian political life which was an interregnum between the first two reigns of one Silvio Berlusconi.

Silvio Berlusconi, if you don't know, is a billionaire media mogul who became the prime minister of Italy three times, I think. I think I was there between times one and two. The subject of Berlusconi amongst the Italians that I knew, who were generally by and large of the left, and Berlusconi is very much not of the left, would create this embarrassed, still surprised, confused, slightly ashamed, head scratching like, "Where did this come from? How did we end up with this ridiculous cretinous buffoon as the head of our country?" Even after he was gone, they gotten rid of him by the time I was there in 2000, although ha ha, jokes on them. Little did they know he came back just a year later, and then again. He was then subsequently convicted of corruption charges, and it all gets very messy.

I will never forget the kind of way they spoke about Berlusconi, which was a mix of confusion and embarrassment that they still couldn't understand how it happened and didn't see it coming. Of course there's some obvious parallels there. You can tell where I'm going with this. I think a lot of Americans feel that way about our own president, Donald Trump. But there's another place in the world that has had a similar experience that's neither Italy with Silvio Berlusconi and neither us with Donald Trump. In some ways, I think a lot of people saw it as a weird canary in the coal mine.

Back in June of 2016, at a period in time in which basically Trump had wrapped up the nomination and there was this dazed, shocked bemusement in American politics, among some, the day after the Brexit referendum happened in the U.K., and leaving the EU won, shocking almost everyone, surprising pollsters, shocking the world, sending these waves of surprise, and fear, and horror across Europe and the world, there was a palpable sense. I remember coming into work the next day in the US, there was a palpable sense of, "Oh wait a second, maybe Trump could win."

It was the same kind of feeling… the fate of Brexit and the fate of Trump have always, for that reason, kind of seemed intertwined. They have played upon a lot of the same forces in both societies. The U.K. is probably the country whose politics Americans to follow most closely. I would say even more closely in some ways than Canada. It plays a very prominent role in American coverage. It's the country ...obviously it's a country that we have this long standing, sometimes difficult relationship with, but it's a country that we pay very close attention to, and pays very close attention to us, that has the “special relationship,” as it's called.

There are also people in the U.K. working to mobilize the Leave campaign who were prominent figures in the international right, alt-right that then became prominent Donald Trump supporters. Nigel Farage who's the father of Brexit in some ways, was campaigning with Trump in Mississippi, and showing up at the Trump Place on, I think on election night. I think he was at the inauguration. He shows up everywhere. There's always been this way in which Brexit and Trump have felt like two different sides of a similar phenomenon.

Now, I pay very close attention to one of those for my day job, which is Donald Trump. I don't know if you ever get to watch "All In" with Chris Hayes, but we will occasionally cover the president of the United States. We will let you know what he's doing, check in on Donald Trump, give you some updates on what's going on in his world. I'm pretty read-in on that.

The Brexit thing, I'm not as well read-in on. I read the paper like everyone else. I follow the news very closely. These things will zing across my consciousness like, "Theresa May's government is in trouble. Boris Johnson just left his job as Foreign Secretary. All these people are fleeing the ship and they're negotiating over all sorts of crazy arcane trading rules, and the whole thing's a disaster." I keep finding myself thinking, "Where'd they end up on that?" I remember it was big deal, and then they would enter into these negotiations, and it seems like it's causing them a lot of tsuris over there in England, but it's unclear to me what exactly is going on, and why, basically what happens.

The story of the Trump presidency in many ways has been kind of the story of the dog that caught the car. There's a consensus view that Donald Trump never thought he was gonna be the president of the United States. The people around Donald Trump never thought he was gonna be the president of the United States. The people in the Republican party sure as hell did not think that he was gonna be the president of the United States. Then he was the president of the United States. We have watched the Republican majorities, and Congress, and the White House try to figure out what it means president. And largely I think it's been a pretty unwieldy process in many ways.

It seemed to me from afar like there's a similar situation happening in the U.K.. Given that there has been this parallel track between the Leave campaign and Brexit, and Donald Trump and the forces that they played upon on each side of the Atlantic, I keep having this thought in the back of my head. I want someone to just break down for me what is going on over there. What is their version of this playing out look like on a day to day basis?

The person that I wanted to talk to is a guy named Mehdi Hasan, who, I don't know if you've ever seen him. He will pop in your feed from time to time because he has two different shows that are on Al Jazeera English. He's just a phenomenal interviewer. He's just incredibly charismatic, incredibly smart, tremendous command of facts, fearless. He's got this... You know how the Brits are just really up in your face in their interviews in this really satisfying way. I think partly because the media culture there, partly because of the tradition of question time where they're just ferocious and tenacious, and they have this interview style. It's weird because politicians just expect that and it's the basic way that interviewing happens. Mehdi is one of these people who just does that form incredibly well.

He also writes for The Intercept, and he has a podcast for The Intercept called Deconstructed. But he's a Brit and he's a Brit who is a Muslim Brit. His parents were from India, as you'll hear in the interview. He's someone who's interestingly situated. He lives in the U.S. and covers American politics, but still has family back in the U.K., and was back in the U.K. over the summer, and follows U.K. politics very intensely. I thought if there's a person to talk about these twin trajectories of our two countries, of the United Kingdom and the US, and how they have preceded since they both had these remarkable disruptions in their political life in 2016 between Brexit and Trump, I thought Mehdi would be the perfect person to talk to about that. I don't think I'm spoiling on anything by saying it's not great.

Mehdi, I um... I keep up on this issue of your home country. The U.K., Great Britain, Britain, some people call it England, lots of different names. You don't hear England anymore.

MEHDI HASAN: You don't. Never.

CHRIS HAYES: You never hear.

MEHDI HASAN: Never. Never apart for doing the whole World Cup where we were shouting England all the way through.

CHRIS HAYES: You never hear England anymore.

I sort of track the news from your home country. Even as someone who's a pretty reliable news consumer, get pretty confused about what the hell is going on over there. I thought maybe we'd just start with Brexit. How did Brexit come about? How and why did this idea manage to get to the point where it actually happened, when it sort of lingered in the backwaters of crankdom for so long.

MEHDI HASAN: It did. Some would argue it still does in many ways. But there's been a anti-European, anti-European Union sentiment in the U.K. for as long as I can remember. It's brought down several prime ministers. The issue of Britain's membership of the European Union, what used to be known as the European Community, before that the European Economic Community going back to 1973. It's always been a controversial issue in the U.K.

We had a referendum on it in 1975, before you and I were born, in which Margaret Thatcher actually helped lead the way with the Labor government to help keep Britain in the Common Market, as it was then called. It's never resolved. There was always a faction of people. On the right, but also on parts of the left, who didn't like the idea of Britain being a part of a political agreement, a political zone, that they couldn't fully control being part of a free trade area. People had different motives for opposing membership of the EU. They were aided by the right-wing press, especially by the Murdoch owned press.

Rupert Murdoch has always hated the European Union. It stands for everything that he hates: liberal values, it stands for open borders internally, fighting climate change. All sorts of things he doesn't like. The right-wing press combined with people like Nigel Farage, who has now become very well known, even here in the U.S. because his friendship with Donald Trump, the former lead of the U.K. Independence Party.

Image: Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), makes a statement after Britain voted to leave the European Union in London
Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), makes a statement after Britain voted to leave the European Union in London, Britain on June 24, 2016.Toby Melville / Reuters file

There was a group of people, as you say, a lot of them cranks, who allied together to push this anti-European argument into the mainstream, year after year after year. Along the way, even though they never won any victories, in terms of getting referendum, Chris, they managed to bring down prime ministers. Margaret Thatcher was deposed by her own party because they didn't like her changing stance on Europe. John Major, his entire prime ministership from 1990 to 1997 was plagued by divisions over Europe. He was challenged for his own leadership of the party. That kept going. David Cameron, obviously he lost his job after losing the Brexit referendum. Now Theresa May, the current conservative prime minister, her job is on the line, again, because a lot of people don't like her stance on Brexit, don't think she's doing the right or wrong thing.

It's been a huge problem, especially in the Conservative Party in the U.K. for many years. The short answer, Chris, is David Cameron, who was our prime Minister who thought he was really clever, but actually wasn't that clever, thought he could shut down this European infighting in his party. He could shut it down by offering a referendum, and he did this when he ran for the leadership. He was not expected to win the leadership when he first ran and won the leadership because... and he did it in 2013, three years into his coalition government. He said, "You know what, I'll promise an in-out referendum." This is what the cranks, as you put it, had been waiting for, for years. The entire reason for the U.K. Independence Party was to get a referendum to give British people a chance to vote on this issue of Europe, which so few of them actually gave a damn about.

Prior to the Referendum, Chris, it didn't appear on the list of top 10 issues that bothered British voters. Yet he gave this referendum and Chris he thought that A) this referendum would never happen because he would be in a coalition government again after 2015, with the Lib Dems which is a very pro-European party, and they wouldn’t allow him to hold it. He thought okay if it did happen, they'll win. Only the cranks support Brexit. On both levels, he actually outdid himself by winning a majority in 2015. He said, "Uh oh, oh shit. I now have to hold a referendum that I promised." He then decides to hold it even earlier than he needed to in 2016, a year into his premiership, and that's it. When he loses the referendum, well we can get into why they lost the referendum, he then resigned.

This guy, his prime ministership is over a year after winning his first majority, because remember, he didn't win a majority in 2010. His career is over. Britain is now heading for all sorts of calamities. This is a complete ... Let's just be very clear where I stand on this, Chris. This vote for Brexit in 2016 is the greatest act of self-harm, political, economic, financial, cultural, social in modern western history. I can't think of another example of a western democracy and advanced economy doing this out of choice to itself.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. I mean the Cameron part of this is fascinating. I saw Cameron in person once. I went to report on Davos in, it must have been 2010, and he gave talk there. There are two things that struck me. One, he's very sharp, very good speaker on his feet, which I think is partly the tradition of question time and stuff like that.

MEHDI HASAN: And Eaton and Oxford.

CHRIS HAYES: And also, that his ardor for his own cleverness was a palpable presence in the room, like a wafting off him. He was clearly in love with his own cleverness in a way that was almost like physically overpowering.


CHRIS HAYES: He thinks he's so smart. He outsmarts himself. He ends up thinking, "This will take this issue away. It will empower me. I'll cynically cut this deal and say, fine, fine, fine, you get your referendum." He gets those people on his side to govern, and then the referendum campaign happens. How does that campaign play out in ways that maybe people weren't anticipating?

MEHDI HASAN: The big ways are... Let's just talk about immigration because immigration, a massive issue in the U.K. for many years. Again, a lot of it ratcheted it up by the right-wing anti-immigrant press, based on all sorts of myths and imagination about the numbers of people. Let's be clear, a lot of people came into the U.K. in the late 1990s, early 2000s from eastern Europe, which caused a lot of tension, some social dislocation in some parts of the country. But beyond that, a lot of the whole immigration stuff was blown out of proportion, including by the Conservatives themselves who ran against Labor on the grounds that we're gonna bring back tough borders, we're gonna be tough on immigration. All the rhetoric you hear in the U.S. from the Republicans. That immigration factor played hugely in the campaign. It was used in and abused.

A lot of that referendum campaign was about immigration. The posters, the ads. Turkey, for example, which is not joining the EU. Is nowhere near to joining the EU. That was used as a prop by the Leave side, by the pro-Brexit side. They're were, "Oh, millions of Turks are gonna come and live in the U.K. Oh, Britain's new border will be with Iraq and Syria when Turkey joins the EU." All this inflammatory scaremongering nonsense. A lot of it Islamophobic to do with Syrians and Turks coming into the U.K.

CHRIS HAYES: In the American context, when we talk about immigration, it's sort of a proxy for race. Because of the nature of who is immigrating to the country, which is by and large people from Latin America, Caribbean and Asian. Of course, race is a completely artificial construct that was created by racists and colonizers to justify a certain set of conditions. But what I found interesting when I was looking at Brexit is, in the U..S, I think that we think of xenophobia and racism as the same thing, but there was a lot of anti-Polish, anti-Bulgarian sentiment in Britain. These foreigners are here working for cheaper or not. I don't know what the beef was, but that was also, it seemed to me, part of it as I watched that.

MEHDI HASAN: I would say yes and no. I would say there is a little England mentality which looks at other European countries, especially poorer European countries, and says, "Look at them. Why are they here?" There were a lot of Pols did move to the U.K., there's no doubt bout that, and contributed hugely to the economy. But I would also say, when you look at the referendum campaign, it has very little to do with Poland, much more to do with brown people.

You have Nigel Farage standing in front of a poster called Breaking Point, of Syria refugees, which was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. You had all this stuff about Turkey, which I mentioned. There was a very famous Channel 4 News interview with the voter in Barnsley, I think the day after, the morning after the referendum, which went viral, where he said, "Why did you vote for Brexit?" He said, "It has nothing to do with trade. Nothing to do with sovereignty. Has to do with immigration, to stop all the Muslims coming here." Yeah, we left the European Union to stop Muslims coming to the U.K.

There was a huge amount of... I think people underestimated just how important immigration, and how visceral, and how successful the right-wing's use of immigration a la the United States would be in that vote. On a political level, coming back to David Cameron, he didn't anticipate two of his loyal lieutenants, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. Michael Gove, a close friend of his, leading the Leave campaign. That played a huge role in terms of internal conservative party dynamics.

You had these two politicians, neither of whom actually thought that Brexit would happen. This is a key point, Chris. The Brexit leadership never thought it would actually happen. That's part of the reason we're in this mess today, because no one planned for it, and this was all supposed to be a political game for everyone.

CHRIS HAYES: I remember when the day after it happened. This was in the midst of the presidential campaign in 2016. There was this palpable shock in the US because people... I think not wrongly had thought of it as a proxy for Trump. These forces of reaction and nativism and anti-immigration, -

MEHDI HASAN: Very much so.

CHRIS HAYES: - and bigotry, and populist nationalism, depending on how charitable your read is, and what the various motivations are. 'Cause I think somewhere in there, there's some legitimate worries about the EU. That those combined and then took everyone by surprise.

I remember feeling viscerally like, "Whoa." I think Americans...

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah, we all did.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, American felt that way like, "huh."

MEHDI HASAN: No I was amazed living in the U.S. at the time, at how much interest Americans were taking in Brexit and Europe. With great respect to the people of this country, foreign policy is not normally a bad thing here. Knowing what's going on in Europe is not normally a big story here, and yet everyone was talking about Brexit. Trump himself dubbed himself Mr. Brexit. He turned up in Scotland at his golf course the day after Brexit to say, "This is great. Fantastic. I see a lot of what I'm doing in the U.S. here." Yeah, it was a shock, and I think you're right to say that people were drawing attention to it, but as I say, it was a shock even for the people who led it. Michael Gove, who is now the environment minister and still wants to be prime minister-

CHRIS HAYES: All I think of as Michael Gove is the viral clip of him clapping where he alternates sides of his hands.

MEHDI HASAN: Indeed, there are a lot of memes of Michael. He's a very charismatic, clever, but odd individual. When he went to bed that night, the night of the referendum, he didn't stay up for the results, Chris. He went to sleep, thinking-

CHRIS HAYES: That is an amazing detail.

MEHDI HASAN: ... "I don't know whether I'm going to lose by 5, 10, or 15 points." He goes to sleep, wakes up the next morning, goes in the shower. When he comes out of the shower, the media are surrounding his house, and his wife, who is a journalist, Sarah Vine, she says to him the famous Michael Caine job from The Italian Job. She says, "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off." Because this was supposed to be part of his own leadership bid and part of just putting pressure on the Conservative Party to be tougher on immigration, tougher on Europe. They never thought they would win.

Image: A vote leave supporter holds a Union flag, following the result of the EU referendum, outside Downing Street in London
A vote leave supporter holds a Union flag, following the result of the EU referendum, outside Downing Street in London, Britain on June 24, 2016.Neil Hall / Reuters file

Boris Johnson, his partner in crime, didn't even support Brexit until the last minute. He wrote two articles, Chris. He wrote two newspaper articles making the case for Brexit and against Brexit, which shows what an opportunist is, that he can argue any case you put in front of him, and then published the one against it when he decided at the last minute that this would be good for his career to lead a Brexit campaign, regardless of whether he wins or not.

CHRIS HAYES: Wow. I guess I knew the basic contours of that, but the details... It's really a breathtakingly cynical set of actions.

MEHDI HASAN: Cynical, shameless, opportunistic, and they're still at it. You started by asking at the beginning, the mess that we're in. It all goes back to that original sin, that these people ran a campaign based on a lot of what they didn't even believe in. They lied about everything. They went round with a bus saying, "You'll get 350 million pounds back." They said it would be easy. They said pulling out of the world's biggest single market, that Britain was part of for 43 years, would be easy. Now, they're reaping the fruits of all that.

CHRIS HAYES: Now, it's the proverbial dog that caught the car, right?


CHRIS HAYES: It's like, "Okay, well, now you actually have to do it." It has been a brutal, bloody slog in doing it. The first part of the story was the part of the story that I think we in the U.S. were paying a lot of attention to. Then, because we've got our own problems over here, as you well know ... You live in Washington, D.C. You cover the U.S. What happens after the win that has been so substantively and politically brutal on everyone who's trying to actually turn this cynical cause into reality?

MEHDI HASAN: Big-time. Actually, the overlaps are massive. You say you've got a lot of problems over here, but they are very similar problems. I was in the U.K. in July, and I wrote a piece for The Intercept from London while I was there saying, "Can you guess which country I'm in right now? I'm in a country where politics are in chaos. A member of the cabinet has just resigned. There's speculation about the future of the nation's leader. Trade wars dominate the headlines. Businesses are trying to leave. Migrants are being abused. Racism's on the rise, and the country's reputation is a joke on the international stage." I'm in the U.K., but it could be the U.S. There's so many similarities.

Yes, the dog that caught the car. Same with Trump, Chris. You saw Trump on election night, his body language, his face. You saw him sitting next to Obama when he went to the White House. He didn't expect to win. He ran to get a TV channel or to be second in the Republican Party race and brag about it, to make money out of this stuff. Just as he didn't expect to win the presidency and now we're having to put up with this supremely unqualified commander-in-chief, these guys didn't expect to actually have to put Brexit into practice.

I interviewed Norman Lamont shortly before the Brexit referendum, who was a Conservative finance minister in the 1990s, big Brexit supporter. These guys, their complacency, their arrogance, even. "Everything will be fine. We'll do a deal. It'll be an easy deal." Liam Fox, who's now the trade minister in the U.K., big Brexiteer. He said last summer, Chris, that making a trade deal with the EU once we leave will be the easiest thing in the world. You know what he says now? He now says there's a 60% chance that there will be no deal, that Britain will pull out of the EU next March, March 29th, 11:00 p.m., Friday, that's when the U.K. will leave the EU, and we will pull out with no deal.

What happens if there's no deal? According to the Sunday Times, which got hold of British government planning documents, the army is on standby to be ready to deliver food and medicine to people who need it, to stop the ports from shutting down, to airlift patients to hospitals. I mean, this is some kind of apocalyptic B-movie in the sixth richest country in the world.

CHRIS HAYES: Because England is not a big place. Great Britain-

MEHDI HASAN: Great Britain is not a big place. It used to be called England, Chris.

CHRIS HAYES: Now I have the Trump neurosis about getting it wrong stuck in my own head. Great Britain is not a big place. It is inextricably bound up in a bazillion different trade and labor with the EU.

MEHDI HASAN: With the EU, our biggest export market for goods, the biggest single market in the world.

CHRIS HAYES: If New York state just decided to levitate out of the Union, that would be a complicated set... It's not quite the right analogy, because obviously the federation's different, but New York state needs a lot of stuff from other states.

MEHDI HASAN: Isn't this the same thing, then, with the U.S. elections? You had people saying, "I'm really upset with the politicians. I really don't like Hillary Clinton. I feel like I've been left behind in my town, village, city, so I'm going to vote for the completely unqualified TV freak show to run the country, even though he's going to make things worse."

That's the same thing with Brexit, this idea that we're going to do this hugely complicated thing with no planning, no foresight. We've now spent the last couple of years in the U.K. debating all sorts of customs unions, single markets, tariffs. I was in the U.K., as I mentioned, in July. The political debate there is mind-numbingly dull. Everyone just talks about tariffs and trade deals. That is what political debate is.

CHRIS HAYES: Because just to be clear, here, the Common Market, it starts with a joint agreement to buy coal between France and Germany in the-

MEHDI HASAN: Indeed, 1950s.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah. And over this course of years and decades, expands out and expands out. If anyone has ever covered trade policy, every little thing gets debated. It's very complicated. All of that gets built up over the course of 40, 50, 60 years to get to the point that the Union is now. You pull out, you've got to basically create from scratch the architecture of what was built in 60 years.

MEHDI HASAN: We didn't debate any of this in the referendum. They went round with a bus saying, "350 million pounds will be yours if you pull out." They didn't think about this. They didn't plan for anything. It's such an insult to all of our intelligence, to their own voters.

As I say, it's the same thing with Trump. The idea, whatever you think about Donald Trump's politics, the idea that someone as ignorant and unqualified as him could run the United States of America, the world's only superpower, the richest country in the history of the world... It's hard to be president. The idea that you could just hand over the Oval Office to this guy and it would all be fine, that was insulting. I think the same thing applies with Brexit. The idea that you could just unravel all these trade deals, all these laws, 43 years of laws, and policies, and regulations, and that it would all be done quickly in the space of two years...

The irony is, these people, as I say, they knew that that was all BS. You look at what they've done since. You want to hear some mad stuff, Chris? Nigel Lawson, who was another Conservative finance minister, former finance minister, Grand D, he was chairman of the Vote Leave Board, Chris. He has applied for residency in France.


MEHDI HASAN: I'm not joking.


MEHDI HASAN: He has applied for residency in France. Nigel Farage, former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, who spent his entire life trying to get Britain out of the EU, has made sure, because he married a German woman, has made sure that his kids have dual nationality-


MEHDI HASAN: they have German passports and access to the EU. I'm not making this up. I could keep going. John Redwood, another former Conservative cabinet minister who supported Brexit, he's advised investors to invest in the EU, not in the U.K. It's just the hypocrisy and shamelessness of these people is beyond parody.

CHRIS HAYES: Then what's happening now? You’re having these…

MEHDI HASAN: Now the poll show that people regret. There's something called Bregret.


MEHDI HASAN: I don't know where we come up with these silly names.

CHRIS HAYES: That one, we might have to scotch. Brexit, I like. Brexit is catchy, but Bregret?

MEHDI HASAN: We're regretting, Britain's regretting their vote for the EU. Most polls now show that more people support staying in the EU than leaving and most people support a second referendum-


MEHDI HASAN: ...on the terms of any deal that is made. Of course, the prime minister says, "No way will there be a second referendum." Even the Labor leader, the opposition leader, and that's part of the story here, the Labor Party in the U.K., which has really failed miserably on Brexit, sadly. Whatever your views of Jeremy Corbyn's views on politics, on Brexit, they're also opposed, the leadership of the Labor Party, to a second referendum, which I think is madness. There's no reason why you shouldn't have another referendum, given everything we were told was lies, given everything's gone not according to plan, if there was even a plan to begin with.

CHRIS HAYES: It's a little like prohibition in the U.S. They got in the Constitution, and then it happened, and then it was really bad, and then they passed another amendment to be like, "We're just going to take that one back."

MEHDI HASAN: Passing that Constitutional amendment was 100,000 times easier that what Britain would have to do to get back into the EU. It's not easy to cancel this now. Most people think it's impossible to cancel. We have to now quit regardless of another referendum. If we wanted to rejoin, Chris, we go to the back of the queue, the back of the line. It will take several years, and we will join on the worst possible terms.

CHRIS HAYES: I saw Boris Johnson. He's the mayor of London, but he's a somewhat familiar figure in the U.S., I think, because he biked around London, and he's got silly hair, and he's charismatic and interesting.

MEHDI HASAN: He's interesting.

CHRIS HAYES: He's very sharp.

MEHDI HASAN: He's now doing the best possible impression he knows of Donald Trump. This week, he's caused a lot of controversy over Muslim women.

CHRIS HAYES: Yes. Tell me about what he is now up to, because he resigned. There's been a succession of resignations of Tories who supported Brexit from the Theresa May government, him being the most notable. Why?

MEHDI HASAN: What's interesting, and some of your listeners are going to think I'm making this stuff up, but I'm not. I promise. Theresa May, who actually supported staying in the EU, becomes prime minister after David Cameron resigns. To cover her flank, she appoints three of the leading Conservative Party who supported Brexit to carry it out. She makes Liam Fox, who I mentioned earlier, the trade minister. He's in charge of a trade deal. She makes Boris Johnson foreign minister, foreign secretary. He was the leader of the Leave campaign. She makes David Davis in charge of the department to do Brexit, the Brexit secretary.

Now, two of those three people resigned over the summer because they didn't like the deal she was doing with the EU. They thought she was being too soft, and because they themselves have no alternative of their own, and they're trying to save their own political future.

CHRIS HAYES: I see. Their resignations were from her right.


CHRIS HAYES: "You're selling out."

MEHDI HASAN: Oh, yeah. Boris Johnson claimed that Britain was becoming a colony under the deal put forward by Theresa May.

CHRIS HAYES: You shouldn't have gotten out of the goddamn Union, idiot.

MEHDI HASAN: What's interesting is, Boris Johnson, out of all those right-wingers, actually did a passable impression of a liberal, sensible Tory while he was mayor of London, because to be mayor of London, the most diverse, metropolitan, liberal city in the U.K., you can't be a crazy right-wing anti-immigrant racist. So Boris did a very good impression of being a sensible liberal Tory. You may remember he attacked Donald Trump over the Muslim ban. He said he wouldn't come to New York because he was worried he might bump into Donald Trump in the street. He was very pro-immigration, because business leaders in London liked immigration.

Now, he reinvented himself. He wants to be prime minister, Chris. He's wanted to be prime minister since he was a child in short trousers. That's his one overriding ambition and goal. He will destroy whoever he has to destroy to do it, David Cameron, Theresa May, whoever, the country. Now he's reinvented himself yet again as a nativist, populist, Trumpian right-winger. He already has the whole unorthodox stuff going, the crazy rhetoric, the hair, and now he's brought the nativist, anti-immigrant platform. He consulted with Steve Bannon recently, quite a big controversy in the U.K. A lot of leading Brexit politicians met with Bannon, which some of us find outrageous.

He met with Bannon, and then this week, he writes an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in which he mocks Muslim women in face veils as bank robbers. He says they look like bank robbers and letterboxes. Now, a huge uproar in the U.K., saying this is outrageous. Even Theresa May, Conservative Party leader, Conservative prime minister, even though she leads a party which is full of quite a few nasty Islamophobes, Chris, even she comes out yesterday, I think it was, and says, "Boris, you need to apologize." He says no, through his friends and sources, refuses to back down. Now they're investigating him, which he thinks is good, because like Trump, he can play a martyr to the right-wing base of the Conservative Party, which quite likes attacks on women in face veils who are Muslim. He is running the Trump playbook right now, in terms of trying to be a martyr, going after political correctness, going after Muslims, resigning from the government in a huff, and waiting, waiting, waiting to take the top job.

CHRIS HAYES: Meanwhile, you've got this... There's not just the trade issue, right? There's also the border issue, which is a lightning rod. Because obviously, the border between Ireland, which is in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is in the U.K., is a border that is a very touchy one for obvious reasons. There's a big fight about what that looks like.

MEHDI HASAN: It was integral to the peace deal that was done by Tony Blair in 1998, the Good Friday Agreement, this idea of free movement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, integrated economies, integrated peoples, family relationships. The idea that you put a hard border, where you have to pull out your passport, or get a visa, or whatever it is in order to get across undermines the entire, very tense, very fragile peace agreement that has only been in existence now for, what, 20 years. The idea that we could go back to the bad, dark days of the Troubles, with the civil conflict, and the violence, and terrorism there because of Brexit is just astonishing and irresponsible.

Again, Boris Johnson said recently in a speech, "This is all blown out of proportion. It's folly. We shouldn't care about this stuff." They never took it seriously. They never even thought about it, and this is yet another problem that's come to bite them in the backsides. What do you do about Northern Ireland? The polls now show that the number of people in Northern Ireland who are now starting to support independence and a united Ireland is skyrocketing. It's starting to go up. In Scotland, which also voted to stay in the EU, but lost out to the majority of the U.K., to good old England, Scotland is pretty upset about this, too. It would be another great irony if these great nationalists who said, "We're going to pull Great Britain out of the EU because we want to be sovereign, we want to be independent," if they actually indirectly end up breaking up the U.K. How tragically ironic that would be.

CHRIS HAYES: I remember that Scotland, there was real talk post-Brexit about Scotland going its own way. I guess the question is, how real is that as an option for Scotland?

MEHDI HASAN: Right now, not real, because we had the referendum in Scotland. They lost, but I think the issue is long-term. No one knows what's going to happen, Chris. No one knows what's going to happen next March, when the Brexit day comes along. No one knows what's going to happen after the transition period, which finishes, I think, December 2020. No one knows. Every week that goes by, there's a new story about some kind of mad constitutional, political, economic, or cultural implication.

Britain is a deeply depressing place these days. I was there in the summer. I went back to visit family and friends, to do some work. People are upset. Racism is on the rise. Xenophobia is on the rise. A lot of the fallout from Brexit, again, sorry to harp on about Brexit, does look like a lot of the fallout from the Trump election. There's a huge division now between urban and rural, between young and old. It's a very polarized place.

CHRIS HAYES: There's been this debate in the U.S. about what gave rise to Trump, and these two schools of thought, which I think I'm oversimplifying. You know this, because you cover U.S. politics, but basically the economic anxiety, that globalization, and de-industrialization, and the rise of this globalized class under neoliberalism that left behind so many parts of America, but also the U.K. and other places, this rebellion against that that took the form of this nativist, isolationist, nationalist backlash.

MEHDI HASAN: Anti-establishment.

CHRIS HAYES: Anti-establishment. They're all corrupt self-dealers, Goldman Sachs, Clinton Foundation, yada yada. That's one theory, and the other theory is that this was, in the American context, American racism that has been the founding stain of the country from the very first moment.

MEHDI HASAN: The whitelash, as Van Jones put it.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, the whitelash, exactly. Is that debate a debate on the left, center-left in the U.K.?

MEHDI HASAN: Big-time, yeah. I think it's almost exactly the same debate going on in the U.K. Very similar, and I would argue... I know you don't want to make it reductionist, but if I had to pick between the two camps, I'm in the racial resentment, cultural anxiety school. I don't think economic anxiety is what drove Trump or Trump's base, and I don't think that's what drove Brexit. Again, in a similar way, there was a lot of op-eds, and politicians coming out and talking about left behind, and white working-class voters in the north of England who had delivered Brexit, but actually, if you look at a lot of the rigorous academic research, social class was not a predictor of Brexit votes. In fact, a huge chunk of middle-class people and rich people voted for Brexit, just as they did for Donald Trump.

CHRIS HAYES: Exactly. Very similar here, yeah.

MEHDI HASAN: Also, what I always say to people, especially on the left, who say, "This is all about the working class," if it's all about economic insecurity and the working class, explain to me why the non-white members of the working class didn't vote for Trump. Explain to me why the non-white members of the working class in the U.K. didn't vote for Brexit. That doesn't make any sense if income and class is what matters. Actually, Eric Kaufmann of Birkbeck College in London did a study. He found that the number one predictor of support for Brexit... Guess what it is, Chris? Guess what the number one predictor of support for Brexit was, of all the different factors out there.

CHRIS HAYES: I would guess age.

MEHDI HASAN: Support for the death penalty, which doesn't even exist in the U.K.

CHRIS HAYES: Fascinating.

MEHDI HASAN: Again, a proxy for a long-dead period in British history.

CHRIS HAYES: That's right.

MEHDI HASAN: The good old days, when you could execute people, and you didn't have to listen to those damn Europeans or deal with these foreign brown people. Lord Ashcroft, who is a Conservative politician, one of the big supporters of Brexit, he did a big poll which found a massive correlation between people who don't like environmentalism, multiculturalism, feminism, and support for Brexit. Now, ostensibly, none of those things have anything to do with Brexit, but again, proxies for people who don't like the way that their country has changed, they don't like the way that ... you know, what's happening to the world.

CHRIS HAYES: It's a movement of reaction, right?

MEHDI HASAN: Of course. That's why Trump loved it.

CHRIS HAYES: In both cases, yeah, it's classic. It's classic reaction in both cases. I agree with you. I do think there's an atmospheric way in which globalism and neoliberalism have shaped the political economy and structure of companies that produce the conditions to make demagoguery on these scores worse, generally, as a specific sort of causal…

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah, definitely, and the financial crisis. 2008, no one could pretend that's not a driver of all these movements. But, fundamentally, the idea that…

CHRIS HAYES: I agree. As a causal question of what was driving this, like let's be clear about what was driving it.

MEHDI HASAN: No, and exactly. And many, many, many people from deprived communities voted to stay in the U.K. As I say, people of color, I always say this to people, "Explain to me why, if it's an issue of class or income, what happened to people of color? Why did they not pull the lever for Trump? Why did they not go for Brexit? Why did London, the most dynamic, multicultural city, the city with the biggest foreign-born population in the U.K., why did London decide to stay in the EU?" So, yeah. I do think a lot of it's to do with that. And that's what worries me most about the fallout from Brexit.

It's the same thing with Trump. You can vote Trump out of office. You might, by some miracle, be able to delay or undo Brexit, or what's called a soft-Brexit, you don't pull out completely, but what do you do about the underlying forces of reaction that drove both these movements?

CHRIS HAYES: Right. And Boris Johnson, who now sees a place for him. That is such a great weather vane moment, right? He senses, and you're seeing this in the U.S., politicians sense that that's where the base, particularly the Republican Party is. Again, it's the same thing as Brexit, which is that, if you look at the approval ratings of Donald Trump, there's a lot of buyer's remorse there, too. He's underwater. He's not popular in the same way that Brexit is not popular once the dog caught the car.

MEHDI HASAN: I think, what's interesting is, while there were some good arguments for Brexit, I was opposed to Brexit, but there were some arguments for Brexit. There are some genuine debates to be had about the lack of democracy inside the European Union, the austerity policies of the European Union, the Euro, the single currency, and the disaster that's been. There was definitely some good arguments. Not many, but some in favor of Brexit, whereas I would argue there was not a single good argument in favor of Donald Trump.

Having said that, I still think Americans are in a better boat, because at the end of the day, you can still vote Donald Trump out of office; Brexit is forever.

Image: People gathered in The Churchill Tavern, a British themed bar, react as the BBC predicts Britain will leave the European Union, in the Manhattan borough of New York
People gathered in The Churchill Tavern, a British themed bar, react as the BBC predicts Britain will leave the European Union, in New York on June 23, 2016.Andrew Kelly / Reuters file

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah, that's a great point. In terms of the good arguments, one of the things when you talk about the long-standing British aversion, or portions of Britain's aversion to the continent across the channel, you guys kept the pound and you stayed out of the common currency, which again, during the financial crisis looks very smart. The common currency was a fricking disaster and basically the people of Greece were water-boarded by the European Central Bank, and by Angela Merkel's government, and so, in that sense I've-

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah. If I lived in Greece, I would be supporting Grexit. It would be a very logical move.

CHRIS HAYES: 100 percent.

MEHDI HASAN: But, in Britain, the economic arguments were all in favor of staying.

CHRIS HAYES: Well, that's my point.

MEHDI HASAN: It's a good deal.

CHRIS HAYES: Britain of all the places had the cake and eat it, too.

MEHDI HASAN: Yes. Well said.

CHRIS HAYES: Because they were the ones that got to join the political union, and stay out, and keep control of their currency, which was the crucial sin that was committed, was the common currency, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis.

MEHDI HASAN: No, it's complete economic self-harm. And here is the best part of all, once the referendum was lost and Teresa May become prime minister, and suddenly becomes a committed Brexiter... Remember, she actually opposed Brexit, but now she's prime minister, she see's where her party is. She knows she has to make Brexit happen. She suddenly becomes a massive Brexiteer. Although, when she's asked, "What does Brexit look like, prime minister," what does she say? "Brexit means Brexit." What a great answer.

So, she's now pushing Brexit. She could have done a softer version. Put aside the politics her own party are taking. I'm talking, in theory, the idea, even after the Brexit vote, Chris, there was a chance to minimize the harm by saying, "Okay, we're going to pull out of the European Union, but like Norway, we're still going to stay in the single market. We're still going to trade, still going to have no tariffs." But the problem with staying in the single market, Chris, is that you have to have free movement of labor. And that comes back to the immigration argument.

For these guys on the right, that is the be all and end all, you cannot have free movement. "We don't want these foreigners coming here."

CHRIS HAYES: And then now you've got this situation where, and I think this is also true in the U.S., where there's a kind of uneasy coalition between, I think people on the left and people who are kind of much more liberal cosmopolitans, for lack of a better word. The Michael Bloombergs of the world don't like Donald Trump, and the Bernie Sanders of the world don't like Donald Trump, but Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg have very, very different politics. And you've got to sort of similar coalitional problem in the U.K., right? Which is that you sort of unite in favor of remain or have in a sort of European and cosmopolitan tolerant future for U.K.

You've got to build this coalition, but those folks have all sorts of beefs with each other.

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah. And it's like in the same way that Bernie Sanders said stuff like, "I don't like Donald trump, but he's got a point about trade." You have a lot of people on the left saying, "We don't let the little England reactionary nationalist arguments in favor of Brexit, but we don't like the EU either because we see it as a neoliberal entity, a banker's ramp, a free trade area, which doesn't protect workers, doesn't allow governments to protect industries, etc, etc." Jeremy Corbyn, the Labor leader was a lifelong critic of the EU. Had he not been leader of the Labor party, he would have been on the Brexit side.

It was only because he was leader of a party which was fully committed to the EU that he campaigned in favor of staying in the EU, and he didn't campaign very wholeheartedly or passionately. That's what he's been criticized for a lot by people in his own party who are upset about Brexit. And even today, Jeremy Corbyn's saying, “no, we won't be part of the single market." If there was a different label leader who was actually much more passionately, ideologically, enthusiastically in favor of staying in the European Union, Labor could say, "You know what? We're going to go into the next election with a manifesto commitment to undo the referendum or to have a second referendum and stay in the EU."

Because at the end of the day in Britain, parliamentary sovereignty trumps everything. The referendum is not binding, it can't work without an act of Parliament. So there's no reason a future Labor government couldn't say, "Okay, that referendum was in 2016. Things have changed. You voted us in and we said we're staying in the EU, therefore that general election result takes precedence over the referendum." It'd be controversial, but you could do it.

CHRIS HAYES: Where'd you grow up?

MEHDI HASAN: I grew up in north London.

CHRIS HAYES: And what were your parents... Are Your parents from London?

MEHDI HASAN: No, my parents are from India, moved to the U.K. in 1966 and 1973.

CHRIS HAYES: I wonder how you feel about your identity as part of a multiracial U.K. that has been a vibrant, pluralistic, multiracial society for decades and decades now at this moment.

MEHDI HASAN: It's deeply depressing. Everyone I speak to in friends and family of mine who are still in the U.K., they will say to me... Chris, ever since Trump was elected, people in the U.K. say to me, "What are you still doing there? Come back to the U.K. You mad, why are you a Muslim immigrant in Trump's America?" And one thing I do say in response is, "Britain would be a lot more appealing to come back to if it wasn't for the Brexit vacation of the U.K.," because my own friends and family telling me, "Yeah, it's a bit crap here right now." Xenophobia is on the rise, racist attacks are on the rise, Islamophobia is on the rise.

And you talk about identity. You know, some of us grew up in a country where I was comfortable having multiple identities, as you mentioned earlier in the show, the forces of reaction who wanted earlier country that wasn't multicultural, they're the ones who like Brexit a lot for obvious reasons. Those of us who have always been comfortable having multiple identities, I can say that I'm British and I'm English and I'm European and I'm of Indian origin and I'm Muslim, you could say you have multiple identities. I don't see them as clashing with each other.

Unfortunately, we now live in a time where you're being forced to pick, and Brexit has heightened those contradictions. And what's interesting is, Brexit's become very much about English nationalism, not even about Britishness, as I mentioned, the Scots, the Northern Irish, not really on board, so it's actually heightened English nationalism. So there's a huge debate going on. The World Cup was a reminder of that. A lot of people on the left proudly saying, "Actually you can do an English patriotism, you can go on about England and wave the St George's cross and the English flag for the England football team without falling into kind of the old parody, the caricature of far right nationalistic hooligans."

CHRIS HAYES: It was funny because, I follow you on Twitter and I read your work, I listen to your great podcast, Deconstructed, I follow your work. And I think of you as this sort of, you think and talk a lot about foreign affairs and global relationships. And it was funny during the World Cup to watch you just like completely fanning out.

MEHDI HASAN: I know, people were saying, "You never tweet about football." I was like, "The World Cup is the World Cup."

CHRIS HAYES: Football's coming home. I'm sitting here getting live tweets from you of every, every goal scored.

MEHDI HASAN: I was in England for the quarterfinal and semifinal. It was so depressing. It was so depressing in the semi final with my daughter, it was very sad.

CHRIS HAYES: Well, but what I think is interesting about that is, I think it's a real struggle to come up with a vision of patriotism and love of country that has broad buy in and equality and assues chauvinism and ethno nationalism, but has ardor to it, has real love of country to it. Because it's such a binding thing. I cherish those moments when that can be found, moments where you feel like solidly as part of an equal and pluralistic and national community. And sports is a silly thing, but he can do that pretty well.

MEHDI HASAN: Especially what football traditionally has done in England. But what's interesting is, you remember when James Mattis was abroad after Trump's Charlottesville comments about... almost exactly a year ago? And he went to some troops and he did this video saying, "You're what our country looks like, you need to hold the line and keep us together while we try and sort out our politics back home." And Gareth Southgate basically said a version of that in the run up to the World Cup where he talked about how the England team represented the best part of Britain in terms of its diversity in terms of its energy, dynamism, youth.

Image: The United Kingdom Goes To The Polls In The EU Referendum
A man accompanied by his dog laughs as he exits a polling station after voting in the EU referendum in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 23, 2016.Charles McQuillan / Getty Images file

And I think it's interesting that it comes from unusual places, you know, in the midst of all this depression and political infighting and people resigning from the cabinet. You did have this moment in the summer where people were able to put their divisions behind them. And not just that, for people who, the Remainers, the 48 percent to lost the referendum, the England team was a great reminder that all is not lost, the forces of reaction have not won yet.


MEHDI HASAN: Because when you put aside the party politics and the endless debates about what the customs union or single market's going to look like, the reality is that Britain, regardless of what political structure it chooses, the Britain we live in today does look much more like the England team and we'll carry on looking a lot more like the England team than the Conservative Party or the membership of the U.K. Independence Party. And the same applies in the U.S. Trump can win his election victories. It is in many ways dying victories for the white far right, because they don't like the browning of America, because the demographics are not in their favor. You saw Laura Ingraham's rant on Fox News.

CHRIS HAYES: What's the future for the U.K. in terms of negotiating this and the future of these sort of Transatlantic alliances of nationalist, ethno nationalists that are being built. Nigel Farage, like you can't ... It's crazy, every right wing event that happens in US, it's like Nigel Farage is there.

MEHDI HASAN: Yeah. He met Donald Trump before Theresa May did.

CHRIS HAYES: My favorite was Nigel Farage and Donald Trump in Mississippi at one point. It's like, "What, did I just take acid?"

MEHDI HASAN: And what do they both have in common? They're both rich upper middle class or upper class folks pretending to be kind of working class populist, blue collar billionaire. Nigel Farage is a former city trader, private school boy.

CHRIS HAYES: That's the best part of all of that.

MEHDI HASAN: In his pinstripe suit pretending to be the voice of disenfranchised factory workers in the north of England. The whole thing is a con job, that's number one. But I think the only future for the U.K. and for the U.S., which sees the forces of reaction being defeated is for those who are fighting this fight to call a spade a spade, to identify the enemy, to go back to the debate you mentioned earlier. You cannot just reduce this to economics or trade or globalization or tinkering with a trade treaty here or raising a minimum wage there. I think you actually have to take a much bigger step back and recognize in the US how this all plays into the history of white supremacy and the dying gasps of the far right and the browning of America and the white lash.

And I think in the U.K., you have to see it as little Englander mentality reasserting itself in the face of a much more multicultural U.K., where London is a much more dynamic part of the country than the rest. And I think the only way you're going to win that battle is for standing up to it. Tony Blair, for example, has been trying to reinsert himself into the debate, saying, "Oh, we need to stand for multiculturalism and fight for the EU." And yet, Blair was one of those classic politicians who did so much triangulation on these issues that so many centrist and liberal and center left politicians instead of fighting the good fight, have done this whole, "Oh, well, there are legitimate concerns about immigration. Oh, well, we have to hear these arguments out. Oh, well, we shouldn't call our opponents racist."

You may remember that from the Trump campaign. There's a whole debate at that time. There was a time when people were scared to call Trump a racist, remember that? And I think that's a mistake. You cannot defeat racism and nationalism by meeting it halfway, and I think that is going to be the big challenge for people on the left and for liberals in politics in the U.K. and the U.S. going forward, because the other side knows what they stand for. They're not hiding what they stand for. See Laura Ingraham and others. It's no longer hidden at all, and I think we have to be clear sighted about what we're up against.

This is not about economics and trade. Yes, there are factors, but this is about something much more and much darker than that.

CHRIS HAYES: Mehdi Hasan is a journalist, a host of two different shows on Al Jazeera English; Upfront and Head-to-Head. He also hosts a great podcast, Deconstructed for the Intercepts where he also writes. If you do not know Mehdi's work, I really urge you, go to YouTube right now. Google Mehdi Hasan interviews, and he is one of the sort of best, most dynamic interviewers that-

MEHDI HASAN: Oh, you are very kind.

CHRIS HAYES: No, you really are. You're fantastic. You're fearless and bore in. And I always, I admire your style. I always feel like I'm just too nice, mad at myself.

MEHDI HASAN: Nice work on this one.

CHRIS HAYES: Be more like Mehdi. Thank you so much, man, for coming on.

MEHDI HASAN: Thanks Chris.

CHRIS HAYES: Once again, I want to say thank you to Mehdi Hasan of the Intercept. You can listen to his fantastic podcast, Deconstructed, wherever you get your podcasts, probably at the same place that you got this podcast, which you are by definition listening to right at this moment. We do love feedback, we've been getting lots of great feedback in two places. One is the hashtag we use on twitter #withpod, W-I-T-H-P-O-D, withpod. You can also email us. Now, we have a dedicated email address, Tiffany Champion reads every single email multiple times and then she recites them to me from memory. It's an amazing, amazing display.

You can email us,, and we do love to hear from you. A few responses to our climate change conversation with Andrew Revkin, one twitter user @bfdwriter said that she was disappointed that we didn't cover some of the arguments of climate change naysayers. She talked about trying to have this conversation and breakthrough with naysayers in her family, who still say climate change isn't real and the climate's changing all the time. And I think it's a good question.

I think I have gotten to the point where I genuinely think the persuadable people on this question are persuaded and the remaining folks are probably not super persuadable. Certainly not by me. Maybe it's just my own estimation of my persuasive abilities are such that I do not think they are sufficient to the task of persuading the holdouts at this point in the year of our Lord 2018, about whether the basic physical mechanisms of pumping lots of carbon into the atmosphere, which we've known is a greenhouse gas since the 19th century, is in fact heating up the entire climate as was demonstrated in basic physics over 100 years ago. So I don't have it in me. I just don't think I'm good enough.

If a person is not there yet, I think, and let me, between you and me, I think I'm a pretty persuasive guy. Honestly, I do. I think I'm pretty good at making arguments. I think I'm pretty persuasive. I don't think I have that ability, so. And so that's partly it. I think the second part of it is, I guess I feel like so much climate coverage and discussion for such a long time was devoted to this question, to the denialist, to the 'debate' over it happening, to the holdouts, to the marshaling the evidence. I just think that that ended up taking a lot of time and attention away from much more urgent pressing questions with respect to climate, once you understand and simply accept the basic science.

And so that's where I feel like my intervention is most fruitful and where I think the conversation is most fruitful. One more piece of feedback we got from Ezra who emailed us at He said, "I'm curious to know more about your shift from seeing climate change as a political problem to a technical one. I definitely agree with the political situation is continually discouraging, but I can't help thinking putting all our eggs in the technological solution basket is dangerous." I totally agree with the latter point, and I want to clarify a little bit because I got a number of folks talking to me about that last part of the interview, where I said, "Basically, my hope grows dim on the political front and hopefully the engineers will save us."

They'll be like a little like some Dyson-sized machine that you just like ... in the air and that takes all the carbon out and then everything will be solved, which is my hope. Like my Dyson impersonation? I basically think that you need both. There's no universe in which we really forestall the most catastrophic effects without both tremendous political mobilization and incredible technological and engineering breakthroughs so you just need both. I guess at this point, I'm more optimistic about the tech side, partly because there's just been amazing, amazing progress made on, particularly the solar front and the wind front. There's really exciting and interesting things being done around grid management.

All that stuff is happening, even the absence of political movement that we need. And so when I sit and I look at the two trajectories, the tech trajectory right now seems really promising at points, in a way than the political trajectory, at least in United States doesn't. All right, thank you again for emailing us and for tweeting at us.

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