The Ezra Klein Show: Democrats Chase Shiny Objects. Here's How to Build Real Power.

New York Times Opinion New York Times Opinion 2/1/22 - Episode Page

There’s good reason to worry about the future of democracy, and little reason to believe Democrats have a viable plan for protecting it. They built their strategy around passing a major suite of reforms and protections through Congress, and a few weeks back, their whole agenda collapsed in the face of the filibuster. So what now? Is there a Plan B for protecting democracy?

Yes. But it begins with realizing that there is no national solution in a country that administers elections at the state and local levels. Which means it begins with realizing that many Democrats have made a mistake: They’ve focused so much on national conflicts that they’ve ceded state and local power to the right, with dangerous results. Trumpists can’t pass some big national bill putting Trump back in office, so they are organizing to win the state and local offices that will hold power over the process next time. Democracy’s defenders need to do the same. And that means you.

Amanda Litman is a co-founder of Run for Something, which recruits and supports young, progressive candidates who want to run for office. And so this is a conversation about the mechanics of American democracy, the confusions and myths that keep so many of us from participating in them and the practical question of what it means to step off the sidelines and, well, run for something. We talk about why Democrats tend to chase “shiny objects” over real political power, what right-leaning organizations have been up to that liberals should envy, how you probably have more control over issues like abortion and climate change than you think, what it actually takes to run a local campaign, the three questions prospective candidates should be able to answer, and more.

This isn’t a conversation raging against the decaying of American democracy. This is a conversation about saving that democracy by participating at its most fundamental level: the local level. The one where you can have the most impact. And so it’s the rare conversation about democracy that left me feeling better, rather than worse, about what’s possible. I think it’ll do the same for you.

This episode contains strong language.


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From ProPublica: “Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections” by Isaac Arnsdorf, Doug Bock Clark, Alexandra Berzon and Anjeanette Damon

What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

Find out what elected offices you can run for

Book recommendations:

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Let’s Get Physical by Danielle Friedman

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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at />
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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