Episode for January 10, 2024
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Joshua Green is a national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek. He has also written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair. Green regularly appears on CNN, MSNBC, HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, and PBS’s Washington Week and Frontline.
From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Devil’s Bargain comes the revelatory inside story of the uprising within the Democratic Party, of the economic populists led by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In his classic book Devil’s Bargain, Joshua Green chronicled how the forces of economic populism on the right, led by the likes of Steve Bannon, turned Donald Trump into their flawed but powerful vessel. In The Rebels, he gives an epic account of the long struggle that has played out in parallel on the left, told through an intimate reckoning with the careers of the three political figures who have led the charge most prominently. Based on remarkable inside sourcing and razor-sharp analysis, The Rebels uses the grand narrative of a political party undergoing tumult and transformation to tell an even larger story about the fate of America.
For many years, as Green recounts, the Democrats made their bed with Wall Street and big tech, relying on corporate money for electioneering and embracing the worldview that technological and financial innovation and globalization were a powerful net good, a rising tide lifting all boats. Yes, there were howls of pain, but they were written off by most of the elites as the moaning of sore losers mired in the past. There were always some Democratic politicians representing the old labor base who resisted the new dispensation, but these figures never made it very far on a national level. For one thing, they didn’t have the money. But as income inequality ballooned, widening the gulf between the wealthy elite and everyone else, pressures began to build.
With the 2008 crisis, those forces finally erupted into plain sight, turning this book’s protagonists into national icons. At its heart, The Rebels tells the riveting human story of the rise and fight of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the financial crisis on, as outrage over the unfairness of the American system formed a flood tide of political revolution. That same tide that would sweep Trump into office was blunted on the left, as the Democratic party found itself riven by culture war issues between its centrists and its progressives. But the winds behind economic populism still howl at gale force. Whether the Democrats can bridge their divisions and home in on a vision that unites the party, and perhaps even the country, in the face of the most violently deranged political landscape since the Civil War will be the ultimate test of the legacies of all three characters.
A masterful account of one of the defining political stories of our age, The Rebels cements Joshua Green’s stature at the first rank of American writers explaining how we’ve arrived at this pass and what lies ahead.