Katrina vanden Heuvel: ‘A Great Nation Doesn’t Need to Boast’
In Conversation with Walter Mosley on The Quarantine Tapes
Hosted by Paul Holdengräber, The Quarantine Tapes chronicles shifting paradigms in the age of social distancing. Each day, Paul calls a guest for a brief discussion about how they are experiencing the global pandemic.
On Episode 150 of The Quarantine Tapes, guest host Walter Mosley is joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel. Editor and former publisher of The Nation, Katrina joins Walter for a discussion on optimism, politics, and change in the immediate aftermath of the January 6th events at the Capitol. Walter and Katrina talk about the Georgia elections and the change in the South. They also dig into the velocity of debate on social media, the need for understanding, and America’s role in the world. Katrina touches on the importance of balancing optimism and realism and the need for more joy on the left.
From the episode:
Katrina vanden Heuvel: One thing I’m hopeful about, optimistic about, is that people who did not understand the power, the right to vote—many thousands did, because they fought for it, they died for it—but a lot of people in this country have believed that our country was a well functioning political democracy. They didn’t really pay attention to the right to vote. I mean, what the Supreme Court has done, and the suppression of the vote, is far more threatening than a lot of foreign powers’ attacks on us. And so I think it’s the threat within, or the challenge within.
But people now understand they cannot sit back on the sofa. If they want to, that’s their right. But I think millions of people are engaged, as you’ve said, in movements in their own communities. Too much of it is about Trump in my mind, because I think Trump is also Trumpism. When I think of isms, I think humanism is an important ism that can be added to other isms. But if you’re not a humanist, you can have utopian ideas, and we’ve seen through history that big utopian ideas can end in blood.
Walter Mosley: In dictatorship. In mass murder. Absolutely.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: But, you know, let’s not assume that until the Capitol in the United States was attacked that we were a well functioning democracy. I have an issue—it’s kind of a tick. I’ve been in meetings, I’m sure you’ve been in meetings, where people say we’re leader of the free world. I’m sorry, I can’t do it. The notion that we are the indispensable nation, which has been around for decades, or that we have a right to a triumphalism and the end of civilization with the United States winning the civilization game, I think should be jettisoned right now, after these last hours. But they should have been jettisoned years ago. A great nation, in my mind, doesn’t need to boast. A great nation needs to get its act together at home for its own people.
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Katrina vanden Heuvel is editorial director and publisher of The Nation, America’s leading source of progressive politics and culture. A frequent commentator on U.S. and international politics for ABC, MSNBC, CNN and PBS, her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Boston Globe and she writes a weekly column for The Washington Post. Vanden Heuvel is also the author of several books, including The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in The Age of Obama.