May 2 • 1HR 3M

Briahna Joy Gray – Debating Progressive Policy

Glenn Loury
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Weekly conversations on race, inequality, and more, with Glenn Loury. Bi-weekly appearances by John McWhorter.
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This week, I welcome Briahna Joy Gray to TGS. I’ve appeared on her podcast, Bad Faith, and now she’s here to return the favor. Briahna and I have some pretty pronounced political differences—she’s the former National Press Secretary for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, after all. But we get along anyway, because we both believe in the importance of free speech and open debate. And make no mistake, there is a lot of debate in this episode.

[Note: We recorded this conversation at Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and there was no video equipment on hand. Instead, Nikita Petrov has created an animation version of me to provide some visual stimulation.]

I may be uncomfortable saying that I’m a “man of the right,” but I’m certainly “conservative for a black guy.” But Briahna points out that there are many black people who have benefited from America’s economic opportunities and know it. They may vote Democrat, but they’re hardly socialists. Many conservatives say that their voices are shut out of mainstream discourse, and the left has a similar complaint. I point out that the Democratic Party has repeatedly undercut Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, and Briahna explains why Democrats have been and continue to be hostile toward progressive policies and politicians. She argues that neither Democratic nor Republican policies reflect the actual desires of the majority of voters, as political parties no longer need to vie for broad majorities in order to win elections. After that, the debate begins in earnest. We address three major points of contention: increasing taxes on the very rich in order to expand the social safety net, Medicare for All, and student debt cancellation. I’m skeptical of all of these policies, to varying degrees, while Briahna believes they’re necessary in order to remedy the (admittedly vast) disparities we see all around us. We wrap up by discussing the fascinating convergence between certain factions of the left and right in criticizing what appears to be a march toward escalating US intervention in Ukraine.

I enjoy a good debate, and I suspect that Briahna does, too. Maybe that’s why, despite our differences, we get along so well. Let me know what you think in the comments.


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0:00 Acknowledging the black middle class

14:04 How the Democratic Party works against progressives

21:11 Briahna: The interests of political parties no longer reflect the interests of voters

26:53 Should we increase taxes on the very rich in order to fund the social safety net?

34:51 Briahna makes the case for Medicare for All

43:21 Should we cancel student debt?

54:30 The left-right alliance over intervention in Ukraine


Bad Faith’s Patreon page

Ben Carson’s book, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page’s 2014 study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”

Vann R. Newkirk II’s Atlantic piece, “The American Health-Care System Increases Income Inequality”


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