1. Trumpism | Crooked Media
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August 11, 2020
Missing America
1. Trumpism

In This Episode

The life-altering events of this spring illustrate why the world needs leadership to overcome international crises… and what happens when there’s none. COVID-19 exposed the fatal consequences of Trump’s “America First” policies which reject global alliances and cooperation. But then, America’s Black Lives Matter movement led to an international wave of activism that brought the global conversation back to human rights… where we need America to lead once again. 

Host Ben Rhodes talks to Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and progressive activists abroad, about the successes, failures, and ultimately the necessity of U.S. leadership.

 

Transcript

 

EPISODE 1 – TRUMPISM

 

COLD OPEN

[MUSIC BEGINS]

 

I’m Ben Rhodes. On January 20th, 2017, I left the White House for the final time. 

 

I was exhausted….physically and emotionally…from eight years as a foreign policy advisor and speechwriter.

 

I flew with the Obamas on their final flight aboard Air Force One. We dropped them off in California, said our goodbyes, and then flew back over the country. 

 

There were only a few of us on board. My head was full of memories from the years gone by, and a sense of despair about how it ended. For those few hours, it felt like I was suspended in time between two presidencies – flying through the American darkness on the most famous airplane in the world. 

 

We landed in Washington just as dawn was breaking. And then….almost immediately… President Trump set out to destroy everything I worked on. 

 

[ARCHIVAL Reporting]:

IRAN [Reporter]: President Trump’s major announcement today….pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal.

 

CUBA [Reporter]: President Trump reversing some of the Obama-era policies toward Cuba…

 

Trump: “The United States will withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord”

 

Every morning I’d wake up in fear of getting another news alert on my phone.  Another sledgehammer to an agreement, a treaty, a *promise* we’d made. 

 

Instead of *leading* the free world, Trump was trying to dismantle it, along with everything I believed in. 

 

At the same time, I started traveling. From Europe to Asia; from Africa to Latin America, I saw the incalculable damage Trump was doing…

 

[Music picks up]

 

…But I also met progressive activists and politicians who were fighting to make things better.  

They were doing amazing work… which gave me hope. And they wanted America back in the fight *with* them.  On their side.  Which *also* gave me hope.  

 

So, I started recording our conversations. 

 

This is a podcast about what happens to the world when America betrays the values that we are supposed to stand for….and, with an election just a few months away, we’ll hear about what we need to do to be the country we *should* be…the country the world needs us to be. 

 

[MUSIC SWELLS]

 

This… is Missing America. 

Over the next nine episodes, I’ll introduce you to some of the inspiring people I’ve met.  

 

NG: Hong Kong people do feel that they are part of the larger international community.   

BODNAR: In order to survive, you have to prove to people that you are needed.

LAMMY: Progressives need to grab hold of that yearning that humans have to belong.

 

They’ll tell us how — in the absence of American leadership — a *host* of diseases have swept through their countries, and across the planet. 

 

COVID-19 for one. But also *political* diseases — like nationalism, authoritarianism, disinformation, and climate change.

 

None of these are easy to eradicate. But together, we’ll look for solutions, we’ll hear from the people likely to work in a Biden Administration, and learn how to become a country actually *worthy* of leading the world.

 

And if you’re skeptical — If you don’t think American leadership has *ever* really been good for the planet — we aim to convince you otherwise.  

 

Starting first, today… with a tale of two outbreaks. The first one got stomped out by an international coalition led by the United States. And the other… well, you’re living through it right now.

 

This is what happens…when America… goes missing. 

 

[MUSIC ENDS]

 

ACT ONE

 

Think about the first time you heard about COVID-19.

 

 [Reporter]: They say right now… the immediate risk to the American public is low.

 

The early reports didn’t *seem* so bad.  

 

[Reporter]: Coronavirus it’s called, which produces pneumonia-like symptoms.

 

[Reporter]: But so far, it does not appear that this disease is easily transmittable between people.

 

TRUMP: We have it totally under control.  It’s one person. Coming in from China.

 

[THE NEWS STATIC]

 

Even so, when *I* heard them? I felt a chill of deja vu. And fear.

 

Y’see, back in twenty-fourteen, we had to deal with an outbreak of a *different* disease.

 

And it taught me that epidemics aren’t like the Kennedy Assasination. Or 9/11: disasters that hit everyone at once, and you know immediately the world has changed.

 

Epidemics… sneak up you.

 

Every day back then, I’d get the Presidential Daily Briefing — a summary of all the bad news in the world.  It’s on an iPad, and I’d scroll through everything that was threatening to fall apart. At the time, the headlines usually focused on the atrocities of ISIS. Or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But then one day… further down in our briefings… came an alert from West Africa. About people getting sick from Ebola.  

 

[PING ALERT]

 

It said the virus often leads to massive hemorrhaging. And then, a few days later, came another little alert.  

 

[PING ALERT]  

 

Data showed a fifty percent fatality rate.

 

And then… another alert.  

 

[PING ALERT]

 

Death count rising. 

 

[OMINOUS MUSIC]

 

Finally our National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, said, “Hey-we should pay closer attention to this.”

RICE2: Because I worked Africa for almost eight years, six of eight years during the Clinton administration. We dealt with an Ebola outbreak in the Congo and in Uganda that was really serious. And then Marburg fever, which is a cousin of Ebola, another hemorrhagic fever. And so I had seen this, and saw how it could spread. And here it was in a different part of the world that seemed much more virulent and that we were far more behind the curve in getting a grip on. 

Obama told us to stay on top of it — to prepare for what was coming.  

 

But everyone else? Seemed to be falling behind.   

 

The World Health Organization had sent personnel to West Africa. But they dragged their feet on even declaring Ebola a crisis. 

 

Later Samantha Power, our Ambassador to the UN, found out why.

 

POWER: Answer: Behind the scenes, the countries in West Africa were lobbying W.H.O. not to, because they didn’t want to scare away business. 

 

Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had been in conflict for years. They were just beginning to recover. Trade was finally picking up. 

 

POWER: And they knew that the minute they had the big Ebola stamp emblazoned on their territory, that that would scare away foreign workers, foreign investors. And so they lobbied, and W.H.O. you know, just kind of stayed on the sidelines for longer than they should have.

 

Meanwhile, at the White House, the government’s top scientists and health officials led us through a series of briefings. And if you ask anyone who was there, they’ll probably mention the same moment — the thing that made clear what we were dealing with.  

 

It was a chart from the CDC.  Projecting the death rate from Ebola if we let it go unchecked. The curve on that chart went straight up like a hockey stick. Millions dead. In just a few months.

 

[MUSIC ENDS]

 

Amy Pope was Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, and helped manage the Ebola team:  

POPE: Interestingly the multilateral institutions that had been set up to manage this kind of response had failed, right? So most spectacularly, the World Health Organization, and I think at some point there is a recognition that actually we can’t leave this to the W.H.O., we can’t leave this just to U.N. actors.

So the U.S. did what it used to do in a global crisis. 

 

We led.

 

CBS ARCHIVAL: “As Ebola continues its deadly march across the region, here, the American military and other Western health workers continue to trickle in. Real boots on the ground.” 

 

First, Obama sent thousands of troops to West Africa.   

 

The military had never been deployed like that in a health crisis. But they knew how to quickly set up distribution centers and temporary clinics…

 

CBS ARCHIVAL (CONT’D): “…Nearby, around-the-clock construction operation is underway to complete the first of 17 U.S.-funded Ebola treatment units.” 

 

…And our troops also knew how to build airfields. Airfields were gonna be important.  

 

Because the *second* thing we did… was get dozens of countries to fly-in what became more than ten thousand health care workers, experts and supplies of their own. 

 

[HOPEFUL MUSIC BEGINS]

 

Convincing those nations… wasn’t easy.

 

POPE: I don’t think people immediately saw why it was in their interest to send anybody into West Africa. I mean, these aren’t major economies, they’re not major trading partners. And it took a lot of persuading to get people to step up. President Obama actually reached out to many, many leaders to ask for their help.  And we would give him a list: “This is what we need, and can you call the president or prime minister of this country or that country to get them to engage?” 

 

*He wasn’t alone.  Envoys, aides, *anyone* with *any* reason to talk to a foreign leader, pressed them to act on Ebola.  At the UN, Samantha Power spent days twisting diplomats’ arms.

 

POWER1: United Kingdom, you have a history in Sierra Leone, including a history of deploying military troops there in a peacekeeping capacity. What are you prepared to do in Sierra Leone, where you have that history? And at a time when China was looking to flex its muscles, to be able to go to my Chinese counterpart and say, “OK, you want to be at the big table? How many Ebola treatment units are you prepared to build?”

 

Best part?  It worked.  

 

With the U.S. committing so many resources, and with more and more countries joining, it got tougher for holdouts to say “no.” 

 

ARCHIVAL REPORTING: The UK is sending hundreds to Sierra Leone and France is leading efforts in Guinea. 

 

ARCHIVAL REPORTING: On the French President’s schedule, inspecting facilities put in place to fight the deadly virus.

 

ARCHIVAL REPORTING: Korea will send its first full scale medical team to Ebola-hit Sierra Leone in the coming weeks.

 

At one point even *I* got involved.

 

I was at the Vatican, finalizing the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. I asked Alejandro Castro – Fidel’s nephew – if Cuba could send doctors to help fight Ebola. 

 

Something in his voice changed. America had never asked Cuba for anything. Really, we’d never even treated them with respect. He said he’d see what he could do.

Within weeks, more than a hundred Cuban doctors were headed to West Africa. Some of them on *U.S.* aircraft. 

 

Imagine that. 

 

[MUSIC ENDS]

 

So, what are the lessons of Ebola? 

 

First: you can’t resolve an international crisis without an international response. 

 

And second: An international response is impossible… without someone to give it all a push. 

The Trump Administration refused to learn those lessons.  

In fact, they *failed to learn anything from Ebola… at all. 

TRUMP INAUGURATION:  ROBERTS: “I Donald John Trump do solemnly swear…” TRUMP: “I Donald John Trump do solemnly swear…”   

Inauguration Day, twenty-seventeen. 

Not long before this, Amy Pope had given Trump’s transition team the infamous “pandemic playbook.” Step-by-step instructions for handling a pandemic, gleaned from the Ebola crisis. 

POPE: So it was: “If this happens, do this.  If this happens…” basically a decision tree that was meant to capture every single hard decision that we had to face, and help people work through it using past experience. 

Trump’s transition team…ignored it.

But the seed for Trump’s more fundamental failure was planted right in the middle of his inauguration speech.  When he said this:

[INAUGURATION ARCHIVE]

CNN ARCHIVE: From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.  America First! 

[APPLAUSE]

From the moment he took office, Trump went out of his way to make international co-operation — to fight a pandemic or to do anything else — impossible. 

TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE REPORTER: Why do you keep calling this “The Chinese Virus?” Why do you keep using this? A lot of people say it’s racist.

 TRUMP: It’s not racist at all, no.  Not at all.  It comes from China.  That’s why.  It comes from China.  I wanna be accurate. 

[MUSIC BEGINS]

This isn’t about Trump versus Obama. It’s about Trump versus what Americans – and the world – should be able to expect from *any* U.S. President in a crisis: To coordinate a global response. 

Instead, in America’s absence… there *is* no coordinated global response.  Samantha Power.

POWER: Right now, the international system has kind of become a self-help society. You know, it’s not a U.S.-led world order. So what you have is a kind of each-man-for-himself, kind of vibe and set of actions.

We’ve become a disengaged patchwork of countries… without unified leadership… sharing no set of protocols to stop the disease.  And the world has paid the price.  

Ironically, most of all – the U.S. has paid the price….with far more deaths from COVID-19, than any nation on Earth.

ARCHIVAL REPORTING: The Coronavirus crisis has taken another staggering turn for the worse.

ARCHIVAL REPORTING: For the first time in weeks, the US daily coronavirus death toll hitting above 1000…President Trump saying the pandemic will get worse before it gets better…some health experts describing it with no end in sight.

[MUSIC ENDS]

So… I know the question all this raises: 

“Why us?” 

Why should the United States lead the international response — to COVID or any other crisis?  Why can’t someone else push the world into action for once?  

Some of it’s just practical. We have a capacity like no one else….not just money and a military, but a muscle memory to mobilize a global response, that even powerful countries like China don’t have: 

We also have a lot of friends. Susan Rice:

RICE: We have an inherent advantage also in our network of alliances that is unmatched. And we have extraordinary diplomatic reach. We’re in every capital on the planet virtually. And we can walk into the foreign ministry and meet with somebody sufficiently senior and say, ‘Hey, you know, this is something that’s important. Let’s talk about it.’ And I don’t think there’s any substitute for it.

Why do we have that reach?  Or at least used to, before Trump?…Because America literally built the international system that’s been in place for 75 years. 

 SULLIVAN: So if you think about the first half of the 20th century, what you looked at was essentially a dog-eat-dog world. 

Jake Sullivan was national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and he’d likely be a key player under a *President* Joe Biden. He takes us back to the end of World War II. 

SULLIVAN: The leaders of the United States basically said, “We don’t want to go through that again. We don’t want another Great Depression caused by a lack of international coordination. And we don’t want a third world war that would leave millions dead and hundreds of millions displaced.” 

So instead of lording over defeated enemies like Germany and Japan…  America rebuilt them. And then used its power to advocate for a whole web of international rules and institutions. 

Standards to facilitate trade and fight disease. Human rights laws to protect people from despots.  Nuclear Arms treaties.  

All designed to prevent another world war, another Great Depression, another pandemic.  Not out of the kindness of our hearts.  But because it was good for us, too. 

SULLIVAN:  And that kind of positive-sum mindset is something that other countries could see. They disagreed with us on a lot. They saw we acted selfishly a lot. They saw we screwed up a lot. But they also saw this underlying view in the American foreign policy attitude that said ‘We’re all in this together.  We can produce solutions where everyone ends up better.” And that’s a very attractive and appealing dimension. 

That underlying attitude – “we’re all in this together” – is what made America’s most important achievements in the world possible. 

But as we’ve seen, since Trump turned America’s back on the world — when he put “America First” — the system that America built has started to fall apart.

[OMINOUS MUSIC BEGINS]

Let’s be clear…as Jake says, we have screwed up…a lot. The list of our failures is long.  Vietnam. Support for right-wing dictators. And, more recently, this. 

ARCHIVAL: (Bush): At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.

ARCHIVAL: (CBS Report) President Bush said today he was disgusted by pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused by American soldiers.

ARCHIVAL: (news report). It is another grim military milestone. The American death toll in Iraq rising to 4000.

In fact, under the Obama Administration, I was part of a few disasters myself.  For every Ebola response…there was something like a Saudi-led war in Yemen, or a military coup we tacitly supported in Egypt.  We’ll talk about those later in the series.. 

So no, America’s moral compass isn’t exactly unerring… 

But consider the other choices.

RICE: Who would you rather see leading the world? Because somebody is going to lead it. 

Susan Rice: 

RICE: You rather have, you know, Xi Jinping in China lead it with, you know, a million Uighers in concentration camps, and Hong Kong, just literally having been snuffed out, and a surveillance state, like, would blow our minds here in the United States. I mean, would you rather have Vladimir Putin lead it? 

This is the world we live in….a world where no one else has the capacity to lead…and the countries next in line would spell disaster for cooperation among nations and for individual human rights.

Of course, under Trump… *America* is also a disaster for human rights.  

So to lead again — we’ll have to find a way to begin to rebuild our moral authority.  

The good news?  We started doing that this summer, when protestors took to the streets across America to insist that Black Lives Matter. 

Why *that* movement matters more than any foreign policy we could pursue. 

 When this episode of Missing America continues.  Stay with us.

  [MUSIC ENDS]

 

—-Babble & Sunbasket AD—-

ACT TWO

RHODES (ON TAPE): So, again, just to begin. How many years were you in the Foreign Service? 

RUSSEL: Thirty three years.  

RHODES: Thirty three years.

That’s me talking with diplomat Danny Russel.  He served as Obama’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia.

RUSSEL: My very first assignment was to Japan, a country that I thought I knew fairly well already.  And I discovered something in the first year that blew me away and it was, it was this. It’s a simple realization: 

[THOUGHTFUL MUSIC BEGINS]

People will do more for you willingly, without you requesting it and often without you even knowing about it, if they believe that you stand for something. If they believe in your cause, if they feel like they are part of an enterprise that’s bigger than just you.

Danny says he always keeps that in mind when he thinks of America’s role in the world.

Me too.

We’ve learned how America has the resources and muscle memory to lead the international community. That we need to do it because without us, the international system begins to crumble.

But until Trump, the real source of our leadership has been that we stood for something bigger than just us. 

Basically… America’s got a really good story.    

[MUSIC EVOLVES AND CONTINUES]

It’s a story that starts off with a bang: a Declaration of Independence which declared that everybody — everywhere — is born equal.

But that document alone wasn’t enough to *create* equality. 

In fact, its author — owned slavesThe women of this new nation didn’t even have the right to vote.  And the country 

was literally built on land stolen from natives. 

[MUSIC ENDS]

So what happened *next* in the story is also important.  Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice sums it up.

RICE: The very founding principle that we’re all created equal, and our efforts, over 200 plus years, to try to make that real, you know, I think is profoundly powerful.

It bears repeating: the two hundred years worth of effort.  *That’s* what’s powerful.

RICE: We’ve shown a capacity to improve and renew ourselves.  Through women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, the election of Barack Obama, I mean, you name it. There are many ways in which we’ve shown that, you know, we can better ourselves.

And that part of our story has been the foundation of whatever moral authority we’ve ever had. 

[MUSIC BEGINS]

MURPHY: America’s power in the world has always been connected to the attraction of the American model. 

Chris Murphy is one of the leading progressives in the Senate.  

MURPHY: This radical idea that we have built a country based on these two fundamental ideas: one — self-determination, that we decide for ourselves our future. But that we do it in a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation in which we blend together people of different faiths, different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different races. There’s no other country in the history of the world that has done both these things: made a commitment to democracy and a commitment to multiculturalism. And those two ideas coexisting is the story of American influence in the world.

And, by the way, it’s a story that is indistinguishable from the fact that America is a nation of immigrants, made up of people from everywhere.

RICE: America is not just a melting pot, but it’s a microcosm of every strand of humanity that exists. 

Susan Rice

RICE: People like my own immigrant grandparents from Jamaica who came here to the United States in 1912 to Portland, Maine, with nothing, no education. My grandfather was a janitor. My grandmother was a maid. And then they were able to send all five of their kids to college and they all became successful professionals. That sort of American dream concept, I think, remains powerful.

The power of that concept ripples around the world too, because people everywhere have friends or family who came to the States…and accomplished things they couldn’t back home. 

And if you want to know why the battles over American identity have become so intense, Susan reminds us it also has something to do with this: 

RICE: Demographically, most people know that by the mid 2040s, we’re not not likely to be majority-white country anymore. We’re going to be majority-minority. And that scares some people. It, it shouldn’t, in my opinion. But it it does….So it is a racialized ‘other’ in our country that I think Trump has deliberately stoked. The notion that we can go back to the future in 1950…when…in his parlance, we were somehow great once… and can be again…that’s not about, you know, Leave It to Beaver. That’s about a time when, you know, there were very few brown people, and black people had no rights. Let’s be honest. 

The world can see us having this fight with ourselves….even if sometimes we refuse to see it ourselves. And for the last few years…

[MUSIC ENDS]

 …they’ve seen the wrong side winning. 

TRUMP BAN: A total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on. 

TRUMP: We’re going to build a wall. It’s going to be built. Who’s going to pay for the wall? *CROWD: Mexico! Who? Mexico!

These are things Donald Trump said on the campaign trail. *Before* he was President.

And just the fact that a big chunk of Americans voted for him anyway… began to undo all those decades of goodwill.

MURPHY: As we’ve lost our connection to that American story, as our democracy has started to weaken, as we started to see our multiculturalism as a weakness rather than as a strength, it’s not coincidental that our influence in the world has begun to atrophy.

Chris Murphy isn’t just talking about our influence over other governments. It’s also among their people.  

Zarlasht Halaimzai runs an NGO that helps refugees deal with trauma. She grew up a refugee herself, from war-torn Afghanistan.

HALAMAZAI: America’s always had really good stories, you know, American Dream has influenced so many people beyond America. In fact, when my family was thinking about, you know, “Where do we go?” America was one of the countries that we considered, because of this idea that it’s a nation of immigrants, that, you know, it’s about meritocracy. And you can make it there if you work hard. And I think what it needs to do is to live up to the stories that it’s told, right? And I think that’s only going to happen if Americans are able to get honest with themselves about what they actually stand for right now. Because for a lot of people outside of America, it’s quite clear a lot of the hypocrisies of the Americans’ mythology. 

RHODES (ON TAPE): We’re tangled up in our own hypocrisies. 

HALAIMZAI: Exactly. And so I think that the only way that it can move forward is if Americans can look to their dark past,  you know kaside from, you know, the American dream and all the amazing things that have come up, but also look at all the other stuff that has happened, and oppression and, just domestically, like gun violence, mass incarceration, all these different things. And for that to happen, I think you actually need some, a space that can hold quite a lot of trauma — because there are a lot of feelings and emotions and resentment and anger from so many different communities. And I think that’s, if there are spaces that can hold that, then you can come through it, and atone, and move forward.

Zarlasht sees an America that stopped trying to better itself…that hasn’t even been willing to acknowledge its hypocrisies.  

But maybe, this summer, that started to change…

CLIP: BLACK LIVES MATTER CHANT  

Americans of all races hit the streets, to express their trauma, and try to atone.  And sure enough, right after *our* Black Lives Matter protests began?

So did these.

 

AUSTRALIA PROTEST: Whose lives matter? Black Lives Matter. No Justice. No Peace. The racists- Police.

REPORTER (UK): Here in Central London, these hundreds of people have gathered because of a statement, Black Lives Matter

AUSTRALIAN REPORTER: In Australia organizers say tens of thousands of protestors gathered, some highlighting what they say is the mistreatment of the countries indigenious population. 

REPORTER: Brazil to South Korea, thousands gathered in the streets to make their voices heard

“Black Lives Matter” quickly became a global rallying call.  With protests in the UK, Belgium.  Australia.  Brazil.  South Korea.  Even Syria. 

NEWS REPORT: The protests are very much focused on what’s happening in the United States, but a lot of protesters are also focusing on systemic racism here in Belgium

NEWS REPORT (UK): America’s own challenge is rippling out. (“Say his name” “George Floyd”) All the same, a measure of how racism scars our common cause. 

And you have to understand: The last year has seen massive civil rights protests in countries around the world: 

Muslims protesting mistreatment at the hands of India’s Hindu Nationalist government.  

The people of Hong Kong protesting China’s encroaching authoritarianism.  

But these were regional movements.  *America’s* protests…went global. Because finally, once again, we represented something that mattered to people everywhere. 

It’s as though the world had been waiting for this country to get back to being itself.  

To live up to our story… to confront our demons, so that we can lead again. 

That requires more than electing a new President. 

Susan Rice says BLM gives us an opportunity, but we have to follow through: 

RICE: It’s young and old and it’s black and white and Latino and, you know, every state in the Union who have finally come together to say, “Wait a minute, this really is messed up. It’s not just the black folks who think it’s messed up. We all think it’s messed up, and we’ve got to do something about it.” But if we let this moment evaporate, and it only becomes, you know, “NASCAR takes down the Confederate flag and Mississippi changes its state flag and a few statues of Robert E. Lee and some other, you know, confederates are torn down,” then this has been a complete waste. 

To succeed, movements have to be sustained. And if they are, movements – like viruses – can be contagious. America’s own history shows us this…

Sangu Delle is a writer and entrepreneur from Ghana. He told me how America’s greatest movement of the 20th century – the civil rights movement – helped galvanize the movement for independence from the British in his own country. 

DELLE: Kwame Nkrumah, our first president, he went to University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University, and it was his interactions with African-Americans and the civil rights activists there that gave him some of those early ideas that he brought back. 

One of those African American leaders? Was Martin Luther King, who was welcomed at Ghana’s independence celebration. And just as Ghana’s liberators were inspired by King, he was inspired by them. 

When he returned from Ghana, King drew this lesson:  

ARCHIVAL MLK: “If there had not been a Gandhi in India with all of his noble followers, India would have never been free. If there had not been an Nkrumah and his followers in Ghana, Ghana would still be a British colony. If there had not been abolitionists in America, both Negro and white, we might still stand today in the dungeons of slavery.” 

Sangu Delle believes in the power of that kind of connection: 

DELLE: You got all these great African-American icons who were intimately involved. And so you had this symbiotic relationship….So I think that there’s a great opportunity for both communities in the US and across..the African continent to learn from one another…because ultimately what we’re looking for is a more just and a more prosperous world across the board. I mean, there are differences here and there. But if you think about it, in both the U.S. and across here, what is everyone pushing for? We are all pushing– we just want a more equitable, just society and a fairer shot to achieve our dreams. And that’s the same whether you’re in Ferguson or whether you’re in Kampala. 

The American civil rights movement was part of an arc of progressive activism that reshaped the world in the 20th century…through protest and mass mobilization, former colonies were liberated….societies were made more equal…the Berlin Wall came down.

You see, all of that progress wasn’t about American power….it was about the power of what America, at its best, represented.

[MUSIC HERE]

In this series, we’ll learn how America – under Trump – has become a source of inspiration for right-wing nationalists in Europe…an increasingly totalitarian China…and for disinformation and anti-immigrant sentiment everywhere.

But we’ll also learn why and how America needs to lead again…with the kind of government that helped stamp out Ebola, and the kind of activism that can galvanize movements for justice around the world. 

RICE: There are a whole lot of issues that are of…national and international significance where, you know, American leadership at the community level, at the activist level, the civil society level, can and should be important….And so, you know, maybe we’ll lead a revolution of “throwing the bums out” that, that others can replicate. 

This isn’t wishful thinking. It isn’t American narcissism. The progressive leaders of the world will straight-up *tell* you they need us back. To help solve a whole *host* of problems. 

David Lammy is a leading Labor member of Britain’s Parliament.

LAMMY: When it comes to things that require global leadership, that frankly, if America isn’t in the room leading, they will not happen. If America is not leading on climate change, it cannot happen. If America is not leading on the refugee crisis facing much of the world, it cannot happen. 

Or listen to Australia’s Kevin Rudd. He led that country’s Labor party and served twice as Prime Minister.

RUDD: Despite the carnage delivered to America’s global standing by the Trump administration…Don’t underestimate the deep and abiding goodwill around the world on the part of America’s long-standing friends and allies and others towards American leadership. It’s still there. People actually want America to lead. And the rest of the world is kind of looking forward to that. It’s been a very long four years.

But of course, we can’t lead again until we throw the bums out here, and deny Trump four more years that could permanently define America in the eyes of the world.  

Four more years he’d use to tell a very different American story, and set a very different kind of example. for how to roll back democracy.  

David Lammy: 

LAMMY: I’ve been in politics now long enough to know, when new political individuals emerge that are seductive and attractive and particularly those that are attractive in the United States, you should never underestimate how that is not just a story about the United States. It’s a political story that is mimicked across the world. Very very sadly, Donald Trump is not just about the United States. It’s about the copycats that we’re now seeing emerging in South America and Eastern Europe and being copied around the world. And, of course, if Donald Trump were to win a second term… well the consequences are huge. 

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Next time, we’ll hear more from David and others… about one of those consequences: a disease called nationalism. Why it’s made a comeback…why it’s so dangerous…

And how a young woman in Switzerland managed to fend it off… with wit, organization, a computer, and some simple, compelling stories of her own.. 

KLEINER: The most important thing is, like, Be popular. Like, you can be popular without being populistic. And I think that’s really important. Sometimes we, like, liberals, we tend to be too intellectual, to be a bit afraid of finding simple words for big issues, you know.   

On the next episode of Missing America. 

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Missing America is written and hosted by me, Ben Rhodes.

It’s a production of Crooked Media.

 

The show is produced by Andrea Gardner-Bernstein.

Rico Gagliano is our story editor.

 

Austin Fisher is our associate producer.

Sound design and mixing by Daniel Ramirez.

Production support and research from Nimi Uberoi and Sydney Rapp.

Fact checking by Justin Kloczko.

Original music by Marty Fowler. 

 

The executive producers are Sarah Geismer, Lyra Smith, and Tanya Somanader.

Special thanks to Alison Falzetta, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett and Jon Favreau.

Thanks for listening.

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