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Left, Right & Center

Left, Right & Center


Left, Right & Center is KCRW’s weekly civilized yet provocative confrontation over politics, policy and pop culture.


Biden v. Trump: Who will win over more auto workers amid strike?

The United Auto Workers union initiated a partial strike after failing to reach a new contract with automakers General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Thirteen thousand workers hit the picket lines outside of plants in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. As the president and GOP candidates weigh in, whose response will resonate most with the workers? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a stark warning for other world leaders as he addressed the United Nations General Assembly this week. Then he visited Capitol Hill, seeking further support for his nation’s efforts in the war against Russia. Is the United States as receptive to his calls for aid as they were when the conflict began? Famed football player Deion Sanders (aka Coach Prime) is now in his first season as head coach at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The success of Sanders, his sons, and a rejuvenated roster have garnered heaps of praise and support. But does his newest project highlight the cycle of diminished support for historically overlooked Black colleges and programs, like his previous stop at Jackson State?
22/09/23·51m 13s

Dems at odds over support for asylum seekers

New York City Mayor Eric Adams says the city is struggling to support 110,000 migrants who have arrived there in the last year. He’s called for support from the federal government. Republicans have taken a victory lap as the Democratic mayor’s comments have caused a rift on the left. Will politics or policy win in the search for a solution? A recently elected state Supreme Court judge in Wisconsin is being threatened with impeachment just a month after being sworn in. Republicans in the state legislature say that Justice Janet Protasiewicz should recuse herself from cases involving controversial congressional maps after she was critical of the issue during her campaign. Will calls for recusal or removal prevent an independent judiciary from doing its job? Google and the Department of Justice are going head to head in an antitrust suit that began this week. Google says its dominance over the search engine market is earned. The government says not quite. Will they have trouble making their case? Plus, hear another installment of our “Changed My Mind” audio essays that’s all about focusing on distraction.
15/09/23·50m 30s

Biden’s race for re-election approaches new hurdle

The choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is a toss-up nationally. Will a possible rematch turn emerging polling trends into a new political reality? The effects of climate change were on full view this summer. The insurance industry claims that protecting Americans from those effects is growing too costly, forecasting some hefty costs for homeowners without an appropriate response. A scandal reverberates throughout Spanish soccer. Plus, hear another installment of our Changed My Mind audio essays.
08/09/23·50m 29s

Will ‘Trump Lite’ leave voters wanting more?

Vivek Ramaswamy had a strong performance in the first Republican primary debate. It’s too early to tell how it will translate in the polls. Can he connect the party’s base with the next generation of voters? Nikki Haley drew heat for saying Americans should be afraid of a possible Kamala Harris presidency. Critics say the comment is a dog whistle for racist and sexist voters who oppose the vice president. Is she out of bounds, or are the VP’s supporters being overprotective? Last week, a mass shooting broke out in Jacksonville, FL. Why do political leaders in the U.S. struggle with their responses to these tragic events?
01/09/23·50m 34s

GOP candidates fight to fill Trump’s absence

The first primary debate of the 2024 presidential election took place in Milwaukee this week. Eight Republicans took the stage. Who left their mark? Donald Trump was invited but chose not to attend. His presence continues to linger over the participants and the identity of his party. Will the GOP’s traditional conservative ideals take hold, or will voters follow their hearts back to Trump and his acolytes? The response to Maui’s raging wildfires left plenty of room for criticism of emergency and government officials, including Joe Biden. His genuine empathy and ability to connect used to be a strength, but has it fallen to the wayside during his presidency?
25/08/23·50m 30s

Georgia On My Mind

A fourth indictment was filed against Donald Trump this week — in the state of Georgia. Fulton County D.A. Fani T. Willis presented a sprawling document charging Trump and 18 others for conspiring to reverse the state’s results in the 2020 presidential election. Will an elected official pursuing a legal case against Trump hurt what is an otherwise strong case? The first Republican primary debate is less than a week away. With several candidates jostling for second place behind Donald Trump’s big lead, a report detailing strategy memos from a Ron Desantis super PAC surfaced. Will the derided governor’s campaign be able to recover before he hits the stage? Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hit social media to call on the FDA to reduce its strict regulations on sunscreen. It could be a viable political move. So what’s stirring the criticism from supporters on the left?
18/08/23·50m 29s

Buckeye State bucks ballot initiative

Ohio voters turned out in droves to reject a ballot measure that would change the state’s amendment process. An upcoming vote on abortion rights lingered in the background of the special election. What role could abortion play in national voter turnout next November? Hunter Biden’s business partner testified before Congress last week. A collapsed plea deal on tax charges means a potential trial for the president’s son could be around the corner. Could further investigation into Hunter’s legal troubles spell disaster for his father’s re-election hopes? Negative reactions to the U.S. Women’s National Team’s early exit from the World Cup angered supporters. Is it unfair to expect the team to be shielded from critiques over their political activism?
11/08/23·50m 34s

Adding indictments to injury

Donald Trump was indicted this week for several charges related to the events of January 6. U.S. Special Counsel Jack Smith presented a strong legal case against the former president. Will litigating the Capitol riots help mend the political divide, or set a strict precedent for the executive branch? President Biden’s administration says it’s doing everything it can to solve a broken immigration system. The policies put in place so far haven’t garnered much support from either side of the political aisle. Do genuine solutions lie in the middle, and what do they look like? In the latest installment of “Changed My Mind,” a veteran reckons with the realities of battle.
04/08/23·50m 29s

McCarthy’s on the Hunt(er)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy thinks it may be time to open an impeachment inquiry to get more information on President Biden’s involvement in his son Hunter’s questionable business dealings. Congress can pursue impeachment at its own discretion, but is now too soon? Also, Mark Zuckerberg narrowly missed being held in contempt of Congress after initially withholding internal communications between the White House and Facebook. The House Judiciary Committee says he may not be so lucky next time. Is there any middle ground for allowing communication between the White House and tech platforms? Plus, in the next installment of our “Changed My Mind” series, learn why you should always examine polling data.
28/07/23·50m 29s

Who’s afraid of the big bad Trump?

Conservative groups and the Donald Trump campaign are collaborating to expand executive powers if Trump secures a second White House term. At the heart of the plan is a legitimate debate about the scope of government —- and legitimate fears about what Trump would do with all that control. The independent group No Labels held a town hall unveiling its plans to present a third party option to a Biden-Trump rematch. Can they present anything to independent voters that’s worth a spot on the ballot next November? Two blockbuster films hit theaters this weekend — about one of the world’s most popular toys, and about one of history’s most destructive events. Some moviegoers can’t wait to see both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” What does that reveal about us? Plus, the first in a new series of essays presents a shocking discovery about relationships.
21/07/23·50m 29s

Tuberville blocks nominees — will US military lose its might?

Both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Institutes of Health need a chief. Some senators are blocking confirmation of those nominees — so what will it take to win them over? Meanwhile, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama is feeling heat for his comments defending white nationalism. Why does the GOP still feel the need to reach a controversial wing of voters? The increased popularity of artificial intelligence means tech could play a bigger role this upcoming election season. Are politicians ready to handle that responsibility? Will the showdown between Threads and Twitter become an ideological battle?
14/07/23·50m 29s

Voters believe in Biden’s policy. Do they believe in the man?

President Biden is putting the spin on “Bidenomics.” The administration is hoping they can capture voters with improved messaging on popular policies, but will it work? We’re a week removed from the end of the Supreme Court’s most recent term. What are the big takeaways from the slate of decisions from the court, and lessons about the newest justice? America celebrated its independence once again this past week. But after a tumultuous last few years, confidence in institutions is down across the board. Is our democracy healthy enough to regain the trust of voters?
07/07/23·50m 29s

What’s next for diversity efforts as SCOTUS strikes down affirmative action?

The Supreme Court ruled against long-standing affirmative action practices for public and private universities. Is there any chance this could improve how colleges try to increase diversity on campuses, or will it set back the clock in the push for racial equity? After last week’s short-lived mutiny, plenty of questions remain about the strength of Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. What can we take away from how he’s handled the aftermath? How has it impacted support for Putin at home and abroad? California Governor Gavin Newsom and Florida Governor Ron Desantis have used state policies to bring national attention to their ideological battle. Are the dueling governors just trying to boost their national profiles, or do they accurately represent the direction that their respective parties are headed in?
30/06/23·50m 46s

Biden’s uphill battle, and a year post-Roe

President Biden is hitting the campaign trail to tout his first-term accomplishments, gain support, and refill his war chest. But in the face of sagging poll numbers, can he convince voters to grant him a second term?  It’s now been one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. What’s changed in the absence of federal abortion protections, and what else has the court ruled on in its most recent term? Can it maintain public credibility amidst political polarization? A storm is brewing inside the environmental movement, pitting clean energy advocates against conservationists concerned about the impacts of development. How will a movement that’s been primarily focused on opposing new projects retool to build the infrastructure necessary to combat climate change?
23/06/23·50m 29s

Trump’s been indicted — again

Donald Trump has broken another record. Already the first former president ever indicted on criminal charges, he’s now the first ever indicted twice. He faces 37 felony counts stemming from his improper withholding of top secret documents at Mar a Lago. He stored them, among other places, in the bathroom. Trump cries witch hunt, but what defense will he employ in federal court? And then there’s the court of public opinion, where Trump holds defiant rallies and the usual cast of Republican surrogates jumps to his defense. Will Trump’s political opponents capitalize on another chapter in a long series of scandals, or can the former president spin this to his advantage as part of his deep state narrative? All the drum beating from Republican leadership stirs up right-wing extremists online, but Trump’s arraignment in Miami went off with little more than a whimper. In the wake of January 6, how big a threat does conspiracy-driven political violence continue to pose?
16/06/23·50m 29s

‘He’s boring as hell’: Mike Pence jumps into presidential race

Mike Pence is officially running for president — against the former president who made him vice president. He’s trying to evoke Reagan conservatism, but does the Trump-dominated GOP actually want to go retro? And does Pence have the charisma to bring voters with him? The Ukrainian military may or may not have launched its much-anticipated counteroffensive in the wake of a horrific dam break that flooded the front lines. If Russia was responsible, could it be a dangerous sign of things to come in this war, and should the world condemn the act with a louder voice? And this week’s announcement of a big merger in the world of golf raises questions about Saudi Arabia and whether it’s using sports to turn attention away from its record of human rights abuses.
09/06/23·50m 29s

House debt ceiling vote: Winner, loser, bipartisan outlier?

The months-long battle to raise the limit on how much money the federal government can borrow cleared its biggest hurdle: the Republican-controlled House, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “We didn’t do it by taking the easy way,” McCarthy said. “We decided that we had to spend less, and we achieved that goal. Is it everything I wanted? No. But sitting with one House, with a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic Senate who didn’t want to meet with us, I think we did pretty dang good for the American public.” Negotiating this bill also marked the first big test of McCarthy’s speakership. After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis launched his presidential campaign on Twitter last week, he had a more conventional kickoff in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina this week. He spent most of his stump speech going after President Biden, but when talking with reporters, he criticized his top GOP rival, former President Trump, more explicitly. “He’s attacking me for opposing an immigration amnesty for illegal aliens that he did support when he was president. … He campaigned against that in 2016,” DeSantis said. “I do think, unfortunately, he’s decided to move left on some of these issues.” And HBO’s flagship drama (or tragic comedy?) “Succession”ended on Sunday night. Author Kurt Andersen says the show “nailed the unreal way we live now.”
02/06/23·50m 30s

An embarrassing start as DeSantis announces 2024 presidential bid

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis finally announced his bid for president. He did it on Twitter with Elon Musk, the platform’s controversial owner, and it did not go well. After 25 minutes of silence and delays, DeSantis finally gave his speech. Will the rocky start marr his campaign, or does it not matter? Then, it’s the third anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police officers. His death sparked an important movement in the U.S. and around the world. But what was not well-known about Floyd’s life is that he was a music lover and a mentor to men in his community. Lastly, the filmmaker Spike Lee wanted to make a difference in the entertainment business, so he put his money where his mouth was and started a fellowship program for Black students. Is this type of effort enough to make a difference to diversity, equity and inclusion in the entertainment industry?
26/05/23·50m 29s

Are Democrats doomed to lose their gains in Senate?

Democrats are worrying about the Senate map as 23 seats are up for reelection, as compared to 10 on the Republican side. Many of these seats are in swing states or red states. What should Democrats do to ensure some wins? Then, Biden is set on partnering with Vice President Kamala Harris again in 2024, despite her low approval ratings. Will this impact his electability? Researchers have stated that past vice presidents have not moved the needle on votes for a president. But is it different this time when the concern around Harris isn’t her competency as vice president, but whether she’s capable of being president should Biden not make it? Lastly, Americans are facing a loneliness epidemic that’s affecting their mental and physical health. It’s been an issue since before the COVID pandemic, but we didn’t publicly start talking about it until after. Why did it take so long for people to open up about it, and what can they do to address it? 
19/05/23·50m 32s

Same old Trump in CNN town hall: Sign of what to expect in 2024 race?

Trump took the stage again for a New Hampshire town hall hosted by CNN, and it was like going back in time to 2016. He rehashed the stolen election claim and hurled insults, and more. Is the U.S. bound to repeat political history? Then, with another round of mass shootings and the public growing weary, can politicians agree on legislation, or must Americans accept gun violence as unavoidable? And Bud Light entered the cultural wars by featuring a transgender model in a recent ad campaign, which received immediate backlash from the right. Do companies have a responsibility to be inclusive in their marketing, or should they stick to their main demographic? 
12/05/23·50m 32s

Should Biden have ordered 1500 troops to US-Mexico border?

Biden seemed to take a page out of Trump’s playbook this week by ordering 1,500 active duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. He stated it was meant to help the National Guard and Border Patrol deal with the surge of migrants as the pandemic-era Title 42 expires. But were soldiers the right response to a humanitarian crisis? Then, fighting in Sudan has created a humanitarian disaster after only two weeks. Did the U.S. overestimate the situation by pushing for democracy? And did we embolden the two military leaders behind the fighting — by treating them as legitimate players? And finally, television and film writers went on strike this week after failed negotiations with producers and studios. Will they succeed in getting higher pay in a streaming age where the old rules don’t apply?
05/05/23·50m 30s

Biden and Trump likely to face off again in 2024 presidential bid

President Biden has made it official: He’s running again. And there is yet to be a serious challenger to Donald Trump. Is the upcoming race full of undesirable candidates? Then, politicians seem to agree that that TikTok should be regulated or banned in the U.S. as concern increases over China using the app to spy on Americans. How serious is this threat, and how will people react if it’s prohibited? And music has an ability to bring us together, and country musician Ketch Secor from Old Crow Medicine Show takes it as his duty. Secor talks about the importance of trying to unite people from both sides of the gun debate — to talk about real solutions. Plus, he shares his new song “Louder Than Guns.”  This is all discussed in front of an audience in Washington D.C. for a special live Left Right and Center. 
28/04/23·54m 57s

Dianne Feinstein is pressured to resign. Is it sexism?

Two senators are back at work this week after taking time off for health reasons. One other, Senator Dianne Feinstein, is still recovering. Many democrats are calling for her to step down so the Senate Judiciary Committee can replace her and do its job of voting in new judges. But some prominent women are saying this is sexism. Also, Republicans and Democrats are at a stalemate on the debt ceiling. What’s it going to take to resolve and stop the country from defaulting on its loans? Plus, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is in hot water again for undisclosed payments, which were being sent to a defunct business. Is he hiding something or was it just an oversight? Then, more Americans are identifying as Independent. Is this a sign that we are becoming less polarized?
21/04/23·50m 29s

Why did the GOP kick 2 Tennessee lawmakers out of their jobs for protesting?

Two Tennessee lawmakers are expelled after Republicans in the House reacted to a breach of decorum. Their districts reinstated them, but was this the right reaction to protests from the left? Then, President Biden passed proposed changes intended to protect transgender athletes in schools, but no one is happy. Why wasn’t it a good compromise for those in the middle? And, the 15-minute city is a seemingly innocuous urban planning idea, but it’s sparked fear and backlash. But what could be bad about reducing traffic?
14/04/23·50m 31s

Should the media give Trump so much airtime?

Donald Trump was arraigned this week on 34 counts of falsifying business records, making him the first U.S. president to be criminally indicted. Is the media caving to temptation once again and giving Trump too much airtime?  Also, Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich was taken into custody in Russia and accused of espionage. After decades of Russian authorities never targeting American journalists, Vladimir Putin has escalated matters and all bets appear to be off. Are we heading for another prisoner swap? And if so, what are the implications of that?  And Finland once again was ranked the happiest country on the planet. But how Finns themselves define happiness may surprise you. Are there lessons Americans can learn from them?  
07/04/23·50m 29s
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