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Amanda Weinstein: Suburbia and the Culture Wars

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Amanda Weinstein: Suburbia and the Culture Wars

Amanda Weinstein is a Professor of Economics at the University of Akron who studies the quality of life in suburban America. She is also the co-host of the podcast, The Suburban Women Problem.

You can find her on twitter at @ProfWeinstein

Ken Harbaugh:

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Amanda Weinstein:

As I continued along my life, interacting with more and more people, the more I interacted with Republicans and as the years went by, the more I did not see that what they were saying represented my viewpoints… My Christian values, my family values, moral values… I just see more of those values being shown better in the policies of the Democratic Party.

Ken Harbaugh:

I’m Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

My guest today is Amanda Weinstein, a professor of economics at the University of Akron, who studies the quality of life in suburban America. She's also the co-host of the podcast, The Suburban Women Problem. Amanda, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Amanda Weinstein:

Ken, thanks for having me.

Ken Harbaugh:

I got to say your podcast, The Suburban Women Problem, I know I'm probably not the target demo, but I love it. What gave you the idea?

Amanda Weinstein:

Well, let me just say, we have a lot of fans that are not suburban women, so suburban, urban, rural, man, women, we will take any listeners that we can get. But so this was actually the thought, the idea of Red Wine & Blue, Katie Paris's group, who really saw a gap in people who were doing outreach specifically to suburban women, who maybe needed to feel more empowered. So what we saw recently with Mallory McMorrow I think, is showing that, women out there want to feel empowered and want to feel like someone is speaking to them. And that's really what we do with our podcast.

Ken Harbaugh:

And Mallory McMorrow was the state rep or state senator in- remind me where and just give our listeners the nutshell.

Amanda Weinstein:

Michigan. I know up north.

Ken Harbaugh:

Michigan. And she had an epic rejoinder to some harassment that came her way. Right?

Amanda Weinstein:

She did. She was called a groomer, which was really interesting for me at the time because my husband Casey, and actually I were also recently called groomers on Twitter and other places. And we were just like, "This is ridiculous. It's not believable. Even for people who don't like us, they know it's just not true." But you're kind of like, how do you respond to something so ridiculously untrue? And it was at that moment that we saw this piece of her doing exactly that, responding to something ridiculously untrue. She was accused of being a groomer and she did it in a fantastic way saying, "I am not a groomer. And let me tell you who I am." She's a Christian, she's a suburban mom. And she did it in such an empowering way of kind of really encouraging other suburban women, this is time for us to stand up and say, "This is not okay."

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, that is a bit of your bio as well. And I'd love to get your story and your journey of how you wound up where you are today, given that you self describe as someone who grew up listening to Focus on the Family and very involved in your evangelical church, you experienced some turning points though, right?

Amanda Weinstein:

Yeah, that's right. I grew up in the church. We typically went multiple times a week, went to Sunday school, went to main service. Actually I taught Sunday school for the little kids, Bible study. I grew up very involved in my church. And for me being very involved in my church also meant service. And so it meant doing something for my community, being part of my community in a way to me that served God or that higher power. And I grew up in a conservative evangelical family. And as I continued along my life, interacting with more and more people, the more I interacted with Republicans and as the years went by, the more I did not see that what they were saying represented my viewpoints. I honestly don't feel like I have changed that much in my viewpoints. I feel like the Republican party just does not represent any of my values. My Christian values, my family values, moral values, my values as an economist. I just see more of those values being shown better in the policies of the Democratic Party.

Ken Harbaugh:

Is that cultural drift, just something the Republican Party has experienced or is evangelical Protestantism itself suffering from that same thing? We've explored this a little bit, trying to link the two and you've had experience with both.

Amanda Weinstein:

Yeah. I think it's interesting because I do think it is both. I think it was, I might get this wrong, but it might have been the Reverend Billy Graham who a long time ago said basically, in a nutshell, "If you see politicians using the church, it's not going to go well, it's not good for the church and it's not good for government." And I think that is true. It's not good for either. When I think of separation of church and state, I think that that is important for our democracy, but I also think it's important for the church. And I think we have seen both the Republican Party and evangelicalism drift in a way that is not good for either of them.

Ken Harbaugh:

Do you still consider yourself an evangelical christian?

Amanda Weinstein:

I do. That's an odd place for me to be in, where… So part of evangelicalism is, the belief that I in my heart decide what I feel and think and believe and who I believe in and what I believe in. And my heart feels like it hasn't really changed that much, but I don't feel the church represents me. It's a weird place where I was brought up in a place where I still feel like I'm an evangelical, but when I hear a lot of evangelical pastors talk, I don't feel they represent what I believe. I don't really... I don't know. Yeah. I don't know how to think about that conflict.

Ken Harbaugh:

How did that express itself at the Air Force Academy? Because I know there's been some controversy there about religious indoctrination and I say this as an Air Force brat and someone who had a father and a brother both go through the Air Force Academy. There's not a prejudice here, but there have been lawsuits, there have been changes of policy because of some of the things that non-Christians had to endure at the Air Force Academy.

Amanda Weinstein:

That was interesting for me to watch. While I was there, we had a number of pretty well publicized scandals at the United States Air Force Academy. And actually one of the first that had probably the, one of the biggest impacts on me was actually Martha McSally, who's a Republican sued the Air Force because at the time they required women to wear abayas. And when she put the suit forward, I remember in my management class, we had to argue the merits of the suit. And I walked in there thinking this is obvious. Everyone is going to know that this is not right to force women to wear abayas, we've raised our hands and we've sworn to defend the constitution, and that constitution includes religious freedom. Of course, everyone's going to agree with me. This is, you can tell how naive I was. So when I was sitting there arguing, every male in that room said, "Of course we should force women to wear abayas." And I remember being so stunned that the people I was talking to would be so anti-democratic. And to me, it was anti-Christian because as a Christian, I shouldn't be forced to follow someone else's real religion. And I was just really taken aback by these Republican men who were arguing so hard to force women in the Air Force to wear these abayas. And sorry, go ahead.

Ken Harbaugh:

For those uninitiated, just describe that. And what's required.

Amanda Weinstein:

Yeah. At the time, when you deployed women would have to wear the... The abaya, is the full head dress, head covering and long black garb that a Muslim woman choose to wear, hopefully that you know, choose to wear. And I think for any woman that chooses to wear that, that's great, but to force it on a Christian woman who doesn't want to wear that, to me was just really shocking that our country would have a policy like that. That our military would have a policy like that. And I think that was for me a place where I really started to see, for people who claimed to be Republicans, it wasn't very Christian and it wasn't very democratic.

And so kind of follow on there, so eventually Martha McSally actually won her suit. So ha ha guys at the Air Force Academy, I was right. But we went along to have other scandals there with religion and a lot of senior leadership forcing their version of Christianity on everyone. And to me it felt no different than forcing an abaya on a woman. I don't want an abaya forced on me, but I also don't want to force Christianity on, at the time with my Jewish boyfriend. To me that seemed just as repulsive for the exact same reason. And I didn't understand at the time, why so many again, Christian men were okay with this. And so they've had a little bit of a reckoning with, this isn't okay. If we are sitting there and the main goal of our military and our Department of Defense is to support and defend our constitution. Our constitution is pretty clear about religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

Ken Harbaugh:

That has achieved something like a truce at the Air Force Academy.

Amanda Weinstein:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ken Harbaugh:

Partly because of the lawsuits, partly because of leadership changes. Do you hear from either current faculty or students about the state of affairs these days?

Amanda Weinstein:

Occasionally. We will occasionally go back and we'll get to interact with some of the cadets there and see how it's going and hear from friends that are there. And I think it's gotten better. So even with the work of my father-in-law, at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, just having someone there that he's this presence for them of like, "Man, if we screw this up, he's going to call us and we don't want that phone call." Just knowing that that phone call could happen, I think prevents quite a bit. And I think people know. So I think it's gotten better, but it's still an issue when you have folks on the family, just across the highway in Colorado Springs there, this is one of their goals is... And they've been pretty clear that one of their goals in a lot of these Christian organizations is to infiltrate the military and basically use the military as government paid missionaries.

Ken Harbaugh:

That's fascinating because one of the other things we've really explored in some detail here is the aggressive recruitment of military folks and veterans by, I'll say non-religious extremists. You look at the penetration from groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys of military groups. And there's a reason that the military is targeted. There's a reason that vets are targeted for these disinformation campaigns. It's because they carry such cultural currency in our society.

Amanda Weinstein:

They do. And I think, especially if you look at transitioning veterans, so some of my research actually looks at how veterans transition into the workforce. And that transition can be hard for a number of reasons, but I think it also leaves veterans a little bit vulnerable to finding something that they can belong to. And I think that that belonging can end up being something like the Proud Boys or other organizations, unfortunately.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, there are certainly alternatives. And we talk about those whenever we get the chance, like Team Rubicon, or Team Red, White and Blue, but we've come across this dilemma time and again. The veteran looking for that sense of purpose and meaning, and often the first group that gets to them, they get the first crack at what path that veteran is going to be set on.

Amanda Weinstein:

Yeah. And I think a lot of veterans, as much as we say, we support our veterans and I do love this culture of at least saying that we support our veterans, no matter how we feel about the military engagement at the time, there's still stigma attached to veterans. I did research that showed that veterans actually out-earn non veterans, and that was actually not the bulk of the research, that was just the intro statement. And I often did not get past the intro statement with people because people were shocked when I told them that veterans on average out-earn non veterans. They just had no idea that as much as veterans are struggling, we tend to put that picture of a struggling veteran on all veterans. And it actually, I think can make veterans struggle more when we picture them all as these broken humans who are capable of less, but actually they're capable of more and they're highly skilled people.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah. Well, there's definitely that archetype. You're an economist now studying the economics of suburbia and investments in suburbia. And it strikes me as just so fitting that you live in Hudson, Ohio, which I think defines suburbia. Before I start picking apart Hudson, do you want to give your version of what it's like living in a, I mean, kind of a Disney... Boy that's loaded these days, isn't it? I mean, it's a Disney version of suburban.

Amanda Weinstein:

Disney is woke.

Ken Harbaugh:

... the cupcake shop and everything. What's Hudson like?

Amanda Weinstein:

That's true. A lot of people describe Hudson as a present day Mayberry, and it very much, a lot of days looks like it. You will see, we have in the summertime an ice cream social where my family, we will ride our bikes downtown, and we will go have ice cream with all the neighbors. And we have little get togethers in our downtown. We have little concerts and little picnics together. It is a great place to raise a family where we can walk downtown, enjoy dinner out on a picnic table, see everyone around town, talk, great schools, great place to raise a family.

Ken Harbaugh:

That's the rose tinted version, but it has become something of a ground zero in the culture wars. And not by accident, I mean, there is a reason that you have communities like Hudson, which are relatively affluent, very educated, the definition of suburbia. And it is these places where the book ban wars are happening. It is these places where... And forgive me, I've got a list here. The mayor gives his ice shanty speech, the Memorial Day speech about the origins of that day and freed slaves honoring deceased union soldiers is cut off mid speech. We'll get to some of those in detail, but am I reading too much into the seeming coincidence of all these things happening in an idealized community, like Hudson?

Amanda Weinstein:

Not at all, it is happening exactly in Hudson for a reason. And that reason is we've seen suburbia change. It has gone bluer and bluer kind of under the radar, I would say, of almost both parties. Hudson actually in our last election, we went for Biden. When Ohio got redder, we went for Biden. Sorry. You might hear my dogs.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah. We're all dog people, so it's good.

Amanda Weinstein:

Sit. Xander. That's Xander. He has some strong opinions about Hudson.

Ken Harbaugh:

Hey, Xander.

Amanda Weinstein:

Hudson actually went for Biden at a time when Ohio got redder, Hudson got bluer, and this was the first time Hudson had elected or voted to elect a democratic president in... Someone actually did it. It's been decades and decades. It's like the 1950s or something the last time. It's been like, nobody living in Hudson today has actually ever voted for a democratic president before I think who actually won Hudson. This I think was shocking to Hudson. Hudson is historically red. It is not a blue bubble that I am living in here by any means. And the fact that it went for Biden was a big change. And it was something that the people in Hudson, I think, could feel and maybe open their eyes to their town wasn't quite as red as they thought it was. And their town had been slowly changing, probably for decades. And it just, people didn't realize it or didn't know it. I think a lot of Democrats in Hudson just assumed that they were probably one of the few. Turns out, they're not one of the few. Every year there's more and more of us here. This suburb has been getting bluer.

Now it doesn't mean that people who are Republicans have gone away. They have now seen their town change. And we have people who live here who have connections to Trump, and to the Republican party all the way up. And Hudson is really their proving ground. What can we do? So the first time I heard critical race theory uttered was by people in Hudson. And so our podcast was one of the first podcasts, I think, to actually do an episode about it and talk about it, because we were talking about it in Hudson and we were starting to hear suburbs talk about it. Their strategy is very much to swing these suburbs back. And how they do it is by talking about critical race theory, accusing teachers of grooming kids, by having inclusive books in schools, book bans, this is all their strategy to win back the suburbs. And a lot of them are suburban women.

Ken Harbaugh:

I take some reassurance from your description of the phenomenon, because one of the takes that you often hear is, the far right is ascendant. You are seeing these cultural conflicts because they've found their voice. They've figured out how to weaponize cultural issues and they're everywhere. But what I am hearing you say is that it is at the very least a reaction to a growing wave of democratic voters in suburbia, and perhaps even more optimistically the last dying gasp of a power structure that is realizing that if it doesn't pull out all the stops it is going to sacrifice that social hierarchy, that it sat at the top of for, well generations.

Amanda Weinstein:

I think that's exactly right, that they are thinking, they had red Hudson forever. It was just, they took it as red. And so actually when my husband won his seat, my husband is currently in a gerrymandered State House seat for Ohio, gerrymandered for the Republicans. And he took it. And he took it in a year that again, that Ohio went redder and he still took this district. And so that also, he has been a big wake up call for this district, for Hudson, for the surrounding communities, that basically ‘this is not as red as you think. You thought this was bright red and at one point it was bright red. It's not bright red anymore. This is now a competitive district.’ And he's now won this district twice, which is just another sign that they thought they did a great job gerrymandering this district and not so great when the district changes.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, let's go ahead and name check Casey, because he has been on the show. Some listeners might remember him and it's not as if his path to victory was right down the middle, moderating his opinions and trying to appeal to just enough of everybody. Casey has been Casey the whole time is the co-sponsor of marijuana legalization legislation. I mean pretty darn progressive for what you're describing as a pretty red area.

Amanda Weinstein:

That's right. If you look at the policies, when he first won that he talked about, he talked mainly about environmental issues. And he talked about things like our daughter having childhood asthma caused by poor air quality. And how, the way he talks about environmental quality is a way that means something to families. It's not just the environment for the sake of the environment, it's the environment for the sake of our kids, for our health, for our communities. He talks about any issue as progressive as it is, whether it's the environment, whether it's legalizing marijuana, and what it means for everyday Ohioans for real families. And that I think is how he connects to people in his district. And they have really been receptive to this message of yeah, you know, I can see it, that's not really great when our kids in northeast Ohio are having to make emergency room visits and having to go get inhalers. That's not great for this area. That's not great for attracting new families to come and raise their families here. When you think about legalizing marijuana. For that, he talks about his mom. His mom has MS. And so we're very in tune with the MS community. And for a lot of people suffering from MS, marijuana can really help them. It can help people who suffer from a variety of ailments, things that you might need to see the doctor for, but maybe things that you don't need to see the doctor for. And so he has really been a proponent of legalizing marijuana, even since he was on city council here in Hudson. And he was very open and honest about it.

Ken Harbaugh:

The reaction though, among some Hudsonites, especially those on the fringe right to your outspokenness, to Casey's outspokenness has at times been beyond the pale. I mean the kind of thing that has had to involve the FBI. To the extent you're comfortable, can you describe some of that backlash and what you all have had to endure?

Amanda Weinstein:

Yeah. That's also been a journey for me. I grew up going to an evangelical church. We had cops that directed traffic for our very large megachurch. So it started even before Casey was an elected official, I would go to synagogue with him and one day I said, "Man, your police officers aren't doing a very good job directing traffic." And he said, "What? They're not directing traffic. They're here for safety." And I just had no idea that's why police were at synagogues. I had only seen them direct traffic. And it just really made me stop and think that this is a different world I wasn't used to. And so that has been eyeopening for me even before he was an elected official. Now that he's an elected official, even just being Jewish, being who he is, he's had candidates who basically used this dog whistle of, I'm the Christian candidate.

And he has received anti-Semitic death threats. Some credible enough to where the FBI said it's credible. They actually went to the person's house who lived in Missouri. I don't know why the person in Missouri cared that much about a state rep in Ohio, but anyway, went to Missouri and basically said, "We know you've been sending these and you need to stop." And so he's basically had that all along, where we get infrequent death threats and things like that. And you just get used to it, which sounds terrible to say, but then it was actually on a caucus call with the Democrats where we assumed all the LA elected officials got the same thing Casey did. And Casey came back and talked to me, said, "They don't. A lot of them don't." So other elected officials have, Emilia Sykes has gotten some terrible threats, but for the most part, they're directed at minorities and they're directed for him because he is Jewish.

And that has also been eye opening to see that the pushback he gets is not because of his ideas so much or what he says, it's because he's a Jewish man saying them. And that's hard to take. We are in the synagogue every week, our kids identify as Jewish and also Christian, depending on how you ask them, sometimes they say I'm both Jesus and Jewish. And so they will be perceived in the world as Jewish people. And so it is hard as a mother to see how some people in the world react to him just because he's Jewish, knowing that they react to my children the same way, which is an awful feeling to think that anyone would treat your child differently just because of their religion. And so that's hard.

And so it went as far as we actually had a group of protestors. About 30 or 40 protesters show up to our house one day, snowy feet of snow out. I happened to look out front and start seeing a bunch of flags. Don't tread on me flags, kneel before the cross flags, American flags. And I just thought, man, this is interesting. I wonder where they're going. And then we kept looking and said, "Oh my gosh, they're coming to our house." Which was strange because in all of Ohio, I think Amy Acton, who has received a lot of death threats, was also Jewish while she was doing Department of Health stuff for Ohio. I know DeWine gets it at his house, but we have Amy Acton, Governor DeWine, and then Casey Weinstein, a state representative. It was strange seeing that our house was the one that they came to and protested. And our neighbor went out and talked to them. So the police recommended we didn't talk to them. And our neighbor just said, "Well, what are you doing here?" And they said, "Well, we just want him to do better." And she's like, "What's great. How can you do better?" And they said, "I don't know, let me get my leader." And it was just ridiculous. We were like, "You don't even know why you're here, the first rule of a protest." My co-host on our podcast loves to say like, "The first rule of a protest is have an ask. What do you want?" You should have an ask.. Like what do you- They didn't have an ask. They just simply didn't like him. How do you have a conversation with people like that? And that gets frustrating for me.

One thing that I do love about my husband being a politician is we love talking policy. We can talk policy all day, any day. I think it's interesting. I'm an economist. I love talking policy. I love talking policy with anyone. Left, middle, center, whatever, but how do I talk policy with someone like that? They don't have a policy they want, they just don't like him because he is Jewish. And that's where a lot of our conversation has gotten in politics. And I really struggle with that.

Ken Harbaugh:

What do you make as an evangelical, as an Air Force Vet as a patriot with Jewish kids of the conflation of patriotism with this aggressive Christian evangelization, and you mentioned the American flag side by side with the kneel before the cross flags, has that always been there or it's just more on our faces now or is something happening?

Amanda Weinstein:

It's been there since just kind of bubbling up even since when I was growing up in an evangelical church of... So Kristin Du Mez has a great book on this, Jesus and John Wayne. We kind of had this conversation when Donald Trump was elected, "Hey, they're voting against their own interests as Christians." And her book basically says, you haven't been watching Christianity, if you think they're voting against their interests. Because evangelical Christianity has been aligning with this very masculine, aggressive way of being a Christian. Identifying as the war fighter. And this has been the direction evangelical Christianity has been heading for a while. He's just a stop on this path that they're on. This is absolutely where it has been heading for a while. And I, as a Christian, as a veteran, as someone who swore to defend our constitution, to defend our nation, I hate it. I hate that those two things have come together like that. I believe very strongly in this country and feel very proud to have served my country. And my country stands for religious freedoms. It stands for the separation of church and state, it stands for a whole lot of really beautiful things. And I'm proud of those things. I'm proud to be a Christian. And I also think my faith rests in that separation. And it always has. So seeing those two things come together for me, takes two things that I love very much, my faith and my country. And I feel like it just rips it away from me almost.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, let's talk about the manifestations of that and how they're appearing in Hudson. Let's begin with book bans. Give us the short version of the attempt to... Well, I guess there have been a couple instances. The attempt to limit what a high school creative writing class rooms are doing, and then the intrusion into library catalogs.

Amanda Weinstein:

Yeah. This one, man, so it's really interesting. I'll start with, I'm a mom. I know teachers aren't perfect. Sometimes I have an issue. I have texted teachers before, I've emailed teachers before, I've talked with teachers face to face to get that issue solved. Whatever that issue was. This is I think how most parents solve an issue they have with their teacher, with their school, with whatever's going on. What we saw happen when someone had an issue with a creative writing class was not that. What we saw was suddenly the now former mayor of Hudson went to a board of education meeting with a speech prepared of this creating, writing prompts book and how this creating, writing props book is grooming kids and it's pornography essentially and accuses the teacher of terrible things, accuses the whole school board of the terrible things.

Then what happens from there? They get death threats, death threats that were serious enough where we had to close our administrative buildings because they were credible enough. And he didn't have a kid in that class. It was someone who happened to find out about this book. No one had an issue with the class. No one had an issue with that book. It was just something to me, I think they could score political points on. Because if they really had an issue with it, they would've gone to the teacher, they didn't. They went to the mayor to make a speech. To then get videos, to then send to Josh Mandel. And so he had fun meeting with Josh Mandel about this. And we had to deal with death threats at our schools, for our school boards. The class got pulled because it was a university college credit class. And we lost it. Our high school kids, my kids, if they go to high school there one day, they do not have that class anymore because of this stunt that he pulled. And it was absolutely a stunt. Now I have no problem with any parent having a conversation who is concerned about something going on in their class, we should be able to have these conversations with real concerned parents. He was not a real concerned parent. And to me, this is a lot of trying to score political points. And the cost is on the education of our children.

Ken Harbaugh:

Was this the same mayor whose speech at a city council meeting went viral as he claimed that ice fishing shanties, if left unregulated would naturally lead to prostitution?

Amanda Weinstein:

That's right. Same mayor for this nice video. It's very dramatic where he says, "You know what ice shanties are going to lead to? It's like a dramatic pause, prostitution." And everyone in there is like, "Did not think that was the word that was coming next." And he believed it. So I've had people like he doesn't laugh, this is not a joke to him. This was something that he really believed was a legitimate concern about ice fishing in Hudson, that it could lead to prostitution, this is... And I don't understand this mindset, but this is a little bit the mindset of you make these incredibly, crazy leaps from ice shanties to prostitutions, from a creative writing class to grooming children. And these leaps, here he wasn't accusing of any particular ice fishing club of prostitution. But when you're accusing a person of grooming children, who is a teacher in our community, who... These teachers don't get paid all that well. And now on top of that, they have to deal with you accusing them of being grooming. And in addition, if you really are concerned with children being groomed, which is terrible, accusing everyone in this country of grooming children who don't agree with you is not the way we catch someone who actually is doing that. In fact, it only makes it harder and it only muddies the water more. It only makes it easier for people who would want to groom children. You just see these ridiculous claims, linking mundane books to grooming children.

Ken Harbaugh:

It seems to me more evidence in support of your theory that this is a last dying gasp of a culture that fears its own extinction. The puritanical nature of their reactions to social issues. I'm thinking of the social conditions that led to the witch trials in Salem. You have this massive overreaction of a society that believes its existence is under threat by forces it can't control.

Amanda Weinstein:

I think that's right. It's their last dying breath. And I do think that they are able to, with these claims, get some parents legitimately concerned. And I don't think anyone is legitimately concerned that this teacher in Hudson was grooming children. I don't think anybody thinks that. However, with the number of books they're now trying to ban, so the biggest one that they love to hammer on is Gender Queer, because it has graphic content in there. And this is in a high school class or a high school library, I should say. And this is a book that they just will not let go of the graphic content, which they swear is very offensive. They love to share it everywhere, which I find interesting. Because if you really think it's that offensive, why do you keep showing everybody this offensive thing? Which means, I don't think you really think it's that offensive, but I do think you can take a lot of things out of context. And especially not only if it's out of context out of a book, but if it's from a culture and from something that you don't understand. I am personally not gender queer, as far as I know, my kids are not. And this book is written for someone who is gender queer, who is struggling with their identity and these issues. And it's also for their parents to understand how to have that conversation with their children. And if you aren't gender queer and your kid isn't, then you struggle to understand value of this book and the value for any book that represents LGBTQ people in a library, in a high school. And this is a conversation that is, I think, hard to have when you just have the other side yelling groomers and not willing to actually have the conversation with someone who says this book mattered to me. This book was important for me to see myself reflected in that book, because we know kids like this also have higher rates of suicide, higher rates of bullying. They are more likely actually to be murdered. And we don't want to quiet those kids and quiet the issues they're going through. We want them to be able to speak with their parents, even if those issues are uncomfortable. And really what I see the other side doing is they want to have none of these tough conversations, whether it's about race, whether it's about sexual identity, whether it's about sex, they want none of the conversations to happen. And just to kind of put their fingers in their ears, screaming ‘la, la, la, la, la,” and they think it'll all go away.

But I was in the military. Ken, you were in the military, we had, ‘don't ask, don't tell’. We got rid of it because it's not a very effective way to go about your business. The ‘don't ask, don't tell’ in the military, I just remember being like, this is crazy when you know someone is, or don't know, and you can talk about, like I can talk about dating Casey, but they can't talk about their life because they're not allowed to. It makes for a really weird work environment. This ‘don't ask, don't tell’, doesn't work. It didn't work in the military and it's not going to work in our schools and our society, which is where they're trying to push us to.

Ken Harbaugh:

It is inarguably bad policy. And I love your comparison to don't ask, don't tell. It's hurtful policy, but is it good politics? That's my big concern going into 2022, have they hit on something that is working for them politically, even though you and I both see the enormous damage it is doing at a human level?

Amanda Weinstein:

That I think is a really interesting question because what you typically saw in every election, in economics, we have this median voter kind of theory. The primary is you're more right or you or left. And then what happens in the general election is you swing towards the middle and you kind of see both candidates tend to do this. And whoever can pull from the middle the most is who wins. And this tended to be the strategy for politics. You move to the middle, see if you can get the middle. But what Donald Trump did is show that's not the only way to win. He did not try and get the middle, I don't think. What he did is said, "You know what? I just need my base to show up. How I get my base to show up is just super far, right do these dog whistles, do these whatever these things are that can really rile them up and make them angry. And that's how I win." And he did win. He didn't have to win the entire population. He won the electoral college and he won by rallying the base, not by trying to at the median voter. And what I see Democrats doing is, they're still really trying to get that median voter. And I wonder if we're playing two different games with Republicans, really getting their base to show up, not worrying about the median voter, and Democrats not rallying their base, worrying a lot about that median voter.

Ken Harbaugh:

How do you see that game as you put it, playing out in Hudson where you have such a vocal Republican base. Vocal to the point where they're protesting in front of your house without knowing what the ask is, they're turning out, even as Hudson more generally is turning bluer, but those blue voters aren't as animated, what's your prediction for '22, if we can look to Hudson as the exemplar for suburbia nationwide?

Amanda Weinstein:

So Hudson is interesting because you have some very far right, very loud voices. But they're not the majority. If you look at our recent school board election and our recent library election, man, did they not win and it wasn't close. And so I think you see the voters in Hudson, don't like this kind of... Republicans love to accuse Democrats of the culture wars. And we kind of let them a lot. We kind of let them say, "Yeah, we do the culture wars." And every time I hear that, I'm like, "What are you talking about?" To me, the Democratic party is a party that wants to stop the culture wars. If you look at Jim Crow, era laws, Democrats and when you think about the whole civil rights movement is trying to end and stop that culture war of attacking minorities or attacking whoever it is. And I think in Hudson, Republicans are going to have a tough time if they want to continue outlandish book bans, calling everyone a groomer. I don't think it's going to work very well in Hudson.

Now broader than Hudson, I think you may have issues with rallying the base. When you look at what the base of the Democratic Party wants, when you start to talk about what are your main issues? Most people don't start talking about the potholes in their roads. Doesn't mean they shouldn't be filled. Doesn't mean we don't want roads. It's just not what motivates us. And we've seen an important infrastructure bill, but we see the base asking for things like voting rights, and paid leave, and universal pre-K. And we don't see those policies. And so I worry more that we don't rally our base. And if we think about what our base wants, policies that some call very progressive, universal pre-K, might be one of those policies. I don't see that policy as very progressive. Not that very progressive people don't want it, they do want it, but I see it as fiscally conservative. We have a lot of economic research that shows, for every dollar you spend on quality childcare, you end up saving seven dollars in the long run. To me, I don't see how any fiscal conservative can say, they're not for universal pre-K. And so we just need to package a lot of the policies that Democrats want. A lot of the policies that the base wants, things like universal pre-K right. Package it in a way that shows it's for everyone, it's for the median voter. I think universal pre-K is another interesting one where we might think this policy is for, I don't know, urban families, but it's for any family with children.

And actually, if you look at the research on universal pre-K, it actually has the largest, positive impact on rural areas, on areas that really lack access to childcare. And we just don't often talk about policies that way. And so I really think Dems, they need to do more. And they need to do more that helps everyday families. If it's the Child Tax Credit, universal pre-K, they need to do more. Hudson, being in a community as wealthy as we are and where are, they're okay with the infrastructure package, I think largely, but I think for the base of the Democratic Party and for the Democratic Party in general, we need to see more policies that help everyday families.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, I think that's a great place to wrap because that is exactly the prescription that the party needs looking at this oncoming election with all of the challenges it presents. Off year inflation is high, but with the right message, I think it's salvageable.

Amanda Weinstein:

I think that's right.

Ken Harbaugh:

Amanda, thank you so much for joining us. The pod is The Suburban Women Problem podcast. Recommend everyone check it out. And Amanda, we'd love to have you back.

Amanda Weinstein:

Ken, thanks for having me. This was so fun.

Ken Harbaugh:

You got it.

Thanks again to Amanda for joining me. You can find her on Twitter at @ProfWeinstein, and make sure to check out her podcast, The Suburban Women Problem.

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We’re always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter at @Team_Harbaugh.

And if you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to rate and review.

Thanks to our partner, VoteVets. Their mission is to give a voice to veterans on matters of national security, veterans’ care, and issues that affect the lives of those who have served. VoteVets is backed by more than 700,000 veterans, family members, and their supporters. To learn more, go to VoteVets.org.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our Audio Engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I’m Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

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