V Interesting

Civically Enraged with Sharon McMahon, SCORPION’s Sting, The Nazi Next Door

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In places beyond Memphis, deadly police squads remain in operation. In Hobbs, New Mexico, abortion clinics have been banned. In Ohio, thousands of homeschooling parents have been teaching white supremacy. How is all this happening? V explains what’s going on in all these states, then gets joined by “America’s Government Teacher” to fill in the rest. V sits down with Sharon McMahon, host of the podcast Here’s Where It Gets Interesting, to talk congressional committees, impeachment, and the history that got us here.

Follow Sharon at @sharonsaysso on Instagram and TikTok and at @sharon_says_so on Twitter. You can find her podcast, Here’s Where It Gets Interesting, wherever you listen.

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Sharon McMahon, V Spehar

V Spehar  00:01

Hey friends, it’s Friday, February 2, 2023. Welcome to be interesting where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar and today, police. Are they elite squats or police gangs? We’ll talk about how super special forces are reporting not so super outcomes. Then Nazi homeschoolers, Super Bowl Jesus and the Satanic Temple of abortion. Yup, those are all things. Finally, we’ll catch up with Sharon McMahon, America’s government teacher to make sense of civics. All that more on V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. The murder of Tyre Nichols is heartbreaking and infuriating. Tyre was a 29 year old black man living in Memphis, Tennessee. He loved skateboarding, he loved photography, and he loved his family. And we now know that several police officers beat him to death after pulling him over near his home. The officers allege he resisted arrest after being pulled over for reckless driving. But looking at the video footage, he doesn’t appear to have resisted. And now the Memphis Police Chief is confirming that there is no evidence that he was driving recklessly prior to his arrest at all. Five officers were charged with second degree murder. Two other officers were simply relieved of their duty. And the three EMTs on site were fired for inaction. But let’s talk about the officers who were charged with murder. These men were part of an elite cop squad called Scorpion, which is what we’re going to focus on today. How many times do you think I’m going to have to tell you a story about police officers violently abusing or murdering citizens it is increasingly frequent and separate units like scorpion, they’re charged with being even more tough on crime and tend to be even more problematic. The directive of the squads is often to pull people over to investigate things like outstanding robberies, and they might even wear street clothes and drive unmarked cars to do it. They’re trying to ambush people. Reports show that officers in quote, elite cop squads tend to get more leeway and have less oversight than their colleagues. So what did they do with all that power? They go rogue. There’s evidence of these squads making record amounts of arrests. But even with all the Shakedowns their efforts have not resulted in safer cities. There’s also the fact that some of these squads have committed huge crimes of their own, and the 1990s members of an LAPD squad were implicated in framing victims, attacking people without provocation and selling narcotics. 70 officers were implicated, zero. A plainclothes cop squad had a whole crime ring going in Baltimore in the 2010s. And in 2018, street crime units in New York City accounted for 30% of fatal shootings by cops. Even though the unit’s employed only 6% of officers. Experts say that there are many layers to resolve here. There’s the way that these units are framed with tough sounding names like scorpion or stress or if you can believe it, there’s even one group called The Strike Force. It builds immense fear in the public, and it might also attract officers who want that kind of psychological hold on people. And you think that a special force would be getting special training. I mean, that’s what we asked for. Right? We said the police need more training. Well, former officers of these units report there being minimal training for the unit. It’s not working.

V Spehar  03:48

Elite squads are often doing more harm than the average due to their lack of training, their lack of regulation and the directive to be forceful. Fast forward to today and the scorpion unit has been disbanded along with other similar squats. They took down the unit but they didn’t commit to any kind of new training for these cops. So did anything actually change. We deserve better policing as a nation and honestly I bet many of the officers would join in in wanting better training for themselves. As it turns out, there’s another unregulated offshoot to fear and this one’s happening right in people’s homes. As Vice reported over the weekend, a neo Nazi homeschooling network has been uncovered in Ohio. And yes, it is just as scary as it sounds. A married couple have reportedly created a homeschool lesson plan after failing to find one that supported their White supremacist views. Now, even math class is part of their ideology. They crunched numbers to affirm things like eugenics. They’ve since started sharing their materials with other families and created what’s called a dissident homeschool network. At the time of this recording, the group had over 2500 members, Internal Communications which are public facing by the way, use racist slurs praise white supremacy and quote Nazi leaders. The founders have so far used aliases, but a research group recently uncovered their identities through public records. Some of the records they use to do this were ownership papers associated with their dog, Blondi. An extra unsettling thing about that is Blondi is also what Hitler named his dog. If these researchers are right, this means that the leaders of the group are the same people who have been guests on neo Nazi podcasts in the past. Now I will spare you the details of what one of the founders said. But suffice it to say she made her sympathies for Hitler very, very clear. It also means that we now know where these people live and work. One is an agent at a local insurance agency. He’s also a member of the local Masonic Lodge. The couple also reportedly lives in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, my wife is from Ohio. It’s a lovely place full of great people. I mean, like what in the Buckeye nightmares is even happening. If you didn’t have fears about attacks on schooling before, you probably should now, this is the natural extension of people like former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, pushing the idea of quote, education freedom, or school administrators banning books thought to be too radical, the indoctrination that conservative officials fear is happening, but it’s happening in the opposite direction. There are no documented instances of people causing harm because they learned about race or composting. There are however currently 1000s of parents in Ohio teaching literal babies to be violent towards people who aren’t white. As of now, Ohio families don’t need any kind of approval for how they homeschool. There are required subjects. But what you teach within those subjects is entirely up to you. State Senators are lobbying for more oversight of this wild Midwest. Because as the law stands, there is nothing the state can do to interfere with Nazi homeschool education.

V Spehar  07:03

Are you guys still here, those were some heavy stories. And I’m sorry to report to you that it’s not going to get much lighter than next to. But here we are on a Friday enjoying a little bit of news and conversation. And I’m so sorry that this episode is so spooky. But we just have to talk about stuff. And now we have to talk about something else. We’re going to talk about the Jesus ads that keep playing during football games. Okay? For those of you who haven’t seen this yet, here’s how they go. The commercials are basically PowerPoint slideshows, very, very low quality. And they show black and white pictures of people one right after the other. And they’re supposed to trace the story of one person or group and they’re all clearly photos of different people. Anyway, the narration tries to tie this together as one story. And it’s just vague enough for you to think this is someone in modern times, until you realize they’re talking about Jesus because when the photos stop popping up, they’ve replaced them with one sentence on the screen like Jesus was wrongly judged. And then right before the commercial ends, a link pops up directing people to he gets us.com Who is not sponsoring the show, though, maybe they should. And then you’re like, What did I just watch? What did I just watch? Football culture has a lot of overlap with religion. And we’ve seen that with the prayers for Damar, and official NFL statements. We saw that with Tim Tebow and everything that he was about. However, when you see something religious being advertised, that’s when you have to stop and think if somebody paid to put this in front of me, they must assume that they’re gonna get their money back. Right? And their eyes were customers as viewers and the product is God, like what’s going on here? Who is Jesus’s PR person? And what are they selling? The answer, my friends isn’t very fun. Okay, I wanted this to be like a happy story. And then of course, it wasn’t. Behind this ad campaign is the foundation called the signatory, several outlets have spoken to people behind the campaign as well as the advertising firm that they work with. And the through line is very clear. The goal isn’t really to rebrand Jesus, it’s to rebrand his followers. It’s essentially damage control for all the bad stuff people have done in the name of the Bible. Which is interesting because partners of the signatories sure have done some bad stuff in the name of the Bible themselves. For one, there’s the Alliance Defending Freedom. They’re a Christian advocacy group that tries to curtail the rights of LGBTQ plus people. The signatory has donated millions of dollars to that organization, and longtime donors to the signatory include David Green, the billionaire co-founder of Hobby Lobby, yes, that Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store that’s tried to deny birth control to its employees and been accused of anti semitism, all in the name of religious beliefs.

V Spehar  09:51

David Green has specifically been confirmed as a donor to the he gets us campaign, which includes an upcoming $20 million Superbowl commercial. Okay. If you go to the heat gets us website or social medias, you’ll see a confusing mix of buzzwords and hot button phrases. You might read that Jesus was, quote, fed up with politics and that he was living in the middle of a culture war like certain people are now. The site also says things like some people wanted Christ canceled because they felt threatened by his word. You really do not have to read between the lines to see how Tucker Carlson like that sounds. This campaign maintains that it is not directly affiliated with a political party, but you could imagine how it’s leading people there anyway. They’re suddenly feeding people divisive language and pairing it with gentle introduction to religion. This sounds like a recipe for religious conservatism to me and my friends. I mean, look no further than the green family who’s throwing millions of dollars into these campaigns. When it comes to believing in a financial return. It sure looks like David Green has faith. With all this talk of Jesus, it’s no surprise that everyone’s favorite fallen angel is popping up, Lucifer. Well, Satan, I don’t know if they’re the same every religion seems to vary on if Lucifer and Satan and the devil are the same, so I’ll just let you decide anyway. Who’s gonna fight Christian nationalists Jesus, Satan, well, the Satanic Temple, which is a non-theistic organization that does not actually worship the devil. You can go back and learn more about them in our December 20th episode, per their mission statement. The mission of the Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense oppose injustice and undertake noble pursuits. This week’s noble pursuit, opening an abortion clinic in New Mexico they’ve named quote the Samuel Alito’s mom’s satanic abortion clinic named for the Supreme Court Justice whose leaked opinion led to the overturning of Roe v Wade. This is an online clinic that provides religious medication abortion care. That means that the clinic is providing abortion medication via mail to those in New Mexico who wish to perform the satanic temples religious abortion ritual from the Satanic Temple. The ritual is not intended to convince a person to have an abortion. Instead, it’s sanctifies the abortion process by instilling confidence and protecting bodily rights when undergoing the safe and scientific procedure. The Satanic Temple press release says quote prior to 1973 doctors who performed abortions could lose their licenses and go to jail. In 1950, when Alito was born, his mother did not have options. The clinic’s name serves to remind people just how important it is to have the right to control one’s body and the potential ramifications of losing that right. And that is a burn that could only come from hell itself. Abortion in New Mexico is legal at all stages of pregnancy except in the city of hubs where local ordinance was passed in November 2022 to prevent abortion clinics from operating. The number of abortion clinics in New Mexico has declined over the years, though, there was 26 in 1982, and now they are down to fewer than a dozen in 2022. The TST says with recent political attacks on reproductive health care, abortion access has been restricted or eliminated in many states, the Satanic Temple on behalf of its members objects to government interference with abortion access, and contests that laws that impede our faith in bodily autonomy, and our ability to perform our religious abortion ritual violate the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So in short, the Satanic Temple is objecting to government interference with abortion access on religious grounds. You can read all about this on their website. And no, you don’t have to be a resident of New Mexico to invoke the religious right to abortion. Y’all, the government is a kooky bananas place right now. And it feels like every day we’re playing a losing game of chicken with our civil rights. If it’s not anti-trans legislation, its anti-abortion or canceled book fairs or police immunity clauses getting stronger. And of course, none of legislation is written in common language. It’s written using standards of the 1700s Because I don’t know. I guess we’re trying to stay there or go back there. Legacy power structures don’t ever want to progress from the 1700s It sure feels that way. Here to help us make sense of it all is Sharon McMahon, lovingly known as America’s government teacher. She’s got a podcast called here’s where it gets interesting, a very popular TikTok and Instagram page where she promises to help you relearn everything you forgot from high school civics and be a more educated and well informed citizen, and she’s going to answer all our dumb questions about the state of American politics and government right after the break.

V Spehar  15:00

I’m so excited to have her here. Sharon, thank you so much for being with me today.

Sharon McMahon  15:20

It is truly a pleasure.

V Spehar  15:22

Sharon McMahon, you’ve got podcasts, you’ve got Instagram, you’ve got tic TOCs. You are America’s government teacher. When did you start teaching civics? Like what was that journey like?

Sharon McMahon  15:34

I started teaching government right out of college. You know, I thought for a while I was going to be a physician. I’m very interested in science. But I had a had a moment in a college class, where I just I felt like, it was like this knowing of like, you are supposed to be a teacher. Since that moment, I ran full tilt at that as a career, but teaching is truly in my DNA. My grandfather was a very beloved teacher. And now I’m just teaching a different audience.

V Spehar  16:06

Exactly. What made you excited about government in particular? I mean, it’s not like, It’s so chaotic. Did you always love it? Like from way back?

Sharon McMahon  16:18

Yes. Yes. Even as a child when I had a paper route. Oh, and this was pre-cellphone. And you know, pre-podcast, they did something to do would literally unfold the newspaper and read it as I walked the couple of miles, delivering newspapers. So I can remember as far back as being 12 as being interested in this topic. When I was 15. I saved my babysitting money to get a subscription to Newsweek. Oh, wow. Yeah. And made it Newsweek was pretty, like, I felt like I was a big accomplishment. My parents started arriving in the mail. And they were like, who are you? Like, what teenager spends their babysitting money on Newsweek? That’s weird.

V Spehar  17:05

No, I was spending my time on ripped jeans from Abercrombie at that time, like my father could not understand how we grew up slightly less, you are more serious child than me.

Sharon McMahon  17:14

True. I was a pretty serious child.

V Spehar  17:17

So what was your approach? When you got to the classroom? What grade were you teaching?

Sharon McMahon  17:21

Anywhere from 10th to 12? That depends on the state, what level what year you take government in. So in Minnesota, for example, it’s generally a senior class. In the DC area where I lived for a long time, it is a sophomore class. So they’re usually between the ages of 15 and 18.

V Spehar  17:41

Yeah, they’re getting ready to vote. So the school system is like, whoa, whoa, I guess you should kind of know where to go and what to do. One would hope you don’t want to get too involved ahead of that, though, you might get some ideas.

Sharon McMahon  17:51

Too many ideas. And now we’re seeing the effects of, of Gen Z, having a lot of ideas that some people are not prepared for them to have.

V Spehar  18:01

Yeah, because with the internet link said, podcasts, we have access to this information, even if we’re not getting it from the school. But even when you were back teaching in assuming underneath the guidance of like, whatever the state government repertoire was for government classes. Did you feel like kids were interested in it? Like, how did you get people to understand

Sharon McMahon  18:23

The trick really, is making it relevant, right? It’s making it relevant to their lives today. Why would I give one tiny crap about who is the head of the House Appropriations Committee? You know, like, that is boring. And I think a lot of Americans still think that. But when you can give an example of something that is actually happening on the news today, that directly impact somebody’s life, it becomes a lot more interesting, because you care about something a lot more when you realize how it impacts you. So to me, the on ramp to any amount of interest in government is always current events. It’s always the news. And I would bring the newspaper to school every day. You know, when I was living in DC, I brought the Washington Post to school, literally every day, I would read articles to students, we would find articles online, we would show clips of the news. So that was always the on ramp of how to make people interested is demonstrating how it impacts their life.

V Spehar  19:25

And that base education in media literacy is so important to understanding the broader government. And it’s something that folks have decided that they have but sometimes don’t have, right?

Sharon McMahon  19:39

Many times do not have.

V Spehar  19:41

And as a person who considers myself rather media literate, man, if you put on let’s say CNN for fun, if I have CNN on in the background, as I rarely do, but if I do and I’m doing dishes, I’m like, right? Let me just listen to what’s going on. Within the 10 minutes that I’m listening I will have heard the point which is Should George Santos resign? Let’s say, and here are the reasons why, before I even have the time to start to process it and reflect on it. In my own mind, they’ve had on a pundit who has reiterated exactly the viewpoint that CNN is trying to put across, which is yes. And then I’m sort of now watching that person and you, it just doesn’t give you any time to come up with your own ideas, it doesn’t give you a time to be critical of the things that are being presented to you. And that is on purpose. And that does make it hard to be a media literate person now because you start to trust a network, and then that network changes hands. And now all of a sudden, we’re getting a completely different viewpoint. And we’re confused. But we’re like, Well, who can we trust? And if you can’t trust who you did before, then who do you ever trust again? And like that chaos is just exhausting to people? How are you breaking through that exhaustion to really connect with people and teach them the way that you do?

Sharon McMahon  20:50

Well, this is something that you do really well. And I know you hear this all the time, as do I, that it is exhausting. It is exhausting out there to try to sort out and parse out. What am I supposed to believe about this? I don’t have this much time. You know what I mean? Like the strategies that a lot of people will give you, like, read multiple news sources, don’t read just one, don’t just spend 24 hours a day watching one news channel, turn off the news and read it instead. You know, all of these suggestions that people give are great suggestions. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that we would read widely from a variety of sources, which again, I know you do as well. But the average person, this isn’t their job. They don’t do this for a living. I don’t have four hours a day to devote to this. I have like 15 minutes. You know what I mean, so it is extremely frustrating. As a news consumer in today’s world to know, what am I supposed to do now? And I think that’s, as I mentioned, one thing that you do extremely well, which is you give people exactly what they need to know, in a very succinct fashion. You know, it’s like it’s Wednesday night. And here’s what happened, right? That’s your little what people know you for. This is the point that we have reached in media consumption, where people trust people and not organizations. The suspicion of organizations, the level of distrust of organizations is at an incredible all time high right now. So many people have turned to independent journalists like you. Because they you have spent a lot of time developing trust and rapport with your audience. And they trust you more than they trust a large organization, they trust you not to be quote unquote, corrupted more than they trust, a big shadowy organization of who even works there. What are they even do who’s paying for it. Whereas with an independent journalist, it’s much more transparent, you can much more readily see who you’re getting information from, what their motivations are, and whether or not you resonate with them in terms of delivery style, etc.

V Spehar  23:09

It’s also caused a lot of issues between independent journalists and legacy media because as legacy media continues to lose, they’re kind of like chokehold on controlling all of the information. And we have podcasts or tick talkers or citizen journalists, all these folks out here that to your point, are trusted and are getting the information, right. Legacy journalism is now kind of looking at it. And at first, I felt like for the first two years, they tried to discredit it. They were like, Well, you’re a silly influencer on Tik Tok, who has no value to me whatsoever. You’re wearing a banana shirt, and you’re literally laying on the floor of what a foolish silly thing to do. But now what we’re seeing is this infiltration of the newspapers on TikTok of them directing their content more towards the Gen Z audience, trying to put a face to their handles that you can be like, Oh, okay, well, that’s de from the Washington Post or that’s this one from the recount or that one from Midas touch. Do you think that that is disingenuous? Or do you think that that is actually something we need to be doing bridging this gap between the citizen journalist and legacy media?

Sharon McMahon  24:18

Okay, one of the things that I think some people discredit when they are thinking about legacy media, and to be fair legacy media has, you know, there are areas in which it should be criticized, but what they have is networks of reporters that individual citizen journalists don’t have, right, I don’t have boots on the ground in Ukraine, know what I need, how am I supposed to get information unless somebody out there is reporting it? We need the associated presses and the writers of the world we need these larger news organizations that have huge infrastructures to be able to put boots on the ground, so to speak, in these different places around the world, so they do serve an incredibly important function. So I am always reticent to advocate for like, let’s overthrow the system and cobble together 50,000 individual people. And what I mean like that all set system also does not work. Do I think legacy media needs to adapt, and change, of course. But we, as people who work independently, also have to acknowledge our reliance on their reporting their networks of reporters, in order to be able to obtain the correct information, I know that one of the things you do is make sure that you can substantiate information from more than one source. And if you can’t substantiate it, then you’re going to say, this is a rumor, here’s what I’m hearing, you know, you’re going to tell people up front that I can’t for sure, say that this is 100% true, but the word on the street is x. Being able to have multiple news organizations to substantiate information is also an incredibly important service to both us and to news consumers. We need a fair and free press in the world. Have fun living in a world without it. Have fun with that. How will you get information?

V Spehar  26:30

I completely agree. And I’ve been called into like LA Times, or NBC different places to talk about like, okay, from your perspective, what you’re doing is really, really important. What can we do to kind of be a better partner? What can we do to reach more folks and whatnot, and my advice to them has always been do less better. Like, we’ll be see the end of the 24 hour news cycle in our lifetimes, I actually think that we might, because the millennial and Gen Z generation value so much more spending time in person with your friends and family, spending time reflecting, we’re in a culture of like self-help and healing and taking time for yourself. And I don’t know that we need that background noise as much as previous generations maybe did or had it on as company and whatnot. And it’s just gotten so exhausting that I’m like, You know what I miss I miss when it would hit 11 o’clock or 1130. And they would play the national anthem, and then they would just put on Golden Girls real runs. Like, I just want Nick at Night or something to come on. Like, I want to finish out my day feel like that’s enough. Now I have time to reflect and wind down with some Matlock. Yes, that’s what I want. That’ll do.

Sharon McMahon  27:38

Yes, that is the news for today, ladies and gentlemen.

V Spehar  27:43

We’ll see you at 6am. Just a little break, you know, a little bit of time where we’re not constantly trying to reiterate and hold people’s attention in a way that just doesn’t serve them. Another thing that we get into when we talk about legacy media is the way that people feel talked down to a lot, they haven’t felt invited to the media, they haven’t felt invited to government. Because the way that laws are written is so confusing, and all the flowery language that we have to use, because it’s like in the Constitution, and it’s just like tradition, to call these things, you know, the way that they do and have these traditions and processes, you have a really great system for breaking things down and the lift system, right, like, explain it like I’m five, thanks. Tell me about that.

Sharon McMahon  28:23

Well, you just mentioned how people feel talked down to. And I think in addition to that people feel talked over. And they feel talked over when it comes to jargon, they feel talked over when it comes to assumptions that are made about their existing knowledge base. And when you feel talked over, you tune out. You know, like, I’m not interested in sports at all, you know, bless the people that are but if you want to start talking about sports statistics, and Bob did this, and he you know, Kevin did that. I am paying 0% attention because I have no idea what you’re talking about. Right? I am not listening, I am not absorbing anything. I’m not memorizing anything. I’m not moving anything into long term storage. I am just like, I don’t care, not interested. don’t know anything about that. So people are talking over me when they’re talking about sports statistics in my presence, and that’s fine. They’re allowed to like sports. And I’m allowed not to that’s great. But that is very often what is happening when it comes to these complicated topics, is that people are using the fancy flowery jargon language, like you mentioned, and you know, like the Standing Committee and the judiciary and the blah, blah, blah. It’s just goes right over people’s heads, not because they’re too stupid to understand it, but because they just have not learned it yet. They just have not learned it yet. But when invited to actually learn the information in a way that feels accessible and interesting. People find that in fact I Actually, I do want to know that this does affect me. Whether or not that person is on the Appropriations Committee actually does matter when I understand it. So my goal is always to help people understand the context of something, not just Marjorie Taylor Greene got a seat on Homeland Security Committee, but what actually is a committee. So explaining things in a very succinct, easy to understand way that invites you into greater knowledge and understanding helps people feel empowered with the information instead of feeling talked over or talked down to knowing things actually feels good.

V Spehar  30:57

You bring up a great point here, because this is a hot topic. The committee assignments for the House of Representatives came out and a lot of folks, it was like one of the number one questions I got was, why are only Republicans getting committee assignments? And I was like, they’re not in fact, there are many Democrats on the committee’s as well. So, in your experience to explain to people what the committees are and the purpose of them, like how would you say that? I think there’s some folks who listen to this show that really might not know yet.

Sharon McMahon  31:27

So you know, people will often remember Schoolhouse Rock. Yes. And that’s their frame of reference for how a bill becomes a law. And some of it is, you know, great. Some of it is not actually very accurate to people that rhymed. People don’t actually write the laws themselves. Members of Congress are not actually typing up the laws as Schoolhouse Rock makes it same laws are written by lawyers that worked for Congress. But before something gets to the floor of the House or the Senate, and it has to be vetted, debated, and written up by a smaller group of people first, it is impossible for everyone in Congress, all 535 people in Congress to know about all the same things to care about all the same things to be experts on everything. And so what they do is they break up Congress into smaller groups, you can think about it as like a group project, your group project is to figure out what we need to do about natural resources, your group project is to figure out how we are going to make sure that we have a fair judicial system, etc. There’s, you know, tons of different committees. So if you think about it in terms of people getting an assignment to be in a group to work on a certain topic, and then within that group there, even it’s broken down into even smaller groups, they introduce bills, they talk about the bills amongst themselves, they go through a process called markup where they submit proposed changes to bills, they submit amendments, they say, Let’s strike line seven and replace it with this amongst themselves. They debate and discuss on that specific topic. 90% of bills die in committee, 90% of bills never go anywhere. And if all of those bills were eating up the time of every member of Congress, just arguing on the House floor, nothing important would ever get done. We need the committees of smaller groups of people who become subject matter experts, hopefully, who have the ability to call a hearing about like, well, what should we do with mining on federal lands? And to learn more about what’s important to stakeholders and constituents and industry members? We want smaller groups of people to be able to become knowledgeable about that. We don’t want people voting on stuff that they have no idea about. Right? That’s actually dangerous.

V Spehar  33:55

Is it possible then that Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has denied that 9/11, which calls 9/11 a false flag and now is on the Homeland Security Committee, and everybody’s very worried about that one, in particular, could be getting briefings on secure intel that she could use to damage the country. Is there a way that she could actually be preventing us from being more safe? A lot of folks are worried about what power she has in committee, versus will this ever pass the Senate? Would the President actually sign off on something that came out of that?

Sharon McMahon  34:26

That’s a super fair question. That’s a very legitimate question. And the fact that people wonder that shows that they’re paying attention to government, right. And so I love that, that they have enough background knowledge to know what a committee is, what it might do, why she might be problematic on it. I think that’s fantastic.

V Spehar  34:43

This is a specific question from Instagram. I want you to know, they were like, please ask Sharon. If Marjorie Taylor Greene on Homeland Security is a danger or if it’ll be kind of like political grandstanding that can’t go anywhere.

Sharon McMahon  34:55

Will Marjorie Taylor Greene get insider Intel as a member Have the Homeland Security Committee. Yes, she absolutely will. That is part of their power as members of Congress, will she then turn around and reveal classified information to, you know, our enemies? Well, I hope not. That’s a crime. Right. Like, I hope not. But that is one of the risks you run with electing anybody to Congress is what are they going to do with this inside information? Now, will Marjorie Taylor Greene have the power to make Congress do whatever she wants them to do because she’s on Homeland Security? No, of course, she’s one of 435 members. But can you rule out the possibility that she is going to use some of some insider information for the potential to do something you might disagree with? Or that might be dangerous? You can’t rule it out. No. So that is one of the reasons why voting matters, V.

V Spehar  36:02

Right. The other one that we’re that we’re taking a hard look at when it comes to committees is Jim Jordan chairing the Judicial Committee, which a lot of folks also recognize Jim Jordan, a fellow who’s been in a bit of law trouble on his own merit pre Congress, and throughout another member of the Freedom Caucus. And people that are concerned what he’s going to do with the Judicial Committee, Matt Gaetz got his wish he’s on that Judiciary Committee. Matt Gaetz also under investigation right now. Does being on the Judiciary Committee absolve you at all? Or do you have the opportunity to intercept any investigations that might be coming toward you?

Sharon McMahon  36:37

That’s a great question. The answer is no. They don’t have any ability to say to federal investigators stop investigating me. I mean, they can say it but it doesn’t nest doesn’t have power over them, they don’t have jurisdiction to command the Department of Justice to act in the way that they would prefer. That is in an intentional separation of powers. The legislative branch does not have the ability to control and command the executive branch, which is what the Department of Justice falls under. So again, that’s not to say they have no power. That’s not to say there’s nothing they can do. That’s not to say that they won’t run their own congressional investigations, which they have pledged to do. And one of the things that they have pledged to do is to open a slew of investigations into various aspects of the Biden administration, including President Biden himself, I can only assume that there will be more investigations into Hunter Biden investigations into other members of his cabinet, we’ve you’ve already reported on the fact that they are going to potentially be impeaching the Secretary of Homeland Security. […] because they dislike the job that he has done at the border. So they are going to wield that power to do other things. No question whether those things serve their constituents whether they serve the entire United States, that’s a matter of opinion. That’s a matter of perspective. But can they just wave a wand and be like, I’m on the Judiciary Committee stop investigating me. No, they can’t.

V Spehar  38:21

That’s I mean, that’s at least good to hear. But like you said, they can open investigations, and they certainly will be when it comes to this idea that there’s some sort of retaliation because Trump was impeaced twice. And members of the Freedom Caucus who are fiercely loyal to former President Trump wants some sort of revenge some sort of retaliation, how likely is it that they’re just going to drop Articles of Impeachment for Biden, and we’re going to see Biden be impeached.

Sharon McMahon  38:51

Biden will not be impeached. But it doesn’t mean they won’t try. So impeaching somebody, this is poorly understood by a lot of Americans. impeaching does not mean removal from office. impeaching means to charge someone with a crime. And it means to charged with a crime against the United States, and that it’s, you know, to remove them from office as a separate phase of this process. So you saw with Trump, and with Bill Clinton, the House of Representatives impeaches them, and what that means is they file charges against that person, you’re charged with this crime against the United States, and then the House of Representatives votes on whether or not that person should be charged with that crime against the United States. From there, if the House of Representatives says yes, charge that person with a crime, which you might see this exact scenario with Secretary Mayorkas where they agree to charge him with a specific crime against the United States. Then we move on to the trial phase, the penalty phase of a trial in the Senate, and you saw this with Trump. We Are they actually put on a little trial, that where they have somebody get up and they present evidence for why somebody should be impeached, the person who is potentially going to be impeached, then has the opportunity to put on a defense. At the end of that process, then the Senate must vote on whether or not to convict or acquit that person of the charges they have faced in the House of Representatives. And if they are convicted, then they again, must vote on whether or not they should be removed from office. So what happened with Trump two times, he was impeached in the house charged with the crime. Both times the Senate declined to convict him, he was acquitted both times in the Senate. So consequently was not removed from office. So that is what if Joe Biden or Mayorkas or anybody else is impeached in the house, the chances that they would be convicted in the Senate are very, very small, very small, we would need to see something happen. That was egregious enough to the Democratic majority in the Senate, that they agreed that somebody would need to be removed from office. And speaking to this point that you made about, there’s this like sort of revenge mentality, potentially, would the Democratic majority in the Senate then vote to remove one of their own so to speak from office? You could say that same revenge mentality might be there was like, Listen, you didn’t vote to remove your guy, right? You’re not voting to remove our person either. So it goes both ways. Absolutely.

V Spehar  41:46

We’re gonna take a quick break. When we get back we’re going to talk more about the circus of Congress and all the goofy stuff that’s happening up there, and Sharon’s gonna make us feel better about all of it, I’m sure. Right when we get back. Okay, friends, we are back. And we’re going to be talking a little bit more about the historical power of caucuses. Now, this is another thing that folks have heard the word caucus a lot, but don’t really understand. Maybe I personally had to dig out my sixth grade civics textbooks even remember what they’re all about. And it turns out, it’s pretty informal. It’s just a group of people with shared interests or ethnicities who want to advocate for a special interest or cause. So I mean, I know there’s the Black Caucus, there’s the newly formed dad caucus. Is there a gay caucus are like an I love animals caucus? Can we start one? Sharon, I would like to see that.

Sharon McMahon  42:47

I don’t think there is a gay caucus or an I love dogs caucus. But there are caucuses about things that you might be surprised about, like adoption. Oh, there’s an adoption caucus. One of the more famous caucuses is the problem solvers caucus, which is a group that is again, think of it like an after school club, you join it if you want to, and they’re going to do things that sound good to you. And so what that means is that caucus is going to pursue a legislative agenda that promotes whatever it is that your group believes in whatever your club wants to do. So the problem solvers caucus really focuses on the practical matters of governing. They’re there to actually work on real life solutions. People who are in the problem solvers caucus view themselves by and large as the workhorses of Congress. They are not the flashy ponies with the braided hair, and the sparkle mains. Those are the show horses of Congress. And the workhorses of Congress are the people who are actually working on legislation and not just having the press conferences and the viral moments on the House or Senate floor. But yes, people have there’s a caucus of former mayors, for example, people who were like, Yeah, I used to do that. That’s a unique job to be a former mayor, and now you’re in Congress. And then there’s the Freedom Caucus, which has become very famous in recent days, because of their role in the election for Speaker of the House.

V Spehar  44:29

Right. This was the Jim Jordans the chip or is the Dan Bishop the Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Bovard. Matt Gaetz. Click. So what does the Freedom Caucus stand for?

Sharon McMahon  44:41

Well, interestingly, Marjorie Taylor Greene, kind of abandoned her other Freedom Caucus members during the election for speaker of the house. Why? Because she wanted back on a committee and she knew that if she helped Kevin McCarthy get a lot To the Speaker of the House, which she did, that she would get committee assignments again. So aside from that, aside from the election for speaker, she is a member of this group. And they tend to be the farther right wing of the Republican Party. And they have different ideas that maybe some other more mainline members of the Republican Party might have about what the party should look like, and what Congress should be doing for people. So, you know, the Freedom Caucus really believes strongly in big cuts in government spending, they tend to be very strong supporters of President Trump. And if you can think of a Trump era policy related to say something like the border or foreign policy, the America first, you know, the belief in America first. Those are by and large values that members of the Freedom Caucus tend to hold. In many ways, it’s a carryover of a Trump era policies and beliefs.

V Spehar  46:06

Sometimes, I’m sitting here and I’m like, oh, my god, is this the worst that it’s ever been? But in fact, no, no in history, fear not my friends listening at home, it has been much worse, and it will get much better. When in history, have we been at a point like this where there is such like perceived division between the parties and where folks can’t get along? And there’s a lot of like, oppressive nonsense laws coming out at the state level? Is it civil war times? Is it prior to that? Do we just do this every 20 years or so?

Sharon McMahon  46:41

So of course, the Civil War was a, you know, an absolutely horrific time in the United States. But you could also argue that every time prior to the Civil War, literally every time prior to the Civil War, was much worse for people of color, much worse for African Americans who were legally enslaved. And where federal laws upheld the right to legally enslave them. So in some ways, this idea of it’s the words, it’s worse now than it’s ever been, is based on our privileged position of being able to look on history and feel like well, I have never felt it being this bad. But in many ways, many communities have experienced much, much worse than where things are today. That is not to say that we have arrived, that we have fixed it all. That’s not to say any of those things. So yes, of course, the Civil War. You can look back on specific points in history that were huge flashpoints. When you’re thinking about like the 1950s. And some of the things that were happening, especially in the south, that became incredible catalysts for change. So one of the things that I always tell people is when things get really bad, is when incredible progress can happen. Look at what happened with the Voting Rights Act with the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s. Things have gotten really bad. And you can make the argument that they should never have had to get that bad to begin with. I wouldn’t even disagree with you. But that unrest that dissatisfaction, that division between groups, where you saw two Kennedys get assassinated, Martin Luther King get assassinated. terrible violence outside the 1968 Democratic Convention. Literal violence on the streets on a regular basis, when things get bad, is when we can make a tremendous amount of progress very quickly. So in many ways, that we are poised on the precipice of a unique moment in history, in which we have the ability to reshape America into a new vision of what it has the potential to become. That when things are easy and good, and the economy is fantastic. And things seem to be relatively peaceful. That fire in our bellies is not there. And it is easy for us to ignore the plight of the marginalized. It is easy for us to ignore the voices of the oppressed during those times of incredible prosperity. But this kind of moment, is a moment that can be harnessed for good can be harnessed for impactful change.

V Spehar  49:40

And how do we do that, Sharon, because I’ve got a lot of kids writing to me from Oklahoma and Texas and Arkansas and they’re scared because it started off with well, we’re not going to let trans kids play sports and now it’s we’re not going to let girls wear pants and now it’s you know, you have to medically de-transitioned if you’re under 26 years old and people are genuinely scared. And they’re looking at their representative and saying these people are taking the Democrat versus Republican rhetoric after they win and saying, Yeah, half my district, I don’t care about you, I am going to input laws to hurt you. What can we learn from the movements of the 1960s, let’s say, to advance on this progressive agenda, to create a safer space for women, for people of color for queer folks.

Sharon McMahon  50:30

One of the things we have to remember is that a tremendous amount of progress was brought about by ordinary people, by teenagers who were being denied an education by in some cases, pregnant teenagers who were absolutely looked down upon by members of their own community of like, we don’t want you here. And it was people like them, who created the momentum that was needed to make the change. So that’s the first thing is to remind ourselves that it is the little people. It is the ordinary individual, who is the hero in this scenario, it is not the people click clacking in their business suits in the marble halls of Congress who are going to be your champion, it is you, you are the person we have been waiting for. So we need to remind ourselves of that, like it is actually up to me, the vast majority of these kinds of laws that you’re just referencing where you have, you’re saying I have I have kids from Texas, I have kids from Missouri, those are state laws. And to the overwhelming majority of people who are elected to their state legislatures, those races are won in tiny margins. So what it is going to take is literally showing up, literally showing up to vote in state elections. But even more importantly, showing up to vote in state primary elections, overwhelming majority of state races are decided at the primary. And the reason for that is because the voting districts have been gerrymandered so that it’s almost guaranteed that a blue or red person will win. And it’s just a matter of which one. And so if you want government that better represents your views, you need to start caring about primary elections, because very often at the primary election is where we decide who will actually win the general election. Gen Z voters have a tremendous amount of ability to create change at the state and national level. If they start showing up for primary elections. It is truly as simple as that in many places, show up for primary elections.

V Spehar  52:57

And they sure did show up to vote this past midterm election. I mean, it was it was a complete shock to every pundit possible was wrong. And I love that for Gen Z. And they are set to be the biggest voting bloc for the presidential election that’s coming up next year, they can truly just the way that politics has really sort of catered to the boomers who were the largest voting bloc. Now, what is your turn Gen Z. So tell them what you want. Tell them what you want. And one of the things that they want is the federal government to fix the student loan problems. What do you think’s gonna happen with student loans?

Sharon McMahon  53:32

One of the things that Congress absolutely could do is changed the formula for how interest rates are calculated. A lot of people have said, why does it Biden just make the interest rate 0% or 1%. Because the way student loans work, as you mentioned in your previous episode, it’s not like a mortgage where you can just pay a certain amount each month and like watch your balance shrink each month. It’s not like that, you know, your unpaid interest, because you’re on some kind of certain repayment plan, it gets capitalized into your loan. And some people find that 20 years after, you know, they’ve been making payments for 20 years, and they owe more than when they started, because of how interest rates work. Interest rates are high. And the way that they’re calculated is unlike other loans that one might take out, Congress could fix that. And that alone would make a massive difference for a huge number of borrowers to just change the formulary. So that is another thing that Gen Z has in their power to elect members of Congress who serve the interests of Americans by not engaging in predatory lending practices. The US Department of Education is required by law to do when it comes to lending for student loans. They would be investigated, they would be investigated by the FTC or the SEC for poor editorials lending practices for potentially misleading the public, Congress can change that, Congress can fix that.

V Spehar  55:07

Another thing that a lot of folks will say is the United States is an embarrassment on the world stage. And I’m like, listen, that is not true. And that is not based on fact that is based on I don’t know what people get out of thinking that the United States is an embarrassment on the world stage. Because that’s never, that’s not true. I mean, we participate in the global economy, we’re at this, we have a seat at every single table when it comes to power, government or influence across the world. And every time that I’ve traveled abroad, now, if you’ve had this experience, you’re in, let’s say, you’re like in Germany, and you’re just at the bar, having a nice time. And all of a sudden breaking news from the United States comes on one of the TVs in there, every single person turns and is like, Oh, my God, what did the US do now? But it’s not because they don’t respect us. It’s because the things that happen here have a direct impact on the way that the rest of the world is going to get to behave and exist. So as a person who has a lot of experience with the US government, and knows so much history about it, what have you learned about how the US is viewed on the world stage?

Sharon McMahon  56:08

Well, we call it in political science that impacted influence on the rest of the world is called hegemony II. And the United States has a tremendous amount of world hegemony, meaning that if you are the center, other people circulate around you. And that’s not to say the US is the center of the world. It’s not. But it is absolutely true, that the United States has a magnetic influence on the rest of the world that absolutely cannot be denied. Now, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have enemies doesn’t mean that some people, you know that Russia doesn’t hate us, of course.

V Spehar  56:45

Russia is our enemy to remind people listening, if you didn’t learn that from the 1980s video games. I don’t know where to take you. But Russia has always been the bad guy in every single cultural moment we’ve ever even had. Yes.

Sharon McMahon  57:00

So the is the United States an embarrassment on the world stage. Usually when people are saying that they feel like the United States is lagging behind other countries in some area that they would like to see progress. That’s usually the sentiment that’s behind that, like, you know, why don’t we have paid parental leave? That’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing that we don’t have that. Why don’t we have greater protection for voting rights? Why don’t we have protection from things like crazy Jeremy gerrymandering, it’s embarrassing that we can’t get our stuff together. It’s embarrassing that we are electing members of Congress who basically are saying that, you know, COVID precautions are the equivalent of Nazi Germany. That’s embarrassing. That’s usually what’s behind it. But when you examine the facts of whether or not the United States is made a mockery of in every public arena, that’s not true. That is absolutely not true. The United States is looked to for leadership on many of the world’s issues. When you consider whether or not the United States has allies in the world, we absolutely do that is objectively true. If the United States was an embarrassment on the world stage, it would have no allies. You know, who’s an embarrassment on the world stage, North Korea, North Korea is an embarrassment on the world stage, or Russia is an embarrassment on the world stage. You have no allies, you have nobody that likes you. You have nobody who’s like, Let’s trade, let’s form an alliance. That’s what an embarrassment on the world stage looks like. It looks like a dictator going rogue, removing all forms of legitimacy from his country, subjecting his citizens to all kinds of hardship unnecessarily for his own ego. That’s what an embarrassment on the world stage looks like. And the United States has issues that it needs to solve no question. We need paid parental leave no question. But it does not mean that we are an embarrassment on the world stage.

V Spehar  59:15

What is something that you think? I mean, we could be here for hours and hours, and I’m going to text you right after this. What’s more stuff? But what is something that you think is so important about the political moment we’re in right now that when history has written about us, we should be paying attention to?

Sharon McMahon  59:35

At this moment, the United States has some very important choices to make, will it turn towards authoritarianism or will it turn towards democracy? And I think the midterm elections made me cautiously optimistic that the United States has made a decision to turn its back on authoritarianism not perfectly, not in every instance. But slowly, we are reorienting ourselves in the right direction. If the United States fails to do this, which I don’t think it’s going to, but if it does, this is the moment this moment 2020 to 2023, is when historians will look back on this time period, which is very consequential in world history to begin with, just based on the number of things that have happened in the last couple of years. This is a moment that will be studied forever. Much like, we study things like the Great Depression, we study World War Two, we study these compressed time periods. This is a moment that 20 years from now, 50 years from now, we’ll continue to come up in school curriculums, etc. And how history will judge us is going to be based by and large, on how strongly we protect our democratic institutions, or if we fail to do so. So I cannot stress enough how important the principles of democracy are more than anything else, we have nothing if we don’t have our principles of democracy, it doesn’t matter if somebody says what you want to hear, but wants, but they what they want is actually authoritarianism. But they want to couple that with some policy that you agree with, that doesn’t matter. The power that is used to benefit you now, can and will be used against you in the future. So unless we maintain our democratic principles, and those democratic principles, sometimes people don’t know what those are, this is not capital D Democratic Party, this is small d democracy. They are things like the rule of law. They are things like limited government, they are things like the consent of the governed, that equality of equality of citizens, these principles of democracy must be maintained above anything else, any policy objective you have, because if we don’t have democracy, the power that is wielded in your favor today will be wielded against you in the future.

V Spehar  1:02:11

Sharon, it is always such a pleasure to chat with you. I am so appreciative. You were here to help us get a little more clarity on civics and government what’s real, what’s not tell folks where they can find you and learn more?

Sharon McMahon  1:02:22

Well, you can follow me on Instagram at @sharonsaysso. And I also have a podcast called, here’s where it gets interesting.

V Spehar  1:02:22

Very nice. And we will link to that in our show notes so that you can catch up with Sharon, I am like get to spend the rest of the night thinking about this. This is like just so much information. And like, like we said earlier in the show, taking time to reflect is really important. So I hope that you guys, take the stuff that you learned here and just find some quiet time for yourself to think about what it means to you and how it shows up in your life and what you actually care about and what you actually think about the state of our country in the state of our governments and your place in it. So thanks again, Sharon, for being here.

Sharon McMahon  1:03:01

Thank you, and thank you for your work. And thank you for doing what you do. I know I appreciate it. I enjoy your content. And I’m glad that you are there for so many other people too.

CREDITS  1:03:16

I just love that we get this time to chat with some of the smartest folks on the planet and genuinely get smart together. Be sure to tune into next week’s episode where we’re gonna dig into the headlines you might have missed and we get to chat with legendary podcaster Jordan Harbinger about toxic masculinity and how we’re gonna get past that. Leave me a voicemail at 612-893-8550, I love to hear from you. Follow me at under the desk news on tick tock Instagram and YouTube and guess what my friends there is more be V INTERESTING with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like my chat with Melissa Urban the founder of the Whole 30 talking how you can use ugly fruits and veggies to affordably make better meals. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts. V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.

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