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Opening the #WITHpod mailbag: podcast and transcript

Chris Hayes and producer Doni Holloway co-host to answer mailbag questions, discuss feedback and share updates on the podcast.

We're thrilled to publish our second live WITHpod mailbag, which was originally hosted on Twitter Spaces. Join as Chris and producer Doni Holloway go through your questions, discuss feedback you’ve sent and share pod updates. You’re also in for a special treat as Brendan O’Melia, who has been with WITHpod since it started, joins the conversation.

Note: This is a rough transcript — please excuse any typos.

Chris Hayes: Hello and welcome to Why is This Happening, the Chris Hayes podcast, WITHpod and our live Spaces Twitter convo.

If you're joining us the first time which I suspect some of you may be here on Twitter Spaces, my name is Chris Hayes. I host the show on MSNBC called “All In with Chris Hayes”, that’s weeknights at 8 p.m. I also write stuff, working on my third book and I host this podcast which we call “Why is This Happening.”

We've been going since 2018 and we basically are like an interview podcast, longform interview podcasts. It's not -- I'll be honest and humble, it's not genre bending. We have a guest, I talk to them, ask questions, have a good conversation.

We do, once or twice, a year, we'll do like a live mailbag with listeners, and we've been starting to do it actually on the Twitter Spaces here. One of the things I love about podcast and one of the reasons that we do it is, cable news is a very specific genre. It has very specific formal constraints, the biggest formal constraint actually is time that everything has to be programmed into an hour and around commercial breaks. That’s just the way the genre operates.

And so, those formal constraints mean that conversations get interrupted and it's hard to go along on certain things. There’s some topics that lend themselves more to cable news and are harder to do in the kind of forced concision of cable news.

So, one of the great things about this podcast is, for me, as someone who has a high-intellectual and creative metabolism and is kind of pretty ravenously curious about stuff, it allows an outlet to pursue that curiosity in learning while also, you know, sharing it with other people.

So, for me, it's a win-win. Like, if there's a topic I'm curious about, I can find and interesting and smart person, I can engage on them, I can learn. We could record it and put it out there, hopefully, other people can learn from it, too. Over the years, we've evolved, we've done WITHpod shows which I think someday we may bring back again, of course, those were cut out by the pandemic.

And we've brought on the great producer, Doni Holloway. He has been fulltime now for how long have you been with us now, Doni?

Doni Holloway: Yeah, for a little over a year. About a year and a half, actually.

Chris Hayes: All right, a year and a half?

Doni Holloway: It's amazing. It's flown by.

Chris Hayes: Before that we had the great Tiffany Champion who has since left us, although, she hasn’t gone too far. She's out in the world doing amazing things. We love Tiffany Champion, and we give her shoutout on making a human pair of hands emoji in gratitude for Tiffany Champion.

So, I see a bunch of people here which is great and we're going to -- wow, there are a lot of you. We're going to take some, we’re going to do a combo of mailbag questions that came to us from email, from Twitter and you, right here, live, in a sort of -- I mean, the thing that I loved about this last time was it felt like we could recreate digitally the sort of, like, drive-time vibe.

Doni Holloway: Totally. Yeah. We got so much good feedback the last time we did the Twitter Spaces, a big success. Expecting even more this time. We got a lot of you saying that you make sure you weren't going to miss this one if you miss the last one and Chris really, really enjoyed being like a board operator, getting to bring each of you in. I think that that was a lot of fun. So, excited to give you opportunity to ask some more questions as we go into the mailbag.

The podcast really is the things that keeps Chris up late at night. I got to say, we're always talking about new topics, things that are top of mind. And we're always doing a lot of new things here at WITHpod. You know, Chris, one of those new things was we dare very first ever WITHpod conversation which was streamed on Peacock.

By the way, we should note that NBC Universal is the parent company of Peacock. It was really fun to have Rachel Maddow on for that episode.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. Just a young and up and coming talent. Rachel Maddow, right?

Doni Holloway: Yeah, you may have heard of her.

Chris Hayes: Scouted out and thought might be a good -- yeah, that was a really fun convo, and I would just say, plug right now, for that podcast which if you have not checked out Ultra, "Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra" is pretty mind-blowing and just incredible. It's great to, like, I don’t know if you’ve got a holiday drive ahead of you or there's like a few hours behind the road, but it will make the hours pass quickly. So, you should definitely check out that out.

Doni Holloway: It totally keeps the suspense up, a lot of great episodes. And speaking of episodes, we have our 250th publication or episode coming up. Can you believe that?

Chris Hayes: Yeah. I was just looking that it is going to be -- 2023 will be – will mark five years for “Why is This Happening” and will also be the 10-year decade mark for “All In with Chris Hayes” which is kind of blowing my mind, to be totally honest.

Doni Holloway: Big congratulations there. I know it just really speaks to all of our listeners and viewers who continue to tune in. I know the last time that we did a plug for our 200th episode, we had one person writing in and she said that she's gotten both of her boosters but it's the Chris Hayes shot in the arm that keeps her going.

So, we're doing life-changing work here. And as we celebrate our --

Chris Hayes: Well, that’s -- I don’t know life changing, Doni. That’s nice of you to say, but we're doing -- I hope we give a little bit of enlightenment in small doses in your earholes.

Doni Holloway: The world is listening. And as you want to share your thoughts about the podcast or you want to share your thoughts about WITHpod, everyone tuning in, you can send us a video. You can send us a voice memo. We're doing a call to action for 10- to 30-second audio clip where you can just mention your name, kind of what city you live in, what you do while listening to WITHpod and we'll do something pretty special to celebrate all of those submissions coming in.

And also, share with us your favorite episode. I know you might have a hard time picking one but try to share with us your favorite episode and we'll do special copulation to celebrate.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. I like to just to say that I like to hear, yeah, what people do when they're listening and how it sort of finds them in their lives and it always just makes me happy to hear how people are coming to it and what they're doing when they're listening.

Doni Holloway: Totally. We love hearing from our guests. You can always use the hashtag #WITHpod. I think there's a tie between Chris and myself for how many times we check the WITHpod hashtag. I'm obsessively checking it.

Chris Hayes: Someone called me out. I don’t know if that person is listening right now, but someone definitely called me out for checking it during a commercial break the other day and I was, like, yeah, dude, what do you think?

Doni Holloway: That was true.

Chris Hayes: But I look like, what do you think?

Doni Holloway: Yeah. You're like, reacted to something during a commercial break. So, while we're doing this live convo, you can also tweet us your questions or you can comment here for those of you who just tuning in, you can stay with us as well. Give a chance for you to ask some questions live as well.

We got a lot of pre-submitted feedback and questions. One of those that really stood out to me. This one comes from Bobby. He says, hello there, WITHpod team. He says I just want to take a moment to reach out as you prepare for you next mailbag episode. So many times, in the last couple of years, I felt myself suffering from crisis fatigue, COVID, domestic politics, the war in Ukraine, the environment, so on and so on. And WITHpod has been a vital refuge. Thanks for all you do and keep up the great work.

Chris Hayes: Thank you, Bobby. I really -- I really, really appreciate that. Bobby also included a very funny and inside joke that we cut out. But, Bobby, I just want you to know, I see you. I see you on that inside joke. That’s a very funny joke. No, that’s awesome.

One of the things I like doing about WITHpod is a lot of times, a lot of the news is a bummer but there's something about, to me, there's always something about unlocking what it feels like a little better of understanding that is leavening that if I -- if something feels terrible or scary or ominous or tragic and inscrutable, all of the aspects of it that feel overwhelming are intensified where as if something feels ominous, tragic, you know, threatening but understandable, it cracks open something in it and that’s sort of the way, I think that’s lie my own therapy for myself and how I go through the world.

But I think to the extent that, like, in the midst of crisis, a little bit of understanding can create a little bit of, like, emotional space to not feel overwhelmed. I think that’s one of the things we're trying to do.

Doni Holloway: Totally. And that’s what we really try to do with answering so many big questions on WITHpod focusing on a lot of big topics. I know recently, we had the China Mieville conversation and with The New York Times best-selling author, China Mieville, and, you know, that was such an enlightening conversation about how really the communist manifesto has remained such a vital, perhaps even one of the most important political documents of our time and even today.

Our next feedback point comes from a guest who talking about that, she says, Catherine says, Chris, your conversation with China Mieville was truly extraordinary while the pod played it gradually dawned on her that she was listening not to -- just two very bright individuals but to two actual geniuses. She says that she immediately called her local bookstore and ordered several of Mieville's books and is looking forward to reading "The City & the City."

Chris, I know you have mentioned that you read that one and you called it the best novel of the last decade. She says, Chris, thank you so much for the work you do. She's been a fan of the TV show since the “Up with Chris Hayes” days and used your podcast as her book referral source. She says you seem like a deeply, actualized human being, a great husband and dad, doing quality work that influences millions.

For all the horrors brought by technology, she says she's happy to live in this era that allows her to know people such as you.

Chris Hayes: Well, that is way over the top, Catherine. And I would say that China Mieville is the genuine genius. I am definitely not. But China really is. Like, he is a genius.

"The City & the City" is, if you don’t believe me, go read that book because it is -- it starts from this, like, sort of beautiful kind of abstract philosophical premise which is basically, which I won't spoil anything by giving away, where there's basically two cities that sit atop each other.

They occupy the same space of land but the borders between them are this sort of like arbitrary borders and people just know not to cross them and across them and they cannot cross or across them. And it's unclear whether this is just like learned perceptual blindness or there's some sort of supernatural force, and basically, it's like a noir genre murder mystery in which a detective has to investigate a murder possibly over the borders.

And from this single kind of brilliant speculative fiction premise, he teases out these, like, beautiful and utterly profound meditations on, like, geography, space, borders, the separations between cultures, things we see and don’t see, why we see and don’t see them and it's just like it's really, really an amazing book so I highly recommend it.

Doni Holloway: Totally. A fascinating read. I thought it was so interesting how he did the fiction type work and fantasy fiction and then moved into nonfiction and writing things like his book called "A Spectre, Haunting."

Chris Hayes: Well, he also actually -- he went both ways, right? He's got a Ph.D. He wrote a -- a Ph.D., a DPhil dissertation on, like, Marxism and human rights law, modern human rights law. And then, from that, went into writing fiction and is now writing nonfiction as well but I think he's also got a novel coming out. So, definitely --

Doni Holloway: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- check it out.

Doni Holloway: Stay tuned for that. It's been 174 years since the communist manifesto was written. So, we're still talking about it. You can check our episode out about that.

We got a lot of good feedback. Speaking of feedback, WITHpod listeners really are everywhere. We love now that the world is kind of opening back up to interact with listeners in person. I was actually at an event, not too long ago and I ran into Mark Levine, the Manhattan Borough President, earlier this year and we were just talking, and he pulls out his phone and he's like I got my WITHpod queued up. I was just listening to an episode. So, it's really cool to meet people all over.

And, Chris, you actually saw someone on the subway. I remember you texted me --

Chris Hayes: Oh, I was just on my commute ride home. I take the subway home. I take the subway then to and from work and I was on the commute ride home and the woman across from me, as I was nearing our stop looked at me and then she's like then really looked at me and then she put up a finger like hold on a second then she pulled out her phone and she paused it and she flipped it around and she was listening to the latest episode of WITHpod.

I got to say that was, like, a high point of my year. It was awesome. She seemed super -- she was like surprised and stoked. She gave me like a silent thumbs up and then went back to listening which I also loved. So, if you're the listener who is doing that, that was a great run in.

I took a -- I snapped a picture of it, and I sent it to my family and to Kate, my wife and a few friends. I'm like, this is a really cool moment.

Doni Holloway: Totally. Yeah. We're out there. There you go. There's a shoutout for that listener.

Speaking of feedback, we also -- we did this thing where we asked for Spotify Wraps. Other platforms do it too but Spotify does this thing where it's the end of the year and, you know, you can get the overview of your most listened to episodes, things that you listen to the most.

We got something from someone named Keirstan. She listens on Pocket Casts. The winner of our kind of pseudo competition was Keirstan who in 2022, she listened to 84 WITHpod episodes for a total of three days, five hours in 2022.

Chris Hayes: That’s utterly impressive. But keep those coming. We love to see all the feedback. So, should we take some -- let's do some live questions. You can, I think, request --

Doni Holloway: Yes.

Chris Hayes: You just like hit request if you want to be a speaker and then I will accept those and then I'll probably mute you, I think, is the way that it will work. More of our conversation after this quick break.


Chris Hayes: Hey, Teddy Wilson. How are you, man?

Live Guest 1: I'm good. How about you? It's good to hear y'all. I think first, to kind of go over a couple of prompts there, Doni was giving at the beginning, I think, some of my favorite episodes of “Why is This Happening”, I think, are interviews that you’ve done with folks like Spencer Ackerman, I think, is one of my favorites, Ta-Nehisi Coates, of course.

And the recent one you did with Andy Kroll about the conspiracy theories --

Chris Hayes: The Seth Rich --

Live Guest 1: Right.

Chris Hayes: The Seth Rich book. That’s a great book. Yeah. I really like that conversation, too. That’s a really good book, too. That’s one of those just thoroughly well reported and well told.

Live Guest 1: Right. And then as far as how I listened to the podcast, I think just because of the nature of your podcast, it's one of the ones that I like to be able to listen to kind of not when I'm working or doing something else distracting. Often, it's when I'm doing yardwork that --

Chris Hayes: That’s the best.

Live Guest 1: So, it's, like, I think yours and a few others that have kind of more in-depth conversations are the ones I usually listen to outside.

Chris Hayes: Awesome.

Live Guest 1: I guess my question for you is kind of about, I guess, the mechanics of doing podcast and Spaces and stuff. I mean, I host a weekly space. I've done podcasts before. And one of the interesting things I found about that is usually when I have a really interesting guest or some that I really have a really fascinating conversation with, you know, after 45 minutes or an hour of the conversation, you know, when you end the episode, you end the recording.

There's always like that 15-30 minutes I find myself talking to the person afterwards. And sometimes, that conversation can be even more interesting offline because you don’t -- you're not as worried about, you know --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Live Guest 1: -- framing things in a particular way or you're not worried about how off-handed comments come. So, I was just interested if you have that same experience during WITHpod with some of your guests if, like, the before and after conversations.

Chris Hayes: That’s a great question. That’s from Teddy Wilson who is @reportbywilson. I'm going to just mute you, Teddy, and respond and if folks want to request to ask another question, just go ahead.

So, yeah, I mean, I think what I would say about that is that that dynamic definitely happens. I think it's a pretty common one and I think it comes from -- there's a certain relaxation that happens. And again, there's a sort of tradeoff. I mean, this is actually an interesting thing that’s happened with us.

You know, you'll see this with Rogan, right? So, Rogan, you know, is the most popular podcast, probably in America. And I have to say, like, he's not really for me but also, there's been Rogan episodes I’ve listen to and really enjoyed and when he's, you know, had like astrophysicist on and, you know, sometimes, like certain, you know, meathead workout dudes that I kind of get to do and stays away from like politics or vaccines or anything.

But the thing about that show is, like, there's a tradeoff between like how casual and conversational something feels and like how assiduously people are making sure they're like saying true stuff. And that tradeoff can never be avoided. There's a relaxation and casualness that comes when you stop sort of worrying, but also, when you stop sort of worrying, you're more likely to make like errors in fact, or to maybe frame things in ways that are not, like, super charitable or are obviously contestable or misspeak in ways that offend people.

And so, to me, like one of the difficulties of public communication that’s almost an irreducible one, to your point, is that you want to be conversational and casual and open. You don’t want to be sort of like so buttoned down that you feel scripted. But also, there is a responsibility that comes with speaking to a lot of people that, to me, I take seriously and is inescapable that is going to kind of like bind you a little bit.

And I think that the ultimate example of this is like the Barack Obama, like, buffering, you know, noise you'll hear when he -- you could see him sometimes speaking and drawing forth the sentence into his mind to conceive of, okay, is this the sentence and then saying it. And sometimes that can make the speech feel a little stilted or very careful but there's also a reason for that precision.

So, I think, like, it's such a good point that it's so true that often, those sorts of off-air conversations will feel the freshest but then also, you also, like, there's a trade-off there that you can never quite get around.

All right, Ian Cromwell. Hey, man. How are you?

Live Guest 2: Yeah. Good. Long-time listener, first-time caller. Excited to be here. So, to answer the question about when I tune in, I got myself an ebike in the early days of 2021.

Chris Hayes: Oh, hell yeah.

Live Guest 2: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: This is really -- you're really leaning in here. This is --

Live Guest 2: I am -- I am busting exactly zero stereotype (inaudible).

Chris Hayes: Wait, wait, aren’t you Canadian also?

Live Guest 2: I live in Vancouver. Yeah. So --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Live Guest 2: West Coast --

Chris Hayes: (Inaudible) stereotype. Yeah.

Live Guest 2: Yeah. Absolutely. Like, just the absolute epitome of it. But the one episode that I think had the biggest impact on me, I don’t think it was in this past year, but it was a conversation that you had with Heather McGhee and just like the inquiry that that conversation about public goods and the importance of solidarity as a sort of defining feature for political organizing.

And that actually inspired me to run for city council here in Vancouver this past summer (ph).

Doni Holloway: That’s awesome. That’s amazing.

Live Guest 2: Yeah. And like I think just the trajectory of what seemed possible was sort of really, like, focus and crystallized by that. I'm sitting here with my partner who was the other, like, very influential person who got me into politics. She ran her own, a pair of really, like impactful campaigns here in Vancouver as well.

And, you know, having that organizing principle and having those discussions, they sort of filter out in ways that you, you the host may not know. But, like, it had a massive, massive impact on my own life and also, I got her to buy an ebike. So, you know.

You're having an effect in ways and countries that you could not even think of.

Chris Hayes: Well, Ian, thank you so much. I'm going to mute you while I respond to that that first of all, that is awesome. I'm going to share that with Heather McGhee who I think will be super psyched. I mean, Heather's just a very, very special person. I've known her for a very long time. She's like on my -- I think she's really on my, like, political Mount Rushmore of thinking about, you know, political judgement and having good politics and I think about, like, what would Heather do a fair amount. So, I'm so glad that that inspired you and she's going to be super psyched to hear that.

I followed Ian on Twitter for a while and I'm not sure how but it's one of those great Twitter things where I followed him for a while and through him, like learned a lot about Vancouver and Vancouver public, like, municipal issues and like housing struggles there and it's always been interesting, too, because it's another country that’s dealing with some of the same stuff. Super high rents, you know, gentrification, YIMBYism, NIMBYism, all that stuff.

So, I wanted to thank Ian who is -- is one of those people that I started following at some point for some reason and have learned a lot from which is one of the great, kind of like, kismet features of Twitter.

And I just, yeah, I'm super psyched to hear that. And the final thing I will say is that you're reminding me that, Doni, we have had an ebike convo --

Doni Holloway: Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- on the WITHpod to do list for a super long time.

Doni Holloway: It’ll happen in 2023.

Chris Hayes: So, we're going to have to make that happen because, you know, I certainly stand (ph) the ebikes. And so, I'm going to do another caller here in -- hold on one second, I'm going to remove you from speakers. Isn't it fun to hear me actually operate the board in real time?

MathInTheNews. I love MathInTheNews. What's up, MathInTheNews? You're on the air. If you want to unmute yourself, MathInTheNews. Go ahead. There you are. How you doing?

Live Guest 3: Hi. Doing well. Yeah. It's good to speak with you.

Chris Hayes: Well, it's great to have you on.

Live Guest 3: I've got a thought for you. A question for you. I guess more about “All In”. Your Fridays pre-pandemic were in front of a live audience, and I know you’ve done that once, maybe twice that I've missed in recent times. I was wondering if you could just speak about the difference in a more performing for a live audience, just how that feels different?

Chris Hayes: That’s a great question. I love those shows. You know, it's funny. Those shows, I would say, there was like a lot of positive feedback. I think most people really liked them and then there's some really intense negative feedback. And the intense negative feedback, I think people feel like there's something about the formal conceit in the genre of having a live audience that doesn’t fit, like seriousness in news which I get because there's something kind of, like, transgressive a little bit about the combination of a live audience when you're doing serious news and that’s something that we have kind of wrestled with.

But I think, ultimately, the thing that I really like about it, you know, the last -- the last one we did which was the first one post pandemic, the attack on Paul Pelosi had happened that day. And so, the opening block of the show is about this, like, brutal attack on a, you know, 82-year-old man in his home and who is -- when we were doing the show, in the ICU, unclear if he was going to sustain, like, very permanent and serious damage or even if he would, you know, live.

I mean, at the time the prognosis looked good. But, you know, and it's not the kind of thing where you're going to come out and do, you know, like, late night talk show style bits about. But what I like about it is being around other people, there's something elemental about being around other people and tracking how they're listening to you and I'm someone who's like a creature of theatre, fundamentally.

There's nothing that says you can't communicate about serious things around other people. And in fact, there's something kind of powerful about it. You know, if you’ve ever been in, like -- I just went to "Death of a Salesman" on Broadway which is just totally incredible, and I recommend it for anyone that is passing through New York and can get tickets.

You know, the feeling in a room when a group of people all have their attention on the same thing and if that same thing can be funny and lighter, it can be the most serious thing in the world, there's just a power to that that I really like. And I think it is different than anything else we do and I want to keep doing it.

And we've done one and I think we want to do more, and I think it's definitely on our 2023 resolution. And to be honest, I've got a few other projects I'm working on. I piled my plate incredibly high for 2023. There's a book I'm writing which I've mentioned there's another writing project I'm working on which I'm super excited to, like, make public when we can.

But I will say that. I would love to get back on the road doing live WITHpods at some point as well. So, thank you, MathInTheNews which sounds like an awesome publication.

A new math question related to current events every school day which I love and I actually love doing -- I got one of these logic books that I used to do as a I kid which I've been doing with my oldest which are super, super fun.

So, all right, do you want -- should we move to some mailbag, proper mailbag stuff?

Doni Holloway: Sure. Yeah. Because we did ask people to send over their mailbag submissions on our TikTok, on the air, you know, we asked on the last podcast episode. So, that last question, really, kind of, is a great segue into the next one because it's about the future outlook and this one comes from Stacy.

She says, hi, Chris. Stacy from North Carolina. I listen to WITHpod Saturday mornings when I'm mucking horse stalls. Great time to --

Chris Hayes: That may have rocked it into the top of the list.

Doni Holloway: Exactly. Great time to think about these conversations in a more in-depth way. Her favorite episode was “Why are People Acting So Weird”. That was the conversation we had with Olga Khazan. She says, just a great conversation around something we're all noticing.

Her question, though, is what's your dream team for 2024 given of course, that Joe Biden is running but we can still dream, right? She says, minus the dynamic combination of Gretchen Whitmer for president and Raphael Warnock for vice president. Would be interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the show.

Chris Hayes: Well, yeah. I mean, I think if you had to say, it's funny she said that because I wouldn't say, like, dream team. I'm not really in the business of like drafting or endorsing candidates in primaries. But let's say you were drafting, like, democrats who you felt confident could, you know, compete nationally. I think that the two that she named would probably be the top of the list for me, I think that, you know, Gretchen Whitmer who ran in 2018 and then was the target of incredibly virulent opposition including an actual criminal kidnapping plot that was, you know, tried and convicted in federal court, she had people, remember like, the armed protesters in the Capitol while Donald Trump is tweeting liberate Michigan?

Doni Holloway: Right.

Chris Hayes: She had to thread a very difficult line in a swing state and she, not only won a convincing reelection, she had, like, sort of Democrats closest equivalent to the Ron DeSantis performance in Florida which is across the state Democratic victories. They took back the state House. The constitutional amendment, you know, securing abortion rights and reproductive rights in the state, won a big victory.

She's incredibly, incredibly impressive politician in contested terrain and I think the same could be said to Raphael Warnock who has, well, now won four elections in two years in what is maybe the tightest state in the country. He had to win, you know, he got the most votes the first time in 2020 then the most votes in the runoff to, you know, secure being a senator.

He spent two years as a U.S. senator. He then got the most votes in the first election then got (ph) won again in the runoff. And again what makes his 2022 victory all the more impressive from a political standpoint is he was doing it in a year where unlike in Arizona which was the other sort of, you know, big swing state that Biden won somewhat surprisingly in 2020, in Arizona in 2022, the Democrats swept almost every state-wide office except Treasurer.

They won the Senate seat, they won the AG, and secretary of state. Well, they won secretary of state and governor and AG is currently being recounted. The Democrat appears to have won by 540 votes.

In Georgia, it was the opposite. It was basically an R plus eight-year Brian Kemp cruised fairly easily to reelection against Stacy Abrams, Brad Raffensperger turned secretary of state, the attorney general. So, he really outperformed above and beyond. And I think, you know, I feel a little bad just nodding to what she said but I think that, you know, Warnock and Whitmer, just in terms of like battle-tested, you know, operating in difficult terrain, showing they can win.

And also, the other thing I would say about both of them, Warnock in particular, the last point on this is, one of the things, I think it's really encouraging about Warnock is he shows the way that you can win in a swing state, in a tight state without being sort of performatively punching left or performatively sabotaging progressive policies in the way that say, Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin has done, right?

He was someone who voted, you know, he voted for the American Rescue Plan. He voted for the Infrastructure Bill. He would have been onboard, I think, with a much larger version of the Inflation Reduction Act. He didn’t go to bat to make sure that the carried interest loophole stayed open so hedge funders can pay lower taxes.

He campaigned on lowering prescription drugs. He has found a way to be a pretty reliably progressive Democrat in the tightest of swing states and still win. And that, to me, is a pretty encouraging model.

Doni Holloway: Well, Chris, we’ll definitely have our work cut out for us as we look ahead, perhaps, to one of the most important elections of our time.

We got another question which was a little bit different. This one was from Thomas and Thomas says hello. I want to first say how much I love your podcast conversations. It's fun to listen to you expand on some of the themes of your show in thought-provoking ways. He says for the mailbag, you just released the conversation you have with Casey Johnston in 2021 and I was wondering if you can update us on your weightlifting progress or other fitness routines you’ve gotten into since the podcast first aired. He loved your expanded thoughts on beginner routines and how to get and stay motivated. Thanks.

Chris Hayes: What's the name of that listener?

Doni Holloway: That was Thomas.

Chris Hayes: All right, Thomas. How much time you got, buddy? So, the first thing I would say is that one of the things that makes Casey -- you should listen to Casey Johnston. You should check out her Substack, "Ask a Swole Woman," and she's got a whole, like, workout couch to barbel routine which is awesome for people that are interested in weightlifting and weight training.

The thing that I would say about weight training that’s awesome is that you have what's known inside the world of weight training, what's called newbie gains. So, what happens when you first start is, you're like, I can't bench up 100. Like, you'll bench the bar, it's 45 pounds. You'll be like, this is kind of heavy. And then you're like, I can't bench 95 pounds. I can't -- if I put 25 pounds on each side, am I going to be able to lift that?

And then it's like maybe, depending on what you're starting out and what your weight is, I'm just picking a number. You might, like, you know, struggle, get a few reps up. But if you stick with it, you're going to find -- all of a sudden, it will be like six weeks later and it's like, oh, my goodness, I'm increased by 20 pounds or 30 pounds or 40 pounds.

Or in my case, in the first year, like, you know, 60 or 80 pounds. And all of a sudden, it's like, whoa, I'm lifting a lot of weight and I'm also putting on like serious muscle. And it's very, very satisfying, exciting to do.

And then, you will hit a kind of natural equilibrium where unless you're being incredibly intentional about your diet or, you know, like the liver king has admitted to, taking performance-enhancing drugs, like, you're basically going to kind of -- you're going to sort of hit your limit.

So, for me, I have sort of stopped trying to bulk much and mostly I focus on maintaining the muscle I have and I'm, you know, my big dream was to do, be able to, like, one rep, 225 on the bench which I can do, you know, depending on the day or the week but have done. And that’s, you know, that’s like the NFL scouting combine weight is when they go and they, like, bang out like 50 of them. The guy is 6'7", 6'7", 320 and like runs a 4.9 or whatever.

But I put, probably, I don’t know. I felt like I put 15 or 20 pounds of muscle on since I started. And the most important thing to me is just the discipline of it, like I feel great. I really like doing it. I stuck with it.

The thing I would say is I've started mixing in a lot more running recently and partly because it's very efficient, partly because Kate, my wife, runs. And third, because I think I'm chasing those newbie gains a little bit and actually have, like, found that a little bit in running now where at first I was like, I can't run a mile. And then it's like, you do it and then you're like I can't run two miles and then you do that.

Doni Holloway: Right.

Chris Hayes: And then it's like, I can't run a sub, whatever, 10-minute, and, you know, I think as regular listeners to podcast know, like, I'm obviously like a pretty ambitious and future-directed individual. I constantly need to keep, like, swimming like a shark. So, all that stuff is really satisfying for me. But I've stuck with weightlifting now for four or five years of weight training and it's still -- I still find it incredibly rewarding.

The last thing I'll say about it is I also just feel really strongly that as you age, it's a really vital way of protecting yourself from injury. I think just having, your muscles be strong, your core, particularly, be strong, doesn’t mean you can't get injured. Still, I mean, I've been lucky that I haven't injured myself since the little back injury that I had a few years back.

But, like, I do think -- and particularly, when you got young kids and it's just so easy to throw things out. It's, you know, dumb stuff bending over to pick something up under the couch that your kid dropped or twisting in some way to unscrew a lightbulb, or you know, there are just so many ways that can happen. So, I think it's great for that as well.

Doni Holloway: Yeah. Thanks so much, Thomas, for that question. And, Chris, I think if you can find ways or time to work out, that we all can, even though it's that time of the year where it's so cold and it feels like going to the gym can be the last thing that you want to do.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. I mean, I cheat a little bit because I have a trainer which is, like, hugely cheating.

Chris Hayes: That helps.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. It massively helps. I don’t want to pretend that, like, I -- in fact, the other -- literally, the last day, Monday, when I was in there with him, I was like this is one of those days where if I had not make an appointment with you, I would not be here.

Doni Holloway: Accountability partner. And speaking of that Casey Johnston episode, she's actually got a book coming out. So, you can stay tuned for that. That’ll be coming out.

We got another question from Aaron. Aaron says -- but wait before I get into this one, Aaron truly is a WITHpod superfan. He's always in the Twitter DMs. He's always sending messages to our email address. He says, hey, folks, long time, first time. Not really.

But I know how much Chris likes being a drivetime DJ. He says, anyway, my question is actually for Doni and Brendan. I feel like I know a decent amount of Chris because of the weirdness of social media and the parasocial relationships it facilitates but no very little about either of you. What are your stories? How do you end up working on WITHpod and “All In” and what's been your favorite episode of the podcast? Also says that he hopes Tiffany is doing well. Cheers. Aaron.

So, Aaron, thank you so much for that question. I really love it. I thought it was a really thoughtful one. I got to say, forever I've known that I wanted to be a journalist, I've always been a naturally curious person. And my sort of journey to “30 Rock” was pretty interesting. So, Hoda Kotb on the “Today Show” years ago, she wrote me a note and she said, see you at “30 Rock”. And I always held on to that. I always kept that in the back of mind, so you know, to end up at “30 Rock” and working with WITHpod is really, in many ways, a dream come true.

I truly view WITHpod as purpose work. Hearing all of y'all's responses and your feedback, all of your messages about how much WITHpod impacts your world view. I mean, when I think about all of that, it really shows us that the work that we're doing is impactful. So, it's been a great experience. It continues to be a great experience.

Before, being at WITHpod and being at “30 Rock”, I was at Bloomberg News. I was focusing on the worlds of business and global finance. Before that at NBC Washington. So, what a place to be for politics. But, you know, the nation's capital where a lot of stuff is going on there.

So, that was a lot of fun. And, you know, proud Tar Heel here. I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill. So, if we have any Tar Heels fans on here, give us a shoutout.

I am truly a foodie. If you have any food recommendations in New York City. I love traveling. I got to say, I went on a trip to Greece recently and, you know, the birthplace of democracy, that was a lot of fun. So, always enjoy traveling and but then, you know, coming back, I was actually -- when I was flying back, I'd listen to a few WITHpod episodes. So, it was like people are saying you must really love what you do if you're listening to episodes while you're on vacation.

I know that we got a question for Brendan as well. But before we get to that, I just want to answer the Tiffany portion. So, Tiffany Champion was our fantastic founding producer of WITHpod, former producer of the podcast as well, as well as line producer. Over the last year, I got in touch with her. She said she spent about a half of the year doing a lot of rest and travel.

She camped in the Olympic National Park in Washington. She went on the Boundary Waters in Minnesota and spent some time in the Alaska. So, she's been living her best life and now is the production director of “On Being”. That’s an organization that kind of focuses on the big questions about spirituality, science, social healing, and the arts. So, Tiffany is doing well.

We've got Brendan.

Chris Hayes: Brendan, get in there, buddy.

Brendan O'Melia: Hi, Chris. Hi, Doni.

Chris Hayes: I think this is the first appearance of Brendan O'Melia's voice on WITHpod.

Brendan O'Melia: Yes. Finally. Finally. I've been mucking calls all these years. And you finally let me out. No, thank you for the question there and that’s a great question. It is my honor to work with both these gentlemen.

And I was there with Chris in the beginning of WITHpod and sort of helped figure out how to launch a podcast at MSNBC which had not been done. It was a sort of side project for Chris that he wanted to do and it was sort of my job at the beginning to get it off the ground and figure out who would edit it and who would produce it and who would, you know, where we get the music and graphics and how would we publish it and how we can keep the bosses away from it so that (inaudible) Chris (inaudible) and you can have the --

Chris Hayes: So, important.

Brendan O'Melia: -- (inaudible). It really is. And so, that was my job in the beginning and bringing along Tiffany with us was a huge, huge thing and very gratifying to see and I was a part of bringing Doni onboard which I'm really glad to see has worked out so well.

So, that’s my role. I sort of interact with, you know, how does the cable world (inaudible) I'm a cable news producer at heart (inaudible) WITHpod and the cable show interact and when we do specials. I help produce those pretty intensively. And that’s it. I mean, it's pretty boring. I would say --

Chris Hayes: Well, let me just say, can I just jump in because Brendan is so humble. Brendan O'Melia, Senior Producer, on “All In”. He's among the most, if not the most talented producers I've ever met and, in the building, and in television. He's insanely brilliant and also just has a set of production and editing skills that are completely unrivaled.

Anytime there's something -- we did like a montage of Fox talking about a red wave and which got a lot of play which was like incredibly funny. That was all the ninja skills of Brendan O'Melia at the editing machine, so. And Brendan's been -- I should also say that just because his home state gets a bad rep but one of the greatest things (inaudible) New Jersey is Brendan O'Melia who's a proud, a proud son of the --

Brendan O'Melia: Thank you.

Chris Hayes: -- Garden State. And in fact, I have to say, Newark Airport now, when you land, there's just a random banners of people of New Jerseyans which includes my favorite is Albert Einstein which is like the best in the world because, like --

Brendan O'Melia: Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- you know, he moved --

Doni Holloway: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- Princeton --

Brendan O'Melia: Princeton. Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- institute for advanced studies. One of my life goals is to get Brendan O'Melia on one of those -- one of those banners in EWR so that when you get off the plane --

Brendan O'Melia: You should see the tears coming down my cheek right now, Chris. (Inaudible) a beautiful and noble goal and I appreciate that. And I just want to say, like, I said, it's been an honor to work with both of you guys and I do want to shoutout my favorite podcast episode --

Doni Holloway: Yes.

Brendan O'Melia: -- that I would just --

Chris Hayes: Yeah. What's yours?

Brendan O'Melia: It was the townhall, not townhall, but it was the live audience episode we did with Stacey Abrams which was --

Chris Hayes: Oh, yeah.

Brendan O'Melia: -- to me, it was represented so much. It was Chris Hayes as his finest on stage with an audience. It was Stacey Abrams with such a compelling interesting person to speak with, at a time, when there was all kind of, you know, rumors about her running for Senate and all this different stuff and it was a great get at the time.

And it launched into some of, you know, the TV show that we did in front of an audience. It's sort of was the springboard to do that. It was the springboard to, you know, the live audience show tour that we did. And really, it shows you, Chris, I think, in your best light, you have a lot of different ways you can shine. My favorite for that reason as (inaudible). So, so awesome.

Chris Hayes: Well, that’s great. That was very, very fun.

Doni Holloway: Brendan, I got to say it is so great working with you. You are amazing. You wear so many hats. It's always fun to collaborate with you on our WITHpod and “All In” collabs too. So, just such a great team player and you know you got to make TV.

Brendan O'Melia: Yes.

Doni Holloway: We got a thing called TV.

Chris Hayes: By the way, just to take you behind the curtain, right now, just so you get a sense of our production day, so right now, it's 4:45. Today, we have to do two television shows because we're prerecording a kind of end-of-year special that we can run one of the days over the holiday which would give everyone a day off. I think it's going to be on December 26, is that right, that we're running it?

So, we're doing a roundtable show that’s going to start in a little bit and then when that’s done, about 40 minutes later, we will start the live show, tonight show, right? Today is a day of --

Brendan O'Melia: Yeah.

Chris Hayes: -- churning out a lot of content.

Brendan O'Melia: This is why all those reps in the gym do matter. (Inaudible).

Chris Hayes: Exactly right.

Brendan O'Melia: All right. I'm going to -- I’ll hang up.

Chris Hayes: All right. See you buddy.

Doni Holloway: All right. Thank you. And I just want to answer. For my favorite episode, I got to say, it's so many favorites. It's hard to pick one but, Chris, I remember our first series that we did, our Future Of series which I think is top of mind. It is really a transformational moment.

What does the future look like? So, we talked to people, like, Seth Meyers, you may have heard of the name, Late Night with Seth Meyers and talked with him about the future of entertainment and we talked to a lot of other folks just about what the future looks like. So, that was sort of a compilation of some of my favorite episodes.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. I really liked those ones as well. Particularly the one on climate and sort of the green energy transition which I think has really stuck with me --

Doni Holloway: Yes.

Chris Hayes: -- about thinking in, like, very clear-eyed terms about what the green energy transition is going to look like and I think it's weird. You know, maybe as we sort of, you know, come towards the close here, I think as we sort of go into the new year, I'll say two things.

One is that I have found myself, and I think it might be just like -- I think it's two things. I think it's middle age and I think it's having young children. And then also the pandemic. I think that experience of the pandemic was so disruptive and so awful in so many ways and so upsetting and there are people that I know who passed away. There are people I know who got very sick. There are people I know who got sick and have been kind of sick ever since in ways that have been really difficult to deal with that.

I just have felt a lot of gratitude every day. I feel a lot of gratitude. I feel a lot of very lucky to be able to do what I do but also lucky to have my health and the people that I love and my family to have their health. And I've just been feeling a lot of gratitude day in, day out. And I think it's been one of the weird blessings of the pandemic is just reminding me in a way that I took for granted before what it means to have a day with my health, have a day with my loved ones.

And the other thing that I'm feeling as I go into 2023 is just like I definitely feel better about where things are and what the future might hold than I felt six months ago which is an uncharacteristic feeling because I think for a long time, it just felt like every new development was a bad one that, you know, Donald Trump being elected president and then the pandemic and then the, you know, insurrection and then a very terrifying, awful, war on the European continent with a nuclear power that’s threatening to use those nuclear weapons.

The continued disruption of the global pandemic, the continued presence of the actual global pandemic. It felt, just for a long time, like every development was a pretty awful one and I just -- I don’t know. I, whether it's a change in my own positionality or in my attitude or how I'm thinking about things, but I definitely feel more optimistic about a lot of things particularly about the vibrancy and resiliency of American democracy and some of the achievability of some climate stuff. I think there's some reasons to think that a kind of innovation process once it starts going, actually, accelerates overtime in ways that are surprising and can be incredibly bountiful.

And I think some of that, those processes are already in place. I think, you know, with what we've seen on solar, particularly, but generally in the sphere of innovation in that world. And so, I just, as a sort of closing note, I feel really optimistic and hopeful about the future in a way that I haven't in a while.

We'll be right back after we take this quick break.


Doni Holloway: Chris, I love that optimism and I love what you said about gratitude as well. I remember, you said before that, you know, a lot of times people would ask, well, how are things going? And the response may have been, you know, I'm working on this project or working on that or but now it's kind of a different focus that answer to that type of question. It's a little bit different as we've all taken stock over the past year. And really, this time in the pandemic.

The climate change point that you mentioned, we -- I promise, Chris did not know this question beforehand, but you talked a little bit about or a lot about climate and the last answer. We actually got a question from Brad. He says, dear Chris and the WITHpod team, whether on “All In” or WITHpod, how do you decide how frequently to address climate change?

Well, I know you dedicate more time to climate change stories than most. It's not covered by any major news source at the scale of its newsworthiness. He says climate disasters already happening, Congress finally spending to address it, and entire industries reorienting themselves to meet climate goals and consumer demand with a new cycle already having the most hectic round of double Dutch. How do you decide when it's time to jump in and cover, you know, the planet increasingly inhospitable towards human life? Thanks so much for a great year of shows.

Chris Hayes: Yeah. That’s such a great question and I have such an unsatisfying answer which is that there's no rhyme or reason. It's one of those things where I’m constant -- it's constantly stalking of me. What I would say is that I'm constantly looking for ways to get climate in, particularly in the cable show if there's some development, there's some movement, there's something to, you know, peg it to, the fusion news which we've done the last two nights.

We had [Secretary] Granholm on and in that context, talking about the sort of need for zero carbon energy and the fact that there are actually a lot of zero carbon energy already that we don’t maybe need fusion to get there but it would certainly help.

So, I don’t have anything systematic. It's one of those, like, it's a guiding North Star for me but, you know, the actual route one takes towards that star can sometimes go pretty laterally and pretty wide berth.

Doni Holloway: Totally. Yeah. We got another question from Kyle which I thought was really interesting. This one stood out to me. He said, Chris, I'm a music teacher, not a lawyer or constitutional scholar in the least. He says he's quite bothered by the Supreme Court case about the wedding website designer that doesn’t want to work with gay couples. He says that he feels it's just another case of asking for permission to discriminate in the name of religious freedom which he goes on to say for him personally, further delegitimizes religion in general.

He says, am I mistaken in thinking that constitutional religious protections and when a person engages in commercial enterprise building a website for a gay couple doesn’t, in fact, inure one's ability to practice their religion personally. He says that he feels a fundamental question in this case is, can a commercial enterprise practice religious beliefs? If so, could we soon be seeing, for example, no gays allowed signs at Chick-fil-A franchises around the country?

And he adds that the conservative justice's hypothetical seems so ridiculous ignoring that this entire case is hypothetical. And here's another one. If I establish a religion that worships alcohol, could I then sue a bartender who refuses to serve me after I've clearly had too much to drink? Thanks so much for your time. Kyle. And I'd love to hear an episode dedicated to ranked-choice voting.

Chris Hayes: All right, Kyle. Well, ranked-choice voting is a good idea. Maybe we'll get my brother who worked on that. We can get him back for his second WITHpod appearance.

So, before I answer, I should just give a plug that I'm sort of out of my depth on this question. The person you really want to hear from is Kate Shaw, my wife, and who's also a co-host of the fantastic and wildly successful Supreme Court podcast, "Strict Scrutiny." She cohosts that with Melissa Murray and Leah Litman. I mean, this is shameless nepotism here to plug my wife's podcast. But also, it's the best place to go for an answer to this kind of question which is basically outside my legal depth.

The shorthand version, I would say two things. One is, there actually is a case on the hypothetical about a religion, say, that worship alcohol and objected to, you know, being cut off by a bartender. The closest there is a case (ph) broadly in that area, called Employment Division v. Smith which is argued in '89 in which someone was fired in Oregon because they had used peyote and that peyote they had used is part of an indigenous religious practice. They were indigenous person.

And they basically said, look, it's a violation of my First Amendment religious freedoms to lose my job because of this and they lost, 6-3. And in fact, the majority opinions written by Scalia. And there's two things I’d say about that. One is Scalia was on the majority of that because he doesn’t like drugs and also, I don’t think thinks much of religions that aren’t like Christianity or Judaism.

But that said, I'm not sure that case comes out the same way with the current court because I think they’ve been marking out broader and broader swaths of exemptions for religion. One of the ways, though, they will always say a sincerely felt religiously belief because they don’t want people to do what the -- what Kyle suggests and create a religion, you know, ex nihilo in which they, you know, worship alcohol or something like that.

So, the closes the court has ever come, I think, to that specific thought experiment is employment division and the person there, in that case, lost. The other thing I would say just as a technical matter is the plaintiff in the 303 Creative case which is the website designer case in Colorado had a bunch of different asks in the cert-petition for the issues presented.

One of them was religious exemption but the court didn’t take that up. The court took up 303 Creative solely on a First Amendment free expression grounds, not that participating in a regulated marketplace with broad civil rights public accommodations protections as guaranteed by Colorado law, not that that would violate her religious freedom to practice as she wants but instead, making her design a website would essentially be compelled speech. Compelled speech being anathema under First Amendment jurisprudence, the government not only can't punish you for things you say but they can't make you say things you don’t want to say.

This was argued wholly under the compelled speech theory and not under the religious theory. So, whatever they find, and it seems clear they're going to find on her behalf and also your right to intuit that they're doing this, they're going out of it this way because they want to create broader and broader carveouts from civil rights laws and public accommodation jurisprudence. It's not as a just technical constitutional matter religious freedom case.

Doni Holloway: Thank you so much. That was a great question. That was fantastic. Chris, I know it is nearing five and you got to do that thing called TV later on. So, just figured we'd sort of wrap up on a sort of lighter note.

One question that we get a lot of times from a lot of folks is just what are you reading? What's on your reading list right now?

Chris Hayes: I will tell you, today, I was revisiting -- so, I'm reading a lot of books for the -- the book I'm writing which is a book about attention. I just recently re-read a big swath of two books by canonical brilliant thinkers, Blaise Pascal's "Pensees," his set of essays. And Kierkegaard's "Either/Or" for meditations on attention and boredom, particularly.

Today, I was going back through Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" because I was thinking about the role that attention and social attention plays in relationships, particularly in traditional, in quote, "heterosexual" relationships under conditions of traditional patriarchal gender roles and disequilibrium of attention that is bound up in that role in which the expectation of those roles is that the sort of man's attention is sort of outward directed towards, like, the market sphere and public sphere and the women's attention is directed in the home and that creates a world in which the woman's attention is on the man more than maybe it's on her and how corrosive that is.

And I was sort of going back through "The Feminine Mystique" to see if Friedan written about that which she does and she touches on it on certain ways. That was, literally, the last book I read was this morning, I was going through Friedan's "Feminine Mystique."

Doni Holloway: That reminds me of the recent episode we have with Tim Lee about, actually, our most recent episode about dad's leaning out --

Chris Hayes: Yeah.

Doni Holloway: -- of their careers to focus more on childcare.

Chris Hayes: That was a great one.

Doni Holloway: Be sure to check it out. All right. Well, we really love doing these mailbags, Chris. I think we're going to definitely have to do more of these, right?

Chris Hayes: Yeah. And thanks for everyone for participating. I'm psyched to see all these listeners here and we will definitely more. I pledge that. And also, we will try to get it so that my mic quality is slightly better, but also, we will try to do that in a way that’s private and not open to public.

Doni Holloway: We'll do our best.

Why is this happening is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by me, Doni Holloway as well as the Brendan O'Melia that you heard during this episode. It's engineered by Bob Mallory and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can be sure to follow us on TikTok by searching for WITHpod. Email us at You can see more of the work that we do, more of the things that we talked about here during this live Twitter Spaces conversation and by going to

Doni Holloway: Thank you.

Tweet us with the hashtag #WITHpod, email Follow us on TikTok by searching for WITHpod. “Why Is This Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBC News, produced by Doni Holloway and Brendan O'Melia, engineered by Bob Mallory and features music by Eddie Cooper. You can see more of our work, including links to things we mentioned here, by going to