The year 2020 has been an absolute blur. So much has happened so fast — most of it negative. The hands of time turn at unprecedented speed as we race ever closer to the precipice. As a result, the mainstream news cycle is inevitably overwhelming. Just as the talking heads begin discussing one topic, a new development emerges that they must pivot to. Keeping up with it all is a test of stamina that ultimately outlasts us all.
Making sense of the current moment is — to say the least — a tall order. No one person can do it on their own. If only there was a program that sifted through the nonsense, distilled key messages and unfurled the big-picture narratives necessary for understanding the chaos that surrounds us.
Enter the “Bad Faith” podcast. Hosted by Briahna Gray, former national press secretary for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and Virgil Texas of the famous left-wing “Chapo Trap House” podcast, “Bad Faith” provides listeners with a sort of political medicine. An antidote to a deeply poisoned media climate dominated by those more interested in pursuing profit than the truth.
The first episode, released in early September, sets the high bar. It begins with a newsreel highlighting 2020’s biggest stories, from the Democratic presidential primaries to COVID-19 to the Republican National Convention. That alone eats up the first five minutes of the show.
Then, naturally, Gray and Texas transition to discussing the presidential election. The segment starts with Texas pointing out that Biden’s position is weaker than it was as little as one month ago. He goes on to say that Trump has “no worse than [a] 45% chance of winning.” One might think that this is just typical horse race coverage. But they would be sorely mistaken. The conclusion Texas draws from this set of facts is intriguing and far deeper than anything found in the mainstream press.
“If Trump wins, then that is dispositive of the fact that we have abandoned all material politics in this country, and that we are purely living in the realm of spectacle… If Trump were to win after what has happened… not just the coronavirus and how f—ing plainly embarrassing this s— has been, and over 200,000 deaths, but the economic collapse, the joblessness, the plummeting of the GDP — I mean, that alone is enough to do any president [in], period. If you looked at those numbers, if you looked at the f—ing approval rating, that is enough. But the fact that [Trump] is still in this race — that is a bad omen.”
Texas is right. Outlier predictions notwithstanding, this race promises to be a close one. Just a few weeks out from Election Day, the betting odds show Trump and Biden closer than you might think. It could go either way, and anyone who tells you they know who is going to win in November is lying. But, considering the horror show that is civic life in this country, this race should not be close.
We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic that, in just seven months, has already claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans. The Trump administration’s inaction is estimated to be responsible for over 120,000 of those deaths. Couple that with the worst GDP reports of all-time and record levels of permanent job loss, and you have the perfect recipe for an incumbent president being dragged out of office by his heels. In a sane world, a Biden landslide would be guaranteed merely by virtue of him being the challenger. But, alas, sanity always seems to elude us when we need it most.
Fast forward to Episode 5 of “Bad Faith,” and Gray and Texas unveil a new segment called “Good Faith, Bad Faith.” It is quite simple, really, sort of like a political show-and-tell. “One of us will bring in a ‘good faith’ thing and one of us will bring in a ‘bad faith’ thing,” describes Texas. The inaugural bad-faith item was chosen by Gray.
She picks an article out of The Hill by Fox News contributor Juan Williams titled “Democrats need to bury their divisions.” Therein, Williams indirectly blames Gray for Trump’s win in 2016 saying she “abandoned Hillary Clinton and the Democrats” by voting for Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Keep in mind that Gray voted in New York, which went overwhelmingly for Clinton. Her vote did not affect the outcome whatsoever.
“I understand the… [Democratic] party infrastructure… don’t understand how the electoral college works. And I understand that it’s deeply confusing. It’s deeply confusing, but I think that the average voter can conceptualize how the vote of one young woman in New York City in 2016 — a state that had not gone red in my lifetime — did not actually put Trump into office,” sneers Gray.
As Gray and Texas keep working their way through the article, it becomes obvious what Williams is trying to do: silence any criticism of Joe Biden. This is evidenced by the way in which Williams’ so egregiously twists Gray’s words. He cites a VICE interview where Gray implies adopting more progressive policy would make Biden “a more ethical and humane president.” Williams takes this as proof that “the left [considers] Trump more ‘ethical and humane’ than Biden” — bad faith at its finest.
Then it is Texas’ turn. For good faith, he gives a shout-out to the Instagram account @IStandWithBiden. They post fictional, comedic Biden endorsement messages from a diverse array of cultural figures. Texas himself even makes an appearance.
The important conversation stimulated by Gray’s good faith selection, followed by the lighthearted diversion provided by Texas, embodies what is so good about “Bad Faith.” It delivers a satisfying level of both serious analysis and fun, which is by no means an easy balance to strike. But Gray and Texas manage to pull it off, strengthening independent progressive media in the process.
“Bad Faith” is not perfect, though. Most notably, there is still room for improvement in the co-host’s on-air chemistry. But, overall, I give the podcast high marks. I highly recommend you give “Bad Faith” a listen. You might just learn something.