This isn’t Joe Kennedy’s grandfather’s Democratic Party, and he knows it

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When you’re sitting in front of Rep. Joe Kennedy, it’s clear that you’re sitting in front of a Kennedy. The face, the jawline — it’s all uncannily familiar.

But Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, is rising in a changed Democratic Party. In the 1950s, the nonwhite share of the Democratic vote was about 7 percent. In 2012, it was about 44 percent — and that number is ticking upward.

Kennedy is navigating it smoothly. Tapped to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union — and you’ll want to listen to him tell the story of how that came about — he delivered a powerful performance in a speaking slot that usually buries ambitious young politicians. And he did it by reminding Democrats that their rhetoric can be bigger than their divisions, that a party built on difference can still see its way to a national identity.

In this conversation, Kennedy and I talk about the vision and the policies that lie behind that speech. Where should Democrats go on health care, on economics, on drugs? Is the divide over identity politics and economic populism really a “false choice,” as Kennedy argues? And how do Democrats talk about unity when Trump keeps driving the national conversation into divisive issues?

Further Reading:

Matt Yglesias' piece on Rep. Kennedy's SOTU response

The Ezra Klein Show episode with the authors of How Democracies Die

Books:

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

171 episodes available. A new episode about every 4 days averaging 77 mins duration .