Transcript

478:

Red State Blue State
Transcript

Originally aired 11.02.2012

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/478

Prologue.

Ira Glass

I agreed not to say this guy's name on the radio or the name of the small town that he's from, though he gave me a driving tour.

Male Speaker

OK, now we're entering the great city of blank. So will you do, like, snazzy editing to make sure that I don't reveal? Because I may accidentally, just as I'm talking.

Ira Glass

Yes.

Male Speaker

OK.

Ira Glass

Yeah. Now, we're sitting here in your car. How scared are you that somebody's going to see us together?

Male Speaker

I'm not very scared about that. One thing, I'm driving in my mom's car, so it's not the car that they would expect to see me in.

Ira Glass

It's a Southern town, fewer than 2,000 people-- single-story homes, trucking companies, lots of cows, lots of churches. This guy doesn't want me to reveal who he is because he is a Democrat, and it's a secret in this overwhelmingly Republican town-- a very Christian, Fox-news-watching, Rush-Limbaugh-listening, evolution-disbelieving kind of town, the sort of town, he says, where most people think that if America doesn't change its course, with all of its abortions and gay marriages--

Male Speaker

--either God will destroy America, or He'll have to reanimate Sodom and Gomorrah and apologize to them. If I had a dollar for every time that I've heard that, we would be going around in a convertible right now.

Ira Glass

Wait. I've never heard that. God would reanimate Sodom and Gomorrah and apologize?

Male Speaker

Yeah, because He destroyed them for their sin and iniquity. And we're just as bad as Sodom and Gomorrah as far as they're concerned.

Ira Glass

He grew up in this town, believing all these things, but he doesn't believe them anymore-- the politics or the religion. And we're in a period in this country that lots of places-- in red states and in blue states-- people hear your politics, hear that they're different than theirs, and they don't think, well, we just disagree-- they think, you want to destroy this country and everything I believe in. In 2008, a close friend of his, a guy he sees in church several times a week, got a whiff, a hint of his political feelings.

Male Speaker

And he was just kind of taken aback and looked at me with wide eyes. And he said, you're voting for Obama, aren't you? And just the way he said that, it seemed like a scary question to answer. And so I didn't really answer, but that was answer enough. And we didn't talk for maybe three months after that. That kind of frightened me, just that reaction.

Ira Glass

It frightened him into not wanting it to happen again. The guy in church agreed to keep his secret. And while this Democrat is somebody who everybody in town knows and most everybody likes-- he's this chatty friendly guy-- most people have no idea. He doesn't tell them because first, he has a business, and he doesn't want to lose customers.

And second-- and here's how far this goes. I know how crazy this is going to sound-- he is an elected official, a city councilman. This town is so small that you don't have to declare a party when you run. And it's all budgets and basic services, so partisanship doesn't come up. So his constituents don't know.

Male Speaker

I do find myself lying sometimes. But I honestly do try and not lie. I try and just let them assume. And that has a great-- which is, I know in its way-- lie. But the most I can do that, I try.

And people assume-- especially if somebody likes you or they think that you're smart-- they assume that you agree with what they think. That's a natural human thing, right? Like, I assume that you're an agnostic liberal.

Ira Glass

Thanks a lot.

Male Speaker

Yeah, you're welcome.

Ira Glass

He says with the election coming, he finds himself biting his tongue a lot more. It's harder on him as a secret blue sympathizer. And we talked about this for a long time. Wasn't he just being a coward, not being more honest with people? Wasn't he kind of giving up on people, believing that they were going to drop him if they knew his politics.

Ira Glass

I mean, it's funny because this is what's supposed to be so great about this country, is that we can believe real different things and get along fine-- do community activities together, do stuff together, be friends-- I mean, that's what's supposed to be so great about America.

Male Speaker

And do you believe that's true? I mean, I know that's the theory, but do you think that's true?

Ira Glass

As we here at This American Life talked about next week's election and what we wanted to cover here on the air about it, we found ourselves thinking about and distressed over these past few months-- it was the incredible gap between the two sides right now, between red and blue. It's not just that they have different solutions to the country's problems. They don't even agree on what the problems are. Entire scandals are covered for weeks in the right-wing media that people on the left barely even know about. Crises that are a given on the left, like climate change, aren't even acknowledged as real by so many on the right-- with lots of people on each side seeing the other side as stupid, ill-formed, a menace-- it's frightening. That's how far it has gone.

So today, we are spending this hour looking at these two different versions of the world-- red America and blue America-- trying to understand what it is doing to people to be living this way now. From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass. Stick around, huh?

Act One. I Know You Are, But What Am I?

Ira Glass

Act One, "I Know You Are, But What Am I?" So the idea for this show began really with a question-- the divisiveness in our country, the fact that things are so polarized, to what degree is it pushing people apart in their personal lives, messing with friendships, straining family relations? To answer that, in addition to all the normal reporterly things that a person does, with the help of American Public Media's Public Insight Network, we sent out a questionnaire. Over 500 people responded from every part of the political spectrum. Lisa Pollak explains what we learned.

Lisa Pollak

Before we get to the discouraging parts of the story-- the estranged friends, the embittered relatives, the casual comparison of the other guy's party to the Nazis-- I want to pause for a moment and pay tribute to a group of people who don't get a lot of press these days. I'm talking about the people who wrote us to say that their red-blue relationships have not only survived this election season but are as amicable and harmonious as ever. No one seemed happier than the self-described Democrat bordering on Socialist married to a Libertarian-minded Republican who wrote, quote, "Our discussions are rarely heated or unpleasant and our ability to have a conversation where we have differing points of view has actually strengthened the relationship." Kudos to them and to all of you who've managed to do what our lawmakers haven't.

But this story isn't about you, nor is it about the people who told us they avoid the subject of politics entirely, the "don't ask, don't tell" method of keeping the peace. This story is about the people who did ask and did tell and suffered the consequences, people like Frank Mills, a Democrat, and Ron Sexton, a Republican.

Frank and Ron met at work decades ago, and their families became friends too. They live in different cities now, but a couple times a year, after their wives caught up on the phone, the guys would get on the line and talk politics.

Frank Mills

We talked about policy, we talked about the issues, and we would talk for hours. The phone would go dead. I'd have to get another phone. The battery ran down.

Lisa Pollak

They didn't talk about the day-to-day stuff of elections and candidates, Frank said, as much as political philosophies and big ideas.

Frank Mills

It was never settled. You have your opinion, I have my opinion, and this is the way it is, and I'll call you next time.

Lisa Pollak

So it was good? It was a good relationship?

Frank Mills

Oh, it was really great. I loved it.

Lisa Pollak

But then, a few years ago, they were talking on the phone. And Ron urged Frank to support a Republican candidate for Congress. Frank balked. Didn't Ron know he supported Democrats?

Frank Mills

And he said, who did you vote for for president? And I said, I voted for Obama.

Lisa Pollak

Apparently this had not come up before.

Frank Mills

And then he said, you must be a Socialist.

Lisa Pollak

He said this seriously or jokingly?

Frank Mills

No, seriously. You must be a Socialist. And I said, how can you make that assumption? He says, well, you voted for Obama. He's a socialist, and therefore you are. And then I took it as if he had called me a dirty name. And we got into an argument. And then after a while, he said, well, I'm writing you off my list, Frank. Don't ever talk to me again. You're no longer a friend of mine, is how that conversation ended.

Lisa Pollak

Weeks passed, and to Frank, things didn't feel right. So he decided to try again.

Frank Mills

I called him, and I said, can we restart all these conversations we've had over the years? I don't want to lose you as a friend. If I offended you, I'm sorry. He would not accept that at all. At that point, I retaliated. I said, OK, if you've written me off, I'm writing you off. You won't hear from me again.

Ron Sexton

He's funny, he's got a good intellect, but he cannot look me in the eye and have any credibility with me describing Obama the way he does.

Lisa Pollak

It probably won't surprise you to hear that Ron and Frank don't remember all the details of this story the same way. Ron says he doesn't recall telling Frank never to call again. But when I brought up the S word, Ron didn't hesitate.

Lisa Pollak

Frank recalls you calling him a Socialist.

Ron Sexton

Absolutely. And I did, and I still believe it. When Frank takes umbrage at the fact that I called him a Socialist, what he doesn't understand or doesn't accept is that he is in love with a Socialist. This man that's in the White House is the most brilliant president we've ever had for Frank Mills and others like some of his friends. And Lisa, it offends me to hear that while we're going down the tubes.

Lisa Pollak

He says his feelings were hurt. Why not just agree to disagree and put those differences aside? Why is that hard?

Ron Sexton

I would lay it on this-- the stakes are too high to consider it simply as agree to disagree. I don't agree to disagree. Frank needs to change his opinion because his view on the conduct of this society will kill it.

Lisa Pollak

For a friendship to end, this is all you need-- one person who feels like the stakes are too high to ignore or that your friend's vote will personally harm you. A few months ago, a man named Navi Singh was so distraught that he did a Google search on three words-- friendship ruined in politics. And given the mood these days, it didn't take long for him to find a blog where people were discussing the subject. And in the comments, he told strangers his story. That's where I found him.

Navi has a blood disease that requires monthly transfusions. And recently, he tried to buy insurance and was turned down everywhere because of his pre-existing condition. After that, Navi began to see next week's election as a matter of life and death. He considers Obamacare his lifeline, and he doesn't trust Mitt Romney.

Navi has a Republican friend, and in past years, he never cared who his friend voted for. But this year, he wanted his friend to take a side, vote Obama. But when he tried to explain this, he got nowhere.

Navi Singh

I mean, no matter what kind of evidence I showed him and all of the rejection letters I showed him, and then he's like, OK, I see that. I see that. But in the end, you obviously know I'm still voting for Romney. I'm still voting for Romney. And it hurt. It really hurt. I know he probably didn't mean to, but in a way, the only way you can take it as a friend is this person doesn't value your life. He sees it, and he kind of nods his head, yeah, that's a shame. But in the end, he'll still vote that way.

I said, I can't do this anymore. He called me one time and was like, let's go out and hang out. I was like, you know what? I don't even enjoy myself with you anymore. This election is so personal, and I've down everything. If you're valuing me as a friend, you would understand this. And you know, then, I was like, oh, forget it. I mean, he didn't want the friendship to end. I'm the one who ended it.

Erik Shetney

I'm the enemy. I'm what's wrong with this world.

Lisa Pollak

This is Erik Shetney from Minneapolis. As a red in a blue city, he says he's used to liberal colleagues reducing him to a cliche.

Erik Shetney

I'm opposed to the middle class. I am completely supportive of the concept of a robber baron, almost from the Gilded Age in the 1890s, that I am all about making rich people richer. And I think it's acceptable to do this at the expense of poor people who consume government services.

Anne

A lot of Democrats just assume I don't understand the issues and if only I was better educated on them, I would believe like they do.

Lisa Pollak

That's a woman I'll call Anne. Last year she heard about an opening in a friend's hiking group and asked to join only to be told by her friend in front of a group of other friends that she wouldn't be welcome because she was a Republican.

Anne

It was one of those horrible, awkward moments where just the room went quiet. In their minds or her mind, Republicans are all that's wrong with the world.

Lisa Pollak

The most creative rejection of a friend's politics I heard was this-- a man named Drew wrote to say that he got an ultimatum from his friend, Ryan. The two guys are married to sisters and hang out together all the time. But if Drew votes for Obama, Ryan has put him on notice. There will be consequences. Drew explains.

Drew

If you vote for Obama, you're cut off. You can still come over to our house and eat, but when I cook ribs, you can bring your own chicken breast and use the grill after I'm done. And at first I thought he was just kidding around, but he's made it clear that he's absolutely serious. And I appealed to his wife, and she said, well, I got to stand with my husband.

Lisa Pollak

Wait. He was totally serious that you couldn't eat his barbecue if you voted for Obama?

Drew

Absolutely serious.

Ryan

Yep, he's got to cook his own meat for the next four years.

Lisa Pollak

This is Ryan.

Ryan

I know he loves my barbecue so much. And I was thinking one day. You know, I've tried to explain to Drew why he shouldn't vote Democratic, but I can't get through to him. So now I'm going to do a little negative reinforcement. And if he votes for him, I'm just not going to let him eat here. And my wife makes salad or garlic bread or beans-- he can have that. He just cannot eat my meat-- my tri-tip, my ribs, my pulled pork, my brisket, I make a wonderful prime rib sandwich-- he can't have any of that.

Lisa Pollak

For two sides that sometimes seem to be living in completely different realities, it's amazing how many of the reds and blues I talked to express the exact same feelings about each other in the exact same words. In fact, I could tell the relationship was probably on the rocks when the interview included at least one of the following elements. One, total incomprehension about the other person's beliefs.

Male Speaker

I couldn't believe somebody could actually really think that.

Female Speaker

Like, I don't even know who you are anymore.

Male Speaker

He can't truly feel the way he feels. There's absolutely no way.

Lisa Pollak

Two, a declaration of one's superior powers of open-mindedness.

Female Speaker

Liberals in general are more open to another person's point of view than conservatives are.

Male Speaker

The Democrats I know tend to be much more lockstep-- this is the right way.

Lisa Pollak

Three, communication problems.

Female Speaker

I don't even think she's even tried to look at my beliefs. And I can't say that I have tried that hard to look at hers.

Lisa Pollak

You don't feel like he listens to you?

Male Speaker

No. No, not at all. And in his defense, I mean, a lot of times, I kinda tune him out too.

Lisa Pollak

And finally, four, yes, inevitably, references to the Nazis.

Male Speaker

I don't care how long Ayers teaches at the University of Chicago. To deny Ayers' violence toward the United States of America is to deny that Eichmann had anything to do with the mass murders of Jews.

Male Speaker

It was like a Jewish person voting for Hitler.

Female Speaker

If the Nazi party were in power, are we going to compromise with them just because they're half of the country? I know that I have just made an analogy between the Republican Party and the Nazis. I understand that.

Lisa Pollak

Of all the situations I heard about, this next one stumped me most because both people wanted things to be different between them. But it was hard to fathom how they possibly could be. Janet, a conservative from Kentucky, wrote us about her sister.

Janet

She and I have been close, and I've been able to talk to her and stuff. I don't talk to her much anymore. I don't call her because I'm afraid something will come up and we'll get mad at each other. And so we just kind of avoid talking to each other. Probably within the last month, I thought, well, I'll just call Suzie and talk to her. And then I'm like, nah, I'd best not. About nothing important, just to call and say, I tried a new recipe. You want to hear how it went? Just any of that kind of stuff.

Lisa Pollak

Janet's active in the Republican Party, though she considers herself more of a Libertarian. She attended the 9/12 taxpayers' march on Washington a few years back. Her sister Susan is a Democrat. Last spring, they went on a trip together and Obamacare came up.

Janet

I mean, it just turned into a yelling match. And it didn't take but half a second. It was more like, somebody's got to do something. And it's, well, OK, do something, but this is not the thing to do. Well, you don't care. You want all these people to die. And it just devolved so quickly.

Lisa Pollak

She and Susan always had different politics, but after Obama got elected, it was hard to talk about that stuff without fighting. If I say anything, oh, you're a bigot. You just don't like him because he's black. And those kind of things are hurtful. And so I just get mad that she can't see what he's doing to this country. And I guess she gets mad at me that she thinks everybody ought to have a handout. I don't know when it's gotten this bad.

When I called Susan, she sounded just as frustrated as her sister.

Susan

I'm probably the worst one of the problem we have. It's probably mostly me because her dogmatic ideology just drives me insane. I'm not trying to hurt her feelings. I don't want to hurt her feelings. I just can't believe what comes out of her mouth.

Lisa Pollak

Susan told me she wished she and Janet could talk-- really talk and try to understand each other. But she couldn't see how that was going to happen, and I didn't either. And then I heard this.

Newscaster

Coming up after the news, a conservative, a liberal, and a search for common ground. Today's guests don't agree on many things, but at least they develop the ability to talk to each other and even disagree while still being pleasant. Phil Neisser, the liberal, and Jacob Hess, the conservative, even wrote a book together based on their method for dialogue. It's called, You're Not as Crazy as I Thought, But You're Still Wrong.

Lisa Pollak

If you're feeling a bit skeptical about this lead-in, let me assure you, I was too. But the book isn't a gimmick, and its authors aren't the hand-holding, political moderates you might expect. Jacob's a devout Mormon, pro-life, very conservative on most issues. Phil's a die-hard liberal, an atheist, pro-choice.

The kind of dialogue that Phil and Jacob are encouraging isn't about compromise. It isn't touchy-feely, but it's also not like debate. In fact, for it to work, they say, you have to back off of the main goal most people have in political conversations-- persuading the other person to think like you do. Instead, you focus on trying to understand what the person believes and why he or she believes it. The other person does the same for you. Phil and Jacob say that for them, this led to difficult, uncomfortable conversations, but they ended up viewing each other more generously.

I wanted to see this in action, so I arranged for the two sisters, Janet and Susan, to get on a conference call with Phil and Jacob and try out some of their techniques. They agreed to let me listen in and record the conversation.

But the night before this was supposed to happen, Janet, the conservative sister, got cold feet. She left a message that she was backing out, that she feared she'd say something she couldn't take back. So I convinced her to get on the phone without Susan and hear what the dialogue guys had to say. Right off the bat, Janet admitted that her goal with her sister was exactly the opposite of Phil and Jacob's.

Janet

I was looking for the conversation to fix her and make her understand what's wrong with her thinking.

Jacob Hess

Aha, There's the rub.

Janet

That's probably half the goal.

Lisa Pollak

The three of them talked for an hour. She tried to explain why it was so hard for her to accept her sister's views. Here she is with Phil, the liberal.

Janet

I guess I see most liberals as being selfish, and she's not selfish. And so that's what makes me so aggravated is that these liberals can be so selfish, and she's not one. And I'm just like, you're not that heartless. You cannot be there.

Phil Neisser

Where do you get the idea that liberals are selfish? I'm curious.

Janet

Because they don't want to do anything to take care of people. They just want somebody else to. They want the government to. And she doesn't. She's just so giving and loving, and she'll give anybody the shirt off her back and the shoes off her feet.

Phil Neisser

I want to tell you a little bit about how it is I approach Jacob. The vision was, I'll bet you he's not selfish. I'll bet you he's not greedy. I think most people in the whole world are not selfish, they're not greedy. Many of them believe the wrong things. That's my view, right? They believe the wrong things. They believe I believe the wrong things.

But if you have this story in your head that liberals are selfish, why would you talk to any of them? You know what I mean? So maybe liberals in general, and conservatives, we disagree with each other. And one of us is right and one of us is wrong, but none of us are selfish. What about that idea?

Janet

Yeah, well that's--

Phil Neisser

Food for thought.

Lisa Pollak

I don't know if this will change things for Janet and Susan, but I can tell you that by the end of the conversation, Janet-- to my surprise-- sounded hopeful.

Janet

I'm already thinking about things I can write her in an email and say, we need to get together, and we need to sit down and talk, and what can we do? I'm very hopeful.

Lisa Pollak

What's the thing they said that made you feel that way?

Janet

Well, it reminded me, I guess, that I'm not going to change her. I mean, I can't make her see, but maybe before we start a conversation, let's have a hug and kiss and remember if yelling starts, we've got to do something to stop it.

Lisa Pollak

To Phil and Jacob, the problem isn't that people disagree, it's the way they do it. I saw this in so many people's stories. There was the woman whose parents said she could stay rent free with them during grad school as long as she signed a contract vowing to vote for Mitt Romney and the Obama voter who felt so betrayed by his son's support of Romney that he told him not to come by the house until the election is over. One man wrote us hours after he'd been defriended by his mother on Facebook. Why did she defriend him? Because when she posted that her support for Romney was purely about the economy, he wrote, quote, "To all the Jews, gypsies, Communists, and homosexuals, my vote for the Nazi party has nothing to do with you. I just wanted the trains to run on time." He wrote us that his biggest regret was mixing the two historical references.

But my favorite story was about a campaign sign. Last month, on a street in a town in the battleground state of Ohio, a woman and her husband decided to put out a Mitt Romney sign. The woman, knowing that her neighbors were Obama supporters, worried what they'd think of her. She considered them friends, and she didn't want things to get awkward or uncomfortable.

So after she put out the sign, she wrote her neighbors an email explaining just that, telling them how much she valued their friendship and that she didn't want politics to come between them. And at a time when so many people are either fighting or staying quiet, feeling weird about their differences, this small act struck me as incredibly honest and disarming. And her neighbors wrote her back to say of course, the sign was fine.

Ira Glass

Lisa Pollak's one of the producers of our show. If you would like to be part of APM's Public Insight Network, which helped Lisa find some of her interviewees and which invites everyone to share their stories confidentially with journalists, go to publicinsightnetwork.org. Coming up, how two little words could upset an entire state legislature, and the words are not even in English. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International when our program continues.

Act Two. Nothing in Moderation.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, in the lead up to Tuesday's election, we have stories about the divide between red America and blue America. We've arrived at act two of our program. Act Two, "Nothing in Moderation."

So the polarization of our country has spread far and wide. People in the middle are being squeezed out, starting in the US Congress, where Democrats who lean to the right-- the Blue Dog Democrats-- are nearly extinct. And the few remaining Republicans who are willing to compromise with the left-- like Olympia Snow of Maine-- are stepping down or being targeted for defeat by their own party and right-leaning special interest groups.

And this is happening at the state level too, even in some places that were deeply, famously moderate, places you would not expect moderates to get pushed out, like New Hampshire. Sarah Koenig explains.

Sarah Koenig

I learned about New Hampshire's turmoil from my friend Annmarie Timmins. She's a reporter at the Concord Monitor newspaper in New Hampshire. I used to work there too. That's how we met.

She grew up in New Hampshire. Her parents grew up in New Hampshire. I kind of think of Annmarie as New Hampshire. She's moderate in all things-- an "early to bed, early to rise," "treat others with respect" sort of person. By her own admission, she's a little old-fashioned, a bit of a Miss Manners, like New Hampshire. For instance, each town in the state holds an annual meeting where the residents vote directly on the local budget. Here's Annmarie.

Annmarie Timmins

I mean, I've been to town meetings where there's a little swear jar. If you swear or are rude, you have to put a quarter in. And so if someone says something or cuts someone off or is rude, they walk up with their quarter and they put it in. And it's sort of funny, but they also take it seriously. And they speak nicely to one another.

Sarah Koenig

And the same was more or less true at the state House, which is remarkable for its size. It's got a little Senate of 24 people but then an enormous House with 400 members. And this in one of the smallest states in the country-- so that in some places, you could get elected with a grand total of, say, 650 votes and a campaign investment of maybe $200 or maybe nothing. Literally, you could spend nothing and get elected to the New Hampshire House. A truly representative democracy, reflecting the New Hampshire state tradition. You don't pry into each other's affairs, you don't ask people how much money they make, and you may not like what they're doing in the bedroom, but it's understood to be none of your business.

Annmarie Timmins

This Libertarian sort of, I'll live my life, you live your life, we won't have a sales or income tax, and that's the New Hampshire way. And you could hash things out and be friends at the end. And it's just not that anymore.

[RALLYING]

Sarah Koenig

Exhibit A. For the past couple of years, Annmarie has watched her state, the swear jar state, descend into a kind of knee-bashing, "you're either with us or against us" politics that used to exist someplace else-- on TV, maybe, or in Washington, DC. This is footage of a rally against the Speaker of the New Hampshire House, Bill O'Brien, when he went to Portsmouth to deliver a speech to a Republican women's group.

Male Speaker

Thank you for calling me a pig.

Male Speaker

I didn't call you a pig.

Male Speaker

No, you did. You did. You called him a pig. If you call him one, you call me one.

Male Speaker

You liar.

Sarah Koenig

In case you can't hear it, that dialogue-- it's the speaker and another state rep and a former state senator-- it went like this. "Thank you for calling me a pig." "I did not call you a pig." "You did. You did. You called him a pig. You call him one, you call me one." "You liar."

Can I just say, as someone who used to cover the New Hampshire state House for the Concord Monitor, this scene is shocking-- the very fact that the rally is aimed at the House Speaker. When I was covering the legislature, most people couldn't have told you the House Speaker even was. I will tell you who it was. It was Donna Sytek, a no-nonsense Republican who felt so strongly about political etiquette that she wrote a book about it, with chapters such as Decorum at the Event and Say Thank You. Now there's less and less decorum at the event.

New Hampshire is such a small place, and the change here happens so quickly and thoroughly. You can see very clearly how hard it is for people in the middle to hang on. What happens when the middle disappears?

So what happened? Well, New Hampshire is in the grip of a sudden ideological whiplash. Just like in Washington, the Democrats had a recent moment on top. In 2006, they won majorities in both houses of the New Hampshire legislature, the first time since the mid-1800s. And they did what Democrats do-- increased spending for their priorities and they legalized gay marriage.

Then four years later in the 2010 election, when Democrats took a shellacking nationwide, the same thing happened in New Hampshire. Republicans swept in. They won not just majorities but super majorities in both houses. Republicans dominated Democrats three to one. The GOP leaders vowed to undo what they called the, quote, "four-year assault" the Democrats had launched on the state. They were going to rethink what government should even be doing.

The voters had elected about 160 new Republican members, a huge band of newcomers. And they were a fired-up population-- Tea Partiers and hardcore Libertarians and Christian conservatives and Free Staters. Free Staters are a movement unto themselves-- people from elsewhere who'd picked up and moved to New Hampshire in the past decade with the express intention of getting elected and transforming government into the tiniest institution possible.

Many of these Republican freshmen didn't want to sit back and learn. Like the Republicans who swept into DC in 2010, they wanted action now. They bucked tradition, they bucked leadership, they were defiant.

George Lambert

And I think that caused a great deal of frustration.

Sarah Koenig

Meet George Lambert, one of these newcomers.

George Lambert

Because they're like, well, you don't know how things work. And my response to that, and the response of a lot of people like me, is you're absolutely right. We got elected because people didn't like the way that things were working.

Sarah Koenig

Lambert's 44, a computer guy. He's not a big fan of government in general. In the past two years, Lambert sponsored or cosponsored bills to prohibit vaccinations in public schools, allow nonviolent felons access to firearms, get rid of sobriety checkpoints, and outlaw speed limits.

By the time O'Brien took over as speaker, the alchemy of the House had changed so much there was no telling what could pass. It seemed like everything was on the table, even stuff that had been long settled in the state-- public schools, several bills to limit abortions, bills to get rid of all sorts of gun licensing, also the repeal of gay marriage. On day one of the 2011 legislative session, a day for symbolism and legislative good cheer, there was this.

Male Speaker

We shall be allowed to protect ourselves on the House floor by having the ability to have a concealed weapon on the floor, in the anteroom, in the gallery.

Sarah Koenig

Yep. On day one, they voted to allow guns in the state House. And remember, there are 400 of these people. This new rule has led to some really weird moments, like when a rep named Kyle Tasker dropped his gun in the middle of a criminal justice and public safety committee hearing. Annmarie was there.

Annmarie Timmins

He was situating himself in his seat, and he kind of scooted forward. And there was this clang. And people were like, was that his gun? I had to check. I said, did that really just happen? He did drop his gun, right? That's what it was? Because there was no discussion about it, no break in the meeting, didn't clear the room-- nothing. Nothing.

Kyle Tasker

I had just given blood, and I might not have latched it quite properly.

Sarah Koenig

Representative Kyle Tasker.

Kyle Tasker

All I could think was, yeah, that was bound to happen one of these days. I come here too often for that not to have happened.

Sarah Koenig

Yep, that was bound to happen. I spoke to another rep whose entire holster, with gun, fell off right outside the state House. He never brought his gun again after that, though he didn't want me to tell anyone since he'd like people to think he carries all the time, keep them on their toes.

During the first year of this new regime, the Republicans managed something extraordinary. They'd vowed to slash government spending and not raise any taxes or fees. And they actually did it. They shrunk the budget by nearly 11% and lowered the cigarette tax to boot. They turned the budget process on its head, adding up revenues first and then axing whatever they couldn't pay for. The result, funding for the University of New Hampshire cut nearly in half, hospital funding cut by at least $250 million, assistance to needy families cut by something like $14 million. These are big, big numbers in New Hampshire. Attached to the budget were the same kinds of anti-union measures you saw in Wisconsin and other states, and they resulted in the same kind of blow back.

Male Speaker

What's disgusting?

Protesters

Union busting.

Male Speaker

All right. Security? Clear the hall. Clear the hall! Get out.

Male Speaker

Union busting.

Sarah Koenig

This is from a finance committee hearing. The day of the actual budget vote, screaming protesters covered the State House lawn and filled the House gallery. The puffed-up rhetoric that day was especially puffy. Here's then-Republican Majority Leader DJ Bettencourt.

Dj Bettencourt

Never in the years, Mr. Speaker, that I have been in this House--

Sarah Koenig

Bettencourt was all of 27 years old, by the way.

Dj Bettencourt

--have I ever heard such outrageous and exaggerated political hyperbole engulf a budget proposal such as we have seen here. With terms as extreme as immoral and evil, what a disgrace.

Sarah Koenig

Like every revolution, this one had a leader-- House Speaker Bill O'Brien. No question, he's been the lightning rod for pretty much everything that's happened, good or bad, in the past two years. According to Fergus Cullen, a former state GOP chairman, O'Brien recruited dozens of the new freshmen in 2010. Quote, "What Bill was trying to do was not only fill seats," he said, "but to find people who are ideological-- you know, the right kind of Republican. He wanted the strongest anti-Obama types." Unquote.

And when O'Brien ran for Speaker after only four years in the House, these new folks supported him, upending the establishment. Ever since, O'Brien's been a guy who elicits all variety of superlatives. These next few voices all belong to Republicans. Actually, every lawmaker you'll hear in this story is a Republican.

George Lambert

That man has more integrity than anyone I've met in government ever.

Susan Emerson

Our Republican Party has been hijacked by Bill O'Brien and his thugs. They're nasty. They're mean. I have never encountered such bullying.

Lee Quandt

The definition of a cult leader is somebody that can get people to bend their will to succumb to them, and we're seeing more and more of that.

Bob Meade

He's a great Speaker. He's probably the best tool that the Republicans have to accomplish a conservative agenda in the state.

Sarah Koenig

That's George Lambert, Susan Emerson, Lee Quandt, and Bob Meade. I don't know if an unbending, take-no-prisoners style is required to achieve radical change in a State House. But in New Hampshire, the two have gone hand in hand. Arguably, the Speaker's in charge of marshaling an unwieldy coalition. The Libertarians don't always agree with the Free Staters who don't always agree with the conservatives. So maybe a firm hand is the only way to get anything done at all.

In any case, what's clear is that if you cross the speaker, especially on something he cares about, he will not take it lying down. Two Republican reps who angered the speaker-- one an ex-cop injured on the job, the other in a wheelchair-- were both denied aisle seats. And no, the latter was not allowed to reach over to his assigned spot and press his voting button with his cane.

Representative Susan Emerson got into a ferocious and well-publicized fight with Speaker O'Brien last year. Fun fact about Susan Emerson-- she has over 700 hats stored in plastic bins in her barn. She wears a different one every single day. Anyway, last year when the House was getting ready to debate the budget, Emerson objected to a bunch of cuts in services for the poor and mentally ill. She planned to bring an amendment to the House floor to restore the money. That apparently was a no-no.

Susan Emerson

And O'Brien comes over. I can still hear his feet pitter-patting up the aisle, and he said, Emerson, outside now.

Sarah Koenig

He takes her across the hall into the Senate chamber and tells her in no uncertain terms to drop her amendment.

Susan Emerson

And he was just screaming. And I just couldn't get any words in. And I kept backing up because I thought O'Brien was going to hit me. He was two inches from my face. And I started crying.

Sarah Koenig

In the aftermath, Emerson got kicked off her committee, Health and Human Services, and ended up filing House Bill 1533, an act prohibiting bullying in the State House and Legislative Office Building. This fight had been the talk of Concord. And when it came time for the public hearing, other lawmakers came forward to say they'd been bullied too. Speaker O'Brien told the Nashua Telegraph, quote, "It pains me to say Representative Emerson has fabricated all of this." Unquote.

I think it's safe to say that what most of us want from our government is people thinking problems through on their merits, hashing out solutions. The place where that hashing out happens is the legislative committees. Anywhere from 800 to 1,000 bills are filed each term in the House. If you're a volunteer or citizen lawmaker, you're depending on the committees to figure out the details. They're the experts.

In New Hampshire, the committees had worked well, for the most part leaving posturing and party nonsense outside the room. I wondered if that was still true. Was give and take still allowed? Did they tolerate dissent? When I asked around, this was what most people complained about-- that this process is what broke down under the new agenda.

Leadership didn't just want Republicans to win all committee votes. They wanted to win unequivocally. So Republican reps would be sent into committees just before votes, and these ringers would cast votes even when they hadn't heard a speck of testimony, and even on controversial bills like voter ID.

I heard several stories like this next one. David Welch is a Republican on the criminal justice and public safety committee. He's white haired and bearded and looks like he stepped out of the giant Civil War painting on the first floor of the State House. The look is by design. He's a reenactor, but not of the Civil War, it turns out.

David Welch

I do French and Indian and Revolution. Civil War-- I never could get involved in the Civil War because you have to be a soldier. You have to wear a uniform, and everybody wants to be a general.

Sarah Koenig

Welch was also in House leadership, a deputy whip. His committee was considering a bill-- well, I'll just read you the title. Quote, "an act making the touching or viewing with a technological device of a person's breasts or genitals by a government security agent without probable cause a sexual assault," unquote. Basically, it would make TSA agents at Manchester Airport subject to felony sex offender charges for using their equipment too freely. The committee thought it was a dumb bill, and they voted unanimously-- or near-unanimously, Welch can't quite remember-- to kill it.

David Welch

Well, evidently there was somebody in the room that was monitoring how the vote was going. And that individual went out and made a phone call. And then we were taken out of committee into a caucus.

Sarah Koenig

In other words, a meeting just for the Republicans.

David Welch

Which was the first time-- that was in 27 years-- first time that we've ever had a Republican caucus in my committee. That was like going to the woodshed.

Sarah Koenig

Who was it? Who came and gathered you?

David Welch

It was the speaker. And we were told that the bill has to come out of committee.

Sarah Koenig

Did anyone say, with all due respect, Mr. Speaker, we've looked at this legislation and it just doesn't make sense in its present form, or some polite way of saying, this is bad legislation? Did anyone argue?

David Welch

Three or four of us did, including me. But it didn't make any difference. He wanted it, so as the majority whip or the assistant majority whip, I came back into committee. I made a motion for reconsideration. And then I made a motion to pass the bill out.

Sarah Koenig

How did you feel doing that?

David Welch

I'd rather not say. But I didn't feel good about it. But I did it.

Sarah Koenig

Did you feel ashamed?

David Welch

Somewhat.

Sarah Koenig

It's not that strong-arm tactics were never used by previous speakers in New Hampshire. But most everyone told me that moves used rarely in the past, now they're almost expected. In speeches and press releases, Bill O'Brien doesn't hold back. He says Democrats, quote, "promote lies," judges are, quote, "politicians in black robes," unions, in his world, apparently only employ bosses or thugs, and the notion that gay marriage is a civil right, absurd.

But he's much scarier on paper than he is in person. This is no Boss Hogg of the North. O'Brien is short and slight with a neat beard and an almost shy aspect. And he's got a nice, ready laugh, and he's witty and smart, like the attorney he is. His demeanor says, who me? I'm just here doing my part, advancing liberty, like any decent person would.

Bill O'brien

You know, this concept that somehow a speaker of a New Hampshire House can be the Svengali of New Hampshire politics is just really kind of at variance with what the New Hampshire House is all about.

Sarah Koenig

When I asked about the harsher brand of politics he's ushered in, about whether radical change requires it, about how he sees this legislative war, he simply disagreed with the premise of my question, that the town has gotten harsher. He did this time after time, and not disagreeably, like this.

Bill O'brien

My thinking again is that the premise of your question is wrong.

Sarah Koenig

He said the same thing when I asked him about his heavy-handedness with committees. And the allegations of bullying he shrugged off as inside baseball, part of the Democrat narrative to distract citizens from the issues they truly care about-- jobs, taxes, the budget; if he's brought something new to Concord, it's not bullying, it's a fresh set of eyes.

Bill O'brien

I became speaker after two terms in the House. And that brought certain strengths. And among those strengths was I wasn't tied to the past. And so it allowed us to look at problems anew. And I think that may have been what is shocking to the system. And it may well be that there were those who said, they're encountering this huge deficit.

And we know what has happened in the past. There's a combination of cuts. There's a combination of tax increases. And we didn't do that. And I think that may well have been shocking to the system and invited the type of response, personal attacks, and so forth, that we've seen come. That's not dismissing the voters. It's not being harsh with the opposition. It is basically just keeping your promises.

Sarah Koenig

In our conversation, O'Brien was disciplined about staying on message. Almost every topic ended up back at the balanced budget. What he's not as keen to discuss is the fact that much of these past two years has been consumed by trickier, less crowd-pleasing topics-- guns, unions, gay marriage, contraception, abortion. New Hampshirites who'd voted for the new guard to rein in spending, a big part of their appeal in this fiscally-minded state, ended up with a broader ideological agenda. And some of it was fringe-y, catering to people with a fundamental distrust of government.

For instance, O'Brien resurrected a committee that had been dormant for about a century. It's called the Redress of Grievance committee, and it's a straightforward concept. The committee is supposed to give citizens who believe they've been wronged by government a place to come and complain. In practice, though, it's mostly angry dads challenging child custody and divorce cases that the family court settled years ago.

Male Speaker

What this court order says is that I'm not allowed to punish my son. I'm not allowed to parent my son. Mind you, his mother's sitting there on these telephone calls. The telephone calls are on speakerphone so she can monitor them. She's coaching him. I've heard her coaching--

Sarah Koenig

This man testified for about eight hours-- not the longest by a long shot, actually. Apparently there was one that went on for almost 20 hours. He aired intimate details of his family's life. And remember, this isn't in front of a court. He's talking to regular old legislators in a committee who are sympathetic to his grievances.

According to one committee member, Tim Horrigan-- admittedly a Democrat-- a bunch of members don't show up for these hearings at all, but about half the members who do come feel that the judicial branch is a, quote, "vast conspiracy." The judges and another judicial officers who are accused of wrongdoing don't come to defend themselves, though occasionally someone will send a letter. So the committee really only ever hears one side of the story. Nevertheless, as in this man's case, the committee recommends all manner of impeachment investigations and rule changes.

All told, Horrigan said, about half the Superior Court judges had been recommended for impeachment. And marital masters, the state's judicial experts, deciding the thorniest and most emotional of family cases-- divorces and child custody and the like-- nearly all of them had cases brought against them. Here's Deborah Rein. She worked as a marital master for almost 24 years before retiring in December. All these hearings, she says, are chilling for everyone who works in the family court system.

Deborah Rein

We shouldn't be worried that the legislature is going to start telling judges how they should be handling cases. I don't know. It was really hard being part of this important branch of government that looked like it was just being dismantled.

Sarah Koenig

In June of 2011, the legislature voted to get rid of marital masters. Problem solved. After a year of all this, old-school, moderate New Hampshire Republicans had had enough. They insisted that New Hampshire voters didn't want this right wing agenda. Here's Dave Kidder. He's fifth generation in his town. His father was a beloved lawmaker before him.

Dave Kidder

There's very few of us-- what we all call Rockefeller Republicans-- left. Everybody has just either become Democrats or they've gone to the right. And I ain't going. My poor mother would come right out of the ground if she thought I was ever going to be a Democrat. And I'm not going to kowtow to the right wing of the party because I don't think they're Republicans.

Sarah Koenig

So Kidder and the other moderates started to meet privately to quietly, respectfully discuss, the way moderates do. They came up with a plan. They would team up with, yes, Democrats and Independents and form a bipartisan caucus down the middle. It had never been done before. If they could get 40 or 50 people to join, they'd be a force to be reckoned with.

In May of this year, they announced themselves as Restore the Center. They held a press conference across the street from the State House. Cynthia Dokmo, a moderate Republican, was one of the organizers.

Cynthia Dokmo

And we were in the LOB, the Legislative Office Building, where press conferences are often held.

Jim Squires

Thank you, Cynthia. And thanks to all my friends and--

Cynthia Dokmo

And I believe it was Dr. Jim Squires that was speaking.

Jim Squires

I'm here today because I believe a great danger lurks within the politics of our nation and state.

Cynthia Dokmo

And in the middle of it, all of a sudden, most of the reporters just got phone calls, and they ran out of room.

Jim Squires

--gauntlets and--

Sarah Koenig

You can hear people shuffling around, doors swinging, as they head across the street.

Cynthia Dokmo

I knew something had happened because they don't usually just run off in the middle of someone speaking.

Sarah Koenig

On one side of the street, speeches about the dire need for civility, compromise, consensus. On the other side of the street, an explosion of incivility, a show-stopper. Representative Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican, had challenged the Speaker's treatment of a Democrat during a floor debate.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

Bill O'brien

The Sergeant-at-Arms will bring Representative Vaillancourt to order.

Steve Vaillancourt

Are you going to treat everybody fairly or not?

Bill O'brien

Representative Vaillancourt, another outburst like that, you'll be removed from the hall.

Steve Vaillancourt

Sieg heil.

Crowd

Oh! Ooh. Ooh.

Bill O'brien

The Sergeant-at-Arms will remove Representative Vaillancourt from the hall.

Steve Vaillancourt

Well, they got the Sergeant-at-Arms, and he came and wanted to escort me out. And I refused to leave.

Sarah Koenig

Republican rep Steve Vaillancourt.

Steve Vaillancourt

The funny thing is all these virile young Libertarian Free Staters would have nothing to do with it. As you probably know, I sit in the back row. And the two people who came to shield me from the Sergeant-at-Arms was an 89-year-old woman from Manchester named Irene Messier and Julie Brown, who must be pushing 90 years old. These were the people, like mother hens, that weren't going to remove me. So what they eventually did was take the key away so I couldn't vote.

Sarah Koenig

Now Vaillancourt claims he meant no offense with the sieg heil thing. I know. But just hear him out. He lived in Berlin for a time.

Steve Vaillancourt

And having studied German, to me sieg heil simply means victory. And as I was using it in relationship to the Speaker, it means Mr. Speaker, you have the power, so the victory is yours. I can't say anything. So sieg heil.

Sarah Koenig

Oh, come on. You weren't meaning to conjure Adolf Hitler in that moment.

Steve Vaillancourt

Absolutely not.

Sarah Koenig

Oh, come on, Steve. The entire rest of America has that association with sieg heil, and you're saying that you did not have Adolf Hitler in your head when you said sieg heil?

Steve Vaillancourt

Absolutely not, swear to God, did not cross my mind at all. But I do realize that some people associate sieg heil with the Nazis. That's why I probably would have been better, in retrospect, saying sic semper tyrannis. You're not going to ask me what that means?

Sarah Koenig

I-- well, go ahead.

Steve Vaillancourt

You know what that means. It means as always with dictators.

Bill O'brien

Members will come to order. The chair recognizes Representative Vaillancourt.

Steve Vaillancourt

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I was saying before, I cannot apologize for anything I did not do. But I do apologize for using two German words, which I understand have negative ramifications. Perhaps three Latin words would have been better, so I will never use a German word again, including huetchenspiel, gnadige frau, or meine damen und herren. Thank you.

Sarah Koenig

The sieg heil moment caused what incivility almost always causes-- more incivility and then a communication breakdown. Here's what happened-- the Concord Monitor, Annmarie's paper, ran an editorial cartoon picturing Bill O'Brien with a Hitler mustache. The caption was, "if the mustache fits." Then, post-cartoon, Annmarie got shut out of a press conference which Speaker O'Brien held in his private office so that he could legally close the door in her face, while every other reporter in town streamed past her inside.

Annmarie Timmins

Why can't we come into this press conference? The invite does not say invite only.

Female Speaker

It wasn't sent to your organization. Can you move that way, please?

Annmarie Timmins

The entire media corps is here.

Female Speaker

Excuse me. Matt, come in. Hi, Jamie. Are you waiting for him?

Annmarie Timmins

And then one day, following this getting shut out of his office, the press releases stopped, and we would not be getting any more press releases, we would not be getting any more access to the speaker's office until we could behave like professional journalists.

Sarah Koenig

Shutting out the capital paper from House business, that made national news. It's unprecedented in New Hampshire and most other places. Annmarie had told me about this back when it happened, but what I hadn't realized until now is that she'd never been able to speak to O'Brien, even from the beginning. Before they'd even been introduced, he'd made up his mind about her and about the newspaper. To him, it was just a mouthpiece for the Democrats. What was the point of a conversation?

Annmarie Timmins

I don't want our state to become-- there's this saying in the court system that you can always tell when a lawyer from Massachusetts is in a New Hampshire court because they're so combative. I don't want my state to become like a Massachusetts lawyer in a New Hampshire court. But I understand if the people of the state are aware of what's going on and they're paying attention and they are fine with that, then I'm not in the majority.

Sarah Koenig

The GOP primary in September was the first real test of whether voters were liking this new style of Republican politics. In the results, moderates took a beating. More than ever before, they were attacked with PAC money from inside and outside the state and by their own party. In a place where campaigning for the House used to mean buying some lawn signs and calling it a day, now just like in small races all over the country, there are great big signs on the road sides and slick attack mailers and mysterious money flowing in.

The mailers largely targeted Republicans who voted against New Hampshire's right-to-work bill, a union-weakening measure, based on model legislation written by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. These ads were paid for by groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party group that's funded nationally by the Koch brothers. Right-to-work was Speaker O'Brien's priority in New Hampshire and AFP's priority. But it didn't survive the governor's veto. Here's moderate Dave Kidder again.

Dave Kidder

Democrats they don't mind. It's the moderate Republicans that they really, really despise.

Sarah Koenig

So they'd rather have a Democrat elected than you?

Dave Kidder

Correct. That's why we talk about the Republicans eating their own. This is exactly what we're talking about. And it's just crazy.

Sarah Koenig

A few long-time moderates lost their primaries, like Julie Brown, the elderly lady who shielded Vaillancourt from the Sergeant-at-Arms, while a few others squeaked by. The primary knocked out some old-school conservative Republicans too, like the war reenactor David Welch after 14 terms in the House. He said after he refused to take a walk on the right-to-work, vote, O'Brien warned him there would be consequences.

Susan Emerson, the lady who got yelled at, had eight different mailers targeting her. That's unheard of in New Hampshire. The mailers depict her as a union toady and a big fat taxer and spender. Here's moderate Republican Alida Millham.

Alida Millham

It's interesting being a target. I mean, I'm a pretty mild person.

Sarah Koenig

She decided not to run again this time around, despite her reputation as a consensus builder on the Health and Human Services committee. She feels like ever since moderate has become a bad word in New Hampshire politics, her talents don't matter anymore. She's become useless. And ideology, she said, doesn't need to deliberate. No one's listening.

Alida Millham

I think that there was a point time when I thought, well, that's a role that I fill is hey, we'll take this from this and this from that and see if we can make something work. But that doesn't exist anymore. And it's, oh, we don't want anybody in the middle. We want our one bite at the apple, and we want it all.

Sarah Koenig

Looked at one way, what's happened in New Hampshire in the past two years is a coarsening of debate, a cheapening of government. But looked at another way, it's democracy doing what it should-- reflecting a new set of values from the ground up. After all, Bill O'Brien and his cohort didn't seize power. They were elected. And the question this election will answer is, is all this an aberration, or is this just the new New Hampshire?

If you look at polls from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, this is what you learn. Voters are split over whether the legislature is doing a good job, split over how it handled the budget, though a majority say the state is heading in the right direction. They're with the legislature on right-to-work but against it on the repeal of gay marriage. Interestingly, and the pollster calls this, quote, "a significant change," when people were asked to list the biggest problems facing the state, Republicans in the legislature has consistently made it into the top five since May of 2011.

If the numbers seem contradictory, it's maybe because the last couple of years has been such a new and confounding experience for New Hampshire. One person compared it to what things felt like during the Civil Rights movement, which is maybe a little overblown. But they're similar in this way-- it's such a fundamental rethinking of what kind of place New Hampshire wants to be, and the two sides are so far apart that until they all agree on where they're going, it's going to be ugly.

Ira Glass

Sarah Koenig is one of the producers of our program. Miki Meek helped record that story.

[MUSIC- "THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND" BY SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS]

Credits.

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by Sarah Koenig with Alex Blumberg, Ben Calhoun, Jonathan Menjivar, Lisa Pollak, Brian Reed, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer is Julie Snyder, production help from Tariq [? Fudha. ?] Seth Lind is our operations director. Emily Condon's our production manager. Elise Bergerson's our administrative assistant. Music help from Damien Graef and Rob [? Geddes. ?]

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Our website, thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International, and instead of hearing from our boss at WBEZ, Torey Malatia this week, I thought it would be nice to play a real-life voice mail message from WBEZ's human resource manager, Dorse Kelly, who very well might be everybody's favorite WBEZ employee. She knows that I'm in New York City right now. She knows about the storm. She knows I'm an atheist. We have discussed our faiths. We do not agree about that stuff at all. She left me this message this week.

Dorse Kelly

Ira Glass, Dorse Kelly. Just calling to check on you guys and see if you're OK. New York has been hit by the vengeance of the devil. So anyway, just calling to check and see if you guys are OK. All right? And I pray that all is well. Talk to you later. Bye bye.

Ira Glass

Thanks, Dorse. I'm Ira Glass. Back next week.

Announcer

PRI, Public Radio International.