Jan 24, 2022 - Podcasts

The rise of hyper-partisan politicians

This year's midterms could see a big slate of extreme candidates. At least 19 House districts in 12 states across the U.S. with hyper-partisan districts won't have incumbents — setting the stage for heavily partisan candidates.

  • Plus, the U.S. orders diplomats’ families out of Ukraine.
  • And, 3D printing for cars.

Guests: Axios' Stef Kight, Dave Lawler and Joann Muller.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Sabeena Singhani and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday January 24th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: the US orders diplomats’ families out of Ukraine. Plus, 3D printing…for cars.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: the rise of hyper partisan politicians.

If you think partisan politics is already a problem in this country, well, this year's midterms could see an even bigger slate of extreme candidates in at least 19 house districts in 12 states across the US, hyper-partisan districts won't have incumbents setting the stage for heavily partisan candidates. Axios political reporter Stef Kight has been mapping this out. Hey Stef.

STEF KIGHT: Hey Niala.

NIALA: First, what do we mean when we say extreme candidate?

STEF: You know, we're talking generally about candidates who fall on the furthest sides of either political party. Not that you know, the most progressive Democrats are equal or the same as the farthest, right Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Green or Lauren Boebert who have been pretty outspoken in the news lately. But what we are looking at is both extreme sides. We're looking at both very progressive candidates who would kind of fall outside of what more moderate traditional Democrats have typically been for.

And we're also looking at extreme right, kind of the Trumpsters who have questioned election results and have been on that extreme side of things coming from the right.

NIALA: And so why are we seeing this veer to the edges of the both parties rather than candidates who were in the middle?

STEF: You know, there's a lot of different reasons for why we're seeing this extreme partisanship and you can look at a lot of different things that have happened over the past few years. You look at the way we consume media and this country, the way that there are these media silos. You can look at, um, this demographic change called the big sort, where people are increasingly living near like-minded individuals. But another thing that I wanted to look at with this story in particular was that is that there are specific things within the structure of our election and political systems that also don't help. For example, redistricting where there's an incentive to redraw districts in a way that will favor one party over the other. And especially drawing districts that creates safe districts for one party, making them extremely Republican or extremely Democrat.

NIALA: Stef, I bet there are people who are listening to this who are kind of despairing because they think our politics are already too partisan and extreme. What do political scientists think about the shift in the midterms and what this might mean for our society?

STEF: Most of the people I spoke to definitely think we are on a path to continue becoming more partisan. Of course, there have been examples where the more moderate voices do win out. So even if there are advantages, it does depend on specific communities, how people turn out to vote, how people turn out to vote in their primaries and other factors that will determine whether or not we see a new wave of extreme candidates or not.

NIALA: Are there any conversations about making redistricting not at the hand of whatever political party is in power? Because we see this with both parties across all states, depending on which party is in power, they're redrawing the maps in their favor.

STEF: Absolutely. We're seeing a rise in independent commissions who are in charge of drawing maps in certain states rather than partisan state legislatures. So we've seen quite a few states adopt this independent commission way of going about redistricting. And while it's still early on in the process, we have seen that some of the maps that have come out of these states with independent commissions be a little bit more competitive, meaning that Republicans and Democrats both have to kind of fight over the seats compared to a republican or democratic controlled state where they're very clearly drawing lines to their own benefit.

NIALA: Stef Kight is a politics reporter at Axios. Thanks Stef.

STEF: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with what’s next for Russia, Ukraine and the US.

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NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today - I'm Niala Boodhoo.

The US is rejecting calls to impose sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the decision yesterday on CNN's State of the Union:

ANTONY BLINKEN: The purpose of those sanctions is to deter, uh, Russian aggression. Uh, and so if they're, uh, if they're triggered, now you lose the deterrent effect.

NIALA: I asked Axios world editor Dave Lawler brings us to speed on where negotiations stand now.

DAVE LAWLER: Several developments over the last 48 hours or so have set the stage for a tense week when it comes to Ukraine. The US state department last night ordered the families of diplomats at the embassy in Kiev to evacuate. Uh, this comes as Russia sends additional troops to Belarus for military exercises that the U S fears could be cover for an invasion from the north. Meanwhile, more US supplied weapons are arriving in Ukraine. This is part of an effort on the US side to show Vladimir Putin that if he goes ahead with an invasion, the Ukrainians will be well-armed, will be high cost in terms of casualties. It's all about deterrence there.

There was this meeting on Friday between, uh, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and his Russian counterpart. The US promised to provide answers in writing in the coming days to these Russian demands about things like no further eastward uh, expansion of NATO. They're not going to agree there, but Blinken did hold up the possibility of a Biden-Putin summit in the coming weeks if there is some progress on the diplomatic side. And then there are these two headlines from Europe over the weekend that are worth keeping an eye on. One, the UK accused Russia of planning a potential coup and Ukraine to put in Kremlin friendly politicians into power there. And the head of the German Navy resigned after he said, among other things, that Vladimir Putin really wants respect, and perhaps we should give it to him. So that is a sign that there are some slightly different views, uh, among our European allies of how we should handle the threat and what the coming weeks might hold.

NIALA: Dave Lawler is Axios’ World Editor.

We've been 3D printing things made out of plastic for a while now, and maybe you've heard us discuss 3D printing houses out of concrete, but now there's a new technology that's revolutionizing using metal in 3D printing. Does that mean we'll be 3D printing things like cars soon? Here to explain is Joann Muller who covers the future of transportation for Axios from Detroit. Joann, what is 3D printing and what does it look like if you use metal?

JOANN MULLER: Well, 3D printing is the process of growing an object by just laying down one layer of material after another, and gradually something takes shape. Now, when we think of it, we usually think of this for plastics, but metal is something you can do as well, but instead of adding a layer of plastic, you're actually melting a thin layer of metal powder and it welds to the layer below and gradually those layers accumulate and the object grows. The problem is it's super slow and it's really hard to turn it into something like mass manufacturing of parts for cars or airplanes or consumer products.

NIALA: So are we not going to be seeing something like this anytime soon?

JOANN: Well, there's a company that is just coming out now, that has a really interesting technology. They're basically taking a super powered laser and splitting this one laser up into as many as 2.3 million beams of light. And what that does is that makes it possible to print things much faster than we can today. And if we can go fast and still have quality, then we could actually see the day that this technology would be used in mass manufacturing to replace the kinds of methods we use today.

NIALA: And is the biggest incentive for that, that it would be cheaper?

JOANN: Yes, absolutely. Manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce their costs. But in order to do so, they need to make sure they can go fast, but also have quality. You can build anything nice and slowly, but if you want to build a million of them, you've gotta be able to go fast. And the quality has to be there, especially when you're building something like a car or airplanes.

NIALA: Joann Muller is one of the coauthors of Axios What's Next newsletter. Thanks, Joann.

JOANN: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: That’s all we’ve got for you today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios.com or reach out to me on Twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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