Ezra Klein gives you a chance to get inside the heads of the newsmakers and power players in politics and media. These are extended conversations with policymakers, writers, technologists, and business leaders about what they believe in and why. Look elsewhere for posturing confrontation and quick reactions to the day's news. Subscribe for the anti-soundbite.
Mitch Landrieu is the white mayor of New Orleans, and he wants America to talk about race. Landrieu is the author of the new book, In The Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History. The statues he refers to are Confederate war memorials, four of which he controversially took down in May of 2017.
"These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for,” Landrieu said, in a speech that went viral nationally. "After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.”
Since then, Landrieu's profile has skyrocketed. He is often talked about as a Democratic candidate for 2020. In the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg called him "the white, Southern anti-Trump."
In this conversation, Landrieu and I discuss how he came to believe it necessary to remove the statues, and what happened in the aftermath. We also talk about his experience serving in the Louisiana legislature with David Duke ("a dress rehearsal for the rise of Donald Trump,” he says), the power of dog whistle politics, why you can’t run a government like a business, whether Democrats can still talk to the whole country, what makes a “ radical centrist," why leaders need to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations, and whether confronting America’s divisions opens a path towards healing or just deepens our divides.
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