The Hundred-Days Tapes: Briahna Joy Gray

The third in a series of interviews inside (and around) Joe Biden's big tent

“Joe Biden wants to cosplay as FDR, but is not willing to actually create a structural intervention that made FDR a four-term president,” Briahna Joy Gray told me when I interviewed the former press secretary to Senator Bernie Sanders not long ago about the early days of the Biden presidency.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been bringing Ink subscribers the extended audio of my interviews across the variegated factions of President Biden’s big tent. You’ve already heard from Robert Reich and the Rev. William Barber. Today I talk to Gray.

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If Reich represents the progressive economist who is surprised at the boldness of the early Biden presidency, if Barber represents the outside activist who takes it upon himself to make Biden do more than he might want to do, Gray represents that slice of the left that is not satisfied. That doesn’t buy the FDR comparisons, that thinks progressives are failing to use their “leverage” — a favorite word of hers — to achieve more, that believes the left is too cheap a date, willing to settle for too little.

If you find yourself sympathetic to her view, you might not agree with the prior two interviews. If you agree with them, you might not agree with Gray, who co-hosts the podcast “Bad Faith.” Listen anyway. That, at least, is my recommendation. Part of what makes me hopeful about the Biden era, apart from the vital matter of policy, is that, culturally, it is arguing for the values of coalition, which is to say being able to tolerate, haggle, and hang with people who are not your identical twins.

Above all, what I took from this conversation is Gray’s mantra of “leverage.” It’s something all of us who want big things to happen need to think about. How does leverage work? When do you use it? Can it be overused? How do you get right the balance between going to war and being a team player? These are vital questions.


My conversation with Briahna Joy Gray.

(And my earlier conversations with Robert Reich and the Rev. William Barber.)

Photo: Jim Bennett/Getty