The Saving Elephants Podcast features engaging conversations about conservative values with a mercifully modern twist. Tired of political shock-talk and rank punditry on your radio and TV? Curious about what conservative thinkers of yesteryear had to say but don't have time to read some terribly long, boring book they wrote? Want to learn why conservatism still holds value for Millennials today? Join us as we re-ignite conservatism for Millennials!
Episode 93 – Repainting the Fusionist Fence with James Davenport
1:05:25Founded in 1953, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has remained on the forefront of the conservative intellectual movement with a particular focus on ensuring college students are equipped with the tools they need to explore the conservative worldview. During the tumultuous begins of the modern conservative movement in the United States, ISI embraced many of the views and adherents of both the libertarian and traditionalist wings of the movements. Today, ISI is yet again navigating the divisions on the Right as they seek to maintain a platform where these embattled factions can meet together and debate their differences with civility and passion. Joining Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis in this episode is James Davenport, Academic Program Officer for ISI, as they discuss indispensable books for the student of conservatism, the plight of young conservatives on college campuses, the importance and relevance of fusionism, cancel culture and civility, and how conservatives might combat the continuous Leftward bent of higher education. About James Davenport James Davenport is Academic Program Officer for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He received his BA in politics, philosophy, and theology from the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. As an undergraduate, James was an ISI Honors Scholar and president of his campus ISI Society—The Montaigne Society. He also participated in seminars with the Elm Institute, was a fellow with the Philadelphia Commons Institute (formerly the Agora Institute), and was a course fellow in religion and politics with the Hertog Foundation. James’ writing can be found in the Imaginative Conservative, The University Bookman, Philanthropy Daily, Front Porch Republic, the Forma Journal of the Circe Institute, and more. He also hosts the Conservative Conversations with ISI podcast alongside ISI President Johnny Burtka and National Director of Student Programs Marlo Slayback. You can find James on Twitter @mrJSDavenport Listener Mail In the listener mail segment Josh responds to a listener’s request to cover the topics of conservatism in urban areas and the challenge of countering the Left’s hold over elite institutions, particularly in higher education.
Episode 92 – The Spice of Life
1:31:10As the old adage goes, variety is the spice of life. And the conservative heartily agrees. Variety, not uniformity, is what gives life its vitality and each life the potential for self-actualization and the opportunity for each of us to develop in our own unique way. But is variety compatible with equality? What do we mean by equality, and how might equality be established? What is the relationship between equality, progress, and justice? In this solo episode, Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis explores what conservatism has to say about variety and equality and their relationship to progress and justice. No one disputes inequalities exist. But there is much disagreement on why they exist, or what qualifies as an “inequality”, let alone what should be done about it. Perhaps the sharpest question we can ask is who is to blame for inequalities? Does the mere fact that one person is unequal than another person create an injustice? And what of the various kinds of inequalities? We might be able to reach a wide consensus that no injustice is done if John is taller than Bill, or even if John is wealthier than Bill. But what if John belongs to an ethnic or social group that’s predominantly wealthier than Bill’s ethnic or social group? Is that an injustice? To the conservative, true equality—equality before the law and before God—is precisely what gives rise to inequalities. And enforcing unnatural equality necessarily violates our natural equality. If people who are born with different abilities and access to opportunities are all set on a level playing field, we would naturally expect radically different outcomes. If we were to force equal access to opportunities by granting them to those without and depriving them to those who would otherwise have access, we would still see different outcomes because people would still be operating within the abilities they inherited at birth. If we strove still to eliminate even these inequalities, by demanding or enforcing that all outcomes be the same—such that if one person’s abilities allowed them to produce more or excel in some way beyond that of their peers we would deprive them of their excess production—we might finally achieve absolute equality. But the price we’d pay would be the death of distinction, variety, and—in a multitude of historical examples where such heavy-handed leveling has been attempted—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Is that justice? Is that progress?
Episode 91 – Invisible Men with Ian Rowe and Nique Fajors
54:23Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis is joined by Ian Rowe and Nique Fajors—two black Harvard Business School graduates—who hope to change the narrative and highlight the positive achievements of black men in the United States. What is wrong with the common narrative surrounding black men? How much has changed over recent decades and are those changes adequately reflected in the narrative? Ian and Nique host The Invisible Men, a podcast and video platform interviewing successful black men. In the aftermath of Rodney King’s assault by police officers in the 90s and his attackers’ subsequent acquittal, Ian Rowe and Nique Fajors grew weary of a public narrative proclaiming that black men in America were doomed to failure under an oppressive system. A feeling of invisibleness struck both Ian and Nique who were then Harvard Business School classmates as the stories of men like them became increasingly ignored in the public eye. Today, Ian and Nique have resurrected “The Invisible Men” as a video podcast. In their inaugural episode, Ian and Nique share their inspiration behind launching “The Invisible Men” documentary in the 90s and discuss why—30 years later—their message of agency and empowerment is needed more than ever. About Ian Rowe Ian Rowe is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on education and upward mobility, family formation, and adoption. Mr. Rowe is also the cofounder of Vertex Partnership Academies, a new network of character-based International Baccalaureate high schools opening in the Bronx in 2022; the chairman of the board of Spence-Chapin, a nonprofit adoption services organization; and the cofounder of the National Summer School Initiative. He concurrently serves as a senior visiting fellow at the Woodson Center and a writer for the 1776 Unites Campaign. Until July 1, 2020, Mr. Rowe was CEO of Public Prep, a nonprofit network of public charter schools based in the South Bronx and Lower East Side of Manhattan. Before joining Public Prep, he was deputy director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, senior vice president of strategic partnerships and public affairs at MTV, director of strategy and performance measurement at the USA Freedom Corps office in the White House, and cofounder and president of Third Millennium Media. Mr. Rowe also joined Teach for America in its early days. Mr. Rowe has an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was the first black editor-in-chief of The Harbus, the Harvard Business School newspaper; a BS in computer science engineering from Cornell University; and a diploma in electrical engineering from Brooklyn Technical High School (Brooklyn Tech), one of New York City’s elite public schools, which specializes in science, technology, and mathematics. You can follow Mr. Rowe on Twitter @IanVRowe About Nique Fajors Nique Fajors is a business leader in retail, e-Commerce, software entertainment, and organizational development. Mr. Fajors has launched over 85 e-Commerce products and services generating over $2.1 billion. A nationally respected business thought leader, he has been quoted in the New York Times, The Financial Times, and Business Week and been a speaker at TEDx. You can follow Mr. Fajors on Twitter @NFajors
Episode 90 – Redlining and Reparations with Charles Marohn
1:12:06America’s history of bigotry and racism have left wounds that fester to this day. How might the country make amends to those racial minorities who were harmed? To what extent are white Americans responsible for addressing wrongs perpetrated by their ancestors? To what extent can the effects of these past sins be measured and known? These are not easy questions, nor is there much consensus on where we go from here. But there is one area where both conservatives and liberals may be able to find common ground: addressing historic wrongs committed by the practice of redlining at the local level. Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis is joined again by Charles Marohn to discuss the history of redlining, its effect on American minorities, and a possible path forward to making restitutions consistent with conservative principles. Much of their discussion centers around an article Marohn wrote for Strong Towns entitled The Local Case for Reparations. About Charles Marohn Charles (or “Chuck” to friends and colleagues) Marohn is the founder and president of Strong Towns, a nonprofit that supports thousands of people across the United States and Canada who are advocating for a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world. Marohn is a professional engineer and a land use planner with decades of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, both from the University of Minnesota. Marohn is the author of two books: Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity and Confessions of a Recovering Engineer. He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content. He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America. Planetizen named him one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time. He is a long-time commentator on KAXE Northern Community Radio. He currently co-hosts KAXE’s Dig Deep program, a monthly examination of public policy issues affecting Minnesotans. Marohn grew up on a small farm in central Minnesota. The oldest of three sons of two elementary school teachers, he joined the Minnesota National Guard on his seventeenth birthday during his junior year of high school and served in the Guard for nine years. In addition to being passionate about building a stronger America, he loves playing music, is an obsessive reader, and religiously follows his favorite team, the Minnesota Twins. Chuck and his wife live with their two daughters in their hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota. You can find him on Twitter @clmarohn Listener Mail Josh responds to a listener’s message asking if he would encourage his listeners to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Bonus Episode – En Route with Dennis Sanders
1:15:51Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis joins Dennis Sanders on his podcast En Route to discuss the past, present, and future of the GOP and conservative movements, what younger generations of Americans have to offer the country, and where the #NeverTrump movement went wrong. About Dennis Sanders Dennis Sanders is a blogger, podcaster, pastor, and media and technology professional. He hosts En Route, a podcast about the journey focusing on religion, politics and culture and the things we discover on the way. Dennis was born and raised in Flint, Michigan and currently lives in Minneapolis. You can find Dennis on Twitter @denminn
Episode 89 – Uprooted with Gracy Olmstead
1:16:57Often the highest praise we can offer a bright, promising student is “you’ll go far”. Americans have long associated success with striking out on one’s own and heading for greener pastures. But is this transient attitude conducive to the long-term health of local communities? What happens to the places we leave behind and what impact does that have on us? Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis is joined by Gracy Olmstead, author of Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We've Left Behind. Their conversation delves into how Americans have historically thought of leaving or sticking with the communities of their upbringing and how American practices don’t always align with American values. Gracy offers her thoughts on what wisdom Alexis de Tocqueville and Wendell Berry have to share and how the pains of homesickness might point us towards an understanding of what parts of the past are worth bringing into the future. About Gracy Olmstead Gracy Olmstead is a writer and journalist located outside Washington, D.C. Her work has appear in The American Conservative, The Washington Times, the Idaho Press Tribune, The Federalist, The Week, National Review, and Acculturated. Gracy’s book examines the heartbreaking consequences of uprooting—for both her hometown of Emmett, Idaho, and for the greater heartland of America. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Uprooted wrestles with the questions of what we owe the places we come from and what we are willing to sacrifice for profit and progress. You can follow Gracy on Twitter @GracyOlmstead Listener Mail At the end of the episode, Josh responds to a listener’s question about the recent debate on the Right regarding whether Viktor Orbán policies in Hungary are worth emulating in the United States to effectively engage in the culture wars.
Episode 88 – Opioid Pains with Peter Pischke
1:09:33The opioid overdose crisis is back in the news with recent revelations that the already shocking death toll has increased dramatically since the pandemic. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death with opioids accounting for most of the deaths. This crisis has certainly received a lot of attention from lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and the media. However, Saving Elephants returning guest Peter Pischke argues that much of the debate over what to do about the growing crisis is overly focused on patients with medical needs who rarely abuse their medication. About Peter Pischke Peter Pischke is an independent disability and health reporter covering politics, journalism, ethics, and culture. He is the host of the Happy Warrior Podcast and the creator of The Happy Warrior substack. His specialty is communicating on the little-discussed side of the opioid crisis, the side from those reliant on opioid pain medication, the prescription opioid crisis. Peter himself is a disabled pain patient and became deeply impacted in 2018 when his trusted physician force tapered him off his medication. With an ear to the ground on the different sides of this deeply felt issue, Peter tries to parse out what is happening on the ground and give his readers a clear picture of what the opioid crisis is and how we might get out of this man-made mess. Peter was a guest on the Saving Elephants podcast in Episode 42 - Media Bias with Peter Pischke. You can read his recent article in the New York Daily News on the CDC’s mishandling of the opioid crisis here. You can find Peter on Twitter @HappyWarriorP
Episode 87 – E Pluribus Unum with Avi Woolf
1:15:38What is America and what does it mean to be an American? We Americans have been debating this question for centuries, yet we seem even less united on a common understanding than Americans of prior generations. America’s original national motto was E Pluribus Unum: “Out of many, one”. It contained the notion that this diverse country of ethnicities and religions and ideologies were somehow unified in some sense. In 1956, our national motto changed to “In God We Trust”. Yet this was no less of a statement on American unity. In 1956 the Cold War was raging, and the government of the United States sought to distinguish itself from the atheistic Soviet Union. Trusting in God was simply what it meant to be an American. And yet no one can deny that there are plenty of Americans who would not claim to believe, let alone trust, in God. And the idea that the best way to describe ourselves in light of our current political divides is “Out of many, one” seems downright laughable. Why is it so hard to come to a common agreement on what it means to be an American? What ideas have been tried in the past? Why did they fail and to what extent were they ever successful? How important is it that we reach some kind of consensus? Joining Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis to discuss these questions and more is returning guest Avi Woolf. About Avi Woolf Avi Woolf is a writer, editor, translator, and podcaster whose work has been published in Arc Digital, Commentary, National Review, The Bulwark, and The Dispatch. He is chief editor of the online Medium publication Conservative Pathways, and he—in his words—"hopes to help forge a path for a conservatism which is relevant for the 21st century while not abandoning the best of past wisdom.” Avi has been a guest on the show in two previous episodes as well: the first in which he explored the need for conservatism to find a way to appeal to people who live in urban areas in Episode 26 – Urban Conservatism and the second in which he mulled over the love/hate relationship the Right has long had with institutions of higher education in Episode 49 – God and the Speechless at Yale. Avi hosts his own podcast entitled Avi’s Conversational Corner, a podcast on culture, history, and politics in a broad perspective. You can find Avi on Twitter @AviWoolf
Episode 86 – Perfect Bedrock
1:06:26Josh takes a break from the guests to cover a little conservatism 101. Russell Kirk’s pithy list Ten Conservative Principles: begins with what Kirk called an enduring moral order: “The conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.” The full implications of this idea—not to mention the arguments in favor or disapproving of this view or the thorny business of trying to agree upon a working definition of “moral order”, “human nature”, or “permanent truths”—is precisely what makes this so challenging to untangle. But untangle we must for, if we ever hope to understand conservatism, we must first understand the foundation conservatism rests upon. It would be difficult to overemphasize the importance of order. It’s not some idea relegated to trivial conversations amongst people with a lot of time on their hands, it is quite literally the glue that holds reality together. “Either order in the cosmos is real, or all is chaos,” explained Kirk, “In a vortex of chaos, only force and appetite signify.” Everything conservatism defends as worth conserving rests on the idea that there exists some standard by which we can truthfully distinguish what things have value from mere popular preferences. Our ability to make these distinctions is important, but such efforts would be utterly hopeless if order did not exist. In that case all we could say is that some people prefer some things while other people prefer other things; we couldn’t make actual truth statements about those things. Edmund Burke put it more succinctly: “Good order is the foundation of all good things.” The connection between order and foundation is key. The existence of order—that is, something that is fixed, absolute, immutable, and completely outside of humanity’s ability to create or destroy—is precisely what grounds reality. Without it, all that’s left is chaos and appetite. Humans don’t submit to the gods they create; and if we come to believe there is no truth greater than whatever “truth” we create for ourselves we shouldn’t act surprised when a spirit of benevolence and comradery is insufficient to hold barbarism at bay. Without order, we don’t have a basis for justice or a universal argument for natural rights and liberty from coercion. If Kirk’s assertion of the existence of an enduring moral order is true, we’re faced with an abundance of questions, such as: Can we define this moral order, or at least discern it? If so, how? What is the relationship between societal order and the order within each individual in society? Where does this order come from? Is it spiritual in nature? What political and legal implications does a moral order impose? Doesn’t the flirtation with ideas of a moral order quickly descend into authoritarian theocracy? How does the conservative guard against that? What implications does this have for politics or the state? Or is this a matter of faith that should be left out of political considerations altogether? What is the relationship between order and liberty? Are these ideas in conflict or can they be reconciled? Josh tackles all that and more in this episode
Episode 85 – Strong Towns with Charles Marohn
1:05:25For thousands of years the ways in which cities and towns developed has provided us with a of blueprint for what human habitats need to flourish. Yet today many of our cities and towns have forsaken these tried-and-true methods and instead imposed rational planning and an overreliance on pricey infrastructure projects to foster growth and further development. What are the potential downfalls of departing from these practices of the past? Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis is joined by Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns to traverse the world of urban planning and discuss the need for a return to the ancient models of development, the terrible costs of over-indebted infrastructure projects to younger Americans, whether or not Wal-Mart is a net boon or detriment to local communities, and how conservatism can help us form a more prosperous and enjoyable world. Podcast Survey Help us make the podcast even better: Take the listener survey for a chance to win a Saving Elephants coffee mug. About Charles Marohn Charles (or “Chuck” to friends and colleagues) Marohn is the founder and president of Strong Towns, a nonprofit that supports thousands of people across the United States and Canada who are advocating for a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world. Marohn is a professional engineer and a land use planner with decades of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, both from the University of Minnesota. Marohn is the author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity (Wiley, 2019). He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content. He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America. Planetizen named him one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time. He is a long-time commentator on KAXE Northern Community Radio. He currently co-hosts KAXE’s Dig Deep program, a monthly examination of public policy issues affecting Minnesotans. Marohn grew up on a small farm in central Minnesota. The oldest of three sons of two elementary school teachers, he joined the Minnesota National Guard on his seventeenth birthday during his junior year of high school and served in the Guard for nine years. In addition to being passionate about building a stronger America, he loves playing music, is an obsessive reader, and religiously follows his favorite team, the Minnesota Twins. Chuck and his wife live with their two daughters in their hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota. You can find him on Twitter @clmarohn Listener Mail Josh responds to a listener’s question about conservatism’s challenges with appealing to minorities and whether our nation’s institutions are worth conserving given the history of American slavery and other past sins.