This Conservative Thinks America’s Institutions ‘Earned’ Their Distrust
The Ezra Klein Show
Tue, August 15, 2023
Podchat Summary

The Collapse of Trust in American Institutions

In this episode of the podcast, Jane Coaston takes over as the host and interviews Mary Katharine Ham, a conservative writer and journalist, about the collapse of trust in American institutions, with a particular focus on conservatives. They delve into the role of the media in this collapse and how the 2016 election has impacted trust in the media.

Coaston and Ham also explore the challenges that the Republican Party is facing in the upcoming 2024 election. They discuss the shifting dynamics within the party and the potential strategies that Republicans may employ to regain trust and support.

One of the key topics they touch on is the issue of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting distrust between parents and school boards. They examine the reasons behind this distrust and the implications it may have for the education system moving forward.

If you're interested in understanding the current state of trust in American institutions, the role of the media, and the challenges facing the Republican Party, this episode provides valuable insights from two knowledgeable voices in the field.

Original Show Notes

You can’t understand the modern Republican Party without understanding the complete collapse of trust in mainstream institutions that has taken place among its voters over the last half-century.

In 1964, 73 percent of Republicans said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing always or most of the time. Today, that number is down to 9 percent. And it’s not just government. Pew found that only 35 percent of Republicans trust national news and 61 percent think public schools are having a negative effect on the country. Many of the issues animating the modern right — from fights over school curriculums and learning loss to media bias and Covid vaccines — are connected to this deep distrust.

Mary Katharine Ham is a journalist and conservative commentator who has appeared on CNN, Fox News and ABC News. In Katharine Ham’s view, America’s institutions have “earned” her party’s rampant distrust. Across her writings, she has leveled scathing critiques of numerous mainstream institutions, from the media to the C.D.C. and universities, arguing that these institutions have consistently failed to serve ordinary Americans. So this is a conversation that explores Katharine Ham’s critique in order to understand the distrust at the heart of the Republican Party.


Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Coalition of the Distrustful” by Michelle Goldberg

End of Discussion by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson

Book Recommendations:

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

The Right by Matthew Continetti

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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Kristin Lin. Fact checking by Michelle Harris, with Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Rogé Karma. The show’s production team also includes Emefa Agawu and Rollin Hu. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

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