David Pakman: Politics of Trump, Biden, Bernie, AOC, Socialism & Wokeism | Lex Fridman Podcast #375 | Summary and Q&A

May 6, 2023
Lex Fridman Podcast
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David Pakman: Politics of Trump, Biden, Bernie, AOC, Socialism & Wokeism | Lex Fridman Podcast #375


Trump's strengths were his ability to connect with his base and present himself as a problem solver, but his weaknesses included a lack of knowledge in key areas, such as international relations and policy details.

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Key Insights

  • 👀 The tweet that gained attention resulted in a wave of attacks and backlash, leading to the regretful deletion of the tweet. The attacks escalated, involving prominent figures such as Candace Owens and Donald Trump Jr.
  • 🔎 The conversation between David Pakman and Lex Fridman explored the definitions and distinctions between different political terms such as liberal, progressive, Democrat, left-wing, and socialist. These terms can have different meanings depending on context and personal interpretation.
  • 🤔 The use of political terms can be used to start or stop conversations, or as insults and tools to stifle conversation. It is important to define these terms when having discussions for a better understanding of the ideas they represent.
  • 💭 The term "leftist" is often used negatively to describe an outraged left-wing commentator. "Progressive" is no longer used as a smear, while "liberal" has evolved and is now associated with the mainstream Democratic Party.
  • 👥 The conversation touched on the differences between terms like Liberal and Progressive, which have evolved over time. "Liberal" was often synonymous with "progressive" in the past but now has a different meaning and is used as a term of criticism within the left-leaning political spectrum.
  • 🌍 "Democratic socialism" and "social democracy" were discussed as different terms with varied meanings. Progressive ideology was associated with social democracy, while Democratic socialism was seen as a form of actual socialism that socializes ownership of the means of production.
  • 🎭 Conversations with people who hold different views can be challenging but also eye-opening and insightful. Despite disagreements, it is possible to engage in meaningful conversations and learn from one another.
  • 😶 David shared his experiences of engaging with controversial figures, highlighting instances where conversations went wrong and threats he received afterward. Some conversations became tense and challenging, leading to regret for participating in them.
  • 🗳 When asked about the 2024 election, David shared his assessment that if the election were held today, Joe Biden would have a better chance of winning against Donald Trump. However, he acknowledged the limitations of this assessment and highlighted the changes that can happen in the political landscape.


  • I tweet that and then I finish the day and I wake up the next morning and I glance at my phone. I'm seeing all these verified accounts that are, you know, quote tweeting it, and demanding a retraction and whatever. And I go, uh oh, okay, this looks like it's getting some attention. I then continue about my day. Around noon, I hear from my dad tha... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Did Donald Trump's approach to international relations and negotiations have any positive impact during his presidency?

Donald Trump's approach to international relations and negotiations during his presidency had some positive impact in specific cases. For instance, his negotiations with North Korea brought the two countries to the table and temporarily eased tensions. However, critics argue that his approach was often unpredictable, lacked strategic thinking, and alienated long-standing allies. Additionally, his isolationist policies and withdrawal from international agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement were met with criticism. Ultimately, the effectiveness of Trump's approach to international relations is a topic of ongoing debate.


In this video, David Pakman, a left-wing, progressive political commentator, discusses various political terms and labels, such as liberal, Democrat, left-wing, leftist, progressive, socialist, communist, Marxist, far left, and center left. He explains that these terms can have different meanings depending on the context and how they are used, and they can either stimulate or hinder meaningful conversations. He also shares his personal experiences with online controversies and the threats he received as a result of a controversial tweet. The video covers topics including the differences between terms like liberal and progressive, the evolution of these terms over time, the distinction between social democracy and democratic socialism, and the potential future of politics in the context of figures like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden.

Questions & Answers

Q: Are there interesting differences between terms like liberal, Democrat, left-wing, etc.?

Yes, there are two sets of distinctions. One set is based on the definitions of these terms as political labels, while the other set is more about the way they are used in conversations and debates. These terms can have positive or negative connotations, and they can be used to start conversations or stop them.

Q: How have the terms progressive and leftist been used recently?

While progressive is no longer used as a smear, leftist is currently being used negatively to describe outraged left-wing commentators. The discussion about being on the left is often more about image and perception rather than policy ideas.

Q: Is there an interesting definable distinction between liberal and progressive?

The meaning of liberal has evolved over time. Previously, it meant what we now mean by progressive. However, in recent years, progressive has been the preferred term for those who see liberal as not left enough. The shift in meaning has occurred due to changes in the political spectrum and the perception of these terms.

Q: How does the term Liberal apply to Joe Biden?

Liberal has been used to describe Joe Biden as someone who is not left enough. It has been shifted to mean a more center-left approach in politics. However, it is important to note that these terms can mean different things to different people and are often used with an agenda attached to them.

Q: Can progressive be used synonymously with Democratic socialists?

No, progressive and Democratic socialism are not synonymous. Democratic socialism is a form of socialism that seeks to socialize the means of production. Progressivism, as used in 2023, is associated with social democracy, which is a highly regulated form of capitalism found in countries like Denmark.

Q: Is the transition from social democracy to democratic socialism a significant shift?

Yes, it represents a fundamental shift in how society operates. Social democracy involves socializing more aspects of capitalism, such as healthcare and the military, while democratic socialism goes beyond that and seeks to socialize ownership of the means of production and businesses.

Q: How do you handle conversations with people you disagree with, such as Patrick Bet-David and Michael Knowles?

Conversations with people I disagree with can vary depending on the person and the context. For example, the conversations I had with Patrick Bet-David and Jesse Lee Peterson were different experiences. I may adjust my level of seriousness or approach based on whether it's a deep policy discussion or a performance for an audience. I engaged in a conversation with Michael Knowles but decided to step away due to threats I received afterward.

Q: Do you worry about being captured by your audience's expectations and becoming a partisan hack?

I am aware of the potential for audience capture, but I don't feel it has significantly shaped my program. I understand there are topics that may generate displeasure with my core audience, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or my views on vaccines. I try to find a balance between providing content for my audience and maintaining independence in my thinking.

Q: Do you regret tweeting controversial statements like the one about the mass shooting at a Christian school?

I do regret deleting the tweet because it sparked a controversy and attacks from various sources. However, my intention behind the tweet was to critique the idea of only offering thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting. I recognize that the tweet could have been phrased better, but it does represent my disgust with the lack of action on gun control.

Q: How do you navigate the negativity and divisiveness of Twitter and journalism?

Twitter and journalism can contribute to negativity and divisiveness in politics. While I recognize the drawbacks of these platforms, I also see them as opportunities to get my message out. I try not to take myself too seriously and maintain a balance between serious policy discussions and more sensationalist content. I encourage my audience to consume a wide range of sources and viewpoints to form a well-rounded understanding.

Q: Who do you think would win in a matchup between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the next election?

If the election were held today, I believe Joe Biden would win. Based on the outcomes of the 2020 election and the subsequent changes in political dynamics, I see no compelling reasons to suggest that Trump would have an advantage over Biden.

Q: How would you compare Trump and Biden as public figures?

Trump is known for his chaotic and often disrespectful approach, while Biden has faced criticisms regarding his age and cognitive abilities. While both have their flaws, I believe Trump's unhinged personality and lack of knowledge on many issues pose a greater threat to the standing of the United States, whereas Biden's deficits are less concerning in this geopolitical context.

Q: Where do you place yourself on the political spectrum, and how do you compare to AOC and Bernie Sanders?

I place myself as a progressive social democrat who is to the left of Joe Biden. I identify with many of Bernie Sanders' ideas but may be more flexible in terms of policy implementation. For example, while I support the goal of universal healthcare, I'm open to different models beyond just expanding Medicare. It's difficult to precisely position myself relative to AOC and Bernie, but I consider myself to be in a similar range of left-leaning politics.

Q: What are your thoughts on the potential future of figures like AOC and Bernie Sanders in politics?

I believe AOC has the potential to have significant staying power in American politics if she avoids major political pitfalls. Her charisma, likability, and ability to provoke both support and opposition make her a compelling figure. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, may have less appeal on a national level due to his age and policy stances, but he has influenced the political discourse and is likely to have a continued presence in American elected politics.

Q: Do you think the strategy of deliberately provoking and angering the other side is the future of political elections?

Angering the other side can be part of a successful political strategy, but it is not the only factor. Effective communication of policy ideas, understanding how to relate to adversaries on stage and in the media, and skillful utilization of social media play critical roles as well. The ability to generate attention and genuinely connect with voters through various platforms is a key aspect of modern politics.

Q: What are your views on the corruption or bias within the DNC and its impact on Bernie's chances in the elections?

The DNC has a role in influencing the nomination process and coordinating behind the scenes to support their preferred candidates. While it can be frustrating, it is not illegal. In the 2020 primary, I saw a potential uphill battle for Bernie due to factors like the influence of South Carolina and the endorsements of smaller Democratic candidates. While I understand the frustration, it is important to recognize the role of the party machinery and the complexity of the primary process.


The video provides insights into the distinctions and meanings of various political labels and terms. It emphasizes the importance of context and understanding how these terms can be used positively or negatively to shape public perception. Discussions on Twitter, biases within political institutions, and the challenges of navigating online controversies are also addressed. The potential future of politics is explored through the analysis of figures like AOC and Bernie Sanders. The conversation highlights the need for critical thinking, consuming a variety of sources, and balancing serious policy discussions with attractive content in the evolving landscape of political communication.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Trump's strength was his ability to connect with his base and present himself as a problem solver.

  • He had a talent for presenting himself as confident and in control, which appealed to many of his supporters.

  • However, his weaknesses included a lack of knowledge in key areas, such as international relations and policy details.

  • His handling of COVID-19 was seen as a major failing, as he downplayed the severity of the virus and failed to take appropriate action.

  • Overall, while Trump had his strengths, his presidency was marked by controversy, misinformation, and a lack of expertise in crucial areas.

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