Return to Transcripts main page
Can Joe Biden's Big Polling Lead Be Trusted After 2016 Polling?; Why Donald Trump Did Two-Hour Virtual Rally But Bailed On Virtual Debate; Is The Economic Crisis Snowballing?; Book: Did Hallucinogens Play Role In The Origin Of Religion? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired October 10, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-four days and counting. Time to crunch the numbers. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Poll after poll shows Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden with a commanding lead over President Trump both nationally and in key states and after days of unparalleled chaos surrounding the White House, there's a feeling that this thing is getting away from the President.
As Peggy Noonan wrote for "The Wall Street Journal," quote, "This is also the week that journalists and politicos in Washington began wondering about something they never expected to be thinking about this year. They are wondering if November 3rd won't be a win for Joe Biden, but a blowout, a landslide in a polarized country that doesn't produce landslides anymore."
OK, but let's catch our collective breath for a moment and go back four years. Initially, many outlets were predicting a landslide for Hillary Clinton. In the end, despite her shocking defeat, the national polls largely got it right. At the end of the 2016 cycle, the "RealClearPolitics" average had Clinton winning the popular vote by 3.2 percentage points and she did win the popular vote by 2.1 percentage points, but at this moment of 2016, these polls from October had Clinton up by the following margins.
"NBC/Wall Street Journal" by 14, "Fox" said by 7, "CNN" by 6, Pew by 7. Those same polls today show Biden up by the following margins. "NBC/Wall Street Journal" by 14, same as in 2016, "Fox" by 10, "CNN" by 16, Pew by 10. Even Rasmussen Research, which many regard as right- leaning, showed Clinton ahead by 4 in 2016. Now they have Biden up nationally by 12 percentage points.
But many Democrats are still traumatized by the polling missteps in 2016 which overlooked the strength of Trump's support in battleground states. So let's compare what the state polls said in 2016 and what they're saying now. Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point, but a Marquette University Law School poll had Clinton up by 7 percentage points in October of 2016. That same Marquette poll now shows Joe Biden with only a 5-point lead.
At this same point in 2016, Reuters/Ipsos had the Wisconsin race too close to call. 2020 Reuters/Ipsos has Biden by 6 in Wisconsin.
Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point, but "The New York Times/Siena" poll had Clinton up by 7 in late October of 2016. That same poll right now has Biden up by 7. Also in Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac poll had Clinton up by 5 percentage points in late October of 2016. Today that same poll shows Biden up by a much wider margin of 13 percentage points. Monmouth at this time in 2016 gave Clinton a 10-point lead in the commonwealth. Monmouth currently has Biden up 12 in Pennsylvania.
Let's take a look at Michigan, another state that Hillary Clinton lost by less than 1 percent. At this exact week in 2016, Clinton led by 11 percentage points according to an EPIC-MRA poll. We don't have that same poll this year, but the most recent "NBC News Marist" survey of the state says it's Biden by 8. In 2016, Emerson had Clinton over Trump in Michigan by 7. Now Emerson has Biden winning Michigan by 10.
How about Florida? Clinton lost those 29 electoral votes by about 1 percentage point. October 17, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll in Florida had Clinton edging Trump by 4 points. Currently, Quinnipiac says it's Biden by 11.
And other states play an important role in the big picture. Trump won the state of Iowa by about 9 percentage points in 2016. The October Quinnipiac survey of Iowa had Clinton and Trump in a virtual tie. 2020 Quinnipiac has Biden leading by 5. Clinton edged out Trump in Minnesota by about 1 percentage point. SurveyUSA had Clinton with a 10-point lead in Minnesota. Now they say it's Biden by 7.
And finally, Missouri. Trump walloped Clinton there by about 18 points. The "RealClearPolitics" polling average in 2016 had Trump up by 18.5. Pretty much spot on. Now the Missouri "RCP" average has Trump leading by 7.
[09:05:00] Here's the bottom line. Both the national and state polls are telling a similar story, one of Joe Biden holding a comfortable lead with just about three weeks until the final day of voting. There's not a single poll that I can point to either nationally or in a battleground state that reads differently. If there were, I'd show it to you. And yes, that sounds a lot like 2016, but the margins by which Biden leads Trump are, in some instances, larger than by which Clinton led Trump four years ago. Still it all comes down to turnout.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com this hour and answer this survey question, do you trust the Trump versus Biden polls?
After the 2016 election, pollsters conducted an autopsy to figure out what the heck went wrong. So did they do enough to avoid a 2016 repeat, especially given the uncertainty that voter turnout plays during a pandemic? Joining me to discuss is Courtney Kennedy, the director of survey research at Pew and the lead researcher of the 2016 autopsy done by the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Courtney, thanks so much for being here. Why the disconnect in 2016 between the accuracy of the national surveys and those done in the battleground states? COURTNEY KENNEDY, DIRECTOR OF SURVEY RESEARCH, PEW RESEARCH CENTER: Hi, Michael. Well, the truth of the matter is that national polls tend to be done by pollsters with longer track records, more resources, more money to do good polling whereas state polls, on average, are done, you know, by your local TV station or your local newspaper. They have a lot less money and often they hire firms that don't have the resources or maybe the experience to get all those details right.
And that's right, the committee I served on found a lot of factors that contributed to those state errors. Some of them were in the pollsters' control and others were not
SMERCONISH: I did a deep dive and so, too, did my terrific crew of all the data to try and figure out where are we today as compared to 2016. In looking at Florida, and I'll put this up on the screen just by way of illustration, the "RealClearPolitics" averages for Florida, I saw something that jumped off the page. One survey that was in the field the 1st through 5th of October said it's Biden by 11. Another said -- and they were in the field at the exact same time and I'm talking Quinnipiac and "USA Today/Suffolk" said no, it's a tie.
Wow. A disparity. A tie versus 11 points and there's a lot of that out there in the state polling. I guess my question is how comfortable do you feel about 2020 prognostication as compared to 2016?
KENNEDY: Well, look, there's reason to be optimistic and there's still plenty of reason to be cautious. It is encouraging that a number of state-level pollsters have fixed some of the things that went wrong in 2016 and we have seen some pollsters, reliable national pollsters, answer the call that we need more and, frankly, higher quality polling done at the state level.
And we see that in some states like Arizona and Michigan, the number of polls this year is double or more what we had to this point in 2016. So that's all to the good but, you know, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, polls will always have a margin of error associated with them and they're always just going to be a snapshot in time of how voters are feeling right now.
SMERCONISH: My "SiriusXM" radio listeners love to talk of a hidden Trump vote. In 2016, was there a hidden Trump vote or is it better explained by late deciders?
KENNEDY: I would say late deciders. So with the Trump vote, there's one thing that's real and that is that Trump exceeded expectations in turning out voters, especially rural voters, voters who had voted rarely, if ever, before he came along and that definitely threw pollsters because pollsters were looking back at the prior election, 2012, what were the turnout patterns there and Trump upended that, to his credit, right? He did succeed there.
There's another notion of Trump voters that maybe they're taking polls, but they're not being honest. Maybe, you know, they're saying they're voting third party or they're not being honest about their support for Trump, you know, the shy Trump hypothesis and that has really been disproven over the last four years. There's been a lot of testing done about that and little to no evidence that that's a major concern.
SMERCONISH: Courtney, something that seems to fly in the face of all the information that I've already shown is recent data from "Gallup." Catherine, can you put that up on the screen? It's the, you know, age- old better-off question and when voters were asked whether they're better off now than four years ago, there it is, 56 percent said -- and this is amidst a pandemic -- that they're better off.
How can that be squared with Donald Trump losing decisively to Joe Biden?
KENNEDY: Well, sometimes we see when people answer a question, you know, a question like that, Trump supporters know that, you know, Trump's their president and so they're inclined to give answers that are favorable, that say, you know what? Yes, I like how things are going. So they might not take that question literally, but they might instead be just, you know, kind of giving it an endorsement of the fact that Trump is their president, you know, and they really like that.
So I think that could probably be part of it. That would explain, you know, a good 40 percent. It's hard to see how you get up to, you know, the north of 50 percent on that though. I agree, that's a little anomalous sounding.
SMERCONISH: And finally, Pew was just in the field and I think what differentiates Pew from all the other data that I've talked about is your sample size is 10,000. Give me one takeaway that you want people to know.
KENNEDY: Sure. So Biden supporters are not necessarily as enthusiastic about their candidate. You know, the support level is not as strong in terms of how much they love the top of their ticket as it is on the Trump side, but they're just as committed to vote for Biden. So we see different levels of enthusiasm, but basically the exact same level of commitment to vote for the candidate.
SMERCONISH: That was excellent. Thank you so much for being here.
KENNEDY: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my website, my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. This, I think, comes from Twitter, "Smerconish, at this time four years ago, wasn't there a much greater percentage of likely voters undecided? it's hard to find any now."
Mary, I think I'll answer that intuitively and not with data. I think that's true and something else that I think is significant is that, Libertarians and Green Party advocates won't like me saying this, but I think the reality, there's not the enthusiasm in this cycle that there was last time for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld or Jill Stein and therefore, you know, when you're Donald Trump and you're struggling to get to 50.1, with the benefit of third-party candidates, it makes your task a little bit easier. He really doesn't have the strength of a third-party ticket to assist him in that regard which I think is a a big factor.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question. Do you trust the Trump versus Biden polls?
Up ahead, the President bailed on this week's debate because it would have been held virtually, but he did a two-hour virtual rally on Rush Limbaugh's radio program. What does that say about the synergy between talk radio and his political rise?
And in the early 1990s, economists scoffed when a Pulitzer prize- winning journalist warned of coming income inequality. What does that journalist think about the economy today?
Plus, you'll love this. Plato, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius and Jerry Garcia? A provocative new book says the founders of western civilization had something in common with the Kool-Aid Acid Test. They all did psychedelics. The author is here to explain.
SMERCONISH: With just 24 days until the final day of voting, President Trump trails Joe Biden in most polls and thus needs to grab every possible opportunity to change that dynamic, yet this week he withdrew from next week's scheduled town hall debate, unhappy with the debate commission's decision to hold it virtually because of COVID concerns.
Instead, he appeared on Friday on Rush Limbaugh's radio program for two hours, Rush Limbaugh to whom he awarded a medal of freedom at this year's State of the Union address. The host called it the largest virtual rally in radio history and his guest was equally complementary.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why I can talk to you, Rush, the Great Rush, and you are the great one and I'm honored to know you, but I can talk to you and I can spell out all of the dishonesty and everything else and millions of people are listening right now.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: They are.
TRUMP: I hope you have your all-time biggest audience.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: To me, it marked things coming full circle. Let me explain. Donald Trump first flirted with running for president on the eve of the 1988 cycle. He traveled to New Hampshire for an event. It was October 22nd, 1987 at Yoken's Restaurant in Portsmouth, thar she blows, and by all accounts Trump wowed a standing-room-only crowd, then came the speculation that he would soon run for president.
That didn't happen and contrary to what he said at the time, I don't think he'd have won if he tried in 1988 or '92 or '96 or the year 2000, 2004, 2008 or 2012. And yes, he told us he was thinking about running in each of those cycles, but by 2016, the timing was right. The political landscape had shifted, largely because of the rise of a partisan media. That began with Rush Limbaugh's syndication in 1988. At the time, there was no place for conservatives to get their news and entertainment and Rush Limbaugh filled that void.
Over the ensuing three decades, the media landscape changed and ultimately, Donald Trump would be the beneficiary. By 2016, Republican primary voters, the most devoted of talk radio listeners and "Fox News" viewers, they were preconditioned.
They were primed, they were ready to nominate a candidate who mirrored their favorite media personality -- entertaining, politically incorrect, a champion of outsiders -- and Donald Trump seized the mantle and he harnessed the power built by a polarized media, he capitalized upon the distrust in the mainstream media. As Harvard professor Thomas Patterson has written, "He was a road show version of a right-wing talk show." So of course he would prefer Limbaugh to an anchored debate.
Joining me now to discuss is Brian Rosenwald. Brian literally wrote the book on this topic. It's called, "Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States" and, for "The Washington Post," he just wrote a review of the first debate headlined, "Trump debated like a conservative talk radio host and that is why he failed." Hey, Brian, let's begin with what you wrote about the debate. Why did what Trump did yesterday with Rush work, but what he did on the debate stage not work?
BRIAN ROSENWALD, AUTHOR, "TALK RADIO'S AMERICA": It's all about the audience Michael. When talk radio hosts get out beyond the audience that's tuned in, looking for their usual, daily, you know, schtick, it ends up blowing up in their faces because the broader American public doesn't want outrageous content.
They don't want, you know, caustic nicknames, they don't want someone sort of verbally rolling their eyes or screaming at people or cutting them off, whereas the person tuning in, they want that, they want to hear their values stuck up for, they want to hear someone who's fighting for them and Trump gives them that in abundance.
SMERCONISH: In other words, what Donald Trump, what President Trump did with Limbaugh yesterday, and I heard a great deal of it, it was -- it was very engaging, at parts, it was very entertaining, but when he tries to be that version of Donald Trump on a debate stage, it doesn't work. By the way, he has the ability to reign that persona in and we see it when he delivers State of the Union addresses. ROSENWALD: Absolutely. He will do State of the Union addresses, he did his acceptance speech, he's reading off the teleprompter, you know, there might be a little ad libbing here and there, but it's mostly a traditional political speech. He understands that that broader audience expects that from him and that's, you know, what he should have done on the debate stage. Instead, you know, he told Limbaugh yesterday, well, I had to, Joe was lying, I had to cut him off but, you know, I should have just let him go because he's insane, he was losing it.
I mean, this is the kind of thing that the Limbaugh audience is looking for and it is engaging. You didn't know what he was going to say. He went on for two hours without a commercial yesterday and, you know, he's got nicknames, he's blaming this person, that person, but when you do that for that broader audience, they're looking for something more serious and sober and substantive and he just didn't give them that.
SMERCONISH: You know, it was interesting, to me, the comments that he made. Actually, Catherine, I'm going to switch the list of the audio. I want to go to the "Fox" cut first. Here's something that he said yesterday about "Fox News" that I think you'll find interesting. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: You have such an incredible audience, so I can tell them about "Fox" being a big obstacle. It's a problem. "Fox" is a problem. When Roger Ailes ran "Fox," I mean, Roger had a very strong point of view. That's totally gone and I think it's influenced by Paul Ryan. He's on the board. I can't believe it. Here's a guy who failed as speaker.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: When I heard President Trump bashing "Fox News" yesterday on Limbaugh's massive platform, I couldn't help but think if, in 24 days, this doesn't go his way, is this the next chapter for Donald Trump?
ROSENWALD: I think so. You know, he's got all the tools to hold the audience that he needs engaged and we shouldn't forget, Michael, that to have a great talk show, you need like 4 or 5 percent of the market and you get a huge audience that would please any host, but to win an election, you need 50 percent plus one or 270 electoral votes.
You need a much broader audience and some people listening to that were nodding their heads on the air saying, yes, "Fox" is the problem, they're not complimentary enough, you know, it's only the good guys in prime time, but the broader audience, that sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory.
SMERCONISH: Brian Stelter's "RELIABLE SOURCES" newsletter yesterday had a pretty stunning paragraph in it drawing on Pew research data. I'm going to read you this. "A new report from Pew found that 90 percent of Republicans who only listened to 'Fox News' or talk radio as major sources of political news said the country has controlled the outbreak as well as it could.
'Fox' loyalists were also more likely to feel like the pandemic has been overblown. As of early September, among Republicans with only 'Fox News' and/or talk radio as major sources, 78 percent said the coronavirus has been made a bigger deal than it really is. Only small numbers of Democrats made similar assertions."
The bottom line is the more you listen to "Fox" and talk exclusively, the more you think this whole COVID-19 subject has been blown out of proportion. Your final thought?
ROSENWALD: That's absolutely true and those numbers went down precipitously if you consult other sources and Limbaugh and Trump, they're speaking to that audience, they're speaking to the folks who are only watching "Fox," who are only listening to talk radio and who want exactly what Trump is giving them, but that doesn't get him to a majority of the electorate, that doesn't get him to swing voters and frankly, Michael, he'd be better off coming on this show than the blitz he's done on conservative media because I don't think he reached a single undecided voter With Kennedy and Lithium (ph) and Rush ...
SMERCONISH: Well, I said that by Twitter -- I said that by Twitter yesterday. Brian, I said -- I said on Twitter yesterday, Mr. President, you'd be better off reaching my Independent audience than the votes you already had because, frankly, you need the people who watch or listen to my show. Anyway, thank you for being here. Your book, you know I believe, is terrific.
ROSENWALD: My pleasure, Michael. Always happy to do it.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This comes from Facebook I think, "No one is listening to Rush unless they are already voting for Trump."
David, that's true, but Rush Limbaugh has completely supplanted the role that used to be played by the Republican party and so therefore, I totally get it. It was politically wise for Trump to go for two hours with Rush. It was a GOTV, get out the vote effort. This is the way you mobilize the base. No, as I just said to Brian Rosenwald, you're not going to win new converts, but you are going to enthuse those that you need to get out there on Election Day.
I want to remind you, go to my website at Smerconish.com. Are you answering the survey question? I hope so. Do you trust the Trump versus Biden polls?
Up ahead, inequality in America is worse than ever. According to the Federal Reserve -- listen to this -- just 59 Americans, 59, own more wealth than the poorest half of the country. My next guest earned the wrath of economists when, in the early 1990s, he said this was going to happen.
And did the founders of western civilization do psychedelics? A provocative new book says yes and the author is here to explain. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Back if the early '90s, two Pulitzer Prize winning "Philadelphia Inquirer" reporters went to number one on "The New York Times" best-seller list with their newspaper series turned book. It was called "America: What Went Wrong." Their analysis of patterns among working class people, vanishing jobs, diminishing health care, fading pensions was revelatory and at times controversial.
Economists disagreed when they warned of growing income inequality. Well, in fact, new Federal Reserve data just released shows that just 59 Americans own more wealth than the poorest half of the country.
One early adherent to their work was then presidential candidate Bill Clinton who waved their book on the campaign trail when discussing the economy. One of the key takeaways of the book that macroeconomic information like unemployment numbers often don't tell the full story of what's going on at the bottom of the economic ladder. Twenty-four years later, another presidential candidate Donald Trump rode some of their criticism of free tray to populous victory.
So, what do the authors thing now? This year Jim Steele and Don Barlett updated their work and published "America: What Went Wrong? The Crisis Deepens." And Jim Steele joins me now.
So, Jim, you warned of a two-class society and you got blowback from the economists who said, no, this is just creative destruction. What is it that you saw that they didn't?
JAMES STEELE, CO-AUTHOR, "AMERICA: WHAT WENT WRONG? THE CRISIS DEEPENS": One of the things we saw, Michael, was that tax policies which were enacted in the '80s were creating income inequality. Some of the economists said that we were alarmists. And in fact there's actually a funny story about this.
Our young daughter at the time read one of these criticisms and somebody called us -- aren't these guys Cassandras? And our daughter looked at us and said, Cassandras? Well, dad, wasn't Cassandra right? And the fact of the matter is I think (INAUDIBLE) income inequality.
What we saw was tax policies, trade policies, deregulation efforts, all of these things were driving down the income of middle class Americans and working people. What we didn't foresee was the extent of how bad this would become over the next few years. And that's what's so shocking about that statistic you that read from the fed today, that 59 families control half the income.
Absolutely shocking but not surprising because we've had these policies now for 40 years with a couple of exceptions that have been favoring the elite, favoring those at the top at the expense of everybody else.
SMERCONISH: When I think -- when I think of the book, I always think of Vise Grip. What's the short version of Vise Grip and what was the bigger lesson?
STEELE: Vise Grip was a little company in Nebraska where a gentleman had invented this tool that almost every household has.
And he had working people there in Nebraska in the surrounding countryside that produced a good product. They shipped it a around the world. And then one day a big conglomerate bought it. Closed the plant and shipped the work to China where in the beginning the work was very inferior.
But the point about this being here were people who had done all the right things. They had even taken extra training, they had provided jobs for families, there were benefits for people. Suddenly all of that was out the window. And that was the story of a lot of industries in the '80s and '90s and beyond and still goes on. And that's why the book which we've updated (ph) and expanded really is in many ways so relevant today because all of these forces are still with us and growing more intense.
SMERCONISH: Well, free trade wasn't working for Vise Grip. And someone who would ride a message like that to victory was Donald Trump, right?
STEELE: He did. And Trump, I think, correctly realized some of the flaws in free trade. However, the way he has gone about this policy which has been this sort of blanket condemnation of China is not working. What he should have done, he should have linked arms with the Europeans. He should have linked arms with other Asians. Because what China is doing, it's doing to everybody. And a lot of their practices are indeed very, very unfair. And not just to the American industry but the industries all over the world.
But you can't go it alone on something like this. You need to be part of that larger world family. And I think if he had done that there might have been some changes. The trade policy with China has been an abysmal failure. Ask the farmers in the Midwest, ask a lot of people in small companies who can't get certain supplies now, certain equipment, there's been a lot of bluster on that.
Look at Foxconn is the great Chinese company out of Taiwan that makes a lot of Apple products in mainland China. They were going to put a plant in Wisconsin. There was a big to do about this, big news releases. Go to that plant today and the last news release I've seen about it was basically empty. So that's like a --
SMERCONISH: But you do have to say -- Jim, you do have to say that they've been picking our pocket for decades including on intellectual property. And finally --
SMERCONISH: -- at last there's been blowback to that. I have to ask you, because I'm limited on time, the most important question of all. Is it too late?
STEELE: No, it's not too late. We've had other times in this country where we've come together to help people when they're in trouble, whether it was the Pure Food and Drug Act, taxation issues, security issues. Look at Medicare in the '60s. Where would we be in this country today if we didn't have Medicare in terms of older people? Social security.
All of those things were fought bitterly by people who thought the government shouldn't have any role in it. That shows you what can happen and it's very important. We can do that again. We just have to have the will to do it. I think the majority of people want that, but so far, they've been blocked in Congress. And if that changes I can see a much brighter future for America.
SMERCONISH: Barlett and Steele, ahead of their time. Thank you so much for being here.
STEELE: Always great to be with you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I want to make that sure you're answering the survey question this hour at Smerconish.com. Do you trust the Trump versus Biden polling data? I laid it all out at the beginning of the program.
Still to come, you're going to love this. Was the original Eucharist a psychedelic? A provocative new book says yes, and the author is here to explain.
SMERCONISH: It's been called the best kept secret in history. Did the ancient Greeks use drugs to find God? Was the original Eucharist a psychedelic?
The answer would have enormous implications for the history of Christianity and also the future of medicine. Brian Muraresku has been on a 12-year journey to find answers and his Indiana Jones journey took him to ruins of Greece, hidden collections of the Louvre, the catacombs of the Vatican. His new book is called "The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion with No Name." Brian joins me now.
Brian, I love the Joe Rogan interview. Unfortunately, you and I don't have three hours so we need to get to it. What was Eleusis and what went on there?
BRIAN MURARESKU, AUTHOR, "THE IMMORTALITY KEY: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE RELIGION WITH NO NAME": OK. Let's get to it. I refer to Eleusis as the spiritual capital of the Greco Roman world. Today it's a small town 13 miles northwest of Athens. In antiquity it was this pilgrimage site where the best and brightest of Athens and Rome went to drink a potion, has this vision of a goddess and become themselves divine which I know sounds crazy but it included the best and brightest of antiquity like Plato, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius.
SMERCONISH: Does science support the findings of your book?
MURARESKU: Believe it does and it was hard to find it. You know, this is not my theory. I basically followed a hypothesis from 1978 that claimed the ancient Greeks were using drugs to find God and it was largely scorned by the academic community because there was no scientific data to prove it.
So, I spent years and years going through these archaeobotany journals looking for evidence of spiked beer and spiked wine, beer and wine that could have been hallucinogenic. And believe it or not I did find some data published 20 years ago that either was ignored or underreported by the academic community.
SMERCONISH: So if the original Eucharist was a psychedelic and that's really the thesis of the book does that mean that say Catholics have been getting a placebo for thousands of years?
MURARESKU: Well, I wouldn't go quite that far. I do raise the question in the book because I cite a pupil which says that something like 69 percent of American Catholics do not believe in transubstantiation, which for those who don't know is the doctrine that the bread and wine of the Eucharist literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus during the Eucharistic liturgy of the mass.
And for a long time there wasn't evidence to prove that but by going into these ancient chalices we are now unearthing evidence, actual organic evidence, for wine and antiquity that was spiked with all kinds of plants and herbs and toxins.
SMERCONISH: Well, if Christianity then was borne of psychedelic experience, are you saying it was all created out of whole cloth?
MURARESKU: No, I don't think so. I think at the roots of Christianity, which I call Paleo-Christianity, the most exciting and interesting aspect of the origins of the faith. It was a world that was imbued with Greek influence. And to the ancient Greeks the idea of spiked wine wasn't that uncommon.
There was a wine god Dionysus, the god of fear and ecstasy and mystical rapture. And to drink the wine of Dionysus was to drink the blood of the god to the ancient Greeks. And so for them, for some communities of early Christians, I argue that it would not have been unthinkable for them to associate the wine of Dionysus with the wine of Jesus in what was largely a pagan practice.
SMERCONISH: I have to ask you the "Caddyshack" question, do you do drugs, Danny?
MURARESKU: I do not. And I've never tried psychedelics. And I think part of the reason I'm talking to you is that I don't do psychedelics even though Joe Rogan was having a good time with that at my expense.
Listen, to me it was very important that I approached this topic as objectively as possible. Of course, I'm interested in the experience, but I'm more interesting in curating these conversations at the highest levels of academia with regulatory authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere, and with religious institutions. Because of the data that I unearthed, I think this is a topic that is right for a very sober discussion at a very large level.
SMERCONISH: And may I just say, first of all, the book is tremendous. But it's not only a fascinating story on the history of Christianity, but also there are amazing therapeutic values if what you've assembled is correct. On a different day, we'll talk about that. Thank you, Brian. I really appreciate it.
MURARESKU: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. This comes from Twitter I think. What do we have?
Smerconish, speaking of psychedelics, the past four years with Trump has felt like a bad acid test in the middle of a "Grateful Dead" "Drums and Space" solo?
So, listen with no disrespect to Mickey and Phil -- Bill Kreutzmann, I have said Bill. Bill Kreutzmann and Micky Hart. "Drums and Space" is when I always run for that final beer of the night.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we'll give you the final results of the survey on Smerconish.com.
Do you trust the Trump versus Biden polls?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this hour at Smerconish.com.
Do you trust the Trump V. Biden polls? Survey says -- interesting, 23,000 votes and let's call it 60/40. Can we round? 60/40 say no. So with 24 days to go, people are saying this thing is not over.
From social media, what do we have? Hello, social media.
I think you forgot the impact of the Comey letter in October of '16 and the vote for Johnson and also the Green Party. Those factors flipped the vote in my opinion.
Well, I didn't forget any of it. And, in fact, I cited Johnson and Weld and Jill Stein earlier in the program. But you're right, that three-day experience with Anthony Weiner's laptop at the end was a curveball. Look how many curveballs we've had in the last two weeks. Does anybody remember Jeffrey Goldberg's piece in "The Atlantic"? Does anyone remember the New York tax story about $750 being paid in federal income? I mean, it's like a fire hose of information and it's very hard to keep up. And who knows what is to come in the next 24 days. What else from social media? Smerconish, new polls suggest the majority of Americans feel better off than they were four years ago. Where is the disconnect with Trump's polling numbers?
Nathan, that was precisely a question that I put to my guests. Yes, Catherine, do you have that slide? Fifty-six percent told Gallup recently, 56 percent told Gallup that they are -- and look at how this compares -- no, that's not what I want, guys. I want the Gallup survey that shows, are you better off. Are you better off?
We don't have it. All right, 56 percent said recently that they think they are better off than they were four years ago, and when you track that number, it's pretty astounding, because it doesn't match where the president stands.
What else from social media?
I watch Fox News, but also listen to SMERCONISH every Saturday. I'm a decided voter. Trump landslide victory 2020.
I won't comment on your prediction. I'll only say that I like the fact that you are mixing up your news diet, because more than anything else, what people need to do, especially in the final 24 days, is get out of their bubble and change the channel. Mix up where you're getting all the information.
My take-away from the polling data is that there are a lot of similarities to where we were four years ago. The margins that Biden has exceed those of Hillary, but if we learned anything, it was that this final sequence of events yet to unfold is going to determine the outcome and we really don't know what that will be.
I'll see you next week.