After reporting US politics and economics for forty years, Nation national affairs correspondent William Greider still considers himself an optimist. Appearing as a guest on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, Greider, who recently released Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country, discusses the promise of the American people and their crucial role in reforming government.

If the public were engaged and informed, Greider says, the United States might not be suffering this economic downturn. Possibly, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have been fought. Greider argues for a common-sense reform in explaining policy. It’s a "radical" concept, he jokes. The public must hold politicians responsible and demand they quit doublespeak–for once, explaining healthcare and financial reform in terms they understand. "I have a lot more faith in the capacity of ordinary citizens to digest fairly complex stuff if it’s broken down for them," he says. "That’s part of the solution."

Concerning the Tea Party movement, Greider doesn’t chastise its members but instead admires their willingness to fight. His feelings toward Barack Obama are equally admirable, in that he sees a shrewd partner in Nancy Pelosi who stiffened his spine on healthcare. Political incumbents, however, should feel insecure. "Government doesn’t get better with safe incumbents–we must urge voters to go out and make these incumbents feel insecure," he says.

Greider meets his optimism with a caveat. Only if the American people change, and demand more from their government, will America be ready to mature and move beyond being a "teenager" in nation years. Only when America holds a "rich, noisy, contentious public debate" will America recover from its mistakes and create solutions.

"Out of that I hope we’ll see the generation of liberal, left, progressive, center and right political protests," he says. "The heart of the matter is they don’t need to argue with each other their political persuasions, they need to discuss with each other, across the divisions, what kind of country we actually want and to maybe believe it’s possible we can actually get that."

–Clarissa Leon