For the last thirteen years, the annual Nation Cruise has facilitated numerous opportunities for fruitful dialogue among America’s leading progressives and The Nation‘s readership. This year’s cruise started off with a panel moderated by Calvin Trillin on the current political moment, with Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jim Hightower, Melissa Harris-Perry, Chris Hayes and John Nichols offering their analyses.

Hightower, a national radio commentator and frequent Nation contributor, is an advocate for the power of populist movements and events such as the Fighting Bob Festival to influence politics.  According to Hightower, "The future is not about the Tea Party and it’s not about’s back to us. Who are we going to be?"

Chris Hayes is a little more skeptical—saying that "distrust and skepticism of elites is on the whole is salutory for democracy, but a type of nihilistic landscape in which every pillar of trust is levelled is destructive." Pointing to the example of people who refuse to believe scientists who say that climate change is a very real and imminent danger, Hayes says that "we need to negotiate between an unhealthy acceptance of authority and a total social refusal to listen to any expertise whatsover."

To listen to the full panel conversation, click here.

—Joanna Chiu