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Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield

English, Political Science, 1 season, 150 episodes, 5 days, 6 hours, 26 minutes
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology. (
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STJH Bonus: Mass grave discovered in Mississippi

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityAudio ChaptersThis is a paid episode so only the first chapter is available for free0:00 — Mass grave discovered behind Mississippi jail02:57 — New York Times publishes irresponsible piece on Taylor Swift's sex life05:12 — Trump hatchet-man Roger Stone recorded asking for murder and kidnapping07:03 — Ray Epps sentenced08:59 — Far-right Christian women tangle over how much misogyny is enough16:18 — How fear can keep us in bad situationsJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer
1/14/20242 minutes, 54 seconds
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Doomscroll Bonus: Hunter Biden, Roger Stone, and the Florida surgeon general walk into a bar

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityThis Doomscroll episode is only for paid subscribers. Enjoy the laughs and support our work on Substack at the link above or on Patreon!Audio Chapters0:00 — New report shows Trump companies paid millions by foreign governments02:52 — Roger Stone and the Republican lying tradition06:25 — Alaska Airlines plane part breaks off mid-air09:04 — Florida Republican surgeon general says mRNA vaccines are "anti-Christ"14:14 — Daily Wire host tells fans to make Nazi Mickey Mouse memesFollow or Die!Doomscroll Forrester Corey on Substack: is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media.
1/13/20242 minutes, 10 seconds
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STJH: Democratic division on Palestine, Bill Ackman exposes himself

Headlines0:00 — Anti-war protesters at Biden’s Charleston speech reflect unsettled questions of what democracy looks like14:24 — Deranged billionaire Bill Ackman proves attacks on Claudine Gay were not about plagiarism or antisemitism22:47 — Mark Cuban tangles with Elon Musk over diversity initiatives31:08 — Mehdi Hasan leaves MSNBC after show canceled, how about that liberal media?34:02 — Christian Ziegler, embattled Florida Republican chair, fired after rape allegations35:38 — Florida county ‘reviews’ dictionary from schools for sexual contentJoin the ConversationMatt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
1/12/202441 minutes, 5 seconds
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Doomscroll: Nikki Haley renaming her husband and the 'cancel culture' grift machine

Audio Chapters0:00 — Nikki Haley renamed her husband, wtf?08:38 — Trump is polling well because Democrats won’t talk to regular people16:41 — Trump attorney Alina Habba says she’d rather be pretty than smart since you can fake being smart19:42 — Britney Spears says she will “never” return to music industry23:38 — Golden Globes stiffed “Barbie” and host Jo Koy threw his writers under the bus27:54 — Can we be as canceled as Ricky Gervais?You can watch the video version of this episodeFollow or Die!Doomscroll Forrester is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
1/10/202437 minutes, 3 seconds
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Seeing the bigger story of Moms for Liberty

SummaryMoms for Liberty, the dishonestly named far-right Christian group, is in the news after Bridget Ziegler, one of the group's co-founders, has been reported to have been in a relationship with another woman and her husband,. Christian Ziegler, her husband, has been accused of raping the woman in Sarasota, Florida. As shocking as that allegation is, it's important to note that Christian Ziegler says he is innocent. There are no criminal charges that have been filed. But nonetheless, it is still worth looking at Moms for Liberty in the larger context of astroturf right wing organizations, especially in the discussion that we're having on Theory of Change about how the Democratic left is less able and willing to promote grassroots organizations. And as we'll see in today's episode, this is not how things were for Moms for Liberty. Joining the program to talk about all this is Kelly Weill, she is the creator of a new website called MomLeft, which focuses on reporting about the activities of far right parent organizations. And she's also the author of a book called Off the Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything, which is about flat earthers.The video of the conversation is available. A computer-generated transcript of the edited audio follows. The recording was made on December 6, 2023.Membership BenefitsThis is a free episode of Theory of Change. But in order to keep the show sustainable, the full audio, video, and transcript for some episodes are available to subscribers only. The deep conversations we bring you about politics, religion, technology, and media take great time and care to produce. Your subscriptions make Theory of Change possible and we’re very grateful for your help.Please join today to get full access with Patreon or Substack.If you would like to support the show but don’t want to subscribe, you can also send one-time donations via PayPal.If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on Apple Podcasts. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. You can also subscribe to the show on YouTube.About the ShowTheory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield about larger trends and intersections of politics, religion, media, and technology. It's part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.Theory of Change on Twitter: Sheffield on Social MediaMastodon: LinksKelly Weill on Twitter the Edge: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Welcome to Theory of Change, thanks for being here.KELLY WEILL: Thanks so much for having me.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right, so let's start our discussion here by talking about the current news story that is, seems to be a ever growing scandal concerning Christian Ziegler, who is the chair of the Florida Republican Party, but also the husband of a woman who is a [00:02:00] co-founder of the Moms for Liberty group, Bridget Ziegler.At this point in time, and things might change during the time that we're recording this versus when it airs, but as things stand right now, what is the deal with this whole scandal concerning Christian Ziegler?WEILL: It's a mess, in a word. Christian Ziegler, he's the chair of the Florida GOP. He's been really close with Ron DeSantis and he and his wife Bridget are real power players in both Florida politics and specifically Florida educational politics. Bridget is a co-founder of Moms for Liberty, which is a group that has been instrumental in pushing anti LGBTQ legislation related to students in Florida.Now, Moms for Liberty will say that Bridgette Ziegler is no longer with the group, but she's very much a model for the kind of school board warrior that Moms for Liberty wants to promote. So, earlier this month it came out that a woman who had been sexually involved with both [00:03:00] Christian and Bridgette Ziegler in some capacity had filed a police report against Christian Ziegler.She said that the couple had planned some kind of three-way and then that Bridget said, Oh, I can't make it that day, that the woman had canceled because Bridget wasn't going to be there. And she alleges that Christian Ziegler attacked her in her home and raped her on that day. The woman went to a hospital, got treated with a rape kit, right after this.They have a good number of text messages from Christian Ziegler and members of the Florida GOP are calling on him to step down. He is not doing that, claiming that the incident was consensual on both parties.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's right. And basically saying that we've got a country to save. And he's just too important to everything. Now, it's my understanding, though, that there were two different boards with Moms for Liberty, and she had been involved with an [00:04:00] advisory board. Is that correct?WEILL: The exact details of her Not the board of directors. Yeah. Right. The exact details of her involvement are I'm sure you could drill down. I don't have them committed to memory. She was a co-founder, and she is involved in a lot of groups that are also involved with Moms for Liberty.These are groups like I believe the Liberty Institute, just a number of right wing organizations that are adjacent to this sphere and that are very, invested in getting moms like her involved in school board politics, running for these school board roles and really mobilizing around educational issues.SHEFFIELD: The other thing about the Zieglers with regard to Moms for Liberty is that their connection to the group is actually really what helped them get a pipeline directly into the Republican party elite. Christian Ziegler was not in, he wasn't the chair of the Florida Republican party, but he was the assistant chair [00:05:00] and seems to have gotten them, heavily involved with this very wealthy group called the Leadership Institute.Do you want to talk about that at all? Who they are, the Leadership Institute and what they do.WEILL: Sure. They're an organization that, helps to sort of groom up-and-coming Republican voices. They're quite hard right. And they have been plugging in with Moms for Liberty.They have been offering training for promising moms in that space who might want to become the next school board rabble rouser. And so. You are right that this is a very well-funded sphere Moms for Liberty has received significant payments from, say, the heiress of the, Publix fortune, the Florida supermarket chain.So there's a lot of money and specifically a lot of Florida Republican money sloshing around here.SHEFFIELD: And where did they, like what was their original impetus? It wasn't about getting angry at books [00:06:00] originally, right?WEILL: Right. Bridget Ziegler is actually a really interesting figure to follow in the origin story here because she's tried this a couple times getting right wing mom organizations up and running.She had a conservative school board. member group that she tried starting a couple of years back, didn't really go anywhere, but I think where Moms for Liberty really got its initial momentum was in debates over mask mandates at school. Masks obviously became this intensely polarized issue with a lot of, I think, performative politics on the right.And. I think Moms for Liberty in its very early stages was able to tap into that anger and tell parents that we're a group with which you can mobilize. You can take back your school board. You can reclaim your child's education. And of course, a lot of these things are euphemisms for other grievances that they're already pushing.And so that's why when the mask fight died down. Moms [00:07:00] for Liberty didn't die down. It pivoted into those harder right grievances like banning books related to LGBTQ issues restricting education about race, gender, sexuality. So that's, that's how it got its foothold and how it's moved forward since then.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. their transition in that regard is actually pretty common in, in the history of Republican social movements, such as they are. Like the Tea Party, for instance. I mean, I used to be a Republican activist before I had my own little transition as, my audience knows it, but you may not.And I did speak at some tea party events, local tea party events in Virginia a couple of times. And I was always shocked at when I was invited to speak how, almost invariably. With the people who were there, the attendees would try to turn every conversation over to, God created America and that sort of stuff.And I was not [00:08:00] religious at the time. So I was like well, can't we just focus on the topic here? Why are we talking about this? But they did just kept pivoting toward that. And so I'm curious. What do you think? Were they responding to demand or were they responding to what they actually wanted to do? The co-founders, the leadership.WEILL: I think they always wanted to do this. I think they always wanted to get some kind of right wing moms group off the ground. And I think that's pretty savvy for Republicans. We're a few years out now from the election cycle where it seems like mobilizing conservative parents for age was really a good way to win office.And I think that's the message that a lot of people took from Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin's election was that he was able to tap into anger that. Some parents had about say LGBTQ issues in schools. And that's not to say that those in many cases, bigotries are valid, but it does mobilize some people [00:09:00] does get some people to the polls.And I think groups like Moms for Liberty were able to see this maybe underplayed political block and. Identify them as a group that they could really mobilize that could really get going in a concerted direction. All they had to do was dangle a few hot button issues. And suddenly people are in a group and can vote and mass.And I, do think, you hate to give credit, but it has been effective to a certain degree in certain swing districts.How reactionary groups use low-turnout elections to impose their extreme agendasSHEFFIELD: Who are the other key leadership figures with moms for the, for people who don't, aren't too familiar with the group?WEILL: Right. The other the other main leaders right now are a woman named Tiffany Justice and a woman named Tina Descovich, I believe.And they're the ones that you see these days on stage at say, Moms for Liberty convention. But. After the 2022 cycle, 2021 and 22 election cycles, Moms for Liberty was able to sweep a lot [00:10:00] of elections. I think a combination of novelty and rage. They weren't a really known quantity, but because they were so organized in these school board races that are usually pretty passive or certainly don't have the--SHEFFIELD: And they're low turnout. Yeah, they're low turnout.WEILL: Exactly. Exactly. And so they were able to, I think, hijack these elections in ways that Were unexpected. And so I think a lot of Republican leadership saw that they saw these Republican wins, they saw this new mobilization and they really did key into groups like Moms for Liberty being a good vector electorally for them.So that's why the summer at Moms for Liberty's convention, yes, you had the the founders, the leaders like Descovich and justice, but you also had pretty much every prominent. Republican was speaking there. You had Donald Trump spoke, Ron DeSantis spoke. This is a group that was only getting started.I think like two, three years ago.Many journalists seem unaware of Moms for Liberty's extremismSHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, it's true. And [00:11:00] well, one of the other things about the coverage of a lot of the media out of that convention in Philadelphia is. I feel like that a lot of, and because I read a lot of it and a lot of the coverage was really, and not just of the convention, I will say, but even a lot of their local chapters, a lot of the news media coverage, it seems like they don't know how to cover this group.And they don't understand how radical that the leadership and the membership are. And it was only after that a Indiana chapter that had used a quote from Hitler and if Hitler in one of their newsletters which and you can remind me of what the phrasing was.It was something about. If those who control children's minds control the future or something like that and they put that on their newsletter and got some flack for it. And then Tiffany Justice basically mentioned that she supported the mom who did that. And at the mention of Adolf Hitler, people in the crowd started cheering, [00:12:00] for apparently Hitler, or quoting Hitler. And that caused them a lot of problems and actually she and I guess I should say I had a small role in that in that I posted that video clip on Twitter and they started attacking me for doing that. But like that was, but before that moment regarding this Hitler quote, a lot of news organizations, and I'm interested in your thoughts on that, but a lot of news organizations, especially local ones, when they would find these, astro turf, fake grassroots groups showing up at school boards, they would take it at face value. And they would just say, Oh, these are just regular parents showing up here.When in fact, these were people in many cases, especially in Virginia, who were you know, hardcore professional political consultants paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. They're not just regular, parents showing up.[00:13:00] And you didn't, and you didn't say anything about, people talking about their agenda or anything like that.It was just, they, limited it only to that surface- value analysis. Would you agree with that?WEILL: Yeah. And I think you're totally right to call them astroturf to a degree, because this is a tightly managed nationally run organization. I mean, Media Matters this summer, I think, ran their like national playbook, which is so anti gay. Like, it's just it's homophobia.And yeah, Because it's, it's run on local chapters and also, I think, because the face of it is moms, we have, I think, a very paternalistic, very infantilizing view of motherhood where we say: 'Oh, she's just a mom. This isn't a savvy political organizer. She's a mom.SHEFFIELD: Operative, yeah.WEILL: Exactly. And that's not the case. These are people who have political training. These are people who are very organized, who are very networked, who are well funded. [00:14:00] And so I, I think when a local news outlet covers maybe a, bit of a debate at a school board meeting. They're missing the broader context, which is how is this being replicated across the country? What messaging are they following? What message are they often copy pasting? And most importantly, how is this affecting the children in their district?Because what really grates at me and, if I might also spotlight myself as a mother here, there's so much discussion here about parental rights. We, the parents, some candidates in my town recently had signs, lawn signs, the year of the parent. Where are the kids in this?Because it's this centrality of parents and their rights, and I think it overlooks the oppression and the control of children that they're suggesting, especially when it comes to queer kids, especially when it comes to kids who need extra support in any capacity.I think that's where they're really doing students dirty. [00:15:00]Normal people are now asserting their own parental rightsSHEFFIELD: Mhm. Well, and it's also, they never specify that they only want some parents to have rights. They don't want other parents to have rights. And or to have input into the curriculum. So, if they're a, if they want their child to learn about slavery or they want their child to realize that not being heterosexual is okay.Like those parents don't get any rights. And I think that's also something that's missing often, I feel like.WEILL: Absolutely. And I mean, this group has been part of a real broadside on some of those parents. I mean, bringing it back to the Zieglers on a school board where Bridget Ziegler sits, there's a gay member, there's one gay board member. He has been attacked and smeared in these meetings completely baselessly as a groomer. They use the slur against queer adults, and it's completely to undermine the support network that kids get.It's completely to tell young people that it's not okay to be gay. And it's to, I think, really put [00:16:00] terrifying legal pressures on gay adults for existing.And so, yeah, when they talk about parental rights, they're talking about a very, small subset of the parental base. One thing I broke down in a recent newsletter is the overwhelming unpopularity of book bans and the overwhelming popularity of certain basic liberal programs like free school lunches, that sort of thing.That is the majority of parents who support that. Moms for Liberty is a small minority in that. And so to cast themselves as the voice of parents, the parents crusaders. I mean, even factually, that's not right.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's true. And and yet, despite all the machinations and local level achievements in, when people weren't paying attention to them that they, Moms for Liberty was able to Seems to me that, the people in the Democratic Party or people in the broader center to left still haven't fully [00:17:00] understood, how they were able to do things and what they were able to achieve and there isn't any real analog to it that's emerged on the, I mean, there, there are some people are trying, but they're not getting so like that, that, that's kind of the, one of the core differences, I think, between the Democrats and the Republicans is that, When, people are trying to do something on the right, and I can say this having been on both sides of the fence now, that when people are trying to do something on the left, no one supports them in the leadership.Whereas when people are trying to do something on the right, money is thrown at them. And people are constantly saying, how can I help you? What can I do for you? Who can I introduce you to? How can I help you achieve the cause and help what we're doing? No one does that on the left. And you had, I guess, must have some sense of that because you started your own website called Mom [00:18:00] Left. You want to talk about that in this context here?WEILL: Yeah. So a couple months ago, I got a newsletter blog up and running called Mom Left. It's a new newsletter for moms on the left. Title's little tongue in cheek, but it emerged out of, being a relatively new mother looking for progressive voices in this space, seeing that there's a huge demand for it, seeing that it's quite popular, but also hearing that the loudest voices in the room are these well funded, very fringe right wing voices.I think there's a few reasons for that to your point, all the funding really gets thrown at the right. And I think maybe that's to counteract the real popularity of left leaning programs when it comes to parenthood, people support public education, people support freedom to read, lack of censorship, that sort of thing.So, I think a Moms for Liberty type group can really be the tip of the spear for a lot of more insidious mainstream [00:19:00] Republican activitiesSHEFFIELD: And Christian right, especially.WEILL: They are hugely networked through the Christian right, absolutely. And that was very evident in their conference this summer. This is very evident in the legal groups that they network with when they are called into any kind of legal jeopardy.So when I was thinking about launching this newsletter, I was looking for the alternatives. I was looking for the voices for moms who are acting in opposition to that. And what I did find was that overwhelmingly moms are opposed to this sort of thing, but that. There's no central organization because I think to organize a group like, Moms for Liberty is a kind of weird thing to do.People aren't really drawn to the antagonistic school war politics that they represent. People don't really want to get into those battles. And so I thought that, there's a void on the left born out of, weirdly, its popularity with parents.SHEFFIELD: [00:20:00] Yeah, no, it's true. And so what's been the response so far that you've been getting from since you've launched it,WEILL: It's been really cool. It's been really affirming. Some of the best messages I've received are from parents of queer kids who are saying, that that there is.An attack on their Children and that they do feel under supported that they do feel like there has been an under investment of resources where they're desperately needed. There's been just a good amount of camaraderie in response to these pieces. I think a lot of. Parents feel similarly or a lot of parents are frankly just appalled at what they're seeing in school board meetings.They're appalled at the right wing takeovers of their school districts, and they want some mechanism for fighting back. And I think some of my writing is certainly spoken to that, and I would love to see other voices in the field. There are others, and I'm just hoping that the discussion around this may be surfaces a few more.[00:21:00]SHEFFIELD: Okay, well, that's great. Good to hear. And, to your point about what parents actually want versus what Moms for Liberty pretends that they want, in the 2023 elections, the Moms for Liberty candidates did very terribly, almost like 100%. I mean, there were, there were some pockets here and there, but overwhelmingly in their big high profile efforts, they failed except for in, the most right wing areas and that we're probably going to do that anyway.And, so it's been interesting to see because, as you were saying, I think people misread the Glen Youngkin victory last in 2022. And actually on, on this podcast, I'm proud to say that we called it that that would not work, that people could not replicate Youngkin's victory because, in Virginia, the party that has control of the presidency and almost never wins the Virginia governorship the [00:22:00] following year historically speaking.And of course, that doesn't mean it's going to always be that the case, but overwhelmingly, like, I believe that in the past 30 or 40 years, only two candidates from the president's party have won the Virginia governor's race in that lineup.And so people, they, seem to misunderstand why he won. And the reality is he probably was going to win just by running a not completely disastrous campaign. And that's what happened. He won and, and, so the Republican party, and unfortunately a lot of the media had also fallen for that narrative as well.But yeah, it, it just didn't work for him in 2023 because people were actually paying attention. It seems like.WEILL: Absolutely. Yeah, I think there's this weird tendency to kind of use Children to argue one's existing priors. And so I think kids really became like this load bearing argument for a much larger discussion [00:23:00] about, gay rights about transgender existence.And so, these, were going to be debates that folks were having anyway, but people on the right found it much easier than to argue. The trans person face to face saying, are you allowed to get medical treatment that you need or not? They found it much easier to say, what about this hypothetical kid who might say that they're trans?Should we allow them to use the preferred pronouns in school? And I think that became just a, very loaded argument that bears a lot of emotional weight for parents. And so was it something that really played a critical role in Virginia? I think to your point, maybe not, maybe it was already a lost cause for Democrats there, but for people who wanted to extract that message from a yunk and when it was very easy for them to do so.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it was. And we'll see, of course, going forward, but it seems like that the Republican party nationally is kind of [00:24:00] trying to edge away from this organization. But of course I'm sure they're not going to be going anywhere because they do, they, the right wing has, wanted for a long time to be able to try to mobilize the minority of women who have reactionary viewpoints.And so they perform a useful function if, it's only that for, for the Republican party and, I'm curious what your sense is, but, in the research that I've done and, the, in my own observation, it does seem like overwhelmingly women who lean right word.Are, extremely religious and there are almost none who are either not religious we're not religious or as best for particularly non Christian. Is that what's your sense on that?WEILL: Yeah, Moms for Liberty is an extremely Christian organization. They'll say that they're not, they'll say that they're [00:25:00] open to everyone.You go to a conference. It is, it's Bible flipping. And. A lot of the justification is offered for their policies is couched in a language like, oh, we're teaching Judeo Christian values. And 1st of all, as a Jewish person, I'm not sure I necessarily feel so comfortable in those circles, but that's a different story.But, yeah, it's an intensely religious. Movements and 1 other thing that I would highlight is that a lot of activists involved for mom with Moms for Liberty are not necessarily people with children in public schools. We have people who are religious homeschoolers who are going to school board meetings and arguing against the right of those children to receive a public education.Often on, grounds of their own religious objections, these are not far removed from people who have argued against evolution being taught in schools. It's just the latest [00:26:00] permutation and they're arguing a very religiously right program in these schools, but sometimes under more updated language.SHEFFIELD: And I think it does, it does also make sense that the to the extent that they would have success in mobilization, it would be of women that it would be through motherhood rather than any other. Organizational paradigm what do you think?WEILL: Absolutely. And, I think to some degree they're onto something because the U. S. does not treat mothers well, we're a country without maternity leave. Our social safety net is paper thin. There's a lot of sense of neglect for mothers, a lot of sense that we've been done dirty. I think a lot of women will take that feeling and look for new outlets for it. Some women are able to find that in reaction.Some of them will lean into this paradigm that's [00:27:00] very common on the Christian right that says that if you want to be truly valued, if you want to be a really good mother and wife and, fulfill your job as a woman, you need to be the subservient figure who doesn't work. Maybe she homeschools her children.She's very cloistered away from society, from solidarity, from power. And for some women, that's, it's a comforting message. It says that at least somebody is going to care for them and look after them. And it affirms their womanhood in a way that I think is appealing for some people. And so it doesn't surprise me at all that.Groups like Moms for Liberty and, zooming out, I think a lot of maybe the like trad wife influencers on TikTok, they're all speaking to that message that you know, dissatisfaction. But the difference is that I don't think most of the women who join up with those movements are ultimately.Going to get the rights and the dignity that they're looking for.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, [00:28:00] no, I, that's a, it's a good point.Why many right-wing women don't live the lifestyle they preach to othersSHEFFIELD: And there's also even attention with these, we'll say traditionally feminine or anti feminist women that, they don't actually fully believe the things that they say, even though they claim to so like, and you can see that.So, like, there's there's this woman named Alex Clark, who is kind of big in that space for anti feminist women and she also is. Has never been married and she's like 29 or 30 or something like that. And yeah, I guess actually in her 30s, I believe, and is constantly lamenting how she can't get dates.(Begin video clip)ALEX CLARK: Every time I tell a guy at the bar, when he asks me, you work in politics, what does that mean? You're conservative? Oh. And they will say, does that mean that you're pro life? And I say, yes. Their eyes light up. Their eyes light up. They grab their friends and like, dude, get a load of this. This girl says she's pro [00:29:00] life.And they're like, so wait, what does that mean? Do you ever agree in abortion in any circumstance? Is there any, circumstances where you think abortion is okay? And I will say, no. I am pro life. No exceptions, no matter what. And then, they're always fascinated by this and floored by this, and they're like, Dude, I've never heard a girl say this.Like, I'm so curious. Like, I always hear the other side, like, a woman's right to choose, her body or her choice. Like, I, like, what do you say to people when they say that? Guys love this! Guys love a conservative woman. At least at the bar. And then, you know, they don't really, they're like, into it, and then they don't text me back.But, hey, you know, tomato tomatoes! Semantics!(End video clip)SHEFFIELD: There are a lot of these anti feminist commentators, women. And they are in this situation, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, those are the ones that come to mind, but a lot of these women, they want something that can't exist, it seems like.They want to be able to have their own agency. But they also think that women should not have power, and it's like, those [00:30:00] things don't work.WEILL: Right. I think a lot of these women have made a very cynical deal where they know that they need the agency that they have. They need the agency that's provided by their careers, by their rights by their independence from men.They've also bought into, and sometimes I mean literally, bought into, they make their money from espousing this paradigm in which, women's worth is derived from their relationships with men. Women's worth is derived by having a man who's like, who she's subservient to and who is her provider and that, her currency is her attractiveness or.Something like that. And I think it's, I think it's extremely, I think it's morally bankrupt to be selling that to young girls as Alex Clark tries to do. We see this in a lot of, I think, TPUSA videos. I mean, it's, untrue. It's, she would be, I think, tremendously dissatisfied in the [00:31:00] life that she is pitching other women on.And she is, outside of this clip, pitching women against going to college, she's saying that your value is, again, it's, contingent on your getting a man. And I don't know how many young women you have listening to your podcast, but I'm telling you that if you're normal and you want a normal partner, you can just do that.And that also does not determine your value, but you do not have to be Alex Clark. That just sets my teeth on edge.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And the other thing, it's like, I'm sure that there had been plenty of men that, who agree with her, far right Christian viewpoints that she has found one way or the other over the years, but she hasn't chosen to marry any of them. So in the clip, she bemoans that, we'll say regular men are not interested in someone with her extreme viewpoints.But I'm sure there are guys out there that have those same viewpoints. But she hasn't chosen to marry them. And I think a lot of that [00:32:00] just simply is that, if you're a man who has those views and wants to, quote, unquote, provide for a woman, it's also usually a code for you want to control her. And Alex Clark doesn't want to be controlled. So, that's probably why she hasn't gotten married to somebody who has her viewpoints.It's like they live in a bubble of cognitive dissonance, their entire existence is wrapped in it. And it's tough to say, I mean, ultimately, whether this is just purely cynical or it's cognitive dissonance or whatever it is, but it's not, it's clearly is not a good way to live for her, based on what she said.WEILL: It's not, and, I've seen this born out another right wing women's influences, all of them quite far. Right. White Christian women. And they're unhappy. I'm thinking about figures like Lauren Southern, who made this, who was fielding all these questions about why she wasn't married.Finally, I think did get married, [00:33:00] husband left had some kind of breakdown where she lived in a trailer park for a bit. You're not pitching yourself in a world that values your dignity. I, can go on. There are other figures. There's a like radical Mormon figure who was huge on having as many kids as possible and was blogging about it.And I was reading her blog and it's all the comments are men saying, if you're really this good wife, why are you online? Why are we hearing from you at all? So again, this is not a paradigm in which these women can exist in as influencers. So I think maybe to a degree, they know that the life that they're pitching for themselves, that they're pitching for their followers would make them unhappy.And so they are getting, The freedom afforded to them, ironically, by a culture that provides at least some abortion rights, that provides no fault divorce, that has some [00:34:00] value for women's independence and dignity. And they are, actively campaigning against that while also profiting from it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. No, it is a really it's, just, it's sad in a number of ways, but it's also, upsetting as well. And for those who haven't seen it, the TV series The Handmaid's Tale actually does deal with this dynamic very well, with one of the characters who was definitely doing that. So if you haven't seen that, I definitely would encourage you if you're interested in that, this sort of exploration of this type of subject.Have you seen it?WEILL: I saw the first couple seasons of it. And yeah, I agree. I mean, ultimately, if you're a woman cheering on this sort of thing, you're cheering for the wrong team. I think some women on the far right do understand either explicitly or tacitly that they are arguing for their own ends to the extent that they [00:35:00] are arguing against queer parents that they're arguing against women of color.So they are trying to get some measure of edge over people who are, not straight white women. But, if their preferred program ever did come into existence, it would place them wildly inferior to men. And I think, yes, they do dress that up with this romantic talk about having a provider and being a real woman and that clearly, and as is evidenced in their personal choices, would not make them happy.SHEFFIELD: And of course there's nothing wrong if that's what somebody wants to do. But what's wrong is forcing everybody else. To make that so it's actually not a choice, that it's mandatory. That's ultimately what the problem is here.All right. So, just going back to the Moms for Liberty and the Christian Ziegler scandal, that's to what you were saying about some of this there, there's also a lot of hypocrisy involved [00:36:00] as well, because, in the case of Bridget Ziegler, this is a woman who very clearly is bisexual, and having a relationship with a woman, but at the same time, actively going and trying to not allow other people to be something other than heterosexual in public as a matter of public policy. It's, just really, it's really disgusting, frankly.WEILL: It is. It's upsetting. And, we don't know the full extent of this relationship. We only know from a police report that Bridget did say, I have been in a relationship with this woman before.Clearly, they planned on doing it again. And, that's completely her business. And those are absolutely her right to do.The trouble is, though, where she is part of a movement that teaches children that it's degenerate to do exactly what she's accused of doing. It's the trouble is that she sits on a school board where she has enabled the harassment of a gay colleague, not just, [00:37:00] the harassment, but smearing him as a quote groomer for, being gay.She didn't say that, but she allowed those comments to continue while she was chairing the board.I think the hypocrisy there is it's stunning, but it also reminds me that for a lot of folks on the right. It's not so much about internal ideological consistency as it is about power. They can, you can be gay on the right and still advance an argument that ultimately does not work in your favor, but is working to crush people who don't have who are much more vulnerable to anti gay legislation.So, if. It were punishable to be by in Florida. Well, I don't think someone like Bridget Ziegler would really be the the first person in line to be harmed by these kinds of policies. So, they are exacting this very like Christian hegemony while also,[00:38:00] doing a lot of the same things that they're, that they denigrate in their enemies.It's just, it's wildly hypocritical. And yet there are. March toward power advances.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. No. And that's a good point because, ultimately their main motivation is will to power rather than a policy agenda. Like there, there, are some policies that they want, but ultimately, they could in their ideal world basically all be passed in one week, and they wouldn't really have any other policies left to put forward-- in the sense that, they don't have fully formed policy viewpoints. And you see this with the Trump administration that ended in 2021 that, they, had no idea how to manage the bureaucracy.They had no idea who to hire. They had no idea how to execute anything that they wanted. Because they, or like what they said they wanted, they, once they had the power, they [00:39:00] couldn't really do anything with it. Other than engage in retribution against disfavored groups. But in terms of actually helping the people that they voted for them, they really had no idea or apparent interest.WEILL: Right. I think a lot of these people run and govern on grievance politics, right? Trump, I think his, True dream would be someone who calls into Fox News and gets called, sir, all the time. Well, in vain against immigrants and that sort of thing with a lot of these folks, it's not so much about having a fully realized ideology or program so much as it is about domineering and aggression about being at the top of a hierarchy.And certainly you can advance that while also holding some attributes that. Your ideology, if implemented consistently, would hammer down. And so that's why I, I think it's so interesting that Trump won [00:40:00] so much of the evangelical vote, even though he is, on his face should be repugnant to them, right?He's a womanizer, he's been divorced. Bunch of times he's been accused of sexual assault a bunch of times, but if you drill down into it, and I'm very grateful actually for the work that some Christian scholars on the left have done, they said, it looks like theologically he is misaligned with evangelicals, but in the actual political underpinnings, this will to power, this will to domination, he represents a lot of this aggressive, masculine Christianity that they're lining up behind.And so, I think there's a real disparity between what they preach, what they say their political program is and what they really want to enact.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, exactly.Republicans show they will throw away lower-level politicians but they fear dumping TrumpSHEFFIELD: But it is interesting that with regard to Christian Ziegler it seems like he's getting thrown under the bus by the Republican party in Florida and, and, we kind of saw that recently [00:41:00] with George Santos getting expelled and.Just under half of the Republican caucus in the house voting to expel him. But at the same time, they refuse to take any action against Donald Trump that is meaningful. What do you think is the dynamic? Why is there a, why are they willing to not defend certain people, but, are willing to do anything seemingly for Trump?WEILL: I think Trump is just too useful for them to discard. He represents this huge base that is, not necessarily aligned with the orthodoxy of the Republican party. He speaks to so much latent bigoted rage that I don't think any previous candidate was able to tap that he has this cult of personality around him.And for the GOP to discard him would be certainly, it would be earth shaking for them. It would be very I think maybe politically unwise. He's certainly far and away the. [00:42:00] runner for the 2024 election. But when you get to a figure like Christian Ziegler, I think a lot of people say who, or you get to a George Santos, who, I mean, a man, he's just criming left and right.He has like some scam with stolen puppies from an Amish puppy mill. Like you just can't make it up with this guy. There's nobody really lining up to say, Hey, I'm behind the puppy mill guy. It's so I think occasionally someone will have to take the fall. Occasionally someone is a combination of too toxic and not valuable enough for them to defend.And so you can swap out the Florida Republican chair quite easily. It's not a big deal. You can, you can get somebody else to run in a hard right district in Long Island. It's not a huge deal. So I think they understand that, not everything is not every scandal needs to be fought to the death.Flat Earthers are more of a thing than you might think, and almost all are far-right ChristiansSHEFFIELD: And so your interest in sort of, far right groups and organizations, you've had that for a while and you came out with a book on that topic. Let's talk about that book called Off the Edge. What was tell us about what, did you cover in that book?WEILL: Sure. So off the, yeah. Off the Edge is the product of my years long fascination and involvement with the Flat Earth Movement. I have, for ages, been so fascinated with conspiracy theories, what they say about how we believe, what we allow ourselves to believe, and increasingly their role in politics.And that also, overlaps with some of my interest in weird and, Dark internet spaces. So while working as a reporter at the daily beast covering the far right, I started seeing a lot of neo Nazis who seem to believe in flat earth. And I said, they must be kidding. This [00:44:00] must be a joke. And I dug into it and it was not a joke.So I spent years going to flat earth conferences, hanging out with these folks, meeting some really interesting characters, some characters who I think are a lot smarter than people would. Imagine of flat earthers, a guy who built his own rocket ship to blast up and see how, if he could see any curvature really I'll say unique thinkers.Some of that is not necessarily praise, but some of it was certainly challenging to me and interesting in the way that I interrogate how people think and believe. And so off the edge is the culmination of that.SHEFFIELD: Okay. And then. No, it's, and it's interesting you you touched on something that I think that does, it bedevils a lot of, public reaction to conspiracy movements is that, I think a lot of people, they, find it hard to believe [00:45:00] that these things are real.Even with Donald Trump, a lot of these extreme policies he's talked about doing, like building concentration camps for unauthorized immigrants, rounding them up and putting them into a concentration camp with, millions of people in it and, and these are things that he's, is people actively say, and, person, imprisoning people who don't do what he says who are government employees or firing them or even executing them in the case of of general Millie, he had said yeah.there is this, I don't know, it's, to some degree, people, these ideas are so out there. They're so crazy. They're so awful that do people who disagree with them, like. Is there, is that, a challenge in your viewpoint of getting people to accept these things are real and they're coming for you?WEILL: It is challenging. And I think part of the reason I took [00:46:00] up flat earth as an example, when I was looking to write a book about conspiracy beliefs is that flat earth is almost the hardest to believe that anybody believes is it's so out there that I think it really served as a stand in for, look, people can believe.Anything. And so in writing that book, not only did I speak to a lot of folks who believe in flat earth, I talked to a lot of psychologists. I read a lot of studies. And, what I learned was that conspiracy belief. It's not necessarily it's not a logical. Brain process, but what it is doing is it's it's serving as a coping mechanism for a lot of folks.It's providing stability for people who don't want to believe the available answers or who think that there's not a satisfactory answer for the world that they're presented with conspiracy theories. And I think this is especially important in politics are also, I found a form of identity formation when [00:47:00] you don't want to believe some reality in front of you, say that Joe Biden won the 2020 election, conspiracy theories allow you to link with other like minded people to form this sense of self and the sense of community, really, with other people who agree with you.Flat earthers are almost like building their own reality, a very small one, but this circle of people who say it's us against literally the rest of the world. And I think for people of the community who do feel very isolated, who do feel very lost or maybe confused or antagonistic against the rest of the world, having a flat earth community for them is huge.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. So if you were to make some generalizations though, is this religious reasons or other reasons predominantly that the flat earthers are into it?WEILL: Religion is the biggest one. One way that a lot of people I've spoke to have gotten into it is [00:48:00] by extreme biblical literalism, also very cherry picked biblical literalism. So they'll go looking for some, in the case of one guy I spoke to looking for some answer about, say, the floods of the Bible, and they'll find a YouTube video that says, actually, if you read it the way that the Bible was meant to be read, you'll see that there are all these references to circles and to the plane. And that, the only way to be a real Christian is to accept the reality of God's perfect, flat earth.So for a lot of them, it is religious. And I also, to go back to the point I made earlier about this, not necessarily being logical. I think having a conspiracy to that degree, a conspiracy that's so out there and invalidating of every other fact is that once you accept it on extremely tenuous, like religious grounds, It allows you to throw away all the other facts that you don't want to contemplate either.[00:49:00]So you could say that you know, Bible says flat earth. Oh, wow. Everybody else is wrong. Let's see what else is wrong about. And you get into all kinds of anti Semitic conspiracy theories. You get into a bizarre health hoaxes, anti vax belief, things that are more immediately dangerous for you than flatter.So I think a lot of it is religiously, it has a religious hook, but then it has a real ideological selling point for people who believe,SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it's, a way of constructing an alternative reality for yourself to live in and and like, that's, that is ultimately the, larger sort of meta crisis of this moment in human history is that, we, for, most of humanity's history, our people who.Who didn't believe in reality or who had false beliefs, they couldn't organize themselves, but now they can. [00:50:00] and they're, trying to go against everybody else. And, that's, I think is, the challenge. But anyway it's, been a great discussion. I'm glad you can join me today.WEILL: So thanks so much for having me. Yeah, it's been wonderful.SHEFFIELD: All right. So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody joining us for the discussion and you can always get more if you go to, you can get the full archives of the podcast with video, audio and transcript of all the episodes.And if you are a paid subscriber, you can have unlimited access. Some of the content is available only for paid members and my great thanks to those who are contributing in that regard. And then also if you are on the Theory of Change website, you get access to the two other podcasts that I am co hosting, Doomscroll, which is a [00:51:00] satirical look at the news. And then also So This Just Happened, which is a look at the people and personalities behind the news as well.So I encourage everybody to check those out and you can get more also by going to This show is part of that, and I appreciate everybody for joining us today and I will see you next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
1/8/202452 minutes, 55 seconds
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Bonus: Kevin Spacey, AI models, and Mickey Mouse

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityThis episode is only for paid subscribers. Enjoy the laughs and support our work on Substack at the link above or on Patreon!Audio Chapters0:00 — Kevin Spacey predictably snuggles up to Tucker Carlson06:22 — AI-generated fake people are taking over the influencer business09:56 — Mickey Mouse and Tigger are now in the public domain and chaos is already ensuingFollow or Die!Doomscroll Gaffney is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media.
1/6/20241 minute, 13 seconds
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Claudine Gay and why the ‘issue’ is never the issue

Headlines0:00 — Claudine Gay and the bigger picture05:06 — Christopher Rufo, William F. Buckley, and the right wing’s 70+ year war on education and equality12:47 — Gay’s ouster will make black Americans pay closer attention16:43 — “Liberal media” outlets aren’t getting tricked by reactionaries, they agree with them because they are center-right24:50 — Jeffrey Epstein lawsuit documents release have nothing new so far26:52 — Pharmaceutical companies lowering insulin prices after Biden's price control 28:04 — Minimum wages are going up in 22 states in 202429:51 — Michigan Republicans face financial and political disaster thanks to QAnon chairwoman31:55 — Elon Musk and other right-wingers shocked that Green Day is left-wingJoin the ConversationSTJH on Twitter SongEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
1/5/202440 minutes
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Maine bans Trump from ballot as Vanilla Ice plays Mar-a-Lago

Audio Chapters0:00 — Maine becomes second state to ban Trump for 1/6 insurrection03:25 — Trump still pushing failed "immunity" argument in court08:09 — Lauren Boebert switches districts after theater groping exposure12:09 — Nikki Haley faces criticism for Civil War slavery gaffe14:08 — Right-wing Christians rage at conservative bikini calendar20:08 — Company asks FDA for permission to market legal ecstasy25:27 — MAGA cheers as Vanilla Ice and a Ninja Turtle perform at Mar-a-LagoYou can watch the video version of this episodeFollow or Die!Doomscroll Gaffney is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
1/3/202436 minutes, 8 seconds
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A cozy holiday crossover

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityKali and Matt are joined by the first-ever STJH guest, Doomscroll co-host Lisa CurryHeadlines0:00 — Winter solstice and the season is the reason04:42 — The Christmas song sweepstakes15:32 — Far-right Christians hate Hallmark now for making some lesbian and gay stories25:38 — MAGA obsessives can't understand why relatives don't want to be around their BS…
12/29/202327 minutes, 14 seconds
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Should Trump be banned from the ballot for his insurrection?

Headlines0:00 — Should Trump be banned from the ballot for his insurrection?05:11 — Official government crime reports contradict right-wing fearmongering 09:39 — Ohio is prosecuting a woman who had a miscarriage14:52 — Some of Jeffrey Epstein's business records to be unsealed after court order16:19 — New York establishes commission to examine idea of slavery reparations18:37 — Black gay Republican activist mobbed by far-right activists20:29 — Blaze commentator Jason Whitlock says women shouldn't have right to vote23:25 — Bud Light realizes it can just pay right-wing figures to take the heat off28:04 — Conservative Cringe: A Donald Trump Christmas rapJoin the ConversationMatt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/23/202339 minutes, 30 seconds
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Clarence Thomas wanted more money for SCOTUS, threatened to quit

Audio Chapters0:00 — Clarence Thomas wanted more money for SCOTUS, threatened to quit05:12 — Rudy Giuliani ordered to pay $148 million for defaming Georgia election workers09:10 — Republicans open "impeachment inquiry" into Joe Biden, despite admitting they have no actual evidence13:55 — Trump doubles down on slur that unauthorized immigrants are "poisoning" Americans' blood16:04 — B******t whack-a-mole and the Gish Gallop20:18 — Senate staffer fired for filming gay sex scene in congressional office21:41 — Fox and right-wing media loses their s**t over Jill Biden's Christmas videoYou can watch the video version of this episodeFollow or Die!Doomscroll Marcotte Doomscroll is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/20/202332 minutes, 20 seconds
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Democrats have a failure to communicate

SummaryIt’s only a matter of weeks until the presidential election year of 2024 begins, and many Democrats across the country are starting to panic as more than a few public opinion surveys have shown that President Joe Biden trails the criminal ex-president Donald Trump. Even more concerningly, there have been polls showing that even though Trump sent armed militia members to invade the Capitol and attempt to kill then-vice president Mike Pence, many Americans think that Democrats are more extreme than Republicans.Many of the more centrist or conservative Democrats are telling Biden to stop supporting transgender rights or to explicitly disown racial justice advocates in the hopes that doing so will make Americans think he is acceptably moderate. Other people are telling Biden to use public opinion surveys to come up with the “perfect message” that will somehow be able to resonate with everyone.One thing that pretty much all of them miss is that in the social media age, quantity matters more than quality. You can have a perfect message, but if it’s shouted down by right-wing lies and bluster, it won’t matter because no one will ever hear it.In this episode, Matthew is joined by Parker Molloy to discuss. She’s the creator of the blog The Present Age, and is a former editor-at-large for Media Matters of America.The video of the conversation will be available beginning at 10am PT on December 18. The transcript of the edited audio follows.Membership BenefitsThis is a free episode of Theory of Change. But in order to keep the show sustainable, the full audio, video, and transcript for some episodes are available to subscribers only. The deep conversations we bring you about politics, religion, technology, and media take great time and care to produce. Your subscriptions make Theory of Change possible and we’re very grateful for your help.Please join today to get full access with Patreon or Substack.If you would like to support the show but don’t want to subscribe, you can also send one-time donations via PayPal.If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on Apple Podcasts. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. You can also subscribe to the show on YouTube.About the ShowTheory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield about larger trends and intersections of politics, religion, media, and technology. It's part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.Theory of Change on Twitter: Sheffield on Social MediaMastodon: Info https://www.readtpa.com TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Joining me today to talk about this scenario is the first-ever repeat guest on Theory of Change, Parker Malloy. She is the proprietor and author behind The Present Age, which is a blog you should definitely subscribe to. Thanks for being here.PARKER MOLLOY: Thanks so much for having me. It’s good to be the first repeat guest.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so the Democratic Party, right now, it’s in a bit of a crisis as the polling has been not so great for Joe Biden relative to Donald Trump. And I wanted to talk about it in that context. Lately we’ve been hearing from a bunch of people saying that the public thinks that the Democratic Party is extreme on, especially on social issues. Whether that be something like racial injustice or trans rights or teaching about alternative family structures in schools and things like that.And I have to say it’s kind of baffling to hear. Because [00:04:00] it’s not supported by the data at all, especially given the 2023 elections where so many of these far-right Christian supremacist people went down hard. I guess it’s not a surprise to you though. You’ve been around the block a few times.MOLLOY: Right. One thing about this, that the reason behind that in my opinion, is that on social issues, on these sorts of culture war issues — like trans issues especially I think part of the issue is that Republicans go on offense on that a lot, where they, go out there and they say: ‘Look at the Democrats who have this this crazy over the top view. Here’s what the Democrats believe. They want to put boys in your bathrooms. They want men to win women’s sports.’They say all of these things, and they tell you what Democrats believe, even though that is not at all how Democrats would frame their [00:05:00] beliefs or talk about their beliefs. But because (Democrats) are so afraid of sounding extreme, they just kind of cede the ground to Republicans to set the public opinion themselves.So in a lot of cases, Democrats seem to think that they can just not talk about trans issues. Or that they can not talk about abortion and that will be good enough. Because it will get, people will focus on the important things or the financial issues, the kitchen table issues, but these are all important things.These are all important policies. And when you don’t go on offense, which, with the exception of the 2022 election, Democrats tend to not go on offense when it comes to abortion. When you won’t go on offense, you let them set the terms of the debate.So Republicans will go out there. And they will say Democrats want you to be able to murder babies up until 30 days after they’re born. Democrats want these partial birth [00:06:00] abortions and all of these things, over and over.And the same kind of stuff happens with trans issues. And because Democrats aren’t out there saying what they believe in and making a proactive case, which in on both abortion and LGBT issues, it comes down to the same exact thing where people should be able to make their own decisions about their own lives. Whether it’s their healthcare, whether it’s who they want to get married to, whether it’s who they are. People need to have the freedom to choose the right path for them and to take whatever action they believe they need to take.And that’s a reasonable point of view. But if instead of doing that, you let Republicans frame it as look at these baby killers and they want LeBron to dominate the WNBA. It makes no sense to allow your views, which are reasonable and [00:07:00] actually fairly conservative in a small government kind of way, if you do that. Like, why would you allow them to set the terms there?SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and the other thing about this approach is that they suppose that the right wing will ease off if you just stop talking about this stuff.Like you look at the ideas about reforming police systems or training like that. So that was branded by a handful of far left people as "defund the police." Completely eliminate police departments and reconstitute them. That was never a policy that was embraced by the Democratic Party.And in fact, they explicitly, Joe Biden in speeches, explicitly said he wants to fund the police. And so, here you have a scenario where the party itself from the top explicitly went in the strategy that they’re saying they want to do with regard to trans people or [00:08:00] race or abortion and it didn’t work.The right is still saying that every Democrat wants to defund the police. So it’s not about how you frame stuff. And I guess maybe this is something that people who have always been on the left, it’s harder for them to understand. So maybe you can tell me, but as somebody who was on the right, what I realize is that there’s a fixation in the establishment Democratic party to find the perfect message. And if we can just make a thousand polls, we’ll come up with just the right phrasing and issues. And it’s like, that doesn’t actually matter. The message matters less than how often people hear it. Quantity matters more than quality. And they don’t understand that I feel like.MOLLOY: Yeah, I mean, obviously, you want to have something that sounds good, that sounds uncontroversial, but, yeah, you have a great point. I mean, the advantage the right [00:09:00] has is in its approach to media generally.I mean, Fox News can —SHEFFIELD: And advocacy, yeah.MOLLOY: Yeah, media and advocacy. Back when I worked at Media Matters, it was right after the Green New Deal was announced, right after it was introduced. It was just a seven-page promise to take climate change seriously. It was non-binding. There was nothing really to it, but Republicans and specifically Republicans on Fox News were talking about how, oh, if this passes, it would ban train travel. There, there would need to be trains that go to Hawaii and it would ban airplanes. And cows would, you would be forced to become a vegetarian and eat bugs. And all of this stuff where it was just so much nonsense.It’s hard to beat, but months later, polling on the Green New Deal was horrible, especially for people who got their news from Fox or Breitbart or other right wing out outlets.And [00:10:00] there’s just nothing on the left that can really compete with that. And I think that there are a lot of people in denial about the importance of being able to compete in the media world. Fox is there. There is no left wing Fox. Mehdi Hassan just got his show canceled on NBC. And Michael Steele, the former Republican party chair, he’s going to host his show now. He’s getting his own, like he and three other people are now going to host a round table type show. There is no left wing Fox News, as much as people like to pretend that there is.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, not only is there no left wing Fox, but there’s also like five other right wing networks on top of Fox. So you’ve got Newsmax, you’ve got News Nation, you’ve got OAN, you’ve got Real America’s Voice, and apparently there’s some new one that started up whose name I don’t recall right now. But yeah, they just keep coming because they understand that you have [00:11:00] to get the message out, and you have to talk to people where they are.There is something to polling analysis about how the Democratic party has to some degree become sort of out of touch with maybe, less educated or nonpolitical obsessives. I think there is something to that, but it’s more about how do they understand how to talk about things, not about what their ideas are.So like if you look at Joe Biden’s actual policy programs, he has, he literally has been, check the box on almost every economically progressive idea short of, universal healthcare. He expanded Obamacare, he had, for a long time until Joe Manchin made him get rid of it, expanded the child tax credit, he forgave lots of student loan debt, he pushed forward an immense amount of infrastructure spending and environmental, boosting electric cars and things like that.Like from an economic standpoint, he did everything that they told him to [00:12:00] do. And it hasn’t worked. And they don’t want to accept that and realize that that impact has happened.MOLLOY: Yeah. And I think that part of that has to do with not wanting to accept that people aren’t as plugged in to politics as, as people who are super plugged into politics seem to think everyone is as plugged in.Because most people don’t keep up with the individual things that pass, that get implemented, the small policies here and there, most people don’t know that stuff.Every once in a while, I’ll see some interview where someone will say — there was a woman I think was interviewed by the New York Times recently, who said that she was thinking of voting for Trump because she supports abortion. And it was something where the interviewer had to be like, well, Trump’s actually on the opposite side of this, but her take was that Roe was overturned and Biden was president. That’s what she knew. That’s what people know.And it’s really difficult to just hope that people notice that you’re doing good work, [00:13:00] especially when your opponents are going to be out there with a massive media and advocacy apparatus telling people that you’re evil and that every problem in the country is because of your policies.They never specify, no one ever says why they think Biden’s policies cause gas to go up or inflation. It’s just Joe Biden is president, inflation is bad. You should punish him for that.It’s not about policy. There’s no way to just magically fix the problem by changing his stance on anything. It’s never been about policy.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and especially it isn’t for a lot of people because they just don’t understand what the policy is. And you constantly see Democrats on any available platform saying that: ‘Oh, people don’t give Joe Biden the credit for doing X, Y, or Z.’ And they don’t, because guess what? It is not the responsibility of the mainstream media to do that. Whose responsibility [00:14:00] is that? It’s the Democrats’ responsibility.MOLLOY: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: It is the left wing’s responsibility. And until you understand that — they just keep getting frustrated over and over. It is what I call the myopia of intelligence.Because you have mapped out something and the reason for something being, five or six levels deep, and this is why something happened and why, what in my response to it is this and that, and you’ve got it all mapped out. And then you ask somebody else, well, why did this thing happen? Oh, because I didn’t like it.And that’s how politics works as well. People, they don’t operate at the same level, and you should stop assuming that they do. And this is a paradigm that repeats over and over, especially with Donald Trump, who really does understand this sort of more basic level of communication so much better than Democrats or even other Republicans do.MOLLOY: Yeah, I mean, he’s, he’s able to connect with people who are receptive to his message. [00:15:00] I mean, I feel like he understands it and that it’s just kind of his natural, his natural place with that. But you know, people are really bad with cause and effect generally. Especially when we’re talking about things like gas prices or inflation. I mean do people know, oh, well the Fed raised interest rates and that affects like.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, or do they know about inflation in other countries and how it’s higher than here?MOLLOY: Yeah, and that’s something that, I know that this gets talked about on social media, on Twitter a lot, oh, is the economy good? Is the economy bad? And really, it’s a question of is the economy good compared to other countries. It’s kind of good relative to the rest of the world because the pandemic was going to cause some chaos, going to wreak some havoc. And it did. And trying to recover from that is, is a challenge that every single country on the planet had to deal with and has to deal with.And it seems like the U S is doing [00:16:00] relatively well compared to other countries when it comes to employment or inflation, but people just, people see prices go up on something, and they think ‘This is bad. I don’t like this. That’s too expensive. It shouldn’t be that expensive.’And there’s no consideration about whether it’s worse than other countries or not, because it affects them personally. They don’t know about that. And they don’t know about it. And even if they did, you wouldn’t blame them for going: ‘So what, it’s still too expensive for me. This is still making me feel bad about how things are. This is limiting what I can purchase. You can tell me it’s a good economy, but it’s still costing me more to get less and that’s frustrating.’And I can, I understand people who have that.SHEFFIELD: And that’s the reality that they live in.MOLLOY: Yeah. Right. And I understand people getting frustrated about that sort of messaging because really, it’s not a question of should Joe Biden be praised for inflation only being [00:17:00] whatever, and it’s less that and more.SHEFFIELD: That’s a terrible message.MOLLOY: Yeah. Do you think that there are policy changes that could be made that would have resulted in a better outcome? And that I don’t know that the answer is yes. I’m not there’s nothing obvious. It’s not like —SHEFFIELD: Well, actually, I think there are a few things he could do, but it’s interesting that they refuse to even entertain it. So gas prices, fundamentally, are kind of the core vulnerability here that Biden is facing.And it is true that they’ve been going down. But Biden could actually lower the federal gas tax. And that actually would drastically lower people’s costs if he did that. So that’s one thing he could do. And another thing that he could do also, but this is heresy.It’s interesting what’s heresy to Democratic elites. Throwing trans people or black people under the bus, that’s okay. But saying, [00:18:00] hey, you know what, maybe we should have more American oil production in wells that already exist. It already exists instead of outsourcing our oil to Russia and Saudi Arabia, maybe we should have some more ethical oil in this country to take the pressure off of our foreign reliance.No one even talks about that. And yet that would be something that would be a dramatic improvement for people if they had done that.MOLLOY: Well, and also, I mean, energy production under Biden has been up, it’s just, those are the things that Democrats, when they do them, when they make those accomplishments, those are not typically the things they brag about, because when they do, you do have Democratic voters going, well, wait, why is more oil better? Why is more natural gas better than the alternative? So like, I think that there’s a real reluctance to hype up those sorts of [00:19:00] accomplishments. Because it can backfire with a certain portion of the base.SHEFFIELD: That is why they do that, but it is interesting what they choose to not do so. And Biden, to his credit, has not done what a lot of these people have told him to do with regard to social controversies by the right wing. Not by and large, but it’s interesting that there isn’t anybody out there saying: ‘Look, when you look at polls, the gas prices are what people care about. And that they drive inflation and so therefore you should do this.’Like this is something that would directly impact his vulnerability. And the right wing is not going to shut up about racial justice advocates. They’re not going to shut up about trans people. They’re not going to shut up about any of these things regardless of what you say about them. ‘You’re a communist, radical Marxist trying to make everyone into a lesbian, transgender person.’ That’s [00:20:00] what they’re going to say, regardless of what you do.So you should take advantage of something that people could see themselves and actually that you had done it. They would know that you did.MOLLOY: Oh yeah. Well, absolutely. And one benefit that, or one huge advantage that Republicans have on this sort of stuff is the ability to, as you mentioned with defund the police where it’s like, make that the Democrats’ view on everything, to take the words of a few individuals, a few activists, a small handful of people, and to say, ‘this is what Democrats believe,’ even though they were all saying, I do not believe this.Democrats still got labeled as the defund the police party, and that happens so often, where Republicans are able to successfully weaponize the voices of, they’ll find someone saying something ridiculous and they’ll make that, they’ll point to that person and say, that is the [00:21:00] left, that is the left. And that is what they all believe. And you should let that, that, that taint how you view them from here on out.And that is, it’s frustrating because there’s not something similar on the left when it comes to the right. And there’s not the kind of overflow of, if someone on the right.If somebody has an event at a school canceled because of protests, they’re going to get on Fox and Friends the next day. And then they’re going to get invited back for Hannity. And then they’re going to become a big figure in right wing media.That is just something that happens. If someone on the left has a speech of theirs canceled, has an event of theirs shut down, they’re not getting invited on Morning Joe the next day.And even if they were somehow, there wouldn’t be the same kind of: ‘Oh, you poor victim’ kind of approach to it.There’s just no springboard into this broader [00:22:00] public consciousness that the left can use the way the right does. And I think that it’s really helpful for them.Because people judge Democrats for things that activists say. People seem not to judge Republicans for the things that elected Republicans themselves say. There’s this perception that there was an activist who said, "defund the police" and therefore that’s the Democratic Party’s view. But then you have a bunch of Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene saying all sorts of wild nonsense, and no one goes, well, that’s what all Republicans believe.It’s just not, it just doesn’t happen that way. And it’s got to be frustrating.SHEFFIELD: Well, and it is, I have to say it is, as somebody who moved from the right to the left, it is astonishing to me how little that people in the left have learned from the explosion of right wing media.There are a few halting attempts at creating advocacy [00:23:00] center left media, but the donors seem to think: ‘Well, we only want to have one of each of these things, one. And everybody will read that one website.’And it’s like, no, they will not number one. And they have this idea, with regard to pushing some interesting talking point or message or something, they’ll say, oh, well, I got a, an op-ed in the New York Times, so my job’s done. Or I helped inject messages into an Atlantic cover story, the job’s done. Most people, even people who read those publications, most of them didn’t see that story. The readers of those publications did not see that story, let alone everybody else. And it is incredible to me that they don’t understand that. The paradox is that the right and the left seem to have about the same amount of money. It’s just that the right spends it so much more efficiently and so [00:24:00] much more in a sustainable way. They’ve created an ecosystem that is self-perpetuating from top to bottom.In software development, we call it this idea of the "full stack" that you’re building an application one upon another upon another, and they all function together as a really complex system that doesn’t really exist on the left.So like on the right, they’ve got talent development and student outreach organizations like Turning Point USA and Leadership Institute and a whole bunch of these things. Then they’ve got organizations dedicated solely to being jobs, banks and career development organizations where you can go to them and say, hey, I need a job and I know how to do these things. Can you help me? And they say, yes, let me send your resume out to people and help you get a job.And then on top of that, they’ve got multiple PR firms that are constantly trolling the organic right wing media ecosystem [00:25:00] for stories and people and personalities and pulling them up from obscurity, like Joe the Plumber. I mean, just a variety of these people that are just random individuals and they have been elevated by this structure that deliberately seeks to do that.Candace Owens was just a random YouTuber who was posting racist videos of people at construction sites. That’s what she was doing. And she was plucked from obscurity by somebody who said: ‘Hey, this is somebody who has potential as an advocate for us.’And then on top of that, they’ve got multiple layers of advocacy media who all interact with each other and are constantly stealing stories from each other.And then on top of that, they’ve got the pollsters and the consultants who are always listening through this full stack to what are messages that people like and how can we get our base excited about stuff.And that’s why they so quickly, like this Moms for Liberty group just came out of f*****g nowhere and [00:26:00] became a massive multimillion dollar organization with tons of institutional support. Because they understand that you have to work together. And when you do, not only do you, are you able to get what you want, but you’re also able to grow the ecosystem.So having multiple, propaganda channels for them is helpful. It’s not hurtful to them because all of these people get money from each other and share their audiences, cross pollinate. I mean, it’s just incredible what they’ve done, and how no one with money on the left has said: ‘Hey, maybe these people actually know some stuff. Maybe we should look at what they’ve done. They don’t.’It’s incredible.MOLLOY: Yeah. I mean, no argument from me on that.SHEFFIELD: Okay. I guess I did go on at extended length there a bit.MOLLOY: No, I mean, you made the point perfectly though. They really have all of these built-in advantages and [00:27:00] I wish I knew more of what the left could do, because obviously, I find the ideas pushed on the right horrible, especially when it’s stuff about trans people that affects me personally. So it is frustrating.It’s very frustrating from the outside as someone who’s kind of worked on the periphery of this, a little bit when it comes to working at Media Matters, for instance.When I was there, it’s like that is kind of a small little example of what could be if you had a bunch of organizations like that. If you had investments into these like the right has investments into. You’ve got Ben Shapiro’s show Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire going out there and making full-on movies and cartoons now. And there’s no one on the left with that much money to play with and make their own content like that, that is just so nakedly propagandistic.Because it’s not like the [00:28:00] Daily Wire made Lady Ballers as a genuine ‘let’s try to make a big profit’ kind of thing. No, they made it because it’s propaganda.And most of the time when people make movies where it’s like: ‘Oh yeah, we’re making a joke out of a certain group of people,’ they’ll kind of be like, ‘well, I don’t mean it that way. It’s obviously it’s all in good fun.’But no, after they announced that movie and after that movie came out, you had every Daily Wire person being like, yes, trans people are evil and shouldn’t exist, they’re like, that was the point of our movie to convince people of this, to make you think that they’re ridiculous.And it’s the exact kind of stuff that they claim that Disney is doing. They claim that all these other places are doing, and that’s how they justify it too.They go: ‘No, no, no, we’re not trying to indoctrinate people. We’re not trying to brainwash them. We’re just taking what the left is doing and we’re giving them a taste of their own medicine.’But the whole idea that this is something that the left is already doing is nonsense. [00:29:00] And there’s also this idea that trans people on college campuses never get harassed or given a hard time. People are like, oh, you, people care more about getting the wrong, getting the pronouns of people right rather than making sure that some students can feel safe or whatever like that.Like all these things come up. And no, the truth is that colleges and employers and institutions generally don’t care about anti trans discrimination. They’re more than happy to throw trans people under the bus whenever.I mean, you had Dylan Mulvaney, a trans influencer, Bud Light sent her one can of beer with her face on it to do one ad on her Instagram channel to her own audience, not a wider audience, and conservatives still will yell about that and be like, Bud Light went woke because they decided to advertise to one influencer’s fans, existing fans, and it’s not [00:30:00] like she wasSHEFFIELD: Which they do with like a hundred other people.MOLLOY: Yeah, exactly. It’s not like she was the only one. They do all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of followings. That’s the whole point of advertising. But no, they made it seem like, oh, well, Bud Light did a big national campaign, and they were putting her face on all the beer. And it became this big story.And that really frustrates me is this idea that trans people have it super good right now. ‘Oh, trans people, we can’t even say anything about you. We have to tell you that you’re stunning and brave.’ Which stunning and brave is a line from South Park, the episode where they made fun of Caitlyn Jenner. And they’ve just been repeating it ever since.And Caitlyn Jenner’s a terrible person, horrible person, total monster. But it’s so annoying that that gets brought up, where it’s like, no, trans people always get dumped on by society as a whole.SHEFFIELD: And without repercussion either.MOLLOY: Yeah. Well, exactly.SHEFFIELD: Like Dave Chappelle. That seems to [00:31:00] be the centerpiece of his act now. And now he’s posing for pictures with Lauren Boebert.MOLLOY: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Like this guy is as far from canceled as you could possibly be.MOLLOY: Yeah. Well, and that’s, what’s kind of been really shocking to watch happen. There are things that if you say them that they will get you more or less pushed out of public life.Some of these things, absolutely, you can definitely see that, I mean, you had Kanye West going out there and praising Hitler. And people pretty fully were like, no, you have to go away now. You are not going to be part of everything happening here. And he tries to do his comeback and all that stuff.I think it’s good that there are some things that if you say people will go: ‘That’s not cool. That’s not okay.’ And what Kanye did is a great example of it, [00:32:00] but there was that congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses. And it’s so bizarre to watch people who’ve spent the past decade making arguments against snowflakes and safe spaces and words are violence, like all of these things just nonstop ‘there should be open debate, there needs to be free speech and open debate’ and all of this stuff.And then this hearing happens where they’re debating slogans and chants for students who are supporting Palestine against Israel. It’s weird to see the same people who justified anti trans bullying and white supremacist bullying of people of color just now being like, no, you can’t, people have a right to feel safe on campus, to not be bothered by others around them for their views, to be protected, to have a safe space [00:33:00] essentially.The people pushing that most, lots of Republicans in Congress, they don’t care about this. And they don’t mean to extend all of this stuff wider.When the president of the University of Pennsylvania responded to the backlash, she said something along the lines of how maybe the school needs to have a more restrictive speech culture, and the people who were mad at her for not categorically saying that calls of Intifada were genocidal, for not saying that the mentions of that would get someone banned from campus — just flip right back to, no, you, you can’t have a more restrictive part on campus. We just want you to treat, all instances of hate the same.And the truth is that they have a very, very warped view of what actually happens on campus. They believe that trans people are [00:34:00] protected, that trans people never get bothered. They believe that black students never get harassed. That they don’t have to deal with racism. But the truth is that both of those things happen. Especially, I mean, at the University of Pennsylvania. You there’s a professor there who is notorious for saying super racist things who for years has been protected by the right as some free speech martyr. And she has not lost her job for that.And it seemed odd watching the other day as people were mad that Harvard and Penn and MIT or whatever, that they didn’t do a complete 180 on that, on speech.They’re doing what the right has been pushing them to do for years. And now the right is saying no, do the opposite. We would like safe spaces, just not for them, not for trans people, not for people of color, just for Republicans.SHEFFIELD: It’s not even about stopping anti Semitism at large, [00:35:00] because you can see that. I mean, Elon Musk has made very clear like what his priorities are.MOLLOY: Yeah. I mean, Elise Stefanik, she had promoted the "great replacement" conspiracy theory. But she’s the big champion against antisemitism? No, it’s hard to take people seriously where they’re constantly flip flopping on what they say in public.And I found a lot of that — this is maybe just a tiny bit off subject — but I saw a lot of that in the way that people responded to the Grand Theft Auto 6 trailer coming out. You had people going — people who had for years been railing against censorship and complaining about not having free speech to say everything they want and to being shamed into self-censorship, criticizing any form of criticism as stifling their expression- then seeing the Grand Theft Auto VI trailer and going: ‘Oh, this needs to be banned. This needs to be banned.’SHEFFIELD: For those who don’t [00:36:00] know about it yet. What was that?MOLLOY: Oh yeah. So, Grand Theft Auto famously has violence and sex and in the early 2000s, efforts to ban and crack down on violent video games were, massive. There was a huge one.And so the latest iteration of this game is going to come out in 2025 and the trailer for it dropped, and you can see in the trailer that it’s going to have a lot of the same, it’s going to have sexual content, it’s going to have violence. The game is marketed to adults. It’s rated M, which is their mature rating, meaning that they can only be sold to people over 18.And so you’ve got that, but then the response from a weird number of people on social media was: ‘Oh, this needs to be banned.’Elon Musk was jumping in there being like, I don’t like, I tried to play Grand Theft Auto V, and I didn’t like it because it made you shoot at the police. Now [00:37:00] he’s like, I had to shut it off.And that’s the very first scene in that game that he’s describing.And someone else was like, oh yeah, I don’t like committing crimes in games. And he’s talking, he’s like, no, I, oh, I don’t, violence, no but it’s so strange to watch people just flip back and forth on things.Oh, things are too restrictive. Oh, things are, this, this goes too far, it needs to be restricted.That sort of argument that goes back and forth and it plays out on college campuses, and it plays out on Twitter all the time. You get guys like Andrew Tate, for instance, who is a big influencer when it comes to influencing teenage boys and talking about getting all the women and treating women terrible and all that stuff.But then he’ll post something that’s all very nationalist, the [00:38:00] traditional return kind of content, where it’s like: ‘Oh, you, should have a wife that is modest.’ All of that stuff. You see that happen all the time online and people just don’t seem to get that these things are kind of incompatible with each other, and it makes me believe a lot of people don’t believe anything at all.SHEFFIELD: And you’re right about that because the core difficulty that I think the center left has in responding to the right is that there is a difference between conservatism and reactionism. They’re not the same thing.And in American politics, for 50 years, reactionism has stolen the identity of conservatism. And people treat them as if they’re the same thing, but they’re not.And reactionism is an ideology entirely of identity and power. It has no consistency. It has no long term goals. The only thing that it wants is the groups [00:39:00] that we like need to rule. And that’s it. Everything else is fungible.So who the groups are is fungible. What type of political structure you can have, where they’re democratic or monarchical or anything in between is fungible. The specific politicians are fungible. Even the policy positions, like whether you’re pro-environment or you’re pro-choice or, or even, pro allowing non heteronormative sexual identities is also even fungible.And like you see that especially with the early alt right, which was welcoming of homosexuality, and many of the leaders were gay or bisexual.But it’s only about identity. And I think a lot of people on the left, they don’t quite understand that. And that’s why none of this makes sense. But then also, it is a politics of nihilism. It’s a politics in which nothing matters, and just doing what you want or [00:40:00] believing what you want, that’s all that really matters.So if I believe that God created the earth in seven days, 6,000 years ago, then it’s true. Or if I believe that science shows that whatever racist belief I have is true, then it’s true. And it doesn’t matter.And that’s the thing, to go back to the myopia of intelligence that a lot of people who have had a sound education or have a good epistemology on the world, they think everybody else does and they don’t get that that most people aren’t paying attention, number one. And so you have to actually talk to them a lot and repeat yourself a lot, even though it’s annoying, you still have to do it.And then number two, you actually have to go to where they are. And to what you were saying about Andrew Tate and whatnot, the right wing completely dominates YouTube. And nobody on the left, there are people on the left that are on YouTube, but they all are kind of dog eat dog with each other. They [00:41:00] don’t help each other. They don’t support each other. They don’t respond to each other. None of that.Whereas on the right, they’re constantly having each other on their shows. They’re constantly promoting each other. And maybe some of it is just simply that people on the left rightfully understand that the public agrees with them, and it makes them lazy.I don’t know. What do you think?MOLLOY: It could be. I think that’s a good point. They don’t feel a threat in other words. Yeah, there’s not a sense of urgency. There’s not a sense of needing to coordinate. And to understand the need to build out, I think there, on the right, you have, yes, the dominance of right wing figures on YouTube and you have the Joe Rogan podcast, and then people go on there, become big, then they have their own shows and then people go on those shows and get big, and they build up. That’s how you have Tim Pool gets gigantic. Rogan ties all into these guys.But yeah, one thing that worries me about the idea that where it’s just like, yes, if I believe something it’s true, [00:42:00] there’s, a real risk, I think, with that.Because these are things – matters of fact, not opinions. You’ll have things like who won the 2020 election. And almost everyone who started spreading the election conspiracy theories absolutely knew that Trump lost, but they kept pushing it, and they kept saying it and they kept insisting that there was something wrong with that election and more people start saying they believe it and more people probably do start to believe it.Because that’s what they stand for and that’s what they believe in their identity. They’re being told by people who are part of their in-group to believe something. And so they do. And I kind of wonder how that’s going to play out when it comes to history books in the future, not just on the election, but just generally, because it doesn’t seem like we inhabit the same reality anymore.There’s a group of people on the right [00:43:00] who know very well that they can contest literally the most basic facts about anything by just repeating it non-stop and insisting that it’s correct. They can’t be shamed into not being like that. Even after the Dominion lawsuit with Fox, people just — Fox didn’t change. Fox is still lying about things. Fox just isn’t defaming a company.SHEFFIELD: One company, yeah.MOLLOY: Yeah, exactly. And really, it’s worrying because I think that a lot of people of this mindset that ‘Oh, well, all that matters is the truth. If they believe Trump won, that doesn’t affect me.’ it absolutely does.SHEFFIELD: It does, yeah.MOLLOY: If you can convince, if you can convince people to believe in complete nonsense, which is the exact thing that they accuse trans people of doing, they’re like, oh, you want people to pretend to see you as — no, no.The idea that trans people are out there like, ‘you must [00:44:00] say that you see me a certain way.’ No. Trans people understand, like, no one’s denying biological sex. No one’s doing any of these things that the right says. Trans people are just like: ‘Hey, here’s who I am. Here’s how I’d like you to refer to me if you can. And yeah, let’s have everyone go about their days,’ but instead the right paints the left as employing the same tactics they use when it comes to things like saying the election was stolen or saying that they were right about COVID all along.Guys like Elon Musk have statements saying that COVID wasn’t going to be as big of a deal as it ended up being and those people who have said that will look back on the pandemic that has killed millions of people and insist that they were right and insist that the vaccines were actually dangerous and have killed people. We’re just living in a world of nonsense.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And what you’re saying about that it affects other people. It is a really important [00:45:00] point, because you can see how this works with regard to the economy and what people think about it.So Republicans came up with this idea that people on the left are NPCs, non-playable characters. And that they don’t have any real authentic thoughts and whatnot — that in fact, they just believe whatever people tell them.But in fact, that is actually how Republicans work. And you can see it when you look at polling about the state of the economy. When people ask them, when pollsters ask people, how do you think the economy is right now? Or for the future, how’s it going? And when Donald Trump became the president, Republicans went from extremely low confidence in the economy to extremely high confidence in the economy.And then it kept at record 90 percent positivity in the economy for his entire administration. It dipped slightly to like 70 percent in the height of the worst part of the pandemic. 70 percent of Republicans said it was great. The economy was fantastic. And then when Biden became the [00:46:00] president, their sentiment went from 70 percent positive and Biden hadn’t done literally anything, passed a goddamn thing, it went down to like 10 percent or 5 percent in the state of the economy, and it has hovered there regardless of what’s happened. People can make fun of that, and it is absurd, but here’s the problem and why this is much more serious than that, is that when you have Republicans who are totally brainwashed NPCs about the state of the economy, their pessimism infects other people. So that people who don’t know much about stuff, they’re sort of apolitical or vaguely centrist or whatever they are, they’re not paying attention and their Republican friends and neighbors are like: ‘Oh my God, the economy’s horrible. We’re all going to die from the illegal immigrant transsexuals.’ They may not believe it entirely. But they believe some of it.And so that’s why, despite the fact that we do have record low unemployment, [00:47:00] despite the fact that there are so many economic indicators that are positive, so many Americans, not just Republicans, they have been sort of brainwashed by osmosis, by right wing propaganda, and that is why this matters.Even if you think Ben Shapiro is a ridiculous loser and Steven Crowder is a hypocritical in the closet gay guy, that’s all true. I’ll agree with you that that’s all true. But what they say still matters, even though they’re absurd.MOLLOY: Yeah, God. I 100 percent agree.SHEFFIELD: And I guess since we’re recording this in the middle of December, can we wrap on you, you recently revised or revisited one of your posts about the "War on Christmas," and that’s a good way to go out, and illustrative of — again that saying of Voltaire’s, ‘people who can make you believe absurdities can make you [00:48:00] commit atrocities.’MOLLOY: Yes. Yes. I revisited my, my history of the "War on Christmas" piece that I wrote a couple of years back. I love reading through that sort of history because it does — there is such a clear line between the propaganda of the World War I, World War II era, kind of going straight through to today, when it comes to, when it comes to Fox. I mean, Fox or any number of other outlets on the right.The War on Christmas, so it’s always been the same. You had Henry Ford’s newspaper back in the 1920s publishing things saying: ‘Well, I couldn’t find a Christmas card that said anything about baby Jesus’s birth last time I went to the store.’ And it’s the same complaints. It’s the same, ‘someone said happy holidays to me, and that made me feel sad because it didn’t recognize my personal religious holiday.’That’s that sort of thing that just kind of pops up. And it’s all a distraction from [00:49:00] bigger real issues. Donald Trump promised during his campaign that if he became president in 2016, if he became president, that every store was going to be saying, Merry Christmas again. And that was a nonsense promise. Somehow for some reason, PolitiFact gave him a “promise kept” on that because he never personally said happy holidays. And it’s like, no, you’re supposed to be super literal here, PolitiFact.But yeah, the war on Christmas piece is one of my favorites that I’ve done. And it’s because I love doing deep dives into old history. So I don’t have to feel like now is as terrible as it maybe is. I can look back and be like, ah, things have always been awful.SHEFFIELD: But it’s also that, it’s important in the sense that this is a nonpartisan, non-policy issue — or issue, quote unquote, or controversy — and hopefully people are able to see that propaganda actually, it matters. And [00:50:00] it’s absurd and it’s stupid, but people believe it. And you need to act accordingly.MOLLOY: Yes. Absolutely.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.MOLLOY: Thanks so much.SHEFFIELD: Alright, well we’ll leave it there. And so if people want to keep up with you, should they just go to your website or —MOLLOY: Yeah, yeah. So go subscribe to my newsletter people, All righty. Yes, please do that. All right.MOLLOY: All right.SHEFFIELD: Thanks for being here, Parker.MOLLOY: All right. Thank you. Bye.SHEFFIELD: So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us for the conversation, and you can always get more if you go to You can get the archives with video, audio, and transcript of every episode, and if you’re a paid subscribing member, thank you very much for that.Couldn’t do it without you and you have complete access to all the archives and all the episodes if you go there. And then you can go to the website. Theory of [00:51:00] Change is part of the Flux media network, and you can get more podcasts about politics, media, religion, and society and how they all intersect. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/18/202352 minutes, 59 seconds
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Texas abortion law's ugly tyranny exposed in court case

Headlines00:00 — Texas abortion law's ugly tyranny exposed in court case10:45 — After promoting and protecting antisemites for years, Republicans are now weaponizing anti-antisemitism against Harvard’s first black president21:18 — First-time author Cait Corrain loses contracts after malicious fake book reviews exposed28:51 — Actual justice obtained against Montgomery boat brawl assailants and Atlanta woman who killed black motorist33:00 — Donald Trump sells pieces of suit he supposedly wore along with new NFTs35:21 — Doritos nacho cheese liquor now existsJoin the ConversationMatt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/15/202341 minutes, 26 seconds
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Taylor Swift triggers MAGA (again)

This Doomscroll episode is shorter than normal since Lisa is prepping for her standup comedy special taping this Thursday 12/14 in Madison, Wisconsin! Details and tickets here: Chapters00:00 — Trump fans rage about Taylor Swift winning Time's "Person of the Year"04:55 — Why in the hell is there an “Ultra Right Beer” company with a political swimsuit calendar?17:15 — Some people really are dumb enough to say they'll vote for Trump because they think he's funnyYou can watch the video version of this episodeFollow or Die!Doomscroll is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/13/202321 minutes, 38 seconds
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Biden trails Trump a year out from the election, does it matter?

IntroductionNext month, things finally start getting serious in the political realm as many states begin holding their presidential primaries. But at this point, things are not looking so good for Joe Biden in comparison to Donald Trump.Less than a year removed from the election of 2024, Biden trails Trump in a number of public opinion surveys that have been released by reputable organizations. So what's going on here? Is this just the way things work in American politics or are there mistakes that Biden has made? What is the status of public opinion on Joe Biden?And would it do any good for the forces of democracy for Joe Biden to be replaced on the Democratic ticket or Kamala Harris, the vice president?  We'll talk about some of these questions in this episode, and continuing with our series about what is going on with the Democrats.Joining me to discuss is David Atkins, he is a contributor to Washington Monthly magazine, and he is also a member of the Democratic National Committee, although he is not speaking for their behalf in today's conversation.The video of this conversation is available. The transcript of the audio follows.TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Welcome to Theory of Change, David.DAVID ATKINS: Happy to be here. Thank you.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so, as I mentioned in the introduction, there [00:02:00] is a lot of concern among people of the, let's say center to left perspective about a passel of polls showing that Donald Trump is doing better when they ask people about who would you vote for next year?And it's causing a lot of panic and making people try to dust off their priors, it seems like usually. Are people responding to these polls in the right way?ATKINS: This is a challenging and complex question because I think it depends on, on who you're talking to.I think there are changes that need to be made to more forcefully communicate the message about what the Biden administration has accomplished. And there's a lot of discussion that's happening around what the best way to, to message and communicate that so that it actually gets through to persuadable voters, right?There is, I think a lot of deer in the headlights, and everything is going to be okay-ism that happens from folks who are more [00:03:00] sort of in the establishment and think, you know what? Everything's going to be okay. We just have to get through to the next year. We've been here before in the polling and we're just going to keep sort of doing what we're going, what we're doing.And I think both sides are making a mistake. I think panicking too much based on polling a year out from the election is unwarranted. There's been multiple times in American history where the incumbent president was not polling so well a year before the election, and things ended up being fine, because ultimately, the incumbent, if there are issues in the economy or whatever, the incumbent doesn't do so well, but then when there becomes a real choice with the opponent, then that changes things. On the other hand, I think the issues are serious enough that strategic adjustments are absolutely necessary.SHEFFIELD: One of the proposals that a lot of people are really, some are putting forward is the idea that Joe Biden needs to resign and not run for reelection. And he's just too old and people don't like him. [00:04:00]And if he did, then everything would be magically perfect somehow and Trump would lose. This seems to be rather naive. There's this idea that, that it would have no impact on the Democratic coalition if the currently serving president abruptly abandoned his campaign right before the primaries start.ATKINS: I mean, so full disclosure here, I'm not a big Biden stan. I was for Bernie in the 2016 primary. I was for Warren in the 2020 primary. So, you're not hearing this from like, Oh, a Democratic establishment Biden guy. That having been said, I think you're absolutely right. And I have said this in, in my updates in, on my DNC page and elsewise.There is talk from some progressives about, wanting to replace Biden because he's not far enough to the left. There's also a lot of talk among more sort of establishment voices this worry about him being perceived to be too old in the media or whatever, [00:05:00] but I think you're right. All of this talk is a mistake.Because while there are challenges for any incumbent, but the perception of any incumbent and Biden's perceptions among the public certainly have their challenges as we've seen from the approval ratings, I think anything that, if he were to step aside, the battle that would take place to replace him would create massive rifts in the Democratic coalition.And it would be less healthy for the party than to continue forward with Joe Biden, absent some obvious, serious health concerns, serious scandal, but based on current information.I think that going in a different direction would do more harm than good. And even talking about it doesn't serve us. We need, regardless of the person at the top of the ticket, I think the most important thing is for us to be concentrating on the [00:06:00] real massive legislative victories that have been achieved for the American people under the Biden administration, which, whether from a moderate perspective or a progressive perspective have been truly enormous.Biden has been a much more progressive president than I would have given him credit for. I have some disappointments, but mostly the administration has done very well with serious challenges, having a razor-thin Congress and all the rest. So, I, I don't think there's a lot of gain to be had from having those kinds of conversations at this point.SHEFFIELD: Well, and it is interesting because, this discontent, it's coming from both wings of the Democratic Party. So, the centrists say that Biden is too far to the left, and then the progressives say that he's too far to the right. And of course, there's the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. That doesn't mean of course that he's doing everything perfectly, but it does mean that perhaps people making these criticisms are not entirely able to see things, that [00:07:00] they're seeing things from a biased perspective, perhaps.ATKINS: Right. I mean, part of the problem, too, is that every strategic move comes at potentially at a coalition cost.There is no question, but what younger and more progressive voters are not very enthusiastic right now, but some centrist voters also have a perception that you know, that if things shift too far to the left, it may not be to their liking for various reasons.So, if you look at the Israel Palestine issue, for instance just from an electoral coalition every politician sort of gets it coming and going, no matter which side of it they take.So, speaking not in terms of absolute moral terms, but in just purely strategic electoral terms, it's not entirely clear what the best path forward always is. That having been said, I think that progressive policies, most of which the Biden administration has absolutely embraced, that are popular and overwhelmingly popular for the American people, for instance, this [00:08:00] recent push to get rid of lead pipes, which should be universal. I think that's a positive thing that we can carry forward.And with inflation drawing down, I think the economic policies have been fairly successful, and that what we see at the macro level will begin increasingly to be felt in people's pocketbooks at the micro level. And that's sort of the path forward to try and repair the polling damage. And that says nothing about the damage that Trump is going to be experiencing over the next year going forward with his trials.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and actually, and that is actually the next topic, Trump, I would, that I wanted to talk about, because I do think that, especially a year before the election, whoever is the president is automatically, there's a, there's always inevitably a buyer's remorse on the part of the supporters.And we did see that with Trump. I was running polling operations for the Hill and doing a show about public opinion surveys, and we ran [00:09:00] surveys asking Republicans, would you want somebody else to run for president in the Republican party? And most of them said yes. But that didn't mean that they weren't going to vote for him when he eventually got the nomination. So that's a factor, but then there's also, I think that the, the way that the Republican primaries have been operating, these candidates essentially have been telling the Republican people who tune in, you should vote for Trump. The message of every single one of these debates is, we're just here as a backup but we still support Donald Trump. And that's the message that just keeps getting reinforced, especially by people like Nikki Haley, who basically never say anything bad about Trump. And DeSantis barely says anything bad, and certainly Ramaswamy says nothing bad about Trump. Like that's basically the, Chris Christie is the only one who says anything, significantly critical of Trump in these debates. And then of course, he's not there to take the slings and arrows himself because he's too afraid.So [00:10:00] ultimately this has been more of a prolonged coronation for Trump rather than a real primary, I would say. What do you think?ATKINS: No, I agree. These candidates are all sort of waiting in the wings. They know that if they say anything negative against Trump, that it will actually hurt them. Chris Christie is the only one, as you mentioned with the courage to do that, but it's obviously not redounding to his benefit in the polls and the among the Republican electorate.So, it is sort of a show primary. Donald Trump is easily going to be the nominee, unless of course he has some massive health problem. You would normally say massive scandal or health problem, but of course that's not going to affect anything at all.So, it would, it would require a health issue for him to not be there. He is going to be the nominee and everyone else is an also-ran. And these debates are functionally pointless, no matter how much the media and many Republican donor sets try to advance either Ramaswamy, or, or now, Nikki Haley is the flavor of the month. But [00:11:00] no, it's going to be Trump.SHEFFIELD: And I would say that these debates, to the extent that that legitimate news organizations are putting them on now, they are actively helping Trump by doing these things. Because they're not, there's, they're not filled with any substantive criticism or discussion about it, even discussion about any of his ideas.There will be perfunctory things about, various comments that Trump says, such as his, oh, well, I'll be a dictator only for one day vow, which was cheered by the audience of Fox News when he was there with Hannity, that's important to note. They didn't think it was a joke. They thought it was great when he said that.But nonetheless, it's just continually reinforcing this meme that Republicans have created for themselves, that the only thing people don't like about Trump is mean tweets. They, and they really have, they've said this so many times that they really believe it.And it's an incredibly insidious but powerful argument because [00:12:00] it's very simple. It's easy for people to understand that you think he's mean and that's why you don't like him. And the mainstream media is actively helping advance that, I think.ATKINS: No, I absolutely agree. And, when you look at persuadable voters, from having done polling, persuadable voters often are not the best-informed voters. And so, there's a lack of awareness generally of the danger that Donald Trump represents to democracy itself. There's a lack of awareness of just how extreme his policies are. There is this perception that Donald Trump is this social liberal, all over the map, he just wants to, to do the right thing from a business standpoint-- businessman good for the economy kind of perception that's sort of vague in a lot of people's minds who don't pay very close attention.But of course, the man is a wannabe fascist tyrant, with terrible policies across the board that would be devastating to the American economy and [00:13:00] devastating to our standing in the world on foreign policy. He wants to ally with dictators around the world to basically put the United States on the wrong side of global democracy.So, but people just don't know. And you've started to see traditional mainstream sort of media like New York Times, Washington Post come out more forcefully and talk about this recently and talk about this actual statement that Trump has been making. It's a little bit late though, because I think people's perceptions are, are a little bit baked-in on that front, but the more people can be talking about it, the better, because his statements about what he intends to do have grown much, much, much more extreme just in the last year compared to even all the statements he used to make in the past.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, I agree with that. And I do think while these prosecutions that he's, he's facing are certainly well deserved and are, are substantive and, they continue to be [00:14:00] generally victorious in, in court rulings they should have happened immediately after he left office.And that was perhaps the biggest mistake that people who were concerned about him coming back. Because if we go back to the second impeachment that Trump faced, which Mitch McConnell deliberately stalled to be conducted after Trump had left office. (There was plenty of time that this could have happened while he was the president. And then he deliberately chose not to make that happen.) But nonetheless, the argument that the Trump defenders made at that time was, we're not going to impeach him because he's going to be held legally accountable in the courts for his behavior, but then nothing happened for two years.ATKINS: Right. No, I've had many arguments with people including Marcy Wheeler and others about this topic. Because the two sides of the argument are: Well, if you prosecuted too quickly, you wouldn't have all the facts in hand. It takes a long time to roll up these sorts of [00:15:00] prosecutions. Mafia prosecutions, for instance, take place over the span of years.You don't want to have a prosecution that goes bad, because you didn't have your ducks lined up in a row. And I hear all of that. On the other hand, some of these crimes were very obvious. Some of the evidence was right there. I, I don't understand why it should have taken so long. And I think there was a significant amount of political reticence to go after Trump.I think that a lot of people felt for a little while, like that threat was passed. We'd move on; re-opening all of this would only inflame tensions further. Trump was going to take an exit on the stage. What's the point? And I think there was you don't want to make it look Like the Biden administration is influencing the Justice Department to go after its political enemies, even though that's, of course, not what's happening, the man Trump committed massive crimes and any other person in the entire [00:16:00] United States who had committed those crimes would be immediately hit by the Justice Department from either party,SHEFFIELD: Which and yeah, and I'm sorry, just to inject we saw this happen in Brazil, a similar thing was done by Jair Bolsonaro, that his supporters invaded their capital and rioted and tried to, to stop him from, from being forced out of office after the voters had kicked him out. And after he had instigated that invasion of the Capitol, he was permanently banned, or at least, I'm sorry, he was banned from at least like 10 years for running for office or something like that, by the, the Brazilian government and that's what should have happened to Donald Trump.I think it's the biggest mistake in dealing with him, because Donald Trump, he's, he's not going to go away, as you said, that unless he is physically unable to, he has to run for president in order to avoid being jailed. That is ultimately why he will do this.And his megalomania and whatnot, [00:17:00] aside from that, combined with that. But yeah, something should have been done faster. And, and it's later than it should have been for, for sure, I would say.ATKINS: Yeah. I think one of the most challenging things looking at this is the American system has not shown itself resilient enough as it should be in dealing with this sort of potential totalitarian threat. Presidential systems generally, which we're as opposed to parliamentary systems tend to have challenges with these sorts of threats and our system is, is no exception and the fact that the Justice Department did not immediately come down with a hammer on Trump for obviously January 6th, but his other crimes shows that we have this sort of sense that all of these problems will sort of be taken care of at the ballot box and that you don't have to step in with actual administrative or legislative ways of dealing with a potential fascist threat.SHEFFIELD: Remedies.ATKINS: Remedies, exactly. These sorts of remedies. And the problem is you [00:18:00] cannot, in fact, count on these problems always being resolved at the ballot box. You're in a losing battle because all it takes for a fascist is to win once. We've seen that over and over again in history and the world over. And the vagaries of elections, how the economy is doing, whether your incumbent has, a scandal or an image problem, whether, things that happen in October surprises, the vagaries of what happens in elections are not witnesses Amenable to keeping fascists out of power permanently if they intend to be fascists.So, this is a challenge and the system needs to do a better job of being resilient. And one of those would have been the Justice Department should have come down much faster on this stuff.Right privilege, why Republicans never have to reveal their full agendaSHEFFIELD: Yeah, so I, I am, as my audience probably knows, a former Republican activist, and, um, one of the things that I've been thinking about in this context is that the American political system since the Goldwater-ites took [00:19:00] over the Republican party has, has been premised on a fiction that the Republican party is a normal political operation. When in fact it has not been the case. It is a party that was taken over by a reactionary extremist movement that has been subverting the constitutional order, whether it's disenfranchising people in various ways, or to seize power through a unitary executive theory or seek to enshrine various Christian theocratic principles in the, in the legal system and call that religious freedom. In other words, call religious oppression "religious freedom."None of those things are really talked about when you tune into any of the cable news channels or the Sunday morning shows. The Republican guests who are on these programs, not only do they not have to admit that Trump legitimately lost in 2020, they don't even have to present their full [00:20:00] opinions about anything.So, like on abortion, for instance, the people who are leading the anti-abortion movement overwhelmingly have a theocratic christofascist agenda in which they want women to have no rights. They want to take away birth control. They want to take away a woman's right to have a job or own property. This is their agenda. And yet, the public never is being told that fact about them, and that's why I call it right privilege.ATKINS: Yeah, I, I agree. And don't forget no fault divorce, which they're coming for as well.SHEFFIELD: Oh yes, that, too.ATKINS: And they don't want to allow that anymore. I think it's becoming clear. I think the end of Roe v. Wade did energize a lot of people, and we have seen Democrats doing much better in special elections, every single special election, basically in-between. So, you have this weird dichotomy, before I get back to your question, of Democrats doing very well in special elections, but the polling not favoring Joe Biden, which [00:21:00] brings us back to this conversation about people freaking out about Biden at the top of the ticket.But if you look at the general mood of the public, a lot of the Christofascist groups like, Moms for Liberty and all the rest of that have done very, very poorly. People are starting to wake up to this sort of social, this extremely socially repressive agenda that not just the far-right conservative base, but now the Republican party itself is wholly embracing.But there does, there does seem to be a problem with the perception of Donald Trump, because of his libertine past and his overall image, that he's not like that personally. The problem being that it doesn't matter what he's like personally. The problem is that if he's leading a coalition, a Republican party coalition that is being dominated by these sorts of extremely socially retrograde, repressive, [00:22:00] Christo fascist forces. The judges he nominates to the Supreme Court and on down the bench and all the other legislators that take action, you're going to see the end of no-fault divorce. You're going to see abortion bans all across the country, potentially a national abortion ban. You're going to see book bannings all across the country.You're going to see all of these, these problems-- anti LGBT legislation, basically the elimination of gender affirming care to say nothing, I mean, that doesn't even get into immigration and his planned deportation camps and all the rest of it. So yeah, no, it's, it's a really big problem and then not enough persuadable voters are really fully conscious of the threat that Donald Trump individually poses, not just the Republican party generally.Right-wing media holds up the entire Republican coalitionSHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, I think that's true. And some of that is the fault of the Democratic leadership class and progressive philanthropy [00:23:00] because over the past, let's say, let's say over the past 50 years or so, the reactionary right has built up a gigantic propaganda apparatus. And it's so large now that it has, many of these individuals in it, have larger audiences than mainstream media outlets. So, like Andrew Tate has more people who follow him on one social network than read The Atlantic. Or The Daily Wire website, which is owned by two brothers who literally want to overthrow American democracy and replace it with Christian dominionist, monarchist system, has more, more viewers and, and readers and whatnot on Facebook than almost anyone else. Than the New York Times and more than NBC or any of these other platforms.And the reaction for a lot of Democratic leaders, number one, I don't think they know this [00:24:00] fact, this information. I don't think they realize how gigantic right-wing media is now and the reach that it has. And then number two, to the extent that they're aware of these individuals, they just think they're a bunch of clowns that no one cares about, they look at somebody like Steven Crowder, they look at somebody like Michael Knowles and, and these people are indeed, buffoonish extremists, that's true that they are, but nonetheless, they have millions of people who hang on their every word and will do what they say right up to the edge of saying it's okay to kill transgender people. It's okay to hit Black Lives Matter people, protesters, with your car. There's nothing wrong with that. And that's the, that is the media environment.And generally, the reaction to, on the part of progressive philanthropy has been to say, ah, whatever. No one cares about them. They're just clowns. They're irrelevant. Am I wrong to say that?ATKINS: No, no, you're not wrong at all. I've been shouting about this for, well, decades now, [00:25:00] which is that there is, you talk about, liberal philanthropy. It is very focused on winning the next election typically, and it's very focused on, on trying to, to appear to be morally forthright on the latest causes and all of that, which I am sympathetic to a lot of that.I'm not, I don't take the Matt Yglesias side of this, of this argument that progressive philanthropy should not be on the forefront of the social issues of the day. I think the culture needs to advance regardless of what's happening in the electoral sphere. That having been said, uh, the fact that there has not-- the right wing has invested very heavily in creating an alternative media apparatus that is separate from the serious media that you see in sort of the main magazines, the Economist, The Atlantic, or the major newspapers, the New York Times or Washington Post, which no matter what you want to say about what their [00:26:00] bias may or may not be, they work very, very hard to at least give the appearance of non-bias, which means that they are bending over backwards in, in many ways not to tell the direct truth.We saw this with climate change where it took them forever to just not take two sides of climate change, but to just say this is a thing that's happening, it's harmful and, and the science deniers are, are lying. The fact that liberal philanthropy and the major billionaire donors have not invested in progressive, reality-based media that that take a very specific side and are unafraid to champion that side; and that side is, is has the truth behind it, but just to be as partisan and as sharp as it needs to be in the same way that the right wing has done. This is a serious, serious problem because there are a large number of people who are yearning for a tone [00:27:00] in their media that they get from folks like Joe Rogan or Steven Crowder or whatever, and it doesn't have to be far-right, young disassociated male self empowerment stuff that they get from these sources that radicalizes these mostly young white men. It can just be the sort of direct talk that you see from, say, Gen Z on TikTok, for instance that you're not getting from the New York Times or from the Atlantic.And there's a massive vacuum there that is not, that doesn't exist within either the center-left or for the most part, the progressive left. And what the progressive left does have is pathetically ill funded. So it's a huge problem. It's a huge problem that's gone back for decades and you can't fix it overnight.But, there's the old Chinese saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is now. And I think progressive funders have to begin [00:28:00] looking, as I've been saying for a long time, more seriously at also creating these sorts of communication networks.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, absolutely they do. And I think what is probably the root of their inaction and refusal to act, not just not acting is that they have a myopia of, of, intelligence.That's basically what this comes down to that when they see people out there pushing things like "let's take away women's rights," "let's ban homosexuality," when they see that, they think no one would go for that. It just seems so ludicrous to them and that they, they don't even bother trying to counter it.And, and they don't understand that in the information age, quantity matters more than quality. And so if I hear a hundred, if I'm a 13 year old, kid looking at politics stuff on the [00:29:00] internet for the first time, and I see a hundred YouTube videos telling me that women should be property, should have no rights. And, you see some, some girls getting sucked into some of these perspectives as well, like, through this trad wife content. But you know, if you see a hundred videos telling you women should have no rights, they should stay at home and do nothing.And, we need to lock up gay people and you see one video telling you that that's not right. How is that going to work for a 13 year old mind when they see that?ATKINS: Right. I mean, we it's a known truism of advertising that repetition is everything, right? You have to have a message that repeats and repeats and repeats. And it has to be delivered through credible messengers, and has to be delivered in a direct way that doesn't, that sort of jives with the, with the tone of the other messaging that the audience is, is typically getting.So if you're at an elevated New York Times level and you're trying to talk to a teenager, [00:30:00] then that is not going to really work.And you're absolutely right. Most of the messaging that they're getting from a direct political level is coming from these sort of far-right sources with these massive audiences. Now, the right wing would counter that the general culture, right, the general messages that you're getting from major corporations which, which is very frustrating, I think, to many sort of anti-corporate progressives, but the general messaging that you get from, say, a Disney or a Nike, tends to be in the more sort of center-left, generally acceptance, well, pro broad acceptance kind of thing.But that is-- and of course, you then you do see that Gen Z is a very, very, very progressive generation across the board, especially in terms of social issues. So the penetration of this sort of right wing messaging that you get from the Steven Crowders of the world only goes so far to certain kinds of audiences. That having been said, those [00:31:00] audiences are very, very, very motivated because they're hearing these messages over and over again. And you're absolutely right about that.And the other thing that I would mention in this context is the social media algorithms are not doing, uh, the forces of democracy and, and acceptance any favors because the, as you see, if you go down any sort of YouTube rabbit hole, or you look at at, well now obviously Twitter, but you look at most social media, Facebook, you start to look at the top pages on Facebook, right? The social media algorithms are prioritizing extremist content that generates eyeballs.SHEFFIELD: And it keeps people on the site longer.ATKINS: That's right. And anger keeps people on the site and controversy keeps people on the site. And it's not just this direct political stuff. Flat eartherism came up through this sort of way because it got, it got prioritized on the algorithms.So that's not doing anyone any favors either. So [00:32:00] there has to be much, much, much more effort made to sort of combat that at a social media level, bringing social media companies to the table to stop doing harmful things with their algorithms. And it also has to come to being much more direct in terms of repetition and political influencers who are willing to talk in a more direct way with progressive messaging to younger audiences and especially to a lot of these disaffected white men who are being radicalized into dangerous positions to say, look, there are alternate models for masculinity. You don't have to do what Ben Shapiro or Steven Crowder or Joe Rogan are telling you to do in order to be the sort of man you want to be. That that's also a very important place to be going.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it is. Because I mean, ultimately we're, it took a long time for the feminist [00:33:00] revolution of the 1970s to actually completely redound such that you have generations that have never known anything different. That, that women could have any job that they were able to do or get hired for and not have restrictions on their access to birth control or divorce or abortion. It really hasn't, been the case except for maybe like the past 15 years or so where you had a complete generational change with that. Because Gen X wasn't that, and the millennials were a little bit left over with some of their parents, they knew the former way of doing things.And so, like, the latter end of the millennial generation is really when a lot of this stuff happened when women had full equality. And the right, they did see this coming in terms of their, especially the more theocratic ones. That was why they were so pushing against abortion and things like that.But [00:34:00] nonetheless, it, it did finally happen. There's still problems, of course, we'll say, but, there's not nearly the oppression that did formerly exist. And so now you do, as you said, that there are a lot of men and, and, Gen Z is a much less white so in fact, there are a lot of Asian and black and Hispanic young men who are also being, especially as the right has put forward people who are not white, like Andrew Tate or like these other-- there's a dating podcast called Fresh and Fit hosted by two black brothers that is just constantly spouting white nationalist and misogynistic content to these young boys.Is religious proselytizing the root of the right's bigger interest in advocacy media?SHEFFIELD: I think that the right, because they're so heavily tied to religious organizing and proselytizing, they do feel an innate urgency and need to proselytize their ideas more than the sort of academic-derived, reality based community of the left, because I think people on the [00:35:00] left, a lot of them, especially, sort of nonpolitical people who will just vote for Democrats because they know they're not insane. But they don't understand the stakes and they don't, and they don't feel the need to evangelize just in the same way that the "New Atheist" movement of the 2000s, it was the first time that there was any real advocacy by atheists. Because no atheist felt the need to make advocacy because they thought it didn't, it wasn't necessary.ATKINS: Yeah, no, I, I agree. And this is we're all facing the same problem here that there was this perception that advocacy is not necessary that, and this is maybe one of my biggest frustrations with what I will call sort of the center left Democratic establishment political point of view, is that for decades, there's been this idea that if you just do the right things and you're very careful with your messaging to not say anything that would offend anyone, and you perform [00:36:00] legislative victories, or the very least seem like the adult in the room. That then, journalists and traditional media will cover you appropriately as the adult in the room or will cover your legislative accomplishments and that will filter down to the voters in a virtuous circle in such a way that direct advocacy is not really necessary outside of doing ads during campaign season, right? The advocacy happens during campaign season. You run some ads. Other than that, you do your thing and it filters out through the press.And that's just not the way things work. It's certainly not the way things work in the modern age. And it wasn't really the way things work even going back. FDR did his fireside chats. He did his fireside chats for a reason, because you need to be able to communicate directly to people without what the right wing calls the filter. And the filter does exist. It isn't as biased against the right wing as they like to believe it is, but it is a [00:37:00] filter. And you, you actually do need a significant communication advocacy apparatus to bypass that and communicate directly to your audiences. And we have seen that, uh, that, that not putting that in place has had harmful effects across the board, not just for partisan politics, but as you mentioned, for religion, for lots of other things.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, you have to, you have to tell people what you've done for them and what you want to do for them and then what the other guys are going to do to them. If you're not able to get those out and get everybody to understand that, then you're going to have this discontent that you see, because, you constantly see laments from various people saying, oh, well, Biden did all these things here and nobody knows that he did. And even though they like the ideas.And, and then, of course, the obvious rejoinder to that is whose fault is that, that they don't know that? Is the [00:38:00] mainstream press, is it their responsibility to flack for you as a Democratic advocate or a progressive activist? It's not their, and it's not even their business model. Their business model is simply to get people to read their stuff or watch their stuff. That's it. That's what they're in it for. And so, of course, they're not going to go back to where you're saying about Roosevelt, the NBC's or the CBS's, radio of the time, they weren't going to take apart their newscast and dedicate it to this is what the president has saying, and let's listen to him for 30 minutes here.They were never going to do that. And they never did. And you can't expect them to do that. Like, that's that is actually the paradox is that the right, they understood that. Because I mean, the American right has always been, dominated by Christian fundamentalist reactionaries and from the very beginning, and they understood that the mainstream press wasn't going to promote that perspective.And so they [00:39:00] realized we have to build our own things to do it. Whereas I think, a lot of people in the institutional left. They just think it will happen automatically and, we'll have the marketplace of ideas and we'll, and we'll come out on top because our ideas are better. And that's not how real markets work either.The technology industry is just rife with so many technologies that were superior but failed because of bad marketing or bad strategy, and that's the same. There's politics is no different, right?ATKINS: And one of the most frustrating parts about this is that progressive policies are genuinely popular.And when I say progressive, I'm not getting into the whole center-left versus progressive debate, single payer health care, all that. I just mean leftish policies generally are very popular, both on the social front and on the economic front. And young voters as you go down the generations toward, toward younger voters are increasingly progressive.So it's not that there isn't. [00:40:00] It's not that there is this massive disconnect where the Democratic Party has to or the institutional left has to do a better job of convincing people that socially liberal values are good or that or that progressive economic values are good. They're sort of already there.The disconnect is at the electoral level. Do they believe that--SHEFFIELD: That change is possible.ATKINS: Right. That, that voting, that, that, that donating, that, that, that all the things that go into being involved in electoral politics will actually achieve outcomes toward those things that they want. And do they believe toward what you said that, what the bad guys are going to do? Do they actually believe that Republicans and conservatives more generally are as big a threat to everything that they hold dear as they actually truly are. And that's where the, the, the communication problem lies. And, and the blame for that lays, [00:41:00] I think, squarely on the shoulders of as, as you said, a lot of the left donor class. And also the institutional Democratic Party and its consultants have a lot of work to do on this front, and it's one of the reasons that I'm involved to try to help make that better.Why David decided to run to be a Democratic National Committee memberSHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, actually, and let's, let's do talk about that. So you haven't, haven't been involved with the DNC for too long. What was the, what was your motive for, for running for it as to be a member? And, and when did that happen and, and how's it, how's it been for you since then?ATKINS: I, I've been an activist for a long time at the in the party level at the local and county and, and state party level. But I saw a need to, to help reform the, the national party uh, in order to give grassroots activists, but also state parties, more of a voice in the national process. And this isn't, [00:42:00] part of it is just, having more progressive voices in the Democratic Party. But part of it too is that functionally speaking, most of the party's policy is run directly out of the White House when the, when the party has an incumbent in the White House, right?And that can be good if the decisions are good, but it also means that not all the decisions are made and in the best way, potentially. And it also means that not enough attention gets perhaps paid to building up some of these communications apparatuses or some of these voter outreach apparatuses in the areas where they may do the most long term good.One of the things we saw in the past was this argument between, say, Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel in the past over a 50 state strategy versus dumping all the money into the into the most contested [00:43:00] elections of, of the day and of the cycle. And the challenge is that lots of money is going into these-- like the biggest Senate races are already tens and tens of millions of dollars. They're super, super, super expensive.Whereas there are a lot of legislative battles, state legislature battles or congressional races that could have been won that, that weren't. Because people, because the national party and the forces that could have invested did not invest enough in the operations that could have been invested in at the ground level to help build the coalition.And I think that the DNC could do more work on that front by having more voices from around the country able to have an influence. And I think that's one of the important things to be focusing on. And that's one of the reasons that I ran.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And so now, when did you run and when did you start serving?ATKINS: Oh, yeah, that was four years ago. So I'm actually running for reelection currently. But [00:44:00] yeah--SHEFFIELD: In what state, I guess we should say.ATKINS: Oh, I'm sorry. California. Yes, California. So the way California does it is there are 20 elected members of the DNC. There are also a variety of appointed members, but the executive board of the California Democratic Party elects 20 members from among, well, from among Democratic Party delegates to serve on the DNC.SHEFFIELD: Okay. And people who do want to, keep tabs on you actually are filing occasional reports on how things go for you on your website.ATKINS: After every meeting. Yeah, I file it at DavidAtkinsDNC.Com. So you can see my reports from the various meetings and my perspectives on itSHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah. Okay, and so one of the, you know, you had mentioned political advertising, it is a an interesting topic to me because it's almost like the, the Democratic establishment has two completely differing or [00:45:00] contradictory ideas, which they believe are not contradictory, which is that political media if it's advertising is effective, but political media, if it's editorial is not effective. These are contradictory ideas.But they also don't understand that the other thing about right wing media, besides being sort of a permanent communication vehicle to reachable voters for them, beyond being that, a permanent in a permanent campaign state, it is also a way of it is also self sustaining economically for them. So, Fox News makes a billion dollars in profit every year and talk radio hosts, are exceptionally profitable. And, of course, not everything they do is profitable, but a lot of their larger media properties, such as Daily Wire are profitable and, you just go down through the list.So, so these, these entities, which were [00:46:00] initially funded at a loss, eventually no longer need any money from the donor class on the Republican side. So, and yet that success has been totally lost and missed by the center-left philanthropy class. It's just incredible and horrible from my standpoint.Does the Democratic base think it's too smart to support advocacy media?ATKINS: No, I, I absolutely agree. And we've been talking about this a lot over the last hour here. I think to defend them and how they got into this position, I think there is a difference between the Democratic, between the general center-left sort of coalition and the right-wing coalition, and one of the issues with the, with the center-left coalitions that likes to think of itself as more serious and more objective and not susceptible to that sort of partisan propaganda that the, that the right wingers are, are, suffering from.And so there's a reticence to, to, [00:47:00] to engage as much with the sort of messaging that, that would function well. And that can be a problem. This is not just coming from the top down, that the donor class or whatever refuses to fund it, it's also partly that the, that the main audience, the sort of people who go to book fairs, think of themselves as too, as too elevated , right?The problem comes from multiple sides. That have been said, I think you're absolutely right. A lot more effort, a lot more funding needs to be going into direct sort of advocacy at the messaging side that happens outside of political campaign advertising season.Joe Biden's former image as a bipartisan dealmaker isn't helping him nowSHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I guess let's maybe end with just talking about, so you had mentioned at the top that you think there are some other things that Biden should be doing that he's not doing, and that might also help redound to his benefit beyond, expending more on [00:48:00] advocacy media. What else do you think he should be doing?ATKINS: He's obviously talking a lot about the economy and talking about the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act and all of that. So I’m not sure there's much more to be done on that level. I think he's starting more to talk about the threat that Donald Trump and the Republican Party are to American democracy. That is to the positive.The challenge is that Joe Biden has always been sort of, the bipartisan guy who's trying to get everything, trying to get things done. Like he's not the guy who's going to throw haymakers and, and toss, partisan bombs out there. He's going to bring everyone together to try to pass legislation that is good for the American people.And I think that image sort of served him well in the last election. But it's not as combative an approach as I think is required for the moment. And to be fair, I think that he and his advisors are starting to recognize [00:49:00] that and they're starting to come out more forcefully about this as we approach campaign season, but it's going to require seeing a, a different kind of Joe Biden than we have been accustomed to seeing in the past.And that's going to be interesting to watch.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I guess kind of related to that, that there are other people saying he should replace Kamala Harris on his ticket or, whatnot. And, and it's. I, I do find it very strange that when people say all these things about her and her polling or her favorability ratings, they don't note that her ratings are really not that different from Joe Biden's.And it's relevant because I do think that if his numbers came up, then hers probably would come up too. People are trying to come up with all these special cases about whatever it is. That people might or might not like about her. I just, I just, I think people don't really care about the vice president. And if this is all a much ado about nothing in many ways.ATKINS: [00:50:00] Correct. Yeah, people don't care. I think her numbers would come up as his numbers come up. But regardless of all of that, the damage that any move on that front would do to the Democratic coalition would be not worth what-- even if there were any juice to be squeezed out of going that direction, it's not worth it. And it would do way more damage.So, that's just a non-starter. There's no point in even looking in that direction. And I think that a lot of the people who are suggesting that sort of thing may have suspect motives on, on, on the race and gender front. And I, there's just no reason to be going that direction; 2028, there's a different conversation. There should be a robust primary in 2028, but talking about replacing her or him on the ticket in 2024, I think is just foolish.SHEFFIELD: Especially at this late in the game, if you really were serious about that, you should have said it in, 2022 at the [00:51:00] latest.ATKINS: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Well, so for people who want to keep up with your stuff, what's your recommendation in that regard?ATKINS: Oh Washington Monthly slash David Atkins. You can find me, Google David Atkins Washington Monthly. You can see my writings there. Otherwise, and in terms of the Democratic Party activism, my website at is there as well.And yeah, that's basically it. Oh, and obviously social media. I have not been tweeting as much. I refuse to call it X. It's still Twitter now that Elon Musk has done his thing, but also social media.SHEFFIELD: Okay. And what other ones are you at?ATKINS: Oh, “DavidOatkins.” I'm on a variety, Threads, Bluesky, Mastodon.SHEFFIELD: Okay. All right. Excellent. All right. Well, I encourage everybody to check those out. And thanks for being here.ATKINS: All right. Thank you for having me. Really appreciate it.SHEFFIELD: All right. So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us for the conversation.And if you want to get more, you can always go to [00:52:00] to get the past episodes. And if you are a paid subscribing member, you have unlimited access to all the video, audio, and transcripts. So, thank you very much for that. And this show is part of the Flux Media network, And we have lots of articles and podcasts about politics, philosophy, media, and technology, and religion and how they all intersect. And also, you can subscribe to some of the other shows that we've got. I appreciate everybody for doing that. So that's it for now. I will see you next time. Thanks for watching or listening. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/11/202354 minutes, 11 seconds
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Kevin McCarthy announces resignation as MAGA plots revenge against America

Audio Chapters0:00 — Kevin McCarthy announces resignation as MAGA plots revenge against America06:25 — Republicans openly boasting about "purging" the government of anyone who disagrees11:23 — White nationalist activists glory in Elon Musk's rule of Twitter15:09 — Mike Johnson says he's blurring J6 rioter footage to protect people from prosecution20:31 — “Right privilege” and Republicans' freedom to lie constantly and never be confronted for it26:34 — Moms for Liberty or Moms for threesomes?32:16 — George Santos making Cameo videos after being expelledJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/8/202339 minutes, 33 seconds
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What's next for George Santos? And why are people lying about Pramila Jayapal?

Audio Chapters0:00 — What's next for George Santos?09:24 — Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis debated, did anyone care?14:41 — Rep. Pramila Jayapal attacked based on misunderstanding of her words in CNN interview19:27 — McDonalds attracts controversy for changing burger recipes23:26 — Jussie Smollett loses fake hate crime appeal, has to go back to jail28:25 — English electrician charged with having sex with over 100 corpses33:15 — KISS unveils holograms of band members for virtual performances, why?You can watch the video version of this episodeFollow or Die!Doomscroll Corbetthttps://www.camillecorbett.com is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/6/202337 minutes, 58 seconds
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Republicans are horribly unpopular, why haven't Democrats been able to win big?

IntroductionThe Republican party is completely and utterly dominated by a small faction of political and religious extremists with policies that are incredibly unpopular, such as privatizing social security or criminalizing birth control.And yet, in spite of this fact, Republicans are still able to win many elections, even outside of their stronghold of the old confederacy. Sometimes, as in the case of Donald Trump, they can even win the presidency.Some of this reality is due to the extraordinary professionalism of the Republican political class, which has been consistently spinning straw into gold for decades through gerrymandering and voter restriction laws.The Democrats are the cause of many of their own problems as well, as we'll be discussing in the next several episodes here at Theory of Change. Our guest in the first episode of this series is Michael Kazin. He is a professor of history at Georgetown University and the author of What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party, it’s a look at the party from its very beginning up until the 2020 presidential election.TranscriptThis episode is available in video as well as audio. The transcript of the audio follows. It is automatically generated and is provided for convenience purposes only.MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Thanks for being here today, Michael. Welcome to Theory of Change.MICHAEL KAZIN: Thanks for asking me, Matthew.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so, there's your book is a very long one with a very meaty subject, obviously. Why did you decide to focus on this topic?KAZIN: Well, I've been a Democrat, capital D, small d, for a long, long time since I stopped being a self-proclaimed revolutionary about 50 years ago or so. And I also, I thought that there's really no serious study of the Democrats as an [00:02:00] institution throughout their history, looking at the kind of coalitions that were built, looking at continuities and discontinuities in the ideology of the of the party.And as a Democrat with a capital D, I also wanted to figure out, what has done wrong, what has done right and how it can do better. Also I should say that my son is a Democratic party operative, has been for a long time since he was in college 15 years ago 16 years ago, and so I've learned a lot from him about how the party works internally and that kind of inspired me to learn more about that. So I think, as a historian, I'm always trying to answer questions about the present by using the past and question about the present is, sort of, piggybacking you off your introduction. What have the Democrats done, right?What have they done wrong? And what are the roots of that? How do we understand that evolution?SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And it's, it is interesting that a lot of people have begun considering this question, very recently.A spate of new books advising DemocratsSHEFFIELD: Your book is one of several that have come out in the past year or two that kind of looking at well, what's what [00:03:00] is the left need to be doing? How are they doing things wrong or right?Which is interesting because there weren't a lot of those books for a number of years, as you were saying. And now one of the, the sort of Intentions of a lot of these books that have come out and we'll be talking to some of the other authors, so I don't, I won't make you have to respond to them unless you want to,KAZIN: But one of the, I just, I just reviewed a book by, two friends of mine called where have all the Democrats gone, which is one of the books you might be talking about by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, it's well, and the thesis of a number of these books has been that the Democratic party needs to focus more on economic issues and, and go away from social issues and yours, your approach is, is different than that. And I think that's why I actually wanted to start this series on the [00:04:00] show here with your book because I think you understand that because you're yours is a more historical focus one than some of these other ones that are more poll-driven or data-driven.I think you realize that that's not necessarily going to work this idea. So why? In brief, why, why do you say that wouldn't work?KAZIN: Well, yes and no. I mean, on the one hand, I do think Democrats, in order to become a majority party again, do need sort of economic populist message. They need to, uh, make very clear what they want to do for people and link up with, Movements like labor unions and other movements, which want to, help people across lines of identity, and of course lines of race and gender preference.I think that's really important. So I do agree with, with some of the popularists, if you can call them that, about that. On the other hand I don't think you can escape what the party already is which is a coalition of. Young leftists[00:05:00] who care very deeply about, about cultural issues and unions, which are struggling to revive and they haven't really revived very much yet.So, one can't just say, aha, this is what Democrats should do and why don't they do it? One of the, one of the things about being a historian that's useful, I think to this, uh, argument, to this discussion is. Is that you can't like leap beyond what the party is. You have to figure out how to convince people in the party to do things differently to stop attacking one another for what are, basically very small differences.And you also have to do that within a context of what might be declining empire context where of course Americans more and more are they might be strong partisans, but they don't like parties. And so if you're going to be in the, you're going to be one of the two major parties, you'd have to understand how to deal with that fact, how to get people engaged with a party as a party again.If you can't do that, then you end up competing with the likes of Donald Trump for media time. And for attention and [00:06:00] for, for glitz, so to speak. So, I mean, that's a, a long answer to your question, but that's sort of more my, my impulses than my answers, if you will.How the Democratic party got startedSHEFFIELD: Your point about people not being interested in, in the Democratic party as a party or parties generally is, is an important one and. That's why I, I thought it was I think it's, it's relevant the first part of the book where you talk about, the, the origins of the Democratic party as a party because you rightfully note that the Democratic Party is the oldest political party in the world. And those days in the early days of the Democratic Party are, I think, really relevant. Especially now when people are so interested or disinterested in political parties. Can you tell us a little bit about those early days and how the Democratic Party came to be?KAZIN: Well, it really arose at a time when for the first time in world history the United States was a nation which enfranchised [00:07:00] all, all white men.Who were, of course, white people, the majority of the population at the time. And that was unusual, because that wasn't true in any other nation, even nations that were somewhat democratic, like Great Britain at the time. We had a very small, number of men actually be able to vote.And on the, on the heels of that Martin Van Buren who is doesn't get enough respect, I think from, from historians began to put together a party based on working class men in the North and planters in the South slaveholders for the most part in the South behind the candidacy of Andrew Jackson, who they saw as this and was this sort of charismatic figure, military hero And originally the party was called the Jackson party, not the Democratic party because it was put together in order to boost the candidacy of, of Andrew Jackson in the 1820 election.As, as Tocqueville wrote, in his great book, Democracy in America, this was the golden age of, of, of associational life in America, of [00:08:00] community organizations of various kinds, fraternity groups drinking societies immigrant, immigrant groups as well. Tammany Hall gets going at that point which was, the most powerful democratic machine in 19th century, early 20th century in America, in New York City.And so, the party originally was really an association of, of white men across regions who wanted who agreed on opposition to what they considered to be the most powerful elite in the country at the time. Which were bankers in Philadelphia and New York which were Wall Street investors, Wall Street just beginning to be organized as a powerful institution at the time.And in some ways, this goes back to the, the famous debate between Jefferson and Hamilton about how much power the central government should have. Democrats originally actually believed very different from now that the central government was run by an elite and the less government power, federal government power that is, the better because they thought that the federal government would always be in the hands of an economic elite.And so the less power it had, [00:09:00] the better. But I think when you have universal white manhood suffrage you have the environment that's really ready for a mass party to, to form. And we can talk about how that happened. The Democrats did not create a universal white manhood suffrage, but they actually obviously supported it.And they were very active in signing up immigrants who came to the, to the country almost as soon as they got off the boat from, from Europe, even before they were citizens, they found ways to sign them up. So. Democrats really were responsible, you might argue, not just for building the first mass party in American history, but for really for creating popular American politics the way people understood that in the 19th century.And really the, the opposition party was formed in opposition to the Democrats specifically called the Whig Party. It's called the Whig Party because the Whigs were the anti-monarchy party in, in England. And the rigs opposed King Jackson the power of so called monarchical tyrannical president Andrew Jackson.So in that sense Democrats were really created their [00:10:00] own opposition.Media was integral to early Democratic party organizingSHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, one of the other things that they did the early Democrats did that you document very well, is that they created the idea of partisan newspapers as a way of spreading awareness of the party's message and awareness of the candidates.Can you talk a little bit more about that?KAZIN: Yeah. Well, most newspapers were partisan. In the 19th century, really up until the early 20th century, believe it or not. I mean, there's still papers around the country with Republican and Democrat in their names, even though they try to show at least that they're not partisan anymore.And yeah, I mean, one of the things that Van Buren understood very early on when he was actually a power in. A sort of what was called the Republican Party in New York State, which is the biggest state in the country, was, he said, in order to convince people to support our party and to support our policies, we have to start our own newspaper.It's called the Albany Argus in the capital of New York and Albany. And that became the, the model for Jacksonian slash Democratic [00:11:00] newspapers in every major city in the country. And those newspapers were often supported unofficially by money from the Democratic Party. And some of the editors of those papers went on to be in the Jackson administration and then in the Van Buren administration as well.So, of course, these newspapers were the media of the day. There was nothing else that would spread it. And, and because congressmen had the right the franking. Privilege to, to send out materials from their office for free some Jacksonian Democrats would send out these newspapers around the country.So it was really a national machine in that sense.SHEFFIELD: It was. Yeah. And you mentioned it briefly just a minute ago about the idea of the Democratic party was anti-national government, anti-federal government, um, for a long time or from the very beginning of it. But it's, it's also that, there was this kind of the, the, what has emerged in the present day is kind of the ideological [00:12:00] divisions between the, the parties.It didn't really exist in the early, in, the first 150 years or so roughly of the United States, you could perhaps say. Roughly. And so there was this, this constant. Interplay between people who had what might be now termed as more, right wing beliefs and more left wing beliefs, but they were always in both of the parties and, and, and that's something that those tensions, especially within the Democratic Party, they kind of, really kind of, I mean, you talk extensively about that, how various factions within the party, we're kind of, we're pushing for really in many ways opposite ideas.Do you want to expound on that a little bit more?KAZIN: Certainly there are many factions. I think to be a successful party in a two-party system, you have to have a diverse group at least demographically, if not ideologically. Otherwise you're not going to win the electoral college, [00:13:00] and not going to take over them.Not going to win the Senate, especially. And of course the house as well. Or control state governments to any great extent. But the Democrats did have an ethos, if not an ideology, which, which bound them together for a long time. And again, it was, opposition to what they saw as governing elites, financial elites especially in the Northeast.And later on also industrially and so, in some ways they're united by their enemies, I think, it's fair to say, and that's one of the things which, which kept them together until, until the Civil War, and then, of course, slavery made it impossible for Southern Democrats and Northern Democrats to get together, because Northern Democrats were very concerned with the rights of white workers in the North and the working class was growing with immigrants from England excuse me, from Ireland and from Germany, especially in the 1830s, 40s and 50s.And so the Democrats, of course, even, even those who didn't have slaves didn't own people, nevertheless, often wanted to be able to own people. And rising in, in the world if you're a Southern Democrat meant, be able to have in order to own, own, [00:14:00] own slaves at a certain point.So. That was, that difference was too great in the party to compromise. And so 1860 you have two Democratic tickets. One the vice president of the United States named Breckenridge, running as a Southern Democrat. And Stephen Douglas Senator from Illinois, who famously campaigned against Lincoln earlier for Senate.As a Northern Democrat and but then it's quite remarkable. If you think about it, that the party stayed together, uh, after that it stayed together. Of course the Northern Democrats stayed in in Congress and we're able to elect governors in places like New York state during the civil war.They opposed the draft, for example, they wanted the north to win militarily, but they, they opposed the emancipation of slavery. They opposed giving black people the vote. And then they stayed together as also in the late 19th century opposing tariffs helping the big industries for example that was a big, a big issue for, for Democrats.So, so in some ways the, the Democrats began as the party for the ordinary white man. They expanded [00:15:00] as the party for. The not so ordinary white man, white men who had, who had a lot of property in the South. But then they, they, they kept calling themselves the democracy, in fact, capital T, capital D, because they really believed, I think all Democrats did, that they were the representatives of, the people and the Whigs first and then the Republicans were the party of elitists.In fact, down till the 18 60s and 70s, some Democrats are still calling the Republicans Federalists. The party of Alexander Hamilton, which was a self consciously elitist party back in 1800. Yeah. So I think Democrats did have these differences, of course, and they continue to have them.Another time of, just mention another big split in the Democratic Party, the second split after the 1850s happened in the 1890s during the Great Depression when Grover Cleveland was president, Democratic president, very conservative Democratic president. And the depression happened under his watch and he, he crushed a national railroad strike which did make him popular among a lot of working class Democrats.Of course [00:16:00] he, he had to go to JP Morgan to bail, try to bail the treasury out from the depression cause it wasn't enough money in the federal treasuries to pay off salaries and get the economy out of the depression. And then William James Bryan, the guy who wrote a biography about several years ago runs as this insurgent democratic candidate in 1896.And he really remakes the party and tries to pull it away from the more conservative influences of people like Grover Cleveland and Richard, Richard Southerners in general.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Although even he had that. Multifaceted aspect himself because he was a Christian fundamentalist as well.KAZIN: Yeah, yeah. But then, he was, of course, most American Christians really up until the middle of the, of the well, but thank you theories are so we're really evangelical Protestants, that was the default religion of most of most Americans and Catholics and Jews and, and sort of mainline Protestants were, We're seeing it as someone on the margins, even though the mainline process had a lot of power, of course but they didn't have as many people.So, so [00:17:00] Brian, but he did have a problem again, getting to the divisions of the party. Brian did have a real problem attracting Catholics Eastern Orthodox Jews, some degree, especially those in cities, because he was perceived. It wanted to be perceived in some ways as the candidate of rural America, of small farmers and of course in 1896 he got the support of the Populist Party, the People's Party which was the insurgency of small farmers.So, again in some ways it's, it's perhaps inevitable that When a party begins to gain power that it grows in its appeal, but that appeal ends up also leading to divisions in the party because people want to take it in different directions to, from their point of view, keep it winning. But those, that, those divisions often end up hurting the party and, and leading to it dividing and losing.Who is the Democratic party for is never settledSHEFFIELD: Yeah. One of the persistent themes is in the book is about, who is the party for? And it's a question that is, there is never a, a defined answer to that. Because [00:18:00] that's the nature of political parties is that. I mean, it's for whoever is going to vote for it, basically.But, but it's more serious than that, of course, because, especially now in the present moment, uh, that the, the, the opposition party to the Democrats is, I mean, Donald Trump is pretty much running as I'm going to literally lock up. My political opponents. I'm going to prosecute people who I think are mean people who did not obey me while I was the president.I want to execute them, which is what he said about it.KAZIN: He's called Democrats. He's called Democrats or communists, radical leftists. Anarchists, I forget all the terms he uses to describe, poor Joe Biden is not everyone's idea, not, not many people's idea of an anarchistSHEFFIELD: yeah,or a communist for that matter.Yeah but, but, but it's a it's an interesting dilemma though, that the Democrats are facing, as I, as I mentioned in the introduction is that they, the, the, the Republican party has policies that. [00:19:00] The things that it wants to do, most people disagree with and, and this is a very common lament that I hear from people, especially who have maybe who support things like single payer healthcare or, some sort of universal healthcare system, they're constantly saying, well, if we just talk about our ideas more than we would win but The history of the Democratic Party shows that that's not necessarily the case, and it never has been.KAZIN: That's true, and as, we were discussing before, having, having large, powerful intelligent social movements has always been important, important to the Democrats. I mean, arguably, there was sort of a Jackson movement before there was a Democratic Party. Jackson felt he was cheated out of winning the 18 24 election, so called corrupt bargain.Between Henry Clay, and John Quincy Adams. But then, the People's Party, really does, help to change the Democratic Party Brian doesn't win. [00:20:00] Democratic Party of Wilson and later on of Franklin Roosevelt too is in many ways, a party which is. Trying to institute a lot of the ideas and policies and use a lot of the rhetoric that the populists had helped to infuse in the Democratic Party.And of course the labor movement, as I write about in the book is so essential to not just helping Democrats win in the thirties, but really changing them from being a party where the white South was really their base into a more of a, a national party and also getting the process of finally getting the Democrats to leave their racist heritage behind.Because the unions of the CIO in the late 1930s are interracial unions and they, and they're very strong in the Midwestern states, those swing states. There was swing states then, there's swing states still. And they were essential to the Democrats winning in those states.SHEFFIELD: And yet in the intervening decades the, the power of unions generally has shrunk and we're, we're seeing somewhat of a resurgence of [00:21:00] that current, the present moment with people beginning to do strikes and things like that is that do you, do you see things reversing in that degree and I feel like to some degree, I feel like Democrats.People on the left may not appreciate how important that unions are for.KAZIN: I think, I think they are more and more, the problem is. It's been so long since least private sector unions were powerful in this country that most people don't, especially most Democrats, especially most educated Democrats don't know anybody in the union except maybe now in graduate student unions, places like where I teach where they're very strong.But that's sort of the exception proves the rule, yeah. But look, I think. I do argue and I've also this that I'm also a labor historian. I mean, I think, I think working class institutions are essential to having a more egalitarian America. People have to organize themselves. They can't just look for help from on high, they have to organize themselves.That's the essence of democracy. But I [00:22:00] think there unions are stirring, certainly and as the UAW won this big victory over the big three automakers the Teamsters won a big victory recently over, over UPS there's a lot of Starbucks workers who are organizing, though they're being stopped from getting a contract, and, and Biden, for all his problems, is the most pro union president in American history.Even Franklin Roosevelt did not have union leaders to the White House embrace them and said, in effect, Uh, workers should join unions. So it's quite astonishing that, that, Americans would like unions, 70 percent of them in a recent Gallup poll favorable unions don't realize that their president is, is, is really favorable to unions cause he understands how important they are to breaking through Democrats to break through to win more working class votes.So the problem is, you use are not easy to organize under the labor relations act that have now it's much easier for employers to scare workers to saying, well, if you vote for the union, fine, but then I'm not going [00:23:00] to close down your factory, close down your workshop, whatever. And also.And the penalties for breaking the labor law for employers are very, very slight, really and can take years to adjudicate violations of the law. So, it's a real problem. The only time unions in American history really grow, they grow in surges. They grow from 3 million members in 1933 to 15 million members in 1945.From 500, 000 members in late 90s to Two million members by 1920, for example, so I'm sorry, five million members by 1920. So, and that's not happening yet. And if it doesn't happen, Democrats will have to find some other way to appeal to working class voters, I'm afraid.The left can only win when people demand betterSHEFFIELD: Well, and I mean, and I would say. You're right that they, people have to organize themselves, but I think that unions have not done as good of a job in giving people the tools to do that and helping them understand what they can get out of it. I mean, cause I, I, that to me is kind of the,[00:24:00] the, the fundamentally reactionary position is your life sucks.And you can't do anything about it. This world is terrible. So just sit back and embrace the s**t. That's basically the position. And so getting people to realize, look, I deserve better than what I have. That ultimately is the dilemma, I think, that the left is facing in any country that people have, more equality based viewpoints.And I don't, I don't know that that's something that is kind of common in the discourse, in the center to left media. I don't think it's talked about very much.KAZIN: I think you're right. And I mean, young activists, I wish Most young activists wanted to be union organizers instead of, organizing to do things that are fine, but you know, like, trying to take down, Confederate statues or, [00:25:00] or, change the curriculum.Being an organizer is tough because you have to talk to people who are not like you, very often. I'm looking at your organizers have always been more educated. than the workers that they're organizing. I'm writing a biography now of Samuel Gompers, actually who was a poor kid, really, an immigrant from London, but he educated himself, he read lots of Marx, um, and he learned reading Marx that, that, only unions can emancipate the, the working class. He stopped being a Marxist when he got to become a national labor leader, but you know, that, that wisdom is still, is still important, I think. So, I mean, I think it is, I don't want, I don't mean to be, down a downer here.I mean, I think there are, there is a lot of union organizing, DSA, which I have some problems with as an organization, nevertheless, a lot of people in there are very supportive of unions. Bernie Sanders, obviously supportive of unions, the AOC. So progressive Democrats especially are very supportive of unions.And, and that, and they're pretty vocal about it too, that that has not always been true, but I think they are. But being, but being vocal enough, being vocal is [00:26:00] not enough. And you got to have mass, mass, actions and to make, to make it seem, as you said, that it's possible to change your life with your brothers and sisters, that it's not, it's not dismal.And there's just not enough of that. It's happening in spots. But in the 1930s, it happened pretty much everywhere. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and I, one of the other, sort of tensions with regard to labor organizing is, is that there are some different imperatives between public sector unions and private sector unions.And that's, uh, that's something that. Has, I think, that has had an impact in terms of how the Democratic Party operates and what policies that it prioritizes as, as private sector unions have become less powerful and less.KAZIN: That's definitely right. I think a large proportion of the delegates to the 2020 convention, for example were members of the public safety unions, especially AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers.And [00:27:00] some for the SEIU as well, which has some public members. And that, I mean, it is indicative, as you say, that, that the American Federation of Teachers is one of the strongest groups in the Democratic Party. I mean, I'm very supportive of teacher unionism, but the fact that people with college educations, which most teachers have are such an important group in the Democratic Party does send a signal to a lot of folks who don't have college educations.Tensions between Democratic activists and Democratic votersSHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and that's you allude to that in the, in the last chapter of the book which you have called Cosmopolitans in Search of a New Majority. What do you, what do you mean by that, that term when you, when you say it?KAZIN: Well, I mean that, the, this, the core activists of the Democratic Party are people like me.Mostly younger than me, thank God, but people like me who have college educations, who, who grew up using the big city or suburbs who are not very religious who are, read the New York Times and listen to NPR and, who get their information from places like that and[00:28:00] they realize, if they're democratic operatives like my son is and, and like a lot of people he works with in the party that they need to, of course, win over a majority.That's what it means to have a democratic country. Or should mean anyway, but there was a gap between them and a lot of the people that they're trying to reach. And so they're always looking for candidates who will be like John Tester in Montana, for example, has a farm, it's not, or, or some, or people serve in the, in the military.There's a guy running for the Senate against Josh Hawley in Missouri, for example, now I can't remember his name, but he's, he's, he's, he's in the Marine Corps for 15 years. He was a lawyer in the Marine Corps, but still he was in the Marine Corps. And so connecting with average Americans on the part of Democrats who are not, really representative of average Americans is, is, is a problem, especially without, without a strong, without a strong labor movement you've got, you've got folks who are to a certain extent be missionaries.You could argue, or at least are trying not to appear that way. And so that, that's a problem. I [00:29:00] mean, look, Nancy Pelosi, who I think was very successful in many ways as a politician is, is symbolic of that, I mean, she comes she's originally grew up in a working class machine in Baltimore, where her father was mayor of Baltimore.So it was a brother for a short period of time. But then of course she. Married a rich guy and moved out to San Francisco. And San Francisco, of course, as became the, the very emblem of elitist Democrats still is unfortunately. So, so that's a good example of, of cosmopolitans even those who did not grow up cosmopolitan the way the way,SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and it's also that, the idea that the Republican party, has explicitly oligarchical policies, in terms of trying to give money to rich people through tax cuts or subsidies. But they're able to push a populist narrative and they, and they do it. They refashion it every few years. So for people are claiming Trump is this new kind of Republican, which is.Literally the [00:30:00] same thing that they said about Newt Gingrich in the nineties. He's a different kind of Republican, a populist Republican. Ronald Reagan, especially. And Ronald Reagan. Yeah. Like they, they recycled this every few years and it's, and it's nonsense, but the, the thing that it does have that's powerful is that.It's refashioning the word populist to be a term about your intellectual approach, your epistemology. And so, by overtly embracing, anti intellectualism and religious fundamentalism, they're able to not only motivate a lot of people for whom that's very important, but they're also able to You know, sort of depressed Democrats who may be more, religiously fundamentalist like many African Americans, like, many, many white Americans in the Midwest and, Hispanic Americans in various areas where they live.Like that's, that's why you see them pushing for [00:31:00] that so much. Even for Republicans who might be more, Ayn Rand. Militant atheists they see it as a useful way of dividing and conquering.KAZIN: There aren't many of those Randians left, I don't think, in the party, but at least not publicly.SHEFFIELD: Well, Elon Musk seems to be one.KAZIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, well, rather powerful youngness. Like I wrote a whole book about, called The Populist Persuasion, which is about the use of populist language and symbol and imagery in American history. And this goes way back to McCarthyism, really. Talking about, people with one with silver spoons in their mouths and selling the country out Alger Hiss, Dean Acheson, people like that.And it was very successful. I mean, father Coughlin back in the thirties was first a Democrat and then becomes basically a fascist was talking like that as well. And luckily, as religion is, is always been very important in American politics. Ever since really the beginnings of the country.And, and so if you can make the Democrats sound like the anti religious party then you can have a lot of success, even at a time when fewer and fewer [00:32:00] Americans really are very religious that's one thing Democrats probably have on their side, actually in the abortion debate and debate about LGBTQ rights as well as that, more and more people, especially young people just.Religion is a nice idea, but it's not, it's not a serious faith in their lives, I think. And so it's no longer possible to say it's no longer possible to use, that, that kind of populist religiosity against Democrats as much as it used to be.How Republicans use religion to divide and depress Democratic votersSHEFFIELD: Well, but it's still, I mean, if you look at the I mean, the surveys have shown that, the fastest growing demographic group in America, which is Hispanic Protestants were overwhelmingly evangelical.KAZIN: Pentecostals, yeah, yeah,SHEFFIELD: yeah. Yeah. And they're, they're majority Republican now.KAZIN: No, it's true. It's true.SHEFFIELD: So, and, and, and, and, and that is, it's eating, starting to eat away also. And also in some of the Democratic Party's efforts with black men in particular, but and, and getting people disinterested in the Democratic Party and, that's why you do see so much [00:33:00] of the focus on, especially recently on, on, transgender people and, these manufactured grooming allegations and, and I think a lot of people, they see that the right is doing this flagrant work flagrant manipulation on the left and, and their response is to say, well, we need to just walk away from those issues and those people that they're attacking. I don't think they realize that the right wing is going to seize upon anything like just the fact that you oppose them as a political party means that you're a communist, regardless of what you say.Like that's the, that's the part I feel like a lot of the more, popularistic, I guess you would, you'd call them and they don't seem to get, it's the, you, you can run away from these issues all you want. It's still not going to make them stop.KAZIN: Also, as I said, in this review of as I mentioned before of a book by Tashira and Judas I mean, young people are [00:34:00] obviously.Given the ways, the future of the democratic party, if it has a future I think it does, but as they are the Republican party and you can't run away from issues they care about. You can't just say, oh, well, you shouldn't talk about that. Talk about this. You can say strategically, we should talk about differently.But you can't tell people they should not care about transgender rights. You can't tell people they should not care about, about policing. You can't tell people they should not care about obviously abortion. That's of course a winner right now for Democrats. And, and so.You have to find ways, again, it's a coalition, you have to find ways to make everyone in the party happy enough so that they will support the same candidates and work really hard for them. But there's no, you can't escape it. You can't find the perfect agenda. As you said, it's not, it's not about making sure that you get the polling majority for every race.It's about keeping the party together, which can, which can, become an organization which actually can elect people. And then once elects people can actually govern and change the society in good ways. That's your theory of change there. [00:35:00] So, I think that's, and look, people on the left.Are, are guilty themselves of, of just being moralist and pure and purist. And how come you didn't call that, that person? They, they want to be called. They, how could you have done that? You have to call people, you have to use the term Latin X. You can't call people Latinos or Hispanics, even though 97 percent of Hispanics and Latinos want to be called Latinos and Hispanics, so, each side of this division has its problems keeping, keeping their minds on what will produce a successful party. Yeah.How 'fusionism' built the Republican coalition and a version of it could help DemocratsSHEFFIELD: Well, and one model for moving forward, I think, is to look at the way that the right built their movement as well. So. Not only did they, so they didn't really have much of a social movement.What they started from was an activist movement. Yeah. And they did it through developing a concept which they called fusionism. And do you, do you want to talk about that? What that was for people who don't know that term? Sure.[00:36:00] And what it meant for them.KAZIN: Yeah. In the mid 1950s, William F. Buckley Jr. started National Review Magazine, a very small magazine at first, but then it became the most influential magazine on the right. And Actually an ex communist named Frank Meyer put forth the idea that the different parts, the different kinds of conservatives in America needed to unite.They needed to fuse their energies against liberalism, basically. Against liberalism and pro communism, as they saw it. The three parts were economic libertarians some of whom were, reading and trying to proselytize in favor of the ideas of Ayn Rand some of whom were just sort of Chamber of Commerce, national association of manufacturers entrepreneurs who didn't like unions, didn't like regulation, didn't like corporate taxation.The other, the other one were religious conservatives from, all religions, really, but especially Christian Protestant conservatives and Catholic conservatives. The other one were people who were primarily interested in the Cold War, who wanted a stronger military, wanted to, not just to contain the Soviet [00:37:00] Union which was the official liberal document official liberal doctrine at the time, but to overthrow the captive nations run by communist parties. So, Meijer and National Review became a Meijer helped National Review to become a place where these three groups came together. They wrote for the, they wrote for National Review, they wrote for other magazines as well, and they, they got behind the candidacy of Barry Goldwater in 1960 when he didn't decide to run for president, and then in 1964 when he did.And that was the, the coming out party, so to speak, of the of the conservative movement as a, political force in the country. Hope that's, hope that's accurate. As a former conservative, you would be able to correct me.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and it's, and it's, it's, it's also that they, that the concept is to tell them, if you're a member of any of these three different factions, You need to understand that overall, you're headed in the same direction as the other two.And so you should, you should support them and at least, close your mouth and [00:38:00] don't complain about it.KAZIN: You've got a common enemy. You've got a common enemy. That's, that's the key. United by a common enemy. Communism abroad, liberalism at home.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And, and, and I think that that's, that ultimately is, is the, the Something like that has to be, be done on the American left in the 21st century that people need to understand that, when the overall, the, the, the thing that you're trying to do is, get rid of injustice. And injustice has many different facets. And you need to understand that there, they are linked.Like there's that there's that fable of the, and out of ancient India of the blind men and the elephant. Each man thinks that when they discover the elephant, and they can't see it, of course, so they each think that the essence of the elephant is the leg or the ear or, the trunk or whatever, and it's only by understanding that these things are all actually part of the same thing.And so if you are [00:39:00] interested in, whether it's worker organizing or women's rights or, regulation of businesses or, any, any of these, or, police reform or racial injustice, that that's, you need to get sight of the larger. The larger picture because it's, it's, it's too easy to focus on just one thing and think that that's the answer because it's not,KAZIN: Of course, Democrats do have a common enemy now it's Donald Trump. But that's Democratic activists. That's so far, according to the polls, not enough to get Biden reelected or to. Keep control of the Senate and we control the House, so.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and, and also there is the idea of, having a vision of the future. Like, you don't, like that, when you, when you look at, particularly large democratic victories in American history, it's always been, that's been one of the biggest components is.There is a, a, a [00:40:00] vision of something that we're moving toward that's bigger than just the oneperson.KAZIN: No, I agree. The only, the only thing Democrats have now is, is a green economy, I think which is a common vision. Everything else, there's nothing, there's no substance to anything else. But as we know, a green economy is not easy.Because there's a lot of entrenched interests who oppose it and it's very expensive. so. Well, I mean, I think, look not to be nostalgic here, but the four freedom speech that FDR gave in 1944 is still, a good common vision, I, I should remember all everyone has freedom from religion of religion, of course, at a time when there was a lot of world war two, of course the Holocaust was taking place though.Most Americans didn't know that. That's freedom from fear. Freedom to have, healthcare be able to pay for it, freedom of housing, freedom to have the job, basically he called it, he called it the economic bill of rights. And building on the Bill of Rights, which is about, of course, individual freedom to a kind of collective idea of freedom, which, of course, every individual can benefit from.I mean, it's [00:41:00] really an American version of social democracy, which is, my politics. And a politics which I think, Most, Democrats, whether they know the term or not, do support actually but they, but they don't, they aren't capable for all kinds of reasons. We're putting that together into a coherent package.And in the book, I call this moral capitalism but at least more recent iterations of it. And that's not a good term either. No, they're not going to use that term. But the term itself matters, but, but not as much as people who hang on the substance. And agreeing to, agreeing to commit themselves to whatever their other ideas to, to agree on that substance.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. And Oh, yeah. I would say also, I mean, one of the other challenges faced by the American left Is, is the fact that, because the American right is not really conservative, it's more reactionary that means that it has really no there are almost no especially in the social sciences or humanities, there [00:42:00] are almost no conservatives just simply because they can't hack it their ideas, like, like if your, if your idea of science is that humans, were created by God, Like, if that's your idea of science, well, you're not going to have, you're never going to have a job in, in, in a biology faculty.And if your idea, of history is, God created Adam and Eve and, and the world is 7, 000 years old, and I, and the Bible is literally true. Like, if that's your idea of history, then obviously, You're not going to make it in in the history department. And, and like, there are people that I've known who were, when I was Mormon, that they were explicitly discouraged from getting into the academic fields of, ancient history or biblical archeology or things like that, because, and they were told that if you go into these fields, your testimony will not survive.They never back that up to, to wonder, well, maybe [00:43:00] the testimony is not true. They never,KAZIN: we just, we just, we disagree a little bit about this, but I'm not sure how much we want to go down this road. But I think there are, serious conservative thinkers political theorists not scientists, maybe, but political theorists and even historians.But the problem is they tend to want to celebrate the past. They tend to want to lionize figures in the past rather than as most historians do liberals and leftists just examine them, try to understand the past empathetically, but, but not act as if mm-hmm, , things, things were, were much better back then.I mean, make America great again is not Mm-Hmm, , a coherent. Historical approach.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah.Because America or like that David Barton guy. my point being though, thatHow the left's dominance in academia harms its ability to reach the massesSHEFFIELD: because these are more reactionary rather than conservative views they're not in academia. And so the right in the American right thinks it's very envious of not having, academic.Outposts, if you will, but you know, in a lot of ways, it's disadvantageous to the left in the United [00:44:00] States being so closely linked to colleges and universities,KAZIN: I would say, look, only something like 35 percent of Americans, 30 year old Americans have college degrees and despite so much attention to what's going on in colleges, in the media and everywhere else.And,SHEFFIELD: well, and then the colleges themselves, are inherently anti progressive in like they're inherently conservative and how they're run like they are. Yeah, they're constantly, begging billionaires for money. They are constantly oppressing their, their employee employees. They're constantly ripping off their students.And I'm, I don't want to hear a professor, so I can say this,KAZIN: but I'm not, I'm not defending it. I mean, it used to be, it used to be, you could go to. You could go to University of California, Berkeley, basically for free. And now it's expensive. And because, because state, state universities are not really state universities anymore.They're, they're private universities which get, 20 percent or less of their funding from the state government. [00:45:00]SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And so, and, and so, I mean, irrespective of, of the people that are involved with it, it's just simply. There are different incentives for being a professor to become a professor.You have to do things that in some ways are, I mean, like, writing a dissertation obviously is about the least populous thing you could do. It's not something that, I think anybody who's written a dissertation, when they're in the middle of writing it, you tell people that you're writing it, a lot of people's reaction unless they come are in that environment themselves is to be like, okay, well, let's talk about something else.They don't, and so, it's, it, it does, it's made the, the democratic party become more overly reliant on polling because they don't have touch with. The, the regular average person whether it's, just in terms of who runs the place or where they live, I mean, there's this extreme, mid Atlantic bias in left wing [00:46:00] institutions in the country.I mean, there, there's a lot of issues and I, and I don't, I don't know that a lot of the leadership seems to be aware of these things as far as I know.KAZIN: I think, I mean, they, they understand they need to win national elections and so.SHEFFIELD: No, they understand that, but they don't understand why it's hard for them, I think.KAZIN: Yeah, maybe not. Maybe not.SHEFFIELD: And anyway, so,Are progressive third parties capable of making change?SHEFFIELD: one of the other things that you talk about toward the end of the book, is that, you do talk about the temptation of third parties in the United States, and that's become especially more tempting, I think, to a lot of people who have more self described socialist viewpoints, whether they actually are a socialist or not, that's another question.But you know, a lot of people have come to say that, well, the democratic party is not for me. I want to be a socialist, or I want to be independent or green or whatever what would you say to somebody who has that perspective?KAZIN: I'd say one of the two parties is going to win. And. If you really would [00:47:00] rather support a reactionary party that is going to nominate Donald Trump, again, who doesn't believe in democracy, then fine. Vote for a third party.Otherwise, um, lesser evil is much less evil than the Republicans. And, Joe Biden is an old guy. I wish he were younger. I wish he were more dynamic. But he has some good policies and he's going to be the nominee. So, as in the famous line of the Rolling Stones song, which Donald Trump likes to play at his rallies you can't always get what you want, but you sometimes get what you need.And we don't need another term for Donald Trump. That's for damn sure. So, third parties can float ideas sometimes. The People's Party did that, the Progressive Party of Theodore Roosevelt did that in 1912. I can mention other, other third parties, which have been interesting, but they But they don't win.And they're not going to win given our political system and the way it's organized. And, and so, if you if there is a difference between the two parties, which I think there's a huge difference between the two [00:48:00] parties there's not always been, but there is now then, if you're on the left.You don't vote for Democrats. You are sabotaging what you really care about in American life.SHEFFIELD: Well, and yeah, I think that's, that's a good point. And a lot of people also need to understand that the right wing is also pushing you to go and vote for these other parties. Like they are explicitly going and fund a lot of these third party, hopeless ventures with that in mind.KAZIN: Yep. Yep. It's true.SHEFFIELD: All right. So we've been talking today with Michael Kazin.He's the author of What It Took to Win, A History of the Democratic Party. And then you are on at least for now on Twitter over at M Kazin, K A Z I N for those who are listening. So thanks for being here, Michael.KAZIN: Appreciate it. Great conversation.SHEFFIELD: All right, so that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us. All right. So that's the program for today. I appreciate everybody joining us for the conversation. And if you want to get more [00:49:00] episodes, just go to, and you can get the full video, audio, and transcript of all the episodes.Some of the content is available only for paid subscribers, but most of it is available in its entirety. And then if you go to flux. community, you can also check out some of the other podcasts that I am involved in. I've got two other ones, one called Doom Scroll, and another one called So this just happened Doomscroll is a look at the news from a comedic and Doomscroll is a satirical look at the news hosted by my comedian friend, Lisa Curry and I, and our one guest every week.And then I've also got, so this just happened, which is a. look at the news, news and culture that I am hosting with my friend Kelly Holloway, who is a writer at The Nation. So I hope you guys can check those out as well. Thank you very much. And if you want to support the show you can subscribe at on Substack, and you [00:50:00] can also do it over on Patreon. Go to Appreciate that very much. And especially those who are making this possible. Couldn't do it without you and appreciate it. Thanks for watching or listening, and I'll see you next time. [00:51:00] This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/4/202351 minutes, 46 seconds
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'Right privilege' and America's broken politics

Audio Chapters00:00 — "Right privilege" and America's broken politics08:36 — Is the distinction between overt and covert racism worth anything?14:32 — How much do run-of-the-mill Republicans know about their party's policies and aims?21:26 — What the American left has lost since Obama 200829:22 — Why it's important to distinguish between conservatism and reactionism35:46 — Multiple messages are necessary in political communicationJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
12/1/202346 minutes, 32 seconds
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Doomscroll Special: Lisa's first comedy album

We're off this week at Doomscroll because Lisa is preparing to film her very first standup special! In the meantime, we thought you'd enjoy listening to Lisa’s first comedy album, “Alive for a While,” which she recorded in London in 2019. It’s not safe for work, just in case you were wondering.If you're in, near, or visiting Madison, Wisconsin from somewhere else, come out and see Lisa on December 14th at Comedy On State. There will be two shows and tickets are available now. Audio Chapters03:30 — Shaman06:08 — Arrowhead10:17 — Scheduled cry time13:16 — Funeral jams16:12 — Dolls19:36 — Knife23:47 — Sensitive men26:27 — Dick pics28:58 — PSA30:28 — Undefeated32:27 — Friends with benefits36:05 — Not a fetish38:27 — I hate racists41:27 — Made in AmericaFollow or Die!Doomscroll This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/29/202345 minutes, 46 seconds
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How conspiracy theories about the famous Rothschild family tell the history of antisemitism

The best ideas are timeless: Treat others how you want to be treated. Help people less fortunate than yourself.Unfortunately, many of the worst ideas are also timeless as well. And antisemitism is certainly one such idea.While many different people have been targeted by antisemitic conspiracy theories, the Rothschild family of Germany has a particular favorite among the world’s lunatics for centuries and more recently by the QAnon cult which has managed to recycle many old conspiracies for the internet age and invented some new ones as well.There are so many conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds that you could fill a book with them all, and my guest on this episode has done just that.Mike Rothschild isn’t related to the family that’s been the focus of so many bad ideas, but he does have a lot of experience focusing on conspiracy theories, having previously written a book about QAnon. His most recent book, which we’ll be discussing, is called Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories.(The video and transcript of this episode will be available later today.) This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/27/202356 minutes, 18 seconds
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Elon Musk sues Media Matters for telling the truth about Twitter

Audio Chapters0:00 — Intro01:09 — Elon Musk sues Media Matters for telling truth about Twitter's monetized hate11:32 — Republican appeals court judges void part of Voting Rights Act18:22 — Sean "Diddy" Combs settles Cassie Ventura rape lawsuit32:45 — Good news: Retailers getting more likely to give employees Thanksgiving offJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/24/202339 minutes, 42 seconds
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Mike Lee won't retract debunked conspiracy theory about vape pen

It’s our first-ever Flux podcast crossover as So This Just Happened co-host Kali Holloway joins in the fun!Audio Chapters00:20 — Utah Sen. Mike Lee refuses to retract ludicrous conspiracy theory about vaping pen08:13 — Right-wing CPAC conference losing board members after sex assault claims13:53 — Georgia HS football coach fired after baptizing players at practice18:45 — How the "Church of Satan" is hilariously pushing back on Christian supremacism25:11 — NAFO, an unofficial trolling group, is going after Trump's Truth Social29:29 — Taylor Swift tops poll of most admired major US figures31:56 — Scammers now using AI-generated images to steal money on dating websitesThe video of this episode is available on YouTube.Follow or Die!Doomscroll Holloway is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/22/202338 minutes
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Encore: How Mormonism has been reshaped by Evangelicalism

Mormonism occupies an important place in the conservative religious realm and its adherents exercise significant voting power in the Republican political coalition in states like Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and even California. In today’s political media environment, Mormons are influential both as content producers like Glenn Beck and as content consumers, where they share many similar tastes with White Evangelical Protestants.But the comparative closeness the two fundamentalist traditions have today is a departure from the past. While Mormonism and Evangelical Protestantism were born in roughly the same time period of the mid-19th century, they almost immediately grew apart for political reasons, eventually leading to the largest Mormon sect, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), moving to Utah, which was part of Mexico at the time.The shared dynamic began changing for the two faiths during the mid-20th century as Evangelicalism adopted many of Mormonism’s “end times” concerns and LDS Mormons became increasingly absorbed into right-wing political media.One person who saw this happening in real time is Pat Bagley, a veteran editorial cartoonist who has worked at the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper for more than 40 years. Once a devout illustrator of Mormon media, he now follows his own set of rules with regard to both religion and politics. Along the way, he’s become a fixture in Utah and LDS culture, whether they like it or not.This episode was previously released July 29, 2021. The video of the conversation is available. An automated transcript of the audio follows.TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Please join me in welcoming Pat Bagley.PAT BAGLEY: Hi Matthew.SHEFFIELD: So Pat, why don't we get started with you telling us a bit about how you got interested in cartooning.?BAGLEY: So I was attending BYU [Brigham Young University] and it was in this class that was personal finance and it was, just boring. It, was as do dirt. And I used to kind of scribble in my class notes and, do [00:01:00] caricatures and things like that.And so all of a sudden I had this idea about a talk that was current at BYU at the time. The Department of Justice was going to sue BYU because of its housing policy. And so all of a sudden I did this cartoon in the middle of my class notes, and I thought, that's not bad. So I took it to the Daily Universe, the BYU newspaper, and I thought that they were going to have their cartoonists take my idea and, draw it.But I showed it to the publisher, Nelson Wadsworth, and he said, do a finished copy and bring it back. So I did a finished copy of that cartoon, and I brought it back, and it ran next day in the Daily Universe. And when you see your stuff in print, it's pretty heady stuff, and I was kind of addicted after that.But a few weeks later, this is even better. A few weeks later, I was going to work at, I was working at a little graphics shop at BYU and I walk in and the secretary [00:02:00] says, congratulations on getting published in time magazine that what, and she described the cartoon. And as soon as I was off work, I went down and grabbed time magazine.Sure enough. The very first cartoon I ever did made it into Time Magazine, and since then it's been kind of downhill. But it's been pretty, pretty heady stuff.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, okay, and so, and that was what, the 1960s roughly was that?BAGLEY: So I've been doing this for 42 years, so 79?SHEFFIELD: 79. Okay. Oh, interesting. Okay. So I guess that was around the time when the church was, embroiled, the LDS Mormon church was embroiled in controversy, I guess they had just come out of it though, with regard to their treatment of people of African descent.BAGLEY: Blacks and the priesthood.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.BAGLEY: I was working at the Daily Universe. They actually hired me after I did that [00:03:00] cartoon, and I was working at the Daily Universe when they came out with their announcement. So, 79-80.I was born in Utah. And when I was 3 years old, family moved to California, so I grew up in Oceanside, California, went to school there, went to high school.SHEFFIELD: And Oceanside, just for those who are not familiar with Southern California, where is that?BAGLEY: It's just a little bit north of San Diego. But we'd always come back during Easter to visit family, and we had... lots of family here in Utah, and I thought Utah was kind of exotic. If you grew up in Southern California, the temperature is always the same. nothing ever changes. You don't have snowfall. You don't have leaves changing. And I've come to Utah and I've seen the leaves change and all this kind of stuff.And I thought that's pretty awesome. And so I was, I love the beach, but I also love, Utah.SHEFFIELD: And you've lived there since when did you move to Utah to go to BYU?BAGLEY: Yeah, so I went to BYU, went on a mission to Bolivia, got back, went straight back to [00:04:00] BYU, graduated, and worked a couple of graphics jobs before I got the job at the Salt Lake Tribune.SHEFFIELD: And you worked, and how long have you worked at the Tribune? When did you get hired on there?BAGLEY: So it's been, oh, geez, coming up at 42 years. I just, it was before the pandemic that we had this 40th celebration of me being at the Tribune. and it was kind of a big deal, and we had this thing at Rose Wagner, and, but that was 40 years, and that was almost two years ago.So it's been 42, 42 years I've been at the Salt Lake Tribune.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and in addition to doing editorial cartoons, you also in the 90s, in early 2000s, you were a bit of a Mormon publishing entrepreneur yourself. You're, why don't you hold up one of your books there for us so everybody can see it.BAGLEY: Okay, so, I wish I had.SHEFFIELD: But I've got what's and read the title for our [00:05:00] audio listeners here. Where have all the Nephites gone?BAGLEY: But the first book was Norman the Nephite.SHEFFIELD: And that's that little guy with the orange hair there.BAGLEY: Yeah, it's one of those search and find books where you have all these. It was like Waldo, Where's Waldo? Waldo was a big hit. And so this book came to me and they said, we want to do something kind of like Waldo. And we want to call it find the bishop. I said, nobody wants to find the Bishop, but it came up with this idea of Norman the Nephite, which is kind of a magical character because, nobody really knows what a Nephite looks like and I could go anywhere I wanted with it.And so they actually took me up on it and he came up with three books. There was Norman the Nephite, Where Have All the Nephites Gone? And the last one was A Nephite in the Works. So I did those books for Deseret Book in the early to mid nineties.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And so for people who aren't familiar with Mormon culture, tell us a little bit about the [00:06:00] whole Mormon industry.Like, it's pretty huge. Wouldn't you say?BAGLEY: You mean the Mormon industrial complex?SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Like, what, is it? What is it involved? Tell us, about it. What is it in there? You mentioned Deseret Book and some of the other companies? Who owns Deseret Book, how about that?BAGLEY: Deseret Book has got a captive audience, and I'm sure that you as a former Mormon heard that the only books that you should ever buy come from Deseret Book. If you can't get it at Deseret Book, then it's probably not okay. So it, they, practice a lot of control, through Deseret Book.SHEFFIELD: And the church owns the Deseret Book, isn't that right?BAGLEY: Oh, yeah.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. and that's something that's kind of interesting about Mormonism, although but not really though, because one thing a lot of people don't know is that a lot of the more, conservative or fundamentalist religions, they actually have these [00:07:00] publishing empires, lots of them do. So the Mormon church, so they've got the Deseret News newspaper. Then they've also got Deseret Book, but then they, and then they also have a whole host of publishing things affiliated with Brigham Young University. And do they have any others that, have or is that pretty much it?BAGLEY: Well, the KSL, you know, which--SHEFFIELD: Oh yeah, they own that too. Yeah. Which is a local television affiliate in Utah for those who don't know. And they, oh yeah. And they own Bonneville Communications.BAGLEY: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: How can I forget that? Bonneville Communications is a, radio and television station ownership group and it owns a bunch of stations around the world. Isn't it? Or is it just in the United States?BAGLEY: I mean, there's the Liahona, which goes out to South America and Mexico. And here's the thing though, you can be Mormon and never have to be exposed to anything that's not Mormon. they've got you covered, from being a kid.They've got books [00:08:00] introducing you to the Book of Mormon, when you're two years old and you don't have to be exposed to anything that's not LDS.SHEFFIELD: The LDS Mormons are not really exceptional in that regard, because there are like the Seventh-day Adventists, they have their newspapers. The Christian Science Monitor, and even more modern publications like the Falun Gong cult in China, they own the Epoch Times, which has become one of the most popular right wing Websites in America, and they've got one in Germany too, apparently.And it's all designed to promote the religion. But, I guess there are some lighter aspects to that. So, besides the Norman, the Nephite stuff, what else? What were some of the other books you've got? You've got a couple of the other ones there that you made.BAGLEY: Well, I was kind of on a roll. So, I recommended they do a Book of Mormon timeline. Because you read the Book of Mormon and you have different groups going off in different areas, and then they pop back up and you kind of wonder, well, [00:09:00] wait a minute, do I remember where they came from? And, so the Book of Mormon timeline actually kind of pulls it all together.We were talking earlier and you said that you can still refer to it because it's accurate because this book is actually pretty good.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, it was a guy on Amazon that he was like, wow, this is the most accurate Book of Mormon timeline I've ever read. And I still buy it. he was, giving you a plug there and you didn't know. And then you had another one, another timeline book too.BAGLEY: Church History Timeline. and I grew up in a family where, history is important and we like reading a lot of history. And my brother is the leading western trail historian in America. Yeah, he's in lots of books. There was one that was actually, that was reviewed in the Atlantic magazine and it's great stuff.He did a book called Blood of the Prophets, which was about Mountain Meadows. It is the best book about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. But the narrative, it's just compelling. It's great stuff. [00:10:00] So I'd recommend Blood of the Prophets if you're interested in Utah history.SHEFFIELD: Tell us about the, for people who are not familiar with Mormon history, what was the Mountain Meadows massacre? What was that?BAGLEY: So it was the largest white on white massacre in American history. There was a group of 120 to 130 Immigrants coming from Missouri, going through Utah to get to California. And there's a place outside of Cedar City that's called Mountain ,Meadows where they were camping and the Mormon militia in Southern Utah ambushed them.There was three days where they were shooting at each other. And then the Fanchers, which is the immigrant group decided they would surrender and they surrendered as they were being marched to Cedar city. The Mormon militia, murdered them. Just killed them all, men, women, children.SHEFFIELD: And what was the reason for that?BAGLEY: Well, this was when Mormons were [00:11:00] sure that the American government was coming out to, wage war on the Mormons. There was Johnson's army that was, marching to come to Utah to impose order. And so they thought they were... Under threat, and so they, they did the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and it was, they realized almost immediately it was really bad they had done that, and they covered it up.But at the same time, Mormons have been persecuted. They were run out of Illinois. They were run out of Missouri. They've had a history of persecution. So. If you have a persecute, persecution complex because you've been persecuted, that's understandable.SHEFFIELD: I think there is an interesting parallel perhaps now with the way that Mormons were feeling at that [00:12:00] time and how white evangelical Christian fundamentalists are feeling now.Do you think there's a parallel there at all? There seems to be a lot of persecution feelings, on, in that subgroup.BAGLEY: Oh, yeah. I mean, there's, no question that they feel under threat. They feel persecuted and, but it's just, crazy stuff. I mean, they're comparing wearing a mask to a genocide.They're comparing getting vaccinated to slavery. And it's just nonsense. But, you ask them about it and they feel it in their bones, they are under threat. This is existential.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And actually, that reminds me of a cartoon that you did recently. I'm going to put it up on the screen. So, can you describe it for the listeners, just so they can understand what you've written here?BAGLEY: Yeah. I mean, there's the grim reaper. And instead of having, the thing that, what is it called [00:13:00] the scythe? Yeah. Instead of a scythe, he's got a golf club and it says 99 percent of COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated. And they're set up on a tee is this golf ball and a red hat, which, automatically identifies them as a Trumper.And he's saying, no one's going to jab me. Well, he's going to be more than jabbed by COVID because COVID doesn't care what you believe. Believe crazy stuff and then, screw around and find out.SHEFFIELD: It is such a unfortunate and terrible mentality. I mean, as somebody who's been making cartoon commentary for 42 years. Is that something that you've seen develop over time in the American right? or some people seem to think that this just happened with Trump, but I don't think that's right.BAGLEY: No, I mean, this has been going on for quite a while and actually you can draw a bright line between the establishment [00:14:00] of Fox News in 1996 and the erosion of trust in the institutions that make us a nation. They came out and said, we are fair and balanced. Everybody else is not. They're telling you lies. and they undercut trust in, government. they say the government lies to you. They say the only people you can trust are us, Fox News. So you look at the erosion of what's happened, of where we got here, how we got here.It started earlier, with Gingrich and, all that, but it was amplified by Fox News. And over the years, they've just gotten crazier and crazier. They got us into a war in Iraq for no good reason. they, were saying in 2008 during the financial collapse, everything was fine. there was no collapse.It was just okay. they [00:15:00] got us, Donald Trump. And they amplified this whole lie about Obama being a Muslim.SHEFFIELD: Now, in regards to, I guess your own career trajectory, it is, have, so you're, now, on pre, on the progressive side of the aisle. is that where you started off initially or, have, And if so, we, what was that experience like being a progressive in, in, in Mormondom?BAGLEY: So I grew up a Republican and this is back in the day where you could be liberal and be a Republican. I mean, there was Rockefeller, there was Percy, there was Hatfield, I think, who wereSHEFFIELD: Eisenhower. Certainly.BAGLEY: Yeah. George Romney was pretty progressive. He was anti war. He was pro choice. He marched with Martin Luther King. That was back in the day [00:16:00] when both Republican and Democratic parties had left and right wings. People migrated so that the Republican party is completely right wing, reactionary right wing. The Republican party didn't, I didn't leave the Republican party. It left me, and, like, people like you, they ask, well, what was your politics?My politics is. Eisenhower republicanism, I believe in expanding education, I believe in infrastructure. there are a lot of good things that, oh, Eisenhower also expanded the social security net. So, I'm an Eisenhower republican.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and in that case, you deserve to be canceled, by conservatives. Which, isn't that, there, there isn't that just so hypocritical and ironic that they're constantly complaining that everyone wants to cancel them. But they cancel people like you guys decades and have continuously done it. [00:17:00]BAGLEY: Well, they came up with the term Rhino, Republican in name only. And that means that if you're identified as that, then you're kicked out. You're expunged. it sounds a lot like the communist party, where, you see, see who's on the top of Lenin's tomb and see who's been erased recently. So yeah, they're really into that whole cancel culture stuff. It's projection. It's just pure projection.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. now I guess within, I think, the same thing also is kind of happened in Mormonism as well. So in Utah in the 70s, and early 80s, it was not uncommon to have statewide officials who were Democrats. The governors were Democrats, for a bunch of years in the 60s and 70s. But so what do you think happened to Mormonism, over time? Something similar?BAGLEY: Oh, it was probably Ezra Taft Benson, who said,SHEFFIELD: And who was [00:18:00] Ezra Taft Benson?BAGLEY: Ezra Taft Benson eventually became the president of the LDS church, but he was famous for saying, I don't see, I don't see how you can be, how you can be a good Mormon and a Democrat.And the LDS church didn't used to be so in line with evangelicals, evangelicals hate Mormons, but they used to be kind of their own things. And now Republican ideology, Mormon political ideology follows in line with evangelical political ideology. They're, bedfellows right now. And I think it's bad for Christianity,by mixing politics and religion, they've done a disservice to both. It's, just debased both. the Christianity that it espouses is pretty awful. it used to be you would keep your politics and your religion [00:19:00] separate. I remember going to see Goldwater when I was a kid. My dad took me to see him on one of these train stops when he was campaigning.And... I remember thinking, wow, this is kind of cool. This guy could be president. And he was one of those people who said, you've got to maintain this. Division between religion and politics, and he said, if these TV pastors ever get ahold of the Republican Party, like they're trying to do, that's going to be really bad. And here we are.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, he was right. Although I guess you could argue that he kind of encouraged that and maybe that's why he said that later. He kind of regretted what happened.BAGLEY: Yeah, I mean, he was for his time. He's pretty far, right? But, you look back on him and he wasn't that bad. I mean, he was.Fine with gays in the military. He was fine with, choice, abortion choice. compared to the people we have now. He was kind of moderate.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's interesting, you had mentioned [00:20:00] in Mormonism about abortion and positions on that, being more kind of up in the air or, on one side or the other that also happened within white evangelism as well.So, like, the Southern Baptist convention used to be pro choice and used to not think that abortion was a sin. And so, yeah, so a lot that's kind of become the story of the Republican party is how religion was used to get people to vote for them. Because, when you look at polls of Americans and even Republican voters, they don't agree with Republican economic.viewpoints, they don't want to cut social security. They don't want to privatize Medicare or things like that. And so they got to have a reason to vote for them. Seems like.BAGLEY: Well, the Republican party is really good at riling people up with the cultural wars so that they don't have to give people, anything, [00:21:00] I mean, I sometimes put this out there, what have the Republicans done for ordinary Americans over the last 40 years? And people really strained to find anything that the Republican Party is actually material, materially done to benefit ordinary Americans, over the past decades.Because they haven't, but they have given them this red meat culture war stuff, about abortion, about cancel culture, about, I mean, it's led to QAnon, complete crazy nonsense. But if you, like you're saying, if you do look at the policies that people like, it's actually pretty in line with today's Democratic Party.SHEFFIELD: And, this whole cancel culture stuff is so ridiculous. Somebody who I'm sure you probably know, Steve Benson, who worked for a long time for the Arizona Republic as a cartoonist and was also a member of the LDS faith, can you tell the audience a little bit about what happened with him and [00:22:00] why he eventually separated from Mormonism?BAGLEY: I've known him since BYU. When I was hired at the Daily Universe, he was the other cartoonist. They actually had two cartoonists. There's me and Steve Benson. And I got to know his family pretty well. I actually met Ezra Taft Benson once. He took me up to his apartment.SHEFFIELD: And he was Steve's grandfather.BAGLEY: Steve's grandfather. And he was the president of the LDS Church. He was very gracious, when he met me. And I could tell he was working on something. He, I said, what are you working on? And he said, I'm working on blah, blah, blah. And I said, well, I just read this article by Alexander Schultz Nissen about that very same thing.And he goes, I read that too, but I'm kind of worried that he's a plant. My mind went to the green leafy kind of plant, but he was actually talking about Alexander Solzhenitsyn being a Soviet agent. So Ezra Taft Benson was, what's the name of that [00:23:00] group? The Birch Society. he was definitely part of that.So Steve grew up in this family that was a very interesting family. he was the oldest son of the oldest son and was kind of the crown prince. They were looking to him to kind of, go into church leadership at some point, Steve had other ideas. He liked cartooning. And so he started cartooning and he got the job at the Daily Universe.but he was very right wing and he actually ratted out one of his political science professors because of political science professor bought, brought people in with different. And he actually brought a communist in to explain to the class about communism, which is what you do in college, you get exposed to different ideas.And I watched Steve's progression, from being very right wing to, questioning, to, wondering about things, to [00:24:00] coming out against the church and against what they did to his grandfather. The story that he tells is there was a general conference where Ezra Taft Benson was presiding, but he wasn't all there.He had dementia and was kind of losing it, but there was, they propped him up, in front of the masses. And there was somebody who actually behind the scenes took his arm. It did this so that it looked like he was waving to the, and Steve was behind the scenes and he saw that, he goes, that's it, I'm done.And so Steve, his journey has been from being very right wing to being pretty progressive and, it's hard on his family because family is very LDS and very, I don't know, but, it was brave of Steve to do what he did. It was courageous.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, there's that movie [00:25:00] Weekend at Bernie's that's basically what they were doing where they were propping up a person who could not You know do anything in function and pretending that he could and telling people that he was in charge. It was pretty-- and they never apologized or even admitted that they did it even though it's obvious Yeah, so at the same time, so, I mean, I mean, you've talked about the LDS church having become a lot more right wing because of and people in his orbit.But more recently, they've been going through a lot of changes as well, and I don't know fully what's going on. Why don't you tell us about some of these changes and whether you think they mean anything?BAGLEY: A couple of things that I've noticed that are kind of worrisome, because the LDS Church is kind of a moderating influence on the membership.They came out and they said it's okay to be a Democrat, you can be a Democrat or a Republican. You don't campaign in churches. They've said get vaccinated, [00:26:00] definitely get vaccinated, get, the vaccination. And so they've been pretty moderate. In fact, they're more moderate than the, Utah legislature.But the thing that I've seen recently that is worrisome is there are a lot of Mormons who watch Fox News every single day and they go to church once a week. And the influence that they are following is the Fox News stuff, and the counseling that they get from church leaders, they're starting to ignore's pretty clear that the LDS church has told the membership to get vaccinated. But it's also clear that Mormons are the most vaccine hesitant group in the country. Even more than evangelicals. I think if I, recall right, they're 50% of Mormons who say, Nope, not going to get the vaccination, just won't do it.And that's [00:27:00] flying in the face of what they've been told from the pulpit. And I, like I say that, that's kind of troubling.SHEFFIELD: I've seen a lot of articles and TV segments recently about, oh, if Donald Trump will come out and say, to tell people to get vaccinated, then people will do it. And it's like.You don't know these people. Well, there's a reason that's the reason that Trump doesn't do it. because he thinks it would harm his brand if he were to do that.BAGLEY: I said earlier that you could be LDS and not have to be exposed to anything outside of LDS culture, you can watch your LDS news and get your LDS newspaper, you can get your LDS books and you're never exposed to anything outside of that.That's the same thing that's going on with evangelicalism. So even if. Trump came out and said, get vaccinated. And I think he has, yeah, People are living in these shells that are impermeable. You just can't get through to them. And, even though you [00:28:00] tell them something that's absolutely true, the vaccine is safe and it's effective.99 percent of people that were dying are unvaccinated facts. You can tell them that, and it makes no difference. That to me is kind of worrisome.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. So as somebody who is stating inconvenient truths like this to the public, I mean, how does the Utah audience respond to you? Do you have a lot? You have a lot of fans who love you desperately and probably a lot of people who hate you as well, right?BAGLEY: Yeah. Yeah. it used to be that. I was tolerated because Mormons believe that, people have their callings and, my calling was to be, the bird in the saddle. and they were kind of okay with that. But the, sense I get of people out there now is that it's becoming incredibly radicalized and it is worrisome to me.I went to a [00:29:00] cartoon festival in France, I don't know, five years ago. Six years ago, and I met the, creators of this magazine, humor magazine, and this little humor magazine that was not doing very well, it's called Charlie Hebdo. And so I met these people and they're nice people and inoffensive.And then three months later, somebody breaks into their offices and murders five of them cartoonists and I used to go into work and not have to worry about any of that. Now I do worry for my personal safety that things are getting that bad. I mean, look what happened on January 6th. People attacked the Capitol.And had they got a hold of a Congress person, who knows what they would have done. they were out for blood.SHEFFIELD: In regards to Utah and the Intermountain West, there, and there definitely is a metastasizing radicalism or growing radicalism. [00:30:00] The Bundy family, who attracted national attention for, invading federal property and trying to occupy it, they're Mormons.And. They are some of the, as I understand it, I guess Ammon Bundy, who is named after a Book of Mormon character, is, says he wants to run for governor of Idaho. And, he's very anti vaccine and tells people not, and anti mask and. Are there any Mormons out there that you know, who have privately said to you, Pat, I used to think you were all, you were crazy, but now I'm wondering if maybe you were right.Has anybody ever said that to you?BAGLEY: No. Oh, wow. Congressional delegation said that, and I think we have some fairly good people. I think that Governor Cox is doing a fairly good job. But even he came out against right wing [00:31:00] media as far as vaccination goes. He says that, the reason people aren't getting vaccinated is because of the stuff they hear on.Fox News and OANN and, because you got to stop listening to that stuff, but he, no, he called me an idiot. So, no, he's not going to.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so now your, I guess, personal perspective on Mormonism has changed over the years. Can you talk about that a little bit as well?BAGLEY: Yeah, so my Odyssey out of the church quite a while and it was one thing after another until I realized I just don't believe these precepts anymore.But if you grow up LDS, it's in your blood, it's tribal. And when people ask if I'm a Mormon, depending on the circumstances, I'll say, yeah, because I was born Mormon. I was raised Mormon. Still know all this stuff from the Book of Mormon. I read the [00:32:00] Book of Mormon 25 times. I can say Mohenroi Moriankomer, then I have to trip over my tongue saying it.And the stuff that you learn young kind of stays with you. It's in my DNA, even though I don't practice the religion anymore, it certainly had a lot to do with how I turned out with, what a way with what it made me.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. and to go back to something you said earlier, I think that, because it is an institution that actually does have to function around the globe and outside of.The pulpit with all their massive investments, they actually have to be more grounded in reality compared to, let's say the, Pentecostals or something like that.BAGLEY: They're just fairly good about the immigration and immigrants. they've put out statements saying that we should welcome these brothers and sisters and, the [00:33:00] fleeing.bad situations and, let's welcome them, let's be Christ like and welcome them. But that flies in the face of what you're getting from Fox News and right wing media, which is, these people are, what did Trump say, they're murderers and rapists and they're coming to take your jobs.So there are two messages there. One is fairly accepting from the church, and again, they have to be because they are an international church.SHEFFIELD: I guess it's, been kind of interesting. So I lived in Missouri for a number of years and the Mormon branch that, or the Mormon sect that is the biggest out there is the former reorganized church, or reorganized church of Latter day Saints.And now they call themselves the community of Christ. and they, it seems to some degree that the LDS are kind of making a slower version of. Of what happened with the humanity of Christ. Do you think that's true? [00:34:00]BAGLEY: Oh, the LDS church has been incredibly successful and the church is this big and this powerful with that much money, you usually have scandals like the Catholic church and the pedophile priests.And there've been minor scandals with the LDS church, but it's been able to avoid scandals and schism for a long time.SHEFFIELD: I mean in the sense that the Community of Christ, when we're gradually backing away from the Book of Mormon for a number of decades, and then finally formally came out and said, all right, yeah, our church historians don't believe that this was a real.Thing that, the Nephites didn't exist, sorry, Norman, and, they were, and they never existed in the Lamanites are not out there somewhere. and we think it was an inspired book, but it's not, a work of history and they formally said that.BAGLEY: Yeah, I don't, see the LDS church going that route. They're pretty committed to the Book of [00:35:00] Mormon and to Joseph Smith as a divine prophet although they have been a little more forthcoming about things like the peep stone and Joseph Smith being involved with women as young as 14 years old. But I don't see them really saying, Yeah, we're just going to do the New Testament because I think they're committed.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I mean, I think that's very possible. I think, yeah, organizationally, they probably never will, but they, the BYU actually just recently published a paper that noted how Joseph Smith had, basically plagiarized a lot from, this, Bible commentary by a guy named Adam Clark. And this was published in a BYU paper.They were saying that this is something that was done in the, In his Joseph Smith version of the Bible, and I don't think that's something that would have happened, like even, let's say, 20 years ago.BAGLEY: The church is kind of surprising. I [00:36:00] learned evolution at BYU, and the teacher was not having any of the stuff about, the earth being six thousand years old.He said, nope, you do that, you're going to fail this class. I remember going through the BYU bookstore and there was No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brody, the history of Joseph Smith, and it was being sold in the bookstore. So you do have these flashes of intellectual freedom that they still allow people to have in the church.But as far as-- I don't know what's going to happen to the church. I really don't. I think it's kind of interesting. I think these changes about how the membership views the leadership, is kind of big. And I don't know where that goes, though.SHEFFIELD: My thought is that they're headed for a schism in some sense. It seems that way because, although on the other hand, I mean, you look at the Roman Catholic Church, they've essentially managed to create parallel worlds within their realm [00:37:00] where if you're like a lot of people in the Jesuit orbit don't really believe a lot that's in the Bible.And they still identify as Catholic and nobody is able to do anything. The more rabid, traditionalist kind of Catholics are, they, they hate that. And they're constantly trying to go after them, but they can't do it. So I wonder if, to some extent, that It seems like something like that is happening within Mormonism, with some of their newer apologetic writers coming out and saying, yeah, Joseph Smith.Yeah, he wasn't a translator. There's this guy named, I think his name is, Terrell Givens came out and said, Joseph Smith was engaging in bricolage. which for those, not familiar with the R term, that's taking a bunch of stuff from places and gluing them all together. And that's what the Book of Mormon was. It wasn't really a translation. And this guy, he literally works for the church and he's saying that. Yeah.BAGLEY: But, the one [00:38:00] thing that Mormons can't ever get away with is questioning the leadership. I mean, the last thing that kind of fell away, for me, where I made the final break was deciding that I didn't want to be part of Bruce R. McConkie's militia. I wasn't going to be a follower.SHEFFIELD: And who was Bruce R. McConkie for those who don't know?BAGLEY: Bruce R. McConkie was an apostle who wrote some books that were-- it's called Mormon Doctrine, and he proposed to lay out the whole Mormon doctrine, and it's pretty toxic stuff.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it's incredibly racist, among other things.BAGLEY: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Well, and it's, and his faction did, they're, they took over the church, with Ezra Taft Benson, and, um, it's, yeah, it is, it, Mormonism is definitely in a very strange place right now.BAGLEY: Yeah, yeah, but it, it's the same authoritarianism, because you never question the prophet, follow the prophet, [00:39:00] kids sing songs about following the prophet.And that's the one thing that, that, I think is unchanging with the LDS church. And if they start to lose members who are listening to Glenn Beck rather than the prophet, that's, that, that's bad for the future of the church. I don't know where that goes.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, I guess maybe Glenn Beck can have a vision and see Jesus.that one's coming, Pat. All right. Well, so, some of the, over the years, let's talk about your cartoons a little bit more. what kind of, what are some of the cartoons you've done that have had the biggest responses nationally that you can think of, or that are memorable in that regard?BAGLEY: So I should have sent you this cartoon. There's a cartoon of Malala, the girl who the Taliban tried to assassinate in Pakistan. they shot her, but she recovered and she, the reason they wanted to kill her in the first place is because she was a proponent of education for [00:40:00] women and the Taliban doesn't believe that women should be educated and she was, I think, 14 at the time.And so they shot her, she recovered, it seemed to make her even more resolved to, promote education among women. She won the. Nobel Prize a couple of years ago for her activism, and I did this cartoon that shows her with a book and it says, see if I can remember the thing that religious fundamentalists hate more or fear more than American bombs and bullets and tanks is a girl with a book, and on the book, it says knowledge, and that got tremendous response.All of a sudden, it's showing up, they're sending me emails, and it's been translated into Italian, into Russian, into Arabic, and it went [00:41:00] all the way around the world. It went viral, as they say, and it probably was shown tens of millions of times. so that's been my biggest hit, was that one, cartoon.And when you do a cartoon, you have no idea. I had no idea that it was going to, people are going to respond to it like they did. but it took off. Other times you think, oh boy, this is really going to get so and so, or some, people are going to get upset about this, and you cricket, so you hear nothing.SHEFFIELD: So, you never know. the editorial cartooning industry itself has really been under a lot of negative pressure. talk about that.BAGLEY: You spoke to a couple of my colleagues. And I'm sure they've said the same thing. When I started doing this, one time ago, there were probably a couple hundred newspapers that had their own cartoonist.And now there are probably less than 20. So I'm kind of a dying breed. And it's not because, I get, [00:42:00] this from people all the time. So you guys are so left wing, that's why, newspapers are failing. That's absolutely not the reason. The reason newspapers are having a hard time is because it's advertising.Back in the day, the Salt Lake Tribune would come out seven days a week, and there'd be two, sometimes three sections of nothing but classifieds, and classifieds weren't cheap, but that was if we were printing money in it, and it was a good business model, but then along came the internet and things like and Craigslist, and it's infinitely easier and better because it's free, reaches more people. And it undercut our entire business model. And so we started to lose it, we lost that overnight. And then we've slowly been losing advertisers. And so a lot of newspapers have folded, which is really bad for democracy.And it's bad for politics. there have been studies that show that communities that have lost their newspapers actually pay more because of [00:43:00] corruption. And if they had kept the newspaper, people have paid a subscription to keep it going in the solid. Tribune recently went to a nonprofit status that were the first paper in the country to do that.And they talked to the publisher. Paul has been a couple of weeks ago about it. And he seemed pretty upbeat. He seemed to think that things were going pretty well for us. So maybe that's a model. That will help other communities keep their newspapers.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I, yeah, I think that is the model of, it's the model that we pursue at Flux, the website that I just recently launched that, Theory of Change is part of the, podcast network.And the advertising as a, It is cancerous, on, quality journalism, in my opinion, because you constantly are having people being compromised by it, trying to get advertising or trying to pander to advertisers and, [00:44:00] it's, not good. And, I mean, you can see the ultimate. And for that type of thing, when you know, look at people like Steve Bannon, like on his pocket, this guy is constantly going around the world, desperately trying to find people dumb enough to give him money and, and he keeps embarrassing them and humiliating himself and, but he's always got to find finding another more ridiculous mark one after the other.But people, yeah, people need to understand that quality information, quality analysis has to be paid for because stuff that you pull out of your ass, well, that's free and it doesn't, and it belongs in the toilet.BAGLEY: Yeah, I mean, it's been pointed out that places like Fox News and OANN and, Breitbart and these other right wing sites, it's all free.It's all out there free, but if you want to read really good journalism, like the New York Times, Washington Post, Salt Lake Tribune, [00:45:00] there's a paywall. You have to pay to get good journalism and crap is free. And that's part of the problem with America right now, is that the disinformation and the lies. Oh, somebody said, maybe Mark Twain, the truth is barely putting on his pants.Well, a lie goes halfway around the world. that's, why lies are getting such press these days because it's exciting stuff.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's--BAGLEY: It's going to be reinstated back in, in that. August. That's wow if true.SHEFFIELD: Well, and it's, it is comforting to believe lies. The QAnon movement got started, not related to elections or anything like that. It got started as a way of convincing gullible people that Donald Trump is secretly working with Jeff Sessions and Bob Mueller to take down pedophiles. He's actually in league with Mueller and the real point of this is not to [00:46:00] investigate Russia. No, it's to have a massive arrest of child abusers.BAGLEY: And, you, hit that button. You hit that button with people that, children are at risk. Children are being abused. Children are being sexually abused and sacrificed and eaten. And who wants that? Geez, nobody. And that's how they, draw these people in because they're trying to save the children.SHEFFIELD: I don't know if you remember, but in the 80s in Mormon culture, there was this obsession with satanic cults in the 80s. Do you remember that?BAGLEY: Yeah, there was some episode in, I think it was Lehigh or down in Utah Valley, where it was a preschool. And there were accusations of satanic, weird sexual stuff going on.And it's straight out of the Salem Witch Trial, where, stories start to get told, and they get embellished, and the community gets, upset, and worried, and frightened, and they do crazy stuff. [00:47:00] Yeah, I do remember that. I think it was Lehigh. I'll have to check on that.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it was northern Utah County, because I remember, I, I was living in Pleasant Grove, and I was in, I think, third grade or something, and my parent, my, my mom was always telling me to be careful of the devil worshippers that were out there, and supposedly they had, they were kidnapping people. area cats and sacrificing them. Although we had a cat and nobody ever kidnapped our cat.BAGLEY: Yeah the satanists always get the cat!SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right. Well, so I, yeah, this has been a treat for me, Pat. I, when I was a kid, I read your Norman, the Nephite books, and my mom bought those for us to look at during our church services instead of paying attention. Thanks. But, yeah, so you're, you are on Twitter at Pat Bagley. That's B A G L E Y and you are on the Salt Lake Tribune, [00:48:00] which is Do you have any other online platforms that you're using nowadays? Or is that it?BAGLEY: So there's. Facebook, Twitter, that's most of it, so.SHEFFIELD: Okay, cool. Alright, well thanks so much for joining us today, Pat. And we'll look forward to continuing to see you producing work for the Tribune as long as you want to.BAGLEY: Well thanks for this, Matthew. This was a lot of fun.SHEFFIELD: Just as a bit of housekeeping for the audience here, Theory of Change is part, as I mentioned during the show, of the Flux. Community Network. And Flux is a website that is a non profit. We're working to bring deep coverage to the larger trends in politics and religion and technology and getting people to understand how they all intersect.So if you can be sure to visit the site, it's And we also have a Patreon. If you like what we're doing here with Theory of Change, just go to I'm Matthew Sheffield, and I will see you guys next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/20/202350 minutes, 22 seconds
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Congressional Republicans' fisticuffs and the right's history of violence

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Fascism or incompetence? Trump and his toadies can't decide which they prefer

Audio chapters00:44 — House Republicans are continuing tearing each other apart, which is nice04:51 — Trump and his aides promising fascism and incompetence simultaneously11:39 — Ex-Trump WH executive's right-wing dating site is a failure14:08 — Tim Scott finally puts presidential campaign out of misery after humiliating girlfriend reveal23:49 — Republicans tangle in yet another kiddie table debate over boots & a border wall with CanadaYou can watch this episode on YouTubeFollow or Die!Doomscroll Aksamit is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and media This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/15/202331 minutes, 52 seconds
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Inside TESCREAL, the new techno-religion that's becoming an obsession of billionaires

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityTruth, as the saying goes, is stranger than fiction. And nowhere is that more the case than in describing the very bizarre combination of political and religious beliefs that has come to be known as TESCREALism.The ideas behind TESCREALism — humans merging consciousness with machines and supposedly knowing what's best for trillions of hypothetical people living thousands of years in the future — are so bizarre and far-fetched that they seem like bad science fiction rather than a political philosophy that’s captured the minds of some of the very richest people on the planet.And yet, it is absolutely the case that billionaires like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel and Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX infamy are obsessed with this stuff, which means that no matter how absurd and ridiculous it sounds, TESCREALism is very, very relevant to the rest of us.This radical philosophy is so all encompassing and strange that I can think of no better guide to helping us explore its contours than Emile “Phil” Torres, the person who coined the term to describe this combination of beliefs.The video of this conversation is available. The transcript of the audio is for paid subscribers only. Please sign up today to get full access.Audio Chapters02:16 — TESCREAL, an acronym to describe a new and very bizarre secular religion04:07 — Transhumanism, where it began10:47 — Extropianism radicalized transhumanism12:51 — Singularitarianism, seeking to merge human and machine26:31 — Cosmism, space as destiny29:16 — Rationalism, libertarianism meets Dunning-Kruger36:51 — Effective Altruism, selfishness disguised as generosity40:23 — Longtermism: hypothetical virtual humans are more important than today's people52:35 — TESCREAL ideas are so ludicrous that many people can't take them seriously56:07 — ConclusionTranscript(For paid subscribers only)
11/13/20231 hour, 5 minutes, 24 seconds
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Is the far right's anti-democratic agenda beginning to catch up with it?

Audio Chapters0:00 — Abortion access and legalized pot win big in 2023 elections12:28 — Ex-senator Rick Santorum admits Republicans don't want people to vote16:14 — Right-wing lack of empathy flows from their limited epistemology21:06 — Democrats almost win Mississippi governor's race28:44 — Britney Spears is finally her own personJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/10/202338 minutes, 48 seconds
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NY judge shocks Trump by holding him accountable

Audio Timecodes00:25 — Donald Trump rages on stand in NY fraud trial 05:08 — Does Trump attorney Alina Habba have America's dirtiest job? 11:55 — Is Biden losing supporters over his Palestine-Israel policies?17:44 — How right-wing media makes Republicans more likely to vote21:10 — Trump says he wants to create a government-run "American Academy" university26:19 — Twitter as a dating service is Elon Musk's latest hare-brained idea29:55 — Supreme Court hears case from man trying to trademark joke about Trump's junk This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/8/202335 minutes, 7 seconds
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As libertarianism has radicalized, some of Silicon Valley's biggest names have turned toward fascism

We’re living in a time between times, a moment of dramatic technological change when the future is up for grabs. With the right kinds of policies, humanity is on the cusp of ending or significantly diminishing perpetual challenges of our species like hunger, climate disruption, and poverty. But if we make the wrong decisions, we will be handing over our future to people whose first priority is themselves—oligarchic billionaires who care more about achieving eternal life and exploring other planets than they do about affordable housing and ending diseases.The terrible irony about the battle for the future is that it’s being waged by people who believe in a century-old failed ideology that goes by a number of different names. Futurism, libertarianism, and technocracy are some of the names by which it’s known. What we should be calling it, however, is fascism.If you’re unfamiliar with the history of 20th century fascism, hearing someone today apply the term to people like Elon Musk or Peter Thiel may seem like an exaggeration. It’s not, however, especially because both of these men have direct connections to the original fascism. Theil, in particular, has explicitly written that “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”Today’s modern-day robber barons have invested in political parties and candidates in the United States and other countries, but they have even bigger ambitions than just controlling who wins and loses elections. They don’t just want to rule the next 20 years; they want to control the next 200 years.I won’t lie: The ideas and ideologies we’ll be exploring in the next several episodes are frightening and often extremely arcane. But it’s important to understand what we’re up against.That’s why I’m pleased to be joined in this first episode by Jonathan Taplin, he’s a former professor of journalism at the University of Southern California. Before that, he was a vice president at Merril Lynch, and before that, he was a filmmaker and music producer who worked with legends like Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese. Instead of talking about all these impressive accomplishments, however, we’ll be discussing his new book, “The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto,” which I strongly encourage you to purchase.Audio Chapters00:15 — Introduction02:39 — Interview11:31 — Libertarian radicalization is directly related to the rise of fascism15:18 — Mark Andreesen, a far-right billionaire who's mostly unknown to the general public25:32 — "Transhumanism" and the fascist imagination34:11 — Why "fascism" is an accurate descriptor for people like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel47:05 — Why the U.S. left must create a grand democratic vision of the futureTranscriptThe transcript is automatically generated from the audio and may not be entirely accurate. It is provided for convenience only.MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: It's really good to have you here today, Jonathan. Welcome to Theory of Change.JONATHAN TAPLIN: Good to be here, Matthew.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, first let's name the four billionaires that you are talking about in the book here before we get started with anything else,TAPLIN: Elon Musk, [00:03:00] Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Andreessen, and Peter Thiel.SHEFFIELD: Okay. And how representative are these four men of the Silicon Valley sort of oligarch class, if we can call them that, or as you call them, the technocrats.TAPLIN: Well, they are certainly at the top level of the net worth. Obviously, Elon Musk is the richest man in the world. Andreessen Thiel and Zuckerberg are all billionaires not millionaires.And they controlled some of the most important companies in this country. So, I mean, in that sense, I think they rank at the very top. They do tend to be much more kind of anarcho-libertarian than a lot of leaders in Silicon Valley. [00:04:00] But that's something that we can get into later.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Okay. Well, and actually the first chapter of the book is about libertarianism and techno libertarianism.I was really pleased to see that you did that because I think that, a lot of people, especially in the business press. They don't have much of an understanding of politics and they tend to report on business as just, well, this guy did a thing and this company did some stuff.And it's, very shallow and it's not giving the readers the bigger context and you are definitely trying to do that.TAPLIN: I was shocked that there's a new biography by a very well known biographer, Walter Isaacson, that just came out on Musk. And it was exactly what you described. He, obviously, he's like the kid in Almost Famous.He all of a sudden finds himself on the private jets with [00:05:00] all the beautiful girls and probably drugs, although I don't know if he takes them, but and he's just like, oh, wow, gee whiz. And, he treats Musk as if he's some kind of modern day, bipolar, pre epic Thomas Edison. Which is not what he is, uh, Thomas Edison made inventions that helped the world.The electric light and the phonograph were just things that ordinary people could take advantage of. But Elon Musk makes automobiles that cost 100, 000 that are very good for, very rich people who want a virtue signal that they care about the environment. And he makes very expensive rockets, which the government pays him a 30% gross profit on for every launch and he makes satellite systems that he sells to other countries like [00:06:00] Ukraine and then continues to make independent decisions as to where they can work and where they can't work. And, now he wants to put a chip in your brain. So, I mean, these guys are not.They come from a, kind of view that, uh, as Thiel has said, democracy and capitalism are not compatible. And so in that sense, they're on the side of capital. And quite frankly, as the head of OpenAI admitted, if their vision succeeds, the government will have no choice but to give everybody money.Universal basic income because most of the jobs will be taken by artificial intelligence and robots,SHEFFIELD: and it's important to note that the idea [00:07:00] of a universal basic income like that was a replacement for welfare by Milton Friedman, the libertarian ideologue economist. So that's been kind of the objective, irrespective of whether AI even existed or not. It certainly wasn't around in the 1970s to any real degree.TAPLIN: Matthew, can I ask you a question? Yeah. Can you imagine any Republican Congress putting forth the notion of universal basic income today?SHEFFIELD: Not, well, not right now,TAPLIN: look, I mean, it's obviously Peter Thiel wants, and it's obviously Mark and Andreson wants it, and certainly Mark Zuckerberg wants it because why else would anyone be on the metaverse for 8 hours a day, which is his business plan unless. They were sitting at home with nothing to do. Yeah,SHEFFIELD: no, it's, true. And,[00:08:00] and it's funny because this whole idea of the, this universal basic income that, and trying to get people to live in virtual reality and, just buy whatever the billionaires are selling to them.When you tune into more sort of, lowbrow right wing media, like Alex Jones or like a lot of Fox News, they act as if the people who are pushing this stuff are left wing. And, because like they'll talk about oh, they want us to eat bugs and to, have our, and to sit at home and watch porn all day.And it's like, the people doing that are on your side, like, those are your benefactors. It's their idea to do this.TAPLIN: Well, look, I think, there are two quotes at the beginning of, my book, which are epigrams. One is from the Yale professor, Timothy Snyder says, to abandon [00:09:00] facts is to abandon freedom.If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights. And the second one is from Mark Andreessen. Who says reality has had 5000 years to get good, and it is clearly still woefully lacking for most people, we should build and we are building online worlds like the metaverse that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.So think about that last quote. I mean, who is reality deprived? Well, 2024 will be to create a virtual universe where you can live in a fantasy for eight hours a day. I mean, I just don't think that's a solution. And if you think that the, two [00:10:00] solutions on offer for us today are we take our collective Brain power, our collective technologies and our collective wealth money and try and fix climate change, fix the housing crisis, fix mental health crisis, fix the real world problems or the alternative is we assume that AI and robots would do all the work people will sit at home and they'll have nothing better to do than to think about pretending they're Tony Stark and living in Tony Stark's house and dating Gwyneth Paltrow's avatar and or dreaming of going to Mars with Elon Musk or dreaming of living to 200 as Peter Thiel wants to, or dreaming, of crypto wealth through NFTs because you bought, a bored ape that's going to be worth millions.It's all a [00:11:00] fantasy, and so I don't, I, if that's the two choices, I know which one I'm on.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's basically what they're trying to do, like, they're trying to say, look, we, it's impossible to fix the current world that we all live in. So. Let's just go to this made up one that we're going to own and you will have no control over that's I think the critical component because, people, because like,Libertarian radicalization is directly related to the rise of fascismSHEFFIELD: as you noted with Thiel there is this there has been a radicalization of libertarianism in the United States and as I, said, I'm glad that you started off the book with that discussion of libertarianism, because, when you look at the history of libertarianism in the United States in the, let's say nineties to early two thousands, a lot of people who had that perspective They [00:12:00] actually thought that they were on the left because they were against the Iraq war, because they supported marijuana legalization, because they were not Christian fundamentalists.And so, if you had those belief systems and you weren't that smart about politics and political ideologies, it was easy to think that you were on the left. And in fact, a lot of these people did. And as you note, like Elon Musk, for instance, and even Mark Andreessen, who are now just, full on radical right wing Republicans they were backing Democrats.And I mean, in the case of Musk. I think, some of it was that he was directly benefiting so much from the policies of Barack Obama. I mean, there's no question about that. And then once the money spigot was turned off, he decided to revert to type.TAPLIN: Let's be clear. They all had been, they all got And took advantage of the policies of both Bill Clinton and Barack.Yeah, the safe harbor [00:13:00] liability shield, which Bill Clinton put in the, digital Millennium Copyright Act is what makes their business different from every other business in the world. In other words, Rupert Murdoch had to pay 785 million to a voting machine company for libel. But there was far more libelous material on Facebook and Twitter on, that issue than there was on Fox News.And the reach was far wider. I mean, Elon Musk gets, has 135 million followers. Tucker Carlson on his best day was lucky to get 3 million people to watch him. So, I mean, Ross Douthat was right. Elon Musk is the most powerful right wing voice in America. So, when these guys decided to change, and I think it [00:14:00] was a real change, you're right, they were probably Libertarians and at some point voted for Democrats.But when they realized that the real key to their fortunes Was to have nothing happen. In other words, have total gridlock. Then they shifted their alliances and they, voted for not change, not the future, but just stasis for stagnation because that's what it's them. As long as there's no change in the tax policy or if they get lucky, Trump lowers their business taxes or their personal taxes. And as long as there's no change in antitrust policy, they're happy. Now, obviously Biden has made a real attempt to change antitrust policy and they're pissed [00:15:00] off. They don't like that one bit. And that's why they're all going to be full out against Biden coming up.This Google trial is a line in the sand.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I think so. I think so. Now one of the,Mark Andreesen, a far-right billionaire who's mostly unknown to the general publicSHEFFIELD: so one of the guys that you discuss in the book I think a lot of people may not have heard of him, Mark Andreessen. Tell us who Mark Andreessen is what he, what, how he started and what he's up to now.TAPLIN: Well, Mark Andreessen made the claim that he invented the browser. Now that's not really true. There were browsers before. He was a student at the University of Illinois and he did, uh, create a browser that was a kind of rip off of a another physicist browser, but [00:16:00] be that is made. He went to Silicon Valley and got money and started Netscape.So Netscape was arguably the first commercial browser and for about a year it ruled the world. And then Microsoft just made Internet Explorer part of the suite of tools that you got when you got Windows. For free, yeah. At the end of Netscape. It was just, you, got it installed when you got your computer, it was already there, you didn't have to download Netscape or anything, and Netscape was basically put out of business.Not before it went public and Mark Andreessen made about 20 million personally. So then he goes off and starts Andreessen Horowitz, which is the first really major venture capital firm that understood that social media was [00:17:00] the key. To the future, and he invests in Facebook in the earliest round, along with Peter Thiel, and he invests in a lot of other, uh, social media tools and other social media companies. And then Andreessen Horowitz grows and grows. And so he owns the largest NFT platform. Which is called OpenSea. 80, Wall Street Journal says 80 percent of the content on OpenSea is pirated. And if you bought a Bored Ape from OpenSea, uh, a year ago, Or a year and a half ago at the height of the, hype for 50, 000, you probably couldn't sell it today for 10. He also was what would be known as a crypto whale [00:18:00] and he, had Solana, he had large investments in other crypto companies. And 1 of the things we. Talk about in the book is, the following. If you remember November of 2021, if you were watching a football game, there's a pretty good chance that you would see an ad for one of the big crypto exchanges.And there would be Matt Damon telling you that fortune belongs to the bold or Tom Brady or LeBron James, or, a whole wealth of celebrities, Larry David. It got so bad that. In the 2022 Super Bowl, Madison Avenue renamed it the Crypto Bowl. There were so many ads. And so these guys, the whales, and Scott Galloway has [00:19:00] said that at that point in late 2021, 90% of all crypto holdings were held by 2 percent of the Bitcoin holders. So, and it was at 60, 000 a Bitcoin at that point. And so they unleash this advertising. The average sucker says, geez, I want to get in on this. They buy in at 60, 000 a coin. The whales are happy to unload their coins at 60, 000 a coin. And by May it's 19, 000 a coin. I Mean, they just, you just killed the suckers.It was a classic pyramid scheme and it's never come back.SHEFFIELD: It was a pump and dump and they and that's the thing about Bitcoin is they can keep doing it like that. And that's what they, these whales are doing is that they will go in and hype. Whatever coin it is that [00:20:00] they're, pushing and then, get it high up, then sell, and then when it collapses, they go and buy again and start the cycle all over again.Right. and the people keep falling for it. I mean, and I mean, to be fair, I, feel like people, fewer people are falling for it. But you know, like Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, it's totally stupid as an investment strategy because it's not. An investment, like it is a currency that is real, has a government peg to the back of it.And so therefore you could think of it as a currency or as an investment of some sort, because there are actually people who will accept it no matter what they're legally bound to accept it. Whereas with the crypto, coin. No one is compelled to accept it. And so therefore it has no intrinsic value whatsoever.TAPLIN: There's one other thing that Andreessen is doing that is similar to [00:21:00] what both Musk and Thiel are doing, which is he is deep into what I call the digital military industrial complex. So the future of warfare, according to Mark Andreessen, is a war in which no humans ever get killed. And that is because all the wars are fought by drones and killer robots.And of course, these killer robots are all operated by artificial intelligence. And the AI makes the decision when to pull the trigger. And so war is, painless in his vision of now, most every country in the world, with the exception of Russia and the United States wants to ban these weapons because in every test of the killer robots, it cannot tell the difference between a man [00:22:00] holding a broom and a man holding a long gun at 100 yards and yet it has the ability, obviously, To pull the trigger and kill that person.So I think, um, this new way that, you know, one of the strange things and because you kind of came from a conservative background and kind of saw the light in some way, one of the things that Really strikes me is that even though these guys might call themselves libertarian, they're actually crony capitalists in the classic way.If you think about Musk's income, SpaceX is totally funded by NASA, uh, the satellite company is totally funded by foreign governments. Tesla gets gigantic subsidies from the government, not only in terms of tax credits for buying an electric car, but they [00:23:00] also sell green credits to other auto companies that aren't quite as green as they are, uh, to the tune of 3 billion a year.So the difference--SHEFFIELD: Oh, and that's how they made most of their money for a long time.TAPLIN: Yeah. So the difference between Tesla is a breakeven company and Tesla is a profitable company is that so why they claim themselves to be anti government and everything when, without the government, they would be broke.And look, Elon wants us collectively, the taxpayers to pay him 10 trillion to take 100 people to Mars. 10 trillion. That's, his early estimate on what the first mission would cost. Now they get up there, they'd have no oxygen, so they'd have to bring all their oxygen. They'd have no radiation shield [00:24:00] because the radiation level on Mars is so high that you would get skin cancer in like 10 minutes.So they'd have to build these very elaborate shield tents. Bubbles Biosphere 2 type things to live in, and then they'd have to get back. And, I once went over to Jet Propulsion Laboratory when asking about all this, and the guy who was running the Mars Rover division says, Well, there used to be this saying at NASA, No Buck Rogers, No Bucks, which was the idea that if you didn't send a John Glenn Kind of hero up into the capsule and risk his life and everything that the Congress wouldn't, he couldn't come back and go on a parade and get more money from the Congress.And whereas the people at JPL say, look, we've had rovers on Mars [00:25:00] for 12 years, and they do a very good job. They dig up the stuff. They analyze the soil, they send it back by telemetry to us. We don't need to put humans on Mars. it's just a big ego trip on ego, Elon's part. Now, of course, since he gets 30 percent profit, obviously, and it's 10 trillion bill, that's 3 trillion in his pocket.So that's, not a bad motivation.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, it's true.‘Transhumanism’ and the fascist imaginationSHEFFIELD: One of the other big interests of people in, of these four billionaires that you are, that this book is about is transhumanism. That's kind of the obsession of Peter Thiel. And so for those who don't know, what is transhumanism?TAPLIN: So transhumanism takes two forms. One of which is. The basic notion of the singularity, which is [00:26:00] that at some point in the next 10 years, AI could merge, you could merge your brain into an AI and continue on forever As an AI, so Peter would like to live to 200 and he's doing a lot of things to try and guarantee that happens.He goes down to San Diego and gets blood transfusions from 16 year old boys because in his lab at Methuselah. The old mice that get blood transfusions from young mice live longer than the old mice that don't. So he's convinced this will help him live longer too. But, so the first part is this notion of merging your brain into an AI and continuing on as a consciousness.Run by a machine. So [00:27:00] the 2nd part of transhumanism is the belief that there are things that we can do to enhance the genetic quality of life. So imagine you and your wife have an embryo in vitro, and they go do some tests on it and say. Well, it's going to be a boy, and he's not going to be a very good athlete because the twitch reflex is not going to be that strong, and he will be in the 65th percentile of the SAT test, and they could do that today, and then they would say, and for 2 million, we could probably improve that significantly.We could make him a better athlete, or we could make him smarter. Using CRISPR. Gene editing tools. and [00:28:00] so that's a huge barrier to cross over right to say that we should edit the genes of people. So, for instance, Fukuyama, who wrote the end of history says this is the most dangerous idea in the world because essentially what it would do would be limiting the whole basis of our country.which is that all men are created equal and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And, what it essentially would be is that you, your way of getting ahead in the world would be totally based on the money of your parents. Not on anything inherent in your God given body. So, that becomes a pretty frightening possibility.[00:29:00]And so, both these things are being pushed. By the transhumanists. And yet there's another group of people who thinks that this is essentially the end of the world because, obviously part of transhumanism is this notion that maybe the AI takes over. It gets so much smarter than. The humans that it makes its own moves to dominate the world.And that certainly there are enough scientists who are working on it. Think who think this is a possibility that they signed a letter saying there needed to be a pause and needless to say. The pause never happened. The pause in AI development. So [00:30:00] just like that meeting last week in Washington with Elon and the other barons of AI with Chuck Schumer and the rest of the senators.It's just shadow play. They don't really want regulation. They've never wanted regulation of their businesses and they're going to just essentially Take it as far as they can move as quickly as they can, and it's the classic move fast and break things,SHEFFIELD: which was your earlier book, actually. But, yeah, well, or to the extent that they will accept regulation, they want it to be a means of constraining competitors.And so they will craft the legislation and so and you do see that. Like there is this tension right now in AI between the idea of [00:31:00] should it be open source technology or should it be, proprietary and, at this point, the, I mean, they're, I can see pluses and minuses because on the one hand, if you have the development of these technologies and it's controlled by just a few you know, anti democratic oligarchs that's really troubling for the future of humanity.But then on the other hand if anybody can make AI generated videos or, and fake content, that opens up the possibility of Completely, realistic looking and this has already happened to some degree completely fabricated videos of, the president saying this and that, or, somebody being shot or raped or, whatever it is.So these are serious. Issues and, but the reality is like the only way they can be resolved is to have the, people of the countries make those decisions, we're going toTAPLIN: have an election in one year. [00:32:00] Right at this time, a year from now, there will be a level of disinformation and chaos created by AI that will make you ill to your stomach when you wake up in the morning.It's exactly what Tim Snyder said, to abandon facts is to abandon freedom, and if nothing true is true, then all is spectacle. The whole election will be fought on such a level that no one will be able to know anything is true or not. It will be fake videos. Fake audio fake. It will be the ability. Imagine per goes and who went down in the airplane a few weeks ago, so his Internet Research Bureau was 100 [00:33:00] young Russian kids in a room, each with a computer and each with a phony ID on Facebook and their job was to churn out anti Hilary or anti whatever stuff on Facebook or on Twitter and just churn it out all day. Okay, but that's a limited number of people, a hundred people. So now, and they have to sleep . Now you've got an AI and you give it the assignment. I want 1 million posts.In the next four hours, each one of them different, but here's the subject matter. No problem, man. No problem. So, I mean, I don't know. I think we're just, Martin Luther King talked about sleeping through the revolution. We are sleeping through the [00:34:00] revolution. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Well, and, another interesting thing that's kind of an intersection with some of these alliances.So, for the most partWhy "fascism" is an accurate descriptor for people like Elon Musk and Peter ThielSHEFFIELD: most of these right wing and are, anarchist, libertarian fascist. I mean, that's what they are is fascist. I think that's, and you, are correct to point that out in the book to call them that. But I guess, yeah, maybe before I get into that point, like, I think some people, they're reluctant to call, Elon Musk or Peter Thiel fascist.Why. Do you think that they should get over that?TAPLIN: Well, look, I said before, Thiel said democracy and capitalism are not compatible. He's on the side of capitalism, not democracy. He told the Wall Street Journal that only 2 percent of the people know what's going on, the VCs and [00:35:00] the scientists and everybody else is a damn sheep.And so that point of view, which Musk has as well, is that he knows, they all have the same feeling. They know what's going on and nobody else has a clue to what the future is. And that's just this techno determinism that I talk about all the time. They're determined to go down the route they have set and nobody is stopping them. No politician. The people are addicted to these tools, so they have no power to say, I'm going off Facebook or I'm going off Twitter. It's just, it's not going to happen. And so what we're going to end up is an election. That is so chaotic and [00:36:00] I have no idea what the outcome could be, but it could be pretty horrible and look,they are fascist, certainly Thiel and Musk are, um, I mean, Musk is taking the classic old fashioned fascist tropes, like last week, he said, the reason he's having so much trouble financially, Twitter X is because of the Jews. And, his rationale is this, that when he came on, took control of Twitter, and fired all the content moderators, and let Kanye West and all the other anti Semites back on the platform, who had been de platformed by the previous regime, [00:37:00] then the ADA, the Anti Defamation League, has the temerity to point this out to advertisers, that the Platform is a shitstorm of anti semitic hate, and he's pissed off at that?Like, he's blaming, the messenger for what's happening. I mean, it's screwy. And it's, classic neo fascist tactics.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and also it's, you, and you know it in the book that fascism as Mussolini himself defined it was a collaboration of the corporation and the government.Which is exactly what all these guysTAPLIN: do. He shouldn't, Mussolini thought it shouldn't be called fascism. It should be called corporatism. Yeah, and that's what it is.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And yet, I feel like a [00:38:00] lot of people who perhaps, are not familiar with the ideology, the actual thinking behind fascism, they, just are, it's easy to instinctively recoil because, it's not guys with Nazi armbands and military Hugo Boss uniforms marching around in the street. And so they, it's hard for them to get that when you agree with them.TAPLIN: Yeah. But, look at the reality. I mean, there was an article in the Times this morning in which they laid out that the people who are trying to prosecute the January 6th insurrection, the FBI, the prosecutors, the judges are all subject to such death threats that each of them has to have these really big [00:39:00] security details.To go anywhere, not just for themselves, but for their families, for everything. So what is that? That's classic black shirt, fascist tactics. And if we don't name it and if people like Walter Isaacson write about Elon Musk and not even mention that there's something weird about his politics, it's just insane.I mean, here's the guy. Who threatens to go over to one of his rival's houses and, fight him. I mean, it's just it's crazy.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, he, definitely is. And now, one of the other things when you, when you're doing some of the profiles of the, billionaires in the book here you. Note that [00:40:00] several of them Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, have backgrounds in apartheid, South Africa. And I would add David Sachs, who is basically the Lickspittle Igor of Elon Musk also has an apartheid background maybe, can you tell the audience about these three men's sort of connection and, to, apartheid South Africa and why that's significant.TAPLIN: Well, look, I it really starts with Elon Musk's grandfather, uh, all of them. Yeah, because he's up in Canada. He's running this. Crazy kind of neo fascist, anti New Deal thing called technocracy, Inc. It's like a political movement and it's excessively anti [00:41:00] New Deal. And at some point, the Canadian government says.Look, there's a war on and he's, basically praising Hitler, and so they, break up this organization and he decides to leave for South Africa because at least in apartheid, he can find some, a comfortable place. To live, that's not what we today would call woke. So he's a virulent anti Semite and he goes to South Africa, has children, one of whom is Musk's mother, and Elon gets raised in South Africa.Now, as opposed to Thiel, Thiel thought Apartheid was great. He defended it against his [00:42:00] other students at Stanford. Elon did not, mainly because he didn't want to be part of the security forces, and if you were white in South Africa and you were 18 and not in college, you would get drafted. And he didn't want to be in the army, so he left Canada.I mean, left South Africa and went to Canada because his mother still had a passport and, bummed around there and eventually. wound up in the University of Pennsylvania. But the point being is that background informs a lot of their thinking. And, as I said, Thiel has thought it was a fine way to run a country.He defended against young African American students at Stanford,,[00:43:00] Thiel created this whole group of right wing people at Stanford. They had a magazine called the Stanford Review and the shocking thing about it was, extraordinarily homophobic and yet it was run by men who all eventually came out of the closet and were gay.But I mean, they, they subjected gay professors to the most horrible, um, abuse. And they thought that the whole curriculum in Stanford was Designed by homosexuals and everything, and it was just . It's, extraordinary. And it wasn't, and here's the strange thing, [00:44:00] when Gawker outed Thiel, and of course then he goes to take his ultimate revenge and bankrupts them.Everybody in Silicon Valley knew. He was out. He was gay. It was like not. It was a secret. And yet he wanted revenge for this magazine that said the obvious. So, I mean, it's hard for me to understand where these people are coming from. There's levels of hypocrisy that are so high. That I can't even imagine.SHEFFIELD: The other aspect of the apartheid influence on these guys is that, it did give them a sense of grievance and it did give them a, a shared belief in, in, black inferiority and, you see that with Thiel in particular, because he [00:45:00] actually was has been for many years a benefactor of this far right libertarian group of the prosperity and freedom organization.And actually, and this is a group that has literal Nazis former Nazis have spoken at its events and full of eugenicists. And other, miscreants like that, Peter Thiel was going to come and speak at one of their events. And he only stopped doing that after the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed that he was going to be a featured speaker at this event.And, of course, he never. Send anything, apologize for his participant, scheduled participation and the business press, back to what I was saying. They ask him about this stuff. I mean, I have to say, like, the business press overwhelmingly in the West it's just, it's abysmal. Like it is, it's not even journalism. It's like fandom. And you saw that with so much of the coverage about [00:46:00] Elon Musk for many years that this guy, was constantly engaging in outright fraud, claiming he had all the money to go private with his, with a Tesla or hyperloop. He said he was going to have gone to Mars already by now, but he never got a call on it until he started messing with the one thing that the business journalists were interested in, which was Twitter and the one thing that they actually had knowledge about Direct knowledge and finally the dam seems to have kind of broken in the business journalism world butTAPLIN: Except that except that Walter Isaacson's hagiography of Biography is, going to be number one bestseller next week, I mean, so go figure, his giant fan group exists on such a level that he has remarkable and influence. And I [00:47:00] don't think any of the problems with Twitter have changed that much quite honestly.Why the U.S. left must create a grand democratic vision of the futureSHEFFIELD: At the same time, when you look at the, Democratic Party, which is, so here you have these, far right, fascistic oligarchs that are trying to destroy democracy and also regularly now attack. The Democratic Party and its leaders they don't seem to be really doing too much to warn their voters about it or just warn the general public even.It seems like, most of them, it seems like a lot of Democrats kind of still think that Elon Musk, they, have this outdated view. Point of who he is and what he's about. What do you think of that?TAPLIN: Well, look, this goes to the problem in the culture, so. Peter Drucker famously said culture eats strategy for breakfast every morning [00:48:00] and.I believe also that culture eats politics for breakfast every morning. So, what I mean by that is thatwhen I was growing up,Bob Dylan was a culture hero, right? And he had a particular political point of view against the war, for civil rights, whatever. And he pointed, he put this out in his work. And, the Beatles were culture heroes. Say you want a revolution, all of this. What's happening all the time. So those people have been replaced by Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg.They're the new culture hero. They're the people with 135 million followers on Twitter. [00:49:00] And Their point of view is one that is both nihilistic and basically feeding this whole dark view of the future. Now, they're not alone in this. You think about Jason Aldean saying, you come into my small town and I'll kick your ass or young thug, who's on trial for a RICO case that has more charges than Donald Trump in Atlanta for killing people.And these are our culture heroes you think about them compared to what Musk and, Thiel are saying, they, they obviously, Musk obviously has a huge amount of influence. [00:50:00] And that affects everything. My sense is that part of the problem for us as a culture is that we've had this kind of dark anti hero view since the Iraq war.So you think about what happened after the Iraq war on television, the Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Succession, I mean, all the theory and the way that these characters on television operate is these are horrible people who are battling in great power struggles to stay alive. And to conquer.And so [00:51:00] it's not that bizarre that after 10 years of that, or I assume, I think the Sopranos started in the early 2000s, right? So after 15 years of that, that in 2016, people say, well, maybe Tony Soprano should be president. Let’s get a guy like Donald Trump. He can kick ass and take names. That's what we need.We need a power player. And that's a kind of deep cynicism, um, that somehow we have to get out of. And the problem is that right now, there's two religions. One is the religion, the gospel of progress being pitched by Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Andreessen and [00:52:00] Peter Thiel, which is just leave it to us and the world will work out and we will move forward.We'll end up getting you some money so you can sit at home and pretend to live in a fantasy world and your life may suck right now because you work at the 7 Eleven in 10 years. It'll be fine because you won't have to do anything and you can just play video games all day. So that's. The gospel of progress.The other is the gospel of nostalgia, which is Trump's pitch. Make America great again. We can somehow go back to a 1950s kind of life that your parents lived, and there won't be any pushy trans [00:53:00] people or lesbians telling you what to do or anything, and somehow you're going to live a life. That's going to be just a dream life the way it used to be neither of those two views.Is adequate to the moment we are in right now, Gramsci said a fabulous thing. He says the oldest dying and the new cannot be born in this interregnum. Many morbid symptoms appear. So we're caught between 2 worlds were caught between a dying world, which is Donald Trump's vision of the universe in which Okay.White people dominate everything and, it's just, go to the country club and, golfers rule the world or whatever, and then this other [00:54:00] notion, and obviously the future that we want. Which is a future with no global warming and a future where people are housed and the people, where people who are mentally ill are taken care of, we can have that if, instead of giving Elon Musk 10 trillion to go to Mars, we gave some people 10 trillion.To fix the electricity grid, we could have a fairly good life, I was in Austin a couple of years ago and I saw this 3D printed houses and literally they make them in 24 hours out of concrete 3D printed cost 60, 000. I mean, that fixes a lot of problems, but we're not [00:55:00] adopting these things.SHEFFIELD: well, you're right. But like, there are all kinds of things that we could be doing. But we're not as a society and, a lot of that, I mean, a lot of that does come down to media though, that when you look at people who have. Progressive viewpoints ones that, because I mean, like, even in the case of like transhumanism, for instance, there is, there are a lot of positive things that you can think of in terms of some of these advancements, like, helping people overcome disease, overcome aging overcome genetic defects like Crohn's disease or whatever, chronic conditions.these are positive things but there, there aren't enough people out there on the center to left saying, look, guys, these are the issues of tomorrow and we need to start thinking about them and we need to start acting on them because, like, and there's, because if we don't, then everything's just going to get sucked up [00:56:00] by these billionaires and they're going to run everything and you will not have a choice. I mean, we are at this moment here already, even where, that you've got, I mean, companies like Facebook, trying to push India around in various ways. And even the idea of having, I mean, I think it was right that Donald Trump was banned from social platforms for creating, trying to conduct a coup and betraying his country and, fomenting violence, but at the same time, that still should give people pause, even if you really don't like Trump, that the idea that a private corporation has the power to.Tell the president of the United States, Hey, you know what? You're out of here. Go f**k yourself. Like, that's, that should be, it should be concerning to people.TAPLIN: Okay, let's, parse that.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, there's a lot [00:57:00] thereTAPLIN: part of the problem with social media is the lack of content moderation. That is part of the problem. That's not the... So, I mean, one could make the pretty good argument that for the 14 year old girls who are hurting themselves, Who are committing suicide, who are deeply depressed because of the comparisons they're making to everybody else on social media, or the way they're getting abused on social media. One could make the argument that social media has been a net negative to society.That there's nothing really positive. Now, I am not a Luddite, and I'm even... Someone who believes in the golden rule. [00:58:00] So I am not trying to ascribe to Elon Musk that he is just some ruthless. Bond villain, even though he acts like one a lot, but when I, and, I do believe that AI is better at reading mammograms than humans.That's a fact right today. So we should use AI to read mammograms. We should use AI to do all sorts of things that AI is good at, but that doesn't mean That we have to have AI take over and, flood the universe of social media with misinformation, which is going to happen, is going to happen. I promise you.And so, the guys at Bellingcat, which is a firm that kind of has explored [00:59:00] Putin's world better than anybody. And we're the people who said, here's how Navalny was. Poisoned and all of that, their biggest fear is that Musk and Thiel are going to give Putin high quality AI to cause chaos. They've both made it very clear they do not want Biden elected. And as I've told you, the fact that Biden administration is not only in the midst of an antitrust suit, Google, but is suing Facebook is potentially looking at Amazon is potentially looking at Twitter. They think Lena Khan is the devil. These, guys, the head of the FTC. So, I mean, they're going to do everything they can to make sure that Biden [01:00:00] isn't reelected.And whether that means giving Donald Trump A. I. s or not, I don't know.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and I mean, the reality is though that people who are on the center to left, who are public figures, commentators, they have to step up to these issues. They have to be interested in them because. These are the, controversies that will affect, the, or these are the ideas and the things that are going to affect the next 50 years and they're being almost at, abdicated in a lot of ways, these technologies and the public has to be involved with these issues, but the public won't be involved with them if they're political leaders.Aren't talking about it. And, there's a crisis with that. I thinkTAPLIN: I agree. But if the former editor of Time Magazine and the former head of [01:01:00] CNN, Walter Isaacson, writes, quote, There was something exhilarating and also a bit unnerving about Musk's ability to see his endeavors as having epic making significance.As Max Levchin proudly puts it, One of Elon's greatest skills is the ability to pass off his vision as a mandate from heaven. This is a guy who thinks he's a God and when the guy who came up with the idea of the singularity was asked if he believed in God, he said, not yet.SHEFFIELD: One thing about Thiel with all this stuff is have you looked into his religious views?They are very, strange.TAPLIN: Yeah, I look, we part of Thiel's circle. [01:02:00] Is a kind of Christian, uh, apocalyptic end of the world people, so he has a bold hole in New Zealand for the world. If the apocalypse is coming, he's, he's a prepper, but he's a billionaire prepper, right? He's got.Everything set up in New Zealand and he's even got a New Zealand passport beneath it. And so when the pitchfork brigade starts coming for his house in Miami or his apartment in Miami, he'll, be out of there. So, I mean. but he's also surrounded with people like Curtis Yarvin, [01:03:00] who basically believes we need a dictator, we need a king, and that Trump should be the king. Hell with this democracy stuff. It doesn't work. That's their feeling.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah, well, I mean, Musk's case, he also, with his religious views, like, he believes that transhumanism is fulfilling the promise of God. That God, that Heaven, humans have to make it so that they can ascend to consciousness and unity with God.That is the only way that it happens. And, and it's like people, I think to some extent think of him as an atheist or non religious, but he actually is a very extreme, radical Christian and, and, but, that, and that is the commonality. I think maybe we can end on sort of, there is this, people, I think to some degree might [01:04:00] think that someone like Elon Musk, who is not Christian, not religious. I mean, he literally wore a demonic costume for Halloween last year as a joke that people, sometimes it might think that, well, how could these, secular and Mark Andreessen is not religious either, as far as I know. How could these secular billionaires, what do they have in common with these Christian fundamentalists who are in the party that they run now, and let's maybe talk about that, but what do you think it is that they have in common?TAPLIN: Well, it could be this kind of revelations into the world notion, and if the world is going to end. What are we going to do about it? So, so, basically, Elon says, well, we got to be, have another planet to go to, right?And we'll start all over again on Mars, even [01:05:00] though it's unbelievably hostile place to try and live. I think that, the rest of them are, just people who are not really thinking that deeply about the future, they're thinking about preserving what they have right now. And that's why, from a point of view of political influence.They want the status quo. They're happy with gridlock. They're happy with chaos. They're happy with all of that. It's just fine with them. Because as long as they don't get taxed more and as long as nobody can regulate them, they're, they're going [01:06:00] to essentially take all the marbles, and...Because no one can stop them.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it's also, I think that there's that they do share a common epistemology, even if they don't have a common religious viewpoint. And that is that. You know that, I mean, you, read through any of the profiles of Musk or just watch him on TV and Peter Thiel is the same way, like all of these guys, they believe that the things they know and the things they have, they got through their intuitive reasoning, their superior gut instincts that they know how things are without even having to research necessarily because they're so smart and so amazing at perceiving reality.And the thing is, though, that intuitive reasoning is also how religious fundamentalism works because in religious fundamentalism, facts are not real [01:07:00] that science, science proves that humans evolved or science proves that the earth is not 7, 000 years old, but we don't have to believe that because in, in my feelings, my gut tells me that those scientists lie. My intuition tells me that, that the humans didn't evolve or that COVID vaccines are fake. And so that's what they have in common. They have the same thought process, even if it isn't the same, starting point.TAPLIN: But, let's also understand who enabled the possibility of thinking that way.So I'm a lot older than you are, but when I was in the midst of, say, the late sixties, Working for Bob Dylan, Walter Cronkite would come on the air every night with the CBS Evening News, and at the end of the [01:08:00] broadcast, he would say, that's the way it is, July 18th, 1968, and to a large extent. 80 percent of the people in America could accept that we had a shared set of facts and even though the country was divided in the sense that some people were for Nixon and some people were for Humphrey, some people were for the war.Some people were not for the war. We still had a basic shared set of facts. And social media blew that apart. The combination of social media and the end of the Fairness Doctrine, so that you could have a station like Fox News, or you could have a Rush Limbaugh, was pure propaganda. Those two [01:09:00] things changed that reality.And we no longer have any shared set of facts. So whether it's the religious conservatives or the right wing nationalists or whatever, they can live in a reality in which they believe that Donald Trump was the duly elected president in 2020, uh, that the COVID thing was just a scam by Bill Gates to implant microchips in your brain and, any number of other whack job ideas. And they can feel totally comfortable. They have no cognitive distance whatsoever that maybe what they believe is not right. Because they're constantly reinforced every night on Sean Hannity or on their Facebook feed. [01:10:00]SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah, that's true. Well, so now you let's, I guess maybe let's also finally talk about what are some of the ideas to fix this situation. And you talk about some of them in the book.TAPLIN: Well, I mean, first off. There's two sides to that. One is cultural and one is political. So the political is actually beginning to be played out, right? I mean, so suing Google. And breaking up Google, that's a start. Breaking up Facebook would be a start. Breaking up Twitter would be a start.That, that would be one thing. So that you don't have the power of two people, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk controlling social media. Okay, so that's just that's one thing. The second thing is, uh, cultural. So, I went with my Grandchildren and [01:11:00] my children to Africa last summer and we were in a place in Tanzania where there was no Cellphone coverage none and the kids who were 15 13 and 10 at first were like freaked out nothing on their screens nothing and then After a day, they just gave up and put them away in their luggage and turn them off.And that was it. And for 10 days, they were completely present, completely seeing the world, didn't even think about the screens and their parents were like, what the hell is happening here? Right? So. You can do that on a personal level, people, there's a thing called the digital Sabbath, right?Which is just every [01:12:00] Sunday as a family, put all your devices in a box and shut it, lock it up and talk to each other. For a full day and see how that works out. Then there's the bigger cultural things. What is the new culture going to be? So it struck me that this summer, the two biggest tours were Taylor Swift and Beyonce.Two women totally dominated the normally male dominated pop music scene. Completely dominated. And what were they selling? They were selling, Beyonce called her to a renaissance. They were selling this idea of rebirth, of vulnerability, of rebirth. Of figuring things out and Taylor Swift, the same thing, like, I'm just this [01:13:00] girl who's trying to find a way in the world and find love and, I make mistakes and I'm vulnerable and everything and it worked men and women wanted to hear that instead of Young Thug and Jason Aldean, the kick butt male macho thing. And, Barbie, same deal, an exploration of other ways of thinking. So, the, change from the Sopranos to Beyonce's Renaissance tour is, real. The change from gangster rap to Taylor Swift is real. And that's what needs to happen.The culture needs to revive [01:14:00] itself in a kind of positive, optimistic way. I mean, I was lucky enough to work and live in a culture, whether it was with Dylan and the band or George Harrison or Marty Scorsese, it was all about optimism. All about possibility, all about let's, forever young. And I thank my lucky stars that I was there and hopefully it could come again.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, that's, yeah,TAPLIN: Can I just read you something as an ending?SHEFFIELD: Sure.TAPLIN: So this is from Camus, the French writer, and there's a book called The Rebel, which is a book about the role artists played in the resistance against the Nazis. He said: “We are at the extremities now. At the end [01:15:00] of this tunnel of darkness, however, there is next invariably a light which we already divine, and for which we only have to fight to ensure its coming. All of us among the ruins are preparing a renaissance beyond the limits of nihilism.”SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's great. That is great. And I think you're really right about that. The thing that people have to realize is that nihilism is right wing, and optimism is not. And so part of the way you defeat this robotic fake reality is by believing that you can. That's the first step.TAPLIN: These people, the four people I write about in my book, they want to replace nature and humanity with machines. And we have to resist that. [01:16:00] It's just that simple.SHEFFIELD: Agreed. Agreed. All right. Well, that's been a great conversation, Jon. Let me put the book up on the screen so everybody can check it out.So, the book is, your latest book here, I should say is “The End of Reality: How Four Billionaires Are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto.” So I definitely encourage everybody to check that out. And then you're also on the Elon Musk Twitter as I am. Unfortunately it is still owned by him.You're on there at @jonathantaplin. And the last name is T-A-P-L-I-N for those who are listening. So thanks for being here, Jon.TAPLIN: My pleasure, Matthew. It was fun.SHEFFIELD: Alright, so that's the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us for the conversation. And if you want to get more episodes of the program, just go to And then of course you can also go to to get more articles and podcasts about politics, religion, media, and [01:17:00] society.And if you are able to support us financially with a paid subscription, I would really appreciate that. Thank you very much for your help. I'll see you next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/6/20231 hour, 19 minutes, 29 seconds
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Mike Johnson and the inverted worldview of religious fundamentalism

Audio Timecodes0:00 — Mike Johnson’s first bill is to let oligarchs cheat on taxes08:51 — The mystery of why Mike Johnson has rarely talked about his adopted black son17:27 — Mike Johnson let his biological teenage son know about his porn viewing habits23:16 — How religious fundamentalism encourages sexual abuse by mislabeling healthy sexuality29:17 — New Jersey high school roiled by fake nude images of students35:33 — The power of hope and why we’re doing thisJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/3/202341 minutes, 54 seconds
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Mike Pence finally realized that everyone hates him

Timecodes00:57 — Mike Pence ends doomed presidential campaign03:17 — Someone named Dean Phillips is running as a Democrat against Joe Biden08:47 — Crazed evangelical Mike Johnson becomes Speaker of the House15:22 — Matthew Perry, "Friends" co-star, dies at 5419:48 — Private equity billionaire says people don't work as hard at home24:32 — Airline employee asks to stop work on flight after getting high on shrooms29:03 — "The Simpsons" predicts that Elon Musk will have to sell TwitterThe video of this episode is available on YouTube.  Follow or die!Doomscroll Badawi This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
11/1/202338 minutes, 11 seconds
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How the far right built a political machine that's crushing the opposition

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityPolitics, as the saying goes, is warfare by other means. Unfortunately for our country, however, the radical right is much more adept at the art of politics. Reactionaries’ ideas about science and religion are horribly at odds with reality, but their understanding of how to do politics is far superior.Over the decades, far-right donors, politicians, and activists have built up a complex political ecosystem that has enabled them to push extreme and unpopular policy ideas onto the public. But this ecosystem isn’t just politically powerful, it is also economically self-sustaining. Donors give tax-free dollars to organizations who give them to candidates who spend money on far-right media. These media organizations raise up pundits who lavish praise on the politicians and then get elected themselves where they create tax policies that subsidize the billionaires who got the whole thing started.It is both terrifying and incredible what the radical right has built for itself. And unfortunately, they are only continuing to move forward in their nefarious plans. To help better understand how the far-right works and what their leaders want, we’ll be doing a series of episodes here on Theory of Change exploring it in detail. The first conversation I’ll be having is with Anne Nelson, she is the author of a very important book called “Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right.”The transcript of this episode is available only to paid subscribers. You can watch the video of the conversation.Audio Chapters02:15 — Organization spotlight: Council for National Policy05:17 — The right's self-sustaining political economy10:23 — The left is worse at understanding and applying political marketing tactics than the right19:15 — How religious and market fundamentalism can support each other politically and economically27:18 — Donor spotlight: The DeVos family31:50 — Organization spotlight: Hillsdale College43:37 — Why mainstream media struggle to report on far-right organizing56:27 — How national right-wing groups manipulate local politics01:02:37 — Right-wing media is a "permanent campaign" to energize and direct Republican-leaning Americans01:16:56 — You can't change the election laws until you can win by them
10/30/20231 hour, 26 minutes, 22 seconds
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Mike Johnson: Speaker of the House of Christian nationalism

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) has become the most far-right speaker of the house in modern politics. In this episode, Kali and Matt dissect Johnson's record of vicious extremism against LGBT people, abortion rights, and social safety net programs.Timecodes00:00 — Christian supremacist Mike Johnson becomes Republicans' Speaker of the House11:47 — Accused Maine shooter reportedly followed and liked content from Musk, Shapiro, and others14:58 — Daily Wire host Matt Walsh says he doesn't care if he puts trans people's lives at risk20:02 — Far-right activist Christopher Rufo announces plan to brand Black Lives Matter a terrorist group23:28 — Disinformation is an essential ingredient to reactionary political strategy30:29 — A videogame vampire with emotional trauma is winning fansJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/27/202339 minutes, 11 seconds
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House Republicans hate each other and we're here for it

Timecodes00:26 — Republicans keep failing to elect a Speaker of the House06:39 — Israelis angry at Netanyahu for boosting Hamas and missing terrorist attacks10:13 — Latest "Biden bombshell" for Republicans turns out to be a dud13:49 — Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell become latest ex-Trump attorneys to plead guilty to crimes19:32 — Britney Spears tells people not to read too much into her new memoir26:40 — Tim Scott's presidential campaign is collapsing and no one noticed30:38 — “Chucky” creator says Cabbage Patch dolls were inspiration of horror franchise33:28 — Barbie tops America's most popular Halloween costumesThe video of this episode is available on YouTube.  Follow or die!Doomscroll Aksamit This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/25/202337 minutes, 46 seconds
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Theory of Change #091: Blake Chastain on evangelicals and exvangelicals

Episode SummaryIn previous episodes of our “Why I Left series,” we've heard the stories of people who have departed from various right wing political and religious traditions listening to the stories of individuals who have escaped these radical belief systems is important, but in this episode of the series, I want to put the pieces back together and look at the stories in the aggregate to see if we can find some broader trends.And to help with that discussion, we’re featuring Blake Chastain, host of the Exvangelical podcast where he has interviewed many different guests about their own experience of leaving evangelical religious beliefs.He's also publishing writing at the Post-Evangelical Post, which is a newsletter you can subscribe to on Substack as well.The video for this episode is availableTranscriptThe transcript is automatically generated from the audio and may not be entirely accurate. It is provided for convenience purposes only. Some podcast apps will cut off the text before the end.MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Welcome to Theory of Change, Blake.BLAKE CHASTAIN: Thank you for having me.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so, but before we get too far into the weeds here, let's start off with talking about the Exvangelical podcast that you are doing and what you do with it and how long you've been doingCHASTAIN: Sure. So I have been producing the show Exvangelical since 2016. It is a show that's primarily focused on people's individual stories of why they have left evangelicalism, in particular, primarily white evangelicalism or white led evangelicalism. And really, my guests their stories sort of follow their biographical tracks with regards to starting in, say, like a three-act structure of starting in Act One.The types of environments that they may have grown up in, the, what particular denomination, what their original experiences were growing up in it or if they were introduced to it later in life, then what led them to start questioning evangelicalism. And what may have led to their break or what has over the last several years been the common language that's proliferated [00:03:00] online and elsewhere is deconstruction what led to their deconstruction, whether it was 1 catalyst or sort of single traumatic event or death by 1000 cuts sort of thing.And then finally, where they are now, I'm not. Primarily interest. I'm not interested in; I don't have a vested interest in people staying within the Christian faith or not. I'm just curious as to what led them to change their minds because that to me is the most fascinating thing. And there are so much individual and social consequence to making the choice to leave one of your faith of origin.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. I don't know how it was for you, but when I was in Mormonism, that perspective, it was almost hard to imagine for me. To the extent that I thought about and the people that I knew thought about, sort of former Mormons it would just.Just be interested in talking about it and not trying to de-convert people, just, having it kind of a neutral perspective letting people do what they want and not judge them for it. I mean, is that something that you came to over time yourself or?CHASTAIN: I think so. I think that's something that I've sort of grown into as I've continued to do the show.I do remember one particular instance. There used to be this phrase that I would say, regardless of what someone's perspective was or what, where they had currently landed, so to speak with regard to their relationship to religion or to[00:04:30] religious groups. And I used to say something like, if there is a God, I'm sure that they would appreciate it.Or respect your decision. And then there was a guest that I had on that had landed in a more non theistic or atheistic place who sort of pushed back very, very, very politely but they objected a little bit to that language and framing and then, I received that and have since sort of stopped using that because it did feel like I was trying to shoehorn people into, keeping an open mind with regards to things.And there are some people that for whom the continued engagement with religious or spiritual practices Is too traumatic for them to continue to try to access and for me to do that is unfair. So that is something that I have learned over time, but at the same time, I think it is utterly valuable to society at large to continue to talk to people who have disaffiliated because they have something to offer people who remain in religious groups.And also, they are valid. Allies and political arenas where the opposition is something like Christian nationalism.SHEFFIELD: Well it's also the case that, these Christian nationalist groups, they ally with groups that are secular as well, and they have no problem doing that. And I do think that is [00:06:00] something that the people who oppose Christian nationalism have got to kind of pick up on a little bit better that, you don't have to, you don't have to agree with everybody in 100 percent way in order to ally with them to go for a goal to preserve, I mean, to preserve freedom. That's really what we're trying to do here.CHASTAIN: Right.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, so, so you've been doing it since 2016. Have how much hate mail do you get nowadays? Is it less or has it decreased over time or has it remained kind of consistent?CHASTAIN: I, As far as hate mail, I mean, by and large I'm not as active on social media as I used to be my sort of extremely online phase began to peter out in 2019 or so.So., I have not been, as, as much a part of being, say, on the front lines of that and trying to either punch up to more powerful people within evangelical spheres as I once was. So I may be known to a lot of folks who have paid attention for a while, but there have been other voices and other people who have built larger platforms than myself in the intervening years, and they are likely probably more recipients of that because just because of.If you are building something off of one of the social platforms and build to hundreds of thousands of followers, then you will likely run into that more. I'm sure that people still within the evangelical fold see [00:07:30] me as someone that's maybe leading people astray or something like that.But oftentimes... Oftentimes, their critiques are, can be very nonspecific and not necessarily tied to a particular creator or commentator, but just, decrying this deconstruction movement or whatever else as something, but I mean, it is I think those comparisons comparing The online deconstruction movements and things like that to evangelicalism is not apples to apples.It is not a direct comparison because those groups have far more sway within our society and more resources and more organization.SHEFFIELD: Well, okay, so for people who haven't heard the term deconstruction, what does that mean?CHASTAIN: Yeah, so that essentially the way in which it has been used over the last several years is not necessarily the same way that you may have learned it within the context of say a philosophy class.It's not as specific as, as the way that, Derrida may have used it when or other French philosophers may have used it. What they are, how they are using that term is by essentially saying they're questioning the beliefs that they inherited from their faith of origin. So, and that can mean, say, within the context of someone who is evangelical or Mormon, and [00:09:00] I, you can absolutely speak to a Mormon experience.I think that is distinct enough that I don't really talk to ex Mormons on my show because I don't have that direct experience. But there just as a quick aside, #exmormon or #exmo is an even more popular hashtag on Twitter than #exvangelical is. By like, I think #exvangelical has around between 1 and 2 billion views and #exmormon has like over 5.So, but what deconstruction means is essentially you are questioning those beliefs, whether it's the teachings with regards to how you relate to society. About purity culture and sexuality or any other number of things, whether it's a theological question and then questioning those beliefs and then oftentimes realizing that you no longer affirm those beliefs and that can have significant consequences for someone's personal identity as well as how they relate to their faith group.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Yeah. Well, and I think one of the other things that probably I would suspect the former Mormon and former evangelical experiences have in common is that there are a lot of practices of the various churches that people sort of come to view them as doctrines deriving from the scriptures or whatever. But in fact, they are just customs.And I think that discovering things in which you [00:10:30] might have had as a child placed extreme emphasis to you on that. 'This is very important. We're doing not doing this as a horrible sin.' And then you find out when you actually read the literature, it's not in there.CHASTAIN: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: So that is something that your guests have talked about pretty extensively a lot?CHASTAIN: Oh, absolutely. I mean. One of one of my early guests was a friend of mine from college. I went to a Christian college and one of, one of the ways that he described that experience of having been taught a particular thing and then.Learning from just living life after sort of leaving high school, college, these sort of protected places that often, would be called either the bubble or someone else called it a snow globe of sort of protecting people from the real world, so to speak, was that they were sold a false bill of goods and that they were The way in which they were taught to live did not function in any reasonable capacity once they were adults and say, married and doing and going about their lives.One example is also. Even learning just historical facts around things like the teaching of the rapture, those things can be presented as eternal as having been part of the Christian tradition from the beginning, [00:12:00] but in reality. That teaching is only about 150 years old. It came about in the 19th century but so much of 20th and 21st century American Christianity is based on this teaching of the rapture and that the world is supposed to get worse and worse and worse, and then Jesus comes back.So that de-emphasizes actually trying to make the world better. And that has a real impact on people's lives.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it really does. And you see it in a lot of different ways. But I think one of the most prominent recent ways that manifested was during the COVID 19 pandemic. I guess probably the most famous example of that was the governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves, who had said that, we don't take this COVID stuff as seriously here in the South, because we're Christians and we believe in an afterlife and we believe that we're saved. And so if we die, we're actually going to somewhere better than the current place. So don't worry about it.CHASTAIN: And that's such a nihilistic take on this life that we have on this planet and.Even runs anathema to say the response to the Spanish flu from Christian groups in the early 20th century, those things were brought up by a number of commentators who were trying to push back on that sort of inherent nihilism. The other impact of this can [00:13:30] be people that are sensitive to these teachings develop severe anxiety and question whether they're saved and whether once the rapture does come.If they would be one of the people that would be spared it's something that, that several years ago was a trending topic on Twitter called rapture anxiety. And now as part of the, parlance and vocabulary that we use to discuss these things amongst former evangelicals, whether they use the term exvangelical or not to describe themselves.SHEFFIELD: Hmm. Yeah. Well, okay. So I guess you're saying then that people said that that was very common to have rapture anxiety.CHASTAIN: Yes. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: And not just as a kid, but also as an adult as well.CHASTAIN: Right. Right. Right. Because those things are essentially sincerely held beliefs or like, formative beliefs that, that formed when you were young and then as you are an adult and say, go about go about your life and you may be deconstructing purity culture and, or that sort of thing and engaging in adult sexual behaviors, and then have these thoughts that, oh my gosh, what if what I was taught when I was a child is true? And am I going to be am I going to be damned or something like that just because of the acting like a normal human? And so those things can crop up even if [00:15:00] you even if you cognitively no longer believe in those things.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and then of course it also crops up even if you, still do believe everything. Just the idea that you're not how do you really know that you're saved? Because I mean ultimately, there is no official standard that somebody can say, 'Oh, that's it. You did it. Here's your stamp.' And I think that in some ways, a lot of the evangelical intellectual theological culture in, in a lot of ways, it seems to me that it's kind of continually reinventing the wheel, and having to go through controversies that Christianity as a larger faith tradition went through thousands of years ago and already was like: 'Okay, you know what? We're done with this one. We don't have to think about it anymore.'I guess my thought example of that would be the idea of universal grace and salvation, that was a doctrine that developed out of this lack of surety with 'well, what does it mean to have been saved? And how can you really know?'And the answer that people eventually settled on was, well, actually, we can't know. So, Jesus died for everybody, regardless of whether they acknowledge him or not. And I don't know. I mean, do you think that some evangelicals are having to come around to that, that insight that, other people came to 500 years ago?CHASTAIN: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and I mean, that is a that is something that can cause trouble for people in, in [00:16:30] those evangelical circles. One famous example from within evangelicalism is that Rob Bell, who was Considered a celebrity pastor in the early, late nineties, 2000s. And around 2010, he wrote a book called Love Wins, and that's essentially what he, what the book was about.It was about this idea that, that if God is loved and God saves everyone and pushes, push back on the idea of eternal judgment and hell and all of these things. And as a result. A number of the more conservative factions within evangelicalism pushed back and essentially tried to cancel him. That was not the terminology, that was not in our, our nomenclature at the time, but evangelicals have been doing things like this for a very long time.And what happened to Rob Bell is he eventually resigned from his church. He, and this was a church that was more sympathetic to his type of view, but he was also pressured by more conservative people within the same ecosystem, media and otherwise, like John Piper, who wrote a famous tweet called, that said, farewell, Rob Bell.And all of his books were pulled from. Christian bookstores, all of his books. So at Family Christian Stores, Lifeway, which is which was the retail bookstore chain managed by the Southern Baptist Convention, [00:18:00] they pulled all of his books and he was deprived of all those things and they've done it to a handful of other authors over time as well.When Jen Hatmaker affirmed queer people. Publicly all her books were pulled from those types of locations when Ray Bolts in the 90s early 2000s came out as gay, all of his all of his CDs and music were pulled from stations. So, the boundaries of evangelicalism around theology and what is acceptable is very heavily policed and enforced.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it really is. And it has to be said, and I've said this a few times on this show, that the Christian right invented cancelling people for their opinions. This was their idea, and now they constantly say that they're the ones who are the victim of it, but in fact, they do it the most, even now. They still do the most.CHASTAIN: Yeah. Yeah. There's a, there's even a there's even a, a book called The Radio Right, which looks at the rise of fundamentalist radio preachers in the sixties. And honestly, one of the first sort of consumer boycotts was around these hams that I forget, I think they might've been Polish hams or something like that.I don't, I don't remember the exact context, but one of the first consumer, broad consumer boycotts was pushed and organized by listeners [00:19:30] to a conservative fundamentalist radio shows. And that book, I mean, the book is actually written by Paul Matsko, who is part of, I believe the Cato Institute and has, more conservative convictions than I do for sure, but the, the way in which he describes this is, it is categorically one of the things, and one of, one of the social innovations of these groups is to, to punish these people through consumerism and capital.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's also how they built themselves up. You mentioned Lifeway Christian stores being a owned and operated business of the Southern Baptist Convention.I mean, in a lot of ways, the non evangelical Christianity in the United States has been sort of colonized, if you will, by evangelicalism. Because they have the megachurches, because they have the Lifeway Christian stores, because they have the TV networks, so they have the infrastructure to kind of push out their views into everybody else, and so as a result, they basically managed to sort of rebuild the other Protestant traditions in their own image to some degree, or just drive people out of Protestantism altogether is what it seems like.CHASTAIN: Yes. Yes. And that's certainly true. A lot of 1 example from my own from my own sort of story is that I, I grew up going to United Methodist churches. And that is something that some folks would [00:21:00] consider. Okay. Okay. A mainline denomination, and it is in the historical sense. The one thing I do always say with regards to the experience is that it always takes on local flavor because it is broadly distributed across the country.And that means that if you go to a small. Church in small town, Indiana, like I did, it's going to probably be a little more conservative as opposed to if you went to the Methodist temple in downtown Chicago, which will likely be more liberal or progressive. And one at that same youth group at the, at the youth group, I was exposed to things like Josh Harris's, I can stay and goodbye and to purity culture and to a number of things.That are broadly evangelical and they were not necessarily tempered by the fact that I was in a supposedly more progressive denomination, one that does ordain women and things like that. And so that is absolutely the case that, that one of the ways in which they use soft power and influence is by generating materials that will be used by more progressive Protestants, and they may not they may not be as cognizant or were not at the time, so to speak to the types of messaging that is built into the material that they use.I think they have learned those lessons since then. And there are responses to that. But [00:22:30] these evangelical publishing houses started in the late 19th century. And so they have been developing for a long time and are well established in our country.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And it is interesting for me to see, because when I was a Mormon, I was definitely aware that this was happening. Because we didn't have Mormon bookstores where we could go and buy stuff.And so, basically, if you wanted some Christian books, you had to go to one of these evangelical ones. And but on the other hand, if you're just some other flavor of Protestant and don't have these unique attachments and doctrines that Mormons do, it is harder to see that this is happening to you. I don't know if it was deliberate that they intended to do it this way either. What do you know about that?CHASTAIN: I would say, I mean, I do think that that's at least within evangelicalism. I don't know whether there was necessarily something nefarious, but and I can't ascribe, something nefarious to. To evangelicalism at large. I do think that these publishing houses were, we're meeting a demand. And then over time, they also helped to generate to generate a sense of like an imagined community or a public to which they could create a market.There's a book. By Daniel Vaca, who is a Brown University historian called Evangelicals Incorporated, and it actually looks directly at the evangelical book market and how it started in in the 19th century and developed [00:24:00] through to the present day and. He largely argues that that this sort of force did help to generate and codify the white evangelical culture.And, then those things permeate through things like the colleges that were built in the 1920s the Bible institutes that started a little bit before that. And on and on, as all of these alternative institutions were built. And then over time, yes, they did bleed into other more progressive spaces and those sorts of things but I don't, I don't know whether they were looking to try to temper the more progressive wings of American Christianity or other political parties in particular.Other geographical regions, or if they were just, pursuing these things because starting at around the time of the 1920s, they, these groups didn't really intermingle all that much like evangelicals. Isolated themselves in a lot of ways. And what I mean by that is there was the national council of churches and the parliament of world religions and all of these things that were started in the late 19th century, early 20th century.And whether, and a lot of evangelical groups or fundamentalist groups weren't really participants and then develop their own develop their, their own groups like the National Association of Evangelicals in the 1940s. So, [00:25:30] in a lot of ways, they stopped operating in ecumenical or interfaith spaces and just continued to cultivate their own sense of identity and culture.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and it's also interesting to the extent that evangelicalism has also been southernized because there were flavors of evangelicalism in every part of the country, but at this point, the other ones functionally do not really exist. Everything is a southern evangelical culture pretty much.And some people might dispute that, but it's like, well, where are your bookstores? Where are your mega churches? Where are your books that people are buying? They're just not there.CHASTAIN: Yeah. And even places like Orange County which is a stronghold of a lot of evangelical culture in California, a lot of those people were transplants from the South.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Especially Oklahoma in the Midwest. But actually I'm glad you mentioned Orange County, because of course there is a controversy with one of the biggest churches out there, Saddleback Church, just got kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Saddleback Church of Rick Warren, because, he was like, 'Well, look, it seems like there's nothing wrong with ordaining women, and so I'm going to do it.' And so they did and it's another example of evangelicals canceling people who disagree with them.CHASTAIN: Yeah, yeah, and there's a whole, there, there's absolutely a [00:27:00] whole well documented history of what within the Southern Baptist Convention is called the conservative resurgence in the 1980s and moving toward, forward to today, which is essentially people a number of recalcitrant I'm sorry, I was going to say recalcitrant, and I don't think that's the right word, but just very staunch conservatives who, who refuse to examine or question their, their theological convictions and believe that the, the only proper thing is to is to stand firm in their convictions, even if it means Thank You know, alienating women or people of color or queer people and disenfranchising them and blocking them from having authority in their faith community.And that was absolutely the response to, to prior movements like evangelical feminism, which was trying to make space for women in these spaces and they were told no. And that's the. To me, that is the reality of a lot of evangelical spaces is that they, they may decry deconstruction or people leaving or disaffiliating and those sorts of things, but.The reality is that people have been trying to make it work in these spaces for so long and they have been told no over and over for generations. And so now people are just deciding to [00:28:30] no longer participate. And that is a meaningful and valid choice when you have, are given no volition or control over your own fate in those places.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, and a similar thing is kind of happening in the LDS Mormon tradition as well. That people are trying to get the church to change its policies on same sex marriage or, or things like that, and continually being told no.And so now when you look at, and it's tough to say because the Mormon Church is different in that they count you as a member even if you don't go to their church, up until I think you're 120 I think is when they take you off the rolls. But when you look at polls, asking people, are they practicing Mormon or a former Mormon, there's actually more former Mormons than there are practicing when you ask people.But the response of the church has been pretty similar to, I think a lot of evangelical ones, which is that at first they denied that this was happening that people were walking away, and then eventually they started realizing: 'Oh, well, those, those communist academics weren't lying when they said this stuff. But you know what, it's okay because Jesus said that few there be that would find a way to the, to life. And so if that's how it is, well then, oh, well, I guess that's how it is.'It's an [00:30:00] interesting perspective, isn't it?CHASTAIN: Yes, absolutely.SHEFFIELD: But it just goes counter to the whole idea that your goal is to spread the gospel, but you also don't care if people are leaving your church, like it. Do they see the contradiction? Do they see that? What do you think?CHASTAIN: Well, I think you pointed out the way in which a number of these sort of worldviews can help discount the, essentially, the evidence to the contrary. So oftentimes, scriptures like that can be used as a validation of them standing firm, and so that, that can often be the case in these insular communities, is that they will I don't use the language of the remnant or that sort of thing to, to bat, to remain staunch in their in, in their convictions and to not question things because To do so, they fear may lead them along that, that terrible slippery slope that is, that is talked about in so many places instead of doing the more difficult work of trying to reform their own practices and beliefs, but many people are just in a, in a position where, where they would rather choose to affirm them, their fellow humans than to affirm the beliefs of a church.[00:31:30]SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and you certainly see that with the continual growth of the religious Nones, as they're often referred to, people who have none of the above religious affiliation.So while this perspective that we're talking about here, it certainly exists and is empowered to some degree, you look at some of the conferences that the Southern Baptist Convention every year has their big annual confab, and there still are a lot of people out there that are pushing for racial justice and reconciliation and things like that.And it's interesting to think about, because the other thing that I think the Christian right has become more aware of demographics than they used to be.Because they were growing largely at the expense of other Christian denominations. And now they're no longer growing. The Southern Baptist Convention keeps losing members. And it's become more political as they have lost members.And that seems to me that a lot of the people who are the biggest Trump fans, they tend to be people who don't go to church, but they still have the evangelical identity.CHASTAIN: Yes.SHEFFIELD: Do you agree with that?CHASTAIN: Yes, yes. And there have been some, some studies and unfortunately I can't rattle them off, off the top of my head. But one of, one of them that does come to mind is that some folks who. Who utilize or identify with the evangelical label now, especially [00:33:00] since the age of Trumpism since 2016 has increased, even if their church attendance is non existent, they may actually adopt or relate to an evangelical label, but it is not necessarily one that is That is attributed to that church attendance or to church membership, but rather a broader sort of cultural identity that is not necessarily tied to evangelical beliefs and that is something that has remained.A slippery and difficult part of using the term evangelical is that within academic circles, there's since the 80s, there's been this term the Bebbington quadrilateral, which is essentially four different aspects of evangelical theology. And David Bebbington was a historian or is rather a historian of.British evangelicalism, and he was using it for, for his purposes, for his academic purposes, but it's been used since then as a sort of way to, to Allied, it will remove problematic evangelicals from, from and a pro evangelical framing. And this is something that that was done, in the, in the pages of the New Yorker and in 2017 or so by Timothy Keller[00:34:30] utilizing the Bevington quadrilateral to say these people who are acting badly aren't evangelicals because they don't, their beliefs don't fall into these four academic buckets.Evangelicalism could be ascribed to more closely to what institutions are a part of. And now it's changing again because it's essentially a vibe. It's like, it's this identity that people ascribe to that isn't related directly to their church attendance or membership. So the, what the notion of what an evangelical is continues to change, which is fascinating.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, but and another way that that's happening is, is the QAnon movement. I think a lot of people who, who covered QAnon, even they don't realize that the entire thing is based on evangelical theology just straight up. The whole idea of spiritual warfare and the evil, nefarious world, the world running these secret plots against everyone.I mean, it's just, it is pure evangelical theology. But to that point though, this is another way that evangelicalism is sort of deteriorating because it is coming apart on the other side. So you got people who are leaving or saying, well, it doesn't work for me. I don't believe the ideas anymore, the doctrines, but then you got people coming out the other end who are [00:36:00] saying, I believe the ideas and in the identity, but it's just not as fun for me, so I'm going to go do QAnon instead.And I've seen a number of stories of pastors of evangelical churches becoming alarmed and saying, my congregation wants me to preach about satanic pedophiles eating babies.And to me, all of this kind of underlines the thesis of that book by Mark Knoll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. And the thesis being, of course, that there is no mind, was his point. I feel like some evangelicals are starting to realize that the critics were right, even though they may not be able to do anything about it. I don't know. What do you say?CHASTAIN: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is the this is the difficult thing about moderate evangelicals is that yes, they're they really do not Have a place anymore, and there are people that may, really, really wish for those types of things to exist and for there to be a happy medium.And I, I see that sort of in the, in the public career of Russell Moore. Russell Moore was. Got plotted in the, in the Wall Street Journal in the early 2010s for trying to be this, this new type of evangelical and even that language has been recycled several times new evangelicals as it was a term in the 1940s through the 1960s, people who were trying to resist the more [00:37:30] fundamentalist pole of these, of these groups, because the, but the history of evangelicalism is generally the history of the fundamentalists ousting the more moderate or progressive groups and being the ones that, that have most successfully held on to power within their groups.So Russell Moore during, during his tenure at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission really did try to be a moderating influence within, within the Southern Baptist Convention. But during that same time, it was also overlapping with the Trump administration and a push within the Southern Baptist convention to be very contrarian.And there were a number of black churches who were pushing to denounce white supremacy at as a statement of the Southern Baptist convention, which saw significant pushback, I believe in the 2017 convention and around within this same within this same timeframe, Russell, more famously resigned. And wrote a scathing letter that, that leaked to the, to the press that he wrote a scathing letter to the leadership of the Southern Baptist convention, talking about the sex abuse scandal, as well as the way in which it refused to refute white nationalism and other toxic aspects of their own faith [00:39:00] and their, and things that were prevalent within parts of the Southern Baptist convention.And he was forced to resign. He was, his role was continued, continued to be more sidelined and in favor of these more reactionary positions. And he's now ensconced at, at Christian Christianity today and is has a place of leadership there. His, the person that he, one of the people that he replaced Mark Galley. He was the, he was the editor in chief at the time and said that he before he resigned, wrote an editorial saying, Evangelicals don't have to vote for Trump, and he was lambasted for taking that stance and eventually converted to Catholicism. So this is the reality for a lot of moderates, is that, that they, they are driven out as well.And I wouldn't say that, that Moore is necessarily driven out, but his position is minimized. In comparison to those who may have more influence in this, in this present moment.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And, the other thing, I guess the other sort of getting people away from evangelical denominations is the growth of Pentecostalism as well, which is another sort of de doctrinalizing [00:40:30] of Christianity. I mean, you watch a lot of these televangelist ministers, a lot of them almost don't even talk about Jesus.They certainly don't quote the Bible. And they don't have much to say other than stuff that you could find in a self help book at the airport. But at the same time, some of them also, while they may sort of dial back the theology, are very much still a hyper political and hyper partisan.And that basically became how Donald Trump managed to get a toehold among evangelicals. And I think people forget that, and it's important to note that, the sort of evangelical establishment, they wanted Ted Cruz and then it was only the Prosperity Gospel Pentecostal types who went for Donald Trump at first.CHASTAIN: Yeah. Paula White, Jerry Falwell Jr. Like those were the people who were his early ambassadors amongst evangelicals. And it was, you're right. It wasn't until around June of 2016 that the other leadership within. Powerful or elite evangelicals really started to fall in line on behind Trump after he made a number of promises.SHEFFIELD: And yeah. And, and to be honest, he kept a lot of those promises to them.You still see these articles about why are evangelicals are voting for Trump? And it's like, guys, did you pay attention that Trump did what he told them he would do? Like they were the only group that he ever told the truth to seems like [00:42:00] pretty much. And so, it obviously makes sense for them to do that.I mean, Trump is in many ways just like them in that. He's a guy who doesn't go to church. He's a guy who has a Christian identity rather than Christian beliefs. And I think that's probably going to be the future of evangelicalism in the United States and probably around the world.Can they do anything to stop that? I don't know, what do you think?CHASTAIN: It's a great question. And I think a lot of people are thinking about that. And I, I know that certainly 1 thing that that is, that is utilized in a very interesting way within, within evangelical circles is the reality that the majority of evangelicals people who identify as evangelical are in the global South now, or in other parts that are not the Traditionally considered the West, whether that's in the United States or Europe or elsewhere because of the rapid growth of either charismatic expressions of, of Christianity or of evangelicalism, which may, could be historically traced to the missionary work during, especially over the last couple of centuries, but has It's turned into a has become over time, a local type of faith.And also it's Christianity has been a global faith for millennia. So, but a number [00:43:30] getting back to how global evangelicalism is used to deflect from the criticism of Western or American in particular evangelicalism, I do think that that is a tactic to. To try to not look internally at the ways in which all of these types of things are continue to, to blossom and grow within our local Evan our, our context here in the United States and other parts of the West That essentially now is we, we talk about more in the terms of Christian nationalism and I would rather talk about Christian nationalism within.Particular context like evangelicalism, because I think that can oftentimes let, let these groups off the hook if they're not trying to push back against these things and saying that they are not part of their faith or their understanding of, of good faith. And even though to an outsider.Statements of declaring or stating that you're a Christian against Christian nationalism may seem like, may, may not seem very meaningful. It can be very meaningful to the people of faith within those communities to see those. Within their own ranks resist or reject those things.And I think that [00:45:00] a number, the sort of issues that these groups face often are the same that, that even sort of more broadly, I would say that the media faces or other parts of our society and that Even though more institutions, their institutions and their, their say, say, for example, comparing the mainstream media to the right wing media ecosystem.I don't again. I don't know that those are apples to apples to apples. And I'm, I'm. And I would love to hear your sort of take on that, given your experience within, within those ecosystems. Because I think some people think that, well, oh the right wing is pushing back against the mainstream, more progressive or liberal media, but the, the reach of these things areWhen you compare them, they're, they're not the same and, and they're not the same. In what way? They're not the, you mean by that? Well, what, I mean, like, I think people underestimate the reach of conservative media. People within, within progressive spaces may under Can routinely underestimate the reach and effect of the right wing media ecosystem.And I think sometimes it's people who have left one thing and moved to the other that have the insight that some people who've always stayed in one [00:46:30] particular ecosystem do not have.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, I think that's definitely true. Because a lot of people who had always been progressive and maybe, either in any tradition, faith tradition or non tradition, they look at things like the Daily Wire or they look at people like Andrew Tate or somebody like that, and they said: 'These people are idiots. They're stupid. They say nonsense. They have no idea what they're talking about.'And they're right to say that. It's true, you don't get good information from these people. But the reality is, millions of people do get information from these people. And you can mock them, you can deride them. You can say they're morons, but nonetheless, they have more influence than the Atlantic. They have more subscribers than, I don't know, the New Republic. And in many cases, they have more YouTube views than CNN even, a lot of these people.And that's just the reality. So a lot of people, it is hard for them, I think, to take it seriously because intellectually, it's not serious, but politically, it's deadly serious. And they can't see that because of that.I mean, there's that phrase, the banality of evil, and I think that that certainly applies in this case here, that authoritarianism often is idiotic at the same time. And certainly that's the case with Donald Trump.CHASTAIN: So yeah, I appreciate your comments [00:48:00] on that. because I do know that that is part of your experience as having been part of that media ecosystem and now operating in a different one.SHEFFIELD: Well, Yeah. And that is definitely a point that I do try to make to people is to get them to understand that. Look, you don't have to take it seriously, but lots of people do.CHASTAIN: Lots of people do, exactly.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And the same thing is true with these-- and I do, like I've seen similar tendencies in the religious realm, like when people look at someone like Ken Ham, the creationist activist or any of these other guys, the things they say are ridiculous and absurd, but millions of people love this guy and they want his stuff to be in public schools. They want it to be in public school.And so you have to take this stuff seriously. And you can see that also with some of the stuff that this evangelical college up in Michigan, Hillsdale College, they have created a program with Charlie Kirk and Turning Point Faith, and now there's Turning Point schools to get this explicitly Christian propagandist stuff in.And to be clear, it's also explicitly right wing evangelical flavored Christianity, it's against progressive Christianity and all that, and get it into public schools. And now they're in Oklahoma, they're in Florida, and I think one other state as well. And so this stuff, it really matters, even though the beliefs are ridiculous and not supported.[00:49:30]CHASTAIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I, and I mean that, that is absolutely the case is that that oftentimes we, that's how we view other people's beliefs, right?As, as absurd or as incredulous, but those, those beliefs you have to. Take another person's beliefs. You have to try to understand them. And I think doing that is, is valuable. And that's why I think try also understanding how people change their minds is So fascinating.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, speaking of that, though, now let's talk about your own journey, if we could for a little bit.CHASTAIN: Sure.SHEFFIELD: How did you get into the idea of leaving evangelicalism?CHASTAIN: I mean, I was. I was the sort of kid that was, that was all in, so I was, I was born and raised in, in, in Christianity and, and I mentioned earlier that the tradition, United Methodist tradition and, there were certain things that, that made questioning other parts of evangelicalism easier because of that one example being that the, the church Had always, or at least in my lifetime, had ordained women, and that is not something you mentioned earlier, that Saddleback was excommunicated or removed from the Southern Baptist Convention for the very same thing.So in some, in some traditions, that [00:51:00] is considered... Wrong or heretical or whatever sort of unorthodox, whatever type of adjective you want to use, but it's not something that is part of orthodox belief or practice. But I, I was all in, I was sort of just always a religiously oriented kid at in high school.Like I was. A 90s kid. So, 90s youth group culture was really powerful. I think in the 90s, like Newsweek had like a cover story about, Christian kids and their, their rock festivals and stuff and, and all of these things. So it was sort of a cultural moment at the time. And I was heavily invested and at the ripe old age of 17 felt a call to the ministry and chose my school as a result.So I went to Indiana Wesleyan and during my first full week of school is when 9 11 happened. And that really changed the tenor of a lot of my experience. I was a double major in history and biblical literature, and a lot of my initial. Faith crisis was around the fact that in my history class, I had essentially, I couldn't say this at the time but the, the head of the department was teaching a type of Christianity or Christian theology called Christian Reconstructionism that is really based on things like biblical worldviews and [00:52:30] all of these other aspects presuppositional thinking and, and all of these other things that are part of that And in my Bible classes, I was reading the Bible in Greek and learning about how the Bible was developed over centuries and also having, my first sort of independent political thoughts and during the run up to the war in Iraq I felt a lot of inner turmoil and had my first genuine crisis of faith over the fact that Well, this person that we're learning about is called the Prince of Peace and was killed by the state and all of these things, and here are a number of my colleagues and professors championing this this run up to war. And really trying to wrestle with, like, the just war theory from a custom and other things like that.And that is when I really started to feel a divide between myself and some others. And this is as a white guy. So, like. And as far as like the pyramid of privilege within evangelicalism, I was at the top just by virtue of, of birth and but I still felt like, like even voicing moderate leanings felt risky.And then when I voted for John Kerry in 2004, the first election I was, I was eligible to vote in, I had friends like praying for my soul and then [00:54:00] after that that's sort of, That sort of continued to develop and I, I felt a distance from evangelicalism and went through some period of time where I was after graduating where I was what people would call unchurched.I wasn't attending regularly. And then in grad school, I did get married fairly young. And then in grad school, I discovered a type of theology called Creation Care Theology, which is essentially looking at narratives of ecological stewardship and the biblical narrative and other parts of the Christian tradition, and really Had sort of revitalized my, my faith in a way that I wasn't expecting and I pursued that for, for a while at the same time, we also through circumstances of, of friends and other things ended up going to a ended up going to a fundamentalist sort of storefront church in Chicago and was there for several years and even though like we never became full members my family, because we were egalitarian and that became a sticking point eventually after we stayed for several years and we tried to talk it out with the pastoral leadership there and they wouldn't budge.They essentially agreed to having a number of discussions around the issue, and then those talks fell [00:55:30] apart, and we had to leave, and there was essentially, there's a term called holy ghosting, where, like, we left and we lost all of our local support group because we were no longer a part of that.And that was a lot of grief and that, that happened in 2014 and that's when I started to really consider. Why so many people that I knew from my school from my college had left evangelicalism, even people that I was only connected to online, that I saw the things they posted and they were not in alignment with evangelicalism, they were in alignment with a more progressive view of the world, a different type of view of the world.And that is when I started to explore the idea of having a show about it and, and at the time it felt like the right sort of medium to do that would be podcasting as opposed to say, like launching a blog in 2014, 2015, 2016, no one was really reading blogs anymore at that point. And so the idea was just that, that people could tell their story in their own words.And then over time. I could build a body of work that would show the various narratives or the various commonalities between all of these individual stories. And that's where my, my work really, really started. And then since then have [00:57:00] had, I have continued that work throughout the, the ensuing years.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right. Well I appreciate the background there. And I appreciate what you're doing. Having to talk about this stuff, it's exhausting for the people who have to live it, but it's probably even more exhausting for those of us who have to talk about it.And I don't say that very often, but I think it's worth pointing out everyone.CHASTAIN: Yeah. Yeah. I'm sure like I'm sure whenever you've had to talk about leaving Mormonism, like it, you're sort of picking at a wound in a lot of ways. Things that aren't easy and sometimes even holding space for other people's stories can be discouraging or difficult and have impacts on you in a way that you don't really anticipate.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and also just seeing people who are being harmed by their beliefs, but they can't see it because they're in the bubble. But I mean, we're both proof that people can leave the bubble. I mean, there's no guarantee, of course, that anyone will escape it, but people can, and you shouldn't necessarily give up on them, if you don't want to.CHASTAIN: Right, right. Yeah. Especially if you're in relationship, in relationship with them already. Sometimes they, they need time. Sometimes they need to see other people thriving in ways that they're not able to in their environment. You never know exactly what the catalyst might be.SHEFFIELD: [00:58:30] Yeah. And often, the best argument is a life well lived in many cases. Because according to these fundamentalist traditions, you can't have a good life. Your life will be miserable and horrible. I mean, that's part of the threat of keeping people in is saying that your whole life will be ruined if you're not succumbing to what we tell you to do.And then when seeing people who have a good life and are pleasant and that shows that that's not the case, that those are not valid arguments.CHASTAIN: Right, right. Absolutely.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right. Well, so Blake where can people find your stuff for people who want to keep up with you?CHASTAIN: The best place to go. Thank you Matthew for asking is post evangelical post. com. So that's my, my newsletter and it is hosted on Substack. Most of it's free. There is a paid tier as is often the case with Substack.But yeah, post evangelical post. com. I post every new episode of Exvangelical and other writing and, and everything else. I pretty much left Twitter or X or whatever we're calling it, so that's the best place to follow me. I'm dabbling in some of the other Twitter alternatives, but head over to Post Evangelical Post to keep up with my work.SHEFFIELD: Okay. Sounds good. Right. Well, thanks for being here then.CHASTAIN: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.SHEFFIELD: All right, so that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us for the discussion, and you can always [01:00:00] get more episodes if you go to I've got the video, audio, and transcript of everything, and if you are a paid subscribing member, you get complete access to the archive, and I appreciate everybody who is supporting the show in that way. And if you are not able to do so, please do give us a nice review on your favorite podcast platform that is helpful to get more people to see the show and tell your favorite podcast about what we're doing here as well.That can be helpful as well. I'd love to do shows on other people's as well. And then of course, we are part of the network. So go to for more articles, podcasts about politics, religion, media, and technology, and how they all intersect. And I definitely do appreciate your support in that as well. So thank you very much. And I will see you next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/23/20231 hour, 2 minutes, 28 seconds
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So This Just Happened #009: Jim Jordan is a horrible person who's horrible at his job

House Republicans continue to be in a hilarious disarray which is also illustrative of larger historical and philosophical trendsTimecodes01:51 — Jim Jordan is horrible and horribly incompetent12:21 — Republicans can't pick a speaker because they're "individualists" instead of conservatives 19:13 — Elon Musk says he wants to charge $1 per year to use Twitter22:08 — Musk's politicized removal of fact-checking is allowing disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war to proliferate27:22 — Far-right people haven't realized that society doesn't need to debate basic things31:01 — Fox sports commentator uncorks conspiracy theory about tap waterJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/20/202339 minutes, 2 seconds
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House of Chaos: Jim Jordan humiliated in first Speaker vote

Chaos continues to reign supreme among Republicans in the House of Representative after Jim Jordan became the third person to be rejected for Speaker of the House. The GOP's right hand doesn't know what its far-right hand is doing and we are here for it.Timecodes00:20 — Jim Jordan loses Speaker of the House vote on first ballot06:51 — Matt Gaetz, who started Republicans' speaker drama said he's "tired" of it now08:31 — Lauren Boebert busted for using campaign donor funds at Beetlejuice boyfriend's restaurant10:21 — Donald Trump hit with gag order in criminal trial after attacking judge and prosecutors16:40 — Paramount+ and Kelsey Grammer team up to reboot "Frasier," why?20:16 — Taylor Swift's "Eras Tour" film rakes in big bucks after bypassing studios23:42 — Far-right website Daily Wire is making a Snow White movieThe video of this episode is available on YouTube.  Follow or die!Doomscroll Rosner This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/18/202336 minutes, 23 seconds
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Theory of Change #090: David Paleologos on how 'unlikely voters' could change American politics

SummaryIt's election season again, which means that public opinion surveys are constantly in the news. Trying to figure out what likely voters want is on the minds of everyone who works in politics or journalism. But what about the unlikely voters? What do they want?At first glance, it may seem a bit absurd to ask about the political views of people who aren't registered to vote, or who are registered but rarely do turn out to the polls. But the reality of American politics as it stands right now is that elections are often decided by such small margins that mobilizing non voters could be and likely has been crucial to winning elections, Barack Obama roused some of them in 2008 and 2012. Donald Trump appealed to them in 2016.When it comes to figuring out what unlikely voters think, there is no one more expert on the subject than David Paleologos. He's the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which is known for its public opinion surveys, particularly a poll series they conduct of people who say they have no interest in voting.Timecodes02:01 — What is an "unlikely voter?"09:02 — Unlikely voters have moved toward Trump after preferring Obama11:45 — The difficulty of determining a correct poll sample is harder with unlikely voters15:23 — Non-voters seem to know less about politics than voters24:00 — Unlikely voters more negative toward Biden today than Trump in 201726:38 — How Republicans better utilize non-policy arguments than Democrats32:24 — Unlikely voters overwhelmingly uninterested in alternatives to Biden or Trump34:17 — Voting isn't too difficult, unlikely voters say42:12 — Could alternative voting methods increase public interest in voting?z46:50 — Trump's simpler messaging helps him with lower-knowledge citizens52:06 — Wrap-upTranscriptThis text is automatically generated from the audio and may not be entirely accurate. It is provided for convenience purposes only. Your podcast player program may cut it off before the end. MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Thanks for being here today, David. Welcome to Theory of Change.DAVID PALEOLOGOS: Thank you. Great to be in Flux.SHEFFIELD: All right. [00:02:00] Excellent. Well, all right. So, let's before we get too deep into the subject here, let's define what is an unlikely voter. As you have done in these surveys here.PALEOLOGOS: So, an unlikely voter really falls into two categories: 1) People who are not registered to vote, obviously, they're not a vote if they're not registered to vote, and 2) people who are registered to vote, but who indicate on surveys that they're not likely to cast the ballot.So, normally posters will begin a survey and they'll say, how likely are you to vote in the upcoming election?Very likely somewhat, not very, not at all. If respondents indicate not at all or not likely, they get screened out. And in this survey, we did the exact opposite. If they said they were very or somewhat likely, we screened them out. And we proceeded with people who said that they were not likely or not at all likely to vote.SHEFFIELD: And how reliable are those indicators when people claim that they're not likely to vote? Tell us about the research about that particular [00:03:00] self-identification.PALEOLOGOS: So some people actually say it so that they will be disqualified from the survey and that they can hang up in a civil way.Some people genuinely are not likely to vote. And when we probe a little bit further in the survey, we get an idea about whether or not they voted in the past or whether or not they have a Democrat or Republican leaning preference. But when you look at the data that's from the U. S. Elections project. They do calculations based on voter eligible population for every state and nationally. And what we found is that it's not just a few million people that don't vote.It's a lot of people. We're expecting 90 million people who are eligible to vote in the United States in 2024 will not vote either because they're not registered to vote or they’re simply fed up and they won't vote. [00:04:00]And that's, that's a, an ominous number when you think about it, 90 million people.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. What's the percentage?PALEOLOGOS: Well, it's more votes than were cast for Joe Biden and Joe Biden set the record for most votes received by any presidential candidate in 2020. He was in the 80 million plus range and 90 million people exceeds that.90 million people are saying they're not going to vote even though they're eligible to vote. And that's a huge problem.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.PALEOLOGOS: So pollsters do these niche surveys, Democratic voters only, Republican voters only, caucus voters only. And these are very small subsets compared to the 90 million people who are Americans, they're citizens and they, they're just not going to vote. They're fed up.And so we thought back in 2012, why not pull them and figure out what's going on and then track [00:05:00] it. And we followed up with a survey in 2018 and now here in 2023, and there are some common threads in the data, but also some red flags and also some opportunities for candidates in terms of trying to convert those nonvoters into likely voters.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and I mean, again, we're talking about such a large pool of people here that there's no question that not even 20 percent of them could easily make the difference for any presidential candidate. And certainly for a lot of congressional, or gubernatorial or, whatever down the ballot. I think there's no question about that.And there has been some research that indicates that Donald Trump was able to do that to some degree in 2016 and that that was a big thing he was interested in doing in 2020 as well, trying to identify nonvoters, disengaged people who were sympathetic to him.So it's, yeah, like this is something that's already happening, and you guys kind of were [00:06:00] ahead of the curve in that regard.PALEOLOGOS: So, yeah, I, I think so. And I'm surprised that people didn't copy. Usually people copy some of the work. Pollsters scoop questions and poach questions and different things from each other. It really hasn't been done.I think I understand why it hasn't been done, because it's really expensive. I mean, we do live caller surveys and you can get in and out of a live caller survey in three nights, three days, four days max. Getting nonvoters is tougher. Because these are people who aren't used to being polled, they're tougher to reach, they're disproportionate minority, they're disproportionate young, lower educated they're also disproportionate disabled.There's a much higher population of disabled people who have just given up on politics, they're just trying to survive because of their own issue or disability or family disability. So they're a tougher population to reach, but we think [00:07:00] it is essential.And I do think that it helped Donald Trump in 2016. It also helped Barack Obama in 2012, if you remember. Back in 2012 we did the survey, I think in August, which is kind of the low point of Barack Obama's numbers. He was really suffering a lag effect after the big 2008 win, hope and change. And then a lot of people hadn't really seen it on him, but they didn't have the same intensity.And he figured out that if it was just a persuasion campaign, he was probably going to have a real challenge. And so I think he, the, the DNC, from what I understand, just like Trump did in 2016, used the data to go out and find non-persuadables, people they didn't even have to persuade to vote for Barack Obama.They felt that if they could get them just out to vote that a high percentage of them would vote for Barack Obama. And that's exactly what happened. [00:08:00]SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And in the 2012 poll that you guys did Obama was the-- I mean, he wasn't the majority candidate, but he was definitely the preferred candidate of these unlikely voters in the survey that you conducted at that point.Now, you guys found a kind of a partisan reversal, if you will. That Donald Trump got more support than Joe Biden did.PALEOLOGOS: 2023. Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. And the exact opposite dynamic if you look at people who weren't registered to vote. It's about a two to one break for Donald Trump over Joe Biden.If you looked at people who were registered, but not likely to vote, it was a two and a half to one spread of Donald Trump over Joe Biden. And so what that suggests is the same advantage that Barack Obama had in 2012. Technically statistically Donald Trump has as an advantage, he needs to find those people and, having pulled it 3 times, it's tough to find the people, but if you do find the people, [00:09:00] again, he would not have to persuade as much.Unlikely voters have moved toward Trump after preferring ObamaSHEFFIELD: Now there were some other kind of interesting little splits when you looked at the numbers. So like women who were registered to vote in this sample, 32% of them said that they were in favor of Donald Trump. But only 11% said that they were in favor of Biden. But it was split evenly basically among men who were registered.But then by contrast, among unregistered men, they were much more likely to go to Trump. Whereas that dichotomy didn't exist so much for women who were unregistered.So these are small sample sizes though. So I don't know how much we can delve into it. But on the other hand, the disparity between these two different groups, is certainly higher than the margin of error, even for the smaller subsets. What's your take on all that is there anything to be gained from looking at these numbers?PALEOLOGOS: That's exactly the case. I mean, with smaller subsets, you're absolutely right. And your viewers should know that they take on a higher margin of error because they are [00:10:00] smaller sample sizes. So once you get to a subsample of 70, 80, 100 people, it's significantly higher margin of error than it is a subsample of 400 or 500.400 or 500 subsample, you're in the plus or minus. 4 percent range, or thereabouts 4, 4, 4 and a half percent range, but then when you get down to 100 subsample, you're plus or minus like 9%. So, yeah, I mean, you want to be careful looking at some of the subsets, but the common thread male or female registered or unregistered is a disappointment with both choices.I mean, to be fair, the polls generally show that a third-party candidate is the top choice, not Trump, not Biden. And in 2012, it was really all about a third-party candidate. And you've seen that not only in this poll, but in other polling data where people just don't want it to be a Trump-Biden matchup again.Whether [00:11:00] you're a Democrat, Republican, or independent voter or nonvoter, and you're seeing the same kind of dynamic here. Most people were opting for something else, a better choice than, than those. But if they had to choose between Biden or Trump. Trump was getting the plurality of support over Biden.And that speaks to a number of issues that are important to men and women registered or not registered. Be it the economy, immigration, parenting. You mentioned some of the female respondents for Trump. That's a big issue for a lot of people, independent as well, independent women. So a lot of these dynamics are in play here in 2023, as they were in the two previous surveys.The difficulty of determining a correct poll sample is harder with unlikely votersSHEFFIELD: Yeah, now with the sample, I mean, you had mentioned that it did take a lot longer to be in the field as the term goes in polling, how confident are you that this-- I mean, because statistically speaking, there is, there is the [00:12:00] concept of margin of error, but it's possible that the sample could be not quite accurate.I mean, like people have raised concerns about that with election polling that the percentage of people who answer the phone might be more inclined to have certain opinions or whatnot. And that's why the Pew Research Center and some others, and maybe you can talk about your own organization in that regard, has tried to make some adjustments to try to find people who might not be wanting to answer the phone or take a phone poll. I mean, let's maybe talk about methodology here, if we could.PALEOLOGOS: Yeah, sure. So for us, we wanted to go state by state and look at how many eligible voters didn't vote in the last two presidential elections. So we have real data on that. It's not subjective.We have data on how many vote-eligible adults in each state did not [00:13:00] vote. And what we did was we grouped those state by state into regions and made sure that those quotas reflected what the quotas reflected were actually for the last two presidential elections. So, in some states, obviously California has a lot of people who are transient, who are not registered.Some of them are just inhabitants. They're not legal citizens. Therefore they're not eligible. But we were only looking at people who were eligible to vote state by state that did not show historically high probability of voting. And you're right, it is tough to find those people, because people who are voters, people who take surveys, especially the super voters, the good voters, they're used to taking surveys. They're familiar with the question formats.People who aren't voters or who aren't registered. It's [00:14:00] really difficult, especially if you have a 15- to 20-minute study to keep them on the line and ask why they're not voting in many different ways or what would motivate them to vote. And it's very difficult to get all the way through to the end with respondents like that.So it does take a lot of time. It really is expensive when you're doing live calling. But one thing you asked about confidence. The one thing for sure is that we feel quite confident that the people that we reported in the survey were not voting, said to us that they were not voting either because they weren't registered or that they were not voting because they were done with the political system as it were.Some people could be motivated to vote and that's kind of what we talked about earlier. And the onus is on the campaigns to find those [00:15:00] people who might be on the fence who might be telling us in a survey. Yes, I'm registered, but no, I'm not voting next year.Those people might be persuadable to vote. But at this point, polls being a snapshot in time at the time that we did the field, they were not voting next year.Non-voters seem to know less about politics than votersSHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right. Well, so let's get further into the tables here and we'll have a link in the show notes for people who want to check out the complete results. So this is a population overall that seems to not know as much about politics as regular voters. You have a question in here about who is the vice president, and 70 percent of the respondents correctly gave the name Kamala Harris or some semblance of her identifying her, who she was.[00:16:00] And that was probably, that was higher than when, when you asked this poll in 2018, it was around 50 percent said Mike Pence.Now they also they also, there were, there were some interesting breakdowns, I thought, with their, with their ideologies. When you go through and you asked them to sort of place themselves on the ideological spectrum, 32 percent said they were moderate, 18 percent said liberal, and 16 percent said conservative. How do those match up with the voter samples you guys conduct?PALEOLOGOS: Yeah, so it's more of a perfect Bell Curve, right, in terms of sentiment with moderate being in the middle. And you would guess that, right?You would guess that of a people who don't have a leaning, don't have an interest in voting, they probably self-defined as being moderate. It's at it actually runs a little bit left of center for most polls. Most polls skew slightly conservative. Most national polls skew slightly conservative [00:17:00] where there will be a big chunk of moderate but slightly higher amount of people say conservative or very conservative than they do liberal or very liberal.So this poll is slightly left of that. And that kind of makes sense when you think about people who don't vote, who tend to be younger persons of color, lower income. And even a disproportionate amount of disabled Americans who have given up on the political system as well.SHEFFIELD: Okay. And then, but at the same time, you also did ask if you did vote in 2020, who did you vote for in it? And there was a slight plurality of the respondents said that they had voted for Donald Trump. Do you see a dichotomy there between people who are identifying themselves as left leaning, but are more likely to be supporting Donald Trump. Like what's, what's the deal with that?PALEOLOGOS: Yeah. So I think there were two separate questions and it's a great [00:18:00] question. And number one, and this was really one of the takeaways for me is that Trump's narrative that the system is rigged, it's not fair, government doesn't work, government is frozen, has actually turned off some of his own base. Which explains why slightly more people had said, not a lot, but slightly more people had said that they had previously voted for him and that's worked counter to his narrative, he's used it to motivate people to vote to say, you need to get out and vote.For me, because the system is rigged, because Washington D. C. doesn't work, because your vote is being thrown away by these corrupt Democrats or whatever his narrative is, but it's had the opposite effect according to this data. This data is suggesting that those people have actually listened to him and they aren't voting because they [00:19:00] don't think that He'll be allowed to be elected or that the system is rigged and that their vote really doesn't matter.And that they're very disillusioned about the system. And they have been convinced by Donald Trump and others that it's just a waste of time. And so people who may have previously supported him thinking the system was going to work when he got elected now believe there's no point.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, at the same time, I think you could also say that it is showing that Biden's message, that there may be some similarities that he's facing with that Hillary Clinton faced in 2016, in that the message of, things are fine, don't worry about it, the Democrats have got it under control, that's not persuasive to a lot of people. They feel like whether it's their own lives or, however they're coming to this opinion, they feel like [00:20:00] that the system has failed, and they're not interested in somebody telling them everything's fine, don't worry about it.PALEOLOGOS: They do believe that. And the reason really Biden prevailed was he was viewed as a calm, steady hand to lead the country from the omnipotent tweets of Donald Trump. Someone who was clean politically, and someone who could reach across the aisle.Now with this issue that we're dealing with where, we have a divided Congress. And we can't get consensus on a lot, even though, there was 1, 1, bipartisan bill that obviously that President Biden is talking about, those are all in question. Now, forget about his age and competency. That's been an overriding issue. It's worse now.But if he is seen to not be [00:21:00] squeaky clean, honest, by virtue of either the Hunter Biden issue or these allegations against Hunter Biden, and whether there's a connection with President Biden remains to be seen, if that is tainted and his ability to reach across the aisle and to make things happen, if that is tainted, you're taking away a couple of important legs from the table.That was a strong table for Joe Biden. And then you add into that, whether or not the immigration issue is going to become better or worse next year, and whether the economy is going to be better or worse next year, you've got a lot of variables in play that could potentially give him the kind of negatives that Hillary Clinton had in 2016.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I guess one of the other things that's stands out for me in this sample in terms of their demographic differences from likely voters is where they look [00:22:00] for news from. In this sample, it was much more, they were much more internet driven. With social media websites 34 percent said that that's where they got their news from.That was tied with television and cable news networks. And that's, and then newspapers and magazines are, were only 10%. And then radio down to 4%. So, I mean, that's that seems like another big difference. Maybe that's a function of age of this sample or what, what do you think?PALEOLOGOS: Yeah, I think that's part of it, but I mean, it shows, tells me that you're in the right media doing podcasts because we're seeing a straight line down for TV.In the old days, everybody wanted to be on TV. It was like a big deal. But I mean, I have my two boys are in their early twenties. They are not TV watchers. My son is at U. S. C. He doesn't even have a TV in his room. He projects on the wall from his laptop.So if you're under [00:23:00] 35, TV is not your bag. You are watching podcasts and listening. You're getting your information from other sources and the, the whole TV presence is dying. It's not just among unlikely voters. It's among likely voters too. Viewership is dropping right across the board. Everybody's feeling it. MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, they're all dropping or trying to maintain that, that critical demographic that, the 25 to 54 demographic that everybody yearns for.But, it's just like staying afloat. Nobody's really growing an audience because everything is rotating to social media and this is why it's so important to get good information to listen and watch podcasts and so on and click on some of the links that you can see and do your own research because television is really an old person's game right now.[00:24:00]Unlikely voters more negative toward Biden today than Trump in 2017SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, definitely is. And to that point, one of the questions that you asked people in the pool here is what do you think of when you hear the name of the current president, Joe Biden?And the first answer that people gave was old, it was about 19% said that about Biden. How did that sort of thing compare to when Trump was president? When you guys did this in 2018, what did people have to say back then?PALEOLOGOS: Well, the, the, the words offered on Trump were more vulgar. But they weren't, they weren't as bad in, in terms of total, total responses.So, it wasn't just old, it was just, cognitive skills and so on. People are a little bit more civil. With Biden than they were with Trump. But the total amount of negative sentiment was pretty high against Joe, for which one for, for Joe.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, I'm saying with the negative with Trump, like what was the percentage with that?[00:25:00]PALEOLOGOS: It was about 10 or 15 percent total negative sentiment, lower. So I think it was like in the high 30s, if you, if you aggregated the negative comments, it was more like in the high 30s, then the negative sentiment towards Biden. So, and you can't do anything about age. I mean, you can do something about.Maybe competency and, a good political team can, can at least create the perception that he is sharp and that he's getting better and that he's making better decisions. But it's tough, it's tough because the age situation just doesn't go away. And it puts more pressure on 2 In line for the presidency, which is Kamala Harris and her numbers are bad among likely voters.And I think a lot of people, more people know who she is in this poll than Mike Pence was because Mike Pence really flew under the radar. Kamala Harris has been [00:26:00] thrust into the spotlight. In a positive way by left leaning media, but also been thrust into the spotlight by right leaning media, trying to show that she's not competent and not a good second choice.And I think the, the combination of both of those media sides, if you will, have, impacted people, even who are not likely voters to recognize who she is. That may not necessarily be a positive thing that more people recognize who she is. It's just that they do recognize who she is and it could be a factor among likely voters next year.How Republicans better utilize non-policy arguments than DemocratsSHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I would say that that's a real difference between the way that Democrats and Republicans conduct politics. Because when you look at presidential campaigns over the years the messaging from Republicans, it tends, they offer both political and non political reasons to, to go against the opponent.[00:27:00] Whereas Democrats tend to focus more on policy, generally speaking. So like for instance, you shouldn't vote for. Michael Dukakis because he looked funny in the tank, or you shouldn't vote for John Kerry because he went windsurfing and, he, he was French whereas the, on the, the Democrats generally, the only sort of non political thing they kind of offer is, well, they're stupid and they don't really focus on anything else, and the age thing actually is, really interesting as an attack line against Biden, because, I mean, as everybody knows, Trump is basically the same age as him.And so for them, but so for Democrats, if they were to say, well, look, Trump's old too, that doesn't help Joe Biden at all. Because you're basically saying, look, our guy's old also. And. So that's, it's, it's actually a really interesting and vulnerability for Biden in that regard.PALEOLOGOS: It's going to be an interesting year next year because and this is just a [00:28:00] sort of a sidebar to, to your original question, but I think it's important, when you look at Dianne Feinstein, Mitch McConnell, and they're all leaders in, in, in Congress as well, in addition to, to Joe Biden, and then you're going to see.The graphs of the average age of the U S senators and, and how few people are, under 40 years of age and so on. So, the, the aging competency is being weaved together against Joe Biden, whether it's fair or not fair. It it's it, it, and less so against Donald Trump. People acknowledge the years, that the, the age of Donald Trump, but It's a question of, do you think he can do the job?Do you think he, whether you like the job or not, the question of, do you think he can do the job is a different question and that's what, why I think it doesn't, it doesn't work to Biden's advantage to go down that road. I mean, Mick [00:29:00] Jagger is Joe Biden's age and people don't think Mick Jagger, falls short on, on, on a lot of different things singing, dancing or anything else at his age.And, so it's not strictly about his age. It's, it's about whether or not he's confident. I mean, the foes of Joe Biden are going too far in my opinion. They're basically, all they do is just point out gaps and his stuttered speech, or he turns the wrong way or whatever it is. And that's just, I mean, that's just cherry picking video to create a narrative.And it's just not fair. I mean, it's not fair to him. It's not fair to older people. Even though a lot of older people in the polling would prefer a younger candidate. Just on it's fair. It's just not fair.SHEFFIELD: Well, and that's an [00:30:00] interesting point you make there because, the, the Republican electorate is overwhelmingly over 50.Like the majority of them are, I, I think it was what in the last election, what was it? Like 57% I believe, of their electorate, maybe closer to 60 was over the age of 50.And so yeah, it's paradoxical because you're having people who perhaps might be younger than Joe Biden who are saying: 'Well, I feel like I am not what I used to be. So he can't be either.'And they really can't know that. I mean, people age in different ways. But you know, politics isn't fair, and it never has been, right?PALEOLOGOS: Yes. So I think Democrats, they, they have to, exactly kind of step back from what you said about policy only, and they can't run a policy campaign against Trump and or whoever the Republican nominee is.They have got to do some really in depth [00:31:00] polling focus groups and test a number of different, not only issues, but characteristics and try and piece together the coalitions that they need to piece together because right now, Joe Biden is pulling, I mean, his disapproval is in the fifties, high fifties, and even higher when it comes to immigration and The economy, and just based on those numbers, whether or not a 3rd party candidate runs or not doesn't really matter.If your disapproval is at 55. I think you almost want a 3rd party candidate in there to split up that disapproval of 55 because if it's a binary choice, the disapproval of 55 is going to go to. Whoever Biden's opponent is and if there's a third party candidate, maybe there's a buffer where they won't vote for the Republican, they can't vote for Biden who, based on how they feel, but they have a third party alternative.I mean, we've been [00:32:00] talking, the polling community has been talking about how a third party candidate could hurt the Democrats, but there could be an argument to be made that it. Third party candidate might, might hurt the Republicans if you give people two options among the people who disapprove of Biden instead of one.Unlikely voters overwhelmingly uninterested in alternatives to Biden or TrumpSHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, that's true. Although it was interesting that you guys did offer some various. potential candidates to the, to these people and, not, not Trump, not Biden but they weren't particularly interested in any of them. I mean, Bernie Sanders was 2%, Michelle Obama, 2% RFK, like 2 percent was the highest.Candidate choice. And, and overwhelmingly the answer was, so the question was, is there anyone you can think of who you would be certain to go to the polls for? If that person was running and [00:33:00] 48 percent said no. So, I mean, what does that, what does that say?PALEOLOGOS: Well, it, it says that there's a hardened group of people who aren't going to vote despite anybody. I mean, so they're telling us I'm not going to vote. I'm not going to vote. The system is rigged, all throughout the poll. Then we finally say, okay, look, is there anybody who would motivate you to go vote? And like, like you said, I mean, 2 percent here, 2 percent there, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama.I think we're on to Santa's got a point. Bernie Sanders, but not enough really to matter among people who aren't candidates. So that tells us that, nearly half of them, you could put. Maybe we should have named somebody else or maybe they should have thought of somebody else.I don't know who that might be. Maybe Taylor Swift or something. [00:34:00] I really don't know. But, but obviously the people that would immediately come to mind didn't come to mind.And that just gives you a, an idea of why this kind of polling is so important.Voting isn't too difficult, unlikely voters saySHEFFIELD: And, and of how alienated people feel yeah, and so, one of the other, one of the other questions that you guys ask that I think undermines a lot of the. A lot of, a lot of Democrats have this idea that people don't vote because it's too difficult for them to vote that voter registration requirements or photo ID or whatever, that they just are too scary to people.And, your poll overwhelmingly finds that that's not the case. So you ask them, the question of, do you think, That voting is easy to complete and can be done quickly. And the answer, 67 percent [00:35:00] said yes, and only 11 percent said it takes too much time. And then there was some unknown, don't know and not decided.But I mean, it's pretty overwhelming in this regard that people. They don't feel like it's too hard to participate. They just choose not to.PALEOLOGOS: Not to participate. And that's their choice. I mean, I heard, I, as I say, I monitored some of the calls the first couple of nights and people were actually saying, it's my right not to vote. So what do you say to that? I mean, hey, it's my right not to vote. So what are you going to say about that? And, and, and, and it wasn't about ease of registration. I mean, and by the way, that 67, that two thirds number has run through all three polls that we've done going back to 2012. Majority, a clear majority of people know that it's not that difficult to register and they just don't want to, they want to have nothing to do with it.Some people didn't want to vote because they didn't want to be on a jury list. They didn't want their name to pop [00:36:00] up. Some people, there were some people who were felons or who had criminal records. They didn't want to be on anybody's radar. I mean, there were a bunch of different reasons, but the overwhelming reasons were, they just don't believe the system works anymore.They don't believe the vote counts. It has nothing to do with registering to vote. It has to do with them just giving up on the system. And some of those people were Trump voters and they've given up.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. When that is the irony that so while Democrats believe that, more voting, like people are not voting, they're, they're wrong to think that people aren't voting because they, they don't know how to, or it's too hard.The Republicans are also wrong to think that non-voters. Are not interested in them. I, I think, your survey shows that, that they, at least on a certain level are willing to entertain them and maybe it is just Trump. I mean, like that's, I think that's kind of the wild card that, that we don't know yet [00:37:00] because the previous two surveys that you did, the, these non participant people, the unlikely voters, they didn't like the other Republicans before Trump.And so. That, that remains to be seen. And you kind of see that with the difficulty that all these other Republicans have had gaining traction. And I keep seeing that, more kind of like Republican consultants or, or commentators. They have this idea in their head that Donald Trump is the weakest of our major candidates in the general election. And I think the opposite is true that, he's got a lot of people who would never vote for Ron DeSantis, who would never vote for Nikki Haley because they strike them as, corporate overlord types who are repulsive.Whereas they see Trump as, kind of a vulgar guy that they can identify with on a certain level because he's not, he's not, he's not, he's not, hoity toity above it all kind of person. I mean, what [00:38:00] do you think?PALEOLOGOS: Yeah, I think he, I think he connects on a granular level with. lower income, lower educated voters, union households those have a trade or a vocational education. You're absolutely right. He's hitting bases that a lot of these other candidates like DeSantis, Nikki Haley are not hitting.You add to that the most recent polling that shows Donald Trump beating Joe Biden by nine points in the last, the latest ABC News, Washington Post poll. And even if it is an outlier, which they believe it is an outlier, but even it, if it is an outlier, the fact that he's leading or tied, he being Trump is leading or tied with Trump with all of his legal troubles in what's supposed to be a strong economy is going to be a concern and the polling does indicate you're absolutely right. The polling does indicate it's Trump or bust for a lot of these Trump voters. And we've asked the question, if Trump does not get the [00:39:00] nominate of among likely voters, if Trump doesn't get the nomination, what would you do?A considerable amount of people wouldn't vote. A considerable amount of people would vote third party. Some would even vote for Cornell West. A few would even vote for Joe Biden. They would not vote for the Republican nominee.So, I mean, in a way Trump has the Republican party hostage right now, because if he wins, he's going to be vulnerable in a general election on issues like abortion, which he's trying to moderate his position on and, and other issues. But if he loses his a piece of his following, it's just going to walk away. And that will set up a resounding victory for Biden or whoever the Democratic nominee is.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Yeah. And what happens after him? I mean, one way or the other, in 2028 he's not going to be running. And so what Republicans do after that point, it's anybody's guess.But they're now at this [00:40:00] point where they've got probably, I mean, it depends on how you plumb the percentage, but you know, somewhere between 35 percent to 55 percent of the Trump voters don't like Republicans.PALEOLOGOS: That's a big problem. That's a big problem. And that's why we've had this debate about the third party and the No Labels candidate, is someone going to, fly in, run as a third party candidate, whoever that might be. And what's the impact going to be in the swing states and in the 2024 election?I mean, I guess the bench really for 2028 for the Republicans is Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Scott Youngkin. Maybe governor Sununu. And that's it. It's kind of a short bench on the Republican side, you've got the people who have run before, Elizabeth Warren, she also got Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris.And, some of the up and comers. Yeah. [00:41:00] Yeah, of course. And it, and there's a big void, but there's a big void on, on both sides. One of the, I. We haven't asked this question on, on our next I mean, on our previous polls, I'm considering asking it in the likely polls that we're going to be doing in the future, but you know, like who would Republicans like to see as a VP?Would they like to see Nikki Haley or whether or not that's even feasible or DeSantis or Scott because he has so many, he has so many detractors right now. And within the ranks that you know, and that might be an important decision that we really haven't factored in. Because if he would have picked somebody from a state that is purple or even blue that could flip to, to Trump, that changes the calculus a little bit.Or if he would have picked somebody like we haven't had anybody Hispanic on a ticket. If he, if he were to pick a Republican [00:42:00] who was Hispanic, what would the impact be, beyond what we know now in the likely voter pool? So still a lot of I mean, still a lot of variables that are out there.Could alternative voting methods increase public interest in voting?SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well now in terms of the I mean, like thinking about third party candidates here, obviously the American political system is heavily-- it wasn't deliberately done this way to minimize the impact of third party candidates, but that is the effect of it. And, some localities have experimented with some other ways of doing elections.So like in California, where I live, there is a multi party primary election and everybody runs in the same primary. And then the top two candidates are in the general election. And then you got other states where they have multi party voting. So you can vote for more than one candidate if you want to.And then they have a runoff after that. And I mean, like, it seems like that that's, people want [00:43:00] alternative electoral systems but it is interesting that, when you, you mentioned No Labels, and then you've got Andrew Yang, who's got his Forward party. And what's interesting with all these, non Republican, non Democratic advocates, they're not focusing on alternative election systems.And the reality is you can't get anywhere as a third party unless the electoral system has changed. You're running a hopeless effort that maybe, you might get a particularly fantastic candidate or a rich candidate like a Ross Perot or something. But that's a flash in the pan. Like people he only knew who he was because he had a billion dollars and was throwing it all the, flushing it down the toilet on these TV specials that he was spending all this money on.Like that's how people knew who he was. But you guys did find there's a strong appetite for third party candidates.PALEOLOGOS: I actually remember the Perot election back, believe it or not, in, in 92, and he won two [00:44:00] of the three televised debates in post debate polling. So he had the money, but he also he simplified the country's problems in a way that mainstream Americans needed the issues to be articulated as.And so, you talk about alternative methods of voting. Look at rank choice voting. I mean, if there was a third party candidate that ran in 2024, what do you think would happen with rank choice voting? You've got Trump voters who would never vote for Biden, Biden voters who would never vote for Trump. But they probably would vote for a third party candidate. And if you had rank choice voting, a third party candidate would do quite well in a national election.And that's because it's the lesser of the two evils.SHEFFIELD: You're no longer in that position. Yeah.PALEOLOGOS: That's right. [00:45:00] I mean, and the evils are so polarized that, someone from the middle would have a better chance than either left or right. And if even if the no, I mean, in the column I wrote, I was talking about the comparable election in a poll.This poll in 2018 showed that. Only 9% were voting third party, and now it's three times that. And the 9%, I think translated to like a few percent of people in the 2000 in the in the, the 2012 election. And now in 2024, it's three times that. So is that going to be 8 or 9% of people voting third-party.If that's the case, it's going to really, really shift things in some of the states that matter like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, and Nevada.So, I mean, you've got a lot to think about. I mean, look at [00:46:00] Nevada's ballot. You're from you're from being from California. You're familiar with Nevada's ballot. Nevada has a ballot option. None of These Candidates. That's an actual ballot option. You can go to the polls and vote None of These Candidates.I think there were like 5 candidates or 4 or 5 candidates for president on the ballot in 2020 and still people were saying, imagine that you go to the polls, or you vote by absentee in Nevada and there are 5 candidates for president and you don't select any of them. You voted, but you voted None of These Candidates.And these are people who are likely voters. Forget online. These are people who actually went to the polls in Nevada in 2020 and selected None of These Candidates. It's crazy. Yeah, that's the kind of thinking that's out there.Trump's simpler messaging helps him with lower-knowledge citizensSHEFFIELD: and I guess we have to acknowledge that a lot of these unlikely voters, they don't know as much about politics. And maybe that's why they might not like candidates, [00:47:00] that's possible, right?And what it suggests, though, is that I think there's another possibility is that the major parties, they're not adequately explaining themselves or carrying the message to people who might actually like what they have to say. But they just think it's too difficult to understand them when they talk.I mean, you constantly hear Democrats say that Biden did all these things, and nobody knows that he did them, like about student loan forgiveness, or spending on infrastructure projects. And they're correct to point that out, that people don't know that stuff, but ultimately, the blame for that lies on them, not anyone else is responsible for that. If you don't carry your own message, who's going to do it for you?PALEOLOGOS: Absolutely. I mean, there is a messaging problem. There is a messaging problem. And part of it is, and Republicans do the same thing. There's a lot of infighting. There was a lot of infighting, in the Republican party, there still is. You'll see it, at the next Republican debate out in [00:48:00] California and there's infighting in the Democrat.We should be doing this. No, we should be doing that. We have to do more of this. And so when you're spinning your wheels like that, time goes by and the message never gets out. It's not, it's not a reinforced message. But, even with all of the good news, and there is a lot of good news in the government statistics that are being released on employment numbers.But even with all of that, I mean, the poll we released last week, which was a kitchen table poll on the economy we found that it, we gave people seven categories that people spend money on seven out of seven categories. People will make it under 50, 000 of cutting back. On basic stuff, food, groceries, clothing, their electricity, they're cutting back on 7 out of 7.Now, people make under 50, 000 is a good chunk of them that a Democratic voters. They're either students who are just starting out 1st job. They're not making 50, 000 right out of their [00:49:00] college, whether it's a. Good college, community college, or whatever, or older people who are on fixed incomes. They're getting social security, whatever they may be, taking in 30 grand or 40 grand.They may not have any debt, but that's all their income is 30, 40, 000. And they can't put food on their table. So, you could put out all the positive messaging you want policy wise. And that's great, but if people are stressed out at the end of the week because their credit card bills are through the roof or they can't pay their bills, how are people supposed to feel?SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, no, it's true. And I think Democrats, they missed the boat on gas prices and inflation with that. They didn't pay attention to it as early as they could have. And then Republicans, again, like Trump is, he is very different from a regular Republican in that he is so much better at, touting his own [00:50:00] accomplishments or at least claiming some, right?And so he's able to get a lot more people aware of him. And again, these are people that are, that would have probably been predisposed to him in any way. So, but he really understands communications a lot better than any other politician in the game right now, I feel like.PALEOLOGOS: Yeah, he does. And the good news for Democrats is they have time, they acknowledge they have a messaging problem. They acknowledge there's a vacuum there. And this is in October of 2024. It's a year, a year away plus, and they have time to figure that out. If Trump is the nominee, they're going to make the election about democracy.Here's a guy that tried to overthrow the country, the country and change an election. And they're going to do due diligence to try and make that happen.If Trump has any legal victories between now and then, even if it's-- not just court delays, but any legal victories, he's going to tell that as you see, I was innocent. They were coming after me and, [00:51:00] and all of that.So it's going to be a fabulous story month to month to see which of the forces prevail.On the one hand, if the economy rebounds and immigration, the immigration problem begins to have a delta that's going in the right direction, it's going to be hard to vote Biden out of office. If the economy continues to be on a tailspin and our poll, our kitchen table poll shows that people are really stressed out and spending less, which is going to impact corporate earnings, which is going to impact layoffs, interest rates are high. Capital is going to be tough. If that spiral continues into next year, it's going to be tough for people to vote for Joe Biden.Especially if the border issues aren't going in the right direction. So all of the cultural issues that you hear about and teaching, parental rights in schools and guns and opioids are all important issues, climate change abortion rights. But if people can't survive from week to week [00:52:00] in terms of their own kitchen tables, it's going to be a really difficult election.Wrap-upSHEFFIELD: Yeah, the other stuff doesn't matter nearly so much.Yeah, so let's maybe wrap on one topic that was not in the poll here, and hasn't been in the previous ones is religion. You did not ask people's religious opinions on that.And I think that that's, and I'll say as somebody who used to do polling when I was at The Hill, I've always tried to make it religious questions more of an issue because I think that people have wrongly used education as a proxy for worldview, and religion probably gets closer to that in terms of how often they're attending or what their beliefs are about religious fundamentalist viewpoints.So like, asking them, do you believe in evolution, humans evolved? Or do you believe the earth is 7, 000 years old? Like those, I believe are[00:53:00] probably the biggest predictors of what your vote's going to be on how you answer those questions. And so just want to put that in your, put that in your, in your ear, if I could at this juncture here. Do you have any thoughts on that?PALEOLOGOS: No, we did, we did ask questions about religion in earlier election cycles. We haven't. And I don't think it's just Suffolk. I think a lot of pollsters have kind of put those questions aside. I'd be happy to sort of revive that you have put it in my head and because I think it's something that hasn't been done a lot.Part of the reason is because people just it's like everything else, especially people who are not likely voters, they're certainly not devout anything. Especially those people who are at the end of their lives or disabled or, I mean, I believe that a lot of people have organized religion is [00:54:00] another one of those institutions that is really failing. And maybe it takes times like these and times of crisis to bring people back into that.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so, we've been talking today with David Paleologos. Your name literally means old word.PALEOLOGOS: That's right, "ancient word." Ancient word, right?SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yep. Okay. Well, thanks for being here, David. It's been a great discussion.PALEOLOGOS: Absolutely.SHEFFIELD: And so that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us for the conversation. And of course, you can get more of this show at You can get access to the video, audio, and transcripts of all the episodes. And we have both free and paid subscriptions to the show.If you have a paid subscription, you get access to a little bit more content, and I definitely appreciate your help with that. And if you are not able to support the show financially, I do definitely appreciate you leaving a nice [00:55:00] review on Apple podcasts or whatever other podcast platform you are using to listen to the show.And if you're on YouTube please be sure to like and subscribe to the show so you can get it sent to you whenever we come out with a new one. Thank you very much for that. And I will see you next time. [00:56:00] This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/16/202356 minutes, 48 seconds
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So This Just Happened #013: Doja Cat and toxic narratives

Episode Topics* People are taught by society their personal self-worth is at least partially a function of their relationship status or how much sex they’re having. It’s a toxic narrative that manifests in many different ways but must* Rapper Doja Cat provoked her fans by wearing a shirt of a neo-Nazi, after she earlier had been demonstrated to have used racial slurs and alt-right memes. But she’s not alone in being a non-white young person who flirts with racists.* How violence, terrorism, and oppression in Israel are dividing the American leftTimecodes00:00 — How women and men are taught opposite lies about sex and relationships07:43 — Doja Cat and racist non-white people23:52 — Israel and Palestine are dividing the U.S. leftJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/13/202334 minutes, 44 seconds
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Doomscroll #013: Forbes boots Trump off richest 400 list

Timecodes00:11 — Trump rages at getting kicked off Forbes 400 richest list04:35 — RFK Jr. launches "independent" candidacy, gets bashed by Republicans who fear he'll take their voters08:59 — Florida Republican activist indicted for voter fraud16:23 — Mike Lindell's lawyers are refusing to work for him anymore21:05 — Biden's dog Commander removed from White House after biting incidents25:08 — Pamela Anderson earns praise for going make-up freeFollow or die!Doomscroll This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/11/202332 minutes, 57 seconds
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Encore: Edward H. Miller on how Republicans became the John Birch Society party

Episode SummaryWilliam Faulkner’s line that “the past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past,” is certainly true in regards to today’s Republican Party, which, quite literally, is an outgrowth of a conspiracy revolution that began in the 1940s and fifties, and never really stopped.A key figure in the through-line of American reaction is Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, a conspiracy group that he founded in 1958, which still exists today.The John Birch Society has many interesting stories of its own. And we’ll discuss that in this episode, but Welch and his group  are also important in their placement relative to other Republicans. And also how people outside the GOP responded to them,  particularly Democratic and progressive elites.There’s a tendency among elite Democrats to think that the radicalization loop that the Republican Party has been stuck in is just somehow irrelevant, that people will automatically know that right-wing extremists are foolish and crazy, and so therefore, they don’t need to be countered. But as we’ve seen, this is a terrible error.Joining me for an in-depth discussion about all this is Edward H. Miller.  He is a teaching professor at Northeastern University and the author of A Conspiratorial Life: Robert Welch, the John Birch Society and the Revolution of American Conservatism, which just recently came out. He’s also the author of Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy, which he published in 2015.(This episode of Theory of Change aired previously on December 10, 2021. The video of the conversation is also available.)TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Thanks for being here today, Ted.EDWARD H. MILLER: Oh, it’s a great pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for having me on your show.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, all right. So I guess before we get details of what we’re talking about here, tell us a little bit, how did you become interested in this material about right-wing extremism in 20th century America?MILLER: I attended Boston College for my PhD and I took a seminar with professor Seth Jacobs at Boston College. And it was a graduate seminar on from 1865 to the present, and I read Lisa McGirr’s book Suburban Warriors. It’s a classic, came out in 2001 and it explored the rise of the conservative movement and the suburban warriors of Southern California, looking at the grassroots and how they got involved initially in the early 1960s, and how they came to California and how they helped elect the Governor Reagan in 1966 and then pursued social issues throughout the seventies. And then finally supporting Reagan in 1980.They also were very much active in the (1964) Barry Goldwater campaign and having read, having read Suburban Warriors, I became interested in other epicenters of American conservatism. And I wondered if there were more. And she mentioned in her book that there were more in Atlanta which Kevin Kruse had explored in White Flight.And I came upon Dallas, Texas, and I looked at Dallas, Texas, and in very much the same way. I explored, I did a study of Dallas, Texas called Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy that took a look at the individuals, the grassroots figures, as well as the elites, who led a movement for conservatism, getting involved in the Goldwater campaign, getting involved in the Reagan campaign in the 1980s, as well as 1976 when he ran against Gerald Ford for the nomination.So it was a great moment in my career to discover a topic that I became really fascinated with. And then the rest is history.I started to pursue that topic. And I had an advisor at the time who mentioned, instead of Dallas, instead of heading all the way down to Dallas to do your dissertation, why don’t you study the John Birch Society?And I said well, I’m not really, I’m not really sure I know enough about the John Birch Society. I looked at the archives at Brown University where they’re located. And at the time, I thought it was an organization that was not as important as it is. And I thought it would be an outlier and it would not help my professional career, to be honest, to study that.But I continued to heed his wisdom and pursued that as my next book. I’m looking at Robert Welch and I became interested in biography.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Okay. So the John Birch Society, I think you’re right that a lot of people haven’t heard about them. And there’s a lot of reasons for that. One of them being that sort of Republican elites tried to take attention away from them. And we’ll get into that. But it also kind of fits within this larger tendency among sort of centrist pundits, or, liberal, conventional, liberal professors to think that, right-wing extremism is just the fringe of the fringe. It’s not relevant to anything. And nobody cares about what they think. And this is a tendency that’s, unfortunately, very consistent in American history. And we keep seeing that over and over again.Even in terms of the history of American conservatism, writing it, for a long time, the only people who wrote about this movement that came along and literally took over a political party were the people who agreed with it. And there were no academics just writing a neutral history. There were a handful of progressive historians that were writing about it. Otherwise, it was just not something that historians were interested.They wanted to have the 50,000th book about Adolf Hitler and World War II. Because of course we need more of those, right? But something that happened in your own country, a party getting taken over by crazy people, ‘well, that’s not interesting.’ Would you agree that people kind of did that in historian academic world?MILLER: No, I think it’s absolutely true. The conservative movement, the narrative of the conservative movement was shaped significantly by one of its most important inventors, William F. Buckley, who was a prolific writer and there’s the phrase, “If you write the history, that’s how it’s remembered.” And he, that’s what he did.He continued to write a lot about the history, not in a monograph form, but in essays and articles. And he was very much a gatekeeper of American conservatism. And him and other folks like George Nash who explored the intellectual history of American conservatism, determined that there were three strands of American conservatism. An anticommunist strand, a traditionalist strand, as well as a libertarian strand.And both of those folks were very instrumental in determining what historians looked at. And so, a famous historian said in, I think it was the early 1990s, he said, ‘Well, how come we don’t have any books on American conservatism?’And there it began. And we started to see a plethora of historians exploring American conservatism, starting of course, with the McGirr book, which is probably the most famous.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And then of course we got Rick Pearlstein who has done a number of interesting books. But even once he got started, I still think there was this tendency of, you could just kind of ignore and only I would say, really in the the 2000s did things really get started in the academic world to try to look at this stuff.And there’s just so much material that really hasn’t been written about. And in your case with Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. And that ignorance, despite all these many great volumes that have come out, you still have David Brooks– the New York Times columnist, who now says he’s a moderate Democrat– he wrote a column this week that came out in which he lumped Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater and said that they were in the same tradition. Even though the entire point of the Barry Goldwater political career was that Dwight Eisenhower was, if not a commie, a sympathizer and a liberal.MILLER: Yeah, just to give you a rundown about their ideological background, Dwight Eisenhower expanded Social Security, he expanded education, he passed a scientific bill that would add more engineers in the United States. He built the interstate highway system.Goldwater, he wanted to take all those things apart. He he wanted to decrease the size of the government and introduce less regulation. He spoke of using nuclear weapons in Vietnam.And there were five times in 1954 that Dwight Eisenhower refused to use nuclear weapons, despite the fact that his Joint Chiefs of Staff and his vice-president were encouraging it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yep.MILLER: So there’s a dramatic difference.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. There’s this tendency, I think for a lot of elite centrists or liberals that the only Republicans that they know are well-groomed articulate people like David Brooks or like William F. Buckley and so, to their minds, they don’t think that these people could have any radical ideas because: ‘Well, look, they know how to use a salad fork. They eat soup with a spoon.’They keep doing it. Like they did this with David Duke when he was a young activist, ‘I’m against the KKK. I’m a former KKK member, but then look, I can wear a suit and I look nice on TV.” And they were putting him out there all the time.And then they did this with successive far-right figures over the decades. And more recently with some of these alt-right people. I remember there was this Mother Jones story, which I think will live in infamy in which the lead of the story was about how this white nationalist, he knew how to use chopsticks to eat togarashi tuna. And that was the lead of the story!MILLER: Their culinary habits may have been different, but their statements weren’t obviously different. William F. Buckley said that the white race was the advanced race in a National Review article. And that would be something that would be abhorrent today. He argued that he was for paving over voting rights rather than opening them up. So he was very open to this idea of limiting democracy. There was also other statements he said that the 14th and 15th amendment were inorganic accretions to the Constitution. Those are important amendments that provided voting rights for African-Americans as well as equal rights to African-Americans, at least in theory.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And then his first book, God and Man at Yale, was quite literally him urging Christian conservatives to cancel professors at Yale University. It was just this long litany of: ‘Professor So-and-So doesn’t believe in the resurrection, Professor So-and-So said this thing about John the Baptist , Professor So-and-So might be an atheist, Professor So-and-So is a communist.’Just this endless attempt to cancel people. And then at the same time, going around and saying that they are the oppressed ones. That’s just this consistent behavior, and Donald Trump, for all the terrible things he did, one thing he did was that he showed people that there is this tradition in Republican far right politics to, try to oppress everyone else, while saying that you are the victim.MILLER: Yeah, no, I agree. I think that it is at least given us an opportunity and we’re seeing that today, there are a number of studies that are coming out. John Huntington’s work, my work on Robert Welch, there are other historians who are exploring the far right, that are going to be on the shelves very soon.And also the global far right. We’re starting to combine what was going on around the world to what was going on in the United States. We’re starting to see it as a global movement. So I think that’s an important step we’re starting to see figures embrace what Kim Phillips-Fein called the “baroque strangeness” of American conservatism and the charlatans. And the quote losers, the people who we thought lost, ultimately have turned out to be the winners in politics.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. That’s a great segue into talking about your book here. So, Robert Welch. Who was Robert Welch? The John Birch Society still exists today. So what is the John Birch Society and who was Robert Welch?MILLER: Robert Welch was born in North Carolina in 1899 was first a candy manufacturer and a very precocious individual. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at the age of 16. He actually started to attend there at age 12. And before a brief career in the news business, he decided to attend Harvard Law School, dropped out of Harvard Law School because he was unhappy with Felix Frankfurt’s political philosophy. And then became a very successful candy manufacturer. He created such childhood favorites is the Sugar Daddy, Junior Mints, the Sugar Babies. And there were other types of candies and he did very well in his own career. After that, his business failed due to the crash in 1929.And then he went to work for his brother. After many successful years, his brother was even better at business in the booming 1950s as he was in the 1920s, Welch decided to get involved in politics.He had, he always had a an interest in politics. He ran for lieutenant governor and lost, came in second for the Republican nomination in 1950. But what he did was, he started an organization called the John Birch Society, which was a far right organization that pursued free markets and single issue goals such as ending the career of Earl Warren, impeaching Earl Warren, prohibiting fluoride, getting the United States out of the UN.SHEFFIELD: So his first book, let’s talk about that, tell the audience about his first book is I think that’s another key to understanding him.MILLER: Yeah he was always interested in, he was an intellectual. He was very upset by the the firing of (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur by Truman. And he wrote a book called May God Forgive Us.And this book posited that it was Stalin, not Truman, who fired MacArthur. It was a conspiracy. It was a conspiracy of the State Department to lose the Korean War. And it was a conspiracy among the State Department to lose China. This is really a book about China. He is a member of a group that is fascinated with China and Formosa [Taiwan].SHEFFIELD: And that idea, sort of has come back again, this obsession with China now.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: And that’s one thing I do want to emphasize to people in this episode is that so many of the ideas of Robert Welch, of his conspiracy theories, his targets of his theories, just the general ideas of them, like the fluoride, that was the precursor to being concerned about vaccines that we see today. And the obsession with communists and now we’re seeing that with critical race theory and antifa obsessions.Basically, I think the easy way to understand the career of Robert Welch is that he was a proto-Alex Jones in a lot of ways, but a smarter version of him. Would you say that’s an accurate summation of him ?MILLER: I think that, if you take a look at the styles that Alex Jones has, Robert Welch is not, does not have that animated, pumped up style. Robert Welch would drone on about that the fluoride is going to get into your system and it’s going to enervate the vigor of the American public. And we’re going to turn to communism and that we’re on a slippery slope to losing the sovereignty of the United States, but he would do so in a way that was not that is not as histrionic. That’s not as dramatic. If you look at his films, they are a lot more calm, and he would present himself in a way that– it was just a different style than Alex Jones. He wouldn’t be dressed up in a frog suit.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Okay. Well, I guess I should clarify, not in terms of their personal style, but in terms of their entrepreneurship, their conspiracy factories. Alex Jones has made multiple films, so did Robert Welch. They both made multiple films. They both had multiple publications. And they both were actively, constantly trying to get into Republican politics and align themselves with candidates. Alex Jones was Ron Paul, he was endlessly flacking for him for decades before he started working for Donald TrumpMILLER: I’ll use a line from The Wire. ‘Everything has to fit together in the mind of Robert Welch, everything kind of connects.’ And this connects to that. He has a worldview in which there are elites who make the decisions, first it’s the communists, and then it’s the insiders who are establishment folks who live on the East Coast and are financiers. And then it’s the Illuminati because it changes from being communist conspiracy and it turns into something bigger than a communist conspiracy. It turns into a very much like the Bilderbergers, as Alex Jones would say.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I think, and there’s another parallel besides in the QAnon movement also, it has this fantastic, gigantic conspiracies that no one ever can really see. And the reason that they’re real is that you can’t see them.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: So yeah. All right. So Welch was obsessed with Dwight Eisenhower and so his first book, it was attacking him and then he kept doing that throughout his career. And that was the topic of his next book. Can you talk to you about that one?MILLER: What happens is Welch gets involved in the Taft campaign in 1952–SHEFFIELD: Tell everybody who that was.MILLER: Robert Taft was an Ohio senator, very very conservative. He was called Mr. Republican. Just a little bit to the left of Joseph McCarthy. And a little bit more logical than Joseph McCarthy, although Taft sort of embodies the same attitudes of Joseph McCarthy without the ridiculousness of Joseph McCarthy. And certainly without the alcohol that Joseph McCarthy imbibed every day.But Welch gets involved in the 1952 election for Republican president, the nomination for the Republican presidency. And he notices something about what’s going on, because he’s always thinking in sort of conspiratorial terms. And he’s always thinking about: It’s not right, he says the folks who are associating with the Eisenhower people. He comes to the conclusion that Eisenhower is a– Welch comes to the conclusion and he writes a letter about this. It’s just a personal letter to a friend and then it grows into a larger letter and he basically says that it’s my opinion, it’s my belief that if you take all these things together, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that Eisenhower is a communist. And he backs it up with all this evidence that ‘where did they find this individual in the Army? Where did they where did this individual come out of all of a sudden to win a nomination that was very clearly in the hands of Robert Taft before Eisenhower pulled it away from him. And then what happened in Texas with the switch of the delegates — I explain it more in the book, but there’s a switch in among delegates in Texas.Welch says that basically that the election was stolen from Robert Taft by Eisenhower, with the assistance.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And as a theory, it’s totally absurd. The idea that the chief general of the United States, the Supreme Commander of the entire armed forces who won World War II isn’t going to be a popular guy. It is an asinine idea that he would have to steal an election.MILLER: Or again, that he’s a communist at all. Eisenhower is a patriot. Is a devoted patriot, probably the most, one of the most devoted patriots in the history of the country. It’s Dwight Eisenhower.SHEFFIELD: And this is another parallel with today though, with the idea that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump, even though Donald Trump was literally the most unpopular American president in modern history, since the invention of opinion polls, he is the most unpopular president ever.And so the fact that he lost an election, is not a conspiracy . You can’t really challenge that on any credible grounds, but they did.MILLER: And Taft was an aloof politician. He was a very good politician. He was elected. He did well in Ohio. He was from Ohio, but he certainly was not a popular general with a with a national backing. He didn’t have the support ofSHEFFIELD: And universal name recognition.MILLER: He didn’t have the name recognition. He had the support of the McCormick newspapers in Chicago. He had the backing of folks in the Midwest, but Eisenhower had the East the Northeast, which was very important at the time. He had the newspapers in the East. He had the backing of the rank and file. And he was this smiling gregarious– anybody who came near him, saw that he had a innate ability to lead. And Taft was not like that Taft was dour. And he looked like a professor, and he didn’t have the the charisma of an Eisenhower.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. But this was such an explosive thesis, that Welch actually kind of tried to circulate the book in secret, to a large degree initially. But eventually, it got out and he kept trying to whip people up against Eisenhower, Republicans, and it never worked.But at the same time, it kind of laid a groundwork of resentment against Eisenhower among a certain set of Republicans. And so that led, I would say, not directly, but it kind of that metastasized to some degree, into the founding of National Review, which came out a couple of years later, I think it was 1955. And the point of National Review was that Dwight Eisenhower is a liberal and he’s a RINO [Republican in Name Only], and he needs to be drummed out of the Republican party. That was the point of National Review in the beginning, right? Buckley hated Eisenhower, he just didn’t think he was a communist.MILLER: Oh yes. He was concerned with– the masthead of National Review said: ‘Stop, we’re trying to get history to stop. We don’t want any more Social Security legislation. We don’t need anything else. No more New Deal legislation. We don’t need any more countries taken over by Stalin.SHEFFIELD: Roll back. We have to rollMILLER: It back. Yes. Liberation. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: And so, but, and that’s why he (Buckley) got the letter, I would say that–MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Eisenhower was because he was seen as somebody who had hated him. Even though initially, Buckley and Welch were kind of going for the same goals to oppose Eisenhower and roll back the welfare state and engage in nuclear war with the Soviet Union, they eventually came to hate each other. Can you talk about that relationship? Because its very complicated, and this is probably the biggest area where the media bias of conservative historians has incorrectly described in a lot of people’s minds about how that, that transpired the events between the two of them.MILLER: Yeah, well, as I said before, Buckley was a gatekeeper and he supported Nixon. Wasn’t probably his first choice in 1960, but Buckley was with Nixon. As time passed, Buckley, his goal became to elect a conservative Republican in 1964. There was a a moment in 1960 at the Republican National Convention in which Goldwater got up on stage and said if we want to take this party back, and I believe we can, we’ve got to work together, but Nixon’s your man.So Buckley, in roughly 1961 comes to the conclusion that Welch is a problem. This idea of conspiracy encroaching into the conservative movement is problematic. So he suggests, initially rather gently that, that Welch step aside to the editing room not– he doesn’t condemn the Society or anything like that.SHEFFIELD: And that’s a critical point, I think to note, because there is this false narrative that right-wing historians have put out there to claim that he was against the whole Society. But he wasn’t.MILLER: No.SHEFFIELD: He was specifically, and this was something that Barry Goldwater also was working with him to try to, they wanted the Bircher votes and they wanted their loyalty, but they wanted to control them.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: And to be the ones that controlled the conspiracy theories. And so–MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: That’s what the attacks against Welch personally were about, but I’m sorry, go ahead.MILLER: Barry Goldwater said, these are pretty good guys. I know these guys. I have some guys on my staff, they’re on my staff. They’re part of the the John Birch Society. This is not a bad group of people. It’s their leader that’s the problem. It’s Welch who is ultimately, the person who should be. The smoking typewriter as Buckley puts it, has to be extinguished.And he doesn’t succeed with that despite the fact that there is a myth, I would say, that Welch is drummed out of the conservative movement. And that’s the argument. That’s essentially the argument of my book. That’s the argument of A Conspiratorial Life, that despite the fact that there’s an effort to move him aside, it didn’t happen.He (Buckley) tried to make that case, but as time has passed, we’ve realized that, hey, well, they didn’t go away.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and the John Birch Society still exists.MILLER: It still exists.SHEFFIELD: Continuously. Yeah, and in fact, Glen Youngkin, who just won the gubernatorial election in Virginia, he campaigned at an event that was held by the John Birch Society. So that just gives you an idea of the influence that they have.MILLER: I make an argument in the book that the Reagan revolution was in part created by the John Birch Society. Now you say: ‘Whoa, that’s a provocative statement.’ But I took a look at the evidence. It was the most surprising aspect of all my research. When I went back and I took a look at the issues that Reagan ran on: abortion, against the ERA, tax cuts. These were all driven by the John Birch Society prior to these organizations being driven by the Republican Party. People like the Moral Majority. These cultural, and these social issues, and these economic issues that really, that put Reagan over the top in 1980.SHEFFIELD: One thing about Welch, I think that he has in common with a lot of these other early conservative movement figures is that he was a southerner. If you look at almost all of these organizations that popped up in the forties and the fifties, they were headed by southerners.And that’s an aspect of the history, and of the personal history of American conservatism that I think hasn’t really been picked up a lot.MILLER: Yeah. Excuse me. So I think my voice is I’ve lost my voice a little bit, but yeah. He’s from North Carolina growing up in a section of North Carolina and he almost has a Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer life growing up. He cavorts on this old Southern mansion with his brothers and sisters, and he’s the favorite child because he’s the brilliant, studious one who doesn’t have to do the chores.But at the same time, he’s encouraged to pursue his studies, and his parents give him a great opportunity to see the South. At the age of 10, he’s sent off to Elizabeth City in North Carolina– on his own, by the way– which is a fascinating town of hobos and vagabonds and all these. It was a bustling community and he gets to see this at a young age.And he experiences all this via himself in this hotel. His parents pick them up for the weekend, bring him back to his home. So he really is a child of the South. He is a child of the South, but he becomes a Northern transplant in his late teens, 19, moves to Boston. But his family, his ancestors owned slaves and they were highly successful farmers. He is very much in the Southern tradition.SHEFFIELD: And not just him, though. So Buckley was from Texas–MILLER: That’s right.SHEFFIELD: And Mexico. And a lot of these other, like Clarence Manion, where was he from? Tell us a little bit about him.MILLER: Well, Clarence Manion was the Dean of Notre Dame and his great influence on– this is sort of an interesting this is an interesting thing. He has a tremendous influence on Welch. He opposes the war.SHEFFIELD: Well, he wasn’t just an academic. He was a talk radio host.MILLER: That’s right. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And that’s important because, again, most people’s understanding of early American conservatism is filtered through this idea that National Review was the only right-wing media outlet that existed.MILLER: Oh yeah.SHEFFIELD: And that wasn’t true at all.MILLER: No, no.SHEFFIELD: Clarence Manion was just massively popular–MILLER: Oh yeah.SHEFFIELD: — as a radio host. He was in a lot of ways, kind of a mixture, he would mix in religious stuff with political stuff and was very integral. And then it’s an aspect of things– like there’s an attempt now, people like David Brooks that are trying to claim that these early, far right figures were not Christian nationalists or were not interested in Christian supremacy and things like that, opposing, atheists or feminism. But the reality is they were, they hated those things. But I’m sorry, you were telling a story about Clarence Manion there.MILLER: It got me thinking about the importance of Clarence Manion to the movement. Welch was a member of the America First Committee.And Trump of course, ran on this concept of America First, a nationalism. And what Manion says is that he’s against the war. Primarily because if we go to war in Europe–SHEFFIELD: World War II, you’re talking about.MILLER: –we will be influenced by Europe. We don’t want to be influenced by Germany. We don’t want to be influenced by France. Because we are different. We are in the British tradition, we are in a tradition before the French Revolution, he says is critical because in the French Revolution, it was a key moment in the history of civilization, because they’re basically saying that rights come from man, not from God. And in the American Revolution, rights come from God, which the conservatives argue is still the case in the United States and in England.So it’s a key point that Manion convinces Welch to be true. And Welch embraces this concept. I think it’s the key point that Manion brings to the conservative movement.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, that’s an interesting observation, and it definitely is relevant to today. Because if you listen to pretty much any Republican speech, they almost all say that line.MILLER: We don’t want to be part of old Europe. That was kind of part of the attitudes of 20th century Republicanism. And these folks are also Asia firsters. They believe that as we had talked about before that China is critical to the future of the world. They see the American mission as a continuation of that westward expansion, starting in the 13 Colonies, and moving westward. Moving into the Pacific. In the Spanish American War, we acquired Guam in 1898. We acquired Hawaii, the Philippines from the Spanish American war. Then in 1946, we gave back the Philippines.But this idea of Formosa or Taiwan is critical. And many of the people of Welch’s ilk, including William Knowland, who was known as the Senator from Formosa, are fascinated with– they think the future of the 21st century is the East. And that’s part of the themes that we see today.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. That’s true.So Barry Goldwater and his activists were able to sort of foist him onto the Republican party in 1964. And what was the role that the John Birch Society played during that campaign and the general election?MILLER: The John Birch Society was critical. They were the grassroots leaders. It was kind of a unspoken rule, among the Goldwater folks, that you don’t want to advertise too much that you’re a member of the John Birch Society. You don’t want to advertise that you’re a member of the John Birch Society, but they are the folks who really get the Goldwater campaign moving. They’re the folks who really are pushing the campaign against Lyndon Johnson. And even before President Kennedy was assassinated, they thought that they were running, they were going to be running against President Kennedy in 1964. They are very much involved in the efforts to support Barry Goldwater.And interesting ly enough, Robert Welch was not an individual who particularly supported candidates. The John Birch Society was primarily an educational organization. And I can’t remember a letter in which Robert Welch says that he wants a particular president to be president, but he does so when it comes to Barry Goldwater, he says that, ‘I like Barry Goldwater. I hope he becomes president someday.’ And his word carries a lot of weight. So a lot of his supporters are going to go wild about Barry because of that.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Okay. And then what was the reaction that they had after Goldwater got crushed so badly?MILLER: They’re disappointed. And there’s this sense that, there’s a narrative that that’s it for the John Birch Society, that they’re a thing of the past. But Welch is savvy. That was actually his nickname in college because it was, he was so great at math.And what he does is, he comes up with all these– he re-invigorates the John Birch Society. He says, all right, we’ve got to refashion this, he’s a salesman. And he says, what we’re going to do is we’re going to develop these ad hoc committees.The John Birch Society, he says, has a bad reputation. He’s not that hopeful to get more members joining, but he establishes these ad hoc committees, like MOTOREDE (Movement to Restore Decency) or Support Your Local Police, SYLP, which is kind of a “Blue Lives Matter” organization. There are other acronyms that he comes up with, TRIM, Tax Relief Immediately. And what these ad hoc groups are, they’re led by members of the John Birch Society, but you don’t have to become a member of the John Birch Society to join it.So, if you’re interested in tax reform, sure. You’re going to sign up with TRIM. If you don’t like what’s going on as far as the teaching of sex education in your kids’ schools, you’re going to sign up with MOTOREDE.SHEFFIELD: And it was an antecedent of this anti critical race theory stuff, where they were encouraging–MILLER: Yes.SHEFFIELD: –people to show up at their school boardsMILLER: And that’s exactly one of the first things he says, you have to get involved in your PTA. It’s critical. You have to become a member of the school board. Actually, Welch is an elected member of the Belmont school board. It’s the only elected position he ever holds. He’s elected in Belmont.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Where is Belmont?MILLER: Oh, well, Belmont is, Belmont is close to Arlington. It is in Massachusetts. It is right outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts, kind of the greater Boston area, very affluent community.SHEFFIELD: Okay. And he was also very big in Southern California. The biggest area for the John Birch Society was in particular Orange County, California.MILLER: Yep.SHEFFIELD: What was the reason do you think that they got so big in Orange County, California?MILLER: Oh, that’s a good question. It’s a complicated answer. Because there’s so many different things that are going on in Southern California at the time. You have, first of all, aerospace is growing. You have a significant military presence. You also have some liberal elite that conservatives are not happy with. A lot of these folks who are coming into California are from Texas and the South.SHEFFIELD: And the Republican Party that was here in California was a more moderate organization.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Than they were used to, and that they preferred. They were kind of the locus of Ronald Reagan’s gubernatorial victory as well.MILLER: Yeah. Yeah. Welch doesn’t support Reagan because interestingly Reagan supports the most liberal abortion bill in the country in 1967 now Welch says he’s not a conservative after that. This shows how far ahead the John Birch Society was, as far as these issues, think about it today. That Ronald Reagan was not conservative enough for them. They were ahead on the abortion issue. They were ahead of the the Moral Majority. Folks like W.A. Criswell, who is the pastor of the largest Baptist church, was pro-choice in the late sixties.Now the John Birch Society is comprised about 50% Catholic. What happens is, Bill Buckley’s brother, James Buckley, is elected senator from New York. Buckley wins in ’70, Nixon sees this and says: ‘I can win in 72 by being pro-life.’All of a sudden the switch begins in 72. And along with that switch among Nixon, is the switch among the Protestant evangelicals. They become pro-life, along with the conservative Catholics, but conservative Catholics, like John McManus, who was Robert Welch’s right-hand man, was a strong supporter of pro-life policies as early as the sixties, mid sixties.SHEFFIELD: And by that time Welch was, he was starting to get up there in age. And he didn’t really there was a question within the organization of who was going to take it over from him. But he kind of– like a lot of authoritarian personalities or leaders– was against having anybody that was too close to him in the minds of the membership.So he didn’t really push a lot of that. What, what happened after he basically passed away what happened after he passed away? Was there a power struggle within the John Birch Society or,MILLER: Yeah, there’s a significant power struggle. That’s the advantage of doing a biography, I didn’t follow the continuation really of the John Birch Society, but there is a significant power struggle.Larry McDonald becomes the president of the John Birch Society for a brief period after Welch is no longer president. But there continues to be a power struggle. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, and one of the other crucial figures that was in the same group with Welch was Billy James Hargus. Tell us a little bit about him.MILLER: Well, Billy James Hargis was interesting figure of the Christian Crusade, and he was one of the first, one of the first Southern Baptists who really gets involved in politics. And Welch and Billy James Hargis kind of back each other together, Welch reprints some of his material, and especially his material concerning sex education, and the other issues concerning morality.It’s kind of a precursor to the Moral Majority.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and he was one of the first televangelists.MILLER: Televangelist, yeah. Now Welch, he writes a really important letter. It’s called the Roemer letter, and he basically said I’m not a fundamentalist. I grew up as a fundament. But I don’t adhere to a fundamentalist philosophy. And this is important, because this is able to attract people like Tim LaHaye, and you can see Tim LaHaye in some John Birch Society videos, a young Tim LaHaye in the 1960s.SHEFFIELD: Although but Tim LaHaye was a fundamentalist.MILLER: Yeah, he is. Yes but what happens is Welch, even though he’s not a fundamentalist, Tim LaHaye says: ‘I usually don’t go into ecumenical organizations, but I will make an exception because of this Roemer letter. Welch is saying that I’m not a fundamentalist, but he’s coming clean. He says, he believes in Jesus, he believes in as long as people live a life of morality, that’s all it matters. And LeHaye is very interested in this.And that’s why about 50% of the John Birch Society members wind up being Protestant. So LaHaye is able to join this and signs up as well as Billy James Hargis.SHEFFIELD: And Hargis specifically, he was also working with, he was also involved with a lot of these traveling revival things which the John Birch Society integrated itself into them in different ways. One of the things they would do is that they would have a core of national speakers and then they would bring in local pastors and clergy. And they kind of eventually tried to sort of use that as a recruiting base for political candidates to also try to bring them in as well.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: And one of the people that they were pushing heavily, which is kind of interesting in retrospect, was Ezra Taft Benson who was Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of agriculture.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Welch, a number of times tried to get him to run for president. And actually he did one time very early on. It was an abortive campaign.MILLER: He was Mormon.SHEFFIELD: And he was Mormon. Yeah. And they kept pushing around the margins with other different candidates. What was the relationship with Welch and the American Independent Party? Have you looked at that at all?MILLER: I haven’t really looked at that. I didn’t explore that enough to comment on that.SHEFFIELD: Oh, okay. All right.Well, what about in terms of race where was Robert Welch in terms of segregation and civil rights?MILLER: That’s a great question. He believed that the civil rights movement was driven by the communists. And for instance, during the Birmingham in 1963 when those terrible pictures of where the policemen are hitting the children, and the African-Americans who are in the streets, and there are dogs. Welch comes up with this rather preposterous theory that what occurred was, there was a agitator who hit a dog, and that this caused the whole melee.And then, the photo was taken. I think most people have seen the photo, the terrible photo of a German shepherd one of Bull Connor’s German Shepherd’s attacking an individual. But Welch comes to this preposterous conclusion.Now it really disappoints me. He could have been so much more human, on the issue of race. Because he grew up in a majority African-American community. And it was one of the things that it’s very clear on. There were also some instances where he would he would use a dialect in front of African-American individuals. He would try to mimic African-Americans in front of their presence.But there were members of the John Birch Society who were African-American, they were like Manning Johnson wrote Color, Communism, and Common Sense . And Manning Johnson basically said, he said that he was a former communist. He was trained and learned in his training that there was going to be an all-black part of the South. And Welch believed this.And he promoted Manning Johnson’s work. Manning Johnson was killed in a car accident, which led to, as you can imagine, more conspiracy theories about what happened to Manning Johnson. But it’s highly likely that there was no wrongdoing, but it’s one of those situations where, in my book and how I interpret it, I think he could have been better. And certainly he was more like Eisenhower when it came to those issues.SHEFFIELD: But I guess that’s not what the people who were in his movement wanted. Even before his famous vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Barry Goldwater.MILLER: Yeah.SHEFFIELD: That the American right was against civil rights.MILLER: Mm-hmm. And remember he’s also, Welch attends the 1956 state’s rights convention and speaks at it, where T. Coleman Andrews is the nominee. T Coleman Andrews only got a small percentage of the vote. But to be honest, the statements that I have seen that Welch made are less vicious than anything that William F. Buckley said. Buckley said decolonization should be something that we should pursue when Africans stopped eating each other. That’s terrible. I’ve never heard that. I’ve never seen that in, in something that Robert Welch said. Not that I’m justifying anything where he stands, but, in the comparative lens of these things, also, when it came to, he had a lot of Jewish friends.So it’s complicated, very complicated. But then there are some statements that are problematic, but it’s very complicated to make judgments on these as an historian. Because you hear things from people in a comparative light that are worse, it’s still disappointing to hear.And it’s one of the, one of the hard parts about writing a book about somebody who lived throughout the 20th century. It’s it’s it’s heavy, that’s a heavy, that’s a heavy load. And I had there was, there were some moments where it is difficult. History can be hard to write.I think that’s something that It has to be considered cause it’s, it’s wrong, it’s morally, it’s against my values and that’s something that’s hard to see.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, no, that’s true.So let’s maybe end with one of your last chapters, I guess it’s the last one I think, is about.MILLER: And actually I wanted to say, this came, I just, one other thing that a lot of these issues with race and the antisemitism came late because I discovered it in another archives later on in the process. And it was tough to find these things after you’ve got a book and you don’t see– I’ll tell you that the archivist that has the greatest material of far right. It’s Ernie Lazar in his archives. It’s just incredible what he has. But this came late in the process of this discovery, so I just wanted to point that out.SHEFFIELD: Okay. So, and we touched on this a little bit, toward the end of his life, Welch, your last chapter on it is “Making Morning in America,” so the relationship between the Birch Society, Welch, and Ronald Reagan. Maybe just walk us through a short summary of that chapter a bit, if you don’t mind.MILLER: Take the issues of tax cuts. Welch had the TRIM committees. He was active in the propositions in California to lower the property tax. Birchers were heavily involved in that. Take the ERA. Much ink has been written about Phyllis Schlafly and her role in the ERA, but I would argue that Welch and the Birch Society were equally involved in stopping ERA. These are the issues. Take abortion, as I explained before. That was a big part of getting the Moral Majority. Of getting the folks like James Robison on the stage there in Dallas, when Reagan was invited to Dallas at the end of his campaign, when he said, ‘I know you can’t endorse me, but I, I can endorse you.’ All those issues are pursued by the John Birch Society in the 1970s, a time when the John Birch Society was the traditional narrative, is it was moribund. So it completely changes the perspective of this organization as ineffective by late 1960s, as I, saw it.SHEFFIELD: So did he change, Welch, change his perspective on Reagan ever?MILLER: I think it was just the issues. He wasn’t active in electing candidates, he was just pushing the issues. It was tax reform through TRIM. It was ERA. He was just creating the infrastructure for these issues that Reagan latched upon and the individuals of the Birch Society, and these ad hoc committees naturally gravitated towards the candidate who embraced them.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. All right, how were, what were in his final years, Welch’s? What was that like for him? The Society itself, he had created multiple different organizations but the JBS kind of started hitting some financial hard times because of the way he had structured things. And that was kind of a preoccupation of his latter part of his life, right?MILLER: Yeah. It’s also some of the most interesting, I think it’s probably the most interesting part of the book, because in comes a, kind of a, this big burly, Texas billionaire by the name of Bunker Hunt, H.L. Hunt’s son, who is a fascinating character who deserves a book by himself. He’s, he tries to corner the silver market and it’s, there’s, I devote a whole chapter to it.And basically, he provides the money for the John Birch Society to survive into the 1970s. And as Welch dies in 1985. He has a stroke 83, and he’s kind of– by the end, he’s in decline, but the organization is like a conglomerate. They have a magazine. They have the bulletin. They have the speakers bureau. They have the other organizations, many corporations. And he’s, he is, he’s still the president of the organization, and he speaks at the organizations, and it’s his job to kind of go down and talk to Bunker who is, he’s all into the Illuminati and the Bilderbergers, and he’s got all these theories about– He’s ultimately bailed out by the federal government after his problem with trying to take over the silver market, which American taxpayers pay for.SHEFFIELD: So much for being against socialism, right? (laughs)MILLER: No No. And by 1984, everybody’s meeting at Bunker’s house in Dallas, because that’s where the convention is. So there’s this big barbecue at Bunker’s palatial mansion in Dallas in 1984 for the renomination of the president.SHEFFIELD: Okay. All right. And JBS is still around today. Have you, did you, I know you didn’t write about it, but they seem to have increased their influence in recent years. Would you say that?MILLER: I, I haven’t really followed the present. I’ve always been interested in the past and I’m interested in the the history of how things develop, but, it’s, I always say that it takes about 50 years to figure out how organizations influence. And I think, whether it’s the JBS, or another organization, we talked about Alex Jones. We talked about QAnon. We talked about other organizations.SHEFFIELD: And actually, speaking of Jones specifically, he has actually said that his worldview was formed directly by Birch and–MILLER: Yeah. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: –material, but he said that,MILLER: Or people involved in Taiwan, people who are fascinated with Taiwan, they might’ve read Robert Welch’s book on John Birch. And, I think that there’s a lot of different roads from it. It’s not just the John Birch Society. Today it can be some level of Republican politics and that, that sparked an interest.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, so just a last question here. And I’ve mentioned this earlier, at the top of the show I think that there is a tendency among establishment centrist, or liberals to kind of just ignore this stuff. And did you see that in materials about Robert Welch and the John Birch Society during his lifetime, when in your research, did you see that at all that tendency?MILLER: There, there are a number of new works that are coming out that are on the far right. It’s kind of the, it’s going to be a cottage industry.SHEFFIELD: Oh, no, I’m saying just specifically, why do you think it didn’t wasn’tMILLER: Why did it not? Well, that’s a good question. I think that the Well, there have been some. But I think it goes back to the gatekeepers.This is William F. Buckley is the primary gatekeeper and he is the person who determines how things shape out. And generally, I think there’s been a movement, maybe not culturally, but economically, but politically, if we take a look at the courts today where there’s been a significant shift to the right. And the right has been more successful in making sure that their version, it gets out there.Look at the Dinesh D’Souza books. They sell much more, much better than my books will sell. The books of Bill O’Reilly. These are history books that he’s writing. I wouldn’t consider them the greatest history books, but these are a lot more popular. And these are the books that people are buying, and this is the perception that people have.Historians, maybe we have to do a better job in getting the word out there and getting these books more accessible, and getting the, in getting the truth out there to more people to a greater audience.I try in my research to reach a general audience, not just academia. This is a book that can be read by historians, but maybe we have to do a better job in presenting our past to a broader audience. Some people have tried, but we’ve got our work cut out for us, I think in explaining it.SHEFFIELD: Well, I, yeah, I think that’s a good remark to end on there. We could probably go on all day.MILLER: Absolutely.SHEFFIELD: So, but I don’t want to do that to everybody. So, but yes I do appreciate you coming on today, Ted. So you’re you’re on Twitter, you’re eh_miller. And then your book is called A Conspiratorial Life: Robert Welch, the John Birch Society, and the Revolution of American Conservatism. So thanks for being here today, Ted.MILLER: Matthew, thank you very much for having me on. And it’s been a real pleasure. I’ve enjoyed it.SHEFFIELD: Well, so that is our show for today, everyone. I appreciate you guys for tuning in, and of course this will be available in audio version over at And this show is one of several podcasts you can get over there. We’re a nonprofit media organization that focuses on in-depth coverage of politics, of religion, of media, and society, and understanding how they all fit together.The mainstream media doesn’t understand a lot of the history and understand how it all kind of fits together. And that’s important in understanding what’s going on today. So please do check that out.And please do tell your friends or your family about the show, if you like it. We’ve started up production again this year, and so far we’ve gotten thousands and thousands of views and listens.But we need a lot more because this is just such a big topic to fight for pluralism and try to preserve and understand how things are in the country, and how we can best push back against authoritarianism. So, with that I appreciate everybody joining me and I will see you next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/9/20231 hour, 3 minutes, 52 seconds
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So This Just Happened #007: Republicans in disarray

Thanks for listening and please support the show by giving us a good review on Apple Podcasts!Timecodes01:48 Kevin McCarthy is ousted as Republicans are in disarray08:00 Most mainstream media reporters still won't tell the truth about Republican extremism11:04 Elon Musk's ideological goals for Twitter further revealed14:46 Pre-Musk Twitter wasn't perfect, but he had to destroy it because it allowed the left to organize organically24:04 Rapper Sexyy Red says she "loves" Donald TrumpJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/6/202336 minutes, 10 seconds
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Doomscroll #012: Kevin McCarthy's pathetic last stand

Episode SummaryMatt and Lisa are joined by standup comedian and sex-worker advocate Kaytlin Bailey for a hilarious and not-safe-for-work discussion about Kevin McCarthy’s last stand as Speaker of the House, Republicans saying Donald Trump is religiously devout, and much more.Recorded Monday, October 2, 2023Doomscroll is a Flux Community podcast. We’ve got lots more great articles and podcasts on politics, culture, media, and religion. Join us!Timecodes00:19 — House Republicans launch another loop of America's "Groundhog Day" from hell07:31 — Matt Gaetz goes Kevin McCarthy13:08 — Poll finds Republican voters say Trump is more religious than Mike Pence18:25 — Just 11 people are responsible for 60 percent of school book bans in America24:27 — Democrats beg Marjorie Taylor Greene to stop showing Hunter Biden nudes in hearingFollow or die!Doomscroll Baileyhttps://kaytlinbailey.com This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/4/202330 minutes, 23 seconds
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Theory of Change #089: Lauren Lassabe Shepherd on how reactionary college students invented 'cancel culture' and political consulting

Episode SummaryWhile it’s easy to believe that Donald Trump unleashed the radical forces that threaten American democracy today, the truth is that they have been present within our system for more than 50 years. And in many cases, some of the same people like Roger Stone or Karl Rove who were active on the student right in the 1960s and 1970s are still active today.Although the mid-20th century is known as a time of left-wing activism and political change, the time period was also when today’s far-right began coalescing as well—and in a much more professionalized fashion that has managed to outlast many of their institutional former rivals on the left.There are many areas where this trend can be observed, but one of the easiest to see is in the constant discussion about the term “cancel culture” in mainstream political discourse. The phrase has been repeated so often that it means almost nothing to most people, but it does seem to have a vague meaning when used by Republicans to imply that they are the victims of some sort of censorship and persecution campaign.But in truth, the history of political cancellations really got started by the right wing. It's a history that is important to note and to discuss, especially because not only did reactionary college students invent the entire concept of getting people fired or reprimanded for their political opinions, they invented many of the tools of political consulting along the way as they battled the anti-Vietnam War and civil rights movements.Joining in this episode to talk about all this is Lauren Lassabe Shepherd. She is the author of a new book that is coming out called Resistance from the Right: Conservatives and the Campus Wars in Modern America.Due to some production difficulties, you may notice occasional glitches in the audio of this episode. The video of the conversation is available. Continue scrolling for audio time code chapters and an auto-generated transcript of the audio.Audio Chapters02:50 — While the left grew dramatically during the 1960s, so did the far right07:53 — How far-right activists practically invented political consulting despite getting little attention from historians15:39 — Reactionaries have been building fake student groups for 60 years20:45 — How right-wing activists then and now use student athletes to build control on campus30:07 — Today's far-right isn't conservative, and its creators didn't call themselves conservative37:55 — How libertarianism provided rhetorical cover through "fusionism" to the Christian right47:47 — More on fake student groups54:56 — How right-wing students in the 1960s teamed up with campus police57:31 — Reactionaries invented getting people fired for political views, but they falsely blame the left for it01:02:32 — Left-wing groups and donors spend almost nothing compared to right-wing youth groups01:13:28 — Many of today's far-right actors have been operating continuously since the 1970sAudio TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: It's really great to have you here today, Lauren.LAUREN LASAABE SHEPHERD: Thanks, yeah, thank you for, thank you for the invitation.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Alright, so let's start with kind of a synopsis of your book is covering what time period is it covering here that, in your focus here?SHEPHERD: A very short period, just three years, 1967 to 1970.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. And why those particular three years?SHEPHERD: So, so the book is about, I guess it's easier to understand what the book is is about. So, I'm writing about the campus wars, so American higher education in the 1960s. And there's sort of this [00:03:00] misconception when people think of college campuses in the sixties that, they're radical hotbeds of activism and progressivism. We think of the anti-war movement. We think of the black power movement as it developed on college campuses. We think of Berkeley in 1964.So that's kind of the common understanding of what's going on in American higher ed in those years. But my book pushes back on that and says, yes, it's true. All of those things are of course there, but there's also a smaller group of students on the right, but even though they're smaller, they have sort of an outsized importance in the way that these campus wars develop.So, typically, we understand the war as being between left wing students, especially students associated with the new left and organizations like students for democratic society, or the student nonviolent coordinating committee SNCC and. What I'm suggesting is that the war is [00:04:00] actually a little bit more between students on the right and students on the left.So, yeah, so 1967 to 1970 is the question of why these are the years that I cover is because this is like the intensity, this is when the battles seem to be most consequential and certainly most dramatic. And so there's in terms of the narrative, it's just more interesting to look at those 3 years.This is the height of the Vietnam war. This is when the black power movement really starts to take shape. And we see a movement, at least among civil rights organizers, to step away from, this long tradition of nonviolence and to become a little bit more radical, a little bit more militant.And so I'm looking at how students on the right really push back against that.SHEFFIELD: And so, in this time period, it's, it is critical as a, sort of a formation for later decades in politics that came afterward. But I guess, to understand it fully, we have to maybe rewind it a little bit even [00:05:00] further to before your time period, especially to understand the figures that are involved here.So as you noted the 1960s were a big organizing and foundational period for American reactionary politics. And there were several people who were involved in creating different organizations and groups. Why don't you discuss some of those people in the groups that they had founded, please?SHEPHERD: Sure. Okay. So, some of the former students of the 60s whose names we might recognize today include people who have been very, very active in politics on the right. So, people like Newt Gingrich, Jeff Sessions, Bill Barr, David Duke, Pat Buchanan. Who am I missing out? David Keene, who is a one-time president of the National Rifle Association. Karl Rove. Gosh, I can't believe I forgot Karl Rove.So these names are, if you're familiar with more like late 20th century, American political history, we recognize [00:06:00] them as either activists or politicians some of whom have run for president or have held high office. Dan Quayle, for example, was a member of Young Americans for Freedom. And I'm sure we'll talk a lot about YAF today. He eventually went on to become the vice president of the United States.And of course, Sessions and Barr both have been American attorneys general. So, yeah. I introduced them to you as 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds before their national careers really took shape. They were still political activists. They were just college students really cutting their teeth for the first time in learning about what it means to be an activist or what it means to be an intellectual on the right.Or what it means to be a partisan. For example I can start with Karl Rove, if you like. Rove was extremely important and the College Republicans at the time, and he actually did not even graduate from college. He went to school in Utah, before his senior year, he dropped out [00:07:00] to work full time for the GOP.So College Republicans and YAF, other groups that, that we can talk about today, ISI is the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. It's the intellectual group for students on the right. They're all feeder organizations. And so through these organizations, the students learn the skills that they'll use for the rest of their personal and political lives.And I use them as examples, but the story is about American higher ed entirely. As policy and precedent, the legislation that these men, and they were mostly men, shape and design that affects higher ed.I mean, it's again, this is not just a personal story about them. It's something that affects all college students and faculty and alum and administrators. I mean, they've had quite a wide reach, and maybe they don't get enough credit for that for better or for worse.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah.How far-right activists practically invented political consulting despite getting little attention from historiansSHEFFIELD: I think you're definitely right that people tend to, some of these 501c3 [00:08:00] organizations, they don't get a lot of press coverage or even historian discussion too much. And it is unfortunate as an analytical point, because these people basically invented political consulting. I mean, the way that it's currently known.SHEPHERD: Their style. Absolutely. Yes.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And created the idea of the permanent campaign, the permanent interest political interest group, like these things did not really, I mean, you could argue that there were, like some special case organizations. So like, the NAACP, for instance obviously, is a very, one of the earliest ones.But these were organizations for people who were not oppressed and trying to attain the same rights as everybody else. They were people who were solely dedicated to influencing policies and electing people.And it was just not a thing until these guys invented it. Why do you think they don't get as much attention, these organizations?SHEPHERD: Oh, [00:09:00] well, they do get a lot of attention. I think they just, the starting points maybe are less familiar to people. So yeah, if you'd like, we can talk about those individual groups and their functions. So, you mentioned these 501c3s, that's what many of them are, especially I. S. I. It's a nonprofit. And that nonprofit model, that educational model allows right wing benefactors ideologues to donate to it tax exempt. And then that money trickles down to students in classrooms.One of the one of the bigger projects Of, so I need to move back even a little bit further. The larger post war conservative movement as it's developing across the country, the story that I'm telling this is the campus-based version of it. So many of the people that I talk about, so like Rove or Sessions all of the others, they're influenced by elders in that conservative movement.So, like the William F. Buckleys, the Marvin Liebmans, the Richard Vigueries, other writers at conservative magazines, so [00:10:00] not just National Review, but also magazines like Modern Age and Human Events and Commentary, and a list of others. So the 501 C3 model really helps those older mentors recruit donors, people who can write big checks. And of course, you don't even need many of them, depending on how large the check is. And you can put that money inside these little shell organizations, and then go on to give that money to the students to help them stay on the college campus. So one of the big projects of ISI was literally investing in individual students to make sure that they go through graduate school, that they become lawyers or they become academics themselves and they stay in higher ed. It's this whole concept of balancing the academy. That's the terminology that they used and the idea is to like, let's start with Buckley. Buckley's big criticism of the academy is that it's too less left wing.It's too socialist. It's hostile to Christians. And so what, it's [00:11:00] what Buckley has in mind when he founds Young Americans for Freedom in 1960 is he'll create an activist organization on the right to counterbalance other groups like the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. So we've got ISI that does that. We have YAF that does that.And then of course we can't credit Buckley or even the post war right with College Republicans, because that's an organization that existed before. But certainly, YAF and ISI had a lot of influence on College Republicans in the 1960s. And then we'll drive it further to the right beyond that time.So, yeah, so those are the organizations, and we talked about them being a training ground just a second ago. Groups like YAF have an age cap, right? You age out of it at 30 years old. So once you've finished college and then even if you decide to go on to graduate school, once you finish that.You can't be a member anymore, but there is the next step and that is the American Conservative Union, the ACU, which we do know more about today. That's [00:12:00] probably known among your listeners. And also the national political, sorry, CPAC. We don't call it national anymore, but CPAC is still like a large.Right wing organization that works for right wing causes. So, even to bring it back to the college campuses college campus, these smaller groups, they all have their own purpose. So, right? We've said, I've said multiple times that is like the intellectual organization that train students to stay in the academy and influence higher ed from some intellectual.Direct in some intellectual direction. YAF is really more partisan or more ideological. So, they're willing to work across the aisle, right? So more nonpartisan, I should say. They're willing to work with say Southern Democrats, right? There were plenty of Southern Democrats like Strom Thurmond who were on YAF's board at the time.And then the other organization, College Republicans is the partisan organization. So it's not. As [00:13:00] ideological as YAF, it certainly doesn't have as many of the YAF fire brands. So like we, I use Karl Rove as an example of a college Republican. If you want a good example of a YAFer, that would be someone like Pat Buchanan the presidential, the failed presidential candidate in the late eighties and nineties.But nevertheless, Buchanan still had a long career in Washington and along influence on the right, an outsized influence for sure. So yeah, these groups, they serve their individual functions, but they all work together too. And that's actually, the working together is a thing that doesn't really even develop until about 1968.So, my book is divided into two parts. And in the first part I explain what these groups do, who funds them, who the members are the demographics of the different organizations purposes. But I also talk about the antagonisms between them. So kind of an interesting feature of all these groups, since they have different purposes, they don't their goals don't always align.[00:14:00]So. We know today your viewers may be familiar with different, like, ideological camps on the right, like, traditionalists or libertarians. The, all of those differences were still there. So, there were antagonisms between the groups that prevented them from working together, and they were already such a small force.Anyway, that being divided was not helpful. It was not helping them. Conquer the campus left in the way that they would have liked. So after 1968, after the spring demonstrations at Columbia, and we can talk about those if you like the elders, the Buckley's and others on national board. Sort of got the students all together and said, like, look, we there's strength in numbers since we literally can't agree on anything that has to do with like politics or ideology.Why don't we just find the least common denominator among all of us? And that is we all hate the left, right? We all hate SDS. We all hate the black power movement on campus and the strikers and the sit ins and the peace Knicks and the hippies and the marijuana [00:15:00] smokers. So let's just. Let's just channel all of that energy, all that negative energy towards stopping them.And so one of the larger theses in my book is that's today. I mean, the expression of owning the libs didn't exist, of course, in the sixties, but that really was what was happening. It's if you put all of these minds on the right together and have them sit down in the conversation, they'll just tear each other apart because they all have really strong convictions and they can't seem to get them in alignment, but what they can do is turn against a common enemy. And so that's really where this whole owning the left comes from.Reactionaries have been building fake student groups for 60 yearsSHEFFIELD: Yeah. It's basically that's when the sort of messaging model for Republican politics, which has never changed ever since that point, and basically it gave birth, it was not just that they couldn't agree, it was also that they understood that they themselves, the [00:16:00] policies that they wanted were not popular. And so, so let's maybe talk about that, that they saw them, that they realized that they were not representing a majority of young people but they didn't want to ever publicly admit that so they've not quite like that at all.SHEPHERD: Yeah. Okay. So, let's talk about this concept called the majority coalition. So after the Columbia demonstration Columbia is just such a perfect example. So in the spring of 1968 if viewers aren't familiar with this story, that the short story is at Columbia university and New York, there were a group of mostly white left wing students of.The new left members of students for a democratic society who were opposed to the university's affiliation with the Department of defense, and they wanted to shut down all university research that would in some way. Continue American involvement in Vietnam. So these are anti war students again, mostly white.There are [00:17:00] there's another issue at Columbia at the same time. And that is that the university is trying to expand the campus into Harlem. The black neighborhood of New York and this expansion project is the construction of a new gym that would take over Harlem's morning side park.So this is a recreational area. This is an important space for the black community that lives there. And so. Many of the black students on campus are organizing to protest the construction of what they call Jim Crow because it was literally segregated members of Harlem. People who lived in that community would have access to the gym, but they would literally have to enter on a downstairs.Freeway downstairs door in the back, as opposed to like this spectacular main entrance that was up higher that Columbia students would use. And so it was it was really a matter of like territorial encroachment that was also extremely racist in literally the physical design. So we have two, two [00:18:00] left groups that are all going against Columbia administration.So at the time there are four separate. Right wing groups at Columbia that are all opposed to the left. They're not working together. They're all their individual clubs. Of yeah, there's a students for a free campus. There's 2 others. And then they're really not all conservative. Some of them are the jocks, like the athletes, the football team.And so why Columbia is so important is because for the 1st time, students on the right are able to get. All four of those groups to kind of work together under what they call a majority coalition. It was a majority of students on the right, but it wasn't the majority of the campus. But that's kind of the way that it was marketed or described.And so anyway they fought back against the, they fought back against the SDS and the Harlem protest, and they themselves were actually Pretty inconsequential, right? They didn't have anything to do with [00:19:00] ending the sit ins and the protests that took place that was, those were ended by New York city police and also campus police at Columbia, but nevertheless, it was an important moment for the conservative students because they realized, oh, okay, we can we can help the powers that be by.Sort of parading around on campus in our suits and praising administrators and presenting ourselves as clean cut squares saying we're the majority. We want to go to class. We don't. We've already paid tuition for our classes for the semester and these. Nihilist strikers are just trying to shut down the campus because they don't want to go to school or they're communist dupes or, whatever the reason was it was a way for them to kind of stick together.So it was unsuccessful technically, but for their playbook, it was like, look, why don't we create more. Majority coalitions. So from that point forward, Young Americans for Freedom, its national board sits down and creates an action manual for organizing. And every year [00:20:00] it redistributes this manual out to every single chapter in the country.Yes, has like 15, 000 members. So it's, I mean, it's not huge, but it is, there is a presence nationwide. We can say that. And so it's a gas job to Locate even moderate students on campus to start recruiting athletes or members of the student government, or just anybody who wants to go to class and doesn't want to see the campus shut down.And that's their way of kind of pulling people into the right. And so it's also the way that can market itself as. The student silent majority. So again, this is 1968. This is throughout Nixon's campaign for presidency when he's talking about being representing a silent majority, they're just borrowing that language.How right-wing activists then and now use student athletes to build control on campusSHEFFIELD: Yeah. And actually I did want to kind of highlight something you just mentioned with the idea of bringing in athletes into their coalition. It's something that actually you can see in the present day now as well. Like [00:21:00] Republicans have really focused on this in the past roughly five years or so through like, overtly elevating sports commentators to be Republican commentators also.So like they've got this guy named Clay Travis, who is just a sports core guy. But now he is a regular political commentator. He inherited Rush Limbaugh's time slot and through the company that was syndicating him. Along with another guy and the two of the, and the weekday co host of Fox News their morning program Fox and Friends.Ryan Kilmeade is a former sports reporter and then their weekend reporter I forget what his name is. They've got another guy over there who is also a sports commentator Will something or other. I forget his name. But yeah, and then.SHEPHERD: Limbaugh too came out of the sports world, right?SHEFFIELD: That's true. Well, that's true. Yeah, he was a Kansas City Royals announcer, for a number of years and so there's always been a [00:22:00] very strong connection just culturally perhaps with right wing politics and sports media which is interesting because they're also On the flip side there were a number of black athletes, in the, in your time period also who were linked to more, left wing political causes, Muhammad Ali being probably the most prominent, but certainly far from the only.SHEPHERD: So, wow, there, there's so much to unpack there, but I can tell you, at least for the sixties, part of the reason that the right wanted to recruit athletes is it had to do with pushing back against the peace movement? So, just to give you an example at the University of Southern California.So big football school. The new left was protesting at football games because they decided the violence of football was just a proxy for the Vietnam war, right? It's just another symbol of Americans glorifying violence for entertainment. And so they would protest outside of football games.They would try to get football games. Canceled.[00:23:00] Not in the way that we use cancel culture now, but actually maybe so maybe that is you could draw a straight line there. Anyway, so, so, yeah, so the right was very big on like recruiting athletes to say, like, look, these. Hippies, these peaceniks, they're against you.They hate you. And you've done nothing wrong. Like, you are a star representative of this campus, right? You pull in alumni dollars and right, you enhance the school's spirit and its traditions. And so that was a really easy segue to get sort of the jock crowd to join some right wing causes, even if they weren't explicitly, understood to be right wing when those athletes joined.And then I mean, if you want to go back even further to the right and athletics, you could talk about in this sort of, like, almost Christian nationalist tradition. There's this long history of, like, Christian manhood and, like, just, sort of an obsession with strength and virality that goes back at least to like Teddy Roosevelt, right?At [00:24:00] least to the beginning of the 20th century. And I'm sure probably earlier than that, I'm just not familiar with the literature there, but I know if, Any viewers are interested Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne spends a lot of time talking about in the front part of her book, talking about the visions of Christian manhood and strength.And it's, that's actually the reason for the creation of groups like the YMCA is to connect Christianity and athleticism and fitness.SHEFFIELD: Well, and it was, yeah, I know I was going to say, and that's, I mean, the name originally was the Young Men's Christian Association. And so, for sure, it's that.And, but and I guess another present day, maybe direct comparison to what you're talking about is that in Florida Ron DeSantis, the governor there has hired this far-right Christian nationalist named Christopher Rufo to oversee the rebuilding of a campus there called New College, and [00:25:00] one of the keys to his attempt to tear it down and rebuild it in their image is that they're bringing in a massive amount of athletes into the school and significantly expanding the budget allocated toward athletics, even though nobody at the school asked for that, none of the students or the alumni asked for it.SHEPHERD: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I could talk for days about the New College situation. And I just, to start, I think it's an easy target. New College is a public campus. And so in that way, the state can have direct control over what goes on there. And also because it doesn't have an athletics program, like you can't, if you take a look at what DeSantis or what Rufo and others are doing at New College.You that could never happen at the University of Florida, right? They can never happen with a larger state institution that has a major alumni donor base and a long sports history and long traditions like that. I mean, you [00:26:00] would never. People would not, the alumni would not be okay with their alma mater being taken over and just unpacked from the inside out.But with New College, like I said, it's an easy target. It's much smaller. It doesn't have— it's alumni are, a little bit more hippie. They're softer. They're not going to throw hard punches and send nasty emails, although I hope they do. And I encourage anyone to do things like that in the name of saving new college from what it's always been.But, I mean, this you're talking about a campus that was literally founded. By hippies, students used to go to class barefoot and shirtless. I mean, that was not an uncommon thing. It's kind of part of the lore of the institution. And so, yeah, I mean, it's just very clear that it's an easy target, but if we can hang out on the topic of fitness for a little while, I think that's so fascinating.So, like, what comes to my mind is, have you seen the viral video of RFK doing pushups? Or just shirtless, right? [00:27:00] It's kind of striking to see someone of his age because he is more mature. He's older with like abs or biceps and, doing pushups. And I've read a lot of pretty hateful Twitter commentary about his form and about how strong is he, or he must be doping.He must be taking like human growth hormone or testosterone or whatever. Maybe he is, who knows? I'm sure. And he claims not to, yeah. Yeah. Right. And so whatever they, I don't, I can't, I'm not a medical doctor. I can't pass any judgment on that, but I just think it's interesting when we see like, the RFKs or even like right wing CrossFitters, right.The the couple, I think it was a husband, wife, or boyfriend, girlfriend, couple that, that started the first CrossFit box. And then now the whole movement. But I mean, we really saw them come out during the pandemic as being anti masks. anti maskers and anti vaxxers. And even, it's just so interesting to me, like, I usually associate, like, crunchy, whole, holistic [00:28:00] fitness and medicine with the left.But we've really almost seen that kind of horseshoe become a circle on the topic of health and fitness, because there are a lot of right wingers who. Have suddenly they're not even vaccinating their dogs anymore. That was an article that I read recently as people are because of political ideologies are bringing their dogs to the vet and saying, why are we getting these shots?Why is my infant being immunized for MMR? But it's just interesting though, when we see people like RFK. They promote fitness as such an individual thing, like such a personal responsibility. I have yet to see anybody, RFK or otherwise on the right say, you know what, as part of my platform, as part of my campaign, I'm going to expand public access to fitness.I'm going to invest in like recreational spaces and parks and communities. Or overhaul the American like way of eating, right? You just don't hear people on the right. If they're so concerned about health and [00:29:00] fitness and vitality they're not interested in making that something that's available to everyone.SHEFFIELD: Well, and certainly if you're concerned about people being healthy, you would probably want to support national healthSHEPHERD: care. You would think that would be the very first one to start.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And and you don't know this, but actually this episode is actually going to be released right after an episode that explicitly talks about health and fitness with a very interesting historian named Natalia Petrzela.SHEPHERD: Oh, gosh. I can't wait to hear that. I love Natalia. She, so like me, she is also an ed historian. And like me, we are also fitness instructors outside of our part of work in academia. I love Natalia. I didn't realize that. That's exciting.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, her stuff's really great and and there actually is a through line though in what we're talking about here with this fitness of sort of politicization of fitness and that is that and again, this is [00:30:00] before your time period, but and we keep doing that, but I promise the audience here, we will talk more about your time period.Today's far-right isn't conservative, and its creators didn't call themselves conservativeSHEFFIELD: Like when William F. Buckley first got started with his, God and Man at Yale book and YAF was getting started in ISI in the 1950s. They didn't call themselves conservatives. And that is a point that is really, really important, I think. They called themselves individualists.That's what they call themselves. And, and it's important to understand because, like, these guys, they're not conservative. Like that's something that I think everybody needs to realize is that what calls itself conservatism in the United States is, it's like, it's sort of a, an imposter version of it.It's a, it is a reactionary ideology of. Which is individualism. That's what this is. And so, and it filters down into everything that they say [00:31:00] rhetorically, but also in their policy desires. So that, that poverty exists because of individual. failure and immorality.And, that's why they're so concerned about regulating people's sex lives and regulating their access to birth control or health care. And then, and then you see it, further in terms of the idea of collective action. And it's part of why they themselves have such problems creating an affirmative, policy goal, other than we want to destroy this stuff.So why don't you talk a little bit more about it?SHEPHERD: That's like the fitness topic. I mean, I could take this so many different ways. So yes when I, when Buckley himself, he was the first president of ISI at Yale in 1953, when he founded ISI, it was initially called the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists.And then one of Buckley's own mentors said, you can't call yourself an individualist. You sound like you're creating like a colony of nudists. And so, it changed, they still kept the ISI acronym, but it became in [00:32:00] the oh my gosh, what is ISI saying for now? Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Thank you. And so, so yeah, that's, but the whole individualism, I mean, we, you really see that now in kind of the libertarian camp and like the extreme right. But I mean traditionalists don't really ever— I mean, to me, I see, at least on the populist right or the traditionalist especially the Christian right the individualist thing is not there so much because they do seem to understand the power of the state.It's just that they want to wield it for themselves. And I'll give you an example of that. Bringing this directly back to colleges. So, like, in Buckley's time in any of Buckley's writing and in all of the things that he had influence over with these college organizations, never did he say we need to dismantle the university as it exists.Instead, he was worrying about he, he was concerned about subverting it. So, putting in. Agents of the right, like,[00:33:00] I, one of my chapter titles is called eggheads for the right. So he wanted the university structure to still exist as it was. He just wanted this, like, parallel or almost like interior compliment that would balance the academy as opposed to what you see today at new college and even in West Virginia.Instead, it's like, no, we're just going to dismantle the whole thing. We're going to defund higher education. We're going to forget the humanities, forget the liberal arts. These are not important things. What are you ever going to do with an art history major? It's not helpful for the workforce, right?And college is about workforce training, not classical education. And so we need to invest in STEM and like business, programs. And so that's just to me, that's like a 180 from Buckley. And I don't mean to sound like I'm being too complimentary of Buckley. I certainly am not, but I can see that there's a clear distinction between what the right wants with the academy today and what maybe, a couple of generations ago, the [00:34:00] right was calling forSHEFFIELD: Yeah, it's, I mean, there, he was still, I mean, he did have a strong anti intellectual streak to himself as well. I mean, like he was constantly talking about how he would rather be governed by the first 500 names in the phone book than by the faculty of--SHEPHERD: The Boston phone book.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. So, it was always there for him but that tension has always existed on within the American right especially because it's so linked to the Christian right and American Protestantism of the fundamentalist variety. I mean, Buckley was more of a fundamentalist, I mean, he was a fundamentalist Catholic rather than a Protestant, but there was still this idea of what cognitive psychologists call intuitive reasoning rather than deliberative or reflective reasoning.And so what those concepts mean just for people who haven't heard of them is that intuitive reasoning, basically it doesn't use [00:35:00] facts or observation to reach conclusions. It uses feelings.SHEPHERD: Vibes?SHEFFIELD: And so yeah, vibes and like we all use this type of thinking in our, regular lives and, like you, you'll be like, walking down the street, I don't know and think, oh, I have to be careful over here there's some creepy guys that. hang out here sometimes. And, maybe you had only seen them there once. But, it's possible they might be there, at some other point, right? And so that type of thinking it's not, it can be helpful in your regular life, but when it comes to evaluating, whether COVID vaccines are safe or, whether cutting taxes increases revenues for the government, that's not a good way to understand cause and effect.SHEPHERD: These are testable things, yes.SHEFFIELD: That's right. You can know whether the taxes bring in cutting them brings in moroni and spoiler alert it does not That's right andso but like but it's it's [00:36:00] also the way that fundamentalist religion works as well because if you believe that the Bible is literally true Yeah, I mean, and I can say this having, been a I was born and raised as a Mormon fundamentalist. And so I literally did believe that the Book of Mormon, that First Nations people are, ancient, are the descendants of ancient Hebrews.Like, I believed that. But I knew that I couldn't prove that. So if you were to challenge me on that, I would have been like, well, there's these ideas about this and that and. But I ultimately, I would have had to conclude, yeah, I don't have any proof for that. AndSHEPHERD: so... If you were honest enough to do so.Because I've heard people say, well, that's why we have faith, right? And that the, like, the concept of faith is, you can't prove this, but--SHEFFIELD: Yeah. But like, and so like, basically, yeah, you're right. But that's what they've done is that the political ideology of American reactionism is a faith based ideology, both in [00:37:00] terms of that it's built in for many of them on literal religion.But it's also built on that their secular ideas are of faith, like, I mean, you look at some of the very influential right wing economists like, that they, were very big on and even to this day, like, Ludwig, von Mises, like he had this entire rejection of We don't need evidence to have our theories economic theories like that's That and he came up with this idea that everything, you can understand economics through common sense and he had no idea that is literally a Fallacy, in, in Logic 101, the appeal to common sense is a fallacy, and it's the argument for mean credulity.SHEPHERD: So, while we're on.SHEFFIELD: I know we went on for a while there, I'm sorry.SHEPHERD: No, no, no, no, it's great.How libertarianism provided rhetorical cover through "fusionism" to the Christian rightSHEPHERD: And while we're on this topic, I mean, I think that's really why the traditionalist [00:38:00] right needs the libertarian right. So, this is one of the things we're talking about in the book, but this is not my original idea.There's this long, long pattern history of discussion of fusionisms. This is Frank Meyer's concept that the, Oh,SHEFFIELD: definitely. I want to get into that. Yeah. Traditionalism. Yeah. Talk about that. Yeah.SHEPHERD: Yeah. And so the reason is because traditionalism, I mean, it's, it. Is based on just the past and just like, some preference for a hierarchy that in the right estimate they benefit from right?So, whatever it is, if it's patriarchy, if it's white supremacy, whatever it is, the way things have been in the past benefit people. Who think this way and that's why they don't want to change them, but they can't explain it that way. Right. And not because they in some cases, maybe they don't have the words, but in other cases, you can't just come right out and say, well, I'm racist.I'm a white supremacist. I'm misogynist, right? None of that sounds good. And you're not going to be taken seriously, butSHEFFIELD: I'm rich. Therefore I should keep my money. [00:39:00]SHEPHERD: If you have some ideological justification, like some libertarian free market principles, small government principles, that's actually coherent.A lot of times the traditionalists borrow that language from libertarians, even though they don't like all of their ideas. But they borrow their language when it's necessary. And actually tell a story about this in the book too. This is a quick story. In the summer of 1969, YAF has its national convention in St.Louis, Missouri. And there's a lot of tension at the convention because there's a libertarian camp. So the libertarians are the minorities in YAF. But the libertarians are really starting to find common cause with the new left when it comes to Vietnam. They don't want to be drafted, right? They call the draft, the selective slavery system and a violation of the 13th amendment.And that, that doesn't sit well with the traditionalists who are very pro war, very interested [00:40:00] in American hegemony abroad. And they're anti communist, right? They don't want to see South Vietnam fall to communist North or to China or to Russia or, whoever, USSR, whoever they're afraid of.And so there's some other things like the libertarians are okay with drug decriminalization. They're okay with marijuana use and LSD usage and they find common cause with the hippies on things like that. And they don't think that the state. Police should be brought in to restrict these liberties from people, right?So it shouldn't be a crime to smoke weed if you want to and the traditionalist, right, just can't have that. So at the at this convention in 1969, there are literal fistfights between traditionalists and libertarians. After one libertarian student gets on the stage at this convention and he holds up a copy of his draft card and he takes a cigarette lighter to it and he burns it and that's symbolic, not just that he's burning his draft card because that's, of course, what the new left does, but it's also symbolic because yas. own emblem is the torch of [00:41:00] liberty. So he's, it's kind of a double entendre there and it's offensive to traditionalists in both ways.And so, yeah, this huge fight breaks out and they're punching each other. And then even once the fight settles the national board takes away the credentials of the libertarians so they can't come back to the conference. And when they try to come in there's more fights about that.And then the night that that Instance occurs they all meet under this is in Saint Louis. So they meet under the Gateway Arch, and they listen to speeches by Buckley who they boo the libertarians boo. And that's like, you can't do that. Buckley is a God. You cannot insult the master. And then they also there are speeches by Murray Rothbard, who if viewers aren't familiar, he's an archcapitalist. He is an arch-libertarian. I think he even sometimes calls himself an anarcho-capitalist. But anyway, he's a writer, a thinker. He's an extreme libertarian. And so, yeah there's more fights. There's more tussles. They make their way back that night to the hotel [00:42:00] room. You have students beating each other up in the halls calling for the death of the other of the other side.And yeah, it's Extremely dramatic, but as I show in the book, even after that 1969 convention, when all of these libertarians are expelled, and then they go on to create students for individual liberty, which eventually becomes the libertarian party of the United States in 1972 or 73. Even though they've been exiled from YAF, it doesn't stop YAFers from using their arguments.So it's a fascinating thing that these pro war traditionalists they're all for the war in Vietnam, but they themselves don't want to be drafted and so they get pressed on that all the time. The chicken hawk question. If you're so pro war, why won't you serve yourself? What are you doing?Sitting in a college classroom? If the college campus is so liberal and so terrible, go out and be a soldier, man, go fight. And then they come up, with all of these excuses, like, well, after I graduate, I'll go enlist. I'm just here because I want to be an officer rather than an enlisted man.And they have all these reasons, but they. Borrow lots of [00:43:00] arguments from the libertarians. And of course they need to because their own ideas aren't coherent or consistent to be defensible.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And you did see some of that also with the women who, the few women who did come up in that environment tended to, talk praise and they still, and they've done it ever since, like Laura Ingram is childless, has never been married or actually, sorry, she adopted children.And as a someone who had never been married and, a lot of these right wing women, all kind of do not practice what they preach. Oh, yeah.SHEPHERD: Interesting. For sure. And yeah, it's a weird right wing feminism. It's very, it tends to be very high feminism. Like Laura Ingram, of course is, considered by many accounts to beautiful, right? She adheres to like modern beauty standards. Michelle Malkin's another really good example, but even going back to like, like Phyllis Schlafly, like, of course, Phyllis Schlafly was she was married and she [00:44:00] did have several children. I can't remember how many she had, but she just jet set across the country all the time on these speaking on these stop ERA speaking tours with nannies, right? While preaching about the importance of women staying at home and being homemakers and at holding to this Christian traditionalist view of what women should do and be.But yeah, that's another good example of someone who is pretty hypocritical there. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Yeah so, oh, absolutely. And on the sort of the reactionary slash libertarian feuding, I'm interested to hear what you think, because I do feel like that especially when the sixties, that there were a bunch of people outside of political movements, like they weren't activists who had a libertarian sensibility and they were not liberal or progressive. But. The issues that they were interested in [00:45:00] did align them temporarily with the political left. And so when we had those issues resolved as a society in favor of the left, so drug legalization, because it was a felony and imprisonment, you could be imprisoned for just engaging in same sex sexual relations. So like legalizing sodomy, legalizing same sex marriage marijuana, decriminalization reforms to the draft, et cetera.These are all things that the libertarian. People as you said agreed with the progressive left on and then once those issues were sort of taken off the table because everyone agreed Oh, okay, the left was right about this Now those people who had those libertarian inclinations are now like any Elon Musk. It's a great example of this and you know that they never understood what [00:46:00] Politics was about and they never understood where they were themselves. Like they thought they were on the left and then they're waking up all of a sudden and realizing, Oh, wait a second.These issues I was concerned about, now we're talking about different issues and what's wrong with the left now. I don't know what's your thought?SHEPHERD: Yeah. I don't know if I would say that Musk would wherever on the left, but certainly a liberal.SHEFFIELD: No, no, that they think they were,SHEPHERD: That's what I'm saying, or BillSHEFFIELD: Maher, another example.SHEPHERD: Yeah, I put Elon Musk or even Vivek Ramaswamy, like, who we have seen recently in the Republican debate. I can't predict the future, but it seems to me like he'll probably have a long career on the right. I don't know. We'll see. That those to me represent like a tech bro kind of personality who are interested in grift, and it seems like it's very, very easy to, become an overnight star on the [00:47:00] right and get a lot of celebrity and attention and money in ways that you can't do on the left. So, for example, like, Musk, right? He's, he makes a name for himself in developing, like, green energy vehicles, but now he's this right wing troll on Twitter, but it seems like he has found an audience there, right?He gets attention that he likes. And so his views over time don't have to be consistent. It's. It's more opportunistic to me and that's what. I don't know. That's what I see. I'm sure someone else has probably more fully developed thoughts on that. But I mean, there's, there's just a lot of grift on the right, especially in like, conspiratorial thinking, which Musk seems to constantly be elevating on his website.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, we certainly does love that. Well, okay.More on fake student groupsSHEFFIELD: So, let's then maybe go back to the idea of creating the sort of AstroTurf group because that strategy really did kind of solidify during your time period. You talk about it quite extensively [00:48:00] in your book and one of the things that they did with that was that, and Buckley did this earlier, but this generation that you're talking about also did is that they were, very.They went very hard after some students and some professors who said things that they didn't like. And so they tried to get them fired. I mean, tell us maybe one or two of those stories of how they went after specific things like that. If you could.SHEPHERD: Sure, so well, with the AstroTurf thing that's so the right is trying to, or claiming to represent a campus silent majority, but being very self conscious that they don't.So, in order to make themselves look like an actual grassroots, truly popular movement they can't use the banner of YAF because by. The late 1960s, you have had already earned a reputation as an extremist group, and a lot of people didn't really take them very seriously. But they started creating front groups, [00:49:00] so they would create a new campus organization and they would call it something completely different, like students for responsible university or, and this is that majority coalition model we talked about earlier. They would take their entire same roster, add 2 or 3 more new names and create a new group. Right? And so suddenly it's like, look, we have not only offers on campus, but we also have this other group that thinks like, yeah, well, of course they do.It's the same group. It's just their facsimiles. So that's where the AstroTurf comes in and another sort of dimension to that. Yeah. Astroturf implying that it's not grassroots is that they have all of these major funders. So, in 1 instance this is again at the University of Southern California.There's an underground right wing campus newspaper. Called the true Trojan and it's funded entirely by 1 member of the USC board who's. Maybe I did not get permission to use but, yeah this board member cut checks that would cover the cost of an [00:50:00] entire an entire print run for the magazine.And it would be coded as an alumni subscription. So just 1 alum subscription would pay for the whole thing. So that's another example of this astroturf nature. And then also the fact that yes, board members would create these annual, action kits and like manuals to, to teach all of their students how to work, how to hold certain events or how to invite speakers to campus, how to literally give them scripts of words to use to go knock around door to door in the case of like college Republicans asking for campaign donations.So, yeah, I mean, that's that goes back to the AstroTurf thing in terms of, like, pushing back against faculties, there were, there's a number of instances in the book. 1 of the big ones that appears early on is students claiming that they were penalized for their grades. So, 1 student whose name I will use James Courtney talked about being in a macro economics course at the University of Washington or Washington University.One or the other. [00:51:00] Anyways, in his, he said that he got a B in his back row course, because the instructor did not like the fact that he was a conservative. He was turning in papers with, a free market analysis, and then he got a B instead of an A. And so there was no, there's no way for me to test that, right?That's a claim. And I don't have that student's records. I. Don't know how to get in touch with your professor who's probably been dead for decades at this point. So to sort of triangulate that and try to figure out, is this true or not? I asked that same question to other students. Did you ever feel like your professors graded you more harshly because you, because of your politics, because your politics were different than theirs and a lot of times what I heard from students is like, oh, no, they always graded fair.If I got a bad grade, it's because I turned in some half baked analysis. And so, but that's an example of students like claiming, my professor is just brainwashing everyone and if you don't agree with him, he's going to penalize you.SHEFFIELD: Well, and they also went [00:52:00] after students fellow students to try to get them expelled if they were engaging in left wing activism.Can you talk about that?SHEPHERD: Sure. So, I mean, there's instances of students literally beating up activists. So, an example is that Cornell in 1969 in the spring there was a black women's, co op, like a dormitory residence hall or house. And 1 morning, 1 night a burning cross appeared in the front yard.And so after that, at the different black students on campus were organizing, they were protesting this. They were trying, they were demanding a black studies program. They wanted more black students to be enrolled. They wanted to see more black. People on the faculty and so members of a fraternity, which 1 was it?I think Delta up salon. Anyway, when a fraternity members literally went and beat black students up who were occupying a campus building. And so that, I mean, that's 1 example. There's [00:53:00] so many examples of fistfights. Another 1 where no 1 got hurt. Another example had to do with Jane Fonda. So Jane Fonda.Anti Vietnam War celebrity she would go around on her press junket advertising whatever big, headlining movie she had coming out and yaffers would show up and they would have these big giant signs and they'd stand behind her to make sure that they were on camera and their signs would read things like Hanoi or the title of HanoiSHEFFIELD: Jane.Yeah. Well, they called her. I hadHanoi Jane .SHEPHERD: Yes. But one of the signs I'm specifically thinking of they're holding it up and it says movie title bombed. Why can't we? So meaning like, why can't we bomb Laos in Cambodia and north Vietnam? Or just heckle her at events. I mean, oftentimes her bodyguards would have to have them removed.So I mean, they were, they were rowdy. And, and after 1969, Young Americans for Freedom, the advisory board literally started in its in its communication to its campus chapters said, you can use violence, right? [00:54:00] Especially if you see the left beating up police, get in there and start crashing skulls.That's not a direct quote, but that's the, that was the vibe that they were encouraging. Then to do they would also like explicit directions. They would say, okay, if a building is being occupied by, let's say the black student union, let's say that they're holding a sit in go cordon off the building.So, let's get a group of, a majority coalition students to lock arms and not let anyone come out. If these people want to occupy the building, we're literally going to starve them. We're not going to let reinforcements come in and bring them bread or bring them, food or anything to eat.They're going to sit in there for 567 days. Until, they have an agreement with the administration to come out, so they would do things like that. And then they would be very specific about what that cordon would look like. They would say, okay, everyone should lock arms. There needs to be a girl every 2 or 3 people because, no one's going to attack a girl.How right-wing students in the 1960s teamed up with campus policeSHEPHERD: But if someone does start, start fighting back, start screaming [00:55:00] like, leftist violence oftentimes when campus police were called by administrators to. To shut down a sit in or to solve some, issue on campus students on the right would deputize themselves. They would act as if they were members of the police too.And they would wear these little badges or, they would have code words like freedom that they would whisper to the cops to say, Hey, like, we're the good guys. We're on your side. We're here to help you. Just, stuff like that. But oftentimes they would identify themselves with blue buttons. So when the antiwar movement started wearing, like, it's black armbands they would wear blue buttons.It was just like the, the counter symbol to let people know, like, Oh, we're here. We're on the administrator side. And then addition to physical violence, they would also threaten legal violence. I mean, yeah. There are several instances, especially after 1969, and then just exploding after 1970, after the Kent State Massacre, where students on the right sued their trustees, or they sued the president, or they sued [00:56:00] other students who were involved in strikes because they were claiming Like, we've already paid tuition, right?You can't, you can't shut down the campus. You can't end the semester. Which was the case at many campuses after after the massacre at Kent State, you can't just stop the normal order of events when we've paid tuition. And so those, those suits weren't always successful, but in a number of cases 1, 1 instances at George Washington University where the injunction was, was ordered, right? A judge said, yes, you must keep the campus open. You must have normal class time operations. It doesn't matter that students are striking. And and that's important too, because even even the threat of suing a college president directly, like, like the individual person is can be enough to to make some sort of action occur to make them take some steps because they don't want to face the court system or whatever it is.So that's something that you have to use all the time and continues to use. If any of your listeners are [00:57:00] familiar with the podcast, know your enemy. It's produced by dissent magazine. They're at two guys, Matt and Sam, they do deep dives on the right all the time on their Patreon page, the, the base level, I think like.5 a month subscription to their podcast and, and the stuff they produce it's called a Young Americans for Freedom subscription. And yeah, YAF actually sued them. This was a month or two ago. And I think the, I think the suit got dropped, but I mean, it's, it's, it's a tactic that they're, they're still weaponizing all the time today.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.Reactionaries invented getting people fired for political views, but they falsely blame the left for itSHEFFIELD: Well, and it's, and it's important, really important because conventional political reporters, or local news reporters, they don't know this history at all, and essentially who kind of created political cancellations.I mean, the entire purpose of National Review was because they hated Dwight Eisenhower and they wanted to get rid of him because he was conservative, basically, and they were not. They were, reactionary.Let's talk about [00:58:00] that, that they moved into the Republican party and took it over and, systemically or systematically decided to bump off people who they did not find to be obedient to them. You want to talk about some of that?SHEPHERD: I mean, that's a that is a direct parallel of what happened at that summer convention to me. Like, I mean, I've, I've view these things in those terms.Mm-hmm. Of course, because it's my research. But yeah. I mean, so to, to me, canceling someone or, or this. Concept of cancel culture. It's just a boycott. So I don't know that we can give the right credit for the concept of boycotts because that I mean, that goes back. I don't know how long it goes back, but it goes back certainly before the post war movement in the United States on the right.But yeah, I mean. But ISHEFFIELD: guess as a they use, oh no, I was gonna say like they use it as a way of trying to claim that there's this, large group victimization of people with a, with a, an ideological, agenda. That is, they're trying to, I enforce it on us. And [00:59:00] we have no choice. No one everyone's trying to silence us.I've been really, they're the ones that, I mean, like, and I can say that, having been a former Republican political consultant in media entrepreneur, like, I, I was not somebody who was ever on board with the Christian right in my political career, but, and I'll give you an example of what I mean by that, but like, so when I first moved to D. C. to start up my career in political consulting and media. I, this was around when Facebook was very early on and, and I put on my religious affiliation, I put agnostic atheist. And I had several friends of mine say to me, Matt, That's probably not a good idea for you to do that people aren't going to like that.And, and, and at the time I, I thought, well, whatever, I don't want to work with those people if they hate that I don't believe in, their, their religious views. But in retrospect, they were a hundred percent right. Like I, I saw that people once they learned about what I [01:00:00] actually thought about things.They came after me to try to get me fired from jobs or try to like there was a fellowship program that I was directly encouraged to apply for by the guy who was running it. And he was very excited about this book I was going to write, and then I never got the book and it turned out that.Pretty much everybody on the judge's board was a Christian nationalist. And my book was about, here's how Republicans can sort of reconcile between irreligion and religion. That was the purpose of the book. And you can't do that. We can't have that according to them.SHEPHERD: What was the press? If you don't mind,SHEFFIELD: It was the Phillips fellowship journalism fellowship.SHEPHERD: Oh, fellowship. Okay. Yes. Yeah. I mean, the rights really great. I got to say, I got to hand it to him. They're excellent about funding scholars. Or, where other. Other people who have ideas that might that might benefit the right. And it's really interesting. [01:01:00] At a time when funding for scholars from the traditional sources, like Ford foundation, or or even even federal grants when that's.Going by the wayside, I mean, funding for the humanities for history for my discipline is almost entirely gone. I don't I don't know where someone would turn to today to get a grant for a historical project. I'm sure it would be extremely competitive. Yeah. So the right's very good about throwing cash at people or investing in their.Their projects, but, yeah, you asked about, like, National Review and its function. So, yeah, I mean, it really was about trying to convince its readers, that they are a minority a political minority and that they are. Actively being ostracized by the liberal media by, New England elites and trying to convince readers that this is a product for you that appreciates you and that will give you the tools, like the conceptual tools and that language and the understanding that [01:02:00] you need to push back against all of that and National Review.I had a had a major influence, the writers at National Review, so Buckley and others on the campus, right? I mean, they would, they would show them how to create a newsletter. And like the example I gave earlier, they would even fund them. So, and, and for your students who are headed for careers in the academy, that is, or for careers in journalism, CV.Like I was the editor of the campus newspaper. Let's just ignore the fact that it was an unofficial newspaper. ButLeft-wing groups and donors spend almost nothing compared to right-wing youth groupsSHEFFIELD: Yeah, it's true. And and it really is like that. That is the fundamentals of operational distinction between the contemporary American left and right is that the American left tends to try to see politics as something that should be organically developed.And so they don't. Yeah, they don't fund a lot of student activism and don't, I mean, yeah, like literally, we're at the point [01:03:00] now where you've got, turning point USA, you still got Young Americans for Freedom, you still got college Republicans, you've got young Americans for liberty, you've got And God, there's probably like two or three other ones.I can't think of right now. AndSHEPHERD: Sorry, I was gonna give you a couple more examples, but yeah, yeah,SHEFFIELD: Go for it. Yeah, but but no, I was going to say, but like, basically the only analog is College Democrats, that's it, for the most part.SHEPHERD: Yeah, somebody asked me this question recently too, and I was trying to think, like, who, who would be the 2023 version of, like, say, SDS?Or, or even, like, the, the Black Panthers or some, or the Black Student Union, or the WEB Du Bois Club and I can't, I couldn't come up with an example, but I think maybe the closest thing, and this is not a, a one to one comparison, but, like, some Bernie Bros. Like, I don't know, like, there's no but they stillSHEFFIELD: don't have an organization.Like, that's the thing.SHEPHERD: Yeah. Yeah. So it would be ad hoc, like, during a political campaign season. But, but now I'm thinking, I mean, I [01:04:00] really am seeing, especially among graduate students and among non tenure track faculty, postdocs visiting assistant professors. I mean, there's, there's a labor movement afoot, which is really exciting to me to watch unfold.And so, so maybe that might come something in the near future. I hope maybe that could parallel a, a new left group. Similar to like, what we saw in the 60s even, even like BLM, the BLM movement doesn't that I'm aware of have a campus base. I don't know. I don't know.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and, and it is like, and I'll say, like as somebody who has been on the inside of the right and left the right understands at a central, in a central way that giving people a way to have a career in advocacy.Is important if you want to have it and, and, and like, [01:05:00] and it extends in terms of not just, donors, showering things with money, but it also extends to like media appearances, like Fox News will, they'll put on, any random person. who has an idea that they are interested in like that Oliver Anthony guy is a great exampleSHEPHERD: of that.The debate. Yes. Oliver Anthony is a perfect example. Even the the Republican debate, there was a question from a yaffer. I don't know if anyone caught that. I mean, it certainly jumped out to me. From young America's foundation, how they call it, but it's still it's the same organization as Young Americans for Freedom was.Yeah, there was not runSHEFFIELD: by anyone who is young though,SHEPHERD: right? Yes. Yeah. And like you mentioned campus reform and turning point USA, all these groups. I mean, like Charlie Kirk is like 30. I mean, he's not a college student and never was. So yeah, Candace Owen, another example of a 30 something shock job, but who, who [01:06:00] speaks on college campuses, that's, that's literally her, one of her main duties.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, well, and at the same time though, like, in her case, he was just a random. Low audience YouTuber who was making basically racist comments against black people. And that was how she got picked up. But like, I mean, you, you see that over and over that the right is very like, and I'll give you an example of somebody that I know, like he, he's a, has a pseudonymous Twitter account, doesn't run it under his own name.But one day he was making fun of some New Jersey Republican, local Republican. And. He got contacted within the week by another New Jersey Republican who didn't like that same guy and was like, repping one of his rivals. He got contacted within the week, an anonymous Twitter account, whereas on the left.Like, you can't even get these big podcasts to even post people on their show. Like, they always host the same guests [01:07:00] all the time and it's just like there is this complete freeze out of new voices on the, on the sort of established left. And maybe it, maybe it's a function of that there's not as much money available to them.But it is an interesting dynamic, I have to say as somebody who's seen things from the inside on both sides. Yeah,SHEPHERD: yeah, that goes back to what we were saying earlier about grift and opportunity with, Elon Musk and so many others, like, it's just easy to just become a right wing troll and then quickly get showered with attention and Oliver Anthony is another good example.And I know he's come out recently and say, like, after the, after the debate, he said, these are actually the people I was making fun of, but I mean, you can, I think he was funded by some. Some right wing producer like discovered and paid for his music and paid for the music video, like the outdoor video where he's playing his guitar at a concert.And it seems to be recorded live. It's it's not it's professionally recordedbut I do know that that song was produced by somebody who had an [01:08:00] interest in this sort of like, right wing populism that they could hear and conspiratorial sort of, through line that was in the lyrics of that song. So yeah, it's easy to just. To just rise up to stardom really quickly. Oh Oh my gosh.Why can I not think of his name? The Kenosha shooter. Young guy, Kyle Rittenhouse. Yes. He's another example of someone who just happened to be in front of cameras and do something that the right light. And then he's quickly elevated to fame. And I think he's been at Republican events ever since then.SHEFFIELD: Yeah and there's another guy who had just recently passed away Joe the Plumber, aka Joel Wurzelbacher, he was just a guy who asked a question to Barack Obama in 2008 and became an overnight right wing celebrity. And obviously there are some bad things about just elevating random people into your political discourse. Like the Republicans over the years, [01:09:00] several times have promoted people who are just outright fascist or a secretly a Nazi activists or things like that, but on the other hand it really gives them-- this elevation of new voices and willingness to put new people forward-- it gives a dynamism to the right wing that the left in the current day and age doesn't really have I would say.SHEPHERD: Yeah, I mean, there's this what is the saying about the left always eating its young. Yeah, I mean, there's so much like infighting and. Again, this is going back to some of the things that I talk about my research is what we saw on the right to before someone that in a leadership position and an inspirational position said, you know what y'all, stop and work together.And then they did but, yeah, that's that has yet to materialize on the left.. I guess what I see is like the left fighting liberals and liberals fighting the left rather than to me, liberals are our centrist, I, I kind of think of them that way and I know everybody does. But on the [01:10:00] spectrum, my understanding is that a liberal is probably more towards the center. And so there's like, the center to left, like, in fighting that it's just like, if all of that could be redirected to fighting against like this bubbling American fascism that is so apparent to me we can probably really do something about it.SHEFFIELD: I do think there is. There is also a New York DC problem with the left, much more than the right and like they, they don't want to include people who don't live in the "Acela Corridor" as it's commonly called. This is like a larger left problem that if you can't come to their office every day, then you're not going to get a job at a progressive organization because they want you to be in DC, even though basically what that attitude means is that they're totally cut off from understanding how to talk to people outside of their little bubble. And so [01:11:00] basically they become overly reliant on public polling. And public polling is, and I used to be a pollster so I can say this, is that it actually distorts your thinking if you don't understand how to use it.And the right is much better at understanding what polls are for because they basically invented it as a campaign tactic. But polls are for understanding how to say your message. They're not for determining what your message is.And that's the real difference between the left and the right in terms of how they use polls. The right will look at polls and say, this is how we need to talk about what we want to do. Whereas the left will look at a poll and say, oh, this idea is unpopular, which we want, so therefore, we're not going to talk about it. And we're not going to take action about it. And I have interviewed a number of very early same-sex marriage advocates and they all have uniformally told me that the Democratic party, [01:12:00] as a public matter, refused to do anything for them. And that they had to push for everything on their own. And in some cases were actually opposed by a prominent Democrats in their particular areas, even though privately they believed in, and Barack Obama was an example, Joe Biden actually was the first national left politician, to come out and he was, he was alone in being in favor of, it was actually courageous of him to do that.Most of them, they wouldn't touch it.SHEPHERD: That, that makes me think about like the, the right and it's relationship with the gay community. There's a really, I'm so excited about this, a really fascinating book that will come out next spring about gay Republicans. And it'll be written by Neil J. Young, University of Chicago. Yeah. I've gotten to read two chapters and they're both really fascinating. But yeah, that's, that's another thing too, is like watching, and also many closeted [01:13:00] Republicans.There are a lot of leadership a lot of members of the leadership on the right that were closeted over the years.SHEFFIELD: Absolutely. Well, let's, maybe get back to some of your book stuff. So you have some kind of fun messaging details that I thought are not commonly known about, like what YAF was doing against the Richard Nixon supporters, you want to talk about some of that? They're kind of funny and just weird. Let's talk about that.SHEPHERD: Yeah.Many of today's far-right actors have been operating continuously since the 1970sSHEPHERD: So in preparation for 1968, Young Americans for Freedom were recycling all of the things that they used in a 64 campaign.So, They would have like banners that would say apple pie mother and Nixon or they would dress up as cowgirls and call themselves. Yeah. Fats and they would pass out different campaign materials and just really make over the top sort of over the top sort of like. They would come out and over the top sort of [01:14:00] ways to where they're stunts.Absolutely. So, leading up to 1968, so there are a couple of different candidates that the right supports. And one of them is George Wallace. So I actually opened the book with a story about George Wallace coming to Dartmouth in 1968. And he, this is a speaking engagement. He is invited to campus.He comes up on the stage and he says all sorts of provocative things. But even before he gets there, there's already a mass of students outside who are ready to protest his appearance. And if somebody has said about the book before the way that that little vignette opens, that's actually something we would see today as students protesting conservative speakers on campus.So this, this thing, has a long history. But anyway, so, Wallace is there. There's Literally 1400 seats in the stadium or in the the room where he's speaking. And they're all full and there's an overflow crowd on the outside. There's campus police and [01:15:00] security to to take care of the hecklers.And as he's speaking, a group of students just flush through the barricade and they. Dorm inside and they run down the center aisle and they are trying to take Wallace off the stage but they're not successful. Wallace has his security. He literally has a getaway car already running and waiting for him and they take him out to the car as quick as they can.The mob of students follow him out to the car. They start beating in the top of the car and just, making a big ruckus. And I argue that all of that is purposeful. The students, of course, want to create a spectacle of their dissent. They want to show, like, we don't appreciate this guy who's out here saying, segregation today, tomorrow, forever.They don't want this person speaking on campus. Wallace, on the other hand, Loves that, right? That's catnip for him because then he can say things like, see, this is academic freedom. That's actually a direct quote. He says, this type of academic freedom will get you killed.[01:16:00] And so it's a, it's a good, that whole spectacle is a useful tool for both sides to talk about the intolerance of the other, so that's that's 1 Wallace story that appears in there. And, of course, in the 1968 campaign, there are lots of lots of students that try to get him nominated. There is, we were speaking about grift earlier. There's a lot of grift behind that. There's an unofficial youth for Wallace organization that uses Wallace's mass head is banner head for, for All of this stuff and they're soliciting campaign donations, but it's coming to the, the guy that's behind it.His name is his name is Joseph accord. And so accord is taking all of this money. He has no official affiliation with Wallace. Wallace literally his campaign headquarters in Montgomery literally sends the sky like a cease and desist. That says we're not affiliated with you.SHEFFIELD: Just like today. Just like today with all these people using Trump's name to raise money for themselves.SHEPHERD: Yeah. So, so that's another thing. And then [01:17:00] that group actually goes on. So Wallace will not get the Republican nomination. Of course that goes to Nixon, but he'll still go on to run as an independent and then he'll lose in the general election in 68, but he promises that he's going to run again in 72.So that Youth for Wallace group, so, not only is Accord behind it, there's a couple of other, like, extreme far right, white supremacists let's see, who else is there? But they, anyway, they all--SHEFFIELD: Well, Richard Viguerie is there also.SHEPHERD: Yeah, Viguerie, Viguerie is in my story, he, he's kind of in the background as like this advisor. I don't talk about him too specifically except for, to, to talk about his ability to help fundraise. But this group goes on and it becomes the National Youth Alliance, the NYA, and it's a white, literally it's a white supremacist college group, like, its whole function is to attack black students.They sell pepper spray as they use the slur, [01:18:00] but as basically control equipment is what they call it. And yeah, they just produce all sorts of horrible literature. David Duke is affiliated with this group. He has a chapter at LSU. There's an infamous image of Duke. I, I didn't include this in the book.Plenty of people might be familiar with this picture, but it's Duke, not at LSU. He's at Tulane in New Orleans. And he is protesting the, the trial of the Chicago defendants, he's, he's carrying the sign that says gas, the Chicago seven and then on the reverse side of the sign, it says something in relation to like communist Jews.And he's referring to members of the new left who are on trial, not all of whom were Jewish but, but some big name players like Abby Hoffman where and then also their defense attorney was Jewish. So anyway, they're anti Semitic, they're anti black. They're just. Scary people, but they're affiliated with Wallace and then the N. Y. A. Later changes names again. And it becomes like a neo [01:19:00] Nazi organization. That's still around today. Well, it's cartoons and another another name that sponsors the organization. Okay, so that's that's Wallace. There are a sizable group of YAFers who are behind Reagan. Reagan, again, like Wallace, loses in the general and he won't become president for a long time.But, when Reagan does become president, a lot of his former, like, YAF students will have positions in his administration. And for Nixon, the Yaffers do not love Nixon but they have to come around when he's the GOP candidate because they're certainly not going to support the, the Democrats anti war candidate.So, yeah, they campaigned for Nixon. He wins the nomination or he wins the election, and then they expect that he will keep this war going and that we will win the war. And then when Nixon starts doing things, just a few months into his role as president, when he starts doing things like Making the draft more equitable.Yeah. Other things that they don't like, [01:20:00] suddenly they turn on him and they literally, I mean, there's one of my archival trips was to the Nixon administration. And as I'm looking through like his college files they're all these nasty letters from Yafers, like demanding that he changed course on Vietnam and that he, that he stops Vietnamization and that he.Makes, he escalates the war. And then after Kent State in May 1970 for, for viewers who aren't familiar with this story, there's an anti war protest and the National Guard is sent in. The, the guards members shoot just a volley of bullets into a crowd of students and onlookers, not all of them were students almost a dozen people are injured, four people die.And Yaffe. Has just a sort of come to Jesus moment about how do we respond to something like this? The Kent State Massacre, by the way, that protest was in response to the United States invading neutral Cambodia. So on one hand, yeah, it's like, yeah, this is exactly what we want an escalation of the war into other territories, right?They're [01:21:00] concerned about this domino effect of communism. So they're. They want to get into Southeast Asia and just like take over everywhere. So they're excited about that. But then there are national guards been executing college students on campus. And again, like we said, not, not all of these people who were killed that day or shot and injured that day were even students at Kent State.Some were just literally passers by. The bullets extended 700 feet and beyond. I mean, there's literally a volley up into the air and over. So, but some students said, you know what, they deserve this. They shouldn't have been at the protest. They shouldn't have been around. And so,SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and again, that's, you see that same type of attitude today, with the, oh, it's okay to run over protesters and, or, we support we support Kyle that, I mean, you see all that stuff as well.Yeah, that's right. And, sometimes I think there's a temptation on the center to left to think that Donald Trump did this to the Republican Party [01:22:00] and your book, your book shows that that's really not true at all.And all these tendencies that people see, now it, fascistic tendencies religious discrimination, racial discrimination. I mean, you've got it all right there. And. And it was done by people who nowadays are seen as sort of, perceived as anti Trump, stayed reliable conservatives.And that's not the case at all.SHEPHERD: No, that's not the case. And I, and I also, I, I don't want to overstate. My intervention here, like, that that argument is not one that only I have made. I mean, there are other scholars, John S Huntington in his book, far right vanguard, argue something really similar. I'm extremely excited about David Walsh.He's, he's a postdoc at Yale right now, but he's working on a book on the, on the far right. And he'll, he'll argue the same thing that, and even if you, if you look into like studies of the John Birch Society Edward Ted Miller [01:23:00] has two really good books, Nut Country.SHEFFIELD: I've actually had him on my show. Yeah. He's great.SHEPHERD: Oh, perfect. Okay. Yes. Yeah. So, I mean, yeah, I don't want to overstate my, my contribution to this. I mean, there's certainly other scholars that would say the same thing. I'm not breaking anything around here.SHEFFIELD: You did a good job. That's what I'm saying.SHEPHERD: Thank you. I, I appreciate that. But yeah, I mean, these, these tendencies have been there for a long time and you're right there, there is a, some nostalgia, especially from like Never Trumpers from the Charlie Sikes of the world or from the Bill Crystals to say something's been lost since 2016. It hasn't. It's been there all along. It's maybe it's bubbled to the surface and maybe it's more transparent. You can see it now, but Trump didn't bring this in, he just fanned the flames.SHEFFIELD: Well, I think that is a great summary there.So we've been speaking today with Lauren Lassabe Shepherd. She is the author of a great new book that I encourage you to check out. It's called Resistance from the Right. [01:24:00] Thanks for being here, Lauren.SHEPHERD: Thank you, Matt. I appreciate it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it's been a great conversation. So where can people who want to stay in touch with what you're up to follow you on social media?SHEPHERD: I'm still on Twitter. I know it's a sinking ship, but I'm there for now. So.SHEFFIELD: What's your username on there for people who want to follow you?SHEPHERD: Oh, yes. So if you want to follow me on the social media site formerly known as Twitter, you can find me @LLassabe. That's L L A S S A B E. I'm also on Bluesky, but I'm not super active there. I'm very active on Instagram and my handle across all these platforms is at LLassabe.SHEFFIELD: Okay. Awesome. All right.Well, I encourage everybody to check that out and definitely get your book if you want to know the true history of the right wing of the 1960s.SHEPHERD: Thank you. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
10/2/20231 hour, 26 minutes, 38 seconds
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So This Just Happened #006: Is the Fox RFK Jr. hype going to boomerang?

Episode SummaryFor months, Fox and other right-wing media outlets told their audiences how great Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the deranged anti-vaccine activist was. Now, some of them are starting to fear that Kennedy might take Trump votes away as a Libertarian Party candidate. Join Matt and Kali as they discuss.Thanks for listening and please support the show by giving us a good review on Apple Podcasts!Timecodes00:00 — Fox News's Kennedy hype just might backfire07:56 — While RFK Jr. could hurt Trump, he still could hurt Biden 10:56 — Why are so many right wing political activists frustrated actors?16:42 — Republican are still debating, does anyone care?20:35 — Trump can only be attacked successfully from the left--even in Republican primaries24:31 — Seattle residents frustrate the hell out of Fox reporterJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocals by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/29/202334 minutes, 29 seconds
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Doomscroll #011: Trump's fake union show

Lisa and Matt are joined in this episode by Sarah Rumpf, a contributing editor at Mediaite to talk about all the latest news, including Donald Trump pretending to support striking auto workers and a lot more.Timecodes00:25 — Joe Biden pickets with auto worker union while Trump pretends he likes workers06:24 — Democrats' calls for Sen. Bob Menendez to resign while Republicans embrace criminal party members13:27 — Former Trump secretary says he wrote to-do notes for her on classified documents15:31 — Oligarch Rupert Murdoch stepping down as head of Fox Corporation22:48 — Right-wing male pundits are saying Taylor Swift is ugly28:07 — Jimmy Carter attends peanut festival ahead of 99th birthdayFollow or die!Doomscroll Rumpf is a Flux Community podcast. We’ve got lots more great articles and podcasts on politics, culture, media, and religion. Join us! This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/27/202332 minutes, 29 seconds
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Theory of Change #088: Rich Logis on waking up from MAGA

SummaryDonald Trump has been the dominant figure in Republican politics for nearly 8 years now, and yet if you read the opinion columns in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Atlantic, the disgraced ex-president is on the verge of being shoved out of the Republican Party.None of this is true, however. Despite constant hype from anti-Trump supporters of Ron DeSantis, the Florida Governor’s presidential campaign has completely failed to launch. No matter what Washington-based Republican consultants want to believe, their party is over. The MAGA side has control of the Republican party.Accepting that has proven difficult for a lot of people, and it’s why trying to figure out how to defeat far-right extremism in the Republican Party has not really yet begun.As part of our ongoing “Why I Left” series, I’m joined today by Rich Logis, he’s the founder of “Perfect Our Union” and also a former Republican activist.You can watch the video of this episode here.Automated Audio TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: As part of our ongoing, Why I Left series, I'm joined today by Rich Logis. He is the founder of Perfect Hour Union and also a former Republican activist.And we're going to be talking about all this and, why are so many people reluctant to accept the full truth about the Republican party, but before we do let's get into your own experience, Rich. Tell us about [00:03:00] your time as a Republican activist.RICH LOGIS: Well, first off, thank you, Matt. Really appreciate it to be here. Thank you for doing this show, Theory of Change. I'm confident that there are actually many more of us out there than we might realize. And my start in the MAGA world actually I have to go back all the way to the year 2000.I was living in New York. I was 23 years old and I was very much a Ralph Nader voter. And supported him. And the reason I actually supported him first and foremost, more than any other reason, was because I figured out pretty quickly on that the two parties both disliked him. And even though the Democrats were more opposed to him, it seemed that both parties saw him as a threat and disliked him.And so when I realized that it was very easy to support him. And I voted for him a few other times throughout the years. Now that was 23 years ago. Now, fast forward [00:04:00] all the way to 2015. And something I figured out pretty quickly about Trump, and I'm not going to say I was one of these guys who supported him as soon as he came down the elevator.That's not true, but I did support him pretty early on. And the primary reason I supported him is actually the same reason I supported Nader. It's because I figured out that both parties were against him. And so more and more, I just very quickly and easily started to come to A lot of the political campaign rhetoric that Trump was espousing namely, but not limited to this could be America's last free election Hillary Clinton and the democratic party were existential threats to our country.I very quickly bought into that and we'll get into, I think some of the reasons why that happens to many people and why it happened to [00:05:00] myself. But once I got very full into my support. Even when I would hear him make statements, even when I would hear him present policy ideas, as much as I sometimes may have wondered and raised an eyebrow wondering what it was that he was actually getting at or trying to say, it, it didn't ultimately matter because.I saw the 2016 election as the, the pinnacle and the realization that I thought the democratic party was after, which was to win power at the presidency and never ever lose again. So I, I call it, I call MAGA and what has happened with the Republican party politically what their product is, is a product of political trauma.Now I was in that world starting in 2015. I very much ardently supported Trump even [00:06:00] going, not only in 2016, but going into 2020, even though, even though I knew that his handling, even then of the pandemic I knew was very indifferent to the death and the illness that we were seeing all around us, but it didn't, it didn't ultimately again matter because I view 2020 just like I did 2016, another year.This could be the last free election. Joe Biden, like Hillary Clinton, the Democrats with Biden, another existential threat, we had to do whatever was necessary to stop them. So I wound up staying in the Republican world until about the mid midway point of 2021. So that, that gives me about six years as an activist.Now, it's very common to hear people say, Oh, I was a Republican for 30 years. I was a Goldwater adherent. I was a, I was a Reagan conservative. I was in George H. W. Bush [00:07:00] conservative. That was not my life, actually. I was very anti the two party system. It's why I supported Nader. It's why I came to support Trump, even though he was running under a major party.And so once I left that world in the summer. 21 which i'll get into some of the specific reasons why Yes, I was only an activist for six years, but i'm going to tell you matt that those six years I was so active. I was around so many other MAGA voters and activists that it probably was really more of the equivalent of 10 to 15 years of activism given just how Devout I was to the, to the MAGA world and something that is very underestimated and I think we'll get into this as well is even though it is a, a world, a reality that is dramatic and paranoid and really just rife with hysteria, MAGA does [00:08:00] provide a community and I think people do inherently yearn for wanting to it.To be in civic communal environments. And MAGA did do that. I think you see that really at the, at the rallies in particular, there is, we might say it's cult like and make the jokes about Jonestown and Jim Jones. The flip side with the flip side with the MAGA world is that people do feel like they're in a community and they feel like they're around like minded people and very much it's, it's a, it's a MAGA safe space. It's where people feel like they can be themselves and they can, they can share in all of the existential enemies that they're all working together in tandem to defeat in this political, and for many of Then this holy war, spiritual war that we are engaged in.So if you, if you think about this, [00:09:00] Matt, if you step back for a moment and think about political trauma and paranoia and hysteria and the opposing party is not just wrong on policy. They're just not wrong on ideology. They are bona fide enemies of the country and of the Republican conservative way of life.If, if, if someone thinks that they will support anyone. Or anything. And that's a, that is a point, you mentioned the press at the outset. I was a former journalist many years ago. I was not someone who covered local or excuse me who covered national politics, but I was a local reporter. And so I don't think I've ever really lost the that that part of the journalist side of me, even though it was probably suspended for those six years that I was in the MAGA world.But to address that point, because it's one we've talked about a lot, I've I've published stories, which are at my site, perfect. Our union. us,Why the mainstream media is so delusional about "saving" the Republican partyLOGIS: I wrote a piece [00:10:00] for salon in which I said that the mainstream national media, the centrist center left press, New York times, Washington post, the Atlantic. They have this well intended but delusional yearning to save the Republican Party, that, that there's going to be some, there's going to be some political savior who's going to come in and save us from Trump and is going to restore the Republican Party back to this era of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, and Thank you.I, I have a sense of why they do it. I think that the press and part of it, to be fair about this point, part of it is that most, most of those in the national press have not lived a MAGA existence. I have. So when they're looking at Trump and what's happened in the Republican party, they are looking at it from more in an abstract point of view.They're really into intellectualizing. And they look at wanting [00:11:00] to save the Republican party because they feel like it's their journalistic duty to try to to, to ensure that we have a, a relatively healthy two party system and that, and that somehow we're going to, enough, enough Republicans are going to, are going to awaken from this MAGA slumber.And they're going to say enough. And I think that what the indictments have shown all of them. The New York, the federal to federal in Georgia. My view is that these only strengthen him and I and while I am a little bit low to prognosticate, I would be much, much more surprised if he is not the nominee than if he is for next year.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Me, yeah, me too. And in terms of these non Republicans that, are, believe the Republican party is going to sort of organically dethrone Trump I think, I think for a lot of people who have that viewpoint, it [00:12:00] seems like, because for them, the Republicans that they know, so, like Uh, having formerly been a DC based Republican political consultant.In my, I was not religious. I was yeah, I supported same sex marriage. I supported abortion rights. I was, I did not like the Christian right. So like, if you were a journalist covering politics, like people had no problem dealing with me and talking to me about things.And, I think for some of them, they really thought that people like how I used to be were in control of the Republican party, that that's who was the. the base of the party. And, and it's just not true in most of the places. Now it is, it is the case that there are, still even now a pretty large number of people who vote Republican kind of habitually or, they, they just are like, well, I, I like low taxes and low regulation.And I [00:13:00] don't. I don't believe in this Christian fundamentalist stuff. So I just ignore it and those people are not relevant to me. And so, that's how they rationalize things and they don't really pay attention to politics. The extent they might pay attention to anything political is listen to Joe Rogan.And that's it like for, they don't watch cable news. They don't watch Fox. All of that is just. nonsense in their opinion. And so they don't really have an idea over what's happening in the party and who's controlling it, I think. So like that's kind of the, in my view, how the, these non MAGA Republicans and the, non Republican journalists, that's, I think that's how they're, they're kind of seeing things to some degree.I don't know, tell me what you think.LOGIS: I, I think that also this point on the, with the, with the press in particular, that it does seem to me it's relatively obvious to me that from column to column and op ed to op ed that [00:14:00] most, I don't think many in the press realize that the vast, vast majority of American voters, to your point, are actually not political and because they're not political, They're not consuming all of the news that we do.They're not, they don't know all of the names that we do. They're not aware of a lot of the conspiracies that have permeated all across MAGA and are, whether it's overtly or silence is content that are accepted and supported. By the actual Republican party apparatus. It's to your point, they may, they may have voted.I was, they were a Ronald Reagan voter and then they were a Bush voter and they're not, they're not maybe extreme partisans, but their voting habits are to typically just vote are down the, down the ballot. And they're Democrats like that too. We know that there are there, those are generally the people come out.And I always voted in the primary when I was in the, in the [00:15:00] MAGA Republican world, because we felt an obligation to ensure that we got the best candidate to, to stop this, this whomever it was on the democratic side was, was a threat to us. It didn't matter. The other person's policy didn't matter about the person's character.Didn't matter about the Democrat. Kennedy integrity, whether they were an incumbent or not, it just was, they're part of the enemy party. We have to do whatever we have to do to stop them and we'll nominate the person we think is best to defeat them. And so we do, we do forget, and I'm not saying we, you and I necessarily, but collectively, it is easily forgotten that most people aren't political.Now, those types of Republicans you're mentioning, something that I've written about, and I will continue to, to argue this point is that throughout our history, And there are numerous examples, whether it's the American Revolution, whether it's the abolitionist movement, whether the Civil War itself, when Abe Lincoln sides with the Union against [00:16:00] other Americans at the, within the Confederacy, they were still Americans, but they were still, Abe Lincoln still sided against them to try to win this war and preserve the Union, whether it was the United States aligning with the Soviet Union in World War II, Republicans aligning with Lyndon B.Johnson. There's other examples. Like. I could cite but with all of those examples, what underlines all of them and what ties them together inextricably is that they were very, they were very much what we saw historically were unlikely, but necessary alliances, and those Republicans who, who, who, If they, if they're not really aware, it's not such an easy task to make them aware, but I don't think that they're motivated by policy.I don't think they're necessarily motivated by ideology, but if there's one topic that I do think the midterm show that even nonpolitical, [00:17:00] apolitical voters can get motivated over. It is democracy. It is democratic institutions and those republicans who may not be partisans, they, they have to be invited into the fold and welcomed to, to maybe side with those whom they might disagree with on policy to policy.But this moment in history, I think, demands that these unlikely but necessary alliances really be formed. And I would, that's the kind of topic that I would like to see in the columns and the op eds of the New York Times and the Washington Post and the Atlantic and some other sites and publications that maybe are similar.And we don't really see a lot of that. I think if the press spent the next year plus talking about how history demands in this moment, these unlikely but necessary alliances to, to continue moving the country forward, to continue on building on the ideals of our founding, to continue the perfection of our [00:18:00] union, I think that topic can resonate with people.I think the midterm showed it. Typically the turnouts lower Democrats overall did very, very well in the midterms. It says to me that the topic of the perfection of the union, preserving democracy, strengthening democracy that can get through in the new and, and the major center centrist and center left press outlets can, can lead on that if they want to.But I just think there's still, they're still stuck in the mud a little bit. They're still stuck on neutral. They're, they're just, Oh, this is it. I could just, I just imagine, some of the editorial meetings saying, Oh, yeah. With this indictment in Georgia, this, this is, this is finally it.This is fine. This is the Charlie Brown Loosey moment. She's going to finally hold the football for him. He's going to kick it. And what they're going to discover, the press is going to discover is that that's not going to happen. That, that it's not, it's not going to happen the way they think.How Republicans use psychological trauma to bind voters to the partySHEFFIELD: Well, you had mentioned this idea of political trauma in, in your writing and also [00:19:00] in our discussions before today. Let's talk about that a little bit more here. So, a lot of, as you correctly noted, a lot of Trump supporters do have this idea of Democrats as, a threat to the entire existence of the United States.And some of that, and, and on this show, we've talked a lot about. The religious aspects of that for, for many people that that's, that's why they think this, but it isn't only about religion for, for some people who have this viewpoint tell us about how you saw that when you were, when you had that opinion and, and why did you have that belief?LOGIS: Yeah, and I think that the, I would refer to it as the Christian theocracy that is, that is part of the traumatic MAGA world. But to your point, it's not the only aspect of it. Something that does exist and I think is [00:20:00] actually promulgated and sold very, very well in right wing politics and in their media apparatus is,there is, there are, There are mythologies that exist on the right that, as part of a lengthier discussion, I would argue actually date. All the way back to the beginning of our country, and those mythologies are centered on race. They're centered on sex. They're centered on gender religion. If you look at right now, the mythologies of of MAGA in particular, and I should say Matt, when I say MAGA, I'm also thinking the Republican Party to me, they're interchangeable.And, and I, I think it's even more accurate to refer to them as, as MAGA, even more so than the Republican Party. If you look at the mythologies right now, they're, they're really based on this. It's about gays, sex, marriage, and Christian [00:21:00] theocracy and guns as these holy war weapons. And there's this, there's a lot of this racial animus and hysteria and paranoia.President Obama is, is part of that. I call him the grim reaper because to this day, I think Barack Obama is actually the most lucrative figure in the history of the Republican party. He has, he has fundraised and brought ratings and all of that combined much more so than, than Ronald Reagan ever did. So I think it's just a side note that president Obama is the most lucrative figure.I'm writing this book right now, I just started about Obama and Trump to juxtapose their leadership styles. I think that they are the most polar opposite success of president that we've ever seen in the history of America, but that's just a little bit of a, of a side note. So when I, when I was in, when I was in, in that, in that traumatic MAGA world, what, what is hammered over the head [00:22:00] of the adherence in the MAGA world is that a less white, less Christian and less heterosexual America. Is a nation in decline make america great again did not start with trump. It was actually Ronald reagan said it even president bill clinton said it at the time So when we think about make america great again the way that people internalize this the way that they construe What that make america great again?What that that ethos really meant I think that to some extent some people can can interpret it on a case by case basis and for some They were, they were probably the ones I was around. They were, they were motivated by second amendment mythologies, the idea that, that the, the framers constructed that amendment to, to me, to what it meant was unfettered, unregulated [00:23:00] access to firearms.And while I'm didn't quite get. That deep in the rabbit hole with them on that, I, I broadly speaking, did concur with, with that idea. There were other times where I would be in, I would, I would congregate, break bread with those in the MAGA world, and they would, they would talk about these other isms that have been mythologized on the right.Communism. Socialism. Marxism is one that I think is relatively recent, and my My joke with Marxism is always, that I always ask, what did what did, let me see if I remember these, what did Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gumo ever do to the Republican Party to incur such ire against them as, as, as the Marx Brothers.So that's one that's real, that is relatively recent. There's another that it would be, it was actually a relatively common discussion to talk about in America's racial history, [00:24:00] the discussion of, well, Yes, there was slavery, and yes, blacks were not treated very well, but that was hundreds of years ago, and why can't we just move on and get over that?And And at the time, yeah, I would say, yeah, why don't we just get over it? Post racial america all of that. So that was always a part of it There was another part where we talked about there would be discussions about you mentioned same sex marriage it would be oh, yeah, gay americans.They you know, they've got their right to vote You know what? What more do they want? Why do they have to flaunt it? Why do they have to show it and broadly speaking for the most part I bought into the mythology that we shouldn't look at anything through race. We shouldn't look at anything through, through class.We wouldn't. We shouldn't look at anything through economics. Everything about the democratic party is you're a victim. You're a victim. You're a victim vote for me, support me. I'm going to come in and be your savior and then keep them as victims, create [00:25:00] this, this permanent underclass especially in minority communities.And those Democrats who, who are, who talk a lot about equality and they talk about fair share and all of the, really what they're doing is just. Porting all the riches for themselves, giving some crumbs to others and keeping everybody coming back to keep voting for them. If you think about what I just said, Matt, right there, I cannot imagine something more insulting to the intelligence of tens and tens and tens of millions of Americans.And that is a lot of what I thought it, what motivated me. And there is this inherent part of our nature of us versus them. It's just, it's in us, it's in our nature. That the challenge is trying to resist that. But something that that MAGA, the MAGA traumatic community also provides is it provides this, this really warped form of identity [00:26:00] politics.And that identity politics is that America was built by. By by Caucasians that we were, we were a better country in the 1950s and 60s when America reached her apogee of of perfection and greatness. And that that part of that identity politics, there was this unison that we are the actual patriots.There's more of us and we're going to conquer the democratic party. And we're going to We're going to do to them what they actually want to do to us. For those listening out there, they might sit back and think, is this, is this true? I mean, did people really think that? And the answer is yes. And they still do.Yeah. In fact, I would, I would argue that the, I would argue that the, the the sycophancy of these, of adhering to these mythologies has actually only intensified since the 2020 election. Because remember, as Trump says, it wasn't that he was defrauded. It's that you MAGA [00:27:00] voters, you were defrauded. Wasn't that he was, you were, it's not that I'm indicted, you're indicted.And that generally is the, and that, that's a tie that binds that, that, that keeps the, the abuse. I call the traumatized the abused. And unfortunately there is something again in our nature where the abuse tends to come back to the abuser. And I think that Trump voters, which again, I was one, I don't think that all of their reasons for voting for Trump were.were invalid. These feelings of howling out of communities, jobs going overseas, feeling left behind and unheard by politicians. I think those are actually very real concerns. I mean, those are concerns that even President Obama had concurred with in the lead up to 2016. Now, unfortunately, with Trump, though, it's not simply to highlight those problems.[00:28:00]Then present ideas, innovation to try to start to ameliorate some of those ills. What Trump did is he took those valid fears and exploited them. And I will continue to say that to a large degree, MAGA voters, even though I'm not defending ignorance, they have been victimized through this trauma of MAGA, and it keeps them coming back.For a variety of reasons, I think, and I think not the least of which is the reason I went through, which is that it's really, really hard to admit when one is when one was mistaken. Because again, that's not in our nature to do that. It's not in our nature to say I was wrong. And when I decided to to publish my mea culpa I was ambivalent about doing it not because I was ambivalent about the the conclusion I came to But when I was thinking about penning these mea culpas, I was thinking You know, is anyone going to really care about this, but I felt like I needed [00:29:00] some closure And I'll get into the reasons why I left MAGA, but I needed some closure, and I felt like the way to do that was to announce to the world that I was wrong.It shows that people can change their minds, and while it's not painless, it is really liberating, and it is possible. MmSHEFFIELD: hmm. Yeah.Despite his many lies, Donald Trump often tells the truth about how little Republican elites value their votersSHEFFIELD: And, one of the other things about the trauma of the, the Republican voter is constantly experiencing is that, so Trump told the truth about the Republican party in 2015 and 2016.And so, like when you, when I, when I go and read various right wing discussion boards and, and forums and Twitter accounts, there, there is an overwhelming sense that. They don't like the Republican party. They only like [00:30:00] Trump and like that really is the key to, I think, to his hold on these voters that a lot of these, professional political class doesn't get is that.They, Trump correctly pointed out to them and routinely points out to them that, the Republican party that sold itself as the representatives for rural America, for, blue collar white people, for Christians for, people who work with their hands the Republican party said, we are the party for you and then proceeded to.Systematically betray them on every single level, whether it was, outsourcing their jobs, whether it was deregulating the companies that they work for whether it was rolling back the taking away their health care, whether it was, even, even making it taking no action on abortion other than, like, in terms of [00:31:00] popular support, they're, they decided, well, we're just going to do this through the courts.We're not going to try to persuade people on abortion to agree with our viewpoint. And so, and then, and then. And they politicized their religion so much that it actually made their religious viewpoints less popular over time. And so literally everything that they told their electorate they were going to do for them.They did the opposite for them, and, they took all the money that, should have been spent on infrastructure in various states, and, didn't spend any of that, and said they went and, started gigantic foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and sorry, and Iraq. And... So Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate in 2015 to actually admit that that had happened.Something that, in retrospect now, no one denies that this happened if you're a Republican. They admit that this happened. Like, a lot of [00:32:00] Republicans now, probably, I haven't seen any polling on it recently, but you know, if you ask, I would bet that a majority of Republicans now disapprove of George W.Bush, have a negative viewpoint of him. And so, like that's, that's the thing that these, DC political Republicans don't understand is that their voters hate them. They hate them. And so you can't, you can't win them back with more of the same telling them you're going to make things the way they were before Trump.No one wants that.LOGIS: I, I would, so I'm, I'm actually publishing an article probably this week at the new republic. And one of the points that I make in it is very much in alignment with what you just said. It was very common. I mean, not once in a while common to be at MAGA events, Trump clubs with those with whom again, I would break bread, congregate, go to their homes.We'd celebrate holidays [00:33:00] together. It was very, very common. To have discussions about how much we loathed the establishment Republican Party so much so that even with some, they, they disdained some of the so called rhinos, Republican in name only, they disdained rhinos for some of them, even more than they did the Democrats, the Democratic Party itself.And there, there's this, so I have this hypothesis that. Whenever there's an indictment or there's some, there's some legal problem that, that Trump has, and he's going to be in and out of court probably in next year in the campaign. I have this hypothesis that privately, I think the Republican party is ecstatic about that.I, I, I think that they look at it as, wow, we can actually have truly the best of two worlds here. The first is we could have Trump go away. Because they're still, party still has a little bit [00:34:00] of that delusion also, which I guess is somewhat ironic that they have that sense as the, as the center left centrist press does.So there's this first part of, oh, we could finally, finally be, be done with this guy, do away with him. But then there's that other side, that other side of the word, which is, but, He's still lucrative to us. We can still fundraise off of him. We can still say that Merrick Garland and Joe Biden are persecuting him and thus persecuting other Republicans and conservatives, weaponizing the law against them just because of what they think or what they say.So I think that the, the, the MAGA world, like the Republican party, I have spent so much time. In retrospect, since leaving the MAGA world in 2021, that when I look back on a lot of the, I had these discussions about, well, the Republican Party was a certain way at one time, or conservatism [00:35:00] was a certain way at one time, and I think that there is, there's a workshop test that happened when Trump started to bring you.Yeah. To the forefront of national politics, which is trickled all the way down to state trickled all the way down to local that there's this workshop test where people view him as this and Maga as a as an ethos where they look at him and Maga and say, This is what I've been waiting for my entire life.I mean, how many people, Matt, think about this, back in your circles. How many people do you know who said, depending on their age, they might have said, Wow, George W. Bush is exactly the guy represents exactly what I've been waiting my whole life for. Or people who said, Oh, John McCain, rest in peace, he's exactly what I've been waiting for.And then Mitt Romney said, Oh, he's, he's boy, Mitt Romney, he's, he's, he's the guy to do he, I've been waiting my whole life for another guy like that, like another Ronald [00:36:00] Reagan. And then all of a sudden here came a guy. And that, that, that gravitational pull for people. I think that a lot of people, Matt, they didn't, they didn't realize.And for some, they probably still don't, they don't, they didn't realize at the time that because of that. Years long experience and exposure that so many had to right wing politics, that they were low hanging fruit. They were, they were traumatized, whether they knew it or not. And, and they had the, they had the perfect outlet, which was MAGA.And what MAGA does for them is it Affirms, it validates what they believe, what they think about America, what they think about, about the world, about how rhinos and Democrats and globalists conspire to erode our freedoms and usurp our rights. [00:37:00] And try to buy, buy fiat or some surreptitious way, take away our constitutional rights.And in the MAGA world, you're, you're around people who think that. And, and so you don't just have, you don't just have the energy of, of one person who thinks that. You have the energy of millions of people. And for me personally...SHEFFIELD: Yeah, you're, you're part of something. That is much bigger than yourselfLOGIS: and I don't and again, I don't think your point I just don't think that the the the DC the DC press the national press the coastal press You had a term for it.I'm blanking on it. The what's the railway called up and down the up and down. Yeah, right. The Acela quarter, right? The Acela, the Acela conservative movement of, no, no, no, we're, we're, we're people who value integrity and we're people who value character, right? And evangelicals who, who, you know, they, they, they, [00:38:00] they they, they value, family support the rule of law.Yeah. All right, the rule of law, high, high morality. We support high morality. And then all of a sudden there's this very fair question to evangelicals, Christian theocrats. And I'm not saying that all evangelicals are, I don't like to make blanket statements, but the evangelicals, the Christian theocrats who do support Trump and MAGA, that we can, we can make an exception, a lot of exceptions that have been made over the last many, many years by millions of people.Well, we can make exceptions because. If, if this is God's will, if, if he, if he commands that this flawed conduit of righteousness is the man to save us from these demonic secular Democrats, then so be it. And. I think for many of them, they, they, they deep down in their heart of hearts. Those are sincerely held beliefs and I think you see, I think you see this [00:39:00] every single day in a lot of the way, whether it's a social media boards or the comments within, within that, within the right wing apparatus on those message boards, you see it really, it shows itself.It manifests itself very clearly.The moral relativism of Christian fundamentalismSHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, well, yeah. And it's interesting because. When you look at a lot of the rhetoric the more highfalutin rhetoric out of Trump Trumpist commentators, they have this idea, like Jenna Ellis, Donald Trump's recently indicted former lawyer.She, she believes that Republicans and, Trump supporters, they believe in moral absolutes. Like they, they constantly are saying that they're against moral relativism. And so for them, like they don't. They don't see it as inconsistent to support Trump because for them, they are thinking systematically, in other words, that, they believe that their viewpoints are the [00:40:00] absolute truth and they have no knowledge of the history of, of fundamentalism and how it actually was just kind of invented.In the 19th and early 20th centuries actually in response to science it's basically a science of the Bible. Like that's what Christian fundamentalism is. And it completely collapsed under its own weight because, basically once people realized that, you can put all these chronologies in the Bible and, go back and calculate the, the age of the earth according to the Bible, you can do that.But that's assuming that, the, the, that it's a literal document and you cannot prove that in any way whatsoever. And so, like, and then, but they, but they base it all on a moral philosophical standpoint called divine command theory, which basically says that, What God, that God alone is the determiner of moral morality and right conduct.But of course, since there is [00:41:00] no, giant billboard with coming down from heaven saying, this is what God thinks about X, Y, and Z. Anybody can claim that they have God's authority. And in fact, that is, what a lot of the, especially on the Protestant side of things that they believe that.And so. It is the height of moral relativism to have these viewpoints because they have no basis for determining what God says authentically and then they have no basis of authority. So really, it just comes down to, well, this is what I believe and what I believe is true because I believe it.LOGIS: I'm going to make a bit of a general statement here.And that statement is that, When we look at how the two parties, we were talking earlier about apolitical voters, primary voters. So my general statement is that if you look at the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, MAGA, the Republican Party is really essentially [00:42:00] solely a primary party. And I think the Democratic Party, not going to say that they don't have some aspect of that, but I do think that the Democratic Party is more of a general election minded party, the GOP is not, and what the really highly traumatic figures on the right, what they really understand well, is they, they understand what A lot of that trauma is that's experienced amongst their voters, the hysteria, the paranoia, the wake up in the middle of the night, sweating fears.And Christian theocracy is really a very important mythology for them because we know that probably most likely, right? We know that the United States is, is a, is a nation that. Has fewer [00:43:00] churchgoers. And, and there's a variety of reasons that people can debate as to, as to why that is, but as we, as we diversify over time, of course, there are people who are, are Christians who may be as part of our growing diversity, but there's also those who, who are not, whether they share in other religious beliefs whether it's another Abrahamic religion or some other religion, or maybe they're just more secular mind.And so. No one's actual First Amendment right to freedom of worship is being infringed. No one's rights are being infringed. Those who want to express their religious views however they want to are able to do that. But for the politicians and the pundits on the right who recognize that there's this, this constant, always growing, always expanding, Hysteria and paranoia on the amongst the MAGA voters [00:44:00] that we are, we are becoming and have been becoming over time a less Christian nation.And thus, to your point about morality and relativism, if we're becoming a less Christian nation, That means we're becoming a more secular nation, and as we become more of a secular nation, then we become more of a communist and socialist and Marxist nation. And again, Matt, I have to emphasize this point amongst the, amongst the primary voters who think that they genuinely believe that.But I'm going to say this, the politicians who espouse that b******t, they don't believe that stuff. They don't think that. I mean, I, part of the reason I left MAGA, if I, if I can mention this, because I, I, I want to give the reasons why. It was actually Rhonda Sanchez, who was the impetus for my eventual egress out of MAGA.Republican politicians' abrupt change on Covid made Rich question the partyLOGIS: So I've lived in Florida for many years, and [00:45:00] here, here when the, when the pandemic started in 2020, we, we, right, high, very highly populated senior citizen state. So I think that. Overall, I want to try to be fair on this point. I think overall, from when the pandemic started until about spring 2021, I thought that Governor DeSantis actually handled the pandemic relatively well.Based on what was known based on how data was changing. We know that that was all happening, but what he was more than anything that I was most pleased about if he was very, very staunchly pro vaccine, he was touting the vaccine. He was taught he helped develop a system here in the state. So senior citizens could be the first ones vaccinated.I was impressed. I was relieved. And I remember when and where it really started for me. Mhm. Is when, if you recall the, the Delta surge started in the summer of 2021. Now, at the time [00:46:00] I had two young kids, I wasn't overly concerned about them getting sick. But what I started to see, and especially in the local press, is I started to see that Delta with kids were, were, were becoming ill from COVID.And there were even, sadly, the occasional stories about children dying from COVID. And we didn't really see that in the alpha stage. We, we started to see it more with Delta. And I remember talking with Floridians here and, and even, even actually pro vaccine Trump voters, because I do think that I should mention that they're, they are out there and I knew some of them.And I remember conversing with them that and saying, when kids started getting sick, very explicitly, saying Governor DeSantis is going to divorce himself from the anti vaccine crowd. He has to. I'm not saying that seniors getting sick and dying was not tragic. It was, I think, though, that when kids start getting sick, and I'm not a scientist, I'm not an immunologist, I'm not an infectious disease [00:47:00] doctor.So I do not speak about topics I don't know about. But I think that once kids started getting sick, it showed that COVID had become more contagious, had become deadlier. And I just remember We're thinking this is the Santa. He's going to, he's going to sever ties. And actually the exact opposite happened.And seemingly overnight he went from an advocate for the vaccine to an anti vaccine Republican. And I, and I, I just, I think, I don't, I don't mean that in a literal sense, but in somewhat of a figurative sense and somewhat, I guess, of a literal sense also, he, he became anti vaccine overnight. And that was a shock.And a jolt because even as a MAGA person, I was not anti vaccine. I didn't think that COVID was some Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates bioweapon. As a side note, which I'll get to in a moment, I also didn't believe that the 2020 election was [00:48:00] stolen. So when I saw DeSantis do that, when I saw him become ardently in in opposition, the vaccine.It shocked me and jolted me to the point where pretty quickly I started to doubt my support for him because of that topic. And the reason is because I just think that there are certain topics, there are certain issues rather that when there's a line of demarcation, if that line of demarcation is crossed, I don't think there's any coming back from it.And I think with, with the vaccine and COVID, I think the line of demarcation that the Santa's crossed and subsequently so many other Republicans in the party that what, and of course many of their voters, the line of demarcation that was crossed was he went. From pro vaccine to someone who then said, even though he may not have literally said these words, but he said that it was that avoidable death and suffering were [00:49:00] acceptable when that line is crossed.You cannot come back from that. Yeah, you cannot realize.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And you realize that he was doing this deliberately that, because he saw a political advantage. Into becoming anti vaccine and it wasn't, and I don't want to put words in your mouth. So you tell me what you thought, but, it's like you realize that this was not sincere, like his motivations were purely.Calculating and not based on altruism, not based on leadership, just based on, well, this will get me more Republican support. So I'm going to do it.LOGIS: There started to be an uptick in, in notoriety with Trump getting booed at his rallies over the vaccine. Very clearly there [00:50:00] was information and knowledge that the Santas had that the, the MAGA, because you can't win a primary without MAGA.It's new. It's mathematically impossible. I mean, right now it's mathematically impossible. There's not enough time to go and get those apolitical Republicans to vote in primaries. So mathematically right in the here and now it is statistically impossible. I mean, 0 percent chance of winning a primary when you're talking about statewide or, or, or, or even in certain cases, certain even local state seats, local seats, it's not possible.So he very clearly saw that shift. And he just immediately adapted his rhetoric. I did not believe then that and I do not believe right now to this day that Rhonda Sanchez, that he believes that that the covid vaccine is what is what he says it is that there that there were these. [00:51:00] unmarked adverse effects, that it was some bio weapon biome.He calls it the bio medical state, that it was some form of tyranny to oppress us. And then he hires a a surgeon general for our state who in any reasonable context would be left out of a hospital, left out of a medical school classroom. Deep down, I know that Ron DeSantis doesn't believe what he says about the vaccine.I know that he doesn't believe What he says about how, how, how kindergartners and elementary school and all kids of all different ages are being indoctrinated to be, to being made gay and being made transgender. I mean, I know teachers, okay. They, they're so busy. Like they don't have any time to make kids gay.I mean, even if they wanted to, they're just, they don't have the time or the, neither the time nor the energy to do it. I know that deep down, he does not believe this. [00:52:00] And as I started to see that. Insincerity unfold. I mean, it's one thing for a politician to change his stance, flip flop and lie, because we almost expect that, right, of a lot of politicians.But again, I'm going to come back to this point, because it was the first prong, the two prong reason that I, that I left MAGA, because I always say with my MAGA egress, to paraphrase Hemingway, it happened gradually and then suddenly all at once. Once I started to realize with the Sanchez and then subsequently later on the Republican party, even Trump himself, because he, he kind of waivers right on the vaccine.Sometimes he's proud of it. Sometimes he doesn't want to talk about it. I saw that line of demarcation being that the Republican party said that it, that, that avoidable death and suffering. are acceptable. And I think there's other topics that I will add to that. For example, firearm related deaths.That's that's another area where where Maga and and and by extension, the [00:53:00] Republican Party, they've adopted a stance that avoidable death and suffering. It's okay. It's acceptable. It's acceptable to do that of all ages, not just Children of all ages. I don't believe you. I don't believe you can come back from that.And then the other two prong, the second prong of this, Matt, was that when January six happened, okay, for many, many months, I was in the, well, it wasn't good, but what's the big deal camp? That was some, some idiots who went and rioted. They were a bunch of idiots. They were dopes. They, most of the people there were peaceful.Why are we still talking about this? Okay. Why are we still mentioning all this? Just move on from it. And this was happening right around the time when DeSantis made his, made his flip on the vaccine, summer 21, the continued stolen election rhetoric of Trump. I started to more and more realize just how, and again, to use this adjective, how traumatic it really was [00:54:00] for the country, for MAGA voters.So I decided to do something which was to question and challenge my own understanding of what really led to January 6th. And so I decided to delve deep into some of those, some of the conspiracies that have since... permeated across MAGA, but are overtly and publicly endorsed by Trump himself, whether it's QAnon or Oath Keepers or Three Percenters or Proud Boys.Once I started to get into the rabbit hole of these organizations, these conspiracies, it started to make a lot more sense why January 6th happened. So I had. I had this road to Damascus moment where I had to make one of two choices. I either continue to support this, the support of acceptable [00:55:00] deaths, the support of acceptable suffering, the support of this trauma based on, on conspiracies and hysteria and paranoia that have resulted in loss of life, that have resulted in Widows that have resolved resulted in permanently injured police officers.I had to, I came to, I came to the line and I made, I had to make one or two choices, thankfully. And I give thanks for this, Matt, every day I give gratitude for this. I didn't cross over that line because I often think to myself, I often think about this, what if Trump had won in 2020? I don't. Really want to think about.I have thought about and I don't have a pretty picture of how I would have continued to think about all of these traumatic [00:56:00] mythologies. I think it's extremely unlikely that I would have had this political and personal epiphany had trump won in 2020. I think I would have simply Carried on with as bad as everything that Trump might've said, or the Republican Party does, or how much I can't stand the establishment Republicans and the RINOs, I, I dislike them almost as much as the Democratic Party.However, having said all that, if I, if Trump wins and I'm still in that world, which I think almost certainly I remain in that world, I'm still unified against the never ending existential threat. And I think a lot of people, Matt, I can't say this for certain, but I have a, I've got a pretty strong inkling about this that I think some people came to their own line.Some decided not to cross it, but unfortunately and sadly, some did. And democratically, that's the first step [00:57:00] to. And I'm going to use this, put in kind of quotes, defeating MAGA, because I don't, I don't really think that ideologies can be defeated in the way we think about simple wins, simple losses. But democratically is the first way to do it.I'll come back to the point about unlikely, but necessary alliances. I believe that MAGA is going to be democratically defeated next year. I think that the Republican Party knows that their party is terminally ill. I believe that the Republican Party is expecting, they are preparing, they're, they're building the bunker, so to speak, going to the mattresses to quote the Godfather, that they are expecting massive, even perhaps historic electoral losses up and down the ballot next year.If that happens, which I believe that it will, it's, it's what my wish is, because even though I am not registered with any political party, I am registered to vote. I, I cannot, I, I, I must support Democrat [00:58:00] candidates next year, whatever my reservations or qualms about some of what I think about the Democratic party and some of their candidates and some of their activism, I don't really see a choice, I mean, theoretically we have a choice, but I don't really see a choice and I will support Democrats up and down the ballot.And once the Republican Party, I believe is in its current form, once it is mercy killed, now there's another challenge. And that challenge is a really uncomfortable one. And that uncomfortable challenge is those who decided to form those unlikely but necessary alliances are going to have to be the ones who lead the national reconciliation.With the MAGA voters who, who will, I, I, I do think some are going to come to the conclusion that they have to leave behind that world. Maybe that sounds naively optimistic. I don't mean for it to sound utopian. I don't mean for it to sound Pollyannish in [00:59:00] any kind of way, but I, I really do think that it's going to happen.And I'm not making an exact comparison between the Confederacy and MAGA. But. After the Civil War in postbellum America, it was, it was the goal of Abe Lincoln, who was assassinated three days after the surrendered Appomattox, and sadly, it's one of history's saddest urges that Lincoln did not get to see some of the fruits of his labor reconciled, and, but two presidents later, we had U.S. C. 's S. Grant, and even right after the war ended, and then as president, U. S. Grant led the reconciliation reconciliation. amongst the Northern Union residents and former soldiers and the Confederate soldiers. And that was really hard for Lincoln. I mean, I can only imagine how difficult it was, how difficult it was for Lincoln, for, for Grant.And I'm telling you, Matt, I think we are in that moment right now. I, for as much as people will talk about, make these comparisons about the Civil War and right now, I actually think the better comparison [01:00:00] Is what happened after the Civil War and what I believe will and has to happen after democratically MAGA is defeated next year, and I know a lot of Maybe Democrats or Trump loathing Republicans who hear that.That's probably, they're probably not going to really like how that sounds. Right. They're going to say, screw them. They, they made the bed when I'm lying in it. It's not our responsibility to reconcile with them. I understand those points. And I'm not saying that there aren't some similarities between right now and antebellum America in the lead the Civil War. But there is going to be a necessary reconciliation because you're talking about tens and tens of millions of Americans. And our democracy, we, we cannot keep moving forward in the perfection of this union with tens upon tens upon tens of millions of Americans who are living in a balance of reality.We can have disagreements about policy. We can have disagreements about approach. We can, we can argue data and studies [01:01:00] and America is a big place. We have a lot of room for beliefs and opinions and facts and data, but we have to come to a place in the country where there are more of us who agree on basic sets of facts, and that's going to be really, really hard.But I, I, I, and I, I think that the idea of saving is again, well intended, but I think it's one of the more Sisyphean delusional endeavors of mankind, the idea that we can save someone or save something. But having said that, I think that MAGA voters need to be saved from themselves because what that, that, what that world, what that, what that world has done to them, both pre MAGA and during it.What that world has done to, they, they have harmed themselves. They have, they have, they have, they have harmed their, their communities. And I'm trying to say this without casting aspersions [01:02:00] or judgment, but they've, they've harmed their own lives. And as a result of that, the country has been harmed. And as someone who was a former MAGA voter, I am imploring those out there who are going to hear this.And I guarantee Matt, they're going to know someone, probably close to them. And they're going to say, I can't get through to my, to my mother. I can't get through to my dad. I can't get through to my wife. I can't get through to my, my, my son. I don't invite my daughter anymore to, to Thanksgiving. That is trauma, and it's not going to be easy, can be healed.Democratically is the first step. After that, now we're going to need leaders on the side of reconciliation. And that's going to be, again, that's going to be a really arduous task, but anything that is worth it in the long run typically is arduous, right? It, it, it's, it's going to be, and we, and [01:03:00] we are gonna need to have innovative ways of figuring out how to rebuild and, and mend again, these civic and communal ties.We're going to need to, we're going to need to do that. And just one other point, man, I think this is very important to note this. When I write these, whenever written, these mea culpas, I, I, I, I'd be remiss if, if I, if I omit that there is some trauma on the Democrat side because it's, it's not that uncommon.It doesn't happen a lot, but it isn't. That rare where I'll receive a comment from someone who identifies as either a democrat or some anti trump voter And they will say to me rich, I You know, I just go away you you voted twice for this guy Actually, I voted four times for trump because it was twice in the primary also, I voted two hampton's primary in general election.I did not vote for him in last year's election I'll have democrats or those traumatized from trump. Tell me just stop talking. Shut up Go away. You're, you're a, [01:04:00] you're a Nazi in sheep's clothing. I had a, someone say that to me and, and these are people who right now I'm, I'm aligned with them broadly speaking on, on the, on the importance of strengthening our democracy and our democratic lowercase d institutions.So it exists not there too. It's not absent on the side of the world. Left where, where, where there is this trauma, and I think some of those individuals as well, I want to be invitational to them to invite them back into, in, in, into, into more of that mending that civic tie because I think there's gonna be some reconciliation needed with those who, no matter how many times I, I'm remorseful and say I was wrong, some of the anti-Trump voters are, are, are gonna say to me, I don't care.What you did was unforgivable. We have to somehow move on from that too. It's going to be hard, but we need to figure out ways to do it. Yeah,Why Democrats are trying to divide MAGA from RepublicansSHEFFIELD: And it is interesting when you look at [01:05:00] some of the political strategizing from Joe Biden during the 2020 election. That he did, make it a point to differentiate between what he called the ultra mega.Republicans and, just kind of the habitual ones. And that is, it is, it is an important thing to, to note. And but another thing that's going to have to be part of this reconciliation is that, people who live outside of the right wing media ecosystem.And it's, it's got to be pierced in many different ways because, if, and I, and I, I agree that, it seems likely that Trump is not going to prevail in 2024, but you never know. I mean, Biden could have some physical ailment or who knows what. And, but let's say that happens, the, the right wing media media [01:06:00] ecosystem is going to go into overdrive after that moment to try to blame, to, to cast aspersions on the rest of America, because I mean, it's important to note here that basically, these far right media outlets like Fox news or daily wire or gateway pundit or any of these other ones.Yeah. , their goal is to get their audience to hate America. That is what their goal is.They want you, if you believe the things that they say are true, they are telling you not only is Satan controlling the Democrats, But America is a fallen nation. It is a nation that is communist. It is a nation that is godless. It's a nation that is, dominated by insert whatever group you are terrified of the most here.And, people who are outside of that, they can, it's I, I do think that it's [01:07:00] probably the biggest difficulty that they face in trying to oppose this mega extremism is to understand, it's totalizing, this is something that, they, it is brainwashing. That is what is going on here.And if you're a leader. Or you have access to funding or whatever, like you need to reallocate what you're doing because, throwing some TV ads out there about how Trump is bad or whatever, like all of that's over once the election's gone, all that money you spent. Is flushed down the toilet nothing lasts from that and, you haven't really accomplished the goal if, if that's what your objective is, is to defeat this extremism.It has to be a lasting project.LOGIS: Well, just as Matt, just as I think that MAGA voters. Either don't realize or do realize and don't care just as MAGA voters don't realize or [01:08:00] don't care that the politicians they listen to do not believe what they're saying. I mean, whether you want to talk about, I mean, maybe Trump believes that he really.Lost the election. I, I vacillate a little bit on that. Sometimes I think he does, sometimes I think he doesn't, but everything else that he talks about, whether it's, transgender ideology, or we're gonna, what was the one idea he had? We're gonna, we're gonna build cities, like this, like, this brave new world, Huxleyan idea, like, he doesn't believe any of this stuff.He's a, he's a, He's a pro abortion rights, pro abortion access guy, but,SHEFFIELD: but, supported same sex marriage.LOGIS: Absolutely. He's, he's, he's on saying, he said, Oh yeah, I'd let a transgender person participate in my, in my pageants. But if you don't know, or you don't care, you're not realizing that, that, that these politicians are, if you're MAGA, you don't realize, or don't care that they're lying to you.[01:09:00] They mock you in private. They are insulting your intelligence. They are, They are exploiting you, both your, your spirit and your soul and your money and your wallet. And I, I think the other side of this too, and I'm glad you brought this up with Fox because my hot take on this is I think that Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch are the two most traumatizing figures in the history of American media.Some might argue, Rush Limbaugh, some might argue and Andrew Breitbart they're certainly. Their legacies are certainly traumatic, but I think Ailes and Murdoch are the, are the, are the ones who stand atop that very traumatic mountain and look at the Fox pundits. I mean, look at these, Sean Hannity does not believe what he said.Laura Ingram does not believe what she says. Jesse Waters, they do not believe. And people watching that, you, you, you wonder. [01:10:00] One of the reasons that they are watching this, even if some of them think, well, I don't, yeah, that's probably not true, or, well, that might be an exaggeration, or, but again, it's the feeling of validation.It's the feeling of, we're a, we're a, we're a browning and darkening nation. We're a diversifying nation. White Americans are projected to be a minority. in the year 2040 based on what we know about population and census demographics. And so that stuff is, is just, it's like the Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange, right?Where the eyelids are sewn open and the character is Labarge, right? I think was his name. He's just, he's being indoctrinated and propagandized with the film in front of him and his eyes are open. He can't close them. So he's seeing that. That is what. happens and what is done and continues to be done on the right wing media apparatus side.[01:11:00] And when I was, when I was in MAGA, especially near the end of it, I was a Fox viewer pretty much every night, watch Tucker Carlson and think, wow, that's. That's awful. Or that never thinking, wow, that really happened. We're listening to a Laura Ingraham and think, and then all of a sudden coming out of that world turned Fox right off.And once it turned off, I'm telling you that it started to clear some of the fog of my own mental state. The brain fog that I had, it started to go away. And so we can't, we cannot overlook that. I, I won't, I don't want to overlook the fact that a lot of this media that's on the right wing side, these are people who don't believe this.They simply, they, they, they have the proverbial finger on the pulse. They, they know what is lucrative. They know what will drive. The audience and keep the audience because it's important. Retention is very, very important in media because of of of the of [01:12:00] the fleeting attention span that we is our homo sapiens species just has right.So getting the getting them to tune in is one getting to read is one. But then there's the other about retaining them. And I think that the center center left press there, they're coming. They're trying to approach us more as actual journalists. Thank you. And I don't want their news stories to be biased.Okay. I want them to be as unbiased as possible. And I'm not saying that the center left and centrist pressed are the only savior there. It's not that they're going to save the day. I don't think that it's fair to put all of that, the onus on them entirely. But if we start now piecing together some of these topics we've been talking about, like Defeating MAGA democratically, unlikely, but necessary alliances a media, an adult media, I call adult media, national media, national media apparatus, who is, is not just engaging in group group think, [01:13:00] but their columnists and their op eds are, are very much clear and explicit that.We are in a state right now where we do not have a healthy two party system and whatever my, whatever my dislike of the two party system, because I think dislike of the two party system is probably a commonly, it's probably an issue that actually binds a political and very political people right in this kind of way.So whatever we've always been a two party system that we're always going to be, but we are not a healthy two party system right now. I don't say vote Democrat because I want one party rule, but the only way that we're going to develop a healthier two party system is we must mercy kill this current iteration of the Republican party.And then after that happens, then the more serious considerate Republicans, whether we're talking a Mitt Romney type, or we're talking about someone like a Brian Fitzpatrick, who's in Pennsylvania. [01:14:00] He's a, he's a congressman, maybe a guy like a Spencer Cox in Utah, the governor. I saw him speak recently.Again, don't agree with his, a lot of us don't agree with some of his policy approaches, but he's, he's an adult, right? He's sensible. Okay. I can sit down at a table and talk with a person like this, those more responsible Republicans. They're going to have a big decision to make also. Because they're going to need to figure out where do we go once this MAGA Republican party has splintered?Because I think that's what happens after next year, Matt. I think you have a further splintering of the GOP. You have the MAGA side. You have the, more of the Mitt Romney McCain side. And then you have what I'm going to call, quote unquote, more liberal Republicans. And these are going to be Republicans whose policies are very much a purple shade of red.So if you think about what I just said right there, that you're, you still got all these factions who are, who are still going to have to compete for the attention span of primary [01:15:00] voters. You're going to still see that. Yeah.How multi-party voting can help disaffected people from getting seduced by reactionismSHEFFIELD: Well, and, and some of what's got to happen is that people need to be going, pushing for rank choice voting to make.third parties easier to win because, cause the reality is that there are a lot of people who may not like, some Trumpist Republican who ends up with a nomination. But they don't feel like there, that there is an alternative. And so, but you know, when you look at where ranked choice voting has been.put into place, it actually has helped to defuse some of this right wing extremism. So like in Alaska, for instance, where they put in ranked choice voting for the general election and, and for their primaries that, Sarah Palin was the, was the leading Republican candidate up there, but she ended up not winning the, the general election because a lot of the supporters of the other Republican.[01:16:00]They just couldn't stomach somebody like her. And they didn't have to, like, that's the beauty of ranked choice voting is that you can say, I don't like the Democrats but you also don't have to like who the Republicans put in front of you either. And that's the beauty of that. And, and it's, and it's really going to be something that's a really important goal.And then the other thing is that, is getting people to accept that, you don't. Let's say, let's say you don't want to vote for the Democrats. Just don't vote for Trump or, the people that he puts forward. Like that is a thing that people are also moving to. Like when you look at, especially like in Georgia, for instance in 2020, Donald Trump got, and he got, at least I think 70, 000 fewer votes.than the other down ballot Republicans did. And, and we saw the same thing in Arizona where Carrie Lake, when she was running for the governor's seat there, [01:17:00] she got, at least a hundred thousand fewer votes than the other Republicans did. And some of whom actually ended up winning their race.And that's, that is something that, that people should really be thinking about as well. And, you may not be able to bring yourself to go and vote for a Democrat. And, no party's entitled to your vote. No one's entitled to get your vote, I don't think. But, at least do yourself and the country a favor and don't.Go out and support people who want to destroy the country and have a dictatorshipLOGIS: That that's part of the logic why I've remained a. We call it in Florida, an NPA, no party affiliated voter. And I feel exactly the same way. And going all the way back to the outset of our conversation today, Ralph Nader, running as the green party.And there was this feeling, we, and of course being in New York at the time, I realized even back then, well, [01:18:00] Al Gore was going to win the votes anyway. So it was a risk free vote for me, but there also was this feeling with, with the rate with the excuse me, the Nader. Campaign where, we were really sticking it to, to, to al Gore in particular.We were, we were sticking it to 'em and, and, and we're gonna, we're gonna, we're gonna show them no. No one is owed our vote. You have to earn it. You have to work for it. And that's why I've decided to keep this NPA status. And one contradiction I want to underscore is that you've heard this talking point recently that The place to really quote unquote, indict Donald Trump is not in the courtroom.It's at the ballot box. And I, I'd like to underscore the, the the contradictory hypocrisy of that statement because the Republican party prides itself on saying that we're a Republican, not a democracy, which actually isn't true. We're actually both. And that's a whole other conversation [01:19:00] about how the framers quite ingeniously devised a.Complex majority rule, democratic, lowercase d republic. So when they, when I hear the GOP or MAGA or otherwise talk about we're a republic, not a democracy, I find it, I find it contradictory. And they note that it is that that same party who says we're a republic, not a democracy, wants a democratic resolution to, to, to Trump.And so, again, I don't, I think it just comes back to as part of my. As part of my remorse, as part of the feeling of the mistake that I made, where I want to try to get through to MAGA voters is, is to say to them that, number one, I don't think, I think that most MAGA voters deep down are good people. I was at an event recently and met many MAGA voters whom I did not know, met them for the first time.[01:20:00]And honest to God, Matt, I mean, the people I met, if I, if I were on the side of the These are people who would have pulled over in the rain, helped me change a flat tire, and wanting to take in money to do it. There is a goodness in them. There, there, there, there is a decency. And While it's going to be really difficult, we are gonna and and the right wing apparatus, we have to go up against, we're gonna have to go up against those conglomerates.We're gonna need to go up that go against that force field, but with this good and decency that that are in them as human beings, we have to find ways of appealing to the better and braver angels of our nature, because I know that deep down that so many of them are good people. And when I've had discussions with them, I haven't tried to change their mind.I think that's another futile endeavor, the idea of changing minds. But what I've, what I've said to them eye to eye, just like we're talking now, as I said, I don't want to, I don't want to [01:21:00] try to persuade you to change your mind, but I want, I want to ask you this question for you to think about. Is it possible that some of your, just like I thought, is it possible that some of your sincerely held beliefs, your opinions are mistaken, that they are incomplete?That maybe they lack nuance. Maybe they're too black and white. And let me tell you what I discovered. Even though it was a small sampling size, granted, wasn't hundreds, it was not even dozens. It was a handful. Let me tell you what I discovered when I asked that question of MAGA loaders at an event I attended recently.There was a little bit of silence and they said, it's possible. Yeah, it's possible. So right there, the door creaked open just a bit because it's, it's, it's not. It's not go even for me. It didn't happen [01:22:00] overnight. Yes, I joke it was it happened gradually and then suddenly all at once. It's going to take time because once the door once the doors open, that's where we appeal to them as fellow human beings as fellow Americans.They are never ever to your point that you made earlier. They are never ever going to get that from most of the politicians they listen to whom they vote for to the pundits they listen to. For the most part, Matt, these are you. These are rhetorical performers and whatever, whatever my, whatever my strong, I've had strong feelings about this.How disinformation gives permission for extremismLOGIS: I hope that that's come through here, but whatever my feelings about some differences of opinion policy, I might have with the Democratic Party. I see their party mostly comprised of people who I think see government as a way of improving people's lives. It doesn't mean that it always, it always [01:23:00] get it right.It doesn't mean that we're not going to disagree with how they, how they may have came, came to an outcome. But the, but the way that MAGA looks at government is they want government to be retaliatory. That's what this entire Disney episode was about here in Florida with the Santas. And the reason that they want this retaliatory government, the reason that they are, they are, they are willing to abdicate.Some of their own freedoms into some light version of authoritarianism is because some light version of a dictatorial type government is because that's what they see the Democrats as. So they're, they're willing to, to vote for this, for this, for the MAGA side. Even if it, even if it means being mocked, having their intelligence insulted, having rights taken away, [01:24:00] especially ones that have existed for decades, like the right to abortion access.They see the Democrats as that authoritarian dictatorial party. And so because they see the Democrats that way, they're willing to accept it on their side because they see, they see right wing retaliatory government as superior and preferable to a left wing one. And All throughout this conversation today, I think what runs consistent through it all is that there was a, there is a lot of trauma in the country and, Trump was able to capture the lightning in a bottle, so to speak, he figured out pretty quickly what These MAGA or MAGA in the making voters want it to be, it's like you said earlier about the feeling of, of, of losing their country.Our, our, our culture is being eroded. Our values are being eroded. And it comes right back to the slogan, make America great again. [01:25:00] Restore America to this constitutional mythological place where Children prayed in public schools and we kept our doors unlocked at night. Down the street from where the kids prayed and where you kept your doors unlocked were black Americans who crossed over the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery to ask, to ask not for preferential treatment and rights, but equal treatment and rights.So we tend to forget the fire hosing of blacks or the stones and the pellets thrown at a Ruby Bridges or George Wallace standing in front of the school or. fill in the blank of, of, of, of gender discrimination and discrimination based on sexual orientation. So America was great for many people in that mythological epoch of the 50s and the 60s.Sure it was for many, [01:26:00] but it wasn't for everyone. And that perfection of the union I think President Obama, speak so eloquently about this history doesn't move in a straight line. It zigs and it dags. It's uneven. We make progress. Then we take a step back. We make progress. We take a step back. If you look at the founding of America and the constitution itself, bill of rights, yes, it's a complicated document because our founding was complicated.Our framers were complicated, but if you actually look at the constitution, the bill of rights, it's very much a. a progressive, meaning progress, they are compromised progress documents. They are documents that, that establish that the country over time is going to be best when there is more equal protection and equal right to quality under the law.The constitution of framing and the framers documents do, there is, there's, there's a, there might be a Conservatism side too, but I would argue it's really more of a [01:27:00] conservation than conservative because I have a, I have, what shall we say? I love, hate with conservatism. Even when I was in the MAGA world, I actually had a little bit of a love, hate with conservatism because I think that conservatism writ large, it's not that all of the tenants of it are, are bad.It's not that some of them aren't aspirational, but the biggest problem with conservatism over the years is that. The messengers of conservatism are Ideologically, they're malleable. They're, they're whatever that they need to be. So if conservatism is about your one is principled, no matter what one support speech, even when we don't like it, we uphold the rule of law, even if we don't like who's indicted or convicted.If someone is a, says he or she is a conservative and stays true and consistent to that, fine, that's a message you're all listening to. But let's be honest about this. Let's be candid. If you look at the most prominent conservatives over the years, they do not, they do not follow [01:28:00] this supposed principled position that they, that they claim that they adhere to.Yeah. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Well, and, and I mean, ultimately, those disempowered conservatives who, are actual believers in the rule of law. They have to accept and understand that MAGA is not conservative. It is reaction, reactionism. It is, a hatred for, because the, the point of conservatism is supposed to be sort of a way of tempering the changes demanded by.Liberalism or, social democracy. It's supposed to say, Hey, I'm not against change. I just want to make sure we do it right. And we do it in a safe way. That's what conservatism is supposed to be. Conservatism isn't supposed to say. I want to go back to the way things were. And that's something that Dwight Eisenhower really tried to get the Republican party to [01:29:00] understand in the 1950s.And, and ultimately, a Republican, for the Republican party to be. Become, again, a part of the American political experiment in a successful and, and healthy manner, they have to, to go back to that Eisenhower perspective and understand that the biggest threat to conservatism is reactionism, that they are coming for you first, and so you need to come for them.LOGIS: Well, I think that's why social issues have always been so effectively traumatic for the right way. Because they are reflective of changes that we see, we see more men marrying men, more women marrying women, we see more diversity around our lives, our communities, businesses, we frequent, frequent, excuse me, our workplaces those are, those are, [01:30:00] those are, those are visuals.And so when people start to feel like, well, this is not the, this is not the America I grew up in. And now, of course, that that way of thinking has trickled down into the right wing youth movements, right, with Turning Point, where we see that, where there's, there's young, young men and women, late teens in their 20s, who are, are basically growing up and probably the best time ever to be young, right, but they're being told.Well, let me tell you how America used to be, let me tell you what it was like in the 60s. Let me tell you what it was like in the 50s. Boy, if we get, we get back to that, that's, that's the America I know, the Chevrolet, apple pie and baseball America, right? That's the, that's the, that's how we're, and, and so young people, right, are, are, are hearing this and thinking, yeah, I want to go back to this America, but.They're not really asked, but you never really lived in that America. So, how, how do you know, how do you know about [01:31:00] what it really was? And you mentioned earlier a point about, the less densely populated areas of MAGA, maybe, and I think this is another blind spot with the, with the press, the centrist center left national press is that there's, there is this, I think there is this underlying.Maybe even almost, it's maybe a bit taboo, but there's this underlying sentiment of a lot of MAGA voters being uneducated and uncouth. I'm going to tell you something, Matt, the MAGA voters, a lot of MAGA voters I was around were anything but. They were affluent in some cases, successful. They were professionals who worked in highly regulated industries.They were credentialed. They were educated. And they did not fit that stereotype, if you will, about who the quote unquote typical MAGA voter is. And so if the press is not even really [01:32:00] understanding the population of, of the, of the movement that they're talking about, like who actually is comprised demographically, it's going to be very hard.If you don't even really recognize that, it's going to be really hard to kind of burrow in and, and ask why, why, why is this persist. Why does it have this appeal? Because I mentioned again the point about just like it's just like the confederacy. The confederacy was not, it was defeated. But the ideology, the lost cause of it remains to this day.Now what's happened over time And I, I give credit to activists on this and educators what's happened over time is that there have been there have been increasingly fewer and fewer adherence to the confederacy. And I think that over time. That's a worthy goal. That's an aspirational goal that over time, as we democratically defeat them as we work toward reconciliation as we put that work in that necessary work of strengthening democracy and [01:33:00] democratic institutions.I do believe, and again, maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I don't think it is, I do think we'll start to see fewer and fewer adherence to MAGA over time. We have to have a sense of urgency, but we have to be patient about it. But, if MAGA is not democratically defeated, and while I generally don't like guilt by association, I don't see how we avoid it with Republican candidates and MAGA this election cycle. I'm not, I'm not really sure we can, at this point and moment in time in our history, I'm not sure we can really separate it. Not all the Confederate soldiers supported slavery. Some of them joined up to make money or help their family and they just got into a war because it was a, it was a, it was a, a financial endeavor for them.But having said that, Lincoln and U. S. Grant didn't. Differentiate between those who were like that and those who [01:34:00] wanted slavery, not only in place, but wanted to expand it. I see that as the moment right now and Unfortunately, Matt, not to contradict myself on this, but the flip side of this conversely is that what I'm saying to you right then and there about, having to defeat MAGA and, and guilt by association.This is, this is potentially fatal for democracy. This is not, this is not, this is a sign of a dysfunctional democracy. And, and I do, I do think. That America's democracy is stronger than weaker, but we also have to acknowledge, and I think this can come from that on those unlikely alliances. We have to acknowledge that there are always forces who are seeking to weaken it because the Republican party writ large as a party apparatus does, does not believe in as much the franchise as they could. They are, they are, they are a party who sees democracy as [01:35:00] adverse. They see democracy as that, as the mechanism by which to bring in that change. And the more people, Matt, the more people who say, okay, these changes are good for the country. They don't harm me. They don't harm my livelihood.The more people start to think about that, the more the grip of the Republican party weakens. But having said that, It is still a very, very strong grip. It is still a strong grip.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. All right, well, so, I think yeah, it's been a, it's been a great discussion here, Rich. Let's put up your Twitter info on the screen here.Yeah, thank you. So you are at... Perfect our union on Twitter. And then your website address is remind me of that one again.LOGIS: Yeah. So website you can contact me there. My writings are there as well. They're all open, no paywall to perfect our union. us and I'll just make a quick public service announcement here, Matt, if I may, anyone who's listening, who's watching this, [01:36:00] if, if they feel like they, if, if they're, if they're in a situation where they want to try to get through to a MAGA voter.They are, they are welcome to contact me at any time. And however, whatever public service I can give here to complete strangers or those I know, I'm happy to do it. So anyone out there listening and watching I don't want you to hesitate to contact me. If you feel like my story here can, can help in how you're trying to get through and maybe reconcile in your own household or your own family or your own community with some MAGA voters.We remember that they are, most of them are good people deep down, but they've been led astray and they've been failed and exploited. And we can change that. I do really believe that we can reverse that. So anyone out there, you are welcome to contact me at any time. You can communicate with me on my site, Okay, all right. Well, I [01:37:00] think that'll do it for us today then. It's been a great discussion. Thanks for being here.LOGIS: My pleasure, Matt. Thank you. Anytime.SHEFFIELD: So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for watching or listening or reading. Please do encourage your friends and family to know about the show as well.Just go ahead and direct them to theoryofchange. show. Thank you very much for your support and I will see you next time. [01:38:00] [01:39:00] This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/25/20231 hour, 39 minutes, 28 seconds
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So This Just Happened #005: Country music and Confederate Christianity

SummaryCountry music star Maren Morris announced that she's going to leave the industry after realizing that genre fans were too reactionary for her, in part by many people playing and purchasing songs meant to be perceived as threats to Black Lives Matter protesters and anti-fascist activists.Because it originated as a musical form from the former confederacy, country music has many vestiges of that racist and theocratic tradition, but nonetheless, it is also true that country, and the Old South, were always multiracial and multi-ideological.Join Kali and Matt as they explore the politics of country music and several other topics in this episode.Timecodes00:00 — Maren Morris says country music is too right-wing for her07:02 — Country music industry divided over its cultural ties to Confederate Christianity11:04 — Republicans are obsessing over Kamala Harris20:33 — Richard Hanania and the many similarities between right-wing elites and grassroots23:51 — More fallout for Lauren Boebert after theater incident25:47 — Russell Brand's defenders trying to turn him into a martyrJoin the Conversation!Matt on Twitter on Apple PodcastsTheme SongEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocal by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/22/202338 minutes
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Doomscroll #010: Did Trump 'break' political comedy?

Matt and Lisa are joined in this episode by Doug J. Balloon, the creator of the New York Times Pitchbot parody Twitter account for a definitely not-safe-for-work discussion about all the news of the week, including Conan O’Brien’s assertion that Donald Trump made comedy monologues a lot harder, very serious allegations being lobbed at Russell Brand, and Trump’s totally bizarre cult musical performance at his latest speech.Timecodes00:22 — Conan O'Brien says Trump broke comedy04:10 — Russell Brand faces sex assault allegations13:56 — NBC's Kristen Welker fails in Trump interview22:01 — Trump playing cult music in his speechs now27:53 — Bill Maher & Drew Barrymore shamed into canceling showsFollow or die!Doomscroll is a Flux media network podcast. We’ve got lots more great articles and podcasts on politics, culture, media, and religion. Join us! This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/20/202336 minutes, 18 seconds
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Theory of Change #087: Natalia Mehlman Petrzela on fitness and fascism

Episode SummaryAs American conservatism is rotting out from the inside, it is slowly being replaced by both reactionism and fascism. It is a horrifying story to see, but there are also a lot of interesting things to notice as conservatism is decaying. One of those things that fascism is just as much an aesthetic as it is an ideology.While it's become much more radical and obsessed with imaginary stories of national doom, the American far right has also become dramatically more interested in fitness and on looking good as they define it, with an additional focus by many on ancient Greek and Roman people who are known for their statues and philosophy.That such a rapid interest in fitness would coincide with the political career of the obese ex-president Donald Trump is more than a little bit ironic. Nonetheless, some journalists and media outlets appear to be overstating the degree to which fitness may be associated with fascism.This episode's guest is Natalia Mehlman Petrzela. She is the author of a new book called Fit Nation: The Gains and Pains of America's Exercise Obsession and a previous one called Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture.The video version of this episode is available on YouTube.Audio Chapters02:26 — Today's classroom battles began in the 1960s08:11 — How Donald Trump supercharged the macho reactionary tradition12:37 — Fitness culture is cross-political and fascists are discovering their own athletic history18:22 — Wellness culture is far older than you think22:00 — Folk medicine, religious fundamentalism, and skepticism of doctors25:58 — Homoeroticism and the fascistic aesthetic31:38 — Media sensationalism about fascist gym people38:44 — Right-wing activists using fitness and health advice to radicalize teen boysAutomated TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Welcome to Theory of Change, Natalia.NATALIA MEHLMAN PETRZELA: Thanks for having me. Glad to take this conversation from Twitter to the screen. So glad to be here.SHEFFIELD: That's right. Yes. Cool. All right. Well, so, you have written two books. Fit Nation is your second book. Your first one is very relevant to the present moment as well. So let's maybe talk about the first one and before we get into today's subject as well.PETRZELA: Sure. So my first book was Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture. And it's one of these things, I guess, that I should be very grateful for where it came out in 2015. And honestly, my choice of topic, which was connecting curricular battles over race and sex at the time, people [00:03:00] were like, wait, why are you connecting these things? And now, as we see these battles over CRT and so-called gender ideology flaring up everywhere, now I'm like doing media for that book again. So I'm sorry that the political culture has taken that turn, but I was glad to have done a decade of historical research to help understand its origins.SHEFFIELD: And for people who may not have heard the term gender ideology, what does that mean?PETRZELA: Yeah, so that's a term and I say it sort of with air quotes that the right uses right now to talk about what they consider to be the kind of imposition of an ideological perspective on gender and what they define that as is this notion that gender is socially constructed, that the binary of maleness and femaleness is not real, that children can choose different gender identities, and then a close kind of addendum to that is that parents don't have a right to know [00:04:00] about to know or to dictate their children's gender.And I think a big part of it is also the notion that gender is disconnected from sex, from biological sex. So they, they say that that constitutes gender ideology and that is being imposed on children at schools often without the knowledge or against the will of their parents. And that is a very powerful talking point right now.SHEFFIELD: It is. Yeah. Yeah. And especially in regard to transgender people as well that, that you see a lot of people particularly predominantly, but not exclusively on the, on the Christian right who have, they have really, really believe that this is a religion an alternative religion that is trying to establish itself.And they speak of it as such.PETRZELA: Yeah. And that actually, the real historical origins there, like my book, I'm a historian and I was talking about the sixties and the seventies and a little bit, the 1980s. Similar moment to today, but obviously different issues. Nobody was talking about [00:05:00] transgender rights back then, but they were talking about this kind of new liberal or progressive approach talking about sexuality with kids as itself a religion.And they called it secular humanism. And what you heard all the time was that the secular humanists have this new religion and it's softening kids up for communist takeover basically. And they're using sex to do that. And so, I guess jumping right into the somewhat salacious content here, but something that you would hear all the time was that sex education is kind of priming kids to let go of any kind of sense that this is inappropriate, or this is immoral or this is private. It has kids kind of talking about and indulging in their desires, and this will allow children to basically be so caught up in like a frenzy of sexual ecstasy or distraction that they are ripe for being taken over by communists because, there are loyalties have kind of been taken away from their family and from, [00:06:00] from God and country and family, really.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and they kind of, and, and that conspiracy theory kind of, I mean, it, it circulated somewhat widely on the political right, certainly within the John Birch Society, especially and that was one of the focuses of your book. Book as well. Because the John Bridge Society was founded out here in California, where I live, Southern California.And really had, a huge amount of success out here. And in a lot of different ways, I mean, it's, I, the, and when we were talking a little bit before the show about how. The, the, the historiography of, of the American right tended to be mostly focusing on kind of these New York Manhattan nights, like William F.Buckley, right? And the reality was that Buckley and his friends. just figureheads. They were people that were marching ahead of the parade and pretending to lead it.PETRZELA: Right. And they also, I mean, a book like Buckley's God and Man at Yale, right? [00:07:00] That is a very particular kind of conservative intellectual tradition, like the John Birch society.And some of these folks that I'm talking about who are organizing in churches and coffee clutches, they're circulating like these. pamphlets. Is the schoolhouse the place to teach raw sex? This is not emanating from a kind of, I don't know, elite intellectual culture at all. It's really a kind of much more grassroots effort.And it's one, yeah, that the historical tradition, the historical profession had largely ignored. So as we were saying before, 2002. And in response, in some part to this 1994, I think, essay that Alan Brinkley had written in the American Historical Review where he said we need to pay attention to his two conservatives.There was just this raft of new literature that was looking at grassroots conservatism. I kind of came into college, by the way, I grew up in a very liberal place. So to me, like conservatism was this, like, have I ever met one kind of thing? I'm not proud of my parochialism, but there really [00:08:00] was a lot of intellectual interest, including my own in understanding this phenomenon better.And there wasn't really much work at all done on schools. And so that's kind of how I got interested in this as a dissertation topic at that time.How Donald Trump supercharged the macho reactionary traditionSHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and you, and your current book I think also you, you took the that you, you got ahead of the crowd as well, once again. So congratulations on that FITNATION and now, especially I think with Donald Trump, the, the rise of Donald Trump, it, it kind of reoriented the American right away from this sort of anti-government, we're going to limit the government, that we're going to obsess over economics and, and things like that. And, and Trump with his just flagrantly anti-intellectual and, Mussolini-esque mien, it, it made them, a lot of their people decide that well, maybe, maybe We were wrong to focus on that. And our voters don't really like that.PETRZELA: Right. And there's more of this embodied kind of like red blooded version of, of [00:09:00] conservatism. That's what you're talking about. Right.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And so like for Trump, like he doesn't have a coherent ideology really, he's doesn't have a consistent viewpoint of taxes, he's promised five or six different versions of healthcare, including saying that Canada's and the UK's healthcare systems are great. And the, and the national health service, socialist healthcare in the UK is great according to Trump, but then Obamacare is bad.PETRZELA: Yeah. No, I think that that's right. And so that, as you're saying, created this reorientation.And so, the reason that I came on here and that you and I were talking on Twitter is because there has been this kind of raft of, I think, deserved attention to this phenomenon that there's all this kind of like fitness culture activity, which is coded very right wing, right? This kind of building muscularity and brawn and cultivating pure bodies and kind of elevating an ideology of [00:10:00] unsparing individualism through the gym. And I do agree with you that the Trump, the Trumpian rupture has something to do to with the rise of that kind of conservatism at the same time. It is so funny that Donald Trump would have. anything to do with the resurgence of any kind of fitness, anything, because one of the things that was remarkable about him is that unlike any of his modern predecessors on the right or on the left, he hates exercise.Like you have George Bush, you have Clinton, you have Obama, you have all of these presidents across the aisle who, are constantly saying oh, look at me jogging, or I like to lift weights, or Reagan is posing on a Nautilus machine at the gym. It's uncontroversial because everybody in America thinks exercise is good for you and believes in some way that someone who exercises is disciplined and has their head on straight.Trump breaks with all of that, and he embraces a much older kind of Version of what like a [00:11:00] powerful leader should look like he actually espouses this kind of 19th century idea about energy bodily energy where he's like, you're only born with basically like a battery and like, why would you use any of that energy exercising every day?He'd say like, I have friends who do try out bonds. They're crazy. Like I would never waste my energy that way because he believed it was a finite amount and he and so he, he really derides all of that. He talks about, he's. Donnie two scoops or whatever with his double ice cream cones, his big red stakes, much more that image of the kind of fat cat as the power broker rather than the, jacked very capable kind of fit guy that you're seeing being promoted right now on shows like Rogan or otherwise.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah. No, it is. There, there is a tremendous irony. And, and I mean, that's, it's, I mean, that's the thing about Trump and his movement is that everything is a hypocrisy and irony simultaneously, like here you have a guy who's [00:12:00] talking about toughness and being strong and yet Constantly whining about everything.He cannot shut up about how people are unfair and mean to him and complaining aboutPETRZELA: them. I know. And it's funny though, that right now, he's in this pissing match with Chris Christie and what's his big insult for Christie, Chris Christie, like you're so fat, they like trade these things back and forth.Whereas that's never really been a problem in terms of what Donald Trump thinks is inappropriate. Figure for our leader to cut.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and certainly he's no statuesque figure himself. So, yeah, it's true.Fitness culture is cross-political, and fascists are discovering their own athletic historySHEFFIELD: So it's interesting though, that this kind of obsession with fitness, it isn't coming necessarily from the base, not coming from Trump himself, but it's, it's kind of the, this refashioning that's happened in the right-wing intelligentsia, such as it is, and that's really who's doing this. And I guess probably the biggest proponent of all this is [00:13:00] this guy who's been writing under the name Bronze Age pervert. And people who knew who. For quite a while. His name is Costin Al Maru, and I'm sure I'm saying that wrong.But he's I guess a Jewish Hungarian he got his PhD somewhere. I forget where it was. M.I.T.PETRZELA: M.I.T. And went to my high school.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.PETRZELA: I had no idea. How crazy is that?Yeah. Sorry if I--SHEFFIELD: You didn't know him though.PETRZELA: If I was outing that, that you were going to save that, but yeah, I was shocked.I read, I read that Atlantic article just because it's interesting. And I was really surprised to learn that I didn't know him. I think he's younger than I am, but not that much. We were there at the same time.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and what's interesting though, about this, this vibe that, I mean, he's really kind of just sort of a recycling of the aesthetic that people like Richard Spencer and some of these, alt right people, as they called themselves, were pushing earlier that this I mean, this idea that they're somehow the inheritors [00:14:00] and must be the defenders of the white race. And therefore they not only have to know the culture from which they came and take credit for, but they also have to defend it.And part of that includes apparently being physically fit.PETRZELA: I mean that tradition goes back a long way. Like I think that the current version of it that you see in some of these alt right, well, they're not really called all right anymore, but some of these like far right, exercise environments is much more kind of Marshall than the people in the early 20th century.One of the things I discovered in my research, like long before this was like on CNN, every era in the Atlantic. was that early enthusiasts of strength training and of exercise often presented it very much as this way to preserve the white race. Less we have to be strong to go to war. But what's interesting about what they were saying is they this was a time when nobody went to the gym.So they were kind of freak shows for spending this time [00:15:00] lifting weights and, kind of caring what they looked like and really suspicious. Like you must. And then gyms were horrible places. I mean, they wouldn't even count as gyms.SHEFFIELD: Filled with disease.PETRZELA: Yeah, like that. And they were considered to be places that gay men hung out.So also like really unsavory. And so these early enthusiasts, lucky for this historian here, had to like, really articulate well, why would you do this? Why would you lift weights? Like, why is this good? And so often what they talked about was strengthening the white race. Think that this is a time.When there's enormous immigration to the United States from Southern Eastern Europe and our kind of racial typology of that time saw those as inferior races, right? Semites and so forth. And enslavement had ended just a couple of decades before us. You also had all these free blacks.And you had the expansion of the white-collar economy. So all of the so called like best men are sitting all day at work in these clerk offices. And you should see the panic about this. They're talking about, Oh, the slope [00:16:00] shoulders and the paunch and the sallow faces. And so there emerged these boosters who are like, this is a real problem for the perpetuation of the race.And they talk about it just like that. And so you've got to go and get strong so that you can have more babies. And one of the things that was really remarkable as a historian, and I'm not the only one to write about it, but I couldn't believe how explicit it was in some sources was that you saw these guys and some women talking about.Women need to cast off their corsets, which were popular among white, relatively affluent women. They need to pick up weights. They need to get strong. I'm reading this and I'm like, wow, how progressive and how feminist and all this. And then they say it's because we need fertile women. And these women of the so-called darker races are popping out babies at higher rates.And if you want to preserve the white race, women have got to strengthen themselves to do so. And the way to do that is by weight training, et cetera. And that's really remarkable. And they talk also a lot about the distinction [00:17:00] between deliberate strength training versus manual labor, because that was like a real, as I was saying, a real assumption that they come up with came up against you're just essentially meatheads, not the word that they use.the time. No, no, no, no. I'm not a mere breaker of stones, like just having brute force. I deliberately train for a kind of civilized superior body. So that's in like the early 1900s. And I think we see a version of that today in some of these communities that you're talking about. Although I agree, it's less the fertility angle and more the kind of we've got to prepare for a potential, a potential race war.And also, I think we've got to preserve and embody a kind of traditional kind of masculinity when all these gender roles are in flux. I think that's a big part of it too.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I think so. And I mean, in, in the case of the current people, some of that is also kind of, inflected through Germanic fascism, which kind of [00:18:00] imported a lot of yoga traditions and physical fitness and which it was also hypocritical as well because Mussolini was obese and yet was constantly walking around with his shirt off.So, but, like, there's that consistency or inconsistency. The inconsistency is the only consistency.PETRZELA: That's a good, a good role for writing history. Yeah.Wellness culture is far older than you thinkSHEFFIELD: Well, so at the same time, like there, there was also a focus, there's another kind of aspect of all this, that you know, what people now kind of call wellness or focus on nutrition or what they think is nutrition.And in terms of like herbal supplements and whatnot, I mean, that's, that's a tradition that's been around in the United States for, since the very beginning. Why don't you talk about that aspect of things as well? Yeah.PETRZELA: So that's a big kind of through line in my book. And what I'm trying to explain is how fitness, how exercise went from this strange subculture.To being a social [00:19:00] imperative where the majority of Americans do not work out, but pretty much everyone agrees exercise is good for you and kind of feels bad. They don't exercise enough. Like I'm generalizing, but that's true. How did that happen? And the argument that I make is that fitness exercise went from being considered narrowly physical and therefore kind of suspicious to being subsumed in a larger wellness ideology where working on your body was seen as imperative to being a kind of full person.So by the time it really kind of starts like after World War II, where I argue that we start to worry we start to define health. As less the absence of disease and more a kind of overall thriving that is psychological, spiritual emotional and involves working on your body and your mind and people across the political spectrum really glom on to that, like this idea of this holistic interconnectedness, and also the idea that it's up to you to take control of your health.And that's very powerful among [00:20:00] certain activist groups on the left who are like, yeah, self-determination. I'm not waiting for some doctor in a white coat to tell me I don't understand my body. Like I can do this, but it's also very, very compelling on the right when you have, where you have people who are espousing kind of this.Traditional conservative ideology, personal responsibility, and picking yourself up by your bootstraps--SHEFFIELD: Rugged individualism.PETRZELA: Yeah, rugged individualism. And don't wait, don't be lazy and wait for some pill or wait for universal health care. You just need to get outside and go for a run. So, come on.And so that's really, really powerful kind of across the board. So I would say that wellness ideology becomes so powerful because it has that kind of reverberation and traction across the political spectrum. But wait, so you asked me like, how did we get, Oh yeah. And part of that in terms of like junk science and sort of like you said, nutrition with a kind of smirk because a lot of this advice is not so great.Within that ideology, also across the political spectrum, is a [00:21:00] deep kind of skepticism of institutions, of received expertise, of the government, and so you see people coming out of places like John Birch, talking about, like, there's, we got to get the fluoride out of the water, and like, the government's trying to, they, they, I don't know if John Birch was against polio vaccines, but there were some who were there's that kind of, like, anti vax sentiment, but then you also have like feminists who, honestly, I totally understand, are like, you can't trust big pharma.These are the people who greenlit drugs that gave us cervical cancer, right? And so you have this embrace of like natural solutions and all of these anti counterculture solutions, which have a varying degree of effectiveness and scientific kind of veracity.But I think that's been brewing for decades but really, I mean, we saw in the pandemic that, that really blow up, but I would say yeah, that, that stuff has had appeal across the political spectrum for a long time. [00:22:00]Folk medicine, religious fundamentalism, and skepticism of doctorsSHEFFIELD: Yeah, it has. And one of the interesting things for me that I personally had had some contact with is that, I was born and raised as a very strict Mormon and Mormonism, it literally spiritualized 19th century health viewpoints through what they call the word of wisdom.Which was basically a distillation of conventional beliefs among educated people in those days. One of which was that drinking hot liquid was bad for your body and you shouldn't do it. And so therefore the only thing you should drink, like it was like the, it was like temperance up past several inches.So they were not, you weren't just going to not drink wine or spirits, but also you were not going to drink. Tea or even anything hot chocolate, even in the, in the original interpretation of that. And, and then there were, I mean, I think to some degree people know about the, the origin of graham crackers and as a, as a way to, to stop people [00:23:00] from, from masturbating.So like there's this, this connection between religious viewpoints and, and health viewpoints. It's always been there. And both in this country and, and, much older than this one as well.PETRZELA: Right. Well, if you think about it, it makes an intuitive kind of sense, right? What you put in your body is very intimate and very powerful.And so it comes to kind of take on the belief system that you're living in. And I think, it's not this kind of this is more about kind ofAnd I ask, I get asked questions of like, how do you like sort this stuff out and figure it out? And it is really, really hard because like I was saying with the idea of the feminist health advocates questioning big pharma. There are good reasons to question big pharma, like the big food industry really is trying to poison you, right?On the other hand is the answer to, or I shouldn't say trying to poison you, but they are trying to get you addicted to foods that do not serve your best health. I feel very [00:24:00] comfortable saying that, right? I completely understand why there are some people who take that and go like screaming in the other direction.We've got to plant our own food, etc. Like it actually kind of makes sense. And I don't, I haven't figured out exactly how to navigate that or at least give useful advice beyond like, check your sources, look at various look at various news sources, like talk to actual people, not people on the internet.But I think one of the really unfortunate things of the past several years has been the weaponization of this notion of do your research, right? Do your own research that QAnon has totally taken over and it's been used as a way only to undermine any, any information really. rather than I think to create new information.And I think that's really hard as a historian, what I always used to say to my students, and I still do, but now I have all these kind of caveats. It's like, let's go to the primary sources. Let's read, let's not take their word for it. Now I'm like, do I sound like QAnon, and so I think it really is [00:25:00] hard to figure that out.And I think though that acknowledging that difficulty though. is kind of helpful because you understand that there are people like Bronze Age Pervert who I don't have a lot of empathy for, but I think there are a lot of people, especially like during COVID who were really trying to figure out how to just like live a good life and not get sick and protect their families.And a lot of this information is really primed to like. Get right in there in that uncertainty, with like very apparently certain answers.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. And one thing I tell people is that it's fine to be skeptical of institutions, but you need to be skeptical of the skeptics also, because ultimately, they're trying to sell you something.even more often than, a government, a government office is not trying to sell you something. Right, right. They get their paycheck regardless of what you do or don't do.PETRZELA: Yeah, that's a good point.Homoeroticism and the fascistic aestheticSHEFFIELD: So, but so I guess [00:26:00] one of the other things that's kind of interesting with this kind of right wing focus on fitness is that there's in some regards there, there is a there's always been an undercurrent of, homoeroticism in fascism.And, you certainly have seen that with Bronze Age pervert, but also who, many people have accused of being gay. But people have said that Richard Spencer is gay and a number of these and some of these, white nationalist activists are gay. Like there, there's a guy named Greg Johnson who is a publisher of books and he's, a, a gay atheist man.And so like in, in some regards, it's, it's almost like this is, It's the only way that some gay right-wing men feel like they can express themselves in a permissible way in this subculture. I don't know. It's weird.PETRZELA: That is interesting. So, I am not a gay right-wing man. So like I am, I can't say I completely understand the mindset, but I [00:27:00] do think it's important to realize something that is often forgotten in these current depictions of like Big muscular men who train all the time is like the alpha male.I think one thing that's really important to realize is that for so long, like well into Arnold Schwarzenegger as celebrity, as a bodybuilder in the 1970s and onward to be a man who was that built and spent that much time on his body automatically made you suspicious for being gay. Like automatically, like when Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing promotion around pumping iron in the like mid, I can't remember if it's 76 or 77.He says to a journalist and pardon my French, he says, I, I'm paraphrasing, but this is the slur he used. He goes, guys, people have got to know that just because a guy wants his body to look nice doesn't mean he's a fag. And he goes on to basically say like how that's his goal to dispel this.And that really was the dominant idea. If you care that much, what you look like, if you spend your time. building your muscles, hanging out with other sweaty men, looking at those [00:28:00] magazines, spray tanning yourself. That's girl stuff, right? Men are supposed to be interested in the mind. And I think that we forget that now because one, there's really been a mainstreaming of kind of a stent attention to aesthetics among straight men in the past, like 30 years.No question about that. So it's considered less inherently sort of suspicious or just positive of homosexuality. But that's existed, I think, for a really, really long time and, again, I don't know so much about these subcultures, but there is a lot of homophobia, of course. And so I think that the fact that this kind of bodybuilding is so much about building masculine strength at a moment when so called gender ideology is like saying, well, what is a man anyway?And toxic masculinity is bad. traditionally gay male space actually becomes a lot more acceptable, right? Like, because what we're getting strong and we're getting jacked and like that kind of eliminates some of what we're considered the like more suspicious or [00:29:00] subversive aspects or, or associations with it, but it's complicated.SHEFFIELD: It is. Yeah. And it's, it's almost, like the. See like, the, the guy who was married to Arianna Huffington Michael Huffington, he was a, a, a gay Republican. He didn't, for a long time he refused to be called gay because he said that he was, he was masculine and so therefore he could not be gay.And, and it's like, like, this is a, this is kind of an undercurrent of. Far right, homosexuality throughout history is that they've always wanted to not believe that you could, that there was another way of being, having that as your orientation.PETRZELA: Yeah. Well, you should talk to my friend and colleague, Neil J.Young was this great book coming out on gay Republicans next year. So he's the man to talk about this for sure. And he's actually a gay man too. But yeah, I think that that's right. And I think that is associated with the fact that, of course in the United States for a long time to have an out gay identity was [00:30:00] very much connected with the identity politics of the left, right?So that was less acceptable if you identify as a conservative, but something that's really interesting that's come through in Neil's work and also in a great book by Clay Howard about the Bay Area and kind of the politics of privacy is, there are. Quite a few gay male Republicans who are all about small government getting the hell out of our bedroom.Right. And especially as those men have gained more economic power, that small government sensibility like works great for taxes too, and so it's not, I think it's like a, not that you're saying this, but it's a simplistic view when people are like, okay, Republican, how is that possible? And I understand where that comes from, but the notion. The gay masculinity is immediately coded as left wing, I think is really, really misguided. And I should also say like, there were theorists in the nineties who were writing about body fascism among gay men in the gym. And they weren't talking necessarily about political fascism, but they were talking about this [00:31:00] kind of like unsparing unforgiving hierarchy of kind of the bodily aesthetic of gay men.And that, that, and, and like, that was, we talked about that. Talk about that a lot with women, but the gay man had like just as much, if not more of a hierarchy in that regard. That also has a lot of things to do with the HIV AIDS epidemic and the fact that gyms were real community centers for men, but also beyond that displaying a really fit muscular body in that period meant you weren't sick.Right. So that kind of aesthetic was like re-layered on regardless of politics, but as a matter of almost displaying survival.Media sensationalism about fascist gym peopleSHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, so lately there have seemed to be, it's almost like every other month or so, articles coming out in publications saying working out is fascist now, and you need to realize that.I think it is a disturbingly common article and I, [00:32:00] it's odd that it keeps getting written. I mean, what, what's your take on that?PETRZELA: Oh my God. Well, I don't know if you know this, but you know, I was a victim of like a major clickbait drama around exactly this issue where I had Donnie Trump Jr. like screaming about me saying, do you know this or not? Oh, I don't know that. No. Oh, I was like, are you soft peddling this story? Cause you think I might run screaming. Oh my gosh.So let me tell you because I think it's relevant. So I write this book fit nation. It's slated to be published very early January coincide with the gym rush.I got this really good journalist at, at a time magazine who was interviewing me about the book. She interviewed me about the book. One of the questions is like, what's a surprise when you had, when you were researching this, the surprise was the story that I told you about how strident some of these early 20th century strength enthusiasts were about women lifting weights in order to make more white babies.So that was like something I mentioned in there. The interview was very long. I talked about many, many other things. The headline that they give it was the white supremacist origins [00:33:00] of exercise in America and like six other facts or something. It comes out December 8th, sorry, December 28th. So it's like right in the middle of Christmas and New Year's.I was actually in Egypt. I see like, I didn't even see the article first, but I see my alerts like pinging and it's all of the like far right, like the blaze daily wire, like all of those kinds of sites. And the, what's the idea? The idea is, Oh, everything's racist. Now woke professor says you can't even go to the gym anymore without it being racist, which was so not the point.And in the interview I had said. I kept, I first thought, you go girl, women lifting weights. And then I kept reading and it's important to keep reading. But this thing took on a life of its own. Hannity was calling me, my brother's watching Fox and friends in some waiting room. He's like, they're talking about you on Fox and friends.God felt like it was nonstop, including Donnie Jr. So some of it, I was getting death threats. The president of my university was getting contacted. The Daily [00:34:00] Mail wrote full articles, New York Post, it was crazy. Donnie Jr. gets wind of it, and thank God he didn't mention me by name, but it was easy to find.And he's screaming about this, like, woke professor, everything's racist now, they want you to be obese typical feminist, lazy feminist. So yeah, so that happened. This is relevant to your question, I think, because I do think that some of what is driving this like exercise is white supremacy. And you need to know this is just like this click bait media culture that we're in.I mean, that headline was so stupid and I hope you're listening time magazine and I tried to get them to change it. It was so stupid, so disconnected from the nuance that I tried to impart with this book and so clearly meant to drive outrage. And I think the clicks of honestly, some not so reflective people on the left who like love that stuff too.And yeah, so I think that that's part of it. On the other hand, I do think that, in a very positive and helpful way, we are looking much more thoughtfully at. [00:35:00] The way is that like really noxious ideologies show up in apparently innocuous aspects of our everyday lives. The gym is one of them. I mean, I'm glad that this conversation is happening.One of the main things that got me interested in writing this book like a decade ago was basically the concept that I had in my mind of like, Guys, it's not just the gym, like this place you go every day and spend a lot of money and sweat and everything is not just about physical exercise. There's a philosophical, emotional, ideological component to that.And I didn't really know it at the time, but part of that community building, which was happening there. Was for some folks absolutely about resurrecting this kind of early modern version of masculinity and strength to resist what they see as the kind of decline of civilization, the weakening of masculinity and the increasing, I think, impurity of the body.And we're seeing that [00:36:00] resurging. And I think. Interest in it both comes from a really good place of wanting to understand our world better and a totally awful clickbait-y place that is, I, I'm sorry to be caught up in, unfortunately.SHEFFIELD: And people need to realize that just because you're learning about, certain aspects of history of a thing, it doesn't mean anything necessarily about how it is now or how it was in some other time period. These are just at the, everything is like a. These are just like threads that you're pulling and it's okay to pull a thread.PETRZELA: Yeah. And like, this is interesting stuff, but like one of the things I often ask my students is like, especially because white supremacy has now become such a kind of buzz phrase is when they're like, well, that's white supremacy culture. I'm like, okay, how, you know what I mean? And I'm like, it's often not wrong, but like, it's not enough to just like dismiss it out of hand, or like to.Yeah, to call something white supremacy culture just out of hand and not go beyond that. And I think that that's unfortunately what the tone of some of these articles [00:37:00] are at the same time giving, attention to something really important.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, I mean, and by that logic, Going to college is wrong because colleges, were owned slaves and they were started as Christian supremacist indoctrination propaganda centers.So therefore you shouldn't go to college, right? If that's what you believe.PETRZELA: Right, right. But these are like ridiculous perspectives, right? Like these aren't perspectives. These are such sort of purist, ideologically driven perspectives that nobody really lives by. These are the kind of things people say on Twitter and then they go to class or go to the gym or whatever.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and, and I think, a healthy aspect of things for the left versus the right is that, people on the left might pop off and say something like that, but it doesn't really have any heft behind it, the people at the top aren't saying, you know what, that's a good idea there.Yeah. On the right, they'll go and make a book out of that or a Fox News rant about that.PETRZELA: Yeah. I [00:38:00] will say that one of the things that keeps me on the left is that there are these studies that show that like left wing media, et cetera, tends to just like have more evidence behind it. Like there's a higher evidentiary standard and like that to me means a lot.So yeah, I think that that, I think that's absolutely right.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, okay. So. Now, do you see this physicality based right wing viewpoint as, I mean, is it really going to go anywhere? I don't, I don't know that it's going to.PETRZELA: Look, I'm a little scared. I mean, I hope that this is just this extreme perspective and set of people that's going to kind of, that we're maybe paying outsized attention to and that it's maybe not going to go anywhere and these guys are just going to like, start running marathons or lift weights for fun or something.Right-wing activists using fitness and health advice to radicalize teen boysPETRZELA: That being said, like, I think we're remiss to ignore it too much. Look, I'm the mom of a 13 year old boy. It's really hard to grow up as a boy right now. One of the things that I think is so disturbing when you start paying attention to this kind of manosphere [00:39:00] and what's being directed at young guys is that there is this real mixture of like misogyny.And like just really awful racism, et cetera. It's often bound up with semi sound advice about the gym. Like Andrew Tate is someone people write about a lot. And like, I try not to listen or watch too much and thank God my son doesn't watch. Or if he does, he doesn't seem to care for him at all. But like one of the things that's so noxious about this guy, who's literally serving time for trafficking and is like a known pimp who has raped women and like promotes this horrific misogynistic perspective.He says things that are like. Get off your butts and go work out. Come on. Like you're going to feel so much better if you put down your phone and you hit the gym, you know what, that's actually good advice, but what's really hard to disaggregate is the way that that gets tied up with this totally noxious stuff.And I think like, this is not the whole answer. But I do think I'm sometimes a little more critical [00:40:00] or, or, yeah, I guess a little more critical of the left because that's kind of like where I live. It's the educational environments that I'm in. I do think, it's important for people on the left, especially educators, to kind of reckon a little bit more honestly or fully with like, What it means to be a young man and what it means to like, want to be strong.And what it means to, inhabit a kind of like cis hetero identity is something more than just toxic. And like, if you can, like, if someone with a really wonderful, enlightened perspective around gender equality and these educators. Absolutely exist are like, yeah, guys, like you should go lift weights.Like that's awesome. Right. You don't hear that as much. And I think that that's unfortunate because there's really wholesome, wonderful stuff that comes from building bodily strength for boys, for girls. Like we should not see this to the right. That's really bad.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. No, that, that is a great point. I feel like at some point the left understood this a lot better when, with this slogan, the personal is political, which was very popular, in the [00:41:00] the so called new left of the 70s.But now, this idea of. In, seeing your, your lifestyle through your politics and integrating them. That's, it's almost kind of, kind of regarded as dumb or day class A among people on the left to do that, I think.PETRZELA: Oh, like it's superficial, like, because it's consumerism, is that what you mean?SHEFFIELD: To some degree, yeah. And I don't think it's wrong to say that. Because, obviously you've got people like Gwyneth Paltrow selling all kinds of crap to people. So being progressive isn't something you can reduce to buying stuff, or being gay is not about buying rainbow s**t. Or being a woman is not about doing X or Y, none of those things are true.But at the same time, if you can't speak to cultural issues and you think it's beneath you, then you're leaving a lot of people behind.PETRZELA: That's absolutely true. But I would say the earlier [00:42:00] iteration of the personal is political, which was about like, we need to talk about domestic violence and leave for pregnancy and birth control.And like all of those issues of the body, which were considered like, Oh, that's like. Home stuff like that's not the realm of politics. You deal with that privately that no, we need actual policies to address that. I think that's still really, really salient. And then I think what you're talking about, yeah, that's interesting.That's sort of like chapter two of the personals. political in the 1970s and the kind of consumer culture of like the me generation and retreats in organic food and, yoga and all of that. And seeing those kinds of embodied individualistic practices as a form of politics. Yeah, I think those do get that we cast aspersions on those honestly often on the left, but I've resisted that because I think honestly casting aspersions on that as political action tends to serve to like, say, women's consumerism is silly. Like that's often what those critiques come down [00:43:00] to. And I don't necessarily think that's true. And I think that even though capitalism, yes, is deeply problematic and we should like criticize it endlessly fine, but within that we're not just kind of capitalist dupes, like we make meaning in these environments.And some of the first writing I did about fitness was about how these fitness communities, yes, they were exclusive by dint of the fact that you have to pay into them, et cetera. But at the same time, they at the same time they were places when people kind of like really reconstituted their sense of community, their sense of themselves, et cetera.So, yeah, I'm, let's keep the personals political around certainly as Roe is reversed and we have all of these like. Very, child marriage is back like we need it. We need that. But I think also this consumerist dimension to it. It's still really relevant.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think that's a great point. And hopefully people will remember that. And think about that more because yeah, you can't cede lifestyle advice to the, the fascists. You, [00:44:00] you can't do that?PETRZELA: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.SHEFFIELD: Okay. Cool. All right, well, it's been a great discussion here today.PETRZELA: Thank you.SHEFFIELD: So where can people find you on Twitter and elsewhere?PETRZELA: So I'm on x slash Twitter and Instagram at @NataliaPetrzela, and I have a podcast Past Present, my book, Fit Nation.Yeah. Or Okay. And spell your name for everybody who's listening?PETRZELA: Oh right. Not everyone's looking. Natalia, N-A-T-A-L-I-A. Petrzela, P-E-T-R-Z-E-L-A.SHEFFIELD: Okay, cool. All right. Well, it's been great. I appreciate you joining me today.PETRZELA: Well, thank you so much. I look forward to this coming out and thanks for reaching out. It's really nice when a Twitter friend, transfers into a more engaged conversation.SHEFFIELD: All right. So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us and you can always get more at This show is a part of the Flux Media Network, and we have lots more podcasts and articles about [00:45:00] politics, religion, media, and society. And of course you can go to to go to the section of Flux where we have all the previous episodes of this program.And you can subscribe as well on Patreon or Substack, so I encourage everybody to do that, and thank you very much to those who are paid subscribers. I really appreciate your help. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/18/202347 minutes, 2 seconds
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So This Just Happened #004: Republicans can't get a date and they can't understand why

SummaryA new poll from Change Research for Teen Vogue of young adults finds that being MAGA is absolutely loathed by a majority of people between the ages of 18 and 34. According to the survey, 76 percent of women in the age group say that discovering their date is a MAGA Republican is a “red flag” for them; 59 percent of men in the age group agreed.The survey, which is definitely worth checking out, also found that being a fan of Joe Rogan is a red flag for 55 percent of young women. And that’s because the right-wing podcaster is part of a much bigger constellation of reactionary media which is constantly denigrating and insulting women. Instead of realizing this, however, many Republicans have taken to blaming “wokeness” instead of looking inward.Despite their strong dislike of the far-right, however, young Americans are also very concerned for the future and Democrats have not convinced many of them.Timecodes00:00 — Poll finds that being a Joe Rogan fan is a dating “red flag” for most young women03:33 — Politics as source of relationship disruption13:12 — Dateless young Republican men are bearing the brunt of Gen Z's loathing of the GOP20:14 — Why creativity is inherently un-conservative24:36 — Although younger people are estranged from Republicans, they are not big fans of Democrats32:34 — Lauren Boebert’s “Beetlejuice” tantrumFollow usMatt on Twitter on Apple Podcasts us out by leaving a 5-star written review, even short ones are helpful!Theme songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics and Vocal by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/15/202335 minutes, 49 seconds
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Doomscroll #009: Impeachment Groundhog Day

Matt and Lisa are joined in this episode by podcaster and illustrator Eiynah Mohammed-Smith for NSFW takes about all the news of the week, including Republicans moving forward on their interminable impeachment threats, strange religious brainwashing videos from Dennis Prager, and Ashton Kucher and Mila Kunis getting blasted for standing up for Danny Masterson after his conviction.Timecodes00:39 — House Republicans move forward with impeachment and shutdown threats03:47 — Christian and Muslim extremists decide to be evil together07:35 — Dennis Prager is putting weird propaganda videos into public schools16:14 — Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher backpedaling after video for Danny Masterson19:54 — U.S. copyright agency denies copyright request for AI image22:58 — Elon Musk is being hypocritical again with Twitter29:28 — Drew Barrymore violates Hollywood strike by bringing show back31:27 — Hostess is being bought by Smuckers, will it mean dog food Twinkies?Follow or die!Doomscroll************ is a podcast from the Flux Media network. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/13/202337 minutes, 11 seconds
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Theory of Change #086: Nyomi Banks on loving yourself, second acts, and adult film

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communityWe live in a world of unprecedented convenience. Many of us can do our jobs entirely remotely. We use our smartphones to do a million different things. Electric cars are commonplace. And you can pretty much get anything delivered in a matter of days, if not hours. There's no doubt that when it comes to commerce and communications, things have never been easier.But outside of those areas, particularly when it comes to personal relationships, many people are finding modern day life to be anything but convenient. Some people have struggled with making friends or even realizing that they need them. And in many cases, the organizations that used to help us build relationships, like churches and community organizations, are no longer relevant to many [00:02:00] of us.On the romantic side of things, modern day media, whether explicit or not, has enabled us to know what we find attractive in others, but there's absolutely no guarantee that we can get what we seek. Sure, dating websites and apps have made looking for that special someone easier than ever before, but actually finding relationships that are lasting and meaningful is often very difficult.I hope you've enjoyed the previous two episodes in this miniseries, and I'm pleased to wrap it up with a conversation featuring Nyomi Banks, a woman who's seen firsthand many of these trends I've just described throughout a very multifaceted public life which began in adult entertainment but has since taken her into a new career as a life coach and personal advice podcaster through her new program, Ask Nyomi: Bridging the Gap.In order to keep Theory of Change sustainable, the full audio, video, and transcript for this episode are available to subscribers only. The free version runs 30:12 while the paid subscriber version is 1:07:34.The deep conversations we bring you about politics, religion, technology, and media take great time and care to produce. Your subscriptions make Theory of Change possible and we’re very grateful for your help. Please subscribe via Substack or Patreon to get unlimited access.Audio Chapters (Full Episode)02:57 — Ask Nyomi: Bridging the Gap's unusual audience11:53 — Being spiritual while working in adult film15:48 — Entering a new career to help her father26:21 — A brief brush with racism in the porn business34:29 — Why didn't she see as much racism as others have noted?38:46 — On "gay for pay" in adult media40:42 — Has porn made it any easier for regular people to be non-heterosexual?43:25 — On being spiritual but not Christian or religious44:31 — Starting and stopping an OnlyFans account50:48 — Continuing her fan relationships as a lifestyle podcaster57:33 — Why anti-porn attacks are about social control01:00:17 — Why you have to love yourself before you can do anything else
9/11/202330 minutes, 13 seconds
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Doomscroll #008: Burning Man floods and porta-potty wrastlin'

Lisa Curry and Matthew Sheffield are joined in this episode by comedian and television writer Camille Corbett for NSFW takes about all the news of the week, including flooding at the Burning Man festival, nepo babies, and that very strange brawl at a country music concert in Pittsburgh.Video version: Burning Man attendees finally get their apocalypse lifestyle05:01 Porta-pottie throwdown in Pittsburgh!07:54 Marjorie Taylor Greene isn't crazy enough for far-right Republicans13:28 The U.S. Senate has become a retirement home for people who won't retire25:14 Shaq has a new rap song, because reasons27:00 Nepo babies are everywhere, especially entertainment and politics34:24 Parent organization of CPAC performs exorcisms after staff members ask for raiseAbout the showDoomscroll is a podcast from the Flux media network. Visit for more smart podcasts and articles about politics, culture, and mediaFollow or die!Doomscroll This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/6/202339 minutes, 44 seconds
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Theory of Change #085: Tasha Reign on sex work, consent, and companionship

This is a free preview of a paid episode. To hear more, visit theoryofchange.flux.communitySex workers, people who earn a living as escorts or adult entertainers, are some of the most visible people in media nowadays.According to the web traffic stats company SimilarWeb, three of the top 15 websites in the world are pornographic video services. And yet, despite how popular porn has become, a lot of us don't know much about the people who work in the industry. That's unfortunate, because a lot of them have very interesting stories to tell.That's why I was pleased when I learned about the new memoir of Tasha Reign, a long-time adult performer whose book, From Princess to Porn Star, A Real-Life Cinderella Story, is filled with all kinds of entertaining stories and also deep thoughts about the status of women in society, the importance of consent, and the way that sex workers provide intimacy for people who might not otherwise have any. Porn is far from perfect, but the caricature that's often painted of the people work within it is far from accurate.The video of the July 24, 2023 conversation is available. The full transcript and audio chapters are available for paid subscribers.
9/4/20231 hour, 54 seconds
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So This Just Happened #003: Oliver Anthony and the coolness gap

SummaryOver the past month, you couldn't go anywhere as a political junkie without being force-fed takes from right-wing media figures on the music of Oliver Anthony, who turns out to be someone who isn't particularly a fan of Republicans.In this episode, Kali and Matt talk about why Republicans are so desperate to be cool and how it's also related to their demeaning and often racist attitudes toward Black Americans.Timecodes02:16 -- Republicans aren't cool, and they know it all too well06:51 -- The right's love-hate relationship with adult entertainers09:28 -- No, Donald Trump is not the next Tupac because he got a mugshot16:13 -- The possible cognitive roots America's political divide23:47 -- Vivek Ramaswamy's Hindu Christian nationalism33:30 -- Ted Cruz's cringe beer PR stuntStories mentionedTurning Point USA kicks out adult film star Brandi LoveRepublicans wishcast about Trump and the Black vote after mugshotThe mini Capitol Insurrection that no one coveredVivek Ramaswamy is reconfiguring Republican candidaciesRamaswamy's attempt at Hindu-Christian fusion Ted Cruz fails at beer drinking Ron DeSantis shows he's good at smilingFollow usMatt on Twitter on Apple PodcastsTheme songEasy Lover: “The End of Our Deceit”Lyrics by Kali HollowayMusic by Jeremy Wimmer This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
9/1/202339 minutes, 48 seconds
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Doomscroll #007: Fox host thinks mugshot Trump is hot??

Join Matthew Sheffield, Lisa Curry, and Daily Show writer Nicole Conlan as they share NSFW takes about all the news, including Fox News Channel host Jesse Watters's very strange expression of admiration for Donald Trump.Video version: — Trump finally gets mugshot on 4th arrest05:20 — Right-wingers think mugshot Trump is hot now?11:38 — Georgia's Trumper rogues gallery14:02 — Jordan Peterson shows off newest clown suit17:56 — Far-right women ask: How much subservience to men is enough?22:02 — Why comics sell out: Repeating GOP talking points is how to get rich26:15 — Spanish soccer president blasted for kissing player w/o consent30:30 — Nicki Minaj fans are stalking women named 'Stephanie Bell'Follow or die!Doomscroll: Conlan: This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/30/202335 minutes, 10 seconds
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Theory of Change #084: Kaytlin Bailey on sex worker rights and changing norms

Episode SummaryFor thousands of years, humans have been buying and selling sex. The ancient Sumerians in 2400 BCE included female and male prostitutes on a list of known professions, so the term “oldest profession” is actually more than just a cliché.Despite the fact that sex economies have existed for far longer than most civilizations, many people seem uncomfortable with discussing the important roles that sex workers play in our society, economy, and even our politics. In 49 of the 50 states, prostitution is illegal and far-right Republicans are seeking to ban birth control and pornography, shortly after they succeeded at rolling back a nationwide right to abortion access.While the suppression efforts are part of larger efforts by radical Christian nationalists to roll back modernity, they are also the product of cooperation with less religious people, some of whom even call themselves progressive, to ban work arrangements that don’t really understand.Joining me for an in-depth discussion about the history of sex work and how it’s being revolutionized by the internet is Kaytlin Bailey, she is the executive director of Old Pros, an organization that does both research and advocacy for sex workers. A former standup comedian, she is also the host of “The Oldest Profession” podcast.A computer-generated transcript of the edited audio follows. The video of our August 10, 2023 conversation is available.TranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Thanks for being here, Kaytlin.KAYTLIN BAILEY: Thank you so much for having me.SHEFFIELD: All right. Well, so, there's a lot of ground here to cover and I think, as I said in the intro, I think a lot of people may not be familiar with a lot of the topics that we're going to be talking about here today. And I should mention that this episode is going to be the first of a few that are going to be talking about sex work.But I wanted to have you come on as our expert to get it started. So how about let's maybe define some terms here first. So, sex work, what does that [00:03:00] mean?BAILEY: Sex work is a broad umbrella term that encompasses all erotic labor exchanges. It’s a phrase that was coined by Carol Lee in the 1970s to push back against prohibitionist feminists at the time who were using the phrase prostituted woman, but sex work refers to full-service sex work or sort of plastic prostitution.It also includes legal forms of sex work, like stripping or pornography. Domination, foot fetish work and because we're trying to build a big tent, I would like to include Hooters waitresses and other people who use erotic labor as a part of their job.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, okay, and there are some other terms as well, like, a lot of sex work jobs involve kind of a murky legal status in many jurisdictions.BAILEY: The thing that unites all sex workers, whether their work is directly criminalized or not, is the stigma against [00:04:00] sex work. So, there are perfectly legal strippers orLegally registered sex workers in brothels in Nevada that have their children taken away from them or lose job status or are kicked out of school or housing because their employer or landlord or significant other found out about their involvement in some form of sex work.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Yeah. And you use the word decriminalization there. Let's maybe define that. And especially in regard to some of the other terms.BAILEY: Sure. There are only four models for policing prostitution. So, there's criminalization, right? Which criminalizes both the buying and selling of sex work. The way that this plays out is that mostly providers are criminalized.But there's also legalization regulation. So, this is the model that you see in Nevada or Amsterdam, where some forms of prostitution are legal, but you have to work in a registered brothel. And this is sort of [00:05:00] a model that tries to contain and control sex workers and really diminishes the negotiating power of sex workers and creates a two-tiered system where the overwhelming majority of people who are doing this work outside of the registered brothels have no legal protection at all.There's also end demand. Maine actually became the first state in the U S to pass this law, but it originated in Norway. This is sometimes it's referred to as the Nordic model, the Swedish model, Canada has experimented with these laws, but the theory is that in order to reduce the demand for the oldest profession, they try to criminalize the clients or buyers or third-party folks.But of course, it's impossible to surveil clients without surveilling sex workers. And because of the stigma associated with sex work, this leads to people being evicted, a temporary reduction in in demand, which sends people into, a more economic desperate [00:06:00] position that they were in, and desperate people do desperate things.So everywhere that the end demand model has been implemented, violence against sex workers goes up. It undermines our ability to screen our clients or to self-advocate. But what sex workers all over the world have been asking for decades is decriminalization, where neither the buying, selling, or facilitating sexual services is criminalized.And this allows people to report crimes committed against us and move throughout the communities that we're already a part of.SHEFFIELD: And it's the idea that you can just be, like a freelance worker and in charge of your own schedule, that's kind of the way basically a lot of people are doing it anyway, because they don't like other arrangements to be working for somebody else.BAILEY: Yeah. I think it's important to remember that sex work is work, but it is also sex. So, any [00:07:00] kind of surveillance or criminalization or effort to regulate the consensual adult choices that are being made in a very private space is going to erode all of our all of our freedoms. There's no way to surveil sex workers without surveilling-- well, everyone.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And it's interesting, because the same types of models of regulation, they exist with regard to hallucinogenic drugs and, but it's interesting that people seem to be more open to the idea of decriminalizing crack, which can literally destroy your body and brain, and meanwhile, the idea of decriminalizing or legalizing sex work is just somehow offensive. What do you think is the dichotomy network here?BAILEY: From a policy perspective, I think it's really important to remember that drugs are a substance [00:08:00] that can be regulated. But sex workers are service providers.We are people, we are neighbors and mothers, and we have other jobs. So, it's not actually possible to contain and control us in red light districts or exclusively in registered brothels. Sex workers are and have always been everywhere. So, efforts to contain and control us.End up creating a criminalized class, and that reduces our ability to self-advocate for safety and health. And this is the kind of thing that leads to rapes and also murders that we’re not able to report or get a hold of.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Well, and a lot of it also does pertain to the fact that that a lot of this does come out of both misogyny and also anti LGBTQ attitudes as well, because, historically basically acknowledging that there are people out [00:09:00] there who are doing this it's an affront to some people. That it should not exist and should not be known to exist.BAILEY: Sure. I do think that sex work in general is an existential threat to the patriarchy. It's very hard to have a patriarchy if you don't know who the dads are. And I will say that the long history of criminalizing sex work is very much grounded in misogyny and. also homophobia. I'll give you an example of the CANs laws in Louisiana cans stands for crime against nature. And this was a statute that was originally written in the 1800s to target the gay hustler scene in New Orleans. But it was a Louisiana law that made talking about oral or anal sex, a federal crime. And so, when the tough on crime the Reagan administration came through the police officer started using that statute to arrest black women and trans women and charging them with these cans [00:10:00] laws.In addition, they forced them to register as sex offenders, and this really all came to a head in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina when thousands of black women were turned away from shelters for being registered sex offenders when really all they were guilty of was simple prostitution.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and only with adults, like, that's being clear with that.BAILEY: Yes, that's right.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. In some of your advocacy, have you seen kind of a stigma applied both from men, but also from women against sex workers? Like who's doing this in your view?BAILEY: Yeah, I mean, the criminalization of sex work is really a very old coalition between, the religious right and the righteous left, there's [00:11:00] a long and dark history of progressive dating back to the progressive era of criminalizing vice. And a lot of this was grounded in white supremacy.You, if you look at the man act or the white slave law that was passed in 1910, this is really something that is coming from feminists who are sort of demanding this protection against, what would be sort of a, a trafficking panic from the late early, early 1900s. And so, I think it's really important to understand that although prostitution has become a symbol of violence against women, the decriminalization of sex work is the only policy that actually reduces violence against women.So, when Carol Lee coined the phrase sex work in the 1970s, she was really pushing back against. people who considered themselves feminists that nevertheless found themselves advocating for, more police to arrest vulnerable women.SHEFFIELD: [00:12:00] Yeah. Yeah. And it's, and it's also I mean, when we've, we were talking about this topic earlier I think you had said something like that, that some, sort of anti sex work feminists, they kind of think it's like, the sex workers are, have hacked the system, that they're cheating in a way.BAILEY: Sure. I mean, I certainly can imagine, especially before women had a lot of other job opportunities that, brothels and bars were a real source of anxiety within the household, right? When women don't have property rights and their husbands are, spending their paycheck that is supposed to go to the mortgage or to feed their families.At a local tavern. This is the energy that propelled us towards prohibition. But we know what prohibition does to markets. It doesn't make them safer. And I would implore folks that consider themselves to be feminist to remember that you cannot help people. people you are hunting, and that the oldest profession is not a problem that we can arrest our way out of.We can talk [00:13:00] about ways of raising the negotiating power of victims, of increasing folks’ ability to do other work, but we can't send SWAT teams into massage parlors with legally licensed masseurs who are giving their clients sexual services and call that a service to the community that we're arresting and raiding.I do think it's important for listeners to understand, especially as we are absolutely on the ascent of another moral sex panic that is targeting the queer community, the trans community, and also sex work, pornography and consensual sex work.And so, when our government says that they're engaged in anti-trafficking work, we like to envision a good guy with a gun Rescuing a victim from a violent situation. But what, in fact, is happening is that law enforcement officers are engaging in sexual services [00:14:00] with folks and then arresting those people for engaging in those acts.This is not a situation where the good guys are going after the bad guys and people end up better off for it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's also that it's with a lot of these, that as you were saying, that if you're trying to protect people who may be coerced into this, because, and there are some studies that have indicated that legalization or decriminalization can in some jurisdictions has increased trafficking to some degree. But there are conflicting studies with that—BAILEY: No, the studies have shown that there's an increase in sex worker advertising when the when legal penalties are removed, which makes all of the sense. So, if you look at the case of Rhode Island, which decriminalized indoor sex work between 2003 and 2009, you absolutely saw an explosion of sex worker advertising and people traveling to Rhode Island in order to engaged in decriminalized sex [00:15:00] work.You also saw a reduction of gonorrhea rates by 40% and a reduction in reported rapes by 30% and an overall reduction in violence against women. So, the results were actually very positive. You didn't see an increase in violence. You didn't see an increase in exploitation. You did see an increase in prostitution.Now, I think that those results would You know, it wouldn't look like that if the entire region was decriminalized, but when you have an isolated area where this is the only place that you can go to engage in this work without the fear of arrest, of course, you're going to see an increase. But New Zealand decriminalized prostitution in 2003, and although there was a temporary uptick in advertising, the markets really leveled out, and it's Mostly you've seen a reduction in STIs and violence against women and an increase in sex workers who feel comfortable reporting crimes committed against them.But you haven't seen a huge uptick in prostitution overall because the entire country [00:16:00] decriminalized, it wasn't country concentrated in one city or area.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I guess I just meant in the sense that that for instance, with drugs marijuana legalization, that in California, when, when we decriminalized marijuana out here, it led to an increase both in the legal sale of marijuana, but also the illegal sale of marijuana in some, in some ways.And so, and like, but it's important, I think, the Rhode Island experiment, if you will, it, it shows that. You, you really need to stick to a policy for a while because there are effects that may exist in the short term but are going to go away once the pressure is off, or something like that.And but you mentioned the violence against women. I remember reading about the, the rape rates in the various counties in Nevada where prostitution is legal, [00:17:00] and there's one of them, Elko County, where there are no rapes and there were literally no rapes in that, in that, in the years that they were looking at.BAILEY: I think some context here is really important because you're only allowed to have a legally licensed brothel in a county with less than 700,000 people in it. So, there's no way to work legally in Vegas or Reno, where the highest demand is. And so, the overwhelming majority of sex work that's happening in Nevada is happening outside of these legally licensed brothels. And these brothels came into existence in the 1970s and were very much a compromise sort of between the mafia and local law enforcement.And these brothels are beloved in the communities that they're in. It's a huge source of tax revenue. There are a lot of counties in Nevada that wouldn't have adequate healthcare service, but for the revenue that these brothels provide. But it's not a model that we want to replicate nationally because it really doesn't increase the negotiating power of the people who work there in order [00:18:00] to work as a legally licensed prostitute in Nevada, you have to register with the local sheriff's department.This becomes a subpoenable fact about you for the rest of your life. You can imagine how this. plays out in child custody cases. You have to be hired and work at one of a handful of legally licensed brothels. You're working 12- or 24-hour shifts. And because you are a legally licensed prostitute, you don't actually have the same freedom of movement that any other citizen of that county would have.You have to remain on the premises of the brothels or face a fine. You can't just go to a bar or go to the movies. Because all of these laws are about restricting, containing, and controlling sex workers.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Right. Well, okay. But I actually only meant to talk about it in the context of violence.BAILEY: Oh, sure. So, yes.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. So that basically, there are people, especially like people like Jordan Peterson, talk about sexually frustrated men and how it's this plague on society and only [00:19:00] they are concerned about it.And no one wants to give an outlet to these men who can't get a date or whatever. And yet then they also go adamantly against sex work. And the facts are pretty clear that when you have some form of legalized prostitution, that it does protect the rest of the women. And also, the sex workers themselves.BAILEY: There was a fascinating comparative study that was done, Scott Stern, I believe was the lead researcher comparing the impact Craigslist erotic services had on the cities when it became available. So, Craigslist erotic services, if you don't remember, was a place on Craigslist where people could advertise their interest in engaging in either casual or paid sexual encounters, and it became available in different cities at different times. And what they found is that everywhere that Craigslist Erotic Services became available, the female homicide rate dropped on average [00:20:00] 17%. We already talked about what happened in Rhode Island when indoor sex work was decriminalized.You saw a reduction in rapes of 30%. These results have been replicated in places like Amsterdam or, as you mentioned, in Nevada, clear correlation between access to professional sex workers and a reduction in gender-based violence. I think this has two causes. I think that the presence of sex work allows women to escape abusive relationships.And I think there is something to that point as much as I loathe ceding any ground to Jordan Peterson that there is something about sex workers that turns the temperature down on, on male violence. And this goes back to the epic of Gilgamesh, when Ishtar, the goddess of love and war sent a harlot to spend seven days or excuse me, six days and seven nights with a warrior.Teaching him how to bathe and have table manners and yes, [00:21:00] who was, experiencing intimate sexual moments with him, which helped ease his transition from a violent theater of war back into civilization. And this is something that, like, militaries have known about for thousands and thousands of years.The relationship between sex workers and soldiers is very long. But I, I also think that the military is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights violations when it comes to sex workers. There are the comfort women that we know about in Japan, armies have done similar things and the horror story that you, you think about of like, a woman and a line of men, but it's only the during times of war that you, that you see that that kind of thing play out.But also, here in the United States in 1917, when the U. S. got involved in World War I, we passed something called the American Plan. And our effort to reduce STIs, we shuttered all of the brothels that had been, legally operating in cities across the country. And we also deputized [00:22:00] local law enforcement to arrest women in the vicinity.And this led to a very dark chapter in our history of arresting women for being in public and making the wrong kind of eye contact with a cop. So, I think it's really important for folks to remember that the criminalization of sex work always undermines women's ability to move freely in public space and that efforts to contain and control us rather than reduce the STI rates for example, when they shuttered the brothels in Alaska STIs went up 300%.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and so part these efforts to kind of crack down on things are religious derived as well. And, and we've certainly seen a lot of that. And I guess right now, lately, the Christian right has been focused on trying to ban abortion. But they made very clear that they have an agenda of [00:23:00] items and banning birth control is on the list and rolling back, same-sex marriage is on the list. Some of them are openly talking about banning pornography entirely.One of the ways that they have attacked porn is to be putting in age verification laws. Can you talk about that a little bit?BAILEY: Sure. So, Pornhub, for example, has stopped operating in, I believe three states. I know it's Virginia, I believe it. I'm not sure what the third state is, but age verification laws would force users to upload identifying information, right? Their I. D. in order to watch pornography. Now, legal porn performers, of course, are already subjected to a ton of regulation. They have to sign all kinds of consent forms. They have to upload their own ideas. But the fear here is that users are effectively putting themselves on a stigmatized list.And so, the, the ramifications of that, it's just, [00:24:00] it's, it's too much. And so Pornhub, one of the largest sources of pornography said that they, they can't comply with that law. And so, they are not making their sites available in those states. There's one case I believe of a woman in Louisiana whose husband is in is in the army.And so, pornography is a big part of their relationship, especially when he's overseas. And I believe that she's currently suing, and I wish her luck in her case to get access to pornography. There's one more point I want to make which I think it's really important for folks to understand the history between the criminalization or censorship of obscenity and the criminalization and censorship of information about birth control and abortion.This dates back to the Comstock laws of the 1870s, and he was on a crusade to remove pornography or smut from public space. But in doing so, criminalized [00:25:00] information about birth control and sort of famously went on to arrest Margaret Sanger for obscenity when she was simply trying to share information about how to prevent unintended pregnancy.SHEFFIELD: Well, and we're seeing that now repeat in the state of Florida. Where now they have expanded their, don't talk about gender identity or any sort of sexual education stuff all the way through high school. And now, people can be, fired for having a picture of their spouse or trying to tell children about condoms or how to buy menstrual products.BAILEY: No, it, it, it is it should be alarming. I think the, the long history and the tenacity of conflating the existence of queer people. with obscenity. And so, I know a lot of well-meaning liberal moms that, have a discomfort [00:26:00] with pornography and stand behind a lot of these laws that are already being used to persecute LGBTQ plus folks and make it harder for not just young people, but all people to access information about their own bodies.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and I think that's a, it's a point worth exploring here, because the idea of publicly acknowledging that sex exists, but even further is that this idea that there are some people who do not agree with a conventional viewpoint about sex and sexual relationships, that really is kind of the root of the conflict here, I think, especially for the, for a lot of these fundamentalist religious people.That the idea that there could be a woman who says, ‘I don't care if I have sex with 10 people in a week, [00:27:00] it doesn't bother me. I don't think there's anything wrong with it and I'm going to do that for my job.’ Or there's somebody who says: ‘Yeah, you know what, I'm going to go and find other men and try to help them fulfill needs that they can't get in their regular lives,’ that cannot exist. It's an affront, right?BAILEY: And it's, I think a big part of my job is reminding folks that we already live in a society where people are having all kinds of sex all around you, whether you live in a suburban home or an apartment, people are engaging in sex that might make you uncomfortable. Already, and there's no amount of criminalization or censorship or prohibition that's going to change that.But similar to abortion, we cannot legislate this away, but we can make it less safe. And that's exactly what criminalization and [00:28:00] censorship does.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Well, it's a, and I mean, let's delve into it a little bit further. Like, why do you think they're so disproportionately concerned about this compared to, I mean, like you, you talk about as drugs versus as a substance that could be regulated.But it's, it's more than that, right? It's about other people having an agency that you don't approve of.BAILEY: I think we should get really specific here because the overwhelming majority of laws targeting prostitution are directed at women. People of all genders have always engaged in this work.And a lot of the same language and rhetoric and statutes. that have been, applied to criminalized prostitution are used to target the queer community. But this has always been about controlling women. And I think that this can, this really dates back to the Catholic church, which codified the Madonna.a horror complex and [00:29:00] sort of waged war on fertility deities and priestess prostitutes and powerful women that did not subject themselves to the normal standard of, fidelity or the, this obsession with chastity. I think that informs our obsession with sex ed and contraception and also prostitution.And my basic argument and the point that I make on the Oldest Profession podcast over and over again is that whorephobia is the foundation of misogyny. Hmm.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Now you mentioned the idea of, of Madonna hoard. Let's for people who haven't heard that term, butBAILEY: sure. So, dating back to one of the oldest deities that we have written records about Ishtar the goddess of love and war and the myth around her is that she was Born a virgin every morning and she went to bed a w***e every night and priestess prostitutes were an important part [00:30:00] of the temples that held space for her.And this is at a time when temples were really the organizing force of the ancient world. They weren't just places of worship, but they were also places where important decisions were made. They were the keepers of important knowledge, especially around fertility. They were also the only bank in town. But these temples, polytheism transitions into the Greek empires and the Roman empire and the Roman empire falls and is replaced by the Catholic church.The Catholic church sort of separates that ancient deity and turns her into the two Marys, right? The virgin mother and the repentant w***e and does a lot. Undermine Mary Magdalene who, there's no evidence to suggest that she ever engaged in the oldest profession, but Pope Gregory called her a sinful woman from the pulpit in 591 and really locked into this [00:31:00] idea of That she was a sinful woman and that justified over a thousand years of denigrating her contributions, her significant contributions to the Christian church.And so, this institution that was ostensibly built on the teachings of Jesus, right? And love and forgiveness became about persecuting people who are engaging in these older rights. And so, we have a long history of the Inquisition targeting courtesans or known sex workers for witchcraft and conflating sexual fidelity, especially amongst women with holiness or, or godliness, which is not something that, like Jesus, the historic figure was especially concerned.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, he was documented repeatedly in the New Testament to have been regularly, with and befriending,BAILEY: Much more comfortable with sex workers than he was with tax collectors, for example,SHEFFIELD: Well, actually, [00:32:00] no, he was friends with the tax collectors as well. So, but, but, but, but getting biblical with this, like there is another figure even older than Mary, the two Marys that was like, she was kind of in a large part, I feel like one of the, the very first canceled literary figures, and that was Asherah, and she was, so the, the Hebrew the ancient Hebrews and Judaism grew out of Canaanite polytheism.And Asherah was the wife of the chief deity, and she was the last remnant of that. Over time, the worshipers of Yahweh sort of censored and extirpated all the other deities, but Asherah was the last one that survived, and she was a fertility goddess and people continue to worship her.And she's in the Bible. Like that's what's interesting is and it's really like, and you see people being killed for [00:33:00] worshiping her and, and praying to her and like, she was God's wife. So why wouldn't they pray to her? But yeah, like it's, I mean, that's, that's, it's, it's, it is interesting that there may be something to this monotheism and creating a male deity that a female deity could allowed to exist.BAILEY: And, the Catholic Church is, has a long and well documented history of being much more committed to patriarchal control and property accumulation than they are to love and forgiveness or anything that I might associate with Christian values.SHEFFIELD: Well, and then there's also the Lilith story. Do you want to tell that one?BAILEY: Yeah, so Lilith the story of Lilith coming from the Old Testament was Adam's first wife. And so, the myth, as I understand it, is that Lilith and Adam were created at the same time and from the same clay.So, this [00:34:00] Lilith really wanted to be on top during sex. Now, most marriage counselors of course would tell you that that wasn't the real problem, but it is what the scripture literally says. Both God and Adam agreed that Lilith wanting to enjoy sex with Adam was an existential threat. And so, she left she left the garden of her own volition.started a love affair with some other, some other figures and was living independently. And this all-knowing, all-powerful God could not get Lilith to come back to the garden. So, we see, sort of a very early complication to patriarchal control or this all-powerful God.And so, God made Adam a, a consolation prize, Eve, from Adam's body, his rib or some other part, depending on which translation you're looking at, who was supposedly smaller and more submissive than the original Lilith and even [00:35:00] Eve is blamed for all human suffering from eating from the Tree of Knowledge.SHEFFIELD: So yeah, so and it is it's really important, I think, to know this history because I think there are a lot of people who—I mean there's kind of a paradox that I feel like that the more educated you are on the political right, the more likely you are to support sex workers, whereas in a large measure, the more educated you are on the left, the less likely you are to support sex workers.BAILEY: And I think that's really important because I know a lot of otherwise smart, well-meaning people that support laws that inevitably hurt. The people that those legislators or advocates are claiming that they're trying to help, right? I think everybody is interested in increasing the negotiating power of victims.We all want to see fewer victims of rape, sexual assault, [00:36:00] violence, but. Efforts to contain and control prostitution or efforts to eradicate the oldest profession inevitably hurt people who are engaging in that work, whether they're doing that by choice, circumstance or coercion, this really isn't a problem that we can arrest our way out of.SHEFFIELD: For people that may have some resistance to this, that, when you look at especially people who come from, impoverished backgrounds that, there, there are some jobs that That are just, there's only a few jobs that are even possible for them to do because they have no training, they have no network, they have no education, and so you're, you're, you're going to take away something that will help them not be impoverished.That's what you're going to do to them.BAILEY: I know. And yes, sex work has been a reliable survival strategy for millennia. It has been a way of people, able to accumulate some kind of capital. I think that sex work has funded more [00:37:00] entrepreneurs and artists than all of the grants combined. But It's interesting to me that when prostitution is turned into a symbol of prost it when prostitution is turned into a symbol of exploitation, we end up focusing all of our efforts on eradicating or suppressing prostitution, and we ignore huge swaths of exploitation.We do have real slavery and exploited laborers in this country in our own prison system in agriculture, in mines. And so there are all kinds of jobs out there where we could really be doing more to reduce violent exploitation. But instead, all of those resources are being redirected at mostly adult consensual sex workers.SHEFFIELD: Well, it's also that I think there's, there's a, the, the right wing has under Trump developed an ability to, masquerade as populist in some issues. [00:38:00] So like they talk about big tech and talk about, regulating these. technology companies as if they're not completely in the pocket of all big business.And they're doing that with regard to, this sex trafficking panic that they're, that they're pushing that, they want you to focus on this, which in many cases is just vastly overhyped and exaggerated. doesn't exist to nearly the degree that they are telling you, so that you don't talk about the other exploited people, and you don't help workers that are going on strike, and you don't sympathize with them.BAILEY: I think that's a really great example. And I think that Marriott Hotels is a classic example of exactly this phenomenon, right? So Marriott Hotels has engaged in a PR campaign to raise awareness about trafficking, right? And so, if you check into a Marriott Hotel, you'll often see something on the door or signs throughout saying, if you see something, say something, but all of the signs of. [00:39:00]Trafficking that they list are just signs of sex work, right? They want to discriminate against women traveling alone or people who have multiple guests in the room or people who ask for multiple towels or people with acrylic nails. Meanwhile, Marriott Hotels uses third party companies in order to clean their hotel rooms.So, there's absolutely. Trafficking that's happening at Marriott hotels, but it's not the consensual adult sex workers who are trying to work in the rooms. It's the cleaning staff whose labor rights have been undermined because they've been farmed out to an ungovernable third party.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And in many cases are sort of imported illegal immigrants are not able to advocate for themselves.Correct. Yeah. All right. Well, and now in terms of the empowerment of sex workers that we have seen, I think one of the biggest trends that's evolved has been [00:40:00] OnlyFans. And. That has really revolutionized the pornography industry and done so in a way that seems to have overwhelmingly benefited the workers in against the studios and whatnot.Let's, can, tell us about that.BAILEY: Any time that you are able to directly connect fans to a performer, an artist or a content creator, that's the, that's the best situation, right? As a, as a content creator, people giving you money directly cuts out the studios. It cuts out potentially exploitative third parties, which I think is one of the reasons why we've seen so much of a reaction to OnlyFans.If they've been through the ringer in terms of their ability to accept credit cards or the different regulations that are trying to shut them down. But this is absolutely a model that empowers individual performers at the expense of the larger studio system. And the more regulatory efforts there [00:41:00] are, the more you concentrate power into the hands of a few.We've seen this in big tech and, pornography is no exception. The more of a regulatory burden you place, then the fewer and fewer people are able to meet that bar. And so OnlyFans I think was revolutionary and it helped a lot of people get fund again, schools, startups or just an artistic career or just their life, just the ability to eat and pay their rent.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and we certainly saw that during the pandemic when a lot of performing venues were shut down entirely.BAILEY: Yeah, I knew a lot of folks during the pandemic that lost, their, their day gig and their night gig at the same time. The theaters were closed and also, they weren't able to work at restaurants.And so, it makes sense that we saw a huge influx of people engaging in this work. Unfortunately, because of the reaction. You're also seeing a lot of those same performers who are now, being fired from jobs, being denied [00:42:00] spots at universities or, training for nurses. And with the surveillance technology that we have and facial recognition, we have folks that have only fans accounts that are being denied access at the border.because they're a known sex worker, even though the sex work that they're engaged in is perfectly legal. So, there's a lot of ramifications and this is very much still happening now. Yeah. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Well, and I guess, yeah, given the, it's benefited a lot of different people and people have had contact with it much more than before.And I think, it's, it's made people more aware of that. That there are people that they know who are doing this and that also de stigmatizes it.BAILEY: And that I think is something that's really important, right? Your listeners probably already know and like a sex worker that lives amongst them just because they're not out about that.I think OnlyFans made that more visible, but sex workers have [00:43:00] always been part of every community.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I guess speaking of that though, you have referred to sex workers as “we” a few times here. Do you want to talk about that a little bit? Like, what's your background with all this?BAILEY: I mean, I think it's important to say that there, there really is no typical story. People have engaged in this work for. All kinds of reasons throughout human history, and this work looks different to everyone. I started doing full service hourly sex work in 2004, 2005. I used a message board to schedule and screen my clients.And we met at hotels sort of in the Golden age where we had cell phones, but not smartphones no facial recognition technology yet. And then when I moved to New York to pursue standup comedy I started doing sugaring, which is a new word for a very old thing sort of courting individual patrons to [00:44:00] to support my work.So, it was not an hourly gig, but more of a long-term commitment. But there are as many forms of sex work and as many, nuances and shades of gray of this as there are people, what it means to be a sex worker. It's like, what does it mean to be an actress? Like every career is different.SHEFFIELD: Well, and I, now what about that there is some tension, I feel like also maybe perhaps that for women who might have married up, as they say. They don't want to be thought of as a client and service provider relationship with their marriage, and that makes them uncomfortable with the idea of sex work.BAILEY: Sure. I would say that one of the benefits of being a sex worker as opposed to a wife is the, getting paid up front and having the purchasing power of, being paid a wage or being paid for your services.Every marriage is different. I am married to a [00:45:00] relatively high earner, but it's fundamentally different, partnership is fundamentally different, I think, than paid companionship. I also, want to push back a little bit that, yes, there are many wives out there that consider, their partner, their husband seeing a sex worker as, as cheating, but there are also wives out there that You know, think about sex workers as a paid service that their husband sometimes engages in, right?Whether their wife is suffering from a chronic illness or, the spark has left the marriage. I personally don't believe that one person has the right to sort of. take sex away from another, another person. And I think that marriage can be complicated, it can be a relationship, it's an economic relationship, it's a, community or companionship, raising children.So, I, I don't know if this, like, sex workers versus wives is as clear cut as, as you would like to suggest. There are a lot of married [00:46:00] sex workers, and there are a lot of wives who support that, that see sex workers, or also support their partner seeking sexual services elsewhere because paid companionship is not a threat to the marriage or union or partnership in the same way that having an emotionally messy extramarital affair might be.SHEFFIELD: I did want to get into the. The prostitute with the heart of gold.BAILEY: Sure.SHEFFIELD: Because I really hate that people in Hollywood discount that.BAILEY: Yeah. Because I mean, sex workers have been, it's like, yeah, sorry.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Like, there's a reason that that exists.BAILEY: Because we're often the last line of, of defense for vulnerable people. Brothels were also places where nursing happened. It's where people fleeing domestic violence situations went. It's women helping other women and sex workers helping folks that are in trouble. It's a story you hear over and over again. This is why madams settled the West.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. [00:47:00] When it's, it was also the only way for a lot of men to even have any sort of conversation about feelings or psychology and they may not have even known about those terms. And even now, who might not even know they could go to a therapist.Well, okay. Now, what about people who might say that, I mean, and there have been some studies that indicate that, excessive use of porn can be damaging for individuals.BAILEY: I mean, there were studies in the Victorian era that said that it led, it led to blindness and cancer, but you know, that was a different world panic.SHEFFIELD: Well, that's what, yeah, no, like, I want you to talk about that though. Sure. People who, like, I mean, do you think that there, that people should realize there's a healthy amount of using anything?BAILEY: I think that if we're going to crack down on anything. And I'm just, I'm continuously frustrated by this impulse that we have as a society to look around at like the [00:48:00] very real labor exploitation, right? The very real economic disparity, the very real suffering that so many people are surviving, or many are not and decide to focus our attention on people enjoying themselves.By themselves. People have been engaging in solo sex for as long as a, I mean, this predates us as a species. Anyone who's visited a zoo can tell you that this is a thing that, that creatures engage in. And so, this impulse to pathologize something that is. So natural and so ubiquitous feels like it's a projection and reflects our inability or unwillingness to address a very real problem.SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. So you would say that it's people who may have issues with excessive porn use probably also have issues in other ways. Sure. And you shouldn't [00:49:00] focus just on that.BAILEY: People can get addicted to anything, reality television, sugar. Even drugs. And I don't think that we have a good track record of trying to criminalize or suppress that leading to good outcomes.We didn't solve drug addiction by criminalizing drugs. We're not going to solve what you might call porn addiction or somebody wanting to change their relationship with pornography or masturbation by trying to eliminate smut from public spaces.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And especially because plenty of people have no problem with how they use it in their own lives.BAILEY: Yes. And so, people that, people can go on their own journey and decide everyone gets to decide what their boundaries are around erotic content or participating in masturbation or sex, but these are very personal choices. And so, I think that it's important for us to recognize this pattern again, of like moral panic or.[00:50:00] pathologizing something that can be innocuous and natural and dare I suggest helpful actually.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and, and there have been studies that show that like porn has been helpful for a lot of people who, because as you said, like in marriage situation for absence or physical or emotional trauma on the part of their partner that they couldn't survive in that marriage if it wasn't.So what's kind of the final takeaway you would have people that we haven't maybe talked about?BAILEY: I think it's important for folks to recognize across the political and ideological spectrum. We've been really wrong about the oldest profession for a really long time. I think it's important at this moment in history when we're dealing with multiple cascading crises to. Listen to sex workers.There is nobody who is more motivated to reduce violence and exploitation within the sex trade than sex [00:51:00] workers themselves. And we have a lot of good ideas, but the first thing that we have to do is stop the arrests.SHEFFIELD: Okay. All right. Well, I think that's a great, great message for sure. All right. Well, so we've been talking today with Kaytlin Bailey and she is the executive director of Old Pros and you're also on Twitter at Kaytlin Bailey. That's K-A-Y-T-L-I-N-B-A-I-L-E-Y for those who are listening.BAILEY: Yeah. I'd also encourage if you're interested in this topic, we send out a newsletter of sex worker rights related news every Friday.And you can sign up for that at oldprosonline. org. And you can also follow us across social media platforms at Old Pros online.SHEFFIELD: Okay. All right. Well, I encourage everybody to do that. Thanks for being here.BAILEY: Thank you again so much for having me, Matthew. I really appreciate it. Yeah, I hope that this is a conversation that your listeners enjoy, and I hope they will learn a lot.SHEFFIELD: Alright, so that is the show [00:52:00] for today. I appreciate everybody for joining us and I encourage everybody to go to where you can get full access to all of the previous episodes and future ones, and you can subscribe on Substack or Patreon. We have free and paid subscriptions available, and I thank everybody who is a paid subscriber very much, you have complete access to all the transcripts and audio and video. Some of those things are not available to the unpaid members, so I do appreciate everybody who supports us that way.And then also I would encourage everybody to go to This show is part of the Flux Network, so do check that out. We've got lots more podcasts and articles about politics, religion, media, and society.And if you've got a podcast or other show like that or you're interested in writing, please do reach out to us. We are interested in expanding our network and the number of people that we work with as well. So I encourage everybody to reach out if [00:53:00] you are so inclined, but that's it for today. I appreciate everybody for being here. I'll see you next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/28/202354 minutes, 27 seconds
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So This Just Happened #002: Personal insecurity and political extremism

Episode SummarySo much of the political and religious extremism that is currently plaguing the United States and many other countries likely derives from personal psychological trauma. Matt and Kali kick off a multi-faceted discussion of this topic talking about Lady MAGA, a pro-Trump drag queen who had to abandon her profession after Republicans decided to create a nationwide trans panic.Timecodes01:51 -- Obergefell v. Hodges and the conservative bifurcation of queer equality movement06:49 -- Why intersectionality matters and one way of explaining it to others12:02 -- How the right manipulates sexually frustrated straight men15:41 -- How some people use "affirmative action" as an excuse for personal setbacks22:17 -- The importance of positivity in the fight against injustice27:31 -- How the far right seeks to create center-to-left discouragement31:58 -- A note about our theme music33:59 -- Drag and transgender people have always been part of Western cultureFollow UsSo This Just Happened on Twitter Matt This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/25/202339 minutes, 42 seconds
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Doomscroll #006: Rudy Giuliani needs your money

Matt, Lisa, and guest Chrissy Stroop discuss:00:36 — Rudy Giuliani is begging Donald Trump for money for his failed 2020 election lawsuits, but Trump hasn’t paid a cent so far02:57 — Despite not getting his lawyering payout, Rudy is still making hundreds of thousands a year thanks to the miracle of “wingnut welfare”05:37 — As Republicans gear up for their first presidential debate, Trump says he’s not going to go to any of them11:13 — Jordan Peterson busted for turning negative reviews into positive blurbs for paperback edition of his latest book15:10 — International Chess Federation bans trans women from women’s tournaments, wth?22:31 — Cheems, the dog who inspired countless “Doge” memes passed away23:57 — Woman says she gave $10,000 to man pretending to be a Stranger Things cast member27:04 — A Christian nationalist coffee shop in Florida faces ridicule for misspelling a Bible reference on its plastic cupsFollow or dieDoomscroll Stroop This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/23/202335 minutes, 46 seconds
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Theory of Change #083: Marty 'DoktorZoom' Kelley on Idaho #InTheStates

Episode SummaryThis episode is the first in an occasional Theory of Change series of in-depth discussions about the politics of different states and how, unfortunately, right-wing extremism is becoming more common in many areas.The first state we're going to be discussing is Idaho. It’s one of America's most beautiful states with amazing mountains and lakes, lush forests, and gorgeous fields and plains. Unfortunately, it is also home to many of America's most insane people as well.Our guide to the politics of the Gem State is Marty Kelley. He is a senior editor with the Wonkette humor blog, and a long-term resident of Idaho since 2001.You can watch the video of this episode, continue reading below for a rush transcript, or read it on the web.Membership BenefitsThis is a free episode of Theory of Change but the deep conversations we bring you about politics, religion, technology, and media take great time and care to produce. Your subscriptions make Theory of Change possible and we’re very grateful for your help.Please join today to get full access with Patreon or Substack.If you would like to support the show but don’t want to subscribe, you can also send one-time donations via PayPal.If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on Apple Podcasts. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. You can also subscribe to the show on YouTube.About the ShowTheory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield about larger trends and intersections of politics, religion, media, and technology. It's part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.Theory of Change on Twitter: Sheffield on Mastodon: Sheffield on Twitter: SHEFFIELD: Welcome to Theory of Change, Marty.MARTY KELLEY: Good to be here.SHEFFIELD: All right, great. So Idaho obviously has a very long history, and we'll get into that.But let's maybe start off with, I think it's fair to say that Idaho kind of has sort of three basic political divisions. Political regions. The northern part tends to be extremely radical and filled with white nationalists and all assorted. religious extremists as well.The central part of Idaho, which is kind of the Sun Valley area, which includes Boise, which is where you live and other areas around there. That is basically the area I'm calling the business and Berkeley section of Idaho, where all the money's made and all where all the godless commies like yourself live.And then in the southeast part of Idaho, that is the heavily Mormon region of the state.[00:03:00] And there's when we'll get into that, but Mormonism in Idaho also has some very interesting divisions of its own.So you moved to Idaho in 2001 after getting a PhD in rhetoric and composition at the University of Arizona. So, what brought you to Idaho?KELLEY: Well, my now ex got a job at Boise State University where she is still teaching and tenured and doing amazing things with ESL composition and writing.And I've stayed because we have a kid together who's now 26. And I can't believe that that happened. And since 2012, I've been writing for the political humor blog Wonkette, my dream job.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well--KELLEY: I can do that anywhere and Boise is a good affordable place to stay.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it certainly is definitely a lot cheaper than many parts of the country for sure.And you know, all kinds of great outdoor activities as I was mentioning. Boise itself also is actually. Pretty nice place to be I have to say it to anybody who hasn't checked it out And you should definitely put it on your bucket list.KELLEY: I like it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, so, but now you're You were not born in the region, but for you were born nearby in Washington, right?KELLEY: No, in Oregon.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, all right. And it should be noted, in the recent past couple of years Idaho has unfortunately gotten some attention for a lot of different right-wing extremist stuff.KELLEY: Oh, yes.[00:04:30]SHEFFIELD: Especially with different people trying to move in and ban books and etc. But there's unfortunately a longer history than that.And I mean, I guess probably, you know, probably the, the... At least we'll, we'll start with the 20th century, I guess, kind of the most famous Idaho right wing extremist was Ezra Taft Benson, who was a native son from Rexburg, I believe and he was, rose to become the agriculture secretary of Dwight Eisenhower and then was a big conduit for people into the John Birch Society and, and also was a big publicizer of another guy.Now he was Cleon Skousen, I believe he was from Utah but, you know, they were both part of this fringe sect of, you know, extremely right-wing Mormons and those people have always had a home in, unfortunately, all parts of Idaho, but particularly in the, in the Southeast. But, you know, as we kind of move toward More times when people watching or listening or have been alive.Because I believe Benson was born in 1899. So I need to say that was a while ago, but more contemporaneously Idaho became the focus of national attention in 1992 with Randy Weaver. Tell us about who Randy Weaver was.KELLEY: Well, Randy Weaver was a very extreme. Survivalist right wing fellow who showed [00:06:00] up from time to time at the Aryan Nations compound in Northern Idaho.And thank goodness they eventually got shot down in a lawsuit with the SPLC. But in 92, Weaver was I think the feds were trying to arrest him on charges of selling a sawed-off shotgun illegally. And there was the siege at Ruby Ridge and during that his wife and son were killed. You can go to the Idaho state historical society and at their museum, they have the front door with the bullet hole in the glass, which is something to see.And then of course, after that siege was over, the charges fell apart and it became a rallying point for the entire right wing led to the Waco occupation and siege. And then that led to Timothy McVeigh. Then shortly after we had Idaho Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage, who was already very, very popular with the militia folks in supporting them.Who said that Oklahoma City was, was the wrong thing to do, but it was certainly understandable. And that was kind of the end of her career. Thank goodness. You can still see cars around Boise with bumper stickers that say, 'Can Helen, not salmon.'SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I guess she kind of has a [00:07:30] spiritual successor nowadays in Janice McGeachin. Tell us about who she is. There's a lot of stories.KELLEY: Oh, she has lots of spiritual successors now. Janice McGeachin was the Lieutenant Governor of Idaho when Butch Otter was governor and the two in Idaho, the Lieutenant Governor and governor are elected separately.And so they are not a ticket. So she was constantly trying to do weird right-wing things whenever he would leave the state. And at 1 point during the coven, emergency, he went to a conference somewhere while she was acting governor for a day, she tried to rescind all COVID measures, all mask mandates, and it was she, she got a talking to when he came back and then she did it again the next time he was out of the state.SHEFFIELD: Yep. And she also became famous for her campaign ads featuring flags and Bibles and, and--KELLEY: Right, she was in a notorious video sponsored by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which we'll mention again. Soon after they sang a little, I think it was the Idaho anthem. I honestly don't know. They sang a song together and in her part of it she was seen in a camouflaged four by four [00:09:00] holding a gun and a Bible.SHEFFIELD: Which has, you know, quite a lot of visual similarities to ISIS videos.KELLEY: Very much so. Everyone noted that at the time.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, although, you know, there was another woman who had been featured in this photographed herself in a similar way, a younger woman. Oh, right. And I forget what her name was, but people she posted it somewhere and, and she soon became a meme.And then she actually said, ‘I don't know why people are doing this.’KELLEY: Because it's totally different, different flag, different holy book, different guns.SHEFFIELD: That's right. Yeah. And, you know, and one other person who may not quite be as nationally infamous as, as McGeehan, is Bo Gritz. He was a guy who actually ran for president as an independent candidate.He was another one of these Utah, Idaho Mormons. And he was involved, he... Had his own compound kind of, I believe, not too far away from where Randy Weaver had his, you know,KELLEY: If you live in Idaho, you have to have a compound.SHEFFIELD: Oh, yeah, apparently everybody's either in Boise or in a compound.KELLEY: Mine's rented, so--SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well and you know, and I think I think it's and this is a subject we'll come back to at the end But I think you know part of the kind of divide for a [00:10:30] lot of people is that because there are so many vast open areas of Idaho where just nobody's there. You can drive for maybe an hour and not see another car on the road depending on where you're at, and then at the same time, they are not, you know, if you drive a little bit further, you'll come into a you know, modern Western city like Boise, and it can be kind of jarring.I think to some of these people. It seems like you know, I it's one thing about right wing extremism that I think people who haven't don't have a first-hand exposure to it is that you know So much of it is psychological It's not political. It's just seeing that other people have a different way of living and it's wrong.KELLEY: That's right.SHEFFIELD: And it's wrong. I mean, and that's kind of, I mean, that's kind of a, I mean, a large part of what you guys write about it at Wonkette is highlighting that type of behavior from these right-wing figures.And it's unfortunate because, I'll let you speak to it, but it seems to me that the national Republican party is basically, and not just with Trump, over time becoming ever more like these people who were like Bo Gritz who were kind of laughing stocks in the nineties. Somebody like him, like, another Idahoan, Ammon Bundy you know, they have a constituency their constituency.KELLEY: Yeah, very much so. We've it's, it's a small, radical, annoying, [00:12:00] strangely powerful sometimes bunch of crazies.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and I mentioned Ammon Bundy.So he comes from a whole family. Let's talk about them. You want to get the background on those guys?KELLEY: Well, the Bundys are some Mormon fundamentalists who have a vision of the coming apocalypse. What is the white horse something or other?SHEFFIELD: Oh, yeah, yeah. So somewhere there's a Mormon prophecy from Joseph Smith that the, that the male priesthood holders of Mormonism are going to save the United States and that there will be someone will emerge as if riding on a white horse. And he will sweep in to become the president and save America right before the destruction of the wicked.KELLEY: Yes. Yes. And Cliven was into that, and I think Ammon even more so. I honestly don't know Cliven being the father, Cliven being the father who had the standoff in Nevada and then Ammon ran the standoff in Oregon at the wildlife refuge and escaped excuse me, escaped criminal charges in both of those.In Nevada, because the FBI completely screwed up at the prosecution and didn't share I, as I recall, [00:13:30] didn't share important information during discovery. So it got thrown out and then in the Oregon case, they were all basically let off because the jury, as if you ask me, the jury just nullified the case, they didn't want to prosecute them.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, which, you know, and it's funny considering how much they claim to be upset at writing and looting by Black Lives Matter. Well, you know, here's some law-and-order you guys could have done and didn't exactly do it,KELLEY: But it's still, you know, it's still okay to shoot federal cops because they're wrong.They don't have the right to, to enforce laws. And in fact, no parts of the Federal, the federal government isn't allowed to have land outside of Washington, D. C. and military bases. It's a special copy of the constitution that belongs to the Bundy's.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah well, and I guess, yeah, that, you know, that's, those ideas kind of come out of this sovereign citizen.KELLEY: Right, right, combination of the sovereign citizen and the, the sagebrush rebellion stuff.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, yeah, and, and basically, they had this idea that they don't have to pay taxes as well because the United States as a government was ended secretly, and I always forget the year of the thing.KELLEY: I believe it was with the 14th amendment in 1865, 1867, whatever that was.SHEFFIELD: Of course it has something to [00:15:00] do with slavery, right?KELLEY: Yeah, and then we, and then the U. S. became a corporation, and we were all owned by the government until we put a legal notice up that we are now free persons, and we don't belong to the government anymore.And that's never held up in court and they keep doing it year after year.SHEFFIELD: But it makes a lot of money for the people who, who tell you.KELLEY: It's a great scam!It is. If I didn't have a, if I didn't have any sense of ethics at all, I could make a lot of money.SHEFFIELD: Yeah well, I guess, you know what though, you guys do have at least one, another positive thing, a positive thing that you guys are known for, which is Napoleon Dynamite.KELLEY: That's true. That's true. We have the shots.SHEFFIELD: That's right. And when, you know, they, they should have, they should have said what high school Uncle Rico had his football career.But yeah, as somebody who grew up in, in Utah, which has a lot of the same geography and. And characteristics. I was just like, Oh man, this was my childhood on the silver screen. At least the minus the, the fundamentalist Mormonism parts.But yeah, so, all right. So with the, so that's kind of, I don't know, like a rose gallery, if you will, of, of famous right-wing Idahoans.but I guess before we get into, get beyond that though, let's I did want to mention, so, we, we've talked about Mormonism [00:16:30] in the Idaho context a little bit and it's kind of interesting for people who are not from Idaho or, or not Mormon is that Idaho kind of, it's got the, the Mormons on Idaho are kind of split with each other that so for instance there is the, the Brigham Young University, which most people know of is in Provo, Utah but then there's also one in Rexburg, Idaho called Brigham Young University, Idaho formerly known as Ricks College.And Ricks/BYUI has always been kind of like the more fundamentalist version of Brigham Young University. So like, for instance, you're not allowed to wear shorts on campus if you go to Brigham Young University, Idaho. Whereas, in fact, you can have the distinct pleasure of wearing shorts if you go to Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University.KELLEY: Provo sounds like it's a little weak on doctrine there.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, although I've never seen them where they claim what book of scripture says you can wear shorts. I don't know that one. And last I heard, I believe they also don't allow open toed sandals at BYU Idaho.KELLEY: As is only correct.SHEFFIELD: That's right, you know, toe cleavage. You go there and no one has ever even heard of the term toe cleavage. [00:18:00] But apparently it does exist and it's evil.KELLEY: Well, that's obvious.SHEFFIELD: That's right. Yeah.KELLEY: I grew up Catholic, so I can identify.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, the thing though about Idaho Mormons is that they're, they kind of, because of the remoteness, I guess, maybe, or who knows what it was, the Idaho Mormons have always been a little bit weirder than the Utah Mormons. And it's funny for people who have never lived in either of the states, they're like, what the hell are you talking about? People cannot believe that there's any difference, but in fact there is, and people and everybody who's watching this who's from Utah, you can back me up on this, I'm sure.But yeah, and so, but like they've, I don't know, it's like a lot of the, the, there, there is this fringe Mormon movement, and I know what they call it it's a website called the LDS Freedom Forum is what they call it. And it's full of all kinds of fringe Mormons who love Ezra Taft Benson and Clive and Bundy and, you know, pretty much all these other people.And they've been very angry about particularly lately about COVID and vaccines, which the mainstream LDS church has actually been very positive about those things. And Utah, as you, as you mentioned in our preshow chat, was one of the, the highest vaccinated states because but yeah, I guess apparently not Idaho.Is that right?KELLEY: Not [00:19:30] so much Idaho. No, it's funny because the, the mainstream. Mormon political establishment Butch Otter the current governor Brad Little, whose name isn't nearly as much fun, they tend to be pretty reasonable. And it's bizarre, actually, just, I didn't know until talking to you that I, that there is this.More radical Mormon subculture here. And I didn't even notice it. Although I give it a moment of thought then yeah, sure. Ammon and his followers. But when I think of Idaho Mormons, I tend to think of the respectable right-wing Republicans who make up one of the two major parties here. The other being the batshit lunatics from Northern Idaho.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well it's true. And then like that was yeah, it's, you know, Mormonism really is kind of the Republican party in miniature. In that it's made of, you know, businesspeople who just want to make money, it's made of people who just want to sing the hymns in church. And then it's made of people who are completely f*****g nuts, who hate everyone else.KELLEY: So it's diversity is what it is.SHEFFIELD: That's right. That's right. Yeah, and, and I guess, you know, the, the people that are completely nuts, though, they have been really getting agitated lately with all of [00:21:00] this with especially with the COVID pandemic. And so the right wing in Idaho has been growing particularly agitated because of the pandemic and vaccines and other things like that recently, but One of the other things that they've been interested in is the idea of Greater Idaho.Tell us about Greater Idaho.KELLEY: Greater Idaho is the brainchild of this guy in Oregon named Mike McCarter, who thinks that it would be a really terrific idea for the right-wing counties. Of Oregon and maybe a few in Washington to join up with Idaho and become a new state. It would be basically everything from anything outside the influence of the Portland and Eugene areas in Oregon would join with Idaho, and then we'd have one big right wing state that would have basically the they think it would be an advantage because there wouldn't really be any change in Congress because greater Idaho would still just have two right wing senators.And Oregon would, what was left of Oregon would still have its Democrats. And they've actually held nonbinding referendums in something like 10. Counties where it has passed[00:22:30] which basically doesn't mean anything because the legislatures of both Idaho and Oregon would have to sign off on it.Then Congress would end then the president would. So it's not really going to happen, but it is, it's, it's a brainchild is a favorite idea of some right-wing monitors. They also think that it's important to prevent Boise from ever getting. Enough electoral power that it becomes something like Portland.So if you bring in all the right wingers from Oregon and Washington into this one state, then there's no chance that the state Capitol will ever be able to outvote them.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, that's, that's true. And then, and I'm trying to remember, I don't think they've done a vote, any votes in Washington.Have they?KELLEY: I don't believe so. I, I haven't actually kept up with that. I do know that a few years ago in,SHEFFIELD: Oh, and I guess some of them and some people are talking about. Some California counties as well.KELLEY: Oh, right, right. Yeah. There are some people who also, also want to include some of the counties in Northern California.Basically that would be the, this would override the state of, what is it that they wanted to call it?SHEFFIELD: Jefferson.KELLEY: Jefferson. Yes. Yes. This is an alternative to Jefferson. That would be even bigger. Yeah. Bigger [00:24:00] and bigger and crazier.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, oh, and, but, and if I'm, and they also don't they're so trying to make these other counties be part of Idaho, but then also they don't seem to have a plan for paying for the governmental structures that are owned.KELLEY: They wouldn't need to because it would be small government, and everyone would take care of the homes.SHEFFIELD: Ah, yes. Yeah. Like the hospitals, nobody would use those. And schools. No one would use themKELLEY: There wouldn't be enough of a taxpayer base to pay for the basics. Like, and they could all homes against Russia. I'm not against Russia against Canada. Probably.SHEFFIELD: Well, there is a Moscow, Idaho, right? Now that now that I think about it, which, and actually they've got some great wine over there.I have had some over there. It's an excellent place for wine. Yeah. And so, but it's, you know, it's like. It's just like this, this prolonged fantasy.KELLEY: That's all it is. It is never going to happen. And yet they really think it's a neat idea. So there will be, there will continue to be referenda and it will continue to do nothing.Even when they met with some right-wing members of the Idaho legislature a couple of years ago, the most that the Idaho people would say was. Well, that's interesting.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and as I [00:25:30] understand just this year there was a resolution in February to discuss the idea. It wasn't even a discussion.It was literally, can we have the discussion? And they said yes. And then they didn't do it.KELLEY: Well, they're too busy banning books and outlawing trans people.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and actually let's, let's talk about that. So yeah, books, books have become suddenly very controversial in Idaho.KELLEY: As with everywhere else, as with everywhere else.Yeah, the, the cultural wars are running hot as ever here in the Boise area, fortunately it's gone fairly well. There was an attempt to I was the library board, as I recall, and it went nowhere in not in Boise, but in nearby Nampa or Meridian. I think it was Meridian. When there was a library board meeting that one group of crazies wanted to storm everyone else heard about it and outnumbered them 10 to 1.So at least in the same part of Idaho libraries are safe, but in other parts of the state there have been a couple of libraries that were shut down because there was just no more funding or no one to work at them. So yeah, it's, it's very sad. And the legislature [00:27:00] last year passed a couple of absolutely crazy bills in the house that fortunately went nowhere in the Senate because the Senate so far is still tends to have more of the pro-business normal Republicans, rather than the crazies.But, but this year they, they did manage to do the trans the transgender excuse me, the gender affirming healthcare ban which is just awful they also passed that bizarre bill outlawing travel to Oregon or other States to get an abortion. So people could be put in jail, not for crossing the state line, but for traveling toward.Oregon or Washington to get an abortion with a minor who wasn't their own child in the car. So a parent wouldn't be arrested, but an aunt could.And it was signed by Brad Little, who, despite being one of the more. Sane, comparatively conservative Republicans knows that he's got the crazies always looking for a chance to go after him.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's true. [00:28:30] And I mean, it's when you think about it, just to compare the Democrats, I mean, in Idaho, you, you said, you know, nothing about the democratic politics in Idaho because we never hear from them.KELLEY: Exactly. It's, it's true. I mean, we, there are definitely. Democrats who are very good, especially in the Boise area and they do well, they have their voice in the legislature, and they have managed to keep some sanity in the place.But as far as being any kind of a counterweight to the crazies, I don't know what they would do frankly, because there's just not enough of us.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, because I mean, the Boise metro area has about 750, 000 people and Idaho has a lot more than that. And, but you know what though, I mean, I think it is, it's worth pointing out that a lot of this craziness probably does—I mean, you were saying that it does, they're trying to counteract that they believe a lot of people have moved into the Business and Berkeley section of Idaho and they're trying to do something to sort of disenfranchise them.KELLEY: We aren't quite to the point of where was, Oh of, of Texas [00:30:00] where they took away the elections board from the biggest County out for, for Houston.Yeah. They just said, nope, you can't have your own elections board anymore.SHEFFIELD: But you know, they're thinking about it. Yeah. And you know, and, but I mean, I guess, you know, nationally probably the, the only Democrat that from Idaho that anyone had ever heard of. And, and this is just barely, it's Paulette Jordan who ran for governor in 2018, and I guess she ran for Senate in 2020 no idea what she's doing nowadays, though.KELLEY: Yeah, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. It's. A, almost a suicide run for an Idaho, for an Idaho Democrat to run for major office. I don't know when our last, let's see, I can't recall when we last had a statewide Democrat in a major office.SHEFFIELD: I guess what Frank Church?KELLEY: Well, right. Frank Church was certainly the last Senator from Idaho.We did have a Democrat who was elected, I think for one term after, after, boy, we had a one term Democrat within the last 10 years in one of the two congressional districts but lost again. You know, former Idaho representative Raul Labrador, who is now [00:31:30] the state attorney general. It's crazies everywhere.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah. Well, one of the big progenitors of that craziness is the Idaho Freedom Foundation, right?KELLEY: They are very big. They said a lot of they managed to have an outsized voice in Idaho politics. They were central to the protests against COVID lockdowns. Not that we ever actually had them against any kind of reaction to COVID against masks, against any kind of public health orders.They and Ammon Bundy did things like protesting outside the home of a. Police officer who arrested someone for violating the lockdown nuts. There was a public burning of masks on the steps of the Idaho Capitol. So that was a good use of fire and plastic. And the Freedom Foundation is they just have all sorts of.Wonderful ideas about how we can make Idaho more right wing. They have a, an annual freedom index that tells you which members of the legislature are sufficiently to the right. They're very involved in the school censorship business and their blog.Most recently [00:33:00] is running articles about great Americans during June because the Democrats are doing something else during June. They won't even name pride. Oh, this is their little joke. It's called pride in America. So they have promo Elon Musk.And Charles Lindbergh, the article on Charles Lindbergh talks about what a great patriot was he was and what a great aviator doesn't have one word about the anti semitism or the America first thing. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, he helped us stay out of World War Two until it was unavoidable. And then he was a great patriot during the war.Nothing about his medal from Hitler. Cause why would you mention that? It's not like we have, not like there's anything wrong with being a Nazi.SHEFFIELD: No, no, there's, according to them, there is not. And it's just a difference of opinion. You know, why would you, why would you cancel someone for being a Nazi? Oh, right. And I guess there's, you guys also had some people trying to start up a Patriot Front group up in Coeur d'Alene that I guess they got arrested recently.KELLEY: Oh, right. Yeah. They, it wasn't that they were, were running one, but, but yeah, they, they came in from all around the West and tried to March at a pride parade last year.I'm not sure whether they were armed with anything more than, you know, clubs and, [00:34:30] and the usual armor and, and shields. But yeah, they were certainly a nasty group and most of them were convicted. And the fun thing of course, is that. Now on Elon's Twitter, you'll be told that if you mention the Patriot Front, you'll be told, Oh, wait, no, they're just an FBI front group.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I've seen people say that and I've asked people that and according to them, it's obvious that they are. It's just obvious they are, yeah. Because they have clean clothes and uniforms, and that makes them FBI.KELLEY: That must be it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well and it's like well, hey, I guess you never heard of Mormons, But you know and I don't know but you know, I have to say though I do still feel like though that I mean, you know, we, we discussed Paulette Jordan, you know, earlier in the episode that I mean, she did a lot better than a Democrat has for governor in quite some time. And you know, a lot of people are moving to Idaho to the.Voicing area and in Sun Valley. And I mean, you know, is this just do these people see the writing on the wall for themselves? Do you think?KELLEY: Well, it's hard to say. I think that. So far, Idaho has been lucky in having more sane people than crazies. Going back to the Aryan nations there [00:36:00] were certainly Nazis there, but there was also a very, very strong pushback from the Corn Lane community.You still see bumper stickers that say Idaho is too great for hate. In fact, in Boise, we now have down by the library, we have an Anne Frank memorial that was put up by people who were disgusted by the reputation that Idaho got from the Aryan nations. So., I like, I, without sounding like a Pollyanna, I like to think that at some point sanity will prevail, but we're going to go through some stuff.Yeah. Yeah.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, I mean, there is a group out there called reclaim Idaho. Have you ever heard of those guys?KELLEY: I don't know. There's a Twitter group called the Idaho 98% that I certainly like the name of that does what it can to oppose the crazies out there, or at least to point out that they are spouting nonsense.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and I think you know probably what's going to have to happen is that you know, it’s like People who live in more progressive parts of the country. I think it's hard for them to really grasp the dilemma that progressives in these reds in red states have is that [00:37:30] you know, you the national party has--KELLEY: Why don't they just move?SHEFFIELD: Yeah.KELLEY: I live here. I'm an American!SHEFFIELD: I have the right to live where I want to live, or I have to live where my job is, you know?KELLEY: Right.SHEFFIELD: Or whatever it is. Or my, where my family is or whatever. And the national Democratic Party did really, and this is part of why I'm doing this series, is that the national Democratic Party for a brief few years when Howard Dean was the chairman, actually had a 50-state strategy. But once Obama was able to come in and put his own people in, he was like, okay, you know We don't need that because I can win without this stuff. Let's just save our money guys And let's not do that.And so as a result, I mean, you know a lot of Democrats and red states feel like no one gives a s**t about is that, you think that's a fair assessment?It feels that way sometimes. I don't know about missing out on national attention, but although that is reality,A lot of it comes to, I think that there was this, so there was a book that came out it was around the time that Obama first came on the scene, it was called The Emerging Democratic Majority and the thesis of the book, people only took the first half of the thesis. The thesis of the book was, if Democrats can take their existing electorate and then [00:39:00] add on a new group of people who are college educated and are, you know, Hispanic or Asian who are immigrating in, then they'll have a majority. But. They basically, the National Democratic Party, especially under Hillary Clinton they basically kind of lopped off that first part of keeping the existing constituency.And they're like, hey, well, we got, we have the emerging majority here. Let's go for it, guys. We were let's put all our money into the presidential races. I mean, I think that might be part of it also is that. You know, they were shut out. The Democrats were shut out of the presidency for, for, for 12 years during Reagan and Bush and Bush 41.And they, I think to some degree it kind of made them miss their priorities that they took Congress for granted. But they, and so they became obsessed with the presidency and kind of lost the--KELLEY: I absolutely agree with that. And also the, the left has, the Democrats, the left have simply fallen down on what the right was so good at going back to when I was in college when the right was making sure that there were right wing people running for school boards and for local county officials.And you just don't see that kind of organizational effort on the ground [00:40:30] from Democrats. We should be doing the school boards. We need to be doing state legislatures at every level, not just every four years saying, okay, let's elect a president. Cause we can probably do that, but without the building, the party building that goes on with the lower-level efforts, you just don't have, Oh God, I'm going to use a sports metaphor: You don't have a bench.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, it's that also, and it's that, you know, they're missing the crucial aspect of the American electoral system, which is that, you know, it's deliberately. Like, I always hear people complain about, Oh, the Electoral College is unfair. The Senate is unfair. And it's like, guys, we've kind of been that way for more than 200 years.So, so, you can, you can complain about that. And you can complain about, you know, various Senator is not doing what you want, or you can try to do something about it. And, you know, and I guess to some degree, you know, the, the greater Idaho fantasy of, of the Western right wing is, it's almost like there's a left-wing version of that.And that's, you know, let's, we're going to expand the Senate. We're going to have Puerto Rico as DC as a state, and we're going to break up California, and we're going to do this and that. And it's like, okay. When are you going to get the power to do this ?KELLEY: Right, right, [00:42:00] exactly.SHEFFIELD: Who's going to give it to you?KELLEY: Exactly.SHEFFIELD: The other thing though about it is that, you know, so the American political system is not just, you know, the Senate's biased, obviously, for, for smaller population states but also, you know, just the fact that, I mean, you know, people on the, on the left talk about how.The presidential system should be about people rather than land, right? You know, you see those maps of you know, look at all this land that voted for Republicans. And it's like, that still does actually matter. That, you know, if you--KELLEY: It's what we've got.SHEFFIELD: It's what?KELLEY: It's what we've got.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.KELLEY: And, you know, we're not going to, to change that anytime soon.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's, it's also that you can't like, let's say you do somehow, let's say there is enough population shifting such that, you know, the, the blue states quote unquote, end up to having a permanent house and presidential majority. It's going to be problematic that you're creating a country that is just so incredibly geographically polarized.And it's, and not just for the, for the sake of national unity in the, that the Senate's not going to be that way, number one. And then number two, you're creating a huge problem for people who do live in urban areas like Boise or like, let's say Albuquerque, Mexico, or, you know, Texas Democrats. And [00:43:30] you can't just wave them one and say, Oh, well, you know, we'll have a national divorce.And that's like, guys, you're literally probably, you know, consigning a third of the people who you consider your political compatriots.KELLEY: Exactly.SHEFFIELD: You're consigning them to a confederacy. That that's what you're going to do.KELLEY: No, thank you.SHEFFIELD: Yeah.KELLEY: It's not that we it's not that we need to redo secession and let that go for, we need to do reconstruction 2. 0 and do it right. Although how we do that, I don't know.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, but it, you can't start it until you start talking about it.KELLEY: Right, right.SHEFFIELD: And that's just, you know, and, and because I mean, cause that, that is, it's actually an opportunity when you think about it. Because, you know, the, the Republican party in these different states.And not just the national party, but at the state level you know, even, I mean, here in California where I live, I mean, the Republican party here is nuts. Like they're insane. Like they're actually probably more insane than the national Republican party. And you know, so, but especially in red states where the, you know, people, the majority of people had been voting like in Idaho, I, I think since the nineties for, for actually no, since LBJ, I think he was the last Democrat to win Idaho in the presidential election. You know, like, so you've had one party rule. In many states in the country for [00:45:00] decades.And what has it gotten people, you know, it hasn't, it, there's all kinds of problems and, and it there's, you should think of that as an opportunity if you're a progressive to come in and help people and say, look, you have been abandoned, like that's, that's the thing people don't get about, about Trump and the appeal of Trump is that the reason why he has such loyalty from people is because Republicans abandoned these people.And so, and you know, he doesn't really care about them, but at least he pretends to.KELLEY: Right, right.SHEFFIELD: And they, and they love him for that.KELLEY: He's given up so much for them!SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's how they feel. But at least he's acknowledging that they exist. And that's kind of hard to say that the national Democrats have really done that. I mean, when you look at where they put their ad dollars and, and their campaign cash.Well, so we're coming up to the end here. And I think we've hopefully covered all the, all the major points here and other Idahoans will have to chime in if we, if they think we missed anything, but I mean, do you have any, any parting thoughts for, for the audience as we wrap it up here?KELLEY: When you think about the polarization in the red states and the lunacy, remember that there is never a 100% vote in any of these red states. In Idaho, [00:46:30] Democrats do get 20 and 30% of the vote. That's the same in other red states too, and we can't just forget the people, the, the, the progressives in the red states.SHEFFIELD: Okay. Yeah. No, I think that's a good point. Good point. All right, so you are--KELLEY: Oh and read Wonkette. You should definitely read That's a...SHEFFIELD: Yes. There we go. Yes. W O N K E T T E.KELLEY: Yes, dot com.SHEFFIELD: For those who are listening. All right. And then I guess you are at least until it falls apart, you're on Twitter over at DoktorZoom. That's with a K though, not with a C. So people can follow you on there as well.All right Marty Kelley, thanks for being on Theory of Change.KELLEY: Well, thank you very much.SHEFFIELD: All right. So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for watching or reading or listening. And you can go to to get all the other episodes. And if you're a paid subscriber, you can get full access to video, audio, and transcript of all the episodes. And I do appreciate everybody who supports the show like that.We're not subsidized by billionaires or universities or anything like that. No, we're made possible by people like you. And so please do share the show as well. And if you could subscribe financially, that definitely is appreciated as well.But please do tell your friends and family about the show and what we're doing here. I do [00:48:00] appreciate it very much. I'll see you next time. This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/21/202351 minutes, 3 seconds
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So This Just Happened #001: MAGA rap and the right's fake debate-me bravado

Hey it’s Matthew Sheffield. As a subscriber to Theory of Change, I wanted to let you know about a new Flux podcast called So This Just Happened.My co-host for this show is Kali Holloway, she’s a very thoughtful journalist who you may have seen writing for The Nation and The Daily Beast. She’s also a singer and musician who’s featured in “The End of Our Deceit,” which is our podcast’s theme song.So This Just Happened is going to focus on the people and personalities behind the news. This political moment we’re all sharing together is really complicated, not just to understand what’s happening, but also who we want to be.We’ll be discussing why people are doing things, with a particular emphasis on stories about race, gender, and religion. Along the way, we’ll be telling some of our own individual stories as well. Each episode is part of a larger conversation so you’ll notice that there will never be a formal introduction.Going forward, Theory of Change will be published on Monday, Doomscroll will publish on Wednesdays, and So This Just Happened will come out on Fridays.But the best descriptions are no substitute for the real thing though, so please take a listen. I hope you’ll enjoy it. And if you are not yet a paid subscriber to Flux, I would definitely appreciate it if you would consider doing so. If you can’t afford it, please take just a few minutes to share any of our shows with a friend. Thanks!Timecodes01:20 — MAGA rapper Forgiato Blow and his Satan-themed rhymes and their larger context08:30 — Why right-wing cultural products are usually very terrible10:49 — That time a Moms for Liberty co-founder challenged Matt to a debate and then chickened out14:37 — Many people on the center-left are getting tired of useless debates, but this is exactly what the far right wants20:04 — How Robert F. Kennedy Jr. used real history of unethical medical practices to lie about vaccines to Black people26:46 — How and why reactionary activists use “divide and conquer” to demoralize and divide the center-left and the progressive left30:00 — A new app promises users it can help them shop their political values. Is that taking politics too seriously? This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/18/202341 minutes, 42 seconds
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Doomscroll #005: We're not getting that billionaire death match

Lisa and Matt discuss:00:08 — Elon Musk chickens out of his fight with Mark Zuckerberg while pretending he didn’t04:45 — Las Vegas hotels dealing with bed bug infestations07:38 — Ron DeSantis and allies spent $95k to pay off Iowa Christian Republican group09:21 — DeSantis shuts down go-karts for a photo-op13:57 — Donald Trump Junior’s very weird outdoor magazine20:56 — People are making Donald Trump coloring books23:16 — Arkansas Republican boasts she’s replacing little libraries’ LGBTQ books with Bibles29:26 — Drake begs fans to stop throwing their bras at himFollow or dieDoomscroll This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/16/202336 minutes, 16 seconds
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Doomscroll #004: Presidential indictments from outer space

Matt, Lisa, and guest host Nick Nuñez talk about:* Why people aren’t taking the congressional space alien hearings seriously* Lisa’s extremely normal high school math teacher who told students about being abducted (4:19)* Green Party presidential candidate Cornel West owes $500k to the IRS and $50k in child support (8:15)* Steve Bannon apparently kept a bathtub filled with formaldehyde or some type of acid in his house (14:47)* Donald Trump gets his third post-presidential indictment for January 6th (16:16)* Kanye “Ye” West’s defunct Christian private school is getting sued by lots of people. Students were banned from wearing Adidas, there was no school nurse, and crossword puzzels were banned. (19:22)Follow or dieDoomscroll Nuñez This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit
8/11/202326 minutes, 52 seconds
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Theory of Change #082: Julie Millican and Olivia Little on right-wing media's new Satanic Panic

Ever since the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, the Republican party has been in a radicalization loop in which successive generations of leaders overthrew their predecessors by claiming they were not reactionary enough. But since Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Republican radicalization has increased at a level never before seen.And there’s a reason for this. Older, white fundamentalist Christians over 50 years old are the overwhelming majority of Republican voters. According to a recent Pew Research survey, 70% of people who voted Republican in 2022 were older than 49 years of age. Unfortunately for Republicans, their reliable core of loyal voters is slowly dying off and the number of people who aren’t religious has increased dramatically since the internet became commonplace.Trump and other Republican leaders have realized the only way they can win elections without having to become more moderate is to whip fundamentalist Christians into a frenzy by merging DC Republican rhetoric with the previously fringe movement of QAnon, which is itself an outgrowth of the “Satanic Panic” that started in the 1970s and has never really stopped, even though it faded away from mainstream media in the 90s.As you’ll see in today’s episode, right-wing media figures are telling their fan bases that progressives and transgender people are literally possessed by demons. The rhetoric we’ll be playing today is so extreme and so disturbing that it’s not often covered in mainstream media, which is a problem of its own as well.Joining me to talk about all of these very concerning media and political developments is Julie Millican, she is a vice president at Media Matters for America where she’s worked for more than 15 years. Currently she oversees partner programs and media accountability efforts.Also here today is Olivia Little, who is also at Media Matters as a senior investigative researcher. She’s written about many different right-wing media figures and most recently has been doing some incredible research about the new Christian extremist group that calls itself Moms for Liberty.Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.VideoTranscriptMATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Thank you for being here today, ladies.OLIVIA LITTLE: Thank you.JULIE MILLICAN: Yeah. Thank you.SHEFFIELD: All right. So, let's just start off with you, Julie, you've been looking at right-wing media for 15 years. Things have gotten worse in recent years. These fringe figures, well, formerly fringe figures, were always there at the margins. Is that right?MILLICAN: Yes, that's definitely right. Yeah. Many years ago during the Obama administration, for instance, you would start to see some inklings of these more fringe figures or just internet figures, internet websites, like the Gateway Pundit, for instance, starting to have a little bit more influence over how the conservative media infrastructure at large was talking about issues.We saw back then that this type of commentary was intentionally kept in the background, but that it was obviously gaining some influence and in certain circles what we saw at the time was say, some early inklings of conspiracy theories that were being floated around Barack Obama's birth certificate, for [00:04:30] instance, is one of the first instances that I saw some of these conversations that were happening in more fringe communities start to be a little bit more embraced by more traditional media outlets on the right as well as the Republican infrastructure as a whole.It's where Donald Trump actually was able to gain a foothold. I think a lot of people maybe aren't aware of the fact that he used to have a weekly call-in segment on Fox and Friends which is Fox News's morning talk show. And he would call in every week, talking about the birth certificate.He at one point, if I'm remembering correctly, had a bounty out for it. He was going to pay people to find his original birth certificate, but this was something that was really embraced the fringes and then started to kind of build a little bit of momentum, I think for where we.See both the media infrastructure and the Republican Party today. A lot of it has been fueled by the increased prominence of social media. Particularly as a news outlet, it is allowed for more and more filter bubbles to form people to get pushed to more and more extreme content. And what this is kind of ultimately led to the Trump presidency that was then staffed by the very people who had been pushing some of the more extreme elements before. And then it fully became off to the races from there. Just like a race to the bottom, both within the right-wing media infrastructure and the Republican political apparatus that followed it.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And it's also the case Olivia, that, the Republican, Donald Trump in [00:06:00] particular, his White House and political advisors, they saw when the QAnon movement began, they saw that as a useful tool for them and really kind of, tried to speak in code to it over the years.And, it's gradually become much more prevalent in, in their rhetoric. Would you say that?LITTLE: Okay. Oh, absolutely. They understand that it appeals to the masses and it's sort of this easy explanation for a complex problem. So of course they're embracing it because it's useful.MILLICAN: Yeah, to jump in if you don't mind it's one of those things going back to your point about the satanic panic. It's always about the children, right? It is something that the right has. Successfully weaponized for decades. And it's appealing to people because nobody wants to hear about children being harmed.Everybody wants to protect children from being harmed. And it's not, it's a gateway, I think, to kind of push people into more extreme positions. Because once you get them, I'm bored with the fact that or this belief that there's these global elite somewhere that are, in cahoots to harm children, like you can then start pointing the fingers at well, it's these groups of people and they're the ones that are doing it.And they're not just doing that. They're doing all of these other terrible things. And it's a way to really push people to both embrace a political ideology that they may not have been involved with. previously. But also just to embrace, more and more extreme beliefs and [00:07:30] more and more extreme rhetoric and action that comes from that.SHEFFIELD: Well, it's also that, the QAnon movement is kind of the final form of a lot of this Christian right rhetoric that we had seen earlier in Republican politics. And that it's easy to get people to focus on these fantastical, phantasmagoric conspiracies and Satan, imaginary stuff. The way that they're doing things, currently with QAnon and some of this stuff is a continuation of how things were—I mean, like you look at Pat Robertson, he kind of really got this started in Republican politics by mainstreaming things like the New World Order conspiracy theory. He actually wrote a book by that title and was trying to push this extreme paranoia and as he got older and had more media under his own control, the mainstream media kind of forgot some of those aspects of him.But things have just gotten so much worse in terms of the level of extremism that you see in large-scale Republican and right-wing media outlets. So we've got a bunch of different clips here to get through. I want to get started with some of those. Basically the discussion here, we're going to organize it around these packages of clips. And what I want the audience to see in this first package is that Republican political elites, many of whom are not even religious themselves, necessarily, or [00:09:00] Christians for that matter, basically, they're telling the right-wing voter base and evangelical Christians, fundamentalist Christians, that there is a war against them. And that they need to think of themselves as at war with modernity. And they actually use that verbiage, you'll see in one of the figures here.So the first one is an opening prayer that was given at the recent Moms for Liberty convention. And we'll play that. And then Olivia, maybe you can give us some more details on Moms for Liberty and what they're up to.(Begin clip)PAT BLACKBURN, Moms for Liberty: We have one father, and he's our God. He has called each of us here for such a time as this.Nothing you've experienced this week has been a coincidence. I don't believe in coincidences. Because for months, the leadership team at Moms for Liberty met every morning at 9:15 in the morning for our daily fortification. We read scripture and we pray. And we gave this summit to God, and we said, God, you make it yours. And so [00:10:30] we have had a wonderful week. And no matter what our enemy tried to do to stop us, we've had a very successful summit. (Cut in video)Lord, we celebrate every win and every success because you gave it to us. And we thank you.And so some of us are going carry home some awards tonight, but most importantly, each and every one of us are in this because you called us, and because we're being a willing vessel.So that we can walk in the spiritual walk that you would have us to walk in. And so our rewards are truly laid up in heaven. And no one and nothing can take that away.(End clip)SHEFFIELD: Tell us about Moms for Liberty, Olivia. How did they get started? What were their initial issues and what have they kind of gravitated toward and are known for today?LITTLE: Right. So Moms for Liberty began in early 2021 in Florida. And they initially went all in on. Like anti covid mitigation policies. And they did that in order to cast this sort of like wide net and recruit new followers in a way that they knew wouldn't work if they went all in on like critical race theory.Because they initially tried to, you go back on their archives you'll see that they tried to fundraise based off of anti-CRT advocacy [00:12:00] and they tried to, they had information pages about CRT and but so, so from there they shifted, went all in on anti-COVID mitigation policies.And once those policies, like masks lifted and once schools were reopening, they did a 180 and they went back pursuing anti-CRT advocacy, anti-LGBT advocacy, and they made that pivot, but they were able to channel this parental frustration about the pandemic into pushing their own political agenda that wouldn't have happened without the pandemic.So they really took advantage of parental frustrations during COVID to push their own agenda. And so from there, they grew, they started in Florida in early 2021 and really didn't have many followers or like much of a structure. But early on, we see that they had massive right wing media support and massive right wing political support as well.And they have since moved across the country with the help of these right-wing politicians and right-wing media. They moved across the country harassing or strategically harassing school boards and teachers throughout the country and, now I was just at their summit in Philadelphia.But we've seen a very consistent increase in radicalization or open extremism from the group that at first, they tried to at least mask it, but now it's completely mask-off [00:13:30] in terms of how extreme the group has become.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. It was worth talking about some of the rhetoric that was in that prayer, specifically in the context for it.So it was at the recent conference that they had, which you attended and reported from. And the prayer was given at their award ceremony on the final night of the conference. The name of the awards were called “For Such a Time as This.”And that phrase might not mean anything to most people, but in the fundamentalist Christian circles in the United States, it is a very important meme in right-wing Christian circles. It refers to a verse in the story of Esther in the Hebrew Bible in which a character tells Esther, who was this Jewish woman who was captured along with many other Jews and made to become the sex slave of this foreign ruler. And her Jewish friend tells her, ‘maybe God has raised you up for such a time as this.’And in the right-wing evangelical culture, they've kind of made that their mantra that they are God's personal servants. And you saw that also in the prayer that, God's, her repeatedly saying, God has designated us. And she used the phrase again “for such a time as this.” I mean, this is some rhetoric I think that maybe a lot of times, Julie, maybe you can jump in about the fact that a lot of mainstream reporters don't seem to be aware of a lot of these code words that are being used?MILLICAN: Yeah, I would say that's right. If they are aware of it, it's [00:15:00] certainly not being included in the coverage. I don't think the context of the religious extremism that's underlying a lot of the advocacy that we're seeing on the right these days is really being spelled out to people.I don't know, sometimes it seems like there's an aspect of it where the media is just generally reluctant to talk about religious extremism, especially when it comes to Christianity, especially when it comes to religious extremism on the right, they certainly didn't have a problem talking about religious extremism when it was coming from other religious groups.And we see the same type of reluctance when it comes to talking about acts of terror that are committed by people on the right or like that are inspired by issues on the right that not being described as acts of terrorism, whereas they would have been if they were religiously motivated from Islam, for instance.So I think that there has been this general reluctance to either see the signs or at least contextualize the signs to a more mainstream audience. That is doing a disservice to people fully kind of understanding, the different codes that are being spoken, but also, it's not like we're really so much in code anymore.I mean, pretty explicitly embracing a very right wing and work stream that I think, most would realize version of Christianity these days than they used to in the past. Like Fox News, for instance, I mean, their Fox Nation platform has an entire prayer show. They've had segments on their weekend [00:16:30] programming.They have a Faith and Friends concert series that was sponsored by the Museum for the Bible. They have on Fox Business; they'll sell airtime to like Christian nationalist pastors to give sermons on the weekends. They've been pretty open, I think, in a way that I don't think you have to worry about being accused of being biased or anti-religion by reporting on what these people are actually saying and doing. But I do think that this aspect is being lost.SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. And it's, it is important for the people who are outside of that worldview to understand this is what's coming for you, especially if you are somebody who is LGBTQ, or somebody in your family or your friends who are, that these are people that are being directly viciously attacked, pretty much 24/7 by right wing media now and—MILLICAN: By demonic forces, as you would say. It's like they're literally being compared to demons. And it’s not just fringe people who are saying this, like we have Donald Trump himself, like regularly appears on the Victory Channel, for instance, as do many other mainstream Republican politicians.And this is a network that openly embraces Christian nationalism. And this is the type of thing that they have a plan for what they will do when they retake control of the government, and they're pretty open about it. And for some reason, this just doesn't get covered and people, broadly, I would say who don't live their [00:18:00] lives paying attention to what these right-wing figures are doing or don't live their lives surrounded by people who are more fundamentalist in their religious beliefs, they don't have any idea that this is going on, or that this exists. And it's just kind of happening right under everybody's nose.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I think that's right. And, and I think a lot of political reporters who came up before the Christian right was completely liberated by Trump, Julie, I think they may not know how right-wing media is so much more important and significant than progressive media is on the left. What do you think of that?MILLICAN: Oh, that's absolutely the case. First of all, the right-wing media infrastructure is just massive. It is enormous. It is extremely well funded, and it's extremely well-established. And they've also done a really good job in being able to take advantage of the opportunities that social media has presented, as far as being able to spread and shape a narrative. The right-wing media is particularly good at making a lot of noise around issues, and they are in lockstep in their messaging often and how they're talking about things and the things that they want people to be upset about. They spend a lot of time knowing first of all, that fear and anger drives engagement. And they play on that. They keep people angry. And they keep people fired up and that keeps people engaged and it keeps them motivated to want to act. And so I think that the right has spent decades, very successfully [00:19:30] building up an infrastructure that could take advantage of the fact that they have a very engaged base that may be smaller, it may be a smaller group, a portion of the population, but they're extremely engaged. They're extremely active, and they're very influenced by what they hear, and they don't trust anything that's coming outside of their circles. They very much are not going to trust information that's coming from a mainstream news source.They're certainly not going to trust anything that a liberal or a progressive or a Democrat has to say about anything. And so they are all listening to one very loud group speaking from the same hymn book, more or less. And that has a lot of influence on how people behave and act.SHEFFIELD: Yeah, for sure. And actually to illustrate that point, we're going to go into another clip. This one is featuring Charlie Kirk, who is the founder of Turning Point USA, which is this extremely well-funded, I think over a hundred million dollars across all of his organizations, group that targets young people for right-wing radicalization, particularly young Christians.(Begin video clips)CHARLIE KIRK, Turning Point USA president: What changed is that an outgrowth of modernity, and we're living in this postmodern, post-structuralist, everybody gets to decide their own truth for themselves. This social contagion that is spreading the country at a rapid pace that disguises itself as “transgenderism.”MICHAEL KNOWLES, Daily Wire host: This is yet another reminder that science is mostly fake, not, not that [00:21:00] scientism or the politicization of science or whatever other squishy language, the, the more I don't know, centrist kind of people want to grant, but the whole endeavor, the whole endeavor of the scientific revolution, the premise of which is that reality is fundamentally physical, that is flawed.It's not true. The modern scie