Anti-establishment candidates rail against the government they seek to lead; populist groups like the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street howl about corruption in political and economic institutions; and wild conspiracy theories abound. Has American politics always been so crazy?
With political science professor Cornell Clayton, explore how American politics has become an arena for suspicious and angry minds. Rather than debunking today’s conspiratorial claims, Clayton argues that both populism and a paranoid thinking have always played important roles in American politics. From the fear of the Illuminati, to the Know-Nothing movement in the 1850s, to Father Charles Coughlin, Huey Long, and the John Birchers, there always have been leaders and groups who see politics in apocalyptic terms and believe powerful elites are conspiring against ordinary Americans. Clayton’s talk explains the rise of today’s populist and conspiratorial politics, draws parallels to earlier periods, and describes how populism on the left and right today differ.
This presentation is part of Humanities Washington's Speakers Bureau program. To learn more, visit humanities.org.