12/20 Conservative Populism and the Gospel of Victimhood w/ Paul Elliott Johnson

December 20, 2021

Emma hosts Paul Elliott Johnson, Assistant Professor of Communications at the University of Pittsburgh, to discuss his recent book I The People: The Rhetoric of Conservative Populism, on the transformation of the conservative populist movements over the last century, and how they worked to define, and redefine, white America. Professor Johnson first works to define the malleable characteristics that guide conservative values, such as whiteness, the ability to make free decisions, and economic viability, before he and Emma get into the actual way that the right sought to define America, by its opposition to Blackness. This brings them to a quick exploration of the Black radical tradition, and its start with an emphasis on experience, before working to unpack how Blackness was used as a designation of pathological danger and negativity, and what it means to be un-American, from the “Welfare Queen” trope to healthcare. Professor Johnson then dives into how the end of the cold war put the US on the edge, ending their competition with the USSR which had driven their social justice advancements, technological advancements, and economic development over the last few decades, looking particularly at Reagan assuming his role at the pinnacle of conservatism working to join both libertarian conservatives and traditionalists against the threat of Blackness, and slavery at the hand of the state. He and Emma also dive into his more overt examples of juxtaposing true America with Blackness, as seen with his coining of the “Welfare Queen” term, and how this allowed him to put Blackness in the backseat during his 1984 reelection, instead focusing on the beauty of consumption and whiteness. They also explore figures like Newt Gingrich and how they shaped the identity of the American conservative in the ‘90s, with a focus on the angry white finance man, before wrapping up the interview by looking at the effect of the 2008 financial crisis in nearly undermining the real divides in the US, and how the Tea Party worked to completely obscure that through a re-establishment of Blackness and the slavery of the state under Obama as central threats to the US, ultimately working to the election of Donald Trump as a white, hyper-masculine head of the movement. Emma also covers Joe Manchin tanking Build Back Better, AKA what every leftist knew his Build Back Better goal was, as well as Bernie’s response, and Chile’s election.

And in the Fun Half: Matt Lech gives a myth-busting seminar on Socialism’s efficacy in Latin America in the wake of Boric’s successful presidential campaign in Chile, Kowalski calls in to talk cashews impact on climate change, and the crew explores Charlamagne Tha God breaking down Kamala Harris in an interview with a simple Manchin-related question. Gregory from OK updates us on his campaign for State House District 26, Trump discusses the failures of Jewish dual loyalty, and Nat from Portland discusses taking on the role of the NYT with friends and family, plus, your calls and IMs!

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