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Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield
How the far right built a political machine that's crushing the opposition
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How the far right built a political machine that's crushing the opposition

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Politics, 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 Chapters

02:15 — Organization spotlight: Council for National Policy

05:17 — The right's self-sustaining political economy

10:23 — The left is worse at understanding and applying political marketing tactics than the right

19:15 — How religious and market fundamentalism can support each other politically and economically

27:18 — Donor spotlight: The DeVos family

31:50 — Organization spotlight: Hillsdale College

43:37 — Why mainstream media struggle to report on far-right organizing

56:27 — How national right-wing groups manipulate local politics

01:02:37 — Right-wing media is a "permanent campaign" to energize and direct Republican-leaning Americans

01:16:56 — You can't change the election laws until you can win by them

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