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William 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.
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Theory 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 flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.
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