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Theory of Change podcast
63 minutes | Oct 22, 2021
Theory of Change #023: Christopher Douglas on Satan and far-right Christianity's daily apocalypses
It’s October, and since we’re all about the larger trends here at Theory of Change, we’ll be celebrating the Halloween season with a brief history of Satan and a look at modern-day Christian apocalypse literature. Like it or not, many Americans are greatly concerned with these topics. A 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of white evangelical Christian adults surveyed believed that Jesus Christ will return to the earth within the next 40 years. That was significantly higher than any other religious group, just 32 percent of Catholic respondents agreed. Speculating about how the world ends is probably as old as humanity itself. It was pivotal to the early formation and growth of Christianity. Early leaders of the faith frequently suggested it was just around the corner. Over time as those hundreds of predictions failed to come true, the end times literature tradition kind of faded away in Christianity. But it came back with a vengeance in the mid-20th century, however, after the development of nuclear weapons. Christian apocalypticism really took off though after white evangelicals began to emerge as a political movement in the 1970s. In this episode, we’ll be featuring Christopher Douglas, he’s a Professor of English at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. We’ll talking about some of the things he’s learned as a scholar of Christian Right and of Biblical literature. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/10/far-right-american-christians-think-theyre-living-bible-story-and GUEST INFO Christopher Douglas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/crddouglas Essay: "Apocalypse Now and Then: How a Biblical Genre Shapes American Politics" https://religiondispatches.org/apocalypse-now-and-then-how-a-biblical-genre-shapes-american-politics/ Book: If God Meant to Interfere: American Literature and the Rise of the Christian Right https://www.amazon.ca/God-Meant-Interfere-Literature-Christian/dp/1501702114 Academic Site: https://www.uvic.ca/humanities/english/people/regularfaculty/douglas-christopher.php ABOUT THE SHOW Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is 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. Theory of Change website: https://flux.community/podcasts/theory-of-change Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheoryChange Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield SUPPORT THE SHOW PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thank you very much!
63 minutes | Oct 16, 2021
Theory of Change #022: Greg Sargent on Republican obstructionism and the Biden policy agenda
Democrats have the narrowest of majorities in the House and Senate. And after a few months of a presidential honeymoon for Joe Biden, they really are feeling the constraints of their tiny margin for error. The Senate is split 50 50 with a tie breaking vote going to Vice President Kamala Harris, which means the Democrats there have to reach unanimous agreement in order to do anything that Republicans in the chamber are against. And with Mitch McConnell as their leader, Republican senators are pretty much against everything Democrats want to do. So what's the plan and how are they moving forward in the face of such obstruction? And that obstruction is a formidable obstacle outside of domestic politics. Because nine months after the January sixth Capitol riot, so much about what happened on that day and why it happened is still unknown. Law enforcement officials have been conducting many investigations of various people, but none of their findings become public unless they're relevant to a trial. And after several months' delay, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to launch a Select Committee to investigate what happened. In this episode of Theory of Change, we feature Greg Sargent, an opinion columnist with the Washington Post and a blogger there as well. And prior to that, he wrote for the American Prospect and Talking Points Memo and New York magazine. He's also the author of a book that came out a few years ago called "An Uncivil War, Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics." Beyond discussing why Democrats don't talk about far-right radicalism more, host Matthew Sheffield talks about some of his own experiences in Republican politics and why he left. (00:50:00) Full transcript and links to articles mentioned in episode: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/10/why-far-right-obstruction-assumed-be-fact-american-politics GUEST INFO Greg Sargent on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThePlumLineGS His column archive at the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/greg-sargent/ ABOUT THE SHOW Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is 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. Theory of Change website: https://flux.community/podcasts/theory-of-change Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheoryChange Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield SUPPORT THE SHOW PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thank you very much!
50 minutes | Oct 9, 2021
Theory of Change #021: Nimmi Gowrinathan on political extremism and female fighters
As technology has given extremist movements a much greater ability to spread their views and carry out violence, researchers are studying radicalization now more than ever. But one area that hasn't received enough attention is an examination of women who become radicalized. Understanding radicalization is important in the United States as well, which is seeing the emergence of a far-right Christian tradition that has already carried out a number of violent acts. What makes them want to risk their lives for a cause or become extreme? It's a complex question with many answers for the different militant movements that have seen large numbers of female fighters, including some that seek to restrict women's rights. Are there similarities among these women as well? More importantly, what do the answers to these questions tell us about our own society? In this episode, we feature Nimmi Gowrinathan. She's the author of "Radicalizing Her," a new book that provides a close look at the motivations of various women who have gotten involved in militant groups. She's also the founder and director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative, a global research project examining the impact of rape on women's political identities in extremist movements. She's also a visiting professor at the City College of New York. GUEST INFO Nimmi Gowrinathan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nimmideviarchy Her official site: http://www.deviarchy.com/ Purchase "Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence" http://www.beacon.org/Radicalizing-Her-P1651.aspx Adi Magazine, which Gowrinathan founded: https://adimagazine.com/ ABOUT THE SHOW Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is 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. Theory of Change website: https://flux.community/podcasts/theory-of-change Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheoryChange Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield SUPPORT THE SHOW PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thank you very much!
49 minutes | Oct 2, 2021
Theory of Change #020: Miguel de Icaza on 30 years of Linux & open source
Although we usually talk about political and religious trends at Theory of Change, technological trends are also very much worth paying attention to. One of the biggest recent technology developments has been the emergence of Linux, an operating system that has taken the computing industry by storm. 30 years ago, Linux began as a college student's hobby operating system project. Today, it's a critical piece of software that powers the majority of the world's smartphones and the most powerful servers and supercomputers. Along the way, Linux managed to displace much more established versions of the Unix operating system that it was designed to be compatible with. But Linux as a technological phenomenon has been about more than what it makes computers do. It also popularized the concept of open-source development, a new way of programming where everyone has access to the underlying software code, and they can modify it and redistribute it as well. Before Linux, it was considered a threat to capitalism and society itself, but now, open-source development has become even more popular than Linux and is used almost everywhere in computing. In this episode, we feature Miguel de Icaza, a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft who played several important roles in the spread of open source, including at Microsoft, where he helped turn a company that was vehemently in favor of proprietary software into one that now embraces it and sells it in many different ways. De Icaza began using Linux while he was in college shortly after its first release in 1991. Soon thereafter, he released Midnight Commander, a powerful program for managing files that is still developed today. Several years later, he co-founded GNOME, a graphical environment for Linux and other Unix operating systems. After creating GNOME, he began working on enabling open source developers to write programs that could run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. And that eventually led him to co-found Xamarin, which was later turned into a software platform that could create code for both Android and Apple's iOS. In 2016, Xamarin was purchased by Microsoft and he has worked there ever since. In discussion, de Icaza and Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield discuss how and why Linux became popular and also what lessons people learned along the way. De Icaza also discusses why he has stopped using Linux in favor of Apple’s MacOS while still continuing to use open source software generally. FULL TRANSCRIPT https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/10/how-linux-and-open-source-took-computing-world-storm GUEST INFO Miguel de Icaza's website: https://tirania.org/blog/ On Twitter: https://twitter.com/migueldeicaza GitHub profile: https://github.com/migueldeicaza ABOUT THE SHOW Theory of Change is 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. Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheoryChange SUPORT THE SHOW PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thanks!
68 minutes | Sep 25, 2021
Theory of Change #019: Matthew Harris on Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon and evangelical extremisms
The 1960s are famous in the American political memory as a time of leftist revolution. Millions marched against racial segregation and the Vietnam War, women’s liberation went mainstream, and the fight for lesbian and gay rights began. But the 60s were also a time of counter-revolution, a moment when many of the radical forces that became prominent on January 6, 2021 really began to gain momentum. In Episode 15, we talked with historian Angie Maxwell about how fundamentalist white Southerners flooded into Protestant churches and seminaries but a similar radicalization process happened within LDS Mormonism, the religion that has an outsized influence on the politics of Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and other Western states. In this episode, Matthew L. Harris, a Professor of History and Director of Legal Studies at Colorado State University-Pueblo joins us to talk about the many ways that far-right activists in Mormonism influenced and intersected with counterparts in white evangelicalism. While Mormonism is often thought of as a sort of obscure sect that just does its own thing, it’s actually been highly integrated into the development of American right-wing extremism. Harris’s excellent book “Watchman on the Tower: Ezra Taft Benson and the Making of the Mormon Right” is featured in this episode, but he has several other ones worth checking out, including one coming soon about Mormonism and race. EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/09/ezra-taft-benson-and-tangled-history-mormon-and-evangelical-extremism GUEST INFO Matthew Harris's website: https://matthewlharris.org/ Watchman on the Tower: https://uofupress.lib.utah.edu/watchman-on-the-tower/ ABOUT THE SHOW Theory of Change is 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. Theory of Change on Twitter: twitter.com/TheoryChange Please support Theory of Change: PayPal: www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thanks!
36 minutes | Sep 19, 2021
Theory of Change #018: Brooke Binkowski on fact-checking and fighting disinformation
In a 24/7 news environment, we're all surrounded by information, some of it true, some of it false, and much of it somewhere in the middle. As social media has become universalized, we've seen a new type of journalist emerge, fact-checkers. That's a fascinating commentary on their importance because the commercial media industry has been shrinking as a whole. On this episode, we'll be speaking with Brooke Binkowski, she's the managing editor of Truth or Fiction.com, a fact-checking website that she heads up after working at another similar site, Snopes. We apologize for some audio difficulties toward the end of the episode. Brooke's connection and microphone weren't working as well as we neared completion of the show. A transcript of this episode is available here: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/09/fighting-disinformation-something-everyone-can-do-and-must-do-protect-our GUEST INFO Her website: https://www.truthorfiction.com/ Brooke Binkowski on Twitter: https://twitter.com/brooklynmarie BuzzFeed article about her former employer Snopes: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/deansterlingjones/snopes-cofounder-plagiarism-mikkelson ABOUT THE SHOW Theory of Change is 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. Theory of Change on Twitter: twitter.com/TheoryChange Please support Theory of Change: PayPal: www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thanks!
52 minutes | Sep 11, 2021
Theory of Change #017: Melanie Trecek-King on teaching critical thinking and science literacy
People often say that we live in the Information Age. But what does that mean? It means that people living today on Earth truly do have the world's knowledge at our fingertips. We can read high-quality scientific research, even before it's published in academic journals. We can look up everything from great lasagna recipes to the latest news about Malaysian politics--and everything in-between. Having the world's knowledge digitized and made available to everyone has truly been a great thing. But it's come with a downside. Not only can we know more than ever, we can also be misled more than ever. That point has become abundantly and dangerously clear during the Covid-19 pandemic when conspiracy theories and lies about the coronavirus have spread worldwide and become believed by millions of people. Tragically, many people have died from believing falsehoods about vaccines, masks, and fake cures for Covid. But what can be done about the situation? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. One good one, however, is to spread greater awareness of critical thinking so that we can do more than just obtain information, we can acquire knowledge. Teaching critical thinking and science literacy is not just the responsibility of our educators and schools, however, it's something that we can all share in, whether we're government officials or just people talking to our friends and family. In this episode, Matthew Sheffield speaks with Melanie Trecek-King, she's the creator of a new project called "Thinking Is Power," a great an online resource for teaching and learning about critical thinking skills. As they discuss, the website is the product of her experiences teaching biology to students at Massasoit Community College in Massachusetts. Thinking Is Power website: https://thinkingispower.com/ Thinking Is Power on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thinkingpowers On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThinkingPowers Theory of Change is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at https://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. Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheoryChange Please support Theory of Change: PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity If you're not able to support financially, please help us by leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Thanks!
54 minutes | Sep 3, 2021
Theory of Change #016: Michele Mitchell on the "anger industrial complex"
American politics is broken in a lot of ways. There are many reasons for this. A big one is what podcaster and former CNN host Michele Mitchell calls the "anger industrial complex," the way that media companies are constantly working to keep their audiences angry all the time. It's no grand conspiracy, rather it's managers pursuing the natural incentives of for-profit media to keep ratings up, no matter the cost to society. This process basically on a grand scale with the arrival of Newt Gingrich and Fox News in the mid-1990s, both of which used outrage and anger to accumulate money and power. But it's also the case that there are plenty of left-of-center media actors whose goal seems to be to create nihilism, to tell their audiences that political change is impossible and that it's better to keep watching while you wait for the revolution. In each episode of her podcast, The Cocktail Conversations, Mitchell assembles a panel of experts to talk about how the anger industrial conversation works, how polarization works, and ways that Americans can start having the difficult conversations that we need. On the web, her show is: https://www.thecocktailconversations.com/ And on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-cocktail-conversations/id1538627177 Michele Mitchell on Twitter: https://twitter.com/michelefilmat11 Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield Theory of Change is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at https://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. Please support Theory of Change: PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity
69 minutes | Aug 28, 2021
Theory of Change #015: Angie Maxwell on white Southern grievance and how it changed U.S. politics
A lot of people know about "The Southern Strategy," the multi-year plan of 20th century Republicans like Richard Nixon to get white voters in the South to stop voting for Democrats, but what isn't widely known is that the GOP itself was changed by the electoral coalition that it attracted. Angie Maxwell, a professor at the University of Arkansas, takes a deep look at how Republicans incorporated many aspects of Southern white Protestantism in her book "The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics." In this episode of Theory of Change, Maxwell and Matthew Sheffield discuss how the loss of the Civil War and negative media coverage of the John Scopes evolution trial in Tennessee were some of the reasons that many white Southerners felt aggrieved from the rest of the country, and how this set the stage for a politics built on that resentment. They also talk about how it's overly simplistic to say that flipping the white South was only about race or segregation. Some party switchers went to the GOP because it stopped supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and other policies they believed to be violations of traditional roles for women. Others went to Republicans because the party decided to rebuild itself into a party for Christians. Full episode transcript: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/08/southern-strategy-changed-how-white-southerners-voted-it-also-changed Angie Maxwell on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngieMaxwell1 Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield Buy Angie's book here: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-long-southern-strategy-9780190265960?cc=us&lang=en& Theory of Change is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at https://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. Please support Theory of Change: PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity
59 minutes | Aug 21, 2021
Theory of Change #014: Paul Glastris on how Democrats changed
While the Republican Party's embrace of authoritarianism has attracted a lot of media attention in recent years, the Democratic Party's inability to build a real political majority is a big reason that American conservatives haven't had to drop their unpopular views about government. After all, if Democrats were better at diagnosing and meeting the needs of the public, anti-government Republicans wouldn't be able to use cultural or religious controversies to win. For decades, polls have shown that millions of Americans who generally favor the Democratic Party don't typically vote. Some people, particularly supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, say it's because Democrats have turned them off by not expanding government enough to meet their needs. Other people say that reaching out to people through their race or gender identity is the way to go. In today's episode, Matthew Sheffield talks to Paul Glastris, editor of the Washington Monthly on what he's seen in 20 years of progressive journalism. They also talk about where Democrats have been and where they might go in the future. The full transcript of this episode is available here: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/08/democrats-are-identity-crisis-do-they-know-how-fix-it Washington Monthly website: https://washingtonmonthly.com/ Article on Democrats and moderate voters mentioned during the program: https://washingtonmonthly.com/2021/08/05/why-democrats-still-need-moderates/ Paul Glastris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/glastris Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/theorychange Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield Theory of Change is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at https://flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing! Please support the show PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/fluxcommunity
62 minutes | Aug 13, 2021
Theory of Change #013: Eric Boehlert on ‘both sides’ journalism and the return of Fox News liberals
In recent American history, the mainstream media has adhered to a "both sides" approach to covering politics. But as the Republican party has increasingly become skeptical of democracy and public participation in policy formation, this method is no longer useful as a way of determining the truth. In this episode, Eric Boehlert, founder and editor of PressRun.Media, talks with host Matthew Sheffield about where this attitude originated and why it persists. Boehlert also talks about how the rise of Donald Trump's anti-intellectualism has changed left-wing media in addition to right-wing outlets. [21:56] In recent years, several of Boehlert's former colleagues like Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi have begun seeking fame and fortune among Republicans while still claiming to be left-wing. Is it all about the money? Why don't they ever debate their mainstream left critics? Finally, Boehlert and Sheffield also discuss how, after several decades of regularly losing the national presidential popular vote, some Republican Americans have begun turning against their own country. Have conservatives become an anti-American movement? [47:23] Full episode transcript here: https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/08/why-obsolete-both-sides-journalism-persists-and-faux-left-pundits-who Related Links: Eric Boehlert's Twitter: https://twitter.com/EricBoehlert Press Run's homepage: https://pressrun.media/ Boehlert's essay on Republicans trying to sabotage the war on Covid: https://pressrun.media/p/traitorous-gop-emerges-as-the-fifth If you liked the show, please subscribe, give us a good review on your favorite podcasting app, and spread the word on social media. We really appreciate it! Theory of Change is part of the Flux network, a non-profit news community featuring podcasts and in-depth articles about politics, religion, science, media, and technology. Please visit us at https://flux.community Matthew Sheffield's Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield Theory of Change on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheoryChange
66 minutes | Aug 7, 2021
Theory of Change #012: Richard Carpiano on Covid misinformers and vaccine conspiracies
As the Covid-19 infections continue to rise among non-vaccinated people, it's worth taking a look at the history of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and unqualified media medical advice. In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield is joined by Richard Carpiano, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside. Carpiano is a medical sociologist and public and population health scientist who studies how social factors, such as education, income, race-ethnicity, and social connections impact the physical and mental health of adults, children, and the communities in which they live. In the discussion, Carpiano talks about how conspiracies about medical vaccines have circulated in multiple sub-cultures through quack medical doctors, television programs of people like Oprah Winfrey, and also via Christian nationalist groups that oppose science generally. They also discuss how political-interest media commentators like Nate Silver and Zeynep Tufekci have unadvisedly expanded their output to include inexpert pronouncements about the pandemic, and in the process undermined public confidence in legitimate medical experts. Read Carpiano's essay about Covid punditry for Flux here: https://flux.community/richard-m-carpiano/2021/06/covid-influencers-pundits-misinformation-wrong Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RMCarpiano
50 minutes | Jul 31, 2021
Theory of Change #011: Pat Bagley on politics, Mormonism, and Utah
Pat Bagley has become a fixture in Utah politics and one of America's best-known editorial cartoonists. In this episode of Theory of Change, he joins Matthew Sheffield to discuss American politics, the changing face of the moderate-dominated Republican Party he once knew, and how the LDS Mormon religion has changed during his lifetime.
62 minutes | Jul 22, 2021
Theory of Change #010: Misogyny, the Christian Right, and Brandi Love (Featuring Robyn Pennacchia)
Among American conservatives who came of age in the 20th century, Christian fundamentalism seems to serve as the unifying force. But among younger Republicans, is opposition to feminism what keeps the coalition together? Matthew Sheffield is joined in this episode by Robyn Pennacchia, a writer at Wonkette.com who has been covering the online misogyny space since 2012. Robyn's Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobynElyse Matthew's Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield Show website: https://theoryofchange.show/
73 minutes | Jul 16, 2021
Theory of Change #9: What happened to American media? (Featuring Parker Molloy)
A huge part of why American politics is so messed up today is the country's for-profit media ecosystem that prioritizes controversy, eschews policy discussions, and has no understanding of how important Christian fundamentalism is to conservative ideologues. In the first video stream episode of Theory of Change, Matthew Sheffield speaks with Parker Molloy, founder of The Present Age about how bad things are and how it happened. Parker Molloy is an independent writer and podcaster who previously wrote at the progressive media watchdog group Media Matters. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/parkermolloy Video version of this episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FMmKJqzqyA Theory of Change Twitter: https://twitter.com/theorychange Matthew Sheffield on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mattsheffield
42 minutes | Dec 13, 2019
Theory of Change #006: Editorial cartoons in the age of the meme (Nick Anderson and Nate Beeler)
The internet and the explosion of free political content that it created has had a dramatic effect on the media industry. One sector of journalism that’s been particularly harmed in recent years is editorial cartooning. Ten years ago, most major-city daily newspapers employed artists to draw their takes on the news of the day. Now, however, the ranks of editorial cartoonists have shrunk drastically. That’s why several of America’s top editorial cartoonists have joined together to form their own media outlet called Counterpoint.com dedicated solely to gathering high-quality artists from both sides of the political spectrum and presenting their work to the public. In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield is joined by Nick Anderson, one of Counterpoint’s co-founders who formerly worked at the Houston Chronicle. He's also joined by Nate Beeler, a veteran cartoonist who draws at Counterpoint after previously working at the Columbus Dispatch. During the conversation, they talk about Counterpoint, the newspaper industry, and cartooning during the age of the internet meme. The two artists also discuss why cartoonists expressing their opinions seem to face more anger from political opponents than people who write or speak their opinions.
46 minutes | Nov 26, 2019
Theory of Change #005: Can polls be trusted? (With Courtney Kennedy of the Pew Research Center)
If you read, listen or watch the news today it’s impossible to avoid public opinion polls. They are literally everywhere. The president’s approval rating, what people think about impeachment, even what the best fast food restaurant is. But as omnipresent as opinion surveys are, a lot of the math and science that goes into them is relatively unknown to many people. There are also a lot of questions about how polls work and how they should work. Why do most polls include more Democrats than Republicans? Do political “independents” actually exist? There are also a lot of misunderstandings about opinion surveys. Many people, think that they got the 2016 presidential election wrong. But that’s not quite true. In fact, the national polls did a pretty good job of predicting what the vote would be. But some of the state polls, did get it wrong, and the Constitution awards the presidency to the candidate with the most Electoral College votes—not the popular vote. To get to the bottom of these issues, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield spoke with Courtney Kennedy, the director of survey research at the Pew Research Center. In the conversation, Kennedy talks at length about the profusion of survey research companies and the rise of polling aggregation operations like those at the FiveThirtyEight, RealClearPolitics, and the New York Times. While she is skeptical about some pollsters’ practices, she also wonders whether it make sense to lump low-quality polls with those from organizations with much stricter standards. She also warns that trying to create election forecasts that assign a candidate’s percentage chance of winning based on polls may actually suppress voter turnout. Kennedy also discuss how polling operations have had to change how they conduct research in light of the rise of spam phone calls. One surprising change that the Pew Research Center has made is to go old-school by recruiting poll respondents via letters in their mailboxes.
50 minutes | Nov 6, 2019
Theory of Change #004: Has Trump really changed the GOP all that much?
There’s been a lot of commentary about how Donald Trump is changing the Republican Party. There’s even a cottage industry of former Republicans who often write about how Trump has ruined the GOP they once knew and loved. But according to Bruce Bartlett, a former senior White House economic adviser to President Bush 41, most of what today’s Trump skeptics point to as something new in the party was there long ago. Bartlett had a falling out with the GOP in the early 2000s when he realized that its leaders were not interested in the fiscal conservatism that they promised on the campaign trail. That took him on a long road, one which led to him becoming a progressive. In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield talks with Bartlett about his ideological journey and also his thoughts on today’s political situation. According to the former libertarian economist, Democrats don’t take politics seriously enough to invest in the political infrastructure that conservatives spent decades building up. The net effect is that American politics continues drifting rightward, even though most Americans do not actually support cutting the government.
59 minutes | Oct 30, 2019
Theory of Change #003: Sanders vs Warren and the battle over how to make change, feat. Carl Beijer
As the actual voting in the Democratic presidential primary gets closer, the race is becoming tighter, both numerically and emotionally. Some wealthy Democratic donors appear to be panicking as the candidate they’ve gravitated toward, Joe Biden, has had trouble in debates and also demonstrated significant problems appealing to the small-dollar donors that have become so important in Democratic presidential campaigns. Additionally, the informal truce between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders has started to unravel a bit as the Massachusetts senator has pulled into either first or second place depending on the survey. While the candidates themselves aren’t going after each other, some of their supporters are sparring with increasing frequency. The key point of contention for these further-left candidates revolves around a subject that this show is named after—their theories of change. Both candidates have called for significant expansion of the federal government, more regulations on big business, and also for higher taxes on wealthy people. But how can such big promises be achieved when the Senate is dominated by small states that elect Republicans? Sanders says he can solve the problem by activating the millions of Americans who have dropped out of the political system because they believe both parties mostly advocate for the same policies. And it’s true that surveys of these “unlikely voters” reveal them to be more economically liberal than those who do vote. At the same time, however, the term “socialism” has proven unpopular with many Americans. In a survey conducted earlier this year, the Pew Research Center found that 33% of Democratic respondents said they negative opinion of socialism. Independents are even more skeptical. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, seems to be focusing first on winning the nomination rather than completely overhauling the American economic system. Polls have shown that Democratic loyalists seem to like her over Sanders, but her left-wing critics argue that Warren’s less sweeping solutions won’t solve the problems that she and Sanders agree exist. With Joe Biden running out of steam with each passing day, the debate over how to make change between Warren and Sanders is likely to become only more significant within the Democratic presidential contest. Carl Beijer, a socialist writer, joins Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield to discuss the emerging contest between the two candidates and what it means for Democrats in 2020. Beijer also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Warren, Sanders, and Joe Biden in a general election against Donald Trump.
53 minutes | Oct 10, 2019
Theory of Change #002: How do you impeach a president? (With Lee Miringoff of Marist)
How do you impeach a president? As a legal matter, it's all very simple. But as a political matter, it's anything but. Impeaching and removing a president has never been done before in the American political system. Even impeachment trials themselves are extremely rare in the history of the Republic. Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, have been impeached while Richard Nixon resigned before he was likely to have been removed by the Senate. That means it's historically very historically significant that House Democrats have decided to begin the impeachment process. In the short term, however, it's unclear what might happen. As my guest in this episode, Lee Miringoff of the Marist Poll, discusses, there's a real wildcard: public opinion. As he found out in his latest survey, Americans are growing more supportive of the House's impeachment investigation but they also seem to prefer that Trump's fate be decided at the ballot box in 2020 as he runs for re-election. That could change, of course, if different facts come out about what the administration did with Ukraine. One thing adding to the uncertainty in all this is how it might affect the 2020 Democratic nominee. With all the focus that impeaching Trump is going to generate, it could very well make it difficult for whoever Democrats pick to capture public attention. Trump could also use impeachment to movitvate his own core voters--before this all got started, there were several reports that the president was hoping Democrats would try to impeach him in conjunction with the Russia scandal he just emerged from. We also don't know how the vanishingly small number of true political independents are going to respond. The net effect could also be close to zero. We live in hyper speed news cycle and leaders of both parties in Congress have vowed to move impeachment quickly. So who knows? One person who might is Lee Miringoff.
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