Episode Summary

In recent years, we have seen the rise of a new kind of left-wing pundit, one whose audience consists almost entirely of right-wingers.

And there is a good reason for that. Almost every one of these people do nothing but criticize Democrats, despite calling themselves progressives or liberal. There’s a long history of this on the political left, and this phenomenon exists in other countries as well, like the UK and Canada.

What motivates people who started off with some sort of leftish politics to gravitate toward right wing fans?

There are many reasons, as it turns out. Some of them originate in the intersections of libertarianism with other political ideologies. Other such commentators seem to have financial or emotional reasons for seeking Republican audiences. And still others seem to have a poorly developed understanding of how to build political change, which leads them to seek unproductive alliances.

In this episode, I’m joined by David Masciotra, a writer and author who recently wrote a piece in the New Republic entitled “Who Are These Supposed Lefties Who Love Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?” that we’ll be discussing. Also interestingly and relevant to this conversation, he had a libertarian phase as well.

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Preview Video


MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: This is going to be an interesting discussion. Thanks for being here, David.

DAVID MASCIOTRA: Thank you for having me, Matthew. I appreciate it.

SHEFFIELD: All right, so, let’s set the table here, you wrote a piece last year for CNN in which you talked about the “fanfiction left.” What did you mean by that?

MASCIOTRA: Well, in case any of your viewers don’t know, fan fiction is a genre of writing in which fans of a series of novels, or a television series, or a series of films –could be Harry Potter or the Sopranos– start to write their own stories, perhaps to continue the storyline of the characters if the program ends. Or the author announces that a recent installment was the final in the series of novels.

So by fanfiction left, I’m describing a particular breed of American leftists or at least they identify themselves as leftists, and you’re right to say they exist in other countries, but I’m most familiar with American political discourse, who’ve created a fictional universe in which they live and operate. And they base assumptions that they have on that fictional universe on those false precepts.

So in the CNN essay, I was referring specifically to people who spend all of their time castigating Democrats while claiming they’re progressives, for the failures of our health care system, for the failures of our criminal justice system, for the rising rates of economic inequality, while conveniently ignoring that it is Democrats who, while not perfect (no political party is) are striving to address, mitigate, and even solve those problems; but they’re colliding with the obstructionism of increasingly partisan but also increasingly violent and hateful Republicans.

And so, there are a few principles of the fanfiction left, for example, when the Supreme Court revoked Roe v. Wade and overturned that decision, you saw certain people like Krystal Ball, she identifies as a left-wing populist. She’s co-host of a program called “Breaking Points” with a right-wing populist.

You saw Briahna Joy Gray, a former spokesperson for the Bernie Sanders campaign and several others lambast the Democratic Party for not codifying Roe v. Wade without ever acknowledging that it’s Republican appointees to the Supreme Court who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s Democratic appointees to the Supreme Court who voted to preserve it.

And at almost no point within the last 30 to 40 years. Did Democrats even have the votes to codify federally protected abortion? And should they have tried to have done that, it certainly would have gone to the courts and their right-wing justices would have overturned it.

So they created, I’m using that example to show they created this fictional universe and then they make ideological assertions based upon that fictional universe.

Whereas here in the real world, the reason of course that Roe v. Wade is no longer on the books and no longer protecting women’s right to choose an abortion is because of right-wing Supreme Court justices, the presidents who appointed them, and Mitch McConnell’s refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing and all of those other incidents and issues that we could tick down the list.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. I would maybe push back a little bit on this particular point, just simply because they could have done what Republicans did, which was pass trigger laws, as they called them, that said if Roe v. Wade is overturned, then this would happen. And those can’t really be litigated because, well, the case was still precedent.

But I think it is a very fair criticism on a lot of the other issues. So whether that’s why can’t we have universal health care magically; there’s this idea of we’re going to “force the vote,” we’re going to “force the vote,” as they called it, to make Democrats go on the record as to whether they support universal health care or not. Even though they knew that they would lose that vote.


SHEFFIELD: And let’s say that it had happened, basically what they would have done is damaged their cause. Because basically it would have shown that all these people can go and vote against universal health care, and nothing will happen to them. Because you don’t have the infrastructure to stop them or to push back on them.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, that’s a good point. And there’s a general lack of awareness and recognition of the way in which government works, the way in which politics works and perhaps most consequentially, there’s a lack of concern about the people who stand to lose the most according to this all or nothing philosophy.

So if we take a look at healthcare, the Affordable Care Act barely passed during the Obama administration. It passed by a very small amount of votes. Very famously, it was almost overturned during the Trump administration. Senator John McCain saved it with the iconic thumbs down moment on the Senate floor.

The people who would say, well, we need to have Medicare for all or nothing. And people were saying that at the time that Democrats were saying that, or I should say, at least so-called progressives were saying it at the time that the Affordable Care Act passed. They don’t even seem to deal with the fact that through the Affordable Care Act, over 20 million Americans gained access to health care coverage for the first time.

The Affordable Care Act, while it certainly has its flaws, and while there are certainly still some pretty big cracks in the canvas of the Affordable Care Act through which people can fall, it has literally saved the lives of millions of people. And it was under the restraints on the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats at the time, it really was the best that they could do.

Had they gone for a public option at the time, Susan Collins, Murkowski, and others would have voted against it. Should they try to force the vote, and in the false belief that they’re exercising some kind of sophisticated form of brinksmanship, as you just pointed out, it would actually hurt the cause, and it would do nothing to help people who so desperately need medicine to acquire it. So people who so desperately need to be able to go see a doctor.

So another part of the “fanfiction” aspect is a detachment from the real consequences of the political process. It’s a world of theory; and oftentimes the theory sounds good on paper, but in practice it’s disastrous. It doesn’t have an on the ground application.

SHEFFIELD: The other thing about this is, and I why I think the fanfiction metaphor is appropriate, is that fanfiction is sort of dependent on another work. Somebody else’s creativity, somebody else’s system.

And in this sense, they don’t have a system that they want to create. I can’t fault them for wanting to have universal health care. And it’s fair to blame Democrats for not delivering on the promises that they made. I mean, it is fair and 100 percent true that many of these senators, like Kamala Harris, had endorsed Bernie Sanders’s bill.

So it’s appropriate to be upset at them for having betrayed what they said they would do. But if you don’t have a system that can actually mete out punishment or can mobilize people in favor of your ideas, then all you’re doing is just, you’re just tacking on to somebody else’s game, and then you’re whining at them for not going along with rules that favor you.

And that’s how it’s similar to fanfiction. Fanfiction is dependent on the creativity, the fiction of somebody else. A system that someone else built. And it’s a fun thing for people, but it’s not, it is not literarily as high of a form, and it just simply doesn’t deserve as much respect.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, and I think that another way that we could criticize Democrats before I get to your broader point, is for their rhetorical timidity. You raised a very good example, and another one is that we could look at, for example, President Joe Biden. He has said many times that he wants to create tuition free community colleges.

That’s a wonderful idea. As I wrote in my book on Jesse Jackson, it was part of his campaign for the presidency in the 1980s, and it was called radical and fringe and extreme at the time and impractical. Well, now it’s become rather mainstream within the Democratic Party. But it’s something that key figures mention now and then, and they don’t aggressively advocate for.

So I think that’s a very fair compare our criticism of the Democratic party, that they do have this rhetorical passivity in which they don’t pursue arguments using the bully pulpit, and using their power of sociocultural influence as they should.

But unless one can actually delineate a strategy, delineate exactly how we get from –back to healthcare, for example– the Affordable Care Act barely passing and then barely surviving to creating Medicare for all. It’s just kind of a fun distraction.

But it has very significant serious consequences because people who are in the audience of these fanfiction pundits are taking that analysis very seriously.

And if they turn against the Democratic Party for reasons that are illegitimate, and for reasons that are specious, that can have very destructive real-world effects because we’re in a battle right now for the survival of democracy against a Republican party that is increasingly extreme, increasingly hostile to democratic norms and institutions, and increasingly willing to either defend or downplay violence as a political instrument of change.

And I would return to something referencing Jesse Jackson again, so he’s always been to the left of most mainstream Democratic Party figures, but he’s put it very simply using a sports metaphor that we do better, we, meaning the progressive left, we do better when we can play offense rather than defense.

And when Republicans have power, whether it’s at the state level or the federal level, the best that left of center activists and officials can do is play defense. And we saw that during four disastrous years of the Trump administration and eight disastrous years during the Bush administration.

When Democrats are in power, what activists who’d like to see the party move to the left should do, instead of reserving all of their vitriol for Democrats and imagining a world of make believe in which Biden, or before him Obama, could just wave a magic wand and create transformative institutional change, is start pressuring Democratic congresspeople, Democratic senators, to adopt more progressive positions and to live up to those promises that they made.

SHEFFIELD: And I think the one of the things when you look at a lot of the rhetoric and the people who are spouting this stuff, they don’t seem to have a very good understanding of politics. These are people that, I mean, in the case of Jimmy Dore, this is a stand-up comedian.

You’ve got people who by and large do not have experience winning elections. By and large do not have policy experience. These are people that politics is more kind of a form of self expression rather than victory. Would you agree with that?

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, absolutely.

And something rather unfortunate and bizarre has happened in left-wing punditry. When I was in high school and college and George W. Bush was president, there was an antiwar movement and people were becoming, for good reason highly critical of the Bush administration, particularly his national security policies.

The leading pundits on the left were people like, and I mean what some would classify as far left. I don’t mean the equivalent of MSNBC today, but it was people like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. People like Michael Eric Dyson Cornel West. Amy Goodman in Democracy Now, she’s still going, but she doesn’t seem to have the audience that some of these like Breaking Points and Jimmy Dore have.

And these were people, whether one likes Chomsky or Zinn or Dyson, they came from an academic background. They attempted to infuse into all of their work an understanding of statistical evidence, an understanding of government, an understanding of history. And They made substantive contributions to the discourse.

But it, you’re exactly right that it’s almost now become a form of self-expression. And I would add to it, infotainment. These people are more entertainers than intellectuals. And Neil Postman wrote a book a long time ago with the title, amusing Ourselves to Death, Jimmy Dore is a perfect example of someone who is a clever wordsmith, he’s a clever comedian, and he applies that to a political ecosystem that rewards short attention span, and it rewards binary thinking.

So, the Democratic Party is either a soulless, corporately captured useless party putting on a false front of progressivism while they secretly make deals with multinational corporations or they aren’t, whereas the reality is much more complicated. There are Democrats who are much friendlier to multinational corporations than others, but the way in which politics works requires negotiation, it requires compromise.

And it often requires a gradual change. We have undergone in the past 60 years, a series of soft revolutions. Namely civil rights for Blacks and Latinos, and for the disabled, and for women, and for LGBTQ Americans. Well, these things happen to gradually. And that’s another problem with what I’m calling the fanfiction left, is they seem to whether they’re sincere or not, and we can’t look inside these people’s hearts and minds.

But they seem to advocate for we need everything right now, and if we don’t get everything right now, well, then that in itself is condemnation of anyone working within the system. Well, there are some changes that I wish we could get in their entirety right at this instant, but unfortunately, that’s just it’s not how the system works and it’s not how history moves.

In almost any country, barring a full scale often violent revolution. And I don’t think anybody is under the impression that that’s imminent in the United States. So here again, we return to a point of a general ignorance, whether it’s feigned or sincere. Of the way that politics works and the way that progressive political change happens.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, I couldn’t agree more with that. I mean, that is in part why I called this show a Theory of Change because basically, the center left and the progressive left, their analyses are actually both correct but neither side understands the other one is also correct. It isn’t a choice between, two, one way or the other. They’re actually both true.

So, it is the case that, you have tens of millions of people who are disaffected from American politics because they don’t have healthcare. They don’t have access to schooling. They don’t have access to affordable housing. And it’s made them rightfully depressed. And one of the great civil rights activists, Bayard Rustin, he said something that I think is very key to keep in mind. He said that “we must understand that demoralization in the Negro community is largely a commonsense response to an objective reality.”

And he was right about that, but at the same time, he also did understand that if you want to make larger systemic change, you have to have a theory of change, you can’t just wish that it were the case. You have to make it be the case. And in that sense, there is basically lacking a sort of a systemic change-oriented progressive movement right now.

That doesn’t really exist, but as you talked about in your CNN piece last year, you mentioned that that was something that George Orwell, the English socialist, encountered in the mid-20th century. As you noted in your essay, so Orwell was a socialist, but he came to the opinion that the left in his area, in the era in England, they viewed politics as quote, “a masturbation fantasy in which the world of facts hardly mattered.”

MASCIOTRA: Yes. Yeah. And that’s back to your term of that politics becomes a form of self-expression. It also becomes a form of deriving a sense of moral satisfaction. George Orwell was a socialist and he was also someone who understood the evils of totalitarianism and fascism.

So he, to your earlier point that both the center left and the progressive left are correct, he, by anyone’s stretch of the imagination was more of a progressive leftist because he was a socialist. But he understood that lesser of two evil thinking is still quite important. Because the threat of totalitarianism, particularly fascism, isn’t anything to take lightly.

And if his brethren, his leftist brethren, weren’t engaged in the system, and weren’t engaged with actual methods of tactical change that can bear fruit, then it becomes just a form of intellectual masturbation, in which people adopt positions because it feels good, and because they are able to claim a mantle of purity I will not interact with the corrupt system because I cannot risk blemishing my moral resume.

So Orwell was describing that form of distraction that isn’t really political, but it becomes a substitute for that which is political. Aristotle defined politics as that which relates to the collective, relates to the community. And Aristotle further explained that the community is that which gives a person a chance at a good life.

So, if one is not directly participating in that which can improve the community then one isn’t participating in politics. To your point, I have plenty of reasons for demoralization. I mean, I agree with you. We have Whitney says hello, I suppose, we have this living in this armed madhouse where gun violence threatens presumably all of us when we’re in a grocery store or an entertainment venue or a school.

We have continual disparities that cost people their lives in healthcare. And in our macro and micro economies, we have an education system that routinely fails to provide even an adequate education to the poorest of the poor and often the working class as well. But here’s another point that I would add part of how the fanfiction left is able to thrive and the Jimmy Dores and others, is a commitment to, through omission, denying that any progress has occurred in our lifetimes.

Despair immobilizes people, to refer back to that Rustin quote. Despair freezes people when they’re trying to take action. Hope enlivens people. And oftentimes the genesis of hope is the acknowledgement of the progress that we’ve already made, and the lives that have improved as a result.

So if we just look in, in my lifetime, I mean, we went from the idea of gay marriage seeming like something only a psychotic would advocate to now the law of the land and despite some right-wing objection to it, I’m sure. pretty much mainstream in most of the United States, pretty much taken for granted.

We have the Affordable Care Act, which I already mentioned, giving millions of people access to health care for the first time. We have women continually, even though there are so many sexist obstacles that still exist, continuing to amass more opportunities and more positions of leadership. We have racial minorities.

Despite the horrors that we could see on television with police brutality and other concerns running major cities of the United States and becoming a cultural force of insight and awareness from everything from the entertainment world to athletics and then all the way into the educational system and so much of what we’re seeing right now in states like Florida and Tennessee and Texas Whether they’re banning books or banning drag shows is a backlash to the United States of America that is rapidly changing and through that rapid change finding political, educational, cultural, and financial ways to include more people and to broaden liberty and prosperity so that the full polity of the United States has opportunities to exercise citizenship and to contribute to the making and molding of our society.

So, another characteristic that you could identify the fanfiction left is just the continual of denial, even if it’s through omission, of any progress that has occurred. When the progress is transpiring all around us, and we should be seeking opportunities to build on that progress, to enlarge and expand it rather than acting as if We have an all or nothing binary choice.

Because if we’re doing that, then we’re committing the offense that Orwell. So colorfully put, we’re just in an act of political, intellectual masturbation. It’s something that makes us feel good in the moment, but it’s counterproductive to the aims of the progressive movement.


Well, and I guess they also will sometimes do the opposite viewpoint about change, and that is to think that it’s inevitable. To think that, well, you just have to put this out there and then it will win, because the people agree with it. And so therefore it will win. Well, that’s not how politics works.

Change is not inevitable. We’ve come a long way, but it also was through effort. It wasn’t through waving a magical wand.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, it was from powerful social movements led and staffed by committed people who oftentimes risked their lives and risked their livelihoods in service of change.

And I wrote a book about one of those civil rights leaders, Jesse Jackson. One thinks of all of the change that he helped to administer and that he witnessed throughout his life. Most obvious of which is, of course, civil rights for black Americans. But also, he was the first presidential candidate to make gay rights a pivotal part of his campaign.

In 1984, when he first ran and spoke consistently about gay rights, most Democrats weren’t even adopting those positions. And now someone would be run out of the Democratic Party if they said they opposed LGBTQ rights. And, as you’re saying, that didn’t happen by happenstance, and it didn’t happen according to immutable laws of physics.

It was because of people whose names we know, like Jesse Jackson and Harvey Milk. But it was also because of thousands, if not millions, of people whose names we won’t know who used the tools of constitutional democracy, starting with the vote, but also including the protest, and the boycott, and the petition, and seeking office themselves, and external agitation when the system failed to incorporate their voices and perspective to achieve these objectives.

And one can’t help but wonder what some of this new breed of left-wing pundit what they would have us do now. And you notice that that’s something that’s also, aside from force the vote, there are never any productive recommendations for what we could do to improve the system, other than withholding votes from Democrats under the misguided belief that if they do that, it will somehow force Democrats to become much more progressive in order to regain those lost left-wing voters.

That is a theory, it isn’t one that is supported by evidence, and it isn’t one that is likely to turn out well.

Because if one advocates for the withdrawal of voting for Democrats, then one is operationally right-wing because the end result of that method of change is more Republicans in power. And then we’re back to playing defense against abuses of people who I would hope we’re all trying to protect and promote and empower and advance.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Kind of related to that is also that, and you did talk about this also in your CNN essay, is that in the pre-World War II era, you mentioned a guy named Ernst Thälmann, who was the leader of Germany’s radical left in the Weimar years, and for him, he thought that the center left was more dangerous than Adolf Hitler. And it’s really kind of illustrative that we’re seeing people nowadays making this exact same mistake. They just say: ‘Oh, well, white nationalism is just this fringe phenomenon, or these are just people who they’re populist. They’re populist.’

And the answer is they’re not actually populist. This is fake. The elites don’t believe it. And I think maybe in some cases, you could say that maybe some of these, especially Obama to Trump voters as they’re called, some of those people might actually have left of center economic viewpoints, but the people, the elites at the very top, like Josh Hawley, or Donald Trump, or Rick Santorum, these are people who want a centralized government telling other people what to do. Taking away religious freedom, taking away the freedom to be trans in public, taking away same sex marriage rights. These are not populist ideas.

These are people who oppose the minimum wage. Like in Missouri, they actually passed a law and they got away with it to the city of St. Louis had increased their minimum wage. Missouri Republicans overrode their law and literally lowered the minimum wage. That’s what Republicans are doing. And if you are deluding yourself that these are populists that you’re allying with, you’re nuts.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, absolutely. And we saw this happen in Germany.

As I write about in my essay, and I also refer to it in the essay I wrote for the New Republic on the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. presidential campaign.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, we’ll get to that one in a second.

MASCIOTRA: And it’s, I mean, these are perhaps the people who are more sincere, because they’re coming from a Marxist position.

And they believe that if the center left is the only obstruction remaining against radical social change, because their theory of change is that gradual change helps to mask and disguise. The contradictions and failures of the system. So if you remove those who are advocating for gradual change and those who are achieving gradual change from power then the contradictions of this, it will heighten the contradictions of the system and the masses will see it.

And then suddenly they’ll realize that capitalism is the problem. And we’ll have a revolution in the streets. That didn’t work out so well for Western Europe and the rest of the world. And it wouldn’t work out so well now, because as you’re saying, the Republicans have taken a pretty dangerous turn.

I’m not sure if it’s a turn, but it’s more of an acceleration. They always had these elements within their party, but they’ve accelerated in that direction. And it perhaps it’s one doesn’t miss the water until the well runs dry. But if you think things are bad now even the decadent status quo is preferable to fascism.

This is not populism that we’re seeing. It’s not conservatism any longer but it is a form of fascism, neo fascism. And if one isn’t comfortable with that term, well, then it’s at least autocracy or authoritarianism or reaction. A reactionary set of politics that is increasingly promotional of violence as a political tool as hate crimes rise annually against Jews, Latinos, LGBTQ Americans, blacks, Asians. We see how various Republican leaders in Congress downplay the significance of January 6th and therefore, in a roundabout way or directly, support the subversion of electoral democracy, we see how many states are passing voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.

So all of these Americans who are constitutional democracy, despite its flaws and despite its need for improvement. Has begun to represent and empower have their political autonomy, and in some cases their lives on the line if this dangerous extremist right-wing movement continues to gather force and gain power.

And the Democratic Party for better and in some cases for worse is the last remaining safeguard against that movement. So the objective should be to make the Democratic Party better not abandon it.

You mentioned the populists, one of the myths that the mainstream media, ironically, because these kinds of pundits we’re discussing comport themselves as radically opposed to the mainstream media, but the mainstream media created this myth that the average Trump voter is a reincarnation of Tom Joad [from the Grapes of Wrath]. That the average Trump voter is some kind of downtrodden victim of corporate America, victim of poor trade deals, and is attracted to Trump because of some kind of anti-corporate behavior, anti-institutional power message. None of the evidence bears that out. All of the data contradict it.

We see that the main attractive points for Trump to the average Trump voter are xenophobia, racism Christian nationalism. This has been studied by many people. I’ll just give you one name, a political scientist at Lehigh University named Anthony DiMaggio, he wrote an entire book about it called It Can Happen Here, Rising Fascism in the U. S., and he finds that economic precarity and insecurity are only marginally part of the Trump movement.

Rather, it’s mainly fears of demographic change and anger and hostility towards racial diversity and the increasing secularization of the United States. So that’s what we’re dealing with. If these people continue to win.

SHEFFIELD: Well, there is a kind of a nugget of truth in that Republican voters feel disenfranchised, but they’ve been disenfranchised by their own party. That’s who did it to them. Like if you look at rural areas in America, they do not have infrastructure, they don’t have good schools, they don’t have good college opportunities for people. They don’t have health care in many of these states. They haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Health Care law. So they lack these things, and they lack them because of Republicans. It’s not because of Democrats that they lack these things.

And so in, in one sense, there is a latent anger among a lot of rural Americans that they feel like they’re not part of the system. Because they are not part of the system. The Republican party is structured to provide all benefits to its urban, rich elites and kind of the suburban religious elites.

That’s who the Republican Party is for. It’s not for the people who vote for it. The people who vote for the Republican Party do not benefit from it. But these fanfiction leftists, they never say any of this stuff. If they’re going to say that you’re for populism and you’re going to try to reach out to these people, this is what you should be saying.

You shouldn’t be saying that this is all Biden’s fault, or this is all Obama’s fault. No, this is Dennis Hastert’s fault. This is Donald Trump’s fault. This is Paul Ryan’s fault. That’s who screwed you over.

MASCIOTRA: Yes, Jonathan Metzl has a good book on this subject called Dying of Whiteness. He’s a psychiatrist who visited various parts of the heartland in rural America specifically, that have suffered due to deindustrialization and due to the reduction of a social safety net.

And Metzl tells a story in the first chapter of the book about a man he met who was dying of liver disease and he did not have health insurance. And he could not qualify for Medicaid, and yet he applauded the governor of his state rejecting the Medicaid expansion money from the Affordable Care Act.

And now that’s anecdotal, but it’s a powerful anecdote on which to start Metzl’s book, because he spends the rest of the book exploring exactly why, combining the tools of psychiatry and journalism because he’s acting in both capacities. Exactly why so many Republican voters continually vote against their own interest and oppose that which might alleviate some of their suffering.

So the perils of de-industrialization are real. The jobs that people in states, like the one where I live Indiana, the jobs that people have lost due to a combination of offshoring and automation, but the way to alleviate some of that suffering and find ways to act as a docent for the disenfranchised to return to economic productivity and revitalize the communities that once depended upon a solid manufacturing base that is no longer existent is through more robust social spending.

It’s through wider access to high quality education. And there’s even an economic capacity to healthcare. If one is sick, then one’s going to have a tougher time getting suitable employment. So exactly what you’re saying, it’s the Republican party that routinely opposes all of these measures.

The rural voter who watched the factory leave his town 30 years ago and doesn’t know how to advise his son because his son didn’t receive a good public education and now isn’t sure if he could get into an institution of higher learning. And if he does, how’s he going to afford it? And does he really want to take out loans that will put him in student debt for the rest of his life?

Well, various Democrats, whether one is more loyal to Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, who’s not nominally a Democrat, but he caucuses with them, have proposed programs that would address those very crises.

They’ve tried to intervene in those crises. And yet the Republican Party consistently opposes, it depicts it as communism, depicts it as anti-American, and we know why so many of those voters drifted to the Republican Party. Lyndon Johnson said it when he signed the Civil Rights Act, that he lost the South forever. John Kennedy said it even before him. When Southern Democrats began to turn on him because of his address on civil rights from the Oval Office, he said it cost him the support of his economic agenda.

And then we also know, and you might be able to speak to this with more authority than I can, given your history, we also know that racism was central to the formation of the Religious Right as a political force, because it wasn’t abortion, and it wasn’t gay rights that entered the religious right into the political arena. It was opposition to President Carter because he began going after segregation academies in the South, Christian schools that were forbidding enrollment from nonwhite students.

So the culture war is one that originated on the right, and it originated in bigotry and hostility toward nonwhites, and toward gays, and toward independent women, and now it’s used as first a distraction from class and economic issues, and then second as a cudgel against those who try to intervene in a class crisis to assist those who, as you suggest, feel beleaguered and feel withdrawn from the political system.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And the thing is, though, that, when you look at some of the criticisms that these people who may originate from a more Marxist orientation, fanfiction leftists, they deride concerns about racism, or discrimination against non-Christians, and non-straight people.

They say that those are of no concern, but then they also don’t respond when they see it. And basically, it ends up with a net dynamic that you’re telling people this stuff doesn’t matter, but then you also aren’t telling them that they’re being manipulated.

That’s how you tell them that this stuff shouldn’t matter to you, because it’s a tool of manipulation. That’s why it doesn’t matter. The reality is there are so few transgender people in the United States, for instance, that you could pass a law that every trans person gets $100,000 in cash, and almost no one in the United States would be affected by that of the cisgender majority, because there just are not very many.

And that’s the kind of analysis that if you feel like people are being distracted by issues that you are not maybe sensible to, or can’t at least appreciate, at least make that argument that they’re trying to get you to think about the green M& M because they think you’re stupid.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, there’s a great story in my book. I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters about when Jackson was running for president, and he won the support of many White family farmers in states like Iowa and Missouri at the height of the family farm crisis in the 1980s. And that shocked many people, including many Democrats who were running against Jackson.

He didn’t win those states, but oftentimes in many precincts, the majority of family farmers voted for Jackson. I’m not sure if that would happen now, given the influence of Fox News, which didn’t exist then and right-wing media in general, I don’t know. But there was one farmer who was speaking to some friends and neighbors who they just, they were outraged that he would vote for Jackson, and they were essentially saying they couldn’t vote for someone like Jackson, Black civil rights leader, and they were opposing Jackson based upon racism and social resentment.

And this farmer said, would you rather have a White enemy in the White House, or a Black friend?

And that’s a way of underscoring the point that you just made, that if you are concerned, if you live in a small town in Indiana and you are concerned about your child, the quality of your child’s education, the quality of the air in your community that you and your children have to inhale every day, if your bills keep getting bigger, but your paycheck stays the same, and you no longer know how to stretch it out, and you’re in credit card debt, you one should ask that person, how is the Venezuelan refugee seeking asylum responsible for your problems? And how is beating up on that Venezuelan refugee seeking asylum going to help you make your bills next month, or help you get your medicine if you get sick and right now, you’re uninsured?

How are transgendered people responsible for your problems? That which keeps you awake every night and makes you toss and turn with worry, is it that a drag show might happen somewhere within vicinity of your home? Or is it that you don’t know what you’re going to do if your car breaks down, or if an appliance in your home needs repair?

Well, there are solutions to those problems, but in order to consider those solutions, you have to get beyond these culture war distractions and you’re right that the fanfiction leftists play a very interesting game because they fault liberals and mainstream Democrats for talking about racism, and talking about sexism and homophobia, and they kind of dismiss those things as bourgeois identity politics in a way similar that the right-wing dismisses them.

But they don’t recognize if they really are bourgeois identity politics, then they should intervene at the level that those identity politics are distracting people from their class consciousness and their class interest.

SHEFFIELD: You need to take away the distraction.

MASCIOTRA: Yes, yes, exactly. But you can’t take away the distraction on, this is the other riposte, you can’t take away the distraction by acting as if there aren’t real world victims of racism, real world victims of sexism and of homophobia.

The right-wing is not just something that’s out there, but they’re enacting an agenda. And they’re steering forward policies that directly hurt Blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ Americans and women. And that has to be part of a political movement. You cannot build a political movement on a theory of change by excluding people who also have their real-world concerns.

So, the Black woman who has every reason in the world to worry about racism and sexism, well, she deserves a place of prominence in the progressive movement as well. And you’re not going to appeal to her by telling her, oh, don’t worry about racism or sexism, we’re only going to talk about class.

SHEFFIELD: You cannot build momentum for change by telling people that their concerns are irrelevant.

MASCIOTRA: Right, exactly.

SHEFFIELD: Because it is literally no different. And it is no different than somebody who thinks that everything is about racism and nothing else matters. These fanfiction left people, they wouldn’t accept that analysis, and they would be right to not accept that analysis. But they can’t understand that– there’s this famous fable in the Indian tradition of the blind men who discover an elephant. And each one of the men only touches one part of the elephant. And so when they ask each other, well, what is an elephant? Well, it’s this long thing with a fur on the end, and that’s the tail. And one touches the leg, and it’s tall and hard, like a pillar. And that was the leg.

And so it’s getting people to understand that, look, just because something may not directly impact you, or you haven’t experienced it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not real.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah. And then we do see it with a lot of these fanfiction pundits. There are a couple of exceptions, but you mentioned that at the beginning of the program, that they adopt a left-wing posture, but their audience is comprised almost entirely of right-wingers. The audience is also heavily white and heavily male. So it’s easier to sell that audience on an assertion that race and gender are overrated, and unworthy of much attention in our political discourse.

And just as racism is not determinative of everything neither is class. So, Michael Eric Dyson, the public intellectual and longtime activist, he once told me a story about when he got into an argument with a White Marxist who was telling him that we need to get off of racism and just focus on classes, what can bring everyone together, and racism is just a distraction from that.

And Dyson offered the following rebuttal. He said, you don’t seem to understand that even if the revolution occurs, I’m still black. So there are divergences in power, and there are hierarchies, and there are forms of exclusion that transcend class.

And that’s something that the fanfiction leftists don’t want to acknowledge, and it’s really bizarre and destructive that they’re intent on either dismissing or downplaying the significance of race and gender right now when you have former president Trump, who’s currently the front-runner for the nomination for the Republican party, who essentially launched his campaign in 2015 with a statement of hatred towards Mexican immigrants. He has continually cozied up to white nationalist movements, whether it was after Charlottesville or telling the Proud Boys to “stand by,” or everything that we’ve witnessed in horror on January 6th. And we have governors like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, who are really waging a relentless assault against Black history and LGBTQ stories in the educational system.

So you have the Republican Party that is increasingly coalescing around issues of White and Christian nationalism at the same time that many left-wing pundits popular in the podcast sphere and social media are claiming that race and gender are overrated as political influential factors. So it creates this really bizarro world effect that’s almost impossible to understand and impossible to take seriously. But unfortunately, many people are.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and to that end, to try to make a little bit more sense of it, I’ve got a couple of graphs here to kind of map out how these ideologies kind of relate to each other and overlap. And if you’re listening, you’re going to definitely want to click the link to follow along here because it’s just not worth explaining all these overlapping things here.

So in the graph here, we’ve got two different graphs that political ideologies need to be plotted on an XY system rather than a left right only.

And so, basically, the X axis here. So the horizontal one, that’s reason on the left and tradition on the right. And of course, these are what the ideologies themselves think of themselves as doing. So, whether Marxism is a hundred percent reason, Marxism thinks that it is, whether you agree with that or not doesn’t really matter.

And then on the right, we have the far right, there’s conspiracism, there’s libertarianism, and there’s reaction or fascism, or monarchism, whatever you want to call it. And then on the top and bottom axis it’s what do these ideologies value? Where do they place value?

So on the bottom, individual is the primary value and then on the top is society. And so, what I think is important to get people to understand is that there’s a lot of people out there who actually have libertarian viewpoints, but they think that they’re on the left. And they think that they’re on the left because, they support legalizing drugs, they support having same sex marriage exist, they are not religious, and so in their mind, ‘well, I think Jerry Falwell is an idiot or I make fun of people who like Joel Osteen, the preacher guy. So therefore I must be on the left.’

And what they don’t realize is that libertarianism, and you personally have dealt with this in your own life, is that libertarianism basically is a very amorphous thing.

And a large measure is not actually an ideology. It’s more of an attitude. And so as such, there are a lot of people who may exist kind of in the libertarian space and they actually may value reason more than tradition. But for them, they are, they’re able to cross right over into reaction, into conspiracism, into conservatism because of that’s some of libertarianism’s inherent ideas.

Then if we look at the political ideologies from another perspective, which is in terms of what do they trust? So on the top and the bottom here in this graph, it’s what do you trust? Do you trust institutions, or do you trust individuals? And the one thing that all these ideologies have in common is conspiracists trust in the individuals only. And it is a way in which all of the ideologies can be connected to each other.

Because once you believe that no institutions are trustable, nothing can be done as a group. Then you have entered conspiracism, which is itself a form of nihilism. And that can very easily put you on the fast track to fascism. And I think the whole COVID experience has really kind of made that clear that there was a lot of people who, only had a loose attachment to left-wing economic beliefs, and actually what was motivating them more was their hatred for the system, and that it was nihilism rather than leftism that motivated them.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, a few things that you said are very interesting. First of all, I did dabble in libertarianism for a while, but I was very attracted to it, to underscore your point, from the left, because I had spent so much time reading about the horrors of the state from authors like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, who I mentioned earlier, that it didn’t seem like a big leap. And also because I was not religious, as you were saying, I was for the legalization of drugs and gay marriage, and it didn’t seem like a big leap to say, well, if the state has committed so many horrors, then maybe the answer is to reduce the size of the state to the most minimal proportions possible.

So that was my entryway into libertarianism. And then I spent about a year self-identifying as a libertarian before, for a variety of reasons, I realized that it was an impractical ideology, it’s something that just won’t work in the real world. And it also consistently failed to address many of the issues I cared about most, issues like racism, poverty, sexism, homophobia, ecological destruction, these are some of the things that I cared about most.

And these are problems that the free market, and I believe in a free market more or less, of course, it means regulation and controls, but I’m not a socialist or a communist. But these are problems that the free market cannot solve without some public intervention, without the intervention of the law, without the enforcement of regulation.

So that’s very interesting, and I think very accurate, but when you talk about this hatred of the system, that is something that’s become increasingly dangerous. And this is something that is beginning to forge a new alliance, a new kinship. Because you could see on those graphs how close they are to each other, of the far left and the far right.

There’s a theory of philosophy that political scientists have adopted, and a French philosopher created it after trying to ascertain how could so many far-left parties in Western Europe view the Social Democrats as worse than the Nazis. And this is called Horseshoe Theory, that if you picture a horseshoe, the far left and the far-right tips are closer to each other than the base of the horseshoe and the base of the horseshoe in this metaphor is the system, which both sides equally despise.

And we’re seeing some of that occur and develop right now in the United States with certain leftist pundits who are often with a different vocabulary parroting the same criticism of the system as people like Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson.

And as we said, we would discuss they’re kind of joining together right now, if not in direct support, then at least enthusiasm and affection for the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to your point, is a conspiracy theorist. ‘ We can’t trust any vaccines because of the corruption of big pharma. We can’t trust the medical establishment, whether we’re talking about the CDC or the NIH or the medical school at Indiana University, because they’ve been bought and paid for by Big Pharma.’

So it becomes a form of nihilism. We can’t believe anything except, evidently, Robert F. Kennedy and the Jimmy Dores of the world.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and the other thing about the chart that I forgot to mention earlier, is that I believe that both the x axis and the y axis circle back on each other. So if you believe that your positions are a hundred percent reason, you will actually go back to tradition because you will believe that your ideas are the natural truth. That they are pure reason and that it’s been kept from the world. And then you flip right over into conspiracism.

Because conspiracism is the idea that tradition is the only fount of knowledge and that there’s the natural healing, the natural politics, the hidden viewpoint, the folkish majority, the invisible silent majority. And you alone have access to that, and that’s the vulnerability of it.

And the other problem also is that political systems, because we have a democratic system and because a lot of people don’t have good educational attainment or they may have some behavioral, psychological issues or mental health issues, there is a gravitation for some people naturally to conspiracism. And when you have this worldview, you give money to the people who flatter that worldview.

So we keep seeing this over and over with people who started off on the left, or at least in some way or another, Tim Pool or Dave Rubin, these are people who at least had some tenuous, maybe non-intellectual connection to the left, but they began attracting a right-wing audience that was more psychological based for what they thought, and they showered them with money and with followers.

And in that type of the economics, whether it’s Glenn Greenwald as well, it’s hard to resist when you’ve suddenly discovered an audience that is so deranged and so justifiably shut out of the political system and now, they’re giving you millions of dollars.


SHEFFIELD: It’s hard for a lot of people to resist that.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah. And adulation. And another way that the X-Y axes eventually meet is, you’re almost saying without saying it, with a religious form of thinking. Richard Hofstadter and his classic book on the type of people we’re discussing, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, he writes about the omnipresent and omniscient they.

There are people who develop this paranoia that they, a pronoun referring to some kind of coordination between every system of power, is going to destroy our lifestyle, destroy our values, and they are everywhere.

Well, you were a Mormon, I was raised Christian. I remember the theological teachings about the devil, the devil is everywhere. Just because you can’t see the devil at work, that doesn’t mean he’s not there. In fact, the opposite. The old expression, the greatest trick that the devil ever pulled off was convincing people he didn’t exist.

So the devil is everywhere, tempting people to do everything from committing a horrible crime in their neighborhood to, if they’re on a diet, eat that extra slice of pizza, and to the conspiracist, they, meaning those who suppress, those who censor, and those who oppress are everywhere.

And any evidence that perhaps they are not as powerful as one might think, or something wasn’t an effort to oppress at all, maybe it was just a mistake or bad timing or a bad decision, well then that only becomes further proof of the concept. Because they would never admit what they’re doing.

And we see that with the campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and some of the rhetoric that he’s adopting about not only vaccines, but his claim that he’s not allowed to state his point of view. And he said that the reason Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News is because he had him, he had Kennedy on as a guest during the last night of his program.

So this is the classic conspiratorial point of view that everything operates in conjunction and according to a diabolical scheme. And then it becomes also, back to George Orwell’s quote about masturbatory fantasies, it becomes a certain kind of narcissism too. We can see that with Kennedy, ‘well, the real reason Tucker was fired is because I was a guest on his show.’

I mean, that’s a narcissistic raving, but then also to the average conspiracy theorist, ‘Only I and people like me have the answers to the world’s problems. We have the secret knowledge, and those who disagree with me, they’re either in the conspiracy themselves or they’re useful idiots.’ So you see kind of a left to right wraparound on many of these characteristics and emotions and ideas.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And you also see that with Marianne Williamson as well. Her entire philosophy is a conspiracy theory, and it’s also built around this absurd, superstitious Christian book called A Course in Miracles, which is basically kind of like a dumbed down conspiratorial version of Jesus for people who don’t believe in Jesus. That’s basically what it is.

And it’s a way of Christianizing, which is ironic since she’s Jewish, but it’s a way of Christianizing Hindu yogic principles to people who might think that: ‘Well, yoga is from Satan because it’s pagan. But you know what? I can believe in this stuff from Marianne Williamson, because Jesus wrote it actually.

And you look at it in terms of how she responds to when people say, how are you going to pass this thing you say you believe in? She never will give an answer for it.

She will just say something like: ‘Well, if we just get our vibrations in sync. And the reason that we have war in the world is that we have inner conflict and we’re projecting it out into the world and, and it’s not like that any of these people that are going to war or invading Ukraine or whatever, no, nothing’s wrong with them. It’s our fault that Putin did it!

MASCIOTRA: Yeah. And that’s become a big position in this fanfiction left world that the U.S. and NATO provoked Putin into invading Ukraine, and therefore efforts to provide aid to the Ukrainian cause of self-determination, those are what’s keeping the war going. Not Putin’s aggression.

Now there’s a serious debate to have regarding how much aid do we give to Ukraine? What kind of limitations do we put on that aid? Of course it shouldn’t just be a blank check.

But to claim that somehow the instrument of provocation that forced Putin to start massacring innocent people in his attempt to conquer an entire country, it just shows you this fictional universe that they occupy.

But to your point about Williamson and her entire worldview being a conspiracy and her inability to answer practical questions, one of the astonishing things that’s happened in American politics right now among the general electorate, and it’s one of the most disconcerting aspects is that it doesn’t seem like policy can break through to people any longer.

If our topic was different today, I’m sure you and I could discuss at length things that we think the Biden administration has done well and makes them worthy of praise and things they haven’t done well and why they’re worthy of criticism.

But the measures that Biden has taken to directly improve the quality of life of the American people, whether it’s the infrastructure bill, or capping the cost of insulin for Medicare patients at $35 a month or capping the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare patients at $2,000 a year, the student debt forgiveness program, which inadequate as it was, was the first of its kind.

None of this has had any effect on his approval rating, and it doesn’t really break into the discourse. People aren’t talking about, for example, I did my undergraduate studies in a town called Joliet, Illinois. As part of the infrastructure package, Joliet, Illinois, was able to repair one of its bridges that was a safety hazard, and it also got a new bus terminal that people were put to work on those two jobs.

The bus terminal in an area that needed it is going to make it easier for people to get to and from work, to and from wherever else they need to go. And yet, all of this kind of happens quietly under the radar, while our discourse is increasingly dominated by the lunatic ravings of Trump or weird and destined to fail ideas like “force the vote.” And it just seems like something that can actively and genuinely improve the lives of people cannot compete over the cacophony of noise that’s become the culture war. And the politics of personality.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and I think that’s unfortunate. But it does underscore that again, and this is an area that both the center left and the progressive left don’t understand is that when you look at the political economy of the left and the right, for the right, media is integral. Advocacy media is integral to everything that they do. They are constantly putting forward, starting up new outlets, new websites, new TV networks to try to explain their ideas, and to mobilize their activists, and to educate young people.

Whereas if you look at the political left, both the progressive left and the center left, they just assume that people agree with them. And they assume that people understand what they’re doing. So they think, well, all we have to do is just pass policies that we like, and then the people will know that we did it and they’ll like us for it.

And the reality is the right has shown for decades, the many people in this country, and this is true outside of America as well, many people, perhaps most, don’t actually understand policy, and they don’t care about it. And so, you have to figure out other ways to get people interested in what you’re doing.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah, Gore Vidal once quipped half of the American people read the newspaper and half vote, let’s hope it’s the right half. And now, fewer than half of Americans read a newspaper in print or online form, but that’s the thing, you’re entirely right. Democrats and progressives more broadly seem to assume and operate according to the assumption that the typical American voter subscribes to the New York Times and listens to NPR every morning and afternoon during their commute. And that they’re making very sophisticated policy driven decisions when they enter the voting booth, whereas that’s not the case at all.

Their politics is unfortunately, because I think it would be better if it was more reasoned and intellectual, but it’s a very emotionally driven activity, and it’s a very emotionally driven fight and therefore, it’s not that those on the left should play fast and loose with the truth, but they have to develop a compelling, cogent, and attractive story that acts as a scaffold for their policy ideas, because just the policy alone is not going to reach the average American who is maybe devoting 10 minutes a day to learning about politics, probably not even that.

So you have to find ways to communicate with people that allow them to connect what they’re feeling to a reality that’s more intellectually verifiable. And all of the great change makers in the history of the United States were excellent were excellent communicators.

Perhaps the most famous speech in American history is the “I Have a Dream” speech. In that speech, the first half, Martin Luther King laid out a brilliant philosophical, legal, and moral case for the full enfranchisement of black Americans. And he flawlessly explained how Jim Crow was a violation of the United States Constitution, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and also a violation of every principle of human rights.

But that’s not the part of the speech that most people remember, because that wasn’t part of the speech that was most effective. It was once he developed this soaring emotive and emotional charismatic part of the I have a dream refrain, that he was really able to connect with people. So it’s not just the content, but it’s also the packaging.

And any theory of change that will succeed, it depends upon language that enlivens the imagination. The imagination is critical to social change. And also as clichéd as it might sound, speaks equally to the heart as it does the head.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I would agree with that. And also the vehicle for the message, that matters. Because, I mean at that time, you did have newscasts that were willing to show an entire full political speech on TV, or they would print the thing, the entire thing, in the newspaper. But under the internet economy, you can’t rely on these mass media anymore. We have, as everybody knows, hundreds of channels on there. And if you compare that on YouTube, where you’ve got, literally hundreds of thousands of channels you can look at.

So the old idea, and a lot of Democratic political consultants, they have this serious problem that they think that: ‘Well, I wrote a compelling op-ed, and I got it in the New York Times, and then I got another one in the Washington Post, so therefore, I’m done. I did my job. The people they read those things.’

And the answer is no, no, they didn’t. They didn’t see them at all.

And in fact, odds are that even the subscribers of those publications did not see your article. They didn’t see it. So the delivery mechanism of the message probably matters more than what you’re saying.

I think that’s one of the other things that maybe can alleviate some of the center and left conflict is that you need to stop fixating on the message, because the message matters less than how it’s delivered. And you should focus more on that. Because there is no perfect message.

And this was something that I had to experience on my own. Part of what made me leave Republican politics was that I was writing a book, trying to say, ‘this is how Republicans can do better at politics, they should follow my ideas.’ But in the course of writing it, and I had a publisher and all that, in the course of writing it, I discovered, I realized, this could be as great of a book as my publisher and my editor is saying it is. But it actually wouldn’t matter because I’m telling these reactionary Christians, you need to ease off the Christian supremacism. You need to accept that lesbian and gay and bisexual people have a right to exist and to marry each other. That none of those things would have mattered to them because they think their ideas are from God.

So I could have had, to use Donald Trump’s phrase, ‘all the best words,” I could have used all the best words to phrase my, argument and it actually wouldn’t have mattered because the audience wasn’t going to be receptive to it, regardless of what I said.

And what matters more is the vehicle for delivering that message to find the audience who will hear it.

MASCIOTRA: Yeah. And in some ways, you’re speaking the language of Marshall McLuhan, who very famously said that the medium is the message. And McLuhan also talked about how eventually technology would become extensions of our nervous system, that it would become part of who we are, and it would co-mingle with our thoughts and our behavior, and we see that to a very large extent with the smartphone. But the medium is the message, it essentially means that the medium that delivers a message is more important than the content of the message.

Because the medium is what most powerfully impacts the way that people receive and perceive the message and the expectations that they have for future messages that they’ll get through that.

Now, what you’re saying about your own experience writing this book is very interesting, because we’re increasingly seeing, especially among the right wing, a sense of certainty that’s impervious to any set of facts.

And this is another mistake that Democratic and progressive messengers make. The fact check as a journalistic tool is important, and CNN should the fact check on the air, the New York Times should run fact check reports, because you can’t let people just lie with impunity, or even with the best intentions, mislead people because they’ve made a mistake on the air. However, it seems that Democrats and progressives for a long time, they had this naive assumption that the fact check would destroy the lie.

Karl Rove, a Machiavellian manipulator when he orchestrated the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry questioning John Kerry’s military service and his Vietnam War record, he had done that for two reasons. He said that first of all, you should attack your opponent on his strength, not his weakness. You don’t have to attack on his weakness, but you attacking his strength would be much more effective. But pertaining more to our conversation, Rove said that once it’s out there, even if it’s disproven, just the fact that it’s out there and people are talking about it, it will inflict damage upon the Kerry presidency.

It’s like if a public debate emerges that you are a bank robber, even if you’re not a bank robber, that’s going to damage your reputation.

So that’s another way of underlining this point you’re making about how the message isn’t as important as the medium, and in order to enact change and to accelerate the change that’s already occurring, Democrats and liberals need to find a way to excel as storytellers in this new media ecosystem that so often functions as an echo chamber, because, yeah, writing the op-ed for the New York Times, applauding when CNN issues a fact check on the air, that’s not going to work. In fact, it’s probably only going to comfort a very small percentage of the public who already agrees with you.

SHEFFIELD: I think we could probably go on for a long time, but I don’t want to keep you all day here. Let me just put up on the screen, your website address. So we’ve been talking today with David Masciotra and for those who are listening, that’s M-A-S-C-I-O-T-R-A. And it’s So thanks for being here, David.

MASCIOTRA: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

SHEFFIELD: All right, so that’s the program for today, and you are a subscriber, so you got to download the whole audio or video or transcript. You got to see the whole thing. Thank you very much for subscribing. We’re not subsidized by billionaires or educational institutions. No, we’re made possible by people like you, and please do get your friends and family to go to so they can participate and subscribe as well. I really appreciate your help. Thanks so much.