Chatting with Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes, the MSNBC anchor, has launched a new podcast Why Is This Happening? The idea is to go beneath the headlines, to take the long view, to examine current events against the long arc of history. I’m really thrilled that Chris chose me as his first guest. We talked about Trump, conservatism, and The Reactionary Mind. Have a listen!


  1. jonnybutter May 15, 2018 at 7:19 pm | #

    You’re an appropriate person to have on first I’d say. It’s a good interview. It’s a pretty cheesy cliche to call these interviews ‘conversations’ (American humble grandiosity. or grandiose humility.) but this really is one.

  2. Gay Brookes May 15, 2018 at 7:21 pm | #

    So interesting. I feel I should listen again because you both said said things to ponder and learn.

  3. Debra May 16, 2018 at 12:59 am | #

    Chris Hayes started the discussion with mens’s discomfort at how the MeToo movement has disrupted mens’ feelings of being at the top of the most basic hierachy….Men over women. The most fundamental reactionary impulse is men trying to control women’s bodies, women’s lives, women’s thoughts and women’s feelings.

    It is the very first and most basic reactionary part of the right.

    You did not pick up on his beginning the discussion by talking about sex and gender.
    I was most disappointed by that.

    You switched to race when you talked about Trump’s appeal to people’s sense of loss and displacement. You did not address sex at all. Yes that was their reaction, their backlash to the sitting/soon to be past president. Of course the Democratic nominee was a women. The very self same people who felt displaced by a black man, would certainly feel displaced and disrespected by a woman.

    Secondly. 4 years of Trump as President or some Republican facsimile with a Republican Senate will so fundamentally alter the Courts…that many of the protections that have stymied them as they march toward authoritarian government will be eliminated

    You are far too sanguine it will all turn out.

    Democrats play by the rules.
    Republicans break them in order to maintain power…even when they are weak.

  4. Fuzzy Dunlop May 16, 2018 at 9:16 am | #

    One mistake I think you made about slave-owning whites: they were not a tiny part of the population. Across 12 of the slave states, between 20-50% of white families owned slaves: from 20% (AR) 23% (KY) to 46% (SC) 49% (MS) (MO & MD at 12-13% are outliers). Most white families didn’t own slaves, but in slave states probably most white families had friends who owned slaves, and clearly a lot of middle-class white families owned slaves. This I think has important implications for your argument–abolition was *highly* relevant to the private life of power, whereas the work of ideology is much less impressive in this case. Also this shows how essential racial hierarchy has been to the social structure of the South. The idea that white people were persuaded to oppose their own economic interests is less compelling when you consider how directly most white people were connected to slavery.

    • jonnybutter May 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm | #

      But how many whites owned a lot of slaves? IOW, how many white ppl had a lot of capital to be tied up that way? I bet not very many. My guess is that it’s a little like owning shares in the stock market today – a lot of people own a few shares of stock/bonds, but a very few own the vast majority of the shares.

      I don’t understand the rest of your comment. Sorry. Of course racial hierarchy was essential in the south. A lot of people didn’t need to own slaves for that to be the case. In fact, racial hierarchy itself was used to mollify – as it were – the large majority who had few or no slaves, and little or no wealth.

      • Fuzzy Dunlop May 16, 2018 at 9:31 pm | #

        In the podcast Corey said (assuming I didn’t get the voices mixed up) something to the effect that the vast majority of southern whites didn’t own slaves, so the capitalist elites’ convincing the other southern whites that their interests were more with the slave-owners than with the slaves was a triumph of ideology. I’m saying, given that around a third of white Southerners owned at least one slave (and there’s going to be regional differences–probably higher rates of slave ownership outside of Appalachia e.g.; also note that this means *most slaves* were not on huge plantations, but spread out among many white families), most white people were socially much more closely connected to slavery than that comment implies. Most whites didn’t own slaves, but slavery was part of the everyday life of most white people. Not that ideology isn’t still doing a lot of work there, but we could probably say that most white southerners saw direct material benefits from the racial caste system pre-Civil War & afterwards, & therefor absolutely had a direct material stake in white supremacy–it didn’t just make them feel good about themselves.

        (Anyway, I enjoyed the podcast!)

    • Roquentin May 18, 2018 at 11:41 am | #

      I’ve wanted to write about the function which I think race still play for many whites in the US, of having someone to point at in the social hierarchy who is worse off than you. People will accept any number of things so long as there is a tangible group they can point to which has it even worse. This was really driven home to me in a biography of Stalin by Edward Radzinsky, a Russian Jew, who talked about Stalin’s anti-semetic turn after the war in blunt and honest terms. Basically, the country was a shambles, people were miserable, and when the Soviet government had nothing else to offer them, they could offer the people pride in their race. Racial identity gives people a sense of accomplishment without doing anything (you get your race simply by virtue of being born) a sense of superiority without material conditions changing, a sense of unity with people whom you don’t necessarily have anything in common. In short, race was a useful concept for placating an angry populace, with Jews serving the role of the “other” someone who was excluded and made it possible to feel that they weren’t on the bottom rung.

      Blacks have long played this role in the South. No matter how bad things get, poor Southern whites can say “At least I’m not them.” Without this, their worldview starts to crumble and they have to confront all sorts of things that the system would prefer that they did not. The cruelty towards those on welfare is part of this too. If the people beneath them aren’t miserable, considerably worse off, they can’t point and say “At least I’m not one of them.”

  5. Chris Morlock May 16, 2018 at 7:23 pm | #

    Chris Hayes gets paid $30,000 a day to essentially reinforce the Democrats slow decline into “Market based solutions” republicanism. I am surprised you did not bring up any of these issues nor addressed MSNBC’s corporate dem agenda. Hayes sold himself as a progressive and has been nothing more than a corporate mouthpiece for the last 3-4 years. Where is the implication of his “reactionary mind?” That would have been a good interview.

    Don’t be tempted by that paycheck Corey, you’ve got too much credibility.

  6. Jim May 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm | #

    Really informative conversation. Chris Hayes is really smart and well-informed but if I had any criticism (and it’s just a little one) it’s that the host of an interview-like podcast shouldn’t try to dominate the conversation, which I think he did at times no doubt unintentionally. While I agree that the reactionary GOP “won” with its kill-the-future policy agenda, they have done so by seriously degrading the norms and institutions of democracy. While I realize they consider this a feature, not a bug in their ideology, it also means they have forfeited any real legitimacy with a majority of Americans with Trump surely being their nadir.

    But a weakened animal can still be a desperate and dangerous one.

  7. Joe Stumpo August 15, 2018 at 8:58 pm | #

    Unfortunately, I’ve come to this PodCast rather late. All I can say is outstanding. Please do I follow up on this topic. It may be interesting to engage a mainstream conservative voice in the discussion. How do they define their ideology, and if the traditionalist terms are correct, how is Trump possible?

    Conservatism has always struck me as a bundle of contradictions, ex. an abiding faith in small government, but love of militarism. Continuity with the past married to disregard for established legal precedent. Etc.

    The Reactionary Mind makes sense of this. Can conservatives?

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