The real culture war between the left and the right is about money: On the Clarence Thomas scandal

Briahna Joy Gray, who is one of my favorite podcasters and interviewers, and I went deep into the Clarence Thomas scandal. I trace his actions back to an obscure speech he delivered to a libertarian outfit in San Francisco in 1987, where he set out his basic agenda and philosophy: “The real culture war between the left and the right is about money.”

You can watch it here on YouTube.


  1. jonnybutter April 14, 2023 at 3:57 pm | #

    So much great stuff in this interview. (but – ugh I just can’t with tv anymore. I am older than Corey, so, a full child of tv; but, once you look away, it’s hard to go back. Watching non-CSPAN political tv is, for me, like riding in the back seat of a convertible for 100 miles with the top down. You feel exhausted but you just sat there. My problem).

    What stuck out for me is the ongoing RW long term plan to use 1st A jurisprudence to limit government power to regulate by defining speech out; and the major liberal misstep of having acceded (?) to the inclusion of commercial speech to 1A protection. For me, that is the key moment, in terms of theory. Once commercial speech is protected, the big river has been forded, and others to come (e.g. vis a vis unions) are easier.

    The political story in all this is – as so often – the almost preternatural ideological flaccidity of the Dems. Well before the Clinton era, too. You don’t have to be crazy ideologues like Fed Soc types or Thomas, but sometimes you have to have some basic things you believe and know why you believe them, for exactly times like that, when instead liberals just kind of shrugged. Liberals Shrugged.

    FWIW, I share (I think) the feeling about AOC’s tack. In its favor, we should get used to pushing back hard on the Court, and impeaching a justice should not be unthinkable, as it is now. (And Kavanaugh needs scrutiny too). Many things should not be unthinkable. The Court desperately needs reform, and instead of showing any post election interest in that, a certain Irish Joe had a wake for reform that is called a ‘commission’. If he had instead taken this crying need seriously, there would be less pressure to ‘do something’, like impeachment. But the DLC fossils are careful to block anything to meaningful from happening.

    On the other hand, impeaching Thomas as if he took a bribe would be a waste. Impeach him for perjury, re: Anita Hill, because he doesn’t really lie much, and is vulnerable where he has lied. And impeach him for his abhorrent ideology, which includes feeling the liberty to do what he did to her.

    He might *want* to have a national ideological debate! He should have it – just as someone leaked Dobbs to ensure there would be no backtracking, and Republicans would have their full open victory on abortion. Let’s talk in detail about what Justice Thomas believes. He’s hardly a simpleton, but he is as crazy and weird as Bork, and that he was not also rejected is another thing to thank, among others, Chairmen Biden for.

    Thanks Corey

    • Benjamin David Steele April 15, 2023 at 3:41 pm | #

      The ruling DNC elites aren’t liberals, not in terms of consistent ideological principles. First and last, they’re capitalists beholden to big biz. People mistake them for liberals because many social issues don’t necessarily and directly contradict with neoliberalism, plutocracy, and corporatism. But that is a dangerous mistake, in making them appear merely weak and not entirely complicit.

      Their main concern, as capitalists, is defending political and economic power from attacks by the Left. As so many Democratic leaders basically agree with much that Republicans hold to, this often leaves them defenseless to the tactics of the reactionary right. Punching left, they allow the Overton window to be pushed right. They have no fight in them because they have nothing to fight for other than capitalism itself.

      This is why our society is a banana republic that is a one-party state with two right-wings, one center-conservatism and the other reactionary far right. That doesn’t leave much room for reform within the system, even with a few sincere left-liberals like AOC. The reactionary is the shadow of the liberal and, though the liberal paradigm dominates our culture, it’s the shadow under which power operates.

      Related to this, I’ve tried to convince Corey to look into the social science research on social dominance orientation, which seems to be precisely what he means by the reactionary mind. In the SDO7 scale, two sub-traits are SDO-D (dominance) and SDO-E (anti-egalitarianism). The first is overt bigotry and xenophobia, what has long defined the old school right-wing. But the second is merely about rigid hierarchy, the defining feature of Corey’s theory of the reactionary mind.

      Democrats like the Clintons and Biden are SDO-Es. Clarence Thomas himself might be more of an SDO-E. But of course, one could measure as high in both SDO-D and SDO-E. The point is that one can measure high in one without the other, one can defend oppressive hierarchies of domination while otherwise being open to or indifferent about a more superficial understanding of social liberalism. On the other side, one could be a populist bigot who prefers informal systems of dominance, rather than entrenched systems of hierarchy.

      This is essential to understanding the American social order and political system. SDO-D is a secondary issue. The main thrust is, instead, SDO-E. What has gotten us into this mire is that the two-party system are simply two sides of the same SDO-E mentality and worldview, just slight ideological variations of it. Maybe that is what is confusing about Thomas and helpful. He accepts SDO-D racism as inevitable, but does so with a rationalization of passivity that is serving his underlying SDO-E motivations.

  2. John Maclean April 15, 2023 at 9:40 am | #

    The first time I read about “Black nationalism” was in the final chapter of “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” by C. Vann Woodward. The volume I still have is a “commemorative edition” that came out in 2002. I’m getting through the biography “Thaddeus Stevens” right now, by Bruce Levine.

  3. nlowhim April 17, 2023 at 7:16 pm | #

    BJG’s interviews have easily stood out in the dross of “let’s just chat bro” podcasts I have stumbled upon.

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