‘Crazy politics’ gets teed up Oct. 28 at Lynnwood Library

This isn’t the first time America has been polarized by politics.

In fact, while the details may change, it’s business as usual.

Prof. Clayton Cornell will discuss “Crazy Politics: Populism, Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in America” starting at 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Lynnwood Library.
(Young Kwak photo for Humanities Washington)

“Depending on the iteration of the conspiracy, it’s the Rothschilds, it’s Jewish bankers, it’s any one of a number of different elites,” Prof. Cornell Clayton, a public-policy scholar at Washington State University, said in an interview with Humanities Washington. “… during periods when you see rapid economic and cultural transformations taking place, populism and conspiratorial thinking really get teed up.”

At 1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Lynnwood Library, Clayton will explore how American politics has become an arena for suspicious and angry minds in his talk, “Crazy Politics: Populism, Conspiracy Theories, and Paranoia in America.”

Rather than debunking conspiratorial claims, Clayton argues that both populism and a paranoid thinking have always played important roles in American politics.  He cites fears of the Illuminati and the Know-Nothing movement in the 1850s. He also points to Father Charles Coughlin, Huey Long, and John Birchers as examples of leaders and groups who saw politics in apocalyptic terms.

Clayton directs the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University, where he also serves as the Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government. He received a doctorate in politics from Oxford University. Past distinctions include Fulbright, Truman, and Mellon scholarships.