Dr. Cornell Clayton
“Crazy Politics: Populism, Conspiracy Theories, and Paranoia in America” will be presented by Dr. Cornell Clayton, director of 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.
Anti-establishment candidates rail against the government they seek to lead; populist groups like the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street howl about corruption in political and economic institutions; and wild conspiracy theories abound. Has American politics always been so crazy?
Rather than debunking today’s conspiratorial claims, Clayton argues that both populism and paranoid thinking have always played important roles in American politics. From the fear of the Illuminati, to the Know-Nothing movement in the 1850s, to Father Charles Coughlin, Huey Long, and the John Birchers, there always have been leaders and groups who see politics in apocalyptic terms and believe powerful elites are conspiring against ordinary Americans.
Clayton’s talk explains the rise of today’s populist and conspiratorial politics, draws parallels to earlier periods, and describes how populism on the left and right today differ.
A Coeur d’Alene resident, Clayton previously lectured at the library in 2014 on civility, and the lack of it, in American politics.
Clayton has written widely about American government, politics and law. His work on judicial politics has twice received the American Judicature
Award from the American Political Science Association, and his research has been translated and republished in five languages.
He is a frequent political commentator on local and national news media, and his research has been featured in the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, and National Public Radio, among other places. He has presented his current lecture as part of the Speaker Bureau for Humanities Washington, the state-based affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
He served for eight years as coeditor of Political Research Quarterly, the journal of the Western Political Science Association, and served as the chair of the Law and Court Section of the American Political Association. Other distinctions include two Fulbright Scholarships, the Truman Scholarship, the C.O. Johnson Distinguished Professorship, and the Wayne N. Aspinall Chair. He has been a visiting fellow and lecturer at many institutes and universities around the world.
Clayton received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and his Doctorate of Philosophy in Politics from Oxford University. He came to WSU in 1992.
His published work includes “Civility and American Democracy,” edited with R. Elgar (WSU Press, 2012); “Governing Washington: Politics in the Evergreen State,” edited with N. Lovrich (WSU Press, 2011); “Washington State Government and Politics,” edited with L. Leloup and N. Lovrich (WSU Press, 2004); “Supreme Court Decision-Making,” edited with H. Gillman (University of Chicago Press, 1999); “The Supreme Court in American Politics,” edited with H. Gillman (University Press of Kansas, 1999); “Government Lawyers: The Legal Bureaucracy and Presidential Politics,” (University Press of Kansas, 1995); and “The Politics of Justice,” (M.E. Sharpe, 1992).