Jan 3, 2022 • 51M

Theory of Change #032: Matthew Boedy on the cult of Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk

A far-right group is radicalizing young Christians, and center-left groups are doing almost nothing in response


Appears in this episode

Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
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Episode Summary

Polling over the decades has shown that most Republican voters are heavily motivated by white Christian identity politics. But Republican elites– politicians, writers, and many donors– were more interested in cutting spending and giving tax cuts to job creators, or rich people in other words.

Over the past 60 years or so, GOP politics has been an imbalance where the base of voters wanted an agenda that promoted Christian nationalist ideas like mandatory school prayer, open discrimination against lesbians and gays, and legal obstacles to non-Christians. But Republican leaders focused more on deregulation and tax policy.

Donald Trump changed all that, however. In addition to giving out tax subsidies to his rich friends, Trump also began implementing Christian nationalism by banning trying to ban Muslim immigration and undermining LGBT rights in America and around the world. He also talked frequently about how his goal was to help Christians have political supremacy and power.

Trump’s reorientation of Republican organizing was resistant at first by traditional Republican elites. But one person who jumped on board almost immediately was Charlie Kirk, the co-founder of Turning Point USA. The group was originally created in 2012 to spread the market fundamentalism of Republican fat cats to America’s youth. But after Trump took over the Republican party, Kirk completely changed TPUSA toward being a Christian nationalist organization.

Joining me today to talk about what specifically that means for Kirk and TPUSA, and the GOP embrace of open Christian nationalism is Matthew Boedy. He is a professor of rhetoric at the University of North Georgia, and he’s also written several fantastic articles about Kirk for us at Flux. He’s also the president of the Georgia conference of the American Association of university professors.

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