UW Graduate School

Cornell Clayton

Cornell Clayton

BUNK: The Information Series

Walker Ames Lecturer

  • Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professor of Government, and Director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, Washington State University

October 9, 2018   |   7:30 p.m.
Kane Hall, room 120

  • Register here.
  • This event is free and open to the public. 

Off the Rails: Populism and Paranoia in American Politics

Anti-establishment politicians rail against the government they lead, populist leaders howl about corruption and a “rigged” political system, fake news and wild conspiracy theories abound on the internet and social media. Has American politics gone off the rails?

Author and political scientist Cornell Clayton explores how American politics has once again become an arena for suspicious and angry minds. Rather than debunking today’s populist claims and conspiratorial theories, Clayton argues that populism and paranoia have often played important roles in American politics in the past. From the populist rhetoric and policies of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, to the fears of the Illuminati, Masons, communist infiltrators and black helicopters, Americans have a history of seeing politics in apocalyptic terms and believing powerful elites secretly conspire against ordinary citizens. Clayton’s lecture explains the reasons behind the rise of today’s populist and paranoid politics, draws parallels to earlier periods, and discusses when it might threaten our democracy.

About Cornell Clayton

Cornell W. Clayton is director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University, where he also holds the Thomas S. Foley Distinguished Professorship in Government. His research focus on American politics, constitutional law, and political theory. An award winning scholar he has authored/edited eight books and more than 60 scholarly journal articles and book chapters. Clayton has been a visiting scholar in France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, the Ukraine, Japan and elsewhere. He previously served as editor of Political Research Quarterly and as chair of the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association. Past distinctions include Truman and Mellon scholarships, Fulbright fellowships, and the Claudius O. Johnson and the Wayne N. Aspinall distinguished professorships. Clayton received a D.Phil. in Politics from Oxford University.

Sponsoring Departments

  • UW Graduate School
  • Office of the Provost
  • Evans School
  • School of Law