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Democracy in Chains

Ralph welcomes Duke University historian, Nancy MacLean, to discuss her book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” which delves into the destructive “libertarian” ideology the Koch brothers fund to keep the minority in power. Also, Ralph talks to English professor, Tymofey Wowk, about his strategies for teaching students in the age of social media.

Nancy MacLean is a professor of history at Duke University and an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative and a feat of American intellectual and political history.”

“Only about 3% or 4% of the population – at the most  – identifies with libertarian thought. But, because of the money that the Koch donor network has and has been able to amass with their hundreds of other donors who have contributed to this, it is actually feasible for them to try to alter the course of our country.” Nancy MacLean, author of “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.

Tymofey Wowk is a faculty member of English language at Montgomery College. He also works at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he teaches freshman composition to ELL students. ELL stands for “English Language Learners – which is a class for students whose native language is not English. In addition, he is the co-author of “Making English Grammar Meaningful and Useful.” 

“I had one student a couple years ago who was so bad on his phone. Every class like ten times I had to tell him to get off his phone. And then I asked him what he was doing. And he showed me his social media profile, and he had tens of thousands of followers and “likes” and I thought, “Wow, this is amazing.” So, I taught him about FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out. And I actually had him find an article about it and write a paper about it. He loved it. He got to explore his own interaction with social media. So, that was a really positive thing.” Tymofey Wowk, professor of English at Montgomery Community College on teaching in the age of social media.



  1. Serge mihaly says:

    50 + years of big government and you’re worried about the Koch brothers? We need balance especially after 8 years of our communist president Obama. My how he has tried to destroy this nation. See his long association with Frank Marshall Davis.

  2. Bruce K. says:

    I love this episode. I have been a liberal/progressive ( whatever that means anymore ) since I was enlightened as a teen and young adult and have been reading and investigating history and different opinions for all that time. All the different theories and conspiracies and ideas, and they all have led in different directions. They separate people more than they unify them. Power and money is a great motivator and unifier as well as the lubricant for action and channels outside the law.

    It was only recently when I read Nancy McLean’s book “Democracy In Chains”, Kim Phillips-Fein’s book “Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan” and lastly but most contemporary and clearly worded Thomas Frank’s book “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule” that the simple logical pattern emerged that fits history and the facts closer than anything else I have read.

    The idea that there were some Americans that do not accept the idea of America, or can criticize the government for righteous reasons was familiar to me, but the very idea that there would be people who had such luck to be born here and reach great success in terms of money and power and that they would hate and target the government and move on it in order to bring it down oddly never really occurred to me.

    This is an understanding that must become common and intuitive for people to understand for us to retain our country and freedom. The idea that Americans could want to make life miserable for other Americans seems so foreign to me that one rejects it, I suppose as would a child born to a violent or mentally ill parent want to deny that their life was so abnormal. We cling to our fantasies and the facts, the reality seems repellent to even consider. The best brainwashing possible – and it seems to be working.

    When we look at the breakdown of our government the natural thing is to blame the government, or other people, or just assume the whole thing doesn’t work, but it doesn’t work out of design so that power outside the government can puppeteer the government to be both the masters of the people and their scapegoat for anything wrong while said groups sits in the background unknown and pulling the strings.

    McClean’s book is so important to understand the evolution of the fake-Conservative, extreme Libertarian movement, but I hope she can follow it up with more modern examples of how this hideous movement has evolved and the tools they developed and used. I have to assume that this whole social network and data-mining of people in private hands outside the government must be related to this.

    I feel like this whole race is coming right down to the wire and there is a reckoning coming one way or the other, and the other thing we need besides understanding of the past and present, is ideas for the future that are simple enough to intuitively grasp, acceptable to wide ranges of people with differing backgrounds, a path to follow to correction and institutionalization of a new way to govern, and to verify if and when needed. Our country has no immune system to internal infection, and that metaphor is an important one.

    Thanks for this show, I hope for much more, and soon.

  3. Leonardo Costa says:

    All the Miami-Dade public library copies of prof. MacLean’s book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” are currently “checked-out”, so I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to read it asap, but quite happy at the same time, for other people are reading it!
    Thank you for your show.

  4. says:

    I love this show. But will somebody please get Ralph a mic? It would make the show much more digestible. There are really good quality USB mics you can get for around 100 dollars.

    Hell, I would even donate 20 dollars or so for the cause. Even the sound quality coming through chat apps such as Zoom is better than what I hear coming from Ralph’s end.

    From a big fan of RALPH and the show: please get Ralph a darn microphone.

  5. Roy J Davis says:

    Is there a printed transcript of the interview with Lori Wallach? I cannot take this really great download to my discussion group, but I can give them a printed version. Is it available?

  6. Chris McKinnon says:

    I read ‘Democracy in Chains’ before listening to Nader’s discussion with Prof. MacLean. It’s an important book that exposes the deceit and treachery of the Radical Right. Excellent show. Thanks.

  7. Gary Youree says:

    First I would like to say a lifetime of kudo’s to Mr. Nader; you have been there for us man – thank you.
    I have done the best in my life to promote humanity, our inherent moral code which holds the current top of the evolutionary chain, social mammals, their groups and the reciprocal necessity of that code (all social animals) to not only hold groups together but to make groups stronger, more resilient and adaptive, than any equal sum of just individuals in a group.
    Our consciousness seems to have lagged our intelligence. Perhaps it was due to the fluke of evolved appendages for eating and climbing giving on social mammal the ability to manipulate nature prior to a fuller development of our brains so we would recognize the magic in honest communication … I dont know but we clearly lost our hierarchy to a fringe parasitic branch in our species; psychopaths, sociopaths, and sycophants.
    I have learned that the evolution of intelligence is driven by curiosity and purpose – as is the social group and our inherent moral code.
    MLK said the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice; that is true but time is a factor.
    At this stage, without a leadership hierarchy possessing the traits which make us human; humanity may be doomed.
    Those who succeed us within our species, those without an inherent moral code, will quickly die without us – parasites cannot survive without hosts.
    The end goal (posts) for any species in this galaxy is surviving their host planet. There, obviously, are no empire in space.

    I have searched for the end agenda of the psychopathic parasitic ruling elite. MacLean may have found a major step. It is clear to me that this pathologically sick end game is one man being god – then lights out – last man standing.

    We must be the dumbest species on the planet; what a waste of potential.
    Can only hope for the oceans to survive; cetaceans may have what it takes to survive their host planet. You have to love the biological proo

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