33 episodes

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 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--and how they intersect. Other topics include disinformation, extremism, and polarization.

Theory of Change podcast Matthew Sheffield

    • News
    • 4.6 • 27 Ratings

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 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--and how they intersect. Other topics include disinformation, extremism, and polarization.

    Theory of Change #034: Heather Digby Parton on Joe Biden's first year as president

    Theory of Change #034: Heather Digby Parton on Joe Biden's first year as president

    It’s a bit hard to believe that one year ago, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. A lot has happened during that timespan but a lot has also *not* happened.

    As of this week, Biden and the Democratic majority in the Senate have confirmed 41 federal judges, the most ever for a president’s first year in office.

    He also led a successful effort to make vaccines against Covid-19 freely available everywhere in America through the American Rescue Plan Act which also ramped up funding for manufacturing and deployment of scientific testing for the SARS2 coronavirus. No Republican in Congress voted for the law in either chamber of Congress when it passed in March of 2021.

    Biden and Democrats also passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which included $550 billion in new federal spending for improvements in roads, bridges, electric vehicle charging, and broadband internet. The law was originally supposed to be passed in tandem with another bill, the Build Back Better Act, which has not passed. Both bills have been under constant opposition by congressional Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who figured out decades ago that a do-nothing Congress actually helps the GOP.

    The Republican opposition has been greatly helped by the persistence of the Senate’s filibuster rule which, as currently interpreted, makes almost all legislation face a 60-vote hurdle. Most state legislatures in America don’t have filibusters and most national Democratic Senators say they want to end the outdated rule, but two of them, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have publicly committed to helping Republicans stymie President Biden, and also to opposing his more progressive proposals.

    Did it have to be this way, however? What could Biden have done differently? Or is that the wrong question to ask?

    Joining the show to discuss is Heather Digby Parton, she’s a columnist for Salon.com and also one of the original bloggers on the internet. She’s been operating her site, Hullabaloo, for 19 years now.


    FULL TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO:
    https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2022/01/do-joe-biden-and-his-team-realize-who-theyre-dealing

    GUEST INFO
    Heather Digby Parton on Twitter:
    twitter.com/digby56

    Her Salon archive:
    https://www.salon.com/writer/heather_digby_parton

    Digby's Hullabaloo
    http://digbysblog.net/


    ABOUT THE SHOW
    Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.

    Theory of Change website:
    theoryofchange.show

    Theory of Change on Twitter:
    twitter.com/TheoryChange

    Matthew Sheffield on Twitter:
    twitter.com/mattsheffield

    SUPPORT THE SHOW
    PayPal: www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange
    Patreon: www.patreon.com/discoverflux

    If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. Thanks for your help!

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Theory of Change #008: Aaron Smith on how Twitter users see politics differently

    Theory of Change #008: Aaron Smith on how Twitter users see politics differently

    Every podcast has its “lost episodes.” Or at least that’s what podcasters tell themselves. But booking, producing, and hosting a podcast all by yourself is a lot of work--and technical issues can make that especially difficult.

    I started “Theory of Change” in 2019 but suspended it for about a year and a half due to some problems with my recording and editing setup. In 2021, I brought the show back with a live video setup to help prevent technical problems from blocking episode from being published. So far, the response has been incredible. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads since the re-launch. Thank you for listening, subscribing, watching, and sharing the podcast.

    I’m especially grateful to the people who are supporting “Theory of Change” and our new Flux.community website on Patreon. If you can afford it, we can use your help with a monthly contribution. Just go to patreon.com/discoverflux. Thanks so much.

    Since bringing the podcast back, I have also wanted to publish two episodes of the program that got lost in the editing bay. Today’s broadcast is based on a December 14, 2019 conversation I had with Aaron Smith of the Pew Research Center about a study he and his colleagues released examining the social dynamics of Twitter and how much of the discussion that takes place is dominated by a small number of accounts. The study also found some important differences between people who use Twitter for political news and people who do not.

    I felt like the study, which is linked in the show notes, is so important and still relevant that I rescued the episode from a crashed laptop and am presenting it today. I hope you’ll agree. And my apologies for the delay.
    --Matthew Sheffield

    GUEST INFO
    Aaron Smith on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/aaron_w_smith

    Pew Research Center study mentioned in the episode:
    https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2019/10/23/national-politics-on-twitter-small-share-of-u-s-adults-produce-majority-of-tweets/

    A 2021 updated version:
    https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/11/15/the-behaviors-and-attitudes-of-u-s-adults-on-twitter/


    ABOUT THE SHOW
    Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.

    Theory of Change website:
    https://theoryofchange.show

    Theory of Change on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/TheoryChange

    Matthew Sheffield on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/mattsheffield


    SUPPORT THE SHOW
    PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/discoverflux

    If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. Thanks for your help!

    • 37 min
    Theory of Change #033: Bruce Wilson on January 6th and right-wing anti-Americanism

    Theory of Change #033: Bruce Wilson on January 6th and right-wing anti-Americanism

    It’s now been a full year since a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol with the intent of overthrowing the 2020 election so that then-president Donald Trump could illegally remain in office against the wishes of the American people.

    During the intervening 12 months, while hundreds of people have been indicted and convicted for their role in the events, almost nothing has emerged from the law enforcement investigations as to what Trump and his inner circle of aids were doing on that tragic day. That’s because federal investigators can only reveal information connected to formal criminal indictments, they needed to form their own committee to investigate the matter fully and report to the public what happened.

    What is very clear, however, is that the tens of thousands of people who came to Washington that day were doing it for something much more important to them than the grievances of a snobby New York investor. They were doing it because they thought God wanted them to overthrow what they saw as a corrupt and godless system that controls America.

    Unfortunately, this information was out there well before the Capitol invasion, but it wasn’t reported much by the mainstream press, which spends most of its time obsessing over political gossip instead of actually understanding politics.

    Joining the program to discuss the larger context behind the 1/6 attack is Bruce Wilson. He’s a journalist and researcher who has studied Christian nationalist movements for decades and tracked their ever-growing influence on Republican politics.


    GUEST INFO
    Bruce Wilson on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/brucewilson


    VIDEO AND FULL TRANSCRIPT
    https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2022/01/january-6th-capitol-attack-was-actually-decades-making


    ABOUT THE SHOW
    Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.

    Theory of Change website:
    https://theoryofchange.show

    Theory of Change on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/TheoryChange

    Matthew Sheffield on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/mattsheffield


    SUPPORT THE SHOW
    PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/discoverflux

    If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. Thanks for your help!

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

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

    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. And he’s also the president of the Georgia conference of the American Association of university professors.

    GUEST INFO
    Matthew Boedy on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/MatthewBoedy

    Matthew's Flux archive:
    https://flux.community/matthew-boedy

    VIDEO AND FULL TRANSCRIPT
    https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2022/01/charlie-kirk-and-turning-point-usa-are-building-reactionary-cult-young


    ABOUT THE SHOW
    Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.

    Theory of Change website:
    https://theoryofchange.show

    Theory of Change on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/TheoryChange

    Matthew Sheffield on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/mattsheffield


    SUPPORT THE SHOW
    PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/discoverflux

    If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. Thanks for your help!

    • 51 min
    Theory of Change #031: Farah Stockman on the meaning of work and what elites missed on free trade

    Theory of Change #031: Farah Stockman on the meaning of work and what elites missed on free trade

    All of us are much more than what we do for a living. And yet, when we lose a job or have trouble finding another one, we feel like we’re missing something important.

    But work is about more than just something to do with your time or to feed your family. For many people, work is an entry point into larger society. It's how many of us meet friends and form families. It’s also often the only way that we can come into prolonged contact with people who are different from us.

    After the 2016 election, a lot of Mid-Atlantic media outlets sent journalists on expeditions to Midwestern diners to see how a man who lied constantly with a record of failed businesses and broken marriages was able to become president. Some of the stories that came out of those forays were good, but a lot of them just barely scratched the surface, or actually got things wrong.

    In today’s episode, we feature Farah Stockman, a New York Times editorial writer who is also the author of a new book called “American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears.” It's an important look at what work means for people, and what progressives missed about free trade, manufacturing, and globalization.


    GUEST INFO
    Farah Stockman on Twitter
    https://twitter.com/fstockman

    “American Made”
    https://bookshop.org/books/american-made-what-happens-to-people-when-work-disappears/9781984801159

    FULL TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO
    https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/12/media-elites-missed-damage-caused-free-trade-and-how-millions-felt


    ABOUT THE SHOW
    Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.

    Theory of Change website:
    https://theoryofchange.show

    Theory of Change on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/TheoryChange

    Matthew Sheffield on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/mattsheffield


    SUPPORT THE SHOW
    PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/discoverflux

    If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. Thanks for your help!

    • 1 hr
    Theory of Change #030: Edward H. Miller on the John Birch Society and the roots of Republican rage

    Theory of Change #030: Edward H. Miller on the John Birch Society and the roots of Republican rage

    William Faulkner's line that "the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past" is certainly true in regards to today's Republican Party, which is quite literally an outgrowth of a conspiracy revolution that began in the 1940s and never really stopped.

    A key figure in the through-line of American reaction is Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, a conspiracy group that he founded in 1958 which still exists today.

    The JBS has many interesting stories of its own that we'll discuss in this episode, but Welch and his group were also important in their placement relative to other Republicans, and how people outside the GOP have responded to them.

    Joining us for an in-depth conversation about this is Edward H. Miller. He's an associate teaching professor at Northeastern University and the author of "A Conspiratorial Life: Robert Welch, the John Birch Society, and the Revolution of American Conservatism" which just recently came out.

    He's also the author of "Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy," which he published in 2015.


    TRANSCRIPT AND VIDEO
    https://flux.community/matthew-sheffield/2021/12/john-birch-society-and-roots-republican-rage

    GUEST INFO
    Edward H. Miller on Twitter
    https://twitter.com/eh_miller

    "A Conspiratorial Life"
    https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo123795778.html

    "Nut Country"
    https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/N/bo19197692.html


    ABOUT THE SHOW
    Theory of Change is hosted by Matthew Sheffield and is part of the Flux network, a new content community of podcasters and writers. Please visit us at flux.community to learn more and to tell us about what you're doing. We're constantly growing and learning from the great people we meet.

    Theory of Change website:
    https://theoryofchange.show

    Theory of Change on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/TheoryChange

    Matthew Sheffield on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/mattsheffield


    SUPPORT THE SHOW
    PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/theorychange
    Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/discoverflux

    If you're not able to support financially, please help us by subscribing and/or leaving a nice review on your favorite podcast app. Doing this helps other people find Theory of Change and our great guests. Thanks for your help!

    • 1 hr 3 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
27 Ratings

27 Ratings

Gotham212 ,

Excellent

Vital podcast about the Venn diagram of religion, the far right, and politics. If you lean left & wonder who these ppl are, Matthew is an intelligent, thoughtful guide & knows these subjects well.

BarkleyGirl ,

Always relevant

Matthew Sheffield consistently brings relevant topics to his audience with top experts and well-researched articles if you follow him on Twitter, which is how I came to know about this podcast. Sheffield brings quality content for the serious-minded.
I highly recommend his work in all forms: podcast, flux magazine, Twitter, wherever life may take him…

Ken Carroll ,

Excellent podcast

I’ve listened to the discussion with Greg Sargent and found it quite simply fascinating and incredibly informative. I can see other topics of direct relevance to me, such as 30 years of Linux and open source, in this newly discovered (to me) podcast.

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