When Republican Senate hopeful Kelli Ward announced this month she would be touring Arizona with Mike Cernovich, a “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist with ties to the alt-right, the mainstream media responded with bafflement and consternation. The news probably got a chuckle out of Matt Christman, who has watched with wonder as accusations of widespread pedophilia have slowly become Republican cant, just as he predicted they would.

This is not the first time he and his co-hosts on the political podcast “Chapo Trap House,” Will Mennaker, Amber A’Lee Frost, Felix Biederman, Virgil Texas and Brendan James, have seen reality seemingly bend to their Ursula K. Le Guin-like visions. For the past two and a half years, they’ve witnessed their worst fears about modern liberalism slowly come to fruition, even if they themselves could not confront the horror of Donald Trump’s ascendance to the White House. Since that fateful night, which left them aghast during a live taping of their show, they’ve offered a salve of sorts for leftists searching for an hour-long respite from the relentless horrors of our news cycle.

Their new book, “The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Fact and Reason,” is a rollicking tour of a political landscape blown to hell, from our ghoulish rulers on the right to the hapless centrists hoping to put it all back together again. (Think “A People’s History of the United States” by way of “Our Dumb Century.”) It also follows a rich tradition of American satire that includes such luminaries as Mark Twain, Lenny Bruce and the podcast’s favorite cartoon cat, Garfield.

Since the book’s publication, they’ve done what they do best: shitpost, mostly. But don’t let their cynicism fool you. Beneath all of those layers of dead skin cells from irony poisoning lies a distinctly positive, even hopeful vision of the future. As they write in their manifesto, “Socialism will emerge as the only genuine alternative to the savage, hopeless, gangster system of capitalism—an alternative that offers an actual future, one in which there are enough resources to take care of everybody and to take on humanity’s challenges with a dab of dignity.”

Over the phone, I spoke with Christman about Elizabeth Warren’s anti-corruption legislation, his hatred for Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle and the need for the left to grab hold of our “economic death engine.” What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Jacob Sugarman: So I had a whole Q&A planned, and then the Trump administration began re-enacting the final 20 minutes of “Goodfellas.” How confident are you feeling in your bet on “hell world” this November in light of these latest pleas and convictions?

Matt Christman: As people have pointed out, this news probably would have had maximum impact in October. But maybe a more important story this week, at least as it pertains to the midterm elections, is what’s going on in Georgia, where they’re arbitrarily closing polling places in black precincts. (Editor’s note: Georgia officials have since scrapped plans to close these polling stations.) These are the kinds of developments that will directly affect what happens in November. I really don’t think any revelations in the Mueller probe are changing anybody’s mind at this point.

JS: What struck me about this week’s developments is that they seemed to unfold almost beat for beat like “The Storm” that QAnon keeps promising is coming. How does Trump’s conspiracist base assimilate these latest developments?

MC: It really looked like they were having a moment of doubt for the first time, because this is not what was supposed to happen. But that’s the thing about that mind-set. You can never really be disabused of your faith if you don’t want to be. You’ll think of something. It’ll have something to do with the long game; Trump is just luring his opponents into a false sense of security. But we can’t know what the trap is because it’s being set in the halls of power by the white hats. All these people need are a few Q posts that can be squinted at to reveal some kind of insider knowledge.

JS: In a recent episode, you suggested QAnon betrays the right’s desire for a political purge. But you make the case that liberals have also grown exhausted with democracy. MC: Well, I think the center has collapsed. For those whose positions are not popularly supported, their only real answer for maintaining long-term power is to abdicate democracy. Republicans have been doing that for a very long time now; they’re more and more comfortable with it. And I think that liberals have convinced themselves that voters are these racist, mindless hogs who have to be controlled by elite institutions so they’re not swayed by their popular passions.

The reality is that the voting base that horrifies them so is really a small percentage of people who have been empowered by the alienation of the majority, and of course by gerrymandering and voter suppression. The solution to those problems is a genuine left-wing political movement that liberals simply aren’t comfortable with. So instead they favor a managed, bureaucratic form of democracy. JS: Do you think liberals pose a greater impediment to social progress than conservatives, given their ability to determine the course of the Democratic Party?

MC: I mean, they’re the ones in charge. And they are insistent on maintaining paradigms that have failed and failed and failed—to neutralize popular racism and revanchist worldviews, and to tame capitalism in any way, even as it accelerates toward apocalyptic destruction. Any party that premises itself on saving or redeeming that system is insanely dangerous, and our ability to suffer that delusion is rapidly decreasing.

JS: Elizabeth Warren has unveiled two bills that attempt to reel in the excesses of capitalism—the Accountable Capitalism Act and the Anti-Corruption Act. Do you see this kind of legislation as a necessary intermediary step toward a socialist future, or does it merely prop up a broken system? MC: Well, the [Accountable Capitalism Act] is basically modeled on Germany, which has a system where certain percentages of corporate boards are reserved for workers. This gives them more of a say in the policies and outcome of the company. I think that is certainly an improvement on the status quo now, but whether it’s a helpful intermediary step really comes down to what forces are being mobilized around it. It’s not going to be any bill that dismantles capitalism; it’s going to be a popular movement that does it. And that’s going to depend on a lot of factors outside of anything as dry or static as a policy proposal or a piece of legislation. JS: Why do you think late capitalism seems to produce fewer and fewer class traitors?

MC: I think one of the big reasons is just how completely isolated the wealthy have become from anybody who is not in their class. As such, it completely distorts their perception of the world around them. They are simply unable to put themselves in the shoes of somebody else. Even the idea that there is a class interest they could betray seems alien because this sort of conflict is completely hidden from their daily view. JS: A good portion of the book’s “Media” chapter is devoted to your collective disdain for Megan McArdle, who’s something of a recurring character in the podcast. Why does she seem to send you into such paroxysms of rage?

MC: I think a lot of it is because she’s such an archetype.  She represents every malignancy and pathology of neoliberal ideology that we produce in our culture and media. You have somebody who is the child of wealth, who spent her young adulthood drifting along on her parents’ money, and then was just handed a position as a blogger—a job that shouldn’t exist let alone be considered a position of influence.

From that position, she has blithely supported the Iraq War and every awful economic initiative meant to further immiserate the lower and middle classes in this country. And she has done so without any expertise, insight, understanding or intelligence. Her writing is like pouring bacon grease down your throat, just thoroughly insipid. Half of her fucking columns announce, “I don’t actually know much about this subject, but let me tell you some shit that I got from some fucking Mercatus study.” Yet she is 100 percent convinced she is an example of rugged American individualism, of the dream of someone rising in society through their own ability and good works. That it was all part of her Ubermenschean will to power. I mean her fucking blogging handle was “Jane Galt.” JS: Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.

MC: Oh, I will wander the countryside with the town crier’s bell yelling about Megan McArdle.

JS: In the podcast, you’ve spoken about how the age of Obama saw a proliferation of superhero movies, and how the genre has channeled larger cultural feelings of helplessness. What do you think Trump has meant for popular cinema, if not American culture more broadly?

MC: To the degree that he’s had an impact, it seems as though people feel he must be addressed in their art, regardless of what it is, which is probably not ideal. It’s basically turned every culture producer into a Trump Twitter replier. Of course, if somebody has a real point of view and some talent, that can be rewarding. Take “Sorry to Bother You” or the latest installment of “The Purge” franchise. I thought the “Purge” movie that was made after Trump was elected is way better than the one that was made when people thought Hillary Clinton was going to be president.

But for the most part, it’s just been an enervating attempt to be relevant and respond to Trump in a very literal way. It’s sort of understandable because he’s rendered satire obsolete. The sort-of puckish, Verhoeven-ian cultural criticism of the past has been completely outdone by reality, and so all that’s left is earnestness. JS: You and your co-authors argue that things can actually get much worse than Trump. Do you ultimately see him as the first in a succession of “eliminationist” presidents?

MC: We actually did a whole episode about Peter Frase’s “Four Futures” that ended up being unusable, unfortunately, but I think it offers a very accurate and persuasive breakdown of what life might look like after capitalism. What makes the book so unsettling is that he writes about the more sustainable societies conjecturally while he litters the dystopian ones with examples of things that are already happening right now.

Basically, the left will either become a viable force that offers alternatives and answers to these problems by grabbing control of our economic death engine, or it won’t. But if it doesn’t, I don’t see any reason why the next president won’t promise more walls and drones and guns. If the liberals get in again, we’ll largely have the same policies but with a race-neutral, smiley-face exterior.

JS: Toward the beginning of this administration, you made the case that there were any number of signs pointing to Trump prior to his election, but that there’s seemingly nothing pointing beyond him. Do you feel the same way, however many months later? Does anything give you hope for an alternative future?

MC: I guess the less depressing way of putting it is that things feel unsettled and unmoored in a way that they didn’t before this, and so yes, it’s hard to understand where we go from here. Trump does seem like the punchline to a very long, very bad joke. What do you do after that?

The thing I just can’t get my head around is the idea that Trump will be defeated by some regular Democrat, and that we return to a world where norms matter, where that’s what politics mean again. That just seems impossible. But you know what? Maybe we do try that and actually pull it off for a while. We attempt a Harding-esque return to normalcy, and everyone just wills it into being. Of all the perverse and surreal things that have happened, that might be the most perverse and the most surreal.

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