Agora Speaker Series:“The Year of the Angry White Male: The 1994 Midterm and the Conservative Populist Crisis”

September 7, 2018 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

This talk engages with Congressional elections of 1994, colloquially known as “The Year of the Angry White Male.” I read tokens, papers, texts, and media coverage of the Republican wave of the 1994 midterm elections, characterized by themes of revolution and moral rebirth embodied most specifically in the Contract with America, a document which functioned as a call for covenant renewal in response to the populist triangulation of the Democratic party and the victory of Bill Clinton in 1992. Conservatism’s turn to a less subtle populism is characteristic of an oscillation native to modern conservatism’s theory of “the people.” Specifically, modern conservative populism attacks political representation as the negation of the popular will. At the same time, refusing to embrace representational politics gives rise to a desire to appear in public space, to have the “mirror of democracy” reflect back to conservatives their place in the polity. In this vein, conservatism’s aggressive, masculinist posturing in the run-up and aftermath of the 1994 midterm is the iron fist to Ronald Reagan’s velvet glove, working as a response to Bill Clinton’s ambiguously sensitive, populist occupation of the presidency while underscoring the rising—even impossible—expectations native to Reaganesque conservative populism.

Location and Address

208B Cathedral of Learning

Directions and Parking Information

Garage and street parking available

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