The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.


Today's Republicans were made in the 1990s

Sean Illing talks with Nicole Hemmer, history professor and author of the new book Partisans. In it, she gives a reinterpretation of the Reagan presidency and what followed, and shows how the conservative political movement entangled with media figures and became what it is in the 1990s. They discuss the doomed but influential presidential campaigns of Pat Buchanan, the rise to dominance of conservative talk radio, and the enduring dangers of political violence.

Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

Guest: Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry), author; professor, Vanderbilt University


  • Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s by Nicole Hemmer (Basic; 2022)
  • "The Man Who Won the Republican Party Before Trump Did" by Nicole Hemmer (New York Times; Sept. 8)
  • Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States by Brian Rosenwald (Harvard; 2019)
  • On the Fairness Doctrine (First Amendment Center; MTSU)
  • GOP Reagan Library Debate (CNN; Sept. 16, 2015)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
  • Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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 2022-11-07  1h6m