Many modern progressives swear by The Young Turks, an online progressive talk show that is now also on Current TV. I am among those progressives.
The Young Turks is hosted by Cenk Uygur, an unapologetically aggressive progressive, who tells the real $tory of politics daily alongside many other excellent members of the LA-based TYT crew: co-host Ana Kasparian, Michael Shure, Ben Manciewicz, Wes Clark Jr., and new TYT talker John Iadarola. The Young Turks' is the quintessential American Internet Dream: they have built a massive online audience (their YouTube channel has over 797 million views) because they are an excellent alternative to the mainstream press, which is so often more concerned with appearing balanced than telling the truth.
John Iadarola, who calls Austin his favorite city, appears on the online show frequently, and co-hosts another one of TYT's shows (there are many): TYT University, where John and Lisa Ferguson, a reporter and producer for Current TV, talk college news and give tips and tricks for students. John initially drew the attention of TYT when he started submitting videos about college while a graduate student at UT.
John came to Austin after his undergraduate studies at the University of Connecticut to pursue his PhD in Government. I recently asked him some questions about his time in Austin, politics, and some of our more notable (and embarrassing) Texas politicians.
First of all, congratulations on your awesome new gig with TYT, a gem of the progressive movement.
Thank you – I was extremely lucky to get the chance to work for them, especially considering how small a company it is and how few people they've ever hired as full time staff.
Can you tell us why you chose to go to school in Austin?
It was a combination of a few factors, really. Most importantly (and most practically) since I was going into graduate school, money was a huge factor. UT's government department is very generous with its funding and stipends compared to other universities. Beyond that, its a great school academically, has beautiful weather, and is located in my favorite city in the world.
It may sound cheesy to say, but there really is no other university like UT Austin, and even though I left before finishing my degree, I know I'll always look back on my almost five years in Austin without any regrets.
Were you politically active while on campus?
In certain senses, I suppose. I didn't involve myself in any campaigns, but I did go to a few rallies back during the 2008 election. Also, I did produce political commentary videos for The Young Turks while living here, some of which directly involved Texas political issues. Also, I like to think that during my years of TAing political science courses, I hope that I was able to cause at least a few students to think about politics in a new way.
That said, I think that Austin is a great place for students to begin to become politically active, even if the politics of Texas itself is a bit one sided, at least in recent years.
What do you think about the state of politics on the Forty Acres?
I think that politically Austin is similar to many universities across the country – a generally liberal (if not especially political sophisticated) pocket of young people surrounded by more conservative areas. That said, I think that UT students are more politically active than the average. You can see it clearly as you walk across campus. While not all are involved in strictly political issues, the students do seem very interested in and involved in campus, Austin, and nationwide issues and topics.
Do you still pay attention to Texas politics?
To some extent, but if I'm being completely honest, I've always been much more involved in national politics than the politics of any particular state. I do think that Texas is interesting at least in regard to where it is, and where it might soon end up, as a result of demographic changes.
What have you learned about Texas politics observing it from inside the state and then leaving the state?
Aside from covering Ted Cruz's occasional crazy statements, I haven't found myself following it too much. We're in an national election after all – need to focus on the big picture right now!
Have you been recognized in public yet?
A few times, yes, either because of my own videos or just as a part of The Young Turks, but not often. I like to think our organization is influential in its own way, but we're not MSNBC or Fox. Our fans are a very small percentage of the general population, which is too bad, really, since I think we fill a very unique spot in the political media spectrum.
What do you think about Rick Perry's hints at running for governor again in 2014 and president in 2016?
I can't say I was very impressed with the way Perry presented himself to the country during the Republican primary. To the extent that it hurt the perception of Texas it bothers me even more. Still, I would have to imagine he'd have a good shot at reelection for governor. President though? I can't see him ever doing any better than he did the last time around. He doesn't strike me as the type to learn well from his mistakes.
If he does run for governor again, I just hope that the democrats are able to field a candidate that will give us a competitive race.
What are your thoughts on Ted Cruz?
Look up “Ted Cruz” and “hobbit homes” on youtube and our take on him will be one of the top results. That'll tell you all you need to know about Cruz and some of his lunatic conspiracy theories.
Any plans to come back to Texas?
If The Young Turks decides to branch out into regional studios, expect me to lobby hard for an Austin location. One way or another I want to end up back in Austin. Enjoy the city while you can! There's no where else in the country quite like it.
Biggest difference between LA and Austin?
You won't be surprised to hear that the size is a pretty “big” difference. Austin has different neighborhoods, but its still fairly compact. Austin has just as much culture and diversity, but in a smaller package.
I really miss that.
Which Austin restaurant do you miss most?
Its a tie, I think. I really, really miss Torchy's Tacos. We've got tacos out here, of course – even breakfast tacos, but they're just not the same. So Torchy's, and Papassitos. I could eat their fajitas pretty much every day and be happy.
Wait… does the Alamo Drafthouse count? We've got one being built in LA, but so far nothing like it. So yeah, I take it back. I'd kill to have a Drafthouse in my neighborhood in LA.