Chris Hayes spins elaborate thoughts on complex issues into diagrammable sentences — and makes that process look as easy as breathing.

Normally he performs this stunt on cable TV as MSNBC’s weekend morning host. Recently he gave us an in-person demonstration at Grist HQ, where he paid a visit to talk about his new book, Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy, and how its ideas relate to the political deadlock over climate change.

Hayes spoke for an hour with David Roberts and other Grist staffers about his analysis of the paralytic dysfunction of the American elite. He paints the 1% as an overcompensated tribe of hyper-competitors who jealously propagate their privileges yet cling to the delusion that they are self-made superpeople. “We are cursed,” he says, “with an overclass convinced that they are scrappy underdogs.”