By Daily Caller•
The left loves to hate on those who speak truths they’d rather not hear. Elon Musk was once their darling until he came out for free speech. Extremists also hate Tucker Carlson, the popular news and opinion host at Fox News, because he has been particularly effective in pointing out the hypocrisy, inconsistency and outright insanity of the far left. They want his show cancelled and him silenced. They’ve even staged protests at Tucker’s home in hopes of intimidating his family. That is how the left works — notice the recent protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices.
Despite all the hate from the left, Tucker Carlson and the ideas he advocates had a very good night this past week in Ohio. One doesn’t have to agree with every opinion expressed by Tucker — he’s expressed literally thousands and thousands of opinions, so it would be normal to have some differences with even like-minded people. But no one can deny that Ohio’s primaries showed that Tucker is on to something big and that conservative, America-first ideas are popular.
Ohio is broadly seen as a bellwether because the state has historically been representative of the nation’s voting patterns in several ways. So what do the Ohio GOP primaries tell us? Twenty-two out of 22 candidates who represented a conservative, America-first political approach won in the primaries. Additionally, GOP voters outnumbered the opposition by 2 to 1 in the US Senate primary. Simply stated, the Make America Great Again (MAGA) approach batted a perfect one thousand and energized voters, proving that the MAGA agenda is far more supported than the Left is willing to admit.
Tucker was also the first major supporter of J.D. Vance’s Senate candidacy — a political newcomer who easily won the GOP primary. While Vance garnered other endorsements, including Trump’s, most came at the last minute, and Tucker’s early support helped build Vance’s support and credibility. Tucker’s endorsement of Vance not only hit back at the left but also dealt the more establishment, anti-MAGA Republicans in the state who had endorsed more moderate candidates a stinging defeat.
The left continues to contend that a conservative, America first economic and foreign policy doesn’t represent what most Americans think and that while Donald Trump may have been the president from 2017 to 2021, he only won because of the so-called Russian collusion. And as a result, he wasn’t that popular and his MAGA agenda was illegitimate. But Ohio’s GOP recent primary proves the lie of the left’s absurd propaganda.
While President Trump on occasion alienated voters with his brusk no-nonsense manner of speaking, his policies were actually widely supported. The economy was strong, wages were growing, America and its friends were safer and less threatened by totalitarianism and terrorism.
And while some voters may have assumed that the economic boom and safer international climate were just good fortune before the COVID pandemic struck, the last 15 months have provided a sharp contrast to the good times that the MAGA agenda brought. The evidence has been mounting that while Trump may have offended some, his policies benefitted everyone and made the country freer, more prosperous and more secure. Ohio’s primary results — with record turn out and a strong and consistent showing for MAGA oriented candidates — prove that Americans have woken up to the destructive mischief caused by the left.
Virtually every night, Tucker Carlson is exposing the left and showing that they seem more interested in expanding their power and prestige than in helping make America stronger, freer and more prosperous. So we should expect the attacks on MAGA candidates and Tucker to become ever more shrill and intolerant. The extremists on the left are losing the political debate — being beaten on the airwaves and at the ballot box.
These are very difficult times for the extreme left. Tucker Carlson will continue to draw their ire as one of the most articulate proponents of America First principles. Anyone who effectively advocates for American values can expect to be the target of increasingly shrill attacks and demands that these “dangerous people” with “dangerous ideas” must be silenced.
The extreme left sees time-tested truths and basic facts as dangerous to their political aims. And since they cannot win the debate, they hope to silence their opponents. If you disagree with Tucker or with an America First agenda, that’s your right. But it isn’t your right to silence those with whom you disagree.
Those who seek to silence others are admitting the inferiority of their own ideas and their ability to advocate for them. Those the left seeks to silence are typically the most effective and fact-based advocates of conservative principles. So watch who the extremists on the left attack most vociferously and seek to silence, and you will know who is advocating most effectively for making and keeping America strong, prosperous and free. I suspect that Tucker will continue to be one of those at the top of their list.
As it is on the brink of retaking power in Congress, the conservative coalition needs to start asking tough questions about what it stands for and how it operates. It also needs to consider the easy ones, like what is and what is not acceptable and in which direction it wants to train its fire.
The introspection is necessary because of people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia’s 14th Congressional District and is so undisciplined in the political sense that when she launches barbs at progressives, she inevitably hits a few nominal ideological allies standing in between where she is on the fringe and where they the liberals are.
Ronald Reagan used to say something about a person who was with him 80 percent of the time not being his 20 percent enemy. It was a wise description, not just of political reality but of the way successful conservative politicians operate. Unlike the Democrats, who are a collection of interest groups that support one another in their efforts to divide the pie, the Gipper led a Republican Party that understood the need to assemble enough votes to win. That meant, as it often did in those days, the GOP needed to court members of the other party as they strolled down the pathway to victory.
In the decades since, the parties like the electorate have grown more polarized. This may be an argument for a strong backbone, but it isn’t an excuse for a big mouth. Greene, who can’t seem to say good morning without causing controversy, seems to believe this is a good way to advance conservative views. Believe me, it’s not.
It’s not just that she goes out of her way to be provocative. That’s sometimes necessary, as Newt Gingrich showed while waking the GOP House Conference up from a 40-year sleep. But provocation without purpose is unhelpful, especially for the other Republicans who are often called upon to respond to what she’s said or done.
The latest outrage was her vote Thursday when she – as one of only seven other members of the House did – voted against suspending normal U.S. trade relations with Russia and Belarus following their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. To her, it seems, America has more important issues to deal with – as she said later in a video posted online:
“If we truly care about suffering and death on our television screens, we cannot fund more of it by sending money and weaponry to Ukraine to fight a war they cannot possibly win,” she said. “The only effect, more arms and more money from America will be to prolong the war and magnify human suffering.”
She may think what she wants, but they conflict with the facts. The brave freedom fighters in Ukraine are holding on better than anyone expected. The Russian Army is performing like something sent by the Tsar rather than as a military force composed of super machines and supermen the world feared during the Soviet era. If she cannot see that Ukraine’s fight is America’s fight, at least so far as when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Congress the invasion was “a brutal offensive against our values” and “against our right to live freely in our own country… just like the same dreams you have, you Americans, just like anyone else in the United States,” then she has missed the whole point about what it means to stand for freedom and self-government.
There have been other incidents as well, too many in fact to contain them all in a single column that is still of readable length. The Democrats were wrong when they voted to strip her of her committee assignments over things she said before being elected to Congress, but that doesn’t make her a hero. Instead, it gave her more time to make mischief, leading her to become a congressional carbuncle, better known for the irritation she has caused than for anything she might have accomplished. Rather than being the brave and often lonely warrior standing for values like freedom against the machinations of the “deep state” she likes to portray herself as being, she has become an embarrassment as well as an impediment to the conservative cause.
There is a profound difference, as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) explains in his newly released memoir “Leader,” between being a person of stature and a person of status. Greene no doubt thinks she is the former when she is most obviously the latter. She has what a journalist friend of mine likes to describe as being an adult form of ADD: she can’t stand it when people don’t pay attention to her.
If she’s serious about extending liberty and protecting freedom, she needs to start being serious about the business of legislating, of offering concrete ideas in the form of legislation that will reduce the burden and reach of the federal government, enhance personal freedom, make the nation stronger and allow us as a nation to proceed forward into the 21st century with our national head held high. If all she wants is attention, she should resign from Congress to start a podcast, get in the radio business or persuade someone to back her in launching a television show. That way, she’ll get the kind of influence she wants – and has – while someone who is interested in doing the job a Member of Congress is supposed to, can have her seat.
For the past two years, the mainstream media has given tons of coverage to the Black Lives Matter movement — and rightly so. More than 80 percent of black Americans, including me, support the movement, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody. But the media is missing many nuances among African-Americans. For one, we don’t all vote alike.
Yes, almost 90 percent of black voters went to bat for the Biden-Harris administration last year. But that leaves 10 percent of black voters who didn’t. Meanwhile, 25 percent of black Democrats actually consider themselves “conservative” and 43 percent say they are “moderate.” White Democrats with a college or postgraduate degree are most likely to call themselves “liberal.”
Some issues that matter to the black community just aren’t getting noticed. Two in three black Americans said they don’t feel represented in media, according to a 2020 study.
Charrise Lane, 22, of Orlando, Florida, is one person who has no interest in voting Democrat. She calls herself a “Conscious Black Conservative” and told me: “I’m a conservative because the Democratic Party has always been anti-black and racist towards black Americans.”
During one of her YouTube posts, Lane explained that her conservatism is shaped by “being surrounded around God and family and placing your values around that … [but] being conservative doesn’t mean you’re Christian… There are a lot of black Americans who agree with conservative values.” She said she wants leaders who are conscious of issues that plague the black community and “listen to the community instead of calling people in the community ‘victims’ and ‘slaves’… It is also about having empathy… and then coming up with policies and ways that will combat these issues.”
Former President Donald J. Trump increased his share of black voters by four percentage points in 2020, partly because he focused on issues that matter to the community — jobs, safety, opportunities, education and healthcare. He also had the backing of black musicians including Kanye West, 50 Cent and Kodak Black, who was pardoned by Trump last year. Just last month, Kodak tweeted, “Bring Trump Back.”
Now, as 45 percent of voters say they strongly disapprove of how President Biden is handling the economy, Felecia Killings, the CEO of the Conscious Conservative Movement, sees an opportunity for black conservatives to make their case. She believes they can mount a strong challenge against Stacey Abrams, who recently announced she is running again for governor of Georgia against Republican incumbent Brian Kemp. Killings regularly tweets her support for conservatism to her more than 22,000 followers on Twitter.
“For decades, we’ve watched progressive policies and government overreach destroy our communities and our rising wealth,” said 38-year-old Killings, who was born in California and is now based in Atlanta, Ga. “Today, these same politicians want to abuse our economic opportunities by implementing heavier regulations and taxations. Conservatism promises to keep more economics right in our hands. This is the message we must preach.
“In areas like Atlanta, which is controlled by Democrats, we’re witnessing a lot of turmoil. We only need to read history to understand Democratic/progressive politics do not work. Having a Democrat governor who is to the left will usher in what citizens experience in states like California. As great an activist Stacey is, her politics will stifle growing wealth.”
In a blog post earlier this year, Bradford Traywick, a black conservative engagement strategist based in Washington, D.C., wrote: “We believe in hard work and entrepreneurship, we have a general distrust of government (albeit for important historical reasons), we have historically supported the right (and even the responsibility) to educate our own children how we see fit, and we respect our right to bear arms to defend our families and communities. African Americans have generally wanted what we believe America promises: a fair shake at achieving the American Dream.”
Two of the most significant trends I noticed among conscious black conservatives are their belief in God and their desire to protect their Second Amendment rights. Research shows that 24 percent of African Americans own guns (compared to 36 percent of whites), and gun owners are almost three times more likely to be Republican than Democrat. Meanwhile, almost 50 percent of new gun buyers are women.
Lane, who said she is currently saving money to purchase her own firearm, wants to be one of them.
“I support guns,” Lane told me. “You never know what might happen when you step out the door or who will try to put their hands on you. It is imperative to put your safety into your own hands.”
Black conservatives said it’s tough being a minority within a minority, especially when members of your own community judge you harshly for your views. “I’ve been called a house slave and … told that I was in the sunken place,” said Claude J. Wheeler, Jr., 26, of Sumter, SC, who is the vice president of his chapter of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Men.
But many also say their faith gives them the courage to speak up.
“My responsibility as a Christian is to love people and to spread the truth,” said Lane, who added that she relies on meditation and prayer to keep her grounded while making her case for conservatism.
“I need my sanity to stay in the fight because I know people need to hear the truth.”
Gigi Sohn's political activism could influence her regulatory approach
Telecommunications experts worry that President Joe Biden’s decision to put a career political activist on the Federal Communications Commission could transform the agency into a bludgeon for the administration to attack conservatives.
Gigi Sohn has called for expanding the FCC’s authority to investigate and regulate conservative networks. She has suggested that one of the leading conservative broadcasting companies should not have a broadcast license and founded a nonprofit that is actively lobbying cable providers to drop the right-wing One America News Network (OANN).
Sohn could soon have the power to act on these radical positions, which some say is cause for concern.
“There’s reason for concern she’d take punitive action against conservative voices,” one telecommunications expert told the Washington Free Beacon.
Katie McAuliffe, the executive director of the pro-market nonprofit Digital Liberty, said Sohn has one major outlet to hamstring conservative media: She could “use the broadcast licensing regime to challenge someone’s use of the airwaves.”
Television networks need to obtain an FCC license to broadcast on the air. The agency has the authority to revoke licenses it has already issued. If confirmed, Sohn will be one of five commissioners who rule on broadcast licensure.
Sohn has throughout her career indicated where she falls on this issue. After right-leaning network Sinclair in 2018 called off a merger with Tribune Broadcasting, Sohn questioned whether “Sinclair is qualified to be a broadcast licensee at all.” She has also called for congressional investigations into Fox News for broadcasting “few if any opposing viewpoints.”
Licensure is not the only area in which Sohn has called for more aggressive FCC intervention. She last year endorsed the activist group Free Press after the group petitioned the FCC to make greater use of the “broadcast hoax” rule, which allows the agency to intervene when broadcasts cause “substantial public harm” to the public interest.
Free Press says that former president Donald Trump’s statements on the coronavirus could violate the “broadcast hoax” rule. The petition specifically names the former president’s March 2020 claim that “I hear the numbers are getting much better in Italy.”
Sohn is a longtime progressive activist known for her “personal relationships with power players all over the capital,” according to The Hill. She cofounded Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that “promotes freedom of expression” and “an open internet.”
Public Knowledge president Christopher Lewis told the Free Beacon that the organization has no interest in government mandates against protected speech but said, “It’s hard for us to fight for free expression when there’s so much disinformation.” Although the group is working to pull OANN off the airwaves, Lewis asserts that the group remains committed to “free expression and promoting diversity of content.”
The Free Beacon reported this month that OANN has thrown its weight behind Sohn’s nomination in the hopes that she will be an ally in disputes with cable carriers.
Sohn faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where she is expected to appear on December 1. Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has called her “a hack” and vowed to fight her nomination. One source tells the Free Beacon that three or four Democratic senators are considering opposing Sohn because of her support for net neutrality.
Glenn Youngkin's victory and the Republican future
Consensus forms quickly. Within hours of winning the Virginia governor’s race, Glenn Youngkin was identified as a model for GOP candidates. The argument ran as follows: The former businessman and political newbie figured out how to hold Donald Trump’s hand—as one Republican senator put it, under the table and in the dark—and still win big in a blue state. He ran on kitchen-table issues: rising prices, schools, crime. He tailored his message to his locality and avoided national debates. None of his television advertisements featured President Biden and none mentioned illegal immigration. He defined himself as a basketball-playing, dog-loving dad from the suburbs before his opponent was able to portray him as Trump in fleece. He built coalitions with parents, veterans, and minority groups. Republicans who follow his path might enjoy similar success in 2022 and beyond.
In truth, Youngkin might not be as replicable as he appears. The reason is candidate quality. For a political rookie, Youngkin has mad skills. He has a preternatural ability to stay on message. He is positive and optimistic without coming across as treacly or sentimental. I have yet to see him frown. He has what Reagan adviser John Sears called “negative ability”—the power to deflect, repel, and ignore personal attacks. Nothing seems to get under his skin. Politicians who have this quality drive the opposition nuts. You could sense the Democrats’ frustration when Biden told a Virginia audience that extremism can come “in a smile and a fleece vest.” Maybe that’s right, but the average Virginian doesn’t look at Glenn Youngkin and see a neo-Nazi or a Proud Boy. The average Virginian sees an approachable and energetic father of four with commonsensical plans to improve the quality of life in his home state. That’s the type of profile any candidate, Republican or Democrat, ought to aim for. But it’s easier said than done.
Both his opponent and the national environment helped Youngkin. Terry McAuliffe learned how difficult it is to win nonconsecutive terms—something that may be of interest to the ruler of Mar-a-Lago. And McAuliffe clearly believed that demographics are destiny and that Virginia was irrevocably blue. He ran on airy evocations of a pleasant past and fiery denunciations of Youngkin as a Trump-like threat to institutional stability and social peace. McAuliffe’s inability to find a galvanizing issue led him to run an idea-free campaign based on mobilizing Democratic interest groups. His accusations of racism and nuttery turned out many Democrats to the polls. Just not enough to win.
The general deterioration of Biden’s presidency hurt McAuliffe. The inflation, incompetence, and cultural radicalism dragging down Biden’s job approval rating are taking other Democrats with him. The red shift in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere on election night hints at bad things to come for the incumbent party. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy speculates that another 2010, when the GOP picked up 63 House seats, may be in the making. For that to happen, McCarthy has to find plenty of candidates who aspire to be Glenn Youngkin, match them against clueless incumbents, and pray that Biden’s approval rating next November is the same as or lower than it is today. This is a possible scenario, and perhaps even the most likely one. But this is also the Republican Party we are talking about. Things can always end in disaster.
It’s less as a candidate than as a governor that Youngkin can be a model for the Republican Party. He’s been given the opportunity to govern, and to govern well. His coattails brought in a Republican lieutenant governor, a Republican state attorney general, and a Republican House of Delegates. The Democrats control the state senate by two seats—but this narrow margin is pliable and open to compromise. Youngkin is in a unique position. He’s the first high-profile Republican chief executive elected in the Biden era. He has the chance to demonstrate that Republicans can address parental revolt, public safety, and economic insecurity in responsible and effective ways. He has the chance to define that agenda in the coming year, and even to broaden it, so that Republicans in 2022 have an example to point to and a lodestar to follow.
This agenda starts with education. Parents became the centerpiece of Youngkin’s campaign, the lynchpin of his victory, after McAuliffe’s career-ending gaffe of September 28, when the former governor said that parents shouldn’t be telling teachers what to teach. In a post-election interview with Hugh Hewitt, Youngkin mentioned charter schools, high curricular standards, and more spending on teachers and on special education. On the trail he pledged to ban “Critical Race Theory,” or “CRT,” from public school instruction—though he has to find a way to do so without revising or omitting the history of slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement. My American Enterprise Institute colleagues Brad Wilcox and Max Eden suggest that Youngkin promote “academic transparency” by requiring parental review and opt-in for hot-button curricula, prioritize educational savings accounts, and align school-board elections with the national political cycle.
Youngkin also has said that he will place public safety officers in schools. This initiative should become the basis for a more wide-ranging effort to bolster state and local police forces, with an eye toward community policing and the reassuring presence of cops on the beat. Youngkin’s “game plan” includes firing the state parole board to discourage early release of violent offenders. He wants to reform the state mental health system. He might also want to combat drug trafficking and opioid abuse—with the understanding that it is better to do several things well than many things poorly.
As Henry Olsen observed in October, Youngkin’s economic agenda fits well with the emerging Republican coalition of non-college-educated voters. Rather than cut marginal tax rates, Youngkin would double the state standard deduction, eliminate the grocery tax, and suspend the gas tax, easing the burden on lower- and middle-income taxpayers suffering from a rising cost of living. He says he’d like to encourage innovation and job creation throughout the state. One way might be to take the lead in “strategic decoupling” from China and incentivize manufacturers of critically important goods to reshore facilities in the commonwealth. Over a decade ago, I accompanied then-senator George Allen (R.) on a tour of a Virginia-based semiconductor plant. Let’s make room for more of them.
The danger for the governor-elect is that he will entangle himself in national debates over vaccine and mask mandates. I expect the next state attorney general to join the legal challenges to President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private-sector employers, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the incoming state government attempts to end public school masking requirements. In general, however, Youngkin ought to be wary of intruding on local control and private-sector decision-making, even if it might win him fans among certain parts of the right. It ought to be remembered that Youngkin’s populism was actually popular and commonsensical—unlike some of the anti-elitism and suspicion of expert opinion that one encounters in politics these days.
It would be a missed opportunity if the governor-elect frittered away his resounding victory on cultural squabbles that generate headlines and score likes but do not improve life for Virginians in the real, not virtual, world. Still, I have a feeling—maybe it’s just a hope—that Youngkin will be a serious governor in demanding times who shows his fellow Republicans not just how to win, but how to govern. All with a smile and a fleece.
Some questions for the national populists
The author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance was a prominent voice on the national-populist right even before July 1, when he entered the crowded primary to replace GOP senator Rob Portman of Ohio. In a speech to the 2019 National Conservatism Conference in Washington, D.C., in appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight, and in his active Twitter feed, Vance has promoted a “realignment” of conservatism away from libertarianism and toward an agenda that uses government to defend traditional values and improve living conditions for the non-college educated voters at the base of the GOP.
Vance is a leader within that faction of the right which says the conservative movement’s emphasis on individual freedom, and its commitment to the classical liberal procedures and “norms” of constitutional government, is responsible for its apparent failure to preserve the nuclear family, and for its exclusion from mainstream institutions. He is a pacesetter for this trend, which drew energy from Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. And because Vance represents one possible future for the American right, I was eager to read the transcript of a speech he gave last weekend to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s “Future of American Political Economy” conference in Alexandria, Va. There is no doubting Vance’s smarts—he graduated from Yale Law School in 2013—or his communication skills. But his text left me with questions.
Vance’s subject was the “American dream.” This is an infamously nebulous concept. Does the American dream refer to a process—the social mobility that allows the adopted son of an immigrant to fly into space on his own rocket? Or does it signify an end-state—the single-family home with a white picket fence in the cul-de-sac occupied by 2 parents, 2.5 children, and a dog and cat? No one really knows. For Vance, the American dream “is about a good life in your own country.” But it is also about being “a good husband and a good father,” who is “able to provide my kids the things that I didn’t have when I was growing up.” It’s a dream that Vance has achieved.
Then Vance contrasts his dream with another dream, a bad dream, the “dream of Mitt Romney.” This American dream, apparently espoused by “establishment Republican politicians,” is a dream of “private jets,” “fancy businesses,” and “a lot of money.” Such an emphasis on material wealth, Vance says, makes most people’s “eyes sort of glaze over.” After all, most people aren’t rich. Most people just “want to live a good life in their own country,” with their spouse and children.
Vance must not be on Mitt Romney’s Christmas card list. Last I checked, the former Republican presidential nominee and current GOP senator from Utah has been married to his wife Ann for over half a century, and has five sons and a countless number of grandchildren. Whatever your disagreements with him—and I have a few—Mitt Romney is a decent, patriotic, and accomplished gentleman who unquestionably has lived “a good life” in his “own country.” Yes, he is quite wealthy. He owns a number of homes. One of them had a car elevator. But it’s not as though Romney made his affluence the basis of his claim to high office.
On the contrary: It was former president Trump who grounded his appeal in 2016 on his “private jets,” “fancy businesses,” television celebrity, and considerable fortune. It was former president Trump who took kids for rides on his helicopter during the 2015 Iowa State Fair, who turned a campaign press conference at Mar-a-Lago into an infomercial for various Trump-branded products, and whose personal life, let us say, could not be more unlike Mitt Romney’s. Yet Vance casts Romney as the bogeyman in this contest of American dreams, and says he regrets voting for someone other than Trump in 2016. What gives? Not only did I end this section of the speech without a clear idea of what the American dream is or who best represents it, I was left wondering what factor other than his opposition to Trump actually prevents Romney from meeting the criteria that Vance sets out.
Vance says that “to live a good life in your own country, you have to actually feel respected. And you have to be able to teach your children to honor and love the things that you were taught to love.” No problem there; I couldn’t agree more. The danger of the culture wars, he goes on, is that the left will force Americans into a posture of regret and shame over their history. The left imposes costs on individuals—de-platforming, ostracization, cancellation—to police retrograde thought and behavior. “That is what the culture war is about.” And he’s right.
Then Vance says that because the only institution conservatives control, on occasion, is government, we ought to use political power to impose costs of our own on “woke capital,” “woke corporations,” and academia. Vance neglects to mention the various counter-institutions that the conservative movement built since World War II to address the problem he describes. Nor does he explain, exactly, how “breaking up the big technology oligarchy” would help men and women like his Mamaw. Even so, the idea that conservatives should use policy to further their conception of the public good is something of a truism. Everybody thinks they are furthering the good. The question, as always, is the means we employ to that end, and whether those means actually work. Government bureaucracy and regulation, for example, are not known for their contribution to human wellbeing (see: Centers for Disease Control). No matter who’s in charge.
At this point, however, Vance makes another statement that left me befuddled. “I’m going to get in trouble for this,” he says, but he goes ahead anyway and asks, “Why have we let the Democrat Party become controlled by people who don’t have children?” Now, he acknowledges, somewhat, that what he is saying is not strictly true: Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi all have kids, and Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi control the Democratic Party and, at present, the national political agenda. Nevertheless, Vance name-checks Kamala Harris (who has two stepchildren), Pete Buttigieg (who, according to the Washington Post, is trying to adopt), Cory Booker, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who’s 31 years old). Vance understands, he says, that “there have always been people” who, “even though they would like to have kids, are unable to have them.” He has no problem with this population, he hastens to add, though he never stops to ask whether any of the four Democrats he singled out fall into it.
What bothers Vance is “a political movement, invested theoretically in the future of this country, when not a single one of them actually has any physical commitment to the future of this country.” He says, without supplying any evidence, that the reason the media are “so miserable and unhappy” is that “they don’t have any kids.” The collapse in American fertility, he goes on, is a crisis “because it doesn’t give our leaders enough of an investment in the future of their country.”
I agree that the decline in American birth rates is troubling, that “babies are good,” and that raising children is an indescribably worthwhile, utterly exhausting, and often infuriating experience (I have two). Children join us in that intergenerational compact which Edmund Burke described as the essence of traditionalist conservatism. No kids, no future.
But you know who else doesn’t have children? A lot of conservatives and Republicans. Maybe they can’t have them, maybe they’ll adopt, or maybe life just brought them to a different place. That doesn’t in one iota reduce their dignity as human beings, or their potential to contribute to America’s public life. And that goes for Democrats and independents, too.
William Rusher, the longtime publisher of National Review, never had children. Does his contribution to American politics count for less? Condoleezza Rice doesn’t have kids. Did that stop her from serving her country for eight years as national security adviser and secretary of state? Lindsey Graham has no children. Has that prevented him from unswerving loyalty to President Trump? Pat Buchanan is childless—yet he formulated the arguments that define so much of national populism today.
Indeed, until a few years ago, the 53-year-old billionaire who donated $10 million to Vance’s super PAC had no kids. Should his contributions to political candidates and philanthropic causes during that time be retroactively judged suspect? The assertion that parenthood is somehow a prerequisite for effective statesmanship is nonsensical. It’s also insulting. Great parents can make terrible leaders—and great leaders are often terrible parents.
Vance says that the “civilizational crisis” of declining fertility requires providing additional “resources to parents who tell us the only reason they’re not having kids is because they can’t afford it.” How should we do this? “We can debate the policy details.” But the only specific proposals Vance mentions are Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s subsidized loans to married couples who promise to have kids, and the completely fantastical idea of demeny voting, whereby parents vote on behalf of their children. What he doesn’t mention, as one of those sullen, devious, childless journalists pointed out, was either the child tax credit the Biden administration is sending to families as we speak, or the various other child credit plans advanced by Senate Republicans, including—wait for it—Mitt Romney.
How can it be that the same “establishment Republican” who represents such an unattractive version of the American dream also wants to make life easier for the working families in whose name Vance speaks? And while I am asking questions, What evidence is there that government spending can arrest, not to say reverse, a demographic process hundreds of years in the making? What special clarity and insight into the workings of politics do parents possess, and on what basis shall we implement the radical ideas that a Hungarian demographer came up with 35 years ago? What does the substance of Vance’s remarks actually have to do with the everyday concerns of Ohio Republicans? I found it noteworthy, for example, that immigration, crime, and “election integrity” don’t come up until the final paragraphs of Vance’s remarks. The word “inflation” does not appear at all.
Such is the confusion that arises when a movement anchors itself to the personality of one former president, when a movement neglects the principles of political and economic freedom that guided it for so many years. It seems to me that for national populism to have a viable future, it needs to avoid straw men, see its political antagonists not as alien enemies but as fellow Americans, concentrate on the issues voters care about, and clarify its thinking on the relation of economics and culture. Can J.D. Vance accomplish this formidable task? He has until primary day—May 3—to try.
On August 1, 2021, Viktor Orban the long-serving Prime Minister of Hungary posted a photo on Viktor Orban/Facebook with Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson chatting amicably at the Prime Minister’s official residence situated in the Buda Castle’s historical Carmelite Monastery. To clarify the situation, Tucker Carlson tweeted: “We’re in Budapest all this week for Tucker CarlsonTonight and a documentary for Tucker Carlson Originals. Don’t miss our first show here starting tonight at 8 pm ET on #Fox News.”
Tucker Carlson’s interest primarily in Viktor Orban personally and secondarily in Hungary harks back to early 2019, when he rightly praised Viktor Orban’s opposition to Angela Merkel’s lax immigration policies. Yet, Viktor Orban’s resolute opposition to Angela Merkel’s and the European Union’s permissive immigration drive would have been more credible if he would not have granted either the equivalent of green cards or even citizenship to countless well-paying individuals as well as their families from Asia. His “humanitarian” largesses that mostly favored rich Chinese and Russian citizens have been performed in total secrecy, raising all kinds of rumors about his, his families’ and his close collaborators’ private dealings with tens of thousands of those individuals with overwhelmingly questionable background.
Artificially linking Viktor Orban’s anti-immigration stand to Europe’s declining birth rate in general and Hungary’s abysmal record of steady population decline, he extolled the prime minister thus: “Hungary’s Leaders actually care about making sure their own people thrive. Instead of promising the nation’s wealth to every illegal immigrant from the Third World, they’re using tax dollars to uplift their own people, imagine that.” Again, Tucker Carlson grossly embellished the Hungarian demographic situation. According to the Central Statistical Office (Hungarian acronyms: KSH), just in the first two months of 2021, the rate of population decline increased by a steep five percent. In the same period, the death rate increased by a whopping six-and-a-half percent. Meanwhile, the number of marriages decreased to 6,877 in the same period. These trends are nothing new in Hungary. Since Viktor Orban’s allegedly pro-Hungarian and pro-family policies, close to one million Hungarians left the country either permanently or temporarily. To add insult to injury, young people declare in unison all over the social media that they do not see their future secured in Hungary and leaving the country permanently.
Furthermore, in the same vein, Tucker Carlson opined: “Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has a different idea. Instead of abandoning Hungary’s young people to the hard-edge libertarianism of Soros and the Clinton Foundation, Orban has decided to affirmatively help Hungarian families grow.” In this manner, in addition to not reflecting reality, his praise of Viktor Orban’s stand on illegal immigration spookily mirrored Hungarian government propaganda. As a follow-up to his flattering comments, he invited in February 2019, the Orban-puppet political non-entity Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto to reinforce this narrative on his show.
To crown his sojourn to Hungary, Tucker Carlson sat down on August 5, 2021, for an interview with Viktor Orban and on August 7, 2021, addressed as the featured speaker the Mathias Corvinus Collegium Symposium, held between August 5th and 7th in the town of Esztergom at the bend of the Danube river. According to the Director-General of the Collegium, “the biggest name at the Mathias Corvinus Fest will undoubtedly be Tucker Carlson.” Both his interview and his speech were unmitigated disasters and made him permanently a laughing stock in Hungary. Except for their utter idiocy, neither highlight of his stay deserves detailed analysis. However, his senseless and unjustified denigration of the United States of America abroad merits a more comprehensive scrutiny.
The Collegium itself has been under the auspices of the Maecenas Universitatis Corvini Foundation, as does the University too, that was established under Law No. XXX of 2019. The Foundation has been endowed by Law No. XXVI of 2020, with many billions of Hungarian Forints (HUF), such as 82 million shares from the government-owned oil company (Hungarian acronyms: MOL), each share worth almost 2000 HUF, 19 million shares of the government-owned pharmaceutical company Richter, at about 7000 HUF each, and a variety of other government-controlled foundations as well as institutions that indirectly channeled government-endowed largesses in the tens of billions to the university. This Foundation is run by a Board of Directors (Kuratorium in Hungarian) selected exclusively by Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party with the absolute monopoly of power in Hungary. Nominally, the Collegium’s mission has been “talent development” of gifted Hungarian youth from all over the Carpathian Basin, meaning mainly ethnic Hungarian youth from the Ukraine, Romania and Slovakia.
For those who are not familiar with Hungarian history and geography, King Mathias, adoringly called Corvinus, ruled the Hungarian Kingdom from 1458 to 1490, and was dubbed the Renaissance King on the account of his progressive reforms and his marriage to an Anjou princess by the name Beatrice from Naples. The town of Esztergom has been the seat of the only Hungarian Catholic Cardinal, starting with Bishop Domonkos the First in 1001. For final historical accuracy, the Corvinus University of Budapest was named under the Communists the Marx Karoly (Karl Marx) Economics Scientific University.
To add intellectual cover to Tucker Carlson’s adventure to Hungary, Rod Dreher, a Senior Editor at the American Conservative, authored on August 4, 2021, a long article in the same publication under the title “Tucker To Hungary, Nixon To China.” Claiming “a personal intellectual investment in the Hungary story” and trying to justify his grandiose title as a conservative breakthrough toward a more sane and effective Republican policy against both the Democrat as well as Republican Establishments and their misguided supporters, he suggests that “Tucker to Hungary is a kind of Nixon to China for conservative American intellectuals and thought leaders.” Then follows an equally idiotic and confusingly discombobulated, grossly superficial and totally useless snippet of quotations from various writers, in which Rod Dreher attempts to show the difference between the allegedly uberliberal and unfree United States of America and the ideally much freer conservative Hungary.
With due respect for Rod Dreher’s “personal intellectual investment,” whatever it is, I would like to present my objective intellectual analysis as well as my learned opinion to his and to Tucker Carlson’s unprofessional as well as extremely irresponsible flirtation with Viktor Orban and his equally unserious creed.
For starters, some personal background. I was born and mostly educated in Hungary. After I took the Hungarian Bar for Judges and Prosecutors with distinction and oversaw all kinds of crimes in Hungary’s Communist society, I escaped to the Federal Republic of Germany. Following a stint with Radio Free Europe, I worked in Academia in Germany. Subsequently, I got an invitation from the United States Congress to join one of its research departments. When Ronald Reagan was elected, I was on loan first to the Supreme Court, then to Senator Orin Hatch’s office and later to the White House. I ended my government career as Congressman Christopher (Chris) Cox’s foreign affairs adviser. I published hundreds of articles as well as opinion pieces and authored several books. Already in 2005, I wrote an article about the real Viktor Orban under the title “Viktor Orban the Hungarian Chavez.” Very recently, I published three major analyses on the current situation in Hungary at www.ff.org. My aim with presenting my professional background is not to boast but to establish my credentials as knowing the United States of America and Hungary too, as opposed to the Monday Morning Quarterbacks of international relations like Rod Dreher and Tucker Carlson. So-called intellectuals should not lecture others for being ignorant of the world when they are guilty of the same offense.
Moreover, throughout my professional career, I have been a staunch conservative and a Republican. I wrote articles against George Soros and those who supported him either intellectually or politically. Until his commentaries about Hungary, I mostly have agreed with Tucker Carlson’s opinions, especially with regard to the overall situation in the United States of America. However, his lying about Hungary has turned him into an idiot. As a result, his reporting about Viktor Orban and the Hungarian situation has only shown glaring ignorance and shameful fakery. More dangerously, Tucker Carlson has positioned himself outside the intellectually objective and honest political debate in the United States of America, thus embarking on a zigzag course seeking to mix order and reform. Seeing himself as becoming the media-equivalent of the “Reagan conservative,” he is running into political as well as intellectual headwinds, because of his deficient intellect and compensatory arrogance.
Both of these qualities have been in full display during his short stay in Hungary. Limiting Viktor Orban’s policies to his justifiably firm response to illegal immigration and his “illiberal” responses to Brussels’ liberal value system are short-sighted and misleading. It would be more helpful to put the Viktor Orban phenomenon in the context of the post-Communist developments in the formerly Soviet Union-occupied region’s general and specific situations. Generally, all the countries that constituted the so-called Soviet Empire in Central and Eastern Europe have been in difficult transitions since 1990 from their original ubiquitously abnormal state to a more normal Western political, economic, cultural and ethical system. In this quest, some have been more successful than others. The Czech Republic and Slovenia have made the most progress. Behind these two states are Slovakia and Croatia. Romania and Bulgaria have been struggling to overcome corruption, poverty and political instability. Poland and Hungary have been the most complex and contradictory examples of the post-Communist parochial as well as global challenges. As far as Hungary is concerned, Balint Magyar published a thought-provoking article in Magyar Hirlap on February 22, 2001, in which he opined: “With the appointment of Lajos Simicska (a former close friend of Viktor Orban’s) as the head of APEH(acronyms for the Hungarian IRS) a new chapter begins. What has happened since means the introduction of the state employing mafia methods within the democratic institutional framework to systematically build up an “organized uberworld” [in Hungarian felvilag as opposed to alvilag that means underworld]. Later, the same author with the assistance of Balint Mladovics published a book titled The Anatomy of Post- Communist Regimes, in which they argue that the so-called linear transition theory cannot be applied for those regimes, because of their “moral inhibition” to consequently adopt liberal democracy. In conclusion, the authors coined the term “hibridology,” according to which those regimes are an inconsistent mixture of liberal and illiberal constructs.
Although I tend to agree in general with Balint Magyar, I think that the term “Mafia state” for Hungary is erroneous. In a Mafia state the government is transformed because the Mafia that develops parallel to the state gradually overtakes the local and central positions of political, economic and financial organizations. What has happened in Hungary since 1990 is exactly the opposite. First, politicians gained absolute political power through using and then abusing the democratic processes. After that, they turned the government into the instrument of their extreme lust for power and money. Therefore, I would rather use the term “Kleptocratic Absolutism” to describe the political regime of today’s Hungary.
The post-Communist so-called “Democratic Politicians” were either members of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (Hungarian acronyms: MSZMP) or non-party persons who elected to stay in the country and conform superficially to the norms as well as the abnormal values of the Communist dictatorship. The latter led a schizophrenic existence that made them hover between collusion with the regime or merger with the political and economic power holders. Clearly, neither the former members of the Communist elite nor the passive sympathizers espoused democracy or free market capitalism.
To add insult to injury, both groups unconditionally believed in the redeeming value of government institutions and their bureaucracies. Thus, instead of changing society by promoting new ideas, they tried to modify, but not reform, the existing government organizations, in order to transpose society and its mentality to their own bureaucratic image. Predictably, the results were devastating. The first democratically elected Antall government in 1990 was on a futile search for a new Hungarian business elite that would, in turn, finance the new-old bureaucracy forever. No wonder that corruption on the scale unimaginable even under the Communists has taken roots in the society. This government of supreme amateurs only lasted a single term. In 1994, the former Communists, their party rechristened to the “Hungarian Socialist Party” (Hungarian acronyms: MSZP) returned to power with an absolute parliamentary majority. Yet, to avoid being reminded of their one-party dictatorship, they allied themselves with the Free Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: SZDSZ) in an absolutely unworkable political alliance. In 1998, came Viktor Orban and his Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: FIDESZ) in alliance with the Smallholder Party (Hungarian acronyms: KGNP). First, Viktor Orban destroyed his coalition partners and then started to take over the political as well as business heights of powers. The first signs of Viktor Orban’s corrupt dictatorial mentality and his lust for money emerged. Suspicion of corruption and conspiracy theories were abound across Hungary. In 2002, his government was sent packing into opposition by the voters for eight long years. The former Communists were back in the saddle with their unloved Free Democrats.
In opposition, Viktor Orban behaved in a most undemocratic and disgusting manner. In addition to barely showing his face in the Parliament, he tirelessly incited his loyal Antifa-like mob to disrupt, threaten and destroy everything in their way. As a result, the years between 2002 and 2010 were the eight lost years for Hungary. Tired of the former Communists and the politically impotent Liberals, the Hungarian voters, in their desperate stupidity, gave Viktor Orban and his party an absolute parliamentary majority.
Viktor Orban’s second chance at absolute powers from 2010 would enter the annals of Hungarian political history as the rapid return to the one-party rule combined with the resurrected self-defeating “Magyar” (Hungarian) semi-Feudal mentality. Domestically, Viktor Orban has been convinced that he is the Messiah the Hungarians have waited for since the humiliating Trianon peace treaty in 1920. Better still, he has believed that he is infallible and possesses God-like qualities to decide by himself what is good for the nation and what is not. For these reasons, he has zero tolerance for any other opinion that happens not to be his. Therefore, he is convinced that he has every right to tyrannize the entire nation whose citizens he looks upon as his subjects.
To this end, his and his party’s first major political/legal act was in 2011 to pass a new constitution, which with its nine amendments thus far, has become a highly politicized instrument for political, economic and moral corruption. Naturally, more laws, decrees, regulations and an avalanche of government decisions have followed that have perpetuated his hold on the media, prescribed the limitations of free speech, the conduct of elections, the financing of political parties, and the obtrusive acquisition as well as shameless expropriation of the national wealth to his family and his chosen elementary, high school and university buddies.
To complete the creation of his absolutism, Viktor Orban and his pliant Parliament appointed a bunch of Yes-men to key and lesser important central and local government positions. In this manner, Janos Ader, the President of Hungary, has become the “signing automat” of every law having been passed by the Parliament without any regard to its constitutionality; Laszlo Kover, the Speaker of the Parliament, who rules with iron hand over the opposition and metes out insane amounts of fines exclusively against their members; Peter Polt, the Prosecutor General of Hungary, who sees his role to protect the Prime Minister and his close associates from domestic and foreign criminal prosecution; Sandor Pinter, the Minister of Interior, who does the same on the police investigation level; and Judit Varga, the Minister of Justice, who tries to explain why the frequent violations of the rule of law are more democratic than any legislation passed by the European Union, etc.
Thus, it beggars belief to hear Tucker Carlson claim incessantly that in Viktor Orban’s Hungary the people enjoy more freedom than in the United States of America and that in Hungary people fear less of the government than in the United States of America. As opposed to Tucker Carlson’s tendentious and misleading narrative, Hungary under Viktor Orban’s absolutism has turned into a closed stock company for the exploitation of the national wealth with profits shared exclusively among members of the government, parliamentarians and their privileged adherents, called in Hungarian slang the “Knights of the NER.” Most of them, including Viktor Orban, have entered government poor as Job, but in politics they have been elevated to millionaires and even billionaires. The Orban absolutism functions like a private business, in which each shareholder thinks of public affairs only insofar as he or she could turn his or her position into private profit. Money reigns supreme for a small minority, while the overwhelming majority of the population either lives in poverty or struggles to make ends meet on a monthly basis.
Meanwhile, the building of soccer stadiums, organizing international sport events, exhibitions, politically motivated financing of ethnic Hungarians across the neighboring countries, etc. have been in full swing for a decade. Unnecessary mega projects, such as the Budapest Belgrade railroad, the extension of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant in Paks, the construction of hotels that would never be filled with tourists, and the elevation of Viktor Orban’s birth place in Felcsut have been objects of nationwide derigion. On the other side of the coin, the once excellent Hungarian education system and the health industry have been run to the ground.
In this economically insane situation, a set of scandals has tarnished the so-called elite. Without going into the well-publicized details of those scandals, it should be sufficient to mention the fact that between 2015 and 2019, Hungary has headed the European Union’s anti-fraud investigation list. During this four year period, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) concluded forty three probes into misuse of funds where it found irregularities and recommended to the European Union Commission to recover some four percent of payments made to Hungary under the organization’s structural and independent funds and agriculture funds. In comparison, in all other member states the recommended rate of recovery of European Union money was below one percent. At the same period, the European Union average was 0.36 percent. Hypocritically, the Hungarian government defended itself by claiming that all the irregularities took place under the previous government. Just a humble note: Viktor Orban and his FIDESZ party has enjoyed absolute power since 2010.
The most recent chaotic controversy again touches upon the suspicion of corruption in Hungary. At the center of this new scandal is the Norwegian government’s financial contribution to the NGOs operating in Hungary. The sum was 77 billion HUF, the equivalent of about 217.5 million Euros. The saga of the Norway project has had its origin in an agreement concluded in December 2020. Accordingly, the above quoted sum was designed to be distributed by an organization totally independent of the Hungarian government. The latter had seven months to designate such an organization. The Hungarian government missed the deadline and still demanded that the Norwegian Fund wire the money to Hungary. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry informed the Hungarian government in early August 2021, that it considers the agreement null and void, because of the Hungarian government’s breach of the agreement. Demonstrating that the word chutzpah has entered the vocabulary of the Hungarian government too, it first criticized Norway claiming that “Norway owes us this money,” since Oslo has benefited from its participation in the common market, despite not being a European Union member state. To show the seriousness, better defined as irrational greed, of the Hungarian government, Gergely Gulyas, the government’s spokesman, stated that Hungary is looking into the legal possibilities to obtain the Norwegian money. To support such a claim, the Hungarian government passed on August 6, 2021, Decision (in Hungarian: Kormany hatarozat) 1564/2021, in which the government instructs the competent ministries to launch a complaint against the “Nowegian Kingdom” concerning the latter’s failure to provide the said amount of money to Hungary.
In this single episode the entire mentality of the Viktor Orban-led regime is present. For Viktor Orban and his clique, politics, including international affairs, is not the art of settling controversies but of trying to intimidate and to shut up those who disagree with them. No wonder that the Viktor Orban regime is losing credibility at home as well as abroad.
With respect to the Viktor Orban-led regime’s international shenanigans, the most important facts have been its anti-American, anti-European and pro-Chinese, pro-Russian and to a lesser extent pro-Turkish policies. The gulf among the former and the close coordination among the latter are alarming, because the feeling of alienation on the one side and the hostile elation on the other are mutual. Increasingly, Viktor Orban is asking what NATO and the European Union would do for Hungary. Clearly, he is trying to use his allies to blackmail them into accepting his “illiberal democracy,” while offering Russia and China access to NATO and the European Union for personal favors. In this dangerous game, in which he could easily be eliminated as prime minister, Viktor Orban has turned Hungary into a state of lies, fear, intimidation and vicious rumors.
As this analysis demonstrates, occasionally small countries must struggle with great challenges too. Clearly, Hungary is at a crossroads. The upcoming national elections next spring will be crucial for the future of the country. Either Hungary will sink further into the swamp of Viktor Orban’s “Kleptocratic Absolutism,” or it will have a chance to rejoin as a democratic nation to the European Union and NATO. The opposition parties have forged a united front, but barely. Currently, their programs lack maturity. In order to succeed, they will have to come up with a more homogeneous set of political and economic messages. Yet, another election victory for Viktor Orban and his party would be unacceptable for Hungary and the West, including the United States of America, regardless of whether the Democrat or the Republican party controls the White House and Congress. For this reason alone, objective information about the situation in Hungary would have been in America’s national interest. Regrettably, Tucker Carlson’s week-long visit to the country did not serve this purpose.
Most importantly, Tucker Carlson appears to be in denial of Viktor Orban’s burgeoning authoritarian tendencies and endemic corruption both at home and abroad. He says nothing or very little about strengthening the ruthless manifestations of glaringly anti-democratic values, such as censorship and other restrictive measures that have become daily occurrences in Hungary. Even more alarmingly, Tucker Carlson is totally silent about the illegal spying on citizens, mainly opposition politicians and journalists. Finally, it is never a positive professional sign about the strength of one’s case when a journalist compares Viktor Orban’s dictatorial regime favorably to the current state of affairs in the United States of America. Thus, instead of presenting an explanation for his fallacious reporting, Tucker Carlson simply suppresses all the unpleasant and negative issues. To a real and knowledgeable journalist, the difference between fraudulent government propaganda and the reality must be self-evident. But not for Tucker Carlson who appears to be on a phony ideological mission. Recommending Viktor Orban’s Hungary worthy to be followed by the United States of America is inexcusably idiotic. In the end, Viktor Orban’s war on the Hungarian people and the West is not about politics. It is about culture and mentality. And in the long run, Western civilization carries far more weight than Viktor Orban’s and Tucker Carlson’s corrupt as well as bastard illiberal democracy.
National Republicans have spent much of the last few months confounded by a challenge. Their opponents are attempting to compel them to choose between embracing Donald Trump and rejecting him. The former president’s shadow looms over everything—and will, until he announces his intentions for 2024.
A lot can happen between now and then. GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) need to go to the American people now with alternatives to what the Democrats are offering. Waiting on Trump to make up his mind or worrying about what he will say is a big mistake.
The Republicans came out of the last election in a much stronger position than many commentators are willing to acknowledge. They gained seats in the U.S. House and, were it not for Trump’s post-election temper tantrum, would have maintained their majority in the U.S. Senate instead of losing two seats in Georgia they should have easily won.
Trump’s campaign autopsy put the blame for the president’s defeat on a failure to manage the COVID crisis effectively. That may have been more perception than reality—since his inauguration, Biden has done little more than stick to the plan already in place regarding what to do after a vaccine was developed. Yet, having voted for the “moderate” Democrat who would “fix” the pandemic, many Republicans and Independents now find themselves incredulous at the speed with which he’s moved to the hard left.
Biden hasn’t been able to get his agenda through, but not because the GOP has pushed back persuasively. The GOP is benefitting from an ideological split among their Democratic opponents who, with the narrowest of majorities in both chambers, are led by two spectacularly unimaginative leaders. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are intent on getting everything passed in one or two bills. With the slim majority they have, that’s a bad strategy.
The GOP leadership needs to reflect on how long it can go before it must posit substantive alternatives to the Democrats’ radicalism. It needs to pivot and refocus the conversation on the most important issue: jobs and the economy.
While the economy is adding jobs, it’s not as many as most economists predict it should be. Republicans should find it galling that Biden claims the credit when his initiatives are job killers. The jobs we’re seeing the economy add were created under Trump after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act but eliminated because of the lockdowns that governors—most of them Democrats—kept in place far too long.
Instead of focusing on Washington, McConnell, McCarthy, RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel and the rest of the GOP leadership should direct the American people’s attention to the states. That’s where the contrast between the two parties really shows.
It’s the Republican states where jobs are coming back the fastest. The five states with the lowest unemployment rates in June 2021 have Republican governors and at least nominal GOP legislative majorities. The eight with the highest unemployment rate are led by Democrats. Republican leadership in the states is succeeding first because their economic fundamentals were sound to begin with. And second because the governors of those states, unlike their Democratic counterparts, had the good sense to suspend the unemployment bonus payments that allowed people to stay at home drawing checks rather than look for work.
In Arizona and Ohio, for example, GOP governors Doug Ducey and Mike DeWine just signed off on tax cuts that will improve the business climate and the outlook for family budgets already being squeezed by “Bidenflation,” with consumer prices already up by more than 5 percent over last year. In Mississippi, GOP leaders like House Speaker Philip Gunn are pulling together a plan to increase competitiveness and attract jobs by phasing out the state income tax. All this is happening at the same time that Joe Bidenand his administration are trying to raise taxes through the roof in the U.S. while getting the industrialized nations of the world to agree to adopt a growth-killing minimum global corporate tax.
The GOP has a compelling tale to tell. It’s a story of how one political party will, if given the chance, take the American people down a path leading to limited government, more personal choice in key areas of life like health care and education, lower taxes, incentives to grow the economy and new jobs while the other party is primarily concerned with making government bigger and then feeding its unending hunger through higher taxes. The choice could not be clearer, so why not talk about it?
In Washington, there are two kinds of Republicans: those who care what The New York Times writes and those who don’t. As hard as it is to believe, there are still some in the GOP who care deeply about what the liberal media establishment says, though it’s not clear why.
The Times has been losing readership for years, along with its power to set the national agenda. It still has influence in the Acela corridor—that swath of urban liberalism between Washington, D.C., and Boston—and among the people who select the stories the major networks will cover. But most Americans get their news from the internet, where, as far as information about politics is concerned, it’s still the wild, wild west.
Among folks who use the internet as their primary source of information, the Times has about as much impact as a fly on an elephant’s back. To these people, what the so-called paper of record says about the GOP, conservatives in general and Donald Trumpspecifically doesn’t matter a swivel-eyed tinker’s damn.
To the elites, Wyoming representative Liz Cheney’s ouster from the No. 3 position in the House GOP leadership is a big deal. To them, it’s all about Trump—a person whose influence, Cheney and her newfound brethren seem to believe, must be cleansed from the party. To those who follow the House closely and understand how these things work, it’s not such a big deal.
Regarding Trump, Cheney is at odds with most of her Republican colleagues. Most of them, it seems clear, either continue to embrace the former president or would rather avoid talking about him, and instead prefer to spend their time and political capital opposing the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris vision for America.
This is not an unreasonable position to take. Nor is Rep. Cheney’s—as an individual member of Congress. If she wants to spend her time crusading against Trumpian elements within the Republican Party, she has every right to do so. However, as a member of House GOP leadership, she has obligations that go beyond the dictates of her own conscience. She is responsible to the colleagues who put her in office and who—earlier this term—voted to keep her there. That means she should be on the Sunday shows and out in the hustings helping GOP candidates take control of the House back from Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. She can’t do that if all she wants to talk about, as she’s made clear, is Trump.
The Republicans should be favored to win back the majority in 2022, based on reapportionment and redistricting alone. For all the Democrats’ protestations about gerrymandering—which they used to extend their own congressional majority for at least an additional 10 years beginning in 1982 without a word from elite media save for the Wall Street Journal editorial page—a fair map drawn without any demographic trickery should easily add the number of seats needed for the GOP to reach and exceed the magic number of 218. But, because nothing in politics is certain, unfocused GOP leadership could throw a wrench into the works and prevent it from happening.
The list of things that could go wrong for Republicans’ House prospects is long and largely speculative. High atop it, though, is a campaign in which Democrats and major media outlets force GOP congressional candidates to defend Trump day in and day out instead of taking the attack to Biden and the Democrats. In that environment, Cheney’s repeated condemnations of the former president and his influence on the party would not have been helpful to winning the House Republican Conference a majority for the two years before the next presidential election. And it would have been fatal to the Republican Party’s attempt to regain control of the Senate.
Members of the congressional leadership are expected to be team players. Leaders, even in the minority, must balance the interests of all members of their conference against their own. It is not easy and not a job for the faint of heart. But the number one priority, former House speaker Newt Gingrich once told me, is “Don’t do anything that will start a civil war inside your own party.” Cheney broke that rule and received the appropriate consequence. She has not been thrown out of office or stripped of her committee assignments. She’s now free to pursue what she thinks best for herself and the GOP without diminishing the prospects the other Republicans serving with her will be reelected.
In Washington, that matters. Out in America, where real life exists, not so much.
The “woke” fancy themselves crusaders engaged in a battle against injustice, racism, inequality and other societal ills they believe have held certain people back since before this country was founded. They may look askance these days at the author of the Declaration of Independence but are passionately committed to his thesis that all men and women are not only created equal but, by virtue of their humanity, possess certain rights which the state cannot legitimately take from them.
Don’t be fooled. It’s all part of an immense power grab by those seeking to remake the nation according to the ideas of certain 19th-century European white males who believed the highest, best use of power was to assure that goods and services—as well as the capital needed to produce them—are not allocated through the free market but “From each according to their ability, to each according to his needs.”
The decision to wrap those ideas up in a contemporary campaign against racism—one that depends on people not seeing their peers as equals regardless of color and on affirmative denunciations of anything remotely “racist”—is a neat trick designed to keep the well-intentioned from becoming suspicious. The United States is probably the single place where, considering our size, population and multi-ethnic character, race matters least. America is a place where anyone can succeed and where success is still considered something to be emulated rather than envied, progressive rhetoric aside. If racism still formed a kind of communal chain holding certain people down, it would have been foolhardy for the GOP leadership to choose Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to deliver Wednesday’s televised response to President Joe Biden‘s address to a joint session of Congress.
Sen. Scott’s success in business and politics, to which he himself alludes repeatedly, is a matter of character. Not just his own but his mother’s, her parents’ and that of several mentors he encountered along the path of life. His experience is quintessentially American—in the best of all possible ways.
So why did the woke remain silent when, moments after the speech ended, Scott began to trend on Twitter as “Uncle Tim”—an ugly phrase, meant to convey the stereotypical image of a black man happily subservient to white people?
It’s a slur all right, grounded in race. It suggests Sen. Scott is somehow a pawn of white men and women rather than a person of strength and independent mind who can judge for himself the best way to go through life.
Why have so few denounced the racist pillorying of a black, Republican United States senator? Why hasn’t the White House press corps asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki if President Joe Biden condemns those referring to Sen. Scott as “Uncle Tim?” Why haven’t Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi been asked whether they consider it an appropriate way to characterize one of their congressional colleagues? It’s not as though questions like these would break new ground. The Washington press corps hounded Donald Trump with them throughout his four years in office. Why is it silent now?
The same is true of the talking heads, whose nightly virtue signals to America about what is and is not racist dictate how the public should feel about every event, politician or piece of legislation. They too have had little to say about the “Uncle Tim” smear—just as they and their predecessors remained silent when similar slurs were hurled at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and other prominent black conservatives. Some of my fellow political reporters and columnists still deny that a notorious incident from the days before camera phones when someone tossed Oreos—black on the outside, white on the inside—at former Maryland lieutenant governor Michael Steele even happened.
If the woke were as anti-racist as they claim, they’d be rushing to Sen. Scott’s defense. “A disagreement with him over ideas is not an excuse to pejoratively invoke the color of his skin,” they might say if they were honest. They haven’t, which is legitimate grounds to wonder about their integrity—on race and everything else. Are their sentiments genuine or are we just being played?
Former vice president Mike Pence announced Thursday the formation of Advancing American Freedom to promote “the pro-freedom policies of the last four years that created unprecedented prosperity at home and restored respect for America abroad.”
To lead the group, he’s chosen Dr. Paul Teller, a highly regarded former congressional staffer and member of his vice-presidential staff. Teller’s policy chops and conservative contacts are hard to match. Pence has also attracted other conservative heavyweights—like former Heritage Foundation presidents Dr. Ed Feulner and Kay Coles James, Arizona governor Doug Ducey, Ambassador Calista and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, former senior Trump advisers Larry Kudlow and Kellyanne Conway and important organizational leaders like Lisa Nelson, Penny Nance and Marjorie Dannenfelser—to serve on AAF’s advisory board.
If you think this looks like a presidential campaign in all but name, you’re not wrong. Pence says he wants AAF to blend “traditional conservative values with the Make America Great Again policy agenda that propelled the nation to new economic heights, and unprecedented strength and prosperity.” That’s a fancy way of saying “take the best of Trump, jettison the baggage and create an agenda the American people—especially the formerly reliable Republican suburban voters who helped put Joe Biden in office—can embrace.”
It’s a smart formula that relies on addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division. As GOP political consultant Roger Stone used to advise, anything a campaign does that isn’t focused on growing its share of the vote is a waste of time.
The question is whether Pence can pull it off. As a House member, he was a GOP star, perhaps in line to be speaker someday. As Indiana’s governor he was a solid, if not exactly inspiring, chief executive who on the ideas front could never quite outshine his immediate predecessor, Republican Mitch Daniels—who is now president of Purdue University.
Pence has a chance to shine now, to step into the spotlight and show America what he’d do and how he’d inspire voters to embrace conservatism redefined. He could bring back the sunny optimism and hope that defined Reaganism—strong and not defensive but also not obnoxious.
On paper that sounds easy. In real life, it will be hard. The media elite already have their guns out for Biden’s potential 2024 challengers. Look at the hatchet job CBS‘s 60 Minutes just tried to do on Florida GOP governor Ron DeSantis, another possible presidential candidate, by alleging that in exchange for campaign contributions he let the Publix supermarket chain dispense the COVID-19 vaccine. The story landed with a thud—but it’s likely just the first of many drive-bys the media will try.
Let’s face it; the elite media helped put Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in office and have a vested interest in seeing them stay there. That means the knives are out for Pence, DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and any other Republican who wants the nomination. This will make it especially tough for the former vice president as The New York Times, CNN and others try to tie him to the former president.
The challenges Pence faces on his way to the White House are threefold. First, he must separate himself from Trump enough to allow the Never-Trumpers to consider voting for him while not alienating the MAGA movement. Second, he has to come up with a bold agenda for growth and reform that will get the country moving again to counter what the Democrats offer during Biden’s term. Third, Trump has to decide not to run.
Since the third point is out of his control, Pence would do best to concentrate on the other two. The team he’s assembled so far represents a top-tier mix of MAGA conservatives and Reaganites, meaning that when he runs, Pence will be a force to be reckoned with.
A favorite Republican catchphrase deserves higher scrutiny
“We are now the party supported by most working-class voters,” congressman Jim Banks of Indiana wrote to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy in a six-page memo this week. Banks, head of the Republican Study Committee, said the lesson is clear: It’s time to act like a working-class party. “Our electoral success in the 2022 midterm election,” he concluded, “will be determined by our willingness to embrace our new coalition.”
The Banks memo, first reported by Axios, is part of a trend. Influential Republicans have embraced the notion that Donald Trump transformed the GOP into the vehicle of the proletariat. “We are a working-class party now,” Josh Hawley tweeted on election night. “The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial, working class coalition,” Marco Rubio said a week later. “The future of the Republican Party is as a party that defends the social, economic, and cultural interests and values of working American families of every race, color, and creed,” Trump toldCPAC in February. Last month, Rubio announced his support for Amazon employees in Alabama who want to form a union.
Banks doesn’t go that far. The word union appears nowhere in his memo. He mentions “labor” only once, in a derisive reference to a Democratic special interest group. The lacuna is a reminder: Despite the emerging consensus that the GOP is a working-class party, there is little agreement on what such a party should stand for. Industrial policy? Trust busting? Family subsidies and financial transaction taxes? Banks sidesteps these trendy measures on the intellectual right. He suggests instead that Republican candidates adopt Trump’s posture of opposition to illegal immigration, offshoring of manufacturing jobs, COVID-19 lockdowns, Big Tech censorship, and political correctness.
It might take a second—or longer—to see how the issues Banks highlights relate to the material interests of Republican voters. What they have in common is an adversarial attitude toward the votaries of managerial liberalism. Indeed, Banks’s dichotomy isn’t between working class and capital, but between populism and elitism. Republicans, Banks writes, must “highlight the cultural and economic elitism that animates the Democrat Party.” It’s “Democrat elitism” that has driven working-class voters to the GOP. And “nothing better encapsulates Democrats’ elitism and classism than their turn towards ‘wokeness.'” Taxes, spending, welfare, and entitlements do not come up.
For all of the “working class” rhetoric in conservative discourse, few Republican politicians have adopted the economic measures put forth by Oren Cass at American Compass, Samuel Hammond at the Niskanen Center, and Julius Krein at American Affairs. Rubio and Hawley are political entrepreneurs willing to push the boundary of conventional GOP policymaking. But they are outliers. A figure like Banks, who has to win reelection every two years, is more cautious. He perceives that Republican voters are more interested in aggressive prosecution of the culture war than in technocratic manipulation of the economy.
The “class war” mentioned so often in conservative discourse is in fact the continuation of the half-century-long war over which values and social roles should be authoritative in American culture. Imposing a class framework on this struggle leads to confusion. After all, according to the 2020 exit poll, President Biden won voters making less than $100,000, while then-president Trump won voters who earn more than $100,000 by 12 points. And Biden won union members by 16 points. The AP Votecast results were more closely divided, but just as muddled: Trump lost voters who earned less than $50,000, barely won voters who made $50,000-$99,999, and narrowly lost voters who earned more than $100,000.
If you read class through the lens of educational attainment, you see that the GOP leans ever more heavily on white voters without college degrees. But that trend long predates Trump. And the white voters without bachelor’s diplomas are a large and diverse group. They encompass a variety of ages, life experiences, occupations, and net worth. The successful contractor who attended college for a few years before starting his own business has a different set of economic concerns than the restaurant server or grocery store clerk. Does muscular labor define membership in the working class? Perhaps. But not every voter without a college degree works with his hands. And agriculture and industry constitute a narrow base for a political party in an economy where 79 percent of jobs are in the service sector. Conservatives like to position themselves as the representatives of the rural heartland against the cosmopolitan metropolis. True enough. But what about the majority of Americans that lives in the suburbs?
Ideology, partisan affiliation, and religiosity mark one’s place in the culture war far better than income or education. Liberals went for Biden 89-10 in the exit poll, and conservatives backed Trump 85-14. Both candidates won 95 percent of their respective parties. And the gaps between voters without a religious affiliation and all others, and between white evangelical voters and all others, were huge.
Ideology also explains the Republicans’ surprisingly good performance among minority voters. There’s evidence, for example, that black Protestants are moving toward the GOP. “What happened in 2020 is that nonwhite conservatives voted for Republicans at higher rates,” election analyst David Shor recently explained to New York magazine. “They started voting more like white conservatives.” Why? Revulsion at the far-left messaging of radical elites on immigration and policing.
When the pollsters at Echelon Insights asked Republicans what they want from a candidate, the answer was someone who would “fight” for the conservative cause, support the Trump agenda, and speak out against cancel culture. The most important issues for Republicans are illegal immigration, law and order, taxes, and liberal media bias. The Echelon data have been replicated elsewhere. My AEI colleague Ryan Streeter writes, “Large national surveys conducted by the American Enterprise Institute suggest Trump’s supporters are actually quite content with American economic life but highly reactive to elite dominance of American culture life.”
Calling Republicans “working-class” is a self-flattering way to put the party on the side of the “forgotten American.” But it risks reducing voters to factors of production. And it flirts with an economic program actual Republicans don’t seem to want. The new class consciousness is another example of the Europeanization of American politics: For decades, the two parties competed for the loyalties not of the working class but of the middle class, and public policy experts devoted themselves to improving the condition of the urban poor or “underclass.” Now, Republican communicators are beginning to sound like the leaders of European parties whose anti-bourgeois romanticism often manifests itself in ugly ways.
Maybe less has changed than people think. Remember that Barry Goldwater first identified himself with the “forgotten American” back in 1961. The GOP remains a populist conservative party whose voters are incensed at the values, directives, and rhetoric of the men and women who occupy the commanding heights of American culture. It’s the party of married parents, of the small business owner, of the journeyman who aspires for a better life for his family. It’s the party of peace through strength, low taxes, safe streets, legal immigration, national pride, and traditional pieties. And what it needs most in 2022 are strong candidates who inspire the grassroots without terrifying independents.
Veteran Emmy-winning broadcaster Rita Cosby, it was announced Monday, is joining the primetime lineup on WABC 770 AM, the New York City-based station that at one time served as the flagship for the late Rush Limbaugh, whose three-hour daily program changed American radio forever.
In an interview conducted before the launch, Cosby promised her show would be “a cancel free zone” and invited listeners and fans of all kinds to call in with questions and comments.
“Rita Cosby is the best in the business, with a tremendous following and incredible background,” John Catsimatidis, CEO of the Red Apple Group and 77 WABC Radio, said. Her new show, which will air weeknights from 10 pm to 12 midnight “will bring a new and exciting dynamic to our important evening programming.”
“Rita’s top-notch interviewing skills, impeccable record in journalism, and deep ability to connect with our listeners,” he added, portends big things for both the show and the station, Catsimatidis continued. The program begins at a time when the future of terrestrial talk radio, at one time an incredibly economically robust industry platform, is undergoing major changes thanks to the proliferation of podcasts, satellite radio, and internet streaming service.
None of that should pose any problems for Cosby, one of America’s most recognized broadcasters whose successes across various media platforms can be matched by few other journalists. Her work in journalism has taken her around the globe and includes live reporting from the war zone in Afghanistan, from Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia during the NATO bombing, and along the U.S. border with Mexico. Known for her engaging style and headline-making interviews, she has obtained exclusives with more than twenty world leaders, including seven U.S. Presidents and Pope Francis, as well as with entertainment icons Michael Jackson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and infamous inmates Dr. Jack Kevorkian and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, a serial murdered who terrorized New York’s five boroughs beginning in the summer of 1976 through his arrest in August of 1977.
“We are thrilled to have Rita Cosby taking over this important timeslot. Beginning Monday, our evening listeners will get a great dose of the latest news along with powerful and compelling interviews, from one of the country’s most well-regarded broadcasters,” said Chad Lopez, the president of Red Apple Media/77 WABC Radio.
Cosby was named Radio Ink’s 2018 Most Influential Woman Legend of the Year and has won six Gracie Awards in radio, including for Outstanding Host and Outstanding Talk Show. She previously worked at 77 WABC radio, serving as the station’s political editor and as the anchor of weekend and midday talk shows, from 2014 to 2018.
“The Rita Cosby Show” begins at 10 pm on March 15, 2021, and be heard on 770 AM throughout the New York City greater metropolitan area and live on the internet at https://wabcradio.com/.
In the weeks since Donald Trump departed the White House — and during the four years he resided there – we were constantly told that conservatism is in crisis. Then again, crisis seems to be a recurring condition for conservatism, or, more precisely, for the American conservative movement. By and large, these crises have proved fertile. American conservatism’s resilience over the last seven decades — its ability to shift weight and adjust focus to achieve a suitable balance — suggests that what appears as calamitous disarray involves salutary adaptation, sometimes painful and awkward, to changing circumstances.
The post-World War II conservative movement was born in crisis. Communist totalitarianism abroad and rapid expansion of the welfare state at home provoked incisive responses from two camps: those determined to conserve individual freedom and limited government and those dedicated to conserving traditional morality. Both classical liberalism and traditionalism had populist appeal, espousing principles that political and intellectual elites rejected but which significant swaths of ordinary voters embraced.
In 1955, a sense of crisis surrounded William F. Buckley’s launch of National Review. The upstart magazine quickly established itself as American conservatism’s preeminent publication, serving as a home for classical liberals and traditionalists, who were often at loggerheads even as polite society ostracized both. The conservative movement’s first national standard-bearer, Barry Goldwater, suffered a landslide defeat in the 1964 presidential election to Lyndon Johnson. In the mid-1970s, the fallout from Watergate roiled conservatism as well as the nation. George H.W. Bush’s loss to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election sent shock waves through the conservative movement as did Barack Obama’s defeat of John McCain in 2009 and Mitt Romney in 2012.
In each instance, the movement regrouped, recalibrating the balance between classical liberal and traditionalist imperatives, while appealing to the people against the elites. National Review laid the groundwork for Goldwater’s candidacy. His defeat and Watergate’s tumult served as preludes to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. President Clinton’s failed effort (which effectively excluded Republican participation) to pass health-care reform energized Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution. President Obama’s successful passage of health-care reform (which also effectively excluded Republican input) galvanized the Tea Party movement. Eventually, the Obama administration’s permissive immigration policy and inattentiveness to the distress that globalization wrought in working-class households fueled the populist backlash that Donald Trump rode to the White House.
In “A New Conservatism: Freeing the Right From Free-Market Orthodoxy,” published this month in Foreign Affairs, Oren Cass addresses conservatism’s current crisis. He sensibly contends that, in light of Trump’s achievements and implosion, conservatism must rebalance its priorities. For good reason, Cass urges conservatives to develop better policies to deal with inequality, labor, and public education. However, his tendentious critique of those whom he disparages as promulgators of “market fundamentalism” — from whom he would strip the title conservative – echoes old errors that marked internecine conservative strife dating back to the 1950s. It also warps today’s political realities and subverts Cass’s aspiration to form a right-leaning governing coalition.
Cass is executive director of American Compass. Founded in 2020, the new organization’s mission is “[t]o restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity.” At the time, Jack Butler gently observed in National Review that “some of Cass’s immediate claims are worth questioning.” That remains true.
Consider his mockery of conservatives’ response to the COVID-19 global pandemic: “Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House flipped frantically through their dog-eared playbooks from the 1980s to determine just the right tax cut for the moment.” In the pandemic’s wake and consistent with their principles, many conservatives did propose tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Cass, however, falsely accuses Republicans of having “hewed rigidly to an agenda of tax and spending cuts, deregulation, and free trade.”
Actually, the GOP adopted a hybrid agenda. On March 27, 2020, in the pandemic’s early days, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed by a Republican-led Senate and a Democratic-led House. The CARES Act provided one-time cash payments to individuals, temporarily supplemented unemployment benefits, authorized loans to small businesses and large corporations, and delivered hundreds of billions of dollars to state and local governments. In May 2020, the Trump administration announced Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership that in record time supplied the American people and nations around the world with responsibly tested and highly efficacious vaccines.
Cass’s narrow definition of conservatism further distorts his analysis. “The hallmark of conservativism,” he begins reasonably enough, “is not, as is often thought, opposition to change or the desire for a return to some earlier time.” A related mistake, he observes, is “that conservatives lack substantive preferences.” But instead of identifying American conservatism’s substantive preferences — along with its principles and understanding of human nature and government — Cass highlights conservatism’s supposedly defining concern: “What in fact distinguishes conservatives is their attention to the role that institutions and norms play in people’s lives and in the process of governing.”
Progressives, too, care about the moral and political impact of institutions and norms. Having wrested control of the K-12 school system and universities, mainstream media, Hollywood, and the federal bureaucracy, they seek from those commanding heights to remake popular and political culture. Moreover, the left — in the academy, the media, and government — stresses the use of law and public policy to transform family, society, and the organs of government in accordance with progressive norms. Left and right differ over which norms should be cultivated, how institutions should be structured, and the extent of government’s involvement.
Cass’s abstract definition of conservatism as attentiveness to norms and institutions, moreover, reflects the excess of abstraction that conservatives since Edmund Burke — whom Cass cites as a model — have criticized. While appreciating that conservatives in the mold of Burke must combine “a disposition to preserve” with “an ability to improve,” Cass does not adequately specify the norms and institutions central to the American experiment in ordered liberty. In contrast, we can look to “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” published in 1790. In that document, the first of the modern conservatives came to the defense of the venerable beliefs, practices, and associations that sustained British liberty against the radical dogmas about freedom emanating from Paris.
While the American conservative movement possesses substantive preferences and is dedicated to the preservation of specific institutions, Cass fails to identify the core ones. Well understood, the conservative movement in America seeks in the first place to preserve the constitutional order, which is grounded in unalienable rights, embodies the principles of limited government, and depends on a citizenry that is educated — at home, in the community, and at schools — for the rights and responsibilities of freedom. Cass rightly seeks policies that fortify families, sustain communities, and address the discontents of working-class Americans, who have been hit hard by globalization. But he tends to downplay or neglect the imperatives of individual freedom and limited government in the fashioning of such policies.
American conservatism must once again respond to crisis by striking a balance, appropriate to the circumstances and the demands of the moment, that gives both classically liberal convictions and the traditional morality that sustains freedom their due. We need not “a new conservatism” but rather a new blend of American conservatism’s enduring principles.
Former President Donald J. Trump’s recent speech to the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) put him back in the spot he most enjoys: front and center of the national conversation. He’s been the topic, even as President Joe Biden suffered his first defeat on Capitol Hill and House Democrats passed a bill that suppresses our treasured right to freedom of speech.
Trump, always controversial, continued unhelpfully to assert the election was stolen from him even while effectively attacking the nascent Biden administration for undoing policies that “made America great again.”
The speech breathed new life into the discussion of a possible run in 2024 and whether he could win the Republican nomination.
Republicans and Democrats both know he could be a formidable presidential candidate in 2024, should he win the GOP nomination. He won 74 million votes in 2020—11 million more while losing than he did while winning in 2016. The GOP also picked up a governorship and flipped control of two state legislative chambers from Democrat to Republican (Democrats flipped none). Out of 227 defeated state legislators seeking re-election, only 52 belonged to the GOP.
Trump ran ahead of John McCain and Mitt Romney among blacks and Hispanics, and the GOP came within an eyelash of winning back control of the U.S. House of Representatives—when pre-election forecasts predicted they’d lose as many as two dozen seats.
Still, it’s not all gravy. The GOP lost control of the U.S. Senate and, as Karl Rove pointed out recently in The Wall Street Journal, almost all the Republicans running for the House ran ahead of Mr. Trump—”including eight in the 14 closest races that gave the GOP its pickups.” Down-ballot, the pattern was repeated, as many state legislative candidates ran ahead of the president.
Trump ran ahead of John McCain and Mitt Romney among blacks and Hispanics, and the GOP came within an eyelash of winning back control of the U.S. House of Representatives—when pre-election forecasts predicted they’d lose as many as two dozen seats.
Still, it’s not all gravy. The GOP lost control of the U.S. Senate and, as Karl Rove pointed out recently in The Wall Street Journal, almost all the Republicans running for the House ran ahead of Mr. Trump—”including eight in the 14 closest races that gave the GOP its pickups.” Down-ballot, the pattern was repeated, as many state legislative candidates ran ahead of the president.
Others have encouraged the party to disavow Trump and what they refer to as “Trumpism”—which, until the former president’s speech at CPAC, was a phrase left either ill- or un-defined by those advocating for it.
This is where the danger lies—something that could plunge the GOP into a prolonged civil war that could cost the party greatly, and for a long time. Going forward, the party needs to decide what it’s for and what it’s against, and give the American people “an agenda worth voting for,” as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used to say.
What that in mind, it’s important to first define what “Trumpism” is in order to decide if it should be tossed aside. At CPAC the former president defined it as support for cutting marginal tax rates and deregulation to spur economic growth and job creation, traditional values and a strong military, secure borders and a merit-based immigration system, law enforcement, the rule of law, the Second Amendment, life, liberty and not letting China eat America for lunch (among other things).
Altogether, that sounds like an agenda most conservatives could, and should, support.
There may be other positions out there that people in positions of influence would like to see the GOP adopt. If there are, they should say so now, so that a discussion can be had. Simply throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as some suggest, would erase decades of progress by conservatives in defining the GOP as a coalition standing for free minds, free people and free markets.
That’s not to suggest everything about Trump should be swallowed whole. Like many of his predecessors, he refused to tackle entitlements, did nothing to address spending and approached important intergenerational issues and societal changes in a ham-handed, angry fashion. It’s one thing to push back against the Left—and it’s important he did—but it’s equally important to pursue consensus and to remember that compromise does not necessarily equal capitulation.
Right now, the GOP is stuck. To move forward and regain the majority in Congress as well as the presidency, the party must figure out how to take from Trump what was best while casting off things that were political or electoral liabilities. It’s not as hard as it sounds—and it’s been done before, as in 1994, when Republicans got past President George H.W. Bush’s betrayal of his promise to never raise taxes to win back Congress for the first time in 40 years.
The party’s mission, as the former president told CPAC, “must be to create a future of good jobs, strong families, safe communities, a vibrant culture and a great nation for all Americans.” If the GOP can come up with a plan to do that, its future electoral success is assured.