An overwhelming number of Americans likely to vote in the November 2022 election said they were troubled to one degree or another by the problem of “fake news,” a survey released Friday said, likely prompting them to view the information they are getting from traditional media outlets with a degree of distrust.
The poll conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports found a vast majority of the 1,000 likely voters questioned – 83 percent – called “fake news” was a serious problem. A clear majority – 55 percent – defined it as “very serious.”
“Only 37 percent of voters say they trust the political news they’re getting, while 43 percent say they don’t trust political news,” the polling firm reported, calling it a “slight improvement” since April 2021 when a similar survey found only 33 percent of respondents said they “trusted political news.” That same poll had 54 percent of those participating saying they thought “most reporters, when they write or talk about President Joe Biden, are trying to help the president pass his agenda.”
Distrust of media, the poll showed, is widespread across all demographic categories, with 54 percent of whites, 56 percent of black voters, and 60 percent described as “other minorities” believing “fake news” is a “very serious problem in the media.”
Alarming as those numbers might be, even more shocking – but perhaps not unsurprising – is the number of respondents in agreement with the characterization of the media as “truly the enemy of the people,” an accusation made by former President Donald J. Trump that was widely criticized even by some journalists who are not considered members of the media elite.
The Rasmussen Reports survey found a majority of those surveyed – 58 percent — saying they agreed “at least somewhat” with Trump’s description including 56 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks, and 60 percent of other minorities considered likely to vote in the next election.
“As might be expected, Republicans are more likely to agree with Trump’s description,” the firm said of its findings while cautioning that “37 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party also at least somewhat agree.”
The poll finds members of the GOP also more likely to identify “fake news” as a problem but, incredibly, 74 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of unaffiliated voters also thought it was “at least a somewhat serious problem in the media.”
The numbers concerning Democrats and independents are surprising considering that, as Rasmussen Reports found, it’s President Joe Biden’s strongest supporters who “have more trust” in the media than those who are not satisfied with the direction his presidency is taking.
“Among voters who strongly approve of Biden’s job performance as president, 72 percent trust the political news they’re getting,” Rasmussen Reports said. “By contrast, among voters who strongly disapprove of Biden’s performance, 74 percent don’t trust the political news they’re getting.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man many consider to be the public face of the U.S. government’s fight against the COVID virus, now stands accused of violating a federal law prohibiting certain government employees from engaging in activities and making statements intended to influence the electorate.
Protect the Public’s Trust, a government watchdog organization, said in a June 30 filing that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, ran afoul of Hatch Act restrictions during an October 30, 2020 interview with The Washington Post in which he “intimated that the state of the nation’s public health outlook could be directly linked to the two candidates’ diverse approaches” to combating the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The virus, which some allege was created in a bacteriological research facility in the People’s Republic of China, spread rapidly around the world and is believed to be responsible for the death of more than 600,000 people in the United States alone. A recent Rasmussen Reports national survey of registered voters found 46 percent did not believe Fauci had not been truthful about U.S. financial support for the “gain of function” research — defined as “taking a virus that could infect humans and making it either more transmissible and/or pathogenic for humans” — conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, who is also a physician and has aggressively called for a full investigation into the origins of COVID has said repeatedly that emails sent and received by Fauci and uncovered by a Freedom of Information Act request show that Fauci was aware American taxpayer-funded grants were at least partially underwriting the Wuhan lab’s research that may have produced the virus.
Asked by The Post about the differences between the plans of the two 2020 presidential candidates for dealing with the pandemic, Fauci praised then-former Vice President Joe Biden for “taking it seriously from a public health perspective” while stating simply that President Donald J. Trump was “looking at it from a different perspective.”
The group’s complaint also singles out Fauci’s call for an “abrupt change” just days before voters headed to the polls. It could be inferred from his remark that he was advocating for Biden to replace Trump in the White House though, in the context of the interview it appears he was talking about the national strategy for stopping the spread of COVID.
The collection of issues related to COVID has a major impact on the 2020 election. They were, Protect the Public’s Trust recently wrote, a “paramount concern for voters entering the 2020 general election.” An August 2020 pre-election Pew Research poll cited by the group found, “62 percent of voters say[ing] the outbreak will be a very important factor in their decision about who to support in the fall.”
Post-election surveys as well as Trump’s own campaign team’s analysis explaining why he lost suggest strongly the public’s perception he’d mishandled the pandemic drove many voters — even some who typically vote GOP — to cast their ballots for Biden.
“The timing of (Fauci’s) statements, combined with the circumstances of the interview and post-election comments celebrating the outcome,” The Federalist wrote about the complaint when it broke the story in June, “illustrate further intent in Fauci’s remarks that violate the Hatch Act.”
The election, The Federalist pointed out, was decided by less than 43,000 votes across what it called “three tipping-point states” despite Biden’s popular vote total having exceeding trump’s by more than 7 million. The narrowness of the actual result could, some election professionals say, be interpreted as lending support to the argument made by the watchdog group that Fauci’s remarks assisted Biden politically even though that would be hard to prove.
The federal Hatch Act dates back to the New Deal period and is the result of allegations some connected to the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt had played politics with funds intended to alleviate the economic impact of the Great Depression to the benefit of local Democratic Party political machines. In its current form, it also prohibits members of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service – of which Fauci is part – from engaging in political activity while on duty and from using their official authority to interfere with an election.
After having qualified for the UEFA European Championship 2020, Hungary finished last in its group that included France, Germany and Portugal too. The two ties, 1:1 and 2:2 respectively against France and Germany were celebrated as actual victories, while the 0:3 defeat to Portugal in Budapest was hailed as a quasi-triumph on the account that the match stood 0:0 until the 84th minute. The Prime Minister Viktor Orban, members of his cabinet as well as top functionaries of his FIDESZ party, and the more excitable fans celebrated the actual elimination of the national team from the most important European competition as a clear sign that Hungary’s redemption from domestic and international oblivion has taken a decisive step forward.
Contrary to the one-party rule propaganda, the grim reality is that the Viktor Orban-led Hungary is in multiple crises. Since 2010, when the Hungarian voters in their boundless naivete rewarded Viktor Orban with two-thirds majority, the country has gradually reverted to the pre-1990s one party rule. As in the old Communist times, a single individual controls everything, from all three branches of the government, through the nation’s economy, to the written and electronic media.
Indeed, as during the Soviet occupation, the fear of the despotic powers has overcome the population. Life, property and personal freedoms have been subject to arbitrary decisions. Ownership of lands and successful businesses have been unsafe from well-connected greedy individuals who have enjoyed impunity from illegal acts by the FIDESZ-controlled police and prosecutorial authorities. Corruption has been pervasive, systematic and thus out of control. The well-educated have been leaving Hungary in droves. Young people have seen no future for themselves and their children in a country that does not value knowledge, experience and merit-based accomplishments. Nepotism and loyalty to Viktor Orban have been the new symbolic “little red Communist party membership cards” to professional and financial success.
Meanwhile, investments in the productive sectors of the economy, in education and in health care have been almost non-existent. Yet, monies have been poured unaccounted into erecting an irrational number of soccer stadiums, building other sport-related facilities and attempting to secure the rights to organize a variety of European and World competitions in Hungary. Under Orban, soccer has become the great political unifier of the Hungarian nation. In the government propaganda, Viktor Orban has reminded Hungarians incessantly that the country’s national soccer team represents more than a team. According to him, it embodies Hungary with its past, present and future. His slogan “We are bound together by the Red, the White and the Green” references the national colors of Hungary. To add an oversized enthusiasm to this absurd and existentially meaningless political hype, Viktor Orban also claims that “Together we are the greatest team.”
All this should serve as a spooky reminder to the morbid practices of the East German and the Romanian Communist leaders. Erich Honecker, the long serving Communist leader in East Berlin sank huge sums of money into a wide assortment of sports to prove the superiority of his political regime vis-a-vis the truly democratic Federal Republic of Germany. In the same spirit, the other Communist despot in Bucharest Nicolae Ceausescu feverishly built soccer stadiums, the majority of which was never used during his lifetime. East Germany disappeared from the map following the successful unification of the divided Germany on October 3, 1990. Nicolae Ceaușescu was summarily tried and executed immediately thereafter with his wife by a firing squad on December 25, 1989. Today, heirs to these dead Communists are Viktor Orban and his pal on the crossroads of Europe and Asia Recep Tayip Erdogan. However, as in East Germany and Romania of the not so distant past, only the mentally handicaped think in Hungary and Turkey that their respective countries’ general situation would improve because of the progressive performance of their soccer teams.
In addition to expediting the erosion of the nation’s value system, Viktor Orban’s self-serving and narcissistic psychopathy has contributed to the disintegration from within the post-Communist Hungarian society. Having been a Dopey Ignoramus by nature, Viktor Orban reminds Hungarians of their past and present miseries and their innermost feelings that their country historically has constantly been under siege by external enemies. For this reason, he has suggested that the present hostility from NATO and the European Union toward Hungary must be countered domestically by a pervasive government oversight and vigilant interventions in every aspect of the citizens’ lives.
Under the current structure of the one-party state, in which Viktor Orban’s utterances cannot be challenged, his exaggerated and aggressive chauvinism has created a thriving cult of paranoia. Thus, during the 2018 national election campaign, posters went up, warning people to watch out for foreign enemies, such as the financier George Soros, the liberal establishment in Brussels, as well as the allegedly unpatriotic machinations of his domestic opposition. In rural backwaters, he and his party warned of Western-backed “destructive influences” and “anti-Christian infiltration.”
No wonder that Hungary’s authoritarian turn has reverberated far beyond the borders of the country. As Viktor Orban has sought to eliminate foreign and domestic challengers, his ruthless efforts have sparked mistrust in Brussels and Washington, D.C. As Viktor Orban’s personal despotism faces another electoral test in the spring of 2022, his ambivalence about the durability of his over a decade long reign shows the fundamental uncertainties and even failures of his soccer symbolized political project. Accordingly, less than a year before the next elections, Hungary is more an underdeveloped country than a developing one with an insignificant geostrategic value for the United States of America as well as NATO. Yet, this relative insignificance does not mean that Viktor Orban’s Hungary cannot pose a serious threat to the unity of NATO and the European Union by the way of emerging Chinese and Russian penetrations.
The United States of America in particular has the opportunity to take an active and effective stand against what Viktor Orban has been doing and would attempt to do in the future. The Biden administration could convey to the Hungarian government its objections to the hardening of authoritarianism, its shameless corruption and its demonization of the opposition. Moreover, the Biden administration could communicate its displeasure over the Hungarian situation internationally. In this context, the White House and the State Department could utilize the written and electronic media to expose Viktor Orban’s destructive, irrational and immoral regime in its entirety. Finally, President Biden should warn Viktor Orban in no uncertain terms that the continuation of his anti-NATO as well as anti-European Union policies would further perpetuate his status as an outcast within both organizations.
Time is of the essence. The White House must take the lead to state unequivocally that the member states of NATO and the European Union will not stand for Viktor Orban’s anti-Western political vandalism. Viktor Orban’s vaingloriousness aside, Washington, D.C. and Brussels cannot afford the kind of disruption to their core interests and fragile unity that he and his regime represent. The threat of Chinese and Russian penetration of NATO and the European Union, coupled with a burgeoning regional instability by Viktor Orban’s destructive chauvinism, makes the Hungarian situation absolutely untenable for the West. For this reason, the situation in Hungary must be met now with an urgent coordinated response from the community of free nations. In closing, Viktor Orban must be shown the soccer’s red card by the leaders of NATO and the European Union that stands for the sending-off from the field of players who exhibit violent and illegal conduct or purposeful obstruction of a goal scoring opportunity for the opposing team. By doing so, the Free World could demonstrate its resolve to assist every member state that lost its way to full democracy to find its path back to political, economic and moral well-being.
Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law Friday a bill that would make the Silver State the first in the nation to hold a presidential primary during a general election year.
The measure, which passed both chambers in the Nevada state legislature last month, changes both the manner and date of the Nevada contest. Previously a caucus, delegates to the national nominating conventions would be chosen in a primary held on the first Tuesday in February, The Hill newspaper reported.
Despite Sisolak making the move law with his signature, the major national political parties will still have to approve the calendar change. A refusal by either party to agree to the move puts the state at risk to lose its delegates to the 2024 national nominating conventions.
The move also sets up a fight with New Hampshire, which traditionally and by state law is currently home to the first-in-the-nation primary. At the time this story was written, Gov. Chris Sununu had yet to comment but it is unlikely he and the members of the state legislature will allow its historical role to be eclipsed. Legislation moving the New Hampshire primary to an earlier date so that it would come before the new date set for Nevada is likely.
The Nevada move would also likely push the Iowa Caucus back to an earlier date. Voters there traditionally meet to show support for nominees before the New Hampshire primary. Any contest between these three states (and others that might wish to move their nominating dates toward the beginning of the process) has the potential to move the first balloting for the next presidential race back into 2023.
The Hill reported the initiative to move to a primary in an early position on the calendar was pushed by state Democrats including former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid who, despite his retirement remains a powerful force in state politics. To justify the move they cite at least in part problems with the Iowa caucuses in 2020. In his first and thus far only televised White House press conference, President Joe Biden affirmed he plans to be a candidate for re-election in 2024.
There are certain words one never associates with former President Donald J. Trump. One of them is “coy.” Yet there he is, dancing around the question of whether he’ll run for president in 2024 like a young girl who is asked out for the first time.
Trump remains a power in the GOP, but it’s not certain he’ll run again. In 2016, his carefully crafted image as an outsider bent on shaking things up tapped into the public’s frustration over the way government continually fails to solve problems and, in the process, makes many of them worse.
The Republican presidential field in 2016 was fertile ground for the seeds he would plant. But 2024 is not 2016. Trump’s pathway back to power is not as straight as his overwhelming popularity among likely GOP primary voters makes it appear to be.
Before getting to that, however, it’s useful to review how he originally became the GOP nominee in 2016.
First, because just about everything he said made heads explode at the headquarters of the elite New York media, Republican primary voters immediately concluded he was a trustworthy conservative.
Second, coverage of Trump being outrageous and combative sold papers and generated ratings. Promoting his candidacy became an issue of financial self-interest among the media conglomerates who make and break American presidential candidates.
Third, a cohort of media stars supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid to become the first female president helped Trump along because they thought he was the Republican it would be easiest for her to beat.
Fourth, no other Republican running in 2016 could have taken down Trump without ending his or her own candidacy. Rather than alienate the voters warming to his message, the large field of Republicans mostly took the punches he threw without punching back. They let him define them. “Little Marco” and “Low-Energy Jeb” worked because Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) were too timid to push back hard enough when it still might have mattered.
Trump has had a good week. His recent speech to a statewide gathering of North Carolina Republicans was generally well-received. And the release of a government report exonerating him of charges that he ordered demonstrators occupying Lafayette Park in May and June of 2020 tear-gassed and dispersed so he could stage a “photo-op” gives his supporters one more media lie to point to.
The other Republicans who want to be president already understand that winning the nomination requires going through Trump. They’re going to have to play rough like him—which, in a much smaller field than the one in 2016, changes the calculation in their favor, not his.
Consider former Vice President Mike Pence, who’s already out making speeches and will soon visit the critical early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He’ll never say so publicly, but most everyone in GOP circles knows his relationship with Trump is currently frosty and only likely to grow colder. Trump is an anchor around Pence’s neck, whether he runs or not. It’s in the former veep’s political interest to start drawing distinctions early.
If he does, other potential GOP candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also have openings to differentiate themselves from Trump. Former Trump-era Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley already tried, but did it too early, got slapped for it politically and has had to keep her head down while she repairs the damage.
The thing most likely to keep Trump from winning the nomination is his need for vindication. He keeps talking about voter fraud being responsible for his loss in 2020 without offering verifiable proof that it occurred on the scale he claims. There probably was some fraud—there always is—and the vehemence with which the Democrats try to shut down any discussion of it is puzzling. Nonetheless, it’s an old story that’s getting older by the day. Americans like to look and go forward. They aren’t that much interested in backing up if Bidenflation has wiped out their savings accounts and sent their job overseas.
If Trump wants to be the next GOP presidential nominee, he needs to talk more about what he’ll do to win in 2024 than why he lost in 2020. The chances of that happening, say many GOP insiders, is minimal.
Presidents who misremember history are doomed to repeat it
President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress underscored this administration’s left turn. The speech was a laundry list of progressive priorities in domestic, foreign, and social policy with a price tag, when you add in the American Rescue Plan, of some $6 trillion. Biden’s delivery, heavy with improvisation, only slightly enlivened a prosaic and unoriginal text. Biden repeated lines from both Bill “the power of our example” Clinton and Barack “the arc of the moral universe” Obama. But it wasn’t just the words themselves that made me think of Biden’s most recent Democratic predecessors. The scope of his plans, increasing government’s role in just about every aspect of American life, also brought to mind the Democrats who tried to govern as liberals after campaigning as moderates.
I’m old enough to recall the last president who vanquished Reaganism. Obama spoke of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” and came to Washington in 2009 with the aim of changing the trajectory of the country just as Ronald Reagan had done three decades earlier. Shortly before his one hundredth day in office, he delivered a speech at Georgetown University where he promised to lay a “new foundation” for the country. His friends in the media hailed him as the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “Barack Obama is bringing back the era of big government,” historian Matthew Dallek and journalist Samuel Loewenberg announced in the New York Daily News.
We know how that turned out. The GOP captured the House in 2010. By the time Obama left office, Republicans had full control of Washington and were dominant in the states. Reaganism survived. And now, 12 years later, the cycle is repeating. This time it’s President Biden who is likened to FDR. It’s Biden who is said to have interred the idea of limited government. It’s Biden who is marking his first 100 days in office with plans to spend trillions on infrastructure, green energy, health care, and elder and child care. The political setbacks of the Obama years didn’t temper Biden’s ambitions. They intensified his desire to leverage narrow congressional majorities into sweeping expansions of the welfare state.
Why does Biden think he can avoid Obama’s fate? Like a good lawyer, he has a theory of the case. It goes like this: Neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama spent enough money to ensure a strong economic recovery. They didn’t emphasize jobs above all else. Their caution was responsible for Democratic losses in the midterm elections. And all it takes is GOP control of one chamber of Congress to spoil a liberal revival. By opening the floodgates of federal spending, Biden hopes to deepen and extend the post-coronavirus economic boom. Growth and full employment will prevent a Republican takeover. And a second Progressive Era will begin.
The problem with this theory is its selective misreading of history. It wasn’t just the economy that sank the Democrats in 1994 and 2010. It was independent voters who turned against presidents who campaigned as moderates but governed as liberals. Nor did rising unemployment stop Republicans from picking up seats in 2002. And an economic boom didn’t save the House GOP in 2018. In every case, assessments of the president—among independent voters in particular—mattered more than dollars and cents. By committing himself to the idea that massive spending will safeguard the Democratic Congress, Biden may be inadvertently guaranteeing the partisan overreach that has doomed past majorities.
Biden doesn’t give enough credit to the record of his Democratic predecessors. The unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in January 1993 when Bill Clinton was inaugurated. By November 1994, it had fallen to 5.6 percent. Meanwhile, the economy grew by 4 percent in the third quarter of 1994. Nevertheless, the Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 40 years and the Senate for the first time in 8 years. Why? Because Republicans won independents 56 percent to 44 percent. Voters who had backed Ross Perot in 1992 swung to the GOP. Voters’ top priority in the exit poll wasn’t jobs. It was crime. And the failure of Clinton’s unpopular health plan didn’t help.
The 2010 midterm had similar results. The economy, while nothing to brag about, was nonetheless improving. Unemployment had been falling since October 2009. Growth, though anemic, had also returned. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate because independents rejected President Obama’s governance. They backed Republicans 56 percent to 37 percent—an 8-point swing against a president they had supported in 2008. Why? Part of the reason was the economy. But the Affordable Care Act was also significant. Health care was voters’ second priority in the exit poll. A 48 percent plurality called for Obamacare’s repeal.
Biden’s theory also omits the contrary examples of recent Republican presidents. In November 2002 the unemployment rate was higher, and growth lower, than in November 2000. But the GOP had a good year anyway thanks to President Bush’s high post-9/11 approval ratings and a tough but effective campaign on national security.
The 2018 midterm is further proof that campaign results are not a direct function of economic performance. Democrats won control of the House despite full employment and sustained growth. Independents, who had narrowly backed President Trump in 2016, turned against him and voted for Democratic candidates by a 12-point margin. No mystery why: A 38-percent plurality of voters said they were voting to oppose Trump, whose strong disapproval rating was at an incredible 46 percent in the exit poll. Health care ranked as the top issue, with voters recoiling at the prospect of an Obamacare replacement that failed to cover preexisting conditions.
Not only do the data show that the economy is less important to the midterms than many assume, they are also a reminder that the first hundred days do not define a presidency. The fate of a president and his party depends more on his ability to maintain popularity and on his performance during unanticipated crises. While Biden’s approval ratings continue to be positive and his disapproval low, there are some warning signs: His approval among independents ranges between the mid- to high-50s, and a majority of voters disapproves of his handling of migration along the southern border. Focused on his grand plans for the economy, Biden might dismiss voter concerns over immigration, crime, and inflation until it is too late.
Sure, Biden might avoid making Barack Obama’s mistakes. But he has plenty of time to make mistakes of his own.
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.
The Democrats don’t plan to run on their record in the 2022 midterm elections. They plan to go to the voters and argue that Republicans are too crazy and too outside the mainstream to be allowed to return to power in Congress.
Whether that will be enough will depend in part on the health of the U.S. economy. If the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer spending binge and planned tax increases don’t hamper the post-COVID recovery, that might be enough. However, if the economy tanks and the Republicans pull together a realistic program for bringing growth and jobs back and getting spending under control, a GOP-led majority in both chambers is not only possible but likely.
Before you snicker, remember the Republicans came within a hair of winning back control of the House in November 2020 even as Donald Trump was losing. GOP congressional candidates ran ahead of Trump in about 180 of more than 210 winning races, and Republican House candidates won more contested races than Democrats did. A change in control isn’t out of the question by any means, which is why the progressive campaign machine has to do all it can to discredit its opposition in the minds of the electorate.
Enter QAnon, the internet-based wellspring of conspiracies ranging from the sublime to the outrageous—and all of them ridiculous. Unfortunately for the GOP, a few folks who’ve lately been their voters (not to mention a newly elected member of Congress or two) have been caught on social media spreading the conspiracists’ tales.
Up until it filled a narrative need, QAnon was a little more than a curiosity among the relatively few people who were aware of it. The intrigues it promulgated did produce a few notable and even tragic events but, in the main, it drew the attention of the fringe. That is, until its usefulness in painting a picture of the GOP as controlled by radical insurrectionists became clear. After that, the legacy media became the biggest outlet for its tall tales under the guise of reporting.
Up to a point, the strategy of elevating QAnon been a success in that it left GOP leaders in the difficult position of defending their own while repudiating the insanity. It’s a tight rope to walk. What the Democrats must do now is determine whether they can sustain these attacks over two years, and whether they’re insulated enough to avoid serious blowback.
You see, it’s not just the GOP that has a problem with conspiracy kooks. The Democratic Party is full of them too—and they’ve got the reins of power now. Consider that Rep. Maxine Waters, who now chairs an important congressional committee, was first heard of across America when she accused the CIA of being behind the crack epidemic in the nation’s inner cities.
She’s a problem, not that people bring that up much anymore. Maybe the GOP should. Republican leaders might also want to talk a bit about the Democrats who said George Herbert Walker Bush flew to Paris in 1980 to negotiate a secret agreement with the Iranians to keep the hostages until after the election. (Spoiler alert: He didn’t, but it took a congressional investigation to knock that rumor out).
Remember all the things the Democrats said about the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians and the allegations contained in the Steele dossier. They didn’t remain inside the confines of cyberspace; no, they became front-page news and were treated seriously for months until poof, nothing.
In the last few weeks, prompted by another tirade by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a guy who could have given the late Joe McCarthy some lessons on tactics, social media was abuzz about the supposed “real” circumstances leading to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision to step down from the U.S. Supreme Court with a cast of characters including his son, officials of Deutsche Bank, and others appended to numerous tweets.
It’s undeniable, as historian Richard Hofstadter famously wrote back in 1964, that there is a “paranoid style in American politics.” What he and others miss is that it’s not confined to the Right. It’s at least as prevalent on the Left, if not stronger. The difference is that while the GOP’s crazy sometimes becomes unpleasant, the Left’s progressive crazy sometimes becomes law, which is much harder for all of us to deal with. If you doubt me, read the text of H.R. 1 closely.
Congressional Democrats are pitching their H.R. 1 “For the People Act” as a necessary salve for a broken electoral system. If enacted, they claim, the bill’s provisions will fix a broken campaign finance system, protect voting rights, and make the average American feel once again like they can trust the system we use to select our leaders.
Truthfully, it doesn’t do any of those things but they’re hoping no one catches on. Or because they fear being called “racist” or worse for failing to fight “voter suppression,” won’t fight. That’s unfortunate, at least for the GOP – whose strategy to stop the bill depends on the filibuster – because it’s a bad bill that would keep the Democrats in power almost in perpetuity.
Among its many outrageous provisions is one that would essentially vitiate state laws requiring voters to produce some form of government-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. To most Americans, that’s a commonsense kind of thing, backed by 75 percent of likely voters in one recent poll.
Look at the facts. We’re asked to show ID every day, whether we’re trying to get on an airplane, make a bank deposit, or enter a federal government building. Democrats say, without offering a convincing explanation as to why it’s so, that asking the same of voters at a polling place would be racist and constitute voter suppression rather than protect the constitutional guarantee of “one person, one vote.”
The American public isn’t buying the criticism, something Red State Democrats like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Arizona’s Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, and Montana’s Jon Tester should be thinking about when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York tries to twist their arms and get them to vote for the bill. There is room for a principled objection to the bill because voters still back the idea that a valid photo ID must be shown before a ballot can be cast by overwhelming margins.
A recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found 75 percent of likely voters agreed voters should have to show a valid driver’s license or some other form of government-issued identification before they could cast a ballot. Less than a quarter of all those surveyed – just 21 percent – said they were opposed.
When an issue has nearly 80 percent support, a smart politician just stands next to it. As it now stands, on top of the near-universal support it has nationally, 36 states have some form of voter ID law that would be nullified to one degree or another if H.R. 1 – which passed the House with only Democrat support — becomes law.
In its analysis, Rasmussen reports said, “Support for voter ID laws has actually increased since 2018, when 67 percent (of likely voters surveyed) said voters should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to vote.”
Voter ID laws are strongly backed by Republicans, with 89 percent saying they support making people prove who they are before they can cast a ballot alongside 77 percent of non-affiliated voters and, remarkably, 60 percent of Democrats sharing that view. The party in Congress, it seems, is out of touch with its rank and file.
As to the claim that voter ID laws are discriminatory, Rasmussen Reports says, voters, reject it by a margin of nearly 2-to1 as “60 percent say laws requiring photo identification at the polls don’t discriminate.” Just under a third, 31 percent, said they do while 10 percent were not sure either way. Unsurprisingly, a bare majority of Democrats – 51 percent – say such laws do discriminate 79 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independents said they did not. Somewhat shockingly, the pollster said, “Voters under 40 support voter ID laws more than do older voters” as do most whites (74 percent), blacks (69 percent), and other minorities (82 percent).
The abolition of voter identification requirements is but one of several odious provisions contained within H.R. 1 that would, many analysts have claimed, make it harder to prevent election fraud in the future.
Other provisions contained within the legislation would mandate same-day registration in all 50 states, expand early voting that in some states runs into months rather than weeks or days, and establish rules for handling ballots that would essentially codify the practice of ballot harvesting some states have already made illegal.
By winning control of the House, Senate, and White House in 2020, Democrats created an opportunity to make it easier for them to win in the future and harder for anyone to criticize them. Their first order of business, which House Democrats call the “For the People Act,” is largely an exercise in taking the worst election laws in some of the worst-governed states and imposing them on the entire country.
The bill has passed the House, and plenty of worked-up activists (including much of the media and the still-Never Trump establishment) think Democrats should abolish the filibuster to pass it through the Senate.
H.R. 1 would override state election laws and impose all sorts of mandates, including automatically registering adults to vote, even if they don’t want to register. Democrats passed the For the People Act in 2019, too, but the newest version has some new ideas that they apparently gleaned from the 2020 election.
The bill would bar states from even requiring that identification be provided as a condition of obtaining an absentee ballot.
With these and other provisions, H.R. 1 would nationalize the administration of elections. And it goes even further in nationalizing other bad ideas.
The Democrats’ bill aims to normalize ballot harvesting by striking down any state safeguards against the practice. Yes, some states’ anti-ballot-harvesting laws might accidentally criminalize innocent activity, such as letting Joey run your mail-in ballot up to the mailbox. But if we really believe the vote is sacred, basic safeguards against coercion, fraud, and bullying are necessary.
Taking up Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s “dark money” obsession, the bill requires corporations, unions, trade associations, and other advocacy groups to disclose campaign-related expenditures over $10,000, as well as the donors who fund them. That would function as a clear deterrent to constitutionally protected political speech and association.
California has a law like this, and it’s a bad law, aimed at curbing criticism of politicians. Groups as ideologically divergent as Citizens United (yes, that Citizens United) and the American Civil Liberties Union are lobbying the Supreme Court to strike down California’s mandate.
Why would you want to impose this disclosure burden on groups that might criticize a politician or simply express a political opinion? We don’t really have to guess. Democrats are known to use the power of elected office to punish political dissenters. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has practically made a career of this, and he is about to be promoted into the Biden administration for it.
As usual, Democrats want to intimidate and silence people whose views they don’t like. They also want to deputize Big Business to do it for them — as when they demanded that Amazon deplatform Parler and Twitter deplatform former President Donald Trump. Now, Democrats are pressuring AT&T to drop Fox News.
Democrats know that with forced disclosure, they can scare any businesses or individuals out of funding groups that oppose the Democrats’ aims or criticize them.
The bill also nationalizes another bad state-level policy: the politics tax. H.R. 1 would establish the taxpayer funding of political campaigns — and you can be forgiven for reading that as welfare for the political consultant swamp-class. The House bill tries to cover up the fact that the money ultimately comes from taxpayers by claiming that it comes from criminal and civil penalties on corporations and rich people. But money is fungible. And whenever politicians lack the courage to admit they are funding their proposals through tax dollars, you know they’re ashamed of it.
Coercing voters by normalizing ballot harvesting, coercing donors through forced disclosure, and forcibly funding politicians and their consultants — one wonders why Democrats believe more in coercion than in freedom and debate.
Even though America is still within the first 100 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, most voters are telling pollsters they approve of his performance on the job. According to a poll conducted recently by the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the president gets high marks from 60 percent of those surveyed.
Along party lines, Biden’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic is viewed favorably by 70 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans. Some analysts would say the latter figure lines up nicely with pollster Tony Fabrizio’s post-election autopsy for the 2020 Trump campaign that concluded it was the former president’s mishandling of the COVID crisis that did the most to alienate GOP voters and drive them into the Democratic camp, at least at the presidential level.
Importantly for the GOP, which is still trying to figure out how best to proceed in the post-Trump era, a
new Rasmussen Reports survey found that 51 percent of Republicans considered likely to vote in 2022 thought congressional Republicans had “lost touch” with them over the past several years.
While 41 percent of the likely GOP voters surveyed said their individual representatives “have done a good job representing the party’s values,” their criticism of the congressional party is an ominous sign. It’s true, Rasmussen Reports said, that the numbers were a marked improvement “over previous surveys dating back to 2008” but with well over a third still dissatisfied with what the party in Congress is doing it will likely be difficult to bring the pro and anti-Trump forces together on any affirmative plan to win back the majority in both chambers.
“Democrats are far more satisfied with their representation in Congress,” the polling firm said as, “62 percent of Democratic voters say Democrats in Congress have done a good job of representing Democratic values, while 32 percent say their party’s Congress members have lost touch with Democratic voters from throughout the nation.”
Other findings revealing in the survey include:
–Sixty-five percent (65 percent) of voters not affiliated with either major political party think Republicans in Congress have lost touch with voters, while 51 percent of unaffiliated voters say Democrats in Congress are out of touch.
–Voters under 40 are more likely than their elders to say Democrats in Congress have done a good job representing their party’s values. Voters with incomes over $200,000 a year say Democrats in Congress have done a better job than Republicans of representing their party’s values.
–Among all likely U.S. Voters, just 29 percent think Republicans in Congress have done a good job representing Republican values over the past several years. Most (59 percent) think congressional Republicans have lost touch with GOP voters from throughout the nation, down from 63 percent in 2018, but 12 percent are not sure.
–Forty percent (40 percent) of all voters believe congressional Democrats have done a good job representing their party’s values over the past several years. Forty-nine percent (49 percent) disagree and say they’ve lost touch with Democratic voters, but 10 percent are not sure,” the polling firm said in a release.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. likely voters was conducted on February 28 and March 1, prior to the passage by the United States Senate of the COVID 19 federal stimulus bill adopted without Republican support and has a +/- 3 sampling error. The bill now heads back to the House where Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to call it up quickly rather than go to a conference committee to iron out the differences between the new bill and what the House passed last week.
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.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, under fire and with her approval rating among the folks back home dropping, has drawn what will likely be the first of many opponents in the next GOP primary.
The No. 3 Republican in the GOP House leadership, Cheney is under fire for her vote to impeach former President Donald J. Trump, a largely partisan effort launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, after the January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Democrats and some Republicans have repeatedly referred to the riot as an attempted “insurrection” prompted by Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. The objective of the rioters, some say, was to disrupt and perhaps force Congress to suspend that day’s counting of the electoral college ballots as prescribed by the U.S. Constitution and to prevent Joe Biden from being officially declared president-elect.
Cheney has drawn heat for her vote to affirm the charges against Trump and for insisting it was, for her and for all Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives a “matter of conscience” that permitted members to cast aside any partisan allegiances by which they might feel bound.
Taking on Cheney is Wyoming State Rep. Chuck Gray, a Republican who announced his intentions on social media.
“It’s time for a leader who actually listens to the hard-working people of Wyoming, and not to the D.C elitists,” Gray tweeted. “Join me on my journey as I seek the Republican nomination for the United States Congress.”
In February, the Wyoming Republican Party voted overwhelmingly to censure Cheney with only eight of the 74-member state GOP’s central committee openly opposing the punishment in a process that did not conclude with a formal vote. An effort by GOP House conservatives to remove Cheney from her party leadership post failed 145-61.
Gray has repeatedly criticized Cheney’s vote to impeach Trump and accused her of taking positions that were “nothing more than a stepping stone” to higher office. “Well, not anymore,” he said. “Wyoming agrees with President Trump” who, during his recent speech to the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference called Cheney out by name and said he hoped she would be defeated.
The subject of Trump’s speech caused some friction between Cheney and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who told reporters at a press availability he thought the former president should speak to the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative political activists. Cheney disagreed, saying she did not believe the former president “should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.”
Cheney, who was first elected to the House in 2016, has not yet said whether she will be a candidate for reelection in 2022. Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, held the seat she now occupies from January 1979 until 1989 – when former President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be U.S. Secretary of Defense.
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.