All-Star Election Panel at Restoration Weekend
What just happened on November 6?
Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript of remarks given by an All-Star Election Panel at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2018 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 15th-18th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.
Mark Tapson: Welcome to the first panel discussion of Restoration Weekend. What just happened on November 6? I’m Mark Tapson. I’ll be moderating, which means that I will introducing our panel of experts and then largely, just getting out of their way to allow them to shed light on the results and ramifications of the recent mid‑term elections, which are still going on, apparently. They’re still finding whole semis full of misplaced ballots, about 99 percent of which curiously happen to be from Democratic voters. The Democrat Party motto should just be “We find as many votes as it takes.“ Well, what does this election mean for the future of both parties and for America? Well, I’m going to introduce the panel, give them each a bit of time to respond to that, and then we’ll take some questions.
Immediately to my right is Richard Baehr, Chief Political Correspondent for American Thinker, and he also writes regularly for PJ Media. Next to him, Pat Caddell, a well-known political analyst, Democrat pollster, and a very familiar face on FOX. To his right is Chris Buskirk, the publisher and editor of American Greatness, and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. And, on the end, another familiar face to all of us, Daniel Greenfield, as every reader of Front Page Magazine knows, he is our brilliant lead columnist there.
All right, we’ll begin with Richard Baehr. Gentlemen, what happened on November 6?
Richard Baehr: All right. By the way, don’t fly American. They charged me $100.00 to check my two ballot boxes. So, what happened? I’m going to give it to you straight, and from my perspective, if you lose 38 House seats in the average for a mid‑term election for a president in his first mid‑term is 40, that doesn’t mean you did very well if you lost control of the House. So, let me start with a book that came out about 15 years ago by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira called The Emerging Democratic Majority. Basically, they split the American electorate into three categories: whites without a college degree, whites with a college degree, and minorities. Now, obviously, minorities is a strange category in which they included Asians, Hispanics and African Americans. Hispanics don’t all vote the same way. Cubans don’t vote differently than Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans in Chicago vote differently than Puerto Ricans in Florida. Asians don’t all vote the same, depending on the type of Asian. So, it’s clearly a generalization, but nonetheless, the book is fairly compelling because the groups that are growing tend to be the groups, the college-educated whites, the minorities, that lean Democratic or vote heavily democratic. The group that’s shrinking in size is a share of the total electorate. Whites without a college education is becoming much more Republican every cycle.
So, their view was, it’s a matter of time, but demographics will be destiny for the Democrats. Michael Barone wrote a very serious, respectful critique of the book, as you would expect, and argued that the shares that different groups voted a particular time does not necessarily mean that’s the share they’re going to vote 5 years, 10 years, 20 years in the future. And, obviously Trump upset that perceived number of votes that you could expect from particular group quite distinctly, some positively Republicans, some not so positively. In this most recent election, the Democrats won the national House vote by almost 7 percent, all right. That’s what people used to refer to as the generic ballot. It’s the closest thing to a national number since you don’t have Senate races in every state, you don’t have governors’ races in every state, but you do have House races in every district, a couple of them, one party or the other doesn’t oppose another candidate, so it’s not perfect, but nonetheless, it’s about a 7 percent democratic victory. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2 percent. So, the shift from 2016 to 2018 was about 5 percent. And, you see that 5 percent showing up in results from Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, but not in Florida. Okay? So, for instance, in Arizona, Trump won by a little less than 4 percent in the Senate race. Martha McSally lost by about 1 ½ percent, there’s your 5 percent change in the national percentages.
What made Florida different? Not quite sure. The pollsters all had both Democrats winning in the governors and Senate races by 5 to 7 percent. They should know by now that Rick Scott always wins by less than 1 percent, and they should’ve bid on it. But, Florida also had a resolution referendum on the ballot, which doesn’t–necessarily for Republicans in the next presidential election. They had to pass a 60 percent threshold, they got 64 percent for a vote to allow felons to register and vote in future elections. There’s 1.4 million felons in the State of Florida, that’s about 10 percent of the adult population. I’m serious. About one‑third are African American, two‑thirds are not. This is kind of interesting, in other states, felons who are not African American split their vote 50⁄50. African Americans tend to vote like African Americans do in general, which is about 90 percent democratic. So, low turnout, of course, is associated with this group. The lowest turnout of any group. So, we’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of new votes, but you might get a swing of 50 or 75,000 votes, which in Florida could be enough to swing 29 electoral votes. So, it is a big deal, but republicans have somehow found a way. People said they could never win this year because a couple hundred thousand Puerto Ricans had come over after the hurricane.
They immediately can vote, they’re citizens, they were going to vote Democratic, they were going to bury the Republicans, and it didn’t happen. Rick Scott did a decent job in terms of communicating with that community, and he did well in terms of the vote. Republicans will come away with, I think, 53 Senate seats if they don’t blow an open seat in Mississippi, where there’s a runoff. The idea Republicans would lose a seat in Mississippi would be kind of astonishing. So, if they get 53, that’s an important number because the president will continue to be able to appoint judges; and this time, even if the Democrats put pressure on the two pro‑choice Democrats, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, that would only get the number down to 51, and it looks like there are 51 solid Republican votes now to appoint judges even if there’s a Supreme Court vacancy, which is an important thing.
Republicans blew that seat in Alabama last year, totally unnecessary, but they did, and that put them in a position where the two Republicans who are pro‑choice were kind of on the margin there. But, I have to say, Susan Collins gave a brilliant speech. I thought absolutely outstanding achievement, and she and Lindsey Graham are my two heroes of that confirmation battle. Republicans are learning to fight back. They got a long way to go. David Horowitz is completely right. We’re too gentlemanly. We play by Marcus of Queensbury rules, and the other side simply wants to win. Evidenced by Mark Elias, they’re lawyer, when he came to Florida, he said, I am here to get Bill Nelson elected to the Senate; not to count all the votes, make sure all legitimate votes are counted, but to get Bill Nelson elected Senator. I mean, that should be scary to you. And, generally, no recount in history has every changed more than 300 or 400 votes. He’s trying to overturn an election with where the difference is 12,000. All right.
The states are changing, and that is shifting the politics. If you look at the presidential election going forward, states that have traditionally been very Republican or at least Republican by 5 or 6 percent that you could count on like Georgia, Arizona, Texas, those states are becoming more like North Carolina, which means they are going to be in play. I mean Ted Cruz won by 2.6 percent. I mean, which goes to show that $100,000,000.00 of money poured in from out of state mostly, for an attractive-looking candidate. When you have a Republican who people like his ideas, but they don’t like him personally, you get the race that you did. If Republicans have to fight to preserve Texas, and have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to do it in a presidential election, that’s not a positive development. Arizona’s going to be a dogfight now in every election.
Georgia is going one of the states where African Americans from the north are moving to Georgia because they like the economic climate, they don’t get killed as quickly as they do in Chicago or Detroit or Baltimore, and that’s also happening in North Carolina. And, these are middle-class voters. They show up. They vote. One-third of the vote in Georgia this year was by African Americans, all right, so, one of the reasons that race was so close. Same thing happened in Florida. The African American turnout increased greatly. With the exception of African American candidates at the top of the ticket, generally, African American turnout is not that high, but it was in Georgia, it was in Florida, just as it was the two times that Barack Obama ran. I’m finding that my vision is so bad; I have to hold this up to my face to read. I think we should all should owe a vote of thanks to Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and the other democratic rejectionists for helping elect Republican senators in Indiana and Missouri. Those were not gimmes.
Claire McCaskill has survived cycle after cycle. Joe Donnelly ran a smart campaign and had won the last time. Heidi Heitkamp is probably the only democrat that’s competitive statewide. So, the fact that Republicans won all three seats, and they won them in part because the Democrats thought they had a chance to kill the Kavanaugh nomination with sleaze rumors from 30 years back. I personally, by the way, consent my maximum contribution to the Avenatti 20⁄20 campaign. You can get a sticker with Avenatti and the porn star and the running mate, who’s on top. In any case, not releasing those Senators to vote essentially for Kavanaugh lost them their seats. Joe Manchin stayed out until the end because West Virginia’s become one of the most Republican states in the country, and even with his vote for Kavanaugh. He won only because the Republicans did not nominate their strongest candidate in the primary. If they had nominated the congressman from the southern part of the state, he probably would’ve gone down. And, those were little disappointments. Montana and West Virginia, two states that Trump carried by 20 percent or more, and the Democrats survived by 3 percent. But, some of these guys are tied to their states. They’re viewed differently than traditional Washington Democrats, they sell themselves differently, and they survive, which is why, again, winning those three Senate seats and, most surprisingly, winning the Florida seat, though again if you hear Bill Nelson talk, you wonder how anyone could’ve voted for him.
There were dozens of very close House races. This is the most positive spin you can put on this, and that is, that the Democrats are going to wind up winning somewhere between 37 and 40 seats. They’re going to win six seats in California. They won four in Pennsylvania due to redistricting. They won four in New Jersey. There’s only one Republican left in New Jersey, which used to be a suburban state dominated by republicans. Democrats picked up three seats in Virginia. Those were the four big states. For the Republicans to win back the House, they’ll need to gain 16 or 17 seats. That’s not a huge undertaking. If the political dynamics are such that the republicans are successful at the top of the ticket in 2020, and I’m not saying they will be, but if they get their act together, if they run a successful campaign, it’s not impossible that they could take back the House. And my guess is the Senate has a pretty good shot that the republicans will retain it after 2020, though they have a bunch of vulnerable Senators. Republicans lost, it appears, 12 seats by between 0 and 2 percent, and another 9 seats by between 2 and 5 percent. All right? Those are not huge shifts required to move those seats back from one party to the other.
Democrats nominated a lot of terrific candidates this year. You would think they were the party of the military. They had veterans, CIA people, and they put them of course not in the districts like where I grew up, in the Bronx. They put them in districts in Virginia, put them in districts in Iowa, where they would resonate with voters who were more traditionally conservative. So why did the Democrats do well, why did they pick up the 5 percent? One is, there’s no question that there was this pent-up emotion by those who wanted to punish Donald Trump. This was not an election about the individual candidates in the races, it was a chance to show up and get back at Trump. This has been going on for 2 years, you can see it. It’s not all the Democratic party, but it’s a significant slice of it and their turnout was heavy. It includes a lot of suburban women, who in many cases in the past might’ve voted Republican.preei Again, Democrats nominated a lot of good candidates.
Democrats had much-more money to spend. It’s very unusual for the party in power, for incumbents to be outspent substantially, and the Democrats made clear that they were going to raise money, and they were out-raising them early, and Republicans were flat footed. A lot of them did not take seriously that there was a threat to their seat until a month, 6 weeks out from the campaign, and by then, it was a little-bit late. The negative messaging was already resonating.
You don’t hear a lot anymore about the problem with big-money donors given that Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, between them, spent over $200 million in influencing races. Bloomberg targeted a race in Oklahoma in the last 2 weeks of the election, which was on no one’s radar. It was a seat that was considered safe for the Republicans, Democrat won the seat by 1 1/2 percent, which is what happens when you get hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads suddenly running unopposed with nothing on the other side in the last few weeks.
Democrats also proved it’s far easier to campaign against what the other party did or tried to do on healthcare than it is to defend what you had to do. Democrats got hammered on Obamacare, Republicans made big gains by running against Obamacare. When they tried to get rid of Obamacare and failed, they were suddenly the party that was going to get hammered for trying to get rid of something that already exists. Once people have something, it is very difficult, as Dan Rostenkowski learned many years ago, to try to take it away from someone, especially when it comes to healthcare. And even though the Republican proposals did not include any attempt to get rid of protections for those with pre-existing conditions, a billion dollars in negative ads convinced a significant number of people that that’s precisely what the Republicans were trying to do, and Republicans had no clear, coherent message.
Part of the issue was, the tax cuts affected the half of the population that pays income taxes. Half the population doesn’t pay income taxes. They didn’t see something as necessarily beneficial to themselves. That may be a problem when only half the country pays income taxes. Pretty much everyone that works pays Social Security taxes, but that was not part of the income tax reductions here. But Republicans sort of thought they would win based on incumbency, and incumbency is not enough in a year when people want to throw the bums out, and that mood to throw the bums out now seems to be much stronger every cycle. People’s patience level with political parties and with incumbents is much shorter than it used to be.
Finally in this area, Democrats did a good job in Pennsylvania, where they got a court that was Democratic majority to pick a firm out of Stanford University by Democratic gerrymandering experts. So they came up with a system in Pennsylvania just months before the election that completely redid the map, and Democrats won four seats. You’re going to get lawsuits now in every state where Republicans have a redistricting advantage, and eventually it’s going to get to Supreme Court and the court will have to decide where, if there’s no racial issue involved, is it okay for a political party to use its victories to create districts that are favorable to them. I have never seen any lawyer be able to come up with an explanation for why that should be unconstitutional. In other words, no one has a right, that if 43 percent of the voters in a state vote Democratic that they should get 43 percent of the house seats. In fact, states like Illinois, where Democrats win 60 percent, they win 80 percent of the house seats, because that’s just the way the districts have been jiggered.
You also get natural places where people live together. Republicans have had an advantage because Democrats live in cities. Those cities vote Democratic by 80 percent, suburban districts, Republicans were winning with 55 percent. So what happened to the cycle? Those 55 percent seats turned over. Democrats were never at risk of losing the seats that are at 80 percent, but this, as a result of the elections this year, Democrats will have about a 7 percent majority in the House. They won the vote by 7 percent, so where is this big built-in Republican advantage? It’s disappeared, and it’s going to disappear more in the coming years.
In the last few cycles, Republicans clearly benefited. You take Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan, those four states, Republicans had 44 house members, Democrats 17, and those are four states that either lean Democratic or basically toss-up states in presidential elections, so Republicans did a good job. You can knock them about a lot of things, but they did a good job in redistricting, but that advantage is disappearing.
Quick comments about 2020, and I’ll sit down and give my other panelists a chance. If Donald Trump’s going to get re-elected, he needs to hold what has become the Republican base, which means Florida, and Florida’s always close, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and now Ohio, and Iowa, which have become the states that lean much-more Republican than they used to. And then he’s got to win something of that Midwest belt that he swept last time, which is Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. I think Pennsylvania is probably a lost cause based on the results this year. Wisconsin was a 1 percent state, that’s not a lost cause, and Michigan, a Republican, an African-American candidate, very-attractive candidate, ran for senator in Michigan, lost by 6 percent. He had no money, national party paid no attention to his race until the very end, when they saw some polls indicating it was close. That was potentially a winnable race.
So I say Trump starts off as an underdog against a generic Democrat, but who will be the Democrat? I personally am looking forward to debates with 25 Democratic candidates, 2 jayvee tables and 1 varsity debating table, you know, with the jayvee candidates trying to get themselves onto the adult table for the second debate. And it could be fairly entertaining, because none of them have the personality of Donald Trump, they’re not going to dominate debates the way he did. Some Democrats would win easily. If Michelle Obama were the nominee, I think she’d sweep to victory. So would Oprah Winfrey, I kid you not. [No way.] But if you look at the candidates who are official and running and are traditional politicians, there’s enough baggage for all of them, and enough weakness they’ve shown in previous candidacies; went for offices that there’s certainly no sure thing, even with all of Trump’s electoral weaknesses that match up in many cases with his strengths.
The Senate, and then I’ll sit down, the one Democratic-held seat Republicans should win easily is Alabama. That’s a 20 percent-plus Republican state, and Doug Jones should go down. That takes Republicans to 54, which means even if the Democrats won the White House, Republicans could afford to lose three seats and still retain the majority. Well, they could lose three seats. Cory Gardner in Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine will be challenged now much-more severely than she’s ever been in the past, where people used to just like her because she was a moderate. They liked her disposition. Joanie Ernst in Iowa, John Kyle is retiring from the Senate in January. The governor will appoint a replacement. It could be Martha McSally, it could be someone else, but that will be a very-competitive race in 2020. David Purdue in Georgia is not safe, Thom Tillis in North Carolina is not safe, and even Mitch McConnell in Kentucky will get a challenge, so Republicans have seats to defend. Not quite as bad as the Democrats’ picture was this year, but in any case, it’ll be a challenge.
And Republicans might start thinking about an Act Red to start raising money now. Like the Democrats have done with Act Blue, which put them on the map in all kinds of seats, Republicans have to expand the map, have lots of targets or they’re going to get blown away in future elections, because they’ll get out-fund-raised. Thank you.
Pat Caddell: First of all, let’s face this, this was a disaster of enormous proportions for the Republicans, not because necessarily the numbers. The results, as you just heard, 12 seats decided by between 0 and 2 percent, .2, 0.2. That is election day disaster. Hundreds of millions of dollars was raised by Senator Romney’s niece, and there is no evidence anywhere that any of that was put in to get out the vote. That election was lost, you’ve got 12 seats lost that way, and another 9 in the 2-to-5 range, as you heard. So that was a disaster of the first order.
Secondly, for the Republican party to be as outspent as badly as it was, and I mean races where people were being outspent 3, 4, 5, 10 to 1, is a disgrace, because all the money that goes in this cabal that I have been talking about since 2012, the Republican lobbyist cabal, which lines its own pockets, because it only has one thing in mind, lining their own pockets, producing the worst media you can do, and doing nothing to be effective in their messaging, and so when you get outspent like that, when you’re the party supposedly of the big business and interests, and particularly after Mr. Ryan’s giveaway in the tax bill to every special interest group staring with Wall Street and carried interest, that bill, unfortunately, was a burden, a millstone around Republicans, because the American people aren’t stupid enough not to realize yes, there was some good stuff, but it was a feeding frenzy by the special interests. Donald Trump told me that. He was furious about it. He should have intervened, but the White House, and you’ve got all of these people who are corporatists, you’ve got a speaker, Ryan, who was I guess since he’s taking I gather a 5 or $10 million job with the–delivering a bill for the special interests, and the American people figured that out. So that is a problem, and yet they didn’t come up with the money. They got everything they wanted, and we did some major good things on bringing money back and so forth. The economy’s humming, but you get outspent that way because of the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of Republicans across the structure, which I describe watching in an election is like watching the Washington Generals play the Harlem Globetrotters, and I’ll get to the fact, there was no message.
Another point I want to make, the tax bill. The decision, which Randy Levine, who’s president of the Yankees but a major Republican fund raiser, fought tooth and nail with the President and Kelly. This effort too, in one swoop, it will eventually pay some dividends. I ideologically happen to be in favor of it, but slamming these states when you have a midterm like this, immediately, with the abolishment of all tax deductions, and as Randy Levine predicted to the president, it is going to destroy the Republican party in the northeast and Midwest, and by god, did it. Eleven seats alone out of New Jersey, New York, and two of those Iowa, another four in Pennsylvania, disaster.
The other problem is, Republicans are cowards. Their candidates, 44 candidates who were incumbents, allowed themselves to be mow-mowed out of the election back in 2017 by the media and the Democrats talking about the tidal wave that was inherently coming to wipe them out. So what they did is, they picked up their goodies and went home, and therefore, there are many seats that were lost that would’ve been held I believe. But you cannot understate what happens when you have that many cowards, who would have benefited by being in Congress but won’t stand and fight, supposedly for something they believe in, so that is a problem.
These are factors that cannot be overlooked in this election, the disaster in the suburbs and with independents. A simple point: Donald Trump was elected because he carried independents. Today, 58 percent of independents say they don’t want him to be re-elected. They turned out and voted overwhelmingly in the end for Democrats. It was obvious they were, and of course not only you can see it in places like Texas and other places, this was not a blue wave but kind of an opening the dykes, if you will, by the Republicans. Their candidates acted terribly, they don’t know how to campaign. The Republican National Committee and the ones you people give all your money to, so they can feed it to their special friends and get money back under the table, is a theme I have been on since 2012, but it’s inherent
But the problem with that is, the Republican campaign committee had no idea how to organize their candidate. Some of them never had campaigns teach them. There is just no effort. It is let’s give our media consultants, and our pollsters who can’t poll, as much money as we can, of your money, to do nothing. And I begged, I said all along, I was helping Steve Bannon and the Citizens for the American Republic. I did a survey, which I had wanted to share with you all, which was a stunner, and it was probably the best piece of research, frankly, I’ll tell you, it’s not hard to compete with media polling or even the Republican party pollsters. They spent, the RNC, a lot of money for a poll, same time we were doing this one in August, early September. You couldn’t make hide or hair out of their **** what it was. We started with a poll that had Democrats up 9. By the end of that poll, the margin was 1.5. It showed the pathway, the narrative to victory, but you can’t get anybody to listen anywhere to anything, and so this is a self-inflicted disaster, which will only get worse in 2020.
I want to say the three things that that poll showed. There were three huge things. I called it, if you want it short, in Kavanaugh, caravans and chaos, but really the three things were immigration, where huge majorities of the voters we would lose, did not want to abolish ICE, they were against sanctuary cities, these are in the suburbs. They were in favor of some having real border controls, and so instead we have the President out, who I believe, by the way, singlehandedly saved the Senate, among other things, but the people around him in the last week, the selection with Kavanaugh went from what he did, broke everything, and you can tell the impact of that. All of those Democrats, in red states for the most part, who voted against Kavanaugh, lost, except in Tester’s race. Manchin, as we said before, barely won, even though he voted for Kavanaugh. He certainly would’ve gone down, but he got 17 percent of the Republicans.
In Arizona, the ghost of John McCain, who I once admired until toward the end, and who was feted after his death at what I call the huge resistance funeral meeting, where he, the man who was a crazy insane person in 2008 according to all the national media, which now praised him as one of the great patriots of our time. So if you screw your own party, you will get praised but you will never get support on the basis of this. He and Jeff Flake. What happened in Arizona is a disaster, should never have happened, but again, I kept saying, and we fought for a national message. We succeeded to some point. This was not just a localized campaign. There were issues by 20 and 30 points on these immigration issues, but in the end, the President’s people decided to go crazy on the caravan and–which I didn’t understand–abandoned these issues.
There is a study, more than $5 billion, more money was spent on advertising in this campaign than was spent in 2016 in the presidential election, and the Republicans of course were outspent, as–when you have Michael Bloomberg. Now, Michael Bloomberg, Doug Schoen works for him, my former partner on Fox when we used to have a show that had 2 million people, and because it was right, had to be pulled from the air in favor of people who have never been in a campaign, who populate Fox. And to stop to say one thing about Fox, their decision, which I heard nary a word from Republicans screaming election night, when they decided to call the House before the Democrats had won the house, and while California was still voting, and states like Arizona, was an outrage. Under the Murdoch sons, that network is about as much your network as CNN is frankly. If that’s what you’re supposed to get, but I don’t hear anybody complaining. I am really tired of people who like to lose. People ask me why won’t you become a Republican, and I say because I would never join a party that was that stupid, for the way it does business. I came from a heritage where you fight to win elections, you don’t give them away, and you don’t pay for giving them away. And the over and over and over, thank God there’re enough voters who actually care in the country or there would be no Republican party in the last 6 years or so. Started in the last 10 years, since 2012 and the great Romney giveaway campaign.
But I want to say something about the narrative. When Kavanaugh put wind to the Republicans’ back, and by the way, the other, I said there was a triad of issues, the second one was impeachment. When Jerry Madler said that he was going to impeach Kavanaugh and Trump, and you’ve got Tom Steyer spending $100 million on TV, and all of these Democrats who were on record for this, when voters confronted that, they didn’t like that very much. And then the argument of we’re just going to weaponize the Constitution, get rid of any President you don’t like, people were quite shocked by that, and only 88 percent of them or so felt that that’s what we have elections for, if you don’t like people, you should vote them out. But was that made an issue? No. In the advertising dollars and the messages spent, there are over a million Democratic messages on healthcare, which was, as pointed out, thanks to John McCain and the incredible stupidity of a leadership in Congress that had been campaigning for repealing and replacing Obamacare and then had no plan, and got themselves in the position where they made what was an albatross for Democrats into a virtual winning issue for them, is an act beyond anything I have ever seen in politics practically.
The last point I want to make after the impeachment thing, which was an issue and was not nationalized, is the issue of Democratic chaos. When voters were confronted with just how crazy the Democratic party was, and all of these candidates running, oh I’m going to be a moderate, the point was, their party was not going to be. It upsets independents and suburbanites alike, but where the Democrats had a million messages on one thing, there was no Republican messaging at all. There was no Republican national campaign the way Bloomberg and Doug Schoen designed for the Democrats. And then this election hung after the bombing and whatever, I begged the President personally to go on the air and speak to the American people from the Oval Office, which he has yet to do in this election. I can get Donald Trump on the phone any time. I can’t get anybody else in his White House or any of his operation to answer a phone call. That is the problem, and I have to stop now, but maybe I’ll get a question, but right now, remember I told this group in 2011, at the meeting that Romney was going to blow that election and we’re going to lose it, and nobody wanted to hear that, but I was right. And I tell you today, if Trump does what I’m afraid he’s going to do, you can count on the fact that he is going to lose too.
Chris Buskirk: All right, good morning. My name’s Chris Buskirk, I’m the president of the Center for American Greatness. I’m also the editor and publisher of an online magazine called American Greatness. Why am I saying this? Because when I was introduced, Steve mentioned I was also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times. I feel like I need to explain myself. I am the one, one pro‑Trump columnist at the Times. So, you know what, you know when you go in the local diner and they’ve got the coffee take-out and they’ve under the little glass thing, that’s where I am at the Times. They bring the tours of the schoolkids by, they say we have one, he’s right over here. So I guess I just wanted to get that out of the way. They’re not quite sure what to make of me, but I think I’m the big league. But when I use those sort of illusions to them, I said, when they hired me, I said I’m sort of like the apostle Paul going to the gentiles and preaching the gospel. There’s just the eyes glazed over. People looked at me, they’re, like, who’s this Paul person that they’re talking about.
So anyway, let me get to it. I want to I guess comment on just a couple things that our two previous speakers mentioned before I get to my comments. One is, when it comes to having a working majority to approve judges, I’m less optimistic, for one reason, and the name is Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney I expect to be the Jeff Flake of the new Senate, which is the virtue signaler in chief. I cannot imagine that Mitt Romney would have done let’s say what Lindsey Graham did in the Kavanaugh hearings. He seems to have made a career for himself, I guess now with Mitt Romney, we’re talking about a third or a fourth or a fifth career for himself and is trying to be above and better than the rest of us Republicans who want to win. This is where Pat’s exactly right. If we want to be serious about politics or serious about the country, I’ve got four kids, I’m serious about it, and for a lot of theological and principled reasons, but because of them. And we have to want to win, and not just to talk about how we’re better than and above politics. We’re not above politics, we have to participate in politics in a way that’s meaningful, and that means that we have to be out there to win. And with some of these Republicans, I’m not sure that they want to win, and this goes to my other comment about the RNC.
When you look at Romney-McDaniel and you look at the people around her at the RNC, this is the Paul Ryan-Reince Preibus regime. When you go just dig down one or two levels and you see that nothing has changed at the RNC. The staffing is almost identical to the way it was under that regime, and so you wonder why the results don’t change? Same people. Same philosophy, same approach, same results. Worse results, now that we didn’t have Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.
Well, what happens? That’s why we’re here for this panel this morning, what happened. Well, I was looking at this young lady was reading the Palm Beach Post. The headline on the front, it’s Governor DeSantis. That’s good news. But it was Governor DeSantis by this much, and it’s going to be Senator Scott by that much too, and very soon. Why? I don’t think that’s because they only won by that much. I think maybe they won by that much, but when the counting was done, I guess not enough people found bags of ballots in their closet or in the back of their Buick.
But they won’t make that mistake again, and this I guess is my takeaway from this election. The 2016 election for the left, in the 2016 election for the never-Trump conservatives, I use that term loosely, that was the never-again election for those people. Never again will we allow somebody like Donald Trump to win. It doesn’t matter what we have to do, we will do it, to make sure that that doesn’t happen, to make sure that the people, people like in this room, don’t get to win, because that’s not supposed to happen. Hillary’s supposed to win. Maybe you get a Romney every once in a while who can win, but they didn’t like that either. But really, the takeaway from 2016 for the powers that be was, we cannot allow this to happen again. And so the never-again election became the never-Trump election.
I want you to remember one number. This comes from a series of polls that was done by the Wall Street Journal. It was exit polling that was done in some subsequent polling, came out a few days ago. The number of Republicans that voted for Democrats was about 7 percent. The number of Democrats that voted for Republicans was about 2 1/2 percent. A little less, so in round numbers, there was about a 5 percent difference in the Republicans versus Democrats who switched sides. Now, think about some of the numbers that we were talking about earlier. We had 12 members of the House elected by under 2 percent. We had another 9 elected by between 2 and 5 percent. That’s 21 members of the House elected by less than 5 percent. That’s about that same 5 percent of Republicans who switched sides.
Now, I live in Arizona. Arizona is, in so many ways, and I’ve been saying this for the past year, Arizona will be Ground Zero for understanding the 2018 election. It turned out that that was in some ways really true, particularly when you look to the McSally race, and if you dug down into some of our House races too. Now, I grew up there. We have nine House seats, five of them are now in the hands of Democrats. We now have Martha Sinema as a senator elect, which would be unthinkable, but she only won by a handful of votes, because of this group of people who switched sides. How did that happen? I am not staying with the explanation that says it’s all because of Trump.
Part of this is because of what we call the never-Trump movement on the right, which is centered at some of the legacy conservative media outlets. People like Bill Kristol have made it their mission in life to undermine this President. He didn’t get what he wanted in 2016, and so he is taking it upon himself, he is very well funded, by the way. At American Greatness, we published a piece the other day showing where some of that money’s coming from. Where do you think it’s coming from? [****] Some. Some. More on that later. We know that quite a bit of that money is coming from Pierre Amadjiar, who is a left-wing, very-progressive billionaire who founded eBay. Now, we have a very-good reporter who’s done digging on this and found that, and this is through public records, this is not speculation, a bunch of the money that’s going into Bill Kristol’s new entities is coming from him. He admitted it when he was confronted with it 2 days ago. Said, well, I wish that the right is as public spirited as the left. Thought that was interesting. It was an interesting comment, because he’s telling us, well we’re not public spirited, the left is. Well, of course, that’s who’s paying him now.
But the nonstop attacks on this President and the people who support him, that’s coming from places like the Weekly Standard to Bill Kristol and the people around them, that is in part how we lost this election, ‘cause it just is what happens at the margin, right? Elections are won and lost at the margin. We’re looking here at 21 House seats that were lost by less than 5 percent, and we’re looking at a differential of 5 percent. Remember that number I said to recall, there were 5 percent more Republicans that voted for Democrats than Democrats that voted for Republicans. And that is a conscious effort on the part of the people who call themselves conservatives but are not, to undermine this President, to make sure that he didn’t win and that he was not able to retain working majorities in both houses of Congress, and that’s a shame.
What can we do? Well, we can first of all name the enemy. We can name the problem, and that’s part of what I want you to walk out of this room is, to understand that some of these people who we have fought side by side with for years, they’ve just changed sides. I don’t know why. People ask me this all the time. I speak quite a bit, I do a lot of meeting and people always say to me well Chris, why, why, what happened. They why questions are always the hardest. I can only say what has happened, but when I look at this nonstop barrage of attacks from people who are nominally Republicans, and I look at what they’re doing and saying, not only about this President but about the people who support them. See, they don’t like you and they don’t like me and they don’t think that we have a right to a say in who rules this country.
Yesterday, well, let me back up. Remember, Hillary Clinton is infamous for calling all of us deplorables, right? [Yeah.] Okay, I’m happy to wear that as a badge of honor, but yesterday, there was an article, an opinion piece, published that said that Donald Trump has promoted a surge in white nationalism and hate crimes. It misrepresented the study upon which it was based. I took the trouble to actually read the study, which showed actually that whites are the third-most-likely people to be victims of hate crimes. No. 1 African-Americans, No. 2, LGBT, No. 3, whites, and then it goes down through Latinos, Asians, etcetera, etcetera. The study upon which this is based, which by the way, study might be using the term generously. It’s kind of a spurious use of statistics, but nonetheless, let’s just accept it for what it is. It doesn’t say what it’s represented to say in the article, which is that Donald Trump somehow has been responsible for this surge. And of course the picture that accompanies this article is these hooded people marching with Confederate flags, so where do you think this article is published? The New York Times? Oh, Fox? No, Huffington Post? No. National Review? Right. David French wrote it in National Review. It could easily have been published at the Huffington Post, but maybe they would not have been too ashamed to publish such an attack that is based on nothing.
I was talking with some of my writers yesterday, they said, well why would he do this. It is just fact-free emoting. There’s no basis for it, and yet it is a means for certain people to say, well, I’m not one of those bad Republicans. I’m okay, you know, like me. But this is the problem, and this loses elections, because there is some small percentage of people who are Republicans in their nature. They’re temperamentally conservative, they’re politically conservative, they believe the principles that we believe at a basic level, but they can be persuaded by people that they think are in authority, by people that they think are smart, and they want to do the right thing.
I really do think that people want to appeal to the higher virtues when it comes to regular voters. That small percentage of people has swing so many of these house seats, and this is why we have to understand that we’ve met the enemy, and part of that enemy is us. And that means that we need to be much-more careful about the sources that we listen to. That means we need to build up the entities, like Front Page, that they’re telling us the truth, that are on side, that want to win, because winning is important. And I said earlier, I’ve got four kids. I explained to them, granted, my kids grow up in my house, so they may not be maybe a totally neutral sample, right? But I explained to them what is at stake in this country, and I want to see them live in a country that is better than, freer than the one I grew up in, and I grew up in a great country. I love it, but this is a legacy that it is incumbent upon us to improve and to pass on to them, and it is very, very difficult to do that when the people that we’ve accepted as being on our side are constantly undermining us, are constantly undercutting us.
When we look out to 2020, we need to know who’s on our team, because as Pat said, we’ve got to want to win. That’s No. 1, tell my kids that you’ll see people in life. Some of them will tell you I want to be rich and then they sit on the couch and watch television, they don’t really want to. The people who are out there working, those are the people who want to be successful. Look at the politicians who actually want to win and watch what they do, not what they say.
Daniel Greenfield: Thank you Mr. Buskirk. Thank you so much. I know we’re running late on time, and I know you have questions for these very-fantastic panelists. I’m going to try to keep my remarks short, and maybe sum up some of what’s going on here. 2016 was the Make America Great election. This was the make America crazy again election, and that’s not just an exaggeration, that’s not just a laugh line. That’s very much what it was. If you think about really what got us to this point, the Democrats had a very-clear strategy going in right from the very beginning. Once they saw that President Trump had won, they had a strategy. That strategy was chaos. That strategy was to disrupt everything, to make it seem like the country was spinning out of control. Now, this is really how people’s psychology works. When President Obama was in the White House, Republicans did what they could to show that there was a lack of leadership. Now that Trump won, the Democrats did everything that they could to create chaos, to create a sense of worry, fear and panic. Now, there’s what I like to call Tier 1 and Tier 2. Now, Tier 1 are the crazies. Now, obviously that includes the people who put on black masks and punch people in the face and start fires, but it also includes a much-larger group.
Now, a recent survey showed that about a quarter of Democrats think that Republicans are evil. Now, when you think that way, you don’t think of coexisting with Republicans, you think of destroying them. But also, here’s what it does to you, it makes you ready to believe that yes Trump is the new Hitler, Republicans are the Nazi party, you have to join the resistance. Most of these people are not going to go to a march, not going to go to a protest, they’re not going to punch people in the face. What they are doing is donating huge amounts of money. Now, this election, as the panelists have mentioned, the Republicans were very-badly outspent. Much of that money actually came from out of state, so you had money from New York, you had money from Massachusetts, you had a lot of money from California, coming into races in out of state. **** also, as Richard mentioned, was a major factor in this regard.
Now, there’s a great Rosie O’Donnell story. You might remember recently, Rosie O’Donnell got in trouble for making above-the-legal-limit campaign contributions, and she claimed that she’s very upset, she was very stressed, she couldn’t sleep at night. So she donated to candidates through Act Blue online. The thing is, she’s not the only one. A whole bunch of lefties have been doing this. These are the people whom the media has convinced that the country is under major threat and that they have to urgently do something about it, and that money poured in. The Democrats raised almost a billion dollars for the House. They vastly outspent the Republicans, and this is a 5.2 billion midterm election. Those are completely unprecedented numbers. Unprecedented.
Now, much of that came from radicalizing this Tier 1, this group of people who are well on the left, they believe the Republicans are innately evil and that they have to do everything possible to stop them. Now, these people are used to create chaos. Within the government, they created all sorts of chaos. They leaked material to the media, they sabotaged things on the bench, but behind the scenes, they also put a lot of money into local races in red states, in purple states. That money poured in and it had a major impact. But the chaos that they created also had a huge impact on Tier 2 voters. Now, those are in many cases suburban voters, they’re swing voters. They don’t really have an ideology. What they have is a sort of liking for things to be stable, for things to be calm, for things to be pleasant and normal. When things seem like they’re spinning out of control, they get upset and they vote against whoever’s in the White House.
Now, the Democrats very successfully made them feel like things were unstable. This is the counterculture strategy. They’ve used this in the ‘70s. You bring in the crazies into the street, they create chaos, they create fear, they create panic, they create a sense that the country’s out of control, and then the suburban swing voters start feeling insecure. And this was very much a decisive factor, because when the middle class feels insecure, every election is a change election, an election against whoever is in power now, and that’s the Republicans.
Now, they do not actually watch MSNBC, they don’t even read the New York Times. They do watch CNN, this is why President Trump has been going after CNN on a regular basis, because MSNBC is far more to the left than CNN. They are far more to the left. They’re far more obnoxious, but these people want CNN to take CNN seriously. They think CNN is giving them actual news. This is why President Trump has been hammering CNN over and over again as fake news. He’s trying to reach these very people who they will go sit down at the airport and watch CNN and then they’ll go yes, this is the truth. Reaching these people is really, really hard. And this is the larger, I’m seeing that time is kind of running long and I’ll try to wrap things up as quickly as I can.
The challenge for Republicans is to actually get past the chaos. It’s to manage the chaos, because if the Democrats are able to just sustain the state of chaos, the country feels like it’s slipping out of control. Suburban voters, swing voters, independents, feel like the country’s being mismanaged. Now the reality is, the chaos is very much being created by the left. President Trump, conservatives, obviously our organization, have very much tried to fix the chaos where it is. This chaos is being created by the left, but the reality is, the perception for a lot of these voters is that President Trump is in office, the Republicans are in the House and the country is in a state of chaos.
So for Democrats, all they have to do is sustain chaos. If they sustain chaos to 2020, they will win. If Republicans create leadership, if they maintain leadership, if they make it clear that yes, this country is being actually very-well managed, that we’re making progress on a number of issues, if you look back at 2016, all of these various problems, all of these things that people were worried about, the economy, ISIS, they’re under control. They’re actually doing pretty well. ISIS is on the run, the economy’s doing great, but it doesn’t matter if you have the economy at your back if there’s people in these suburban areas are very worried, they’re afraid, there’s a sense of insecurity, there’s a sense of what’s going to happen tomorrow. Because when you’re in the middle class, you want to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You want to be safe, you want to be confident, you want to know that your investments, your bonds, your stocks are going to do well. When you don’t have that confidence, you vote for people who promise to give you that confidence, and this is how the left operates.
It creates chaos on the one hand. The radicals create chaos in the streets. They send their extremists out, and then the supposed moderates capitalize on it. They say look what’s going on in the Trump. There are these clashes in the street. There’s violence. There’s this constant warfare. Elect reasonable, moderate Democrats, and we’ll put things in order.
So on the one hand, as been mentioned also by the panelists, they run seemingly more conservative candidates, military veterans, people who seem to reflect more middle-class values with one hand. The other hand, they stage riots, they stage chaos, they send protestors into the Senate to scream and rant. So the one hand is the radical left. The other hand is their partners, who pretend to be moderate and reasonable. So the one hand creates chaos. The other hand capitalizes on it.
So there are two strategies going forward. The first is to actually fix and localize where the chaos is coming from. President Trump has been good at calling out the sources of radical chaos. A lot of Republicans have not been. They’ve been unwilling to hold the other side accountable, and to make it clear, this is where it’s coming from. It’s not President Trump who’s creating chaos. It’s the radical opposition that is creating the chaos, and the other is there needs to be a clear sign of leadership. There needs to be, as Pat mentioned, a national strategy, and there needs to be the conviction that will reassure suburban voters, middle-class voters, swing voters that the country is actually in safe hands because when the Democrats create chaos, people are afraid. They think the country is spinning out of control, and this is really where the president comes in. The president sets the tone for that. The president makes it clear we have this, we are in charge.
Now, the good news is this is not entirely unusual. When a Republican tends to come in, especially in these last 20, 30 years, the Democrats, the left throws everything they have at him, there’s initial chaos, and then he learns to manage it, to moderate it, to control it. So this election was in some ways, yes, it was a disaster, but it’s also a learning opportunity. It’s a learning opportunity for Trump. It’s a learning opportunity for conservatives. We’ve seen the worst of it. We’ve seen a lot of the chaos. We can learn from it. We can manage it. We can tame it and control it. Of course, if we don’t, we are going to lose. This is the challenge for the next 2 years going forward. Can we actually control the chaos, or is the left’s chaos going to dominate us? Thank you so much.
Question: In the last session, we heard Victor Davis Hanson talk about the importance of checks and balances, and we just heard this conversation about chaos. I wonder if anybody on the panel would like to talk about the long-term, progressive left strategy of abolishing Electoral College, packing the Supreme Court and using the regulatory power of the president to basically rule with a pen and a phone without the consent of Congress. What do we do about that long-term strategy? We can’t win every election.
Baehr: Yeah, a quick one, that’s an important point. The delegitimization of any Republican victory is now a core strategy of the Democrats. If Republicans control the Senate, it’s because of states like Wyoming and South and North Dakota, which have 700,000 people, and two senators in California is outvoted. When Republicans have now won two presidential elections with their three victories since 2000, where they lost the popular vote, that’s undemocratic, and Victor Davis Hanson was talking about this radical democratization. Essentially you keep pushing the needle, and you can ignore what the founders intended because in their current moment, democracy is everything, and majority should never lose their power to minorities because of constructs that are, in fact, part of the legal system.
So this attempt, I think, will continue. You’re seeing more and more columns from Vox and Slate and the New Republic, and the New York Times challenging it, and Republicans need to be able to defend the Constitution and the founding and the thinking of the founders, and a lot of them, I think, are on shaky ground doing it.
Buskirk: Yeah, James Madison, I was reminded of a quote of his. He said democracies are as violent in their deaths as they are short in their lives, and I think of that every time I look at the Washington Post, which their new motto is democracy dies in darkness, but the practical impact of your question is well, what do we do about this? There’s no doubt that the left has undertaken a long-term strategy to tear down the Republican institutions in this country. We’re pretty far down that road, and there was, in fact, an article published in New York Magazine yesterday that advocated from a progressive point of view a potential breakup of the states or a radical version of federalism. I would say I think that the strategy for a conservative is simply to go back to federalism and the president has a opportunity to do this, which is to push power back down to the states to actually deconstruct some of the institutions in Washington. Otherwise, the left is on a trajectory where they cannot, long term, be beaten, unless those power structures are transferred back to the states where they belong.
Caddell: Well, these, I just want to say because I have seen the numbers on these things. These efforts, the first, the extra constitutional effort to get rid of the Electoral College, which is the craziest idea I have ever heard of. Anyone would like to have an election like we had in Florida nationally in the election. The first election we hadn’t fought. Before Jeb Bush gave you what’s her name in whatever, along with his campaign people, all of whom, every republican who hates Trump is employed by MSNBC and the Washington Post and CNN too, and you would think that was the republican party but in any event, the point is the public is very nervous about these proposals, this deconstructing. When Daniel talked about chaos, what I started to say in the election, the failure to make the case that a group of people who support, you know it was almost 2 to 1 people believed in the election that Democrats with their views on sanctuary cities, open borders and ICE cared more about illegal immigrants than they did American citizens, that was almost a 30‑point question agreement on. I mean the lack of messaging, the notion of taking down the institutions that the left is trying to do is very unpopular. I don’t know that you have to argue it on conscience, but you can argue it on stupidity, but when I saw and I couldn’t understand Steve Bannon’s film on Trump at war had an opening which was unbelievable with these open border people running around chanting, no trump, no wall, no border, no USA. You know what, I would have put that up.
You want to talk about how chaos works? You terrify the middle class with how just chaos the Democrats are going to bring you, whether it’s trying to impeach everyone or whatever and that election would be different and so would the outcomes, but Republican, when you’ve got the kind of people that was being referenced to the Never-Trumpers who dominate the conservative media, all of those hopeless just has gotten people, they are, basically, your worst enemy and anybody who would even, you know what, I’m sorry, politics are now a dangerous business. Anyone who would consort, with Bill Kristol should hang their head in shame. These people be shamed out of what they do. The national view and others. It’s just terrible.
Question: Thank you. That was such an excellent analysis but one thing was overlooked. JFK, LBJ and the McCloskey, Franken, the Pennsylvania Court gerrymandering. The Democrats do what they have to do to win and they knew that after 2016, they didn’t cheat big enough. They cheated. They just didn’t cheat big enough. We have to win by big margins or we don’t win and that we can see that in Florida, but while we concentrate on Florida, we gave away Arizona, Montana and Wisconsin, which were won by the democrats in such smallest margins, and we don’t bother to say where did they commit the fraud here. I am so disgusted turning on my TV the next day or looking at the Internet and lack of outrage outrages me. How many political seats do we lose before we start saying that no, JFK winning in Cook County is not a joke. It was a steal. When do we get serious about this?
Caddell: I’m sorry. I’m not going to re‑litigate 1960 where the Republicans were stealing as many votes downstate Illinois as was being stolen in Chicago. It’s a terrible thing. The republicans, I want to say this, in Arizona, the democratic winner got 12 percent. Only Joe Manchin got more Republicans in his state, so it was, as I said that thing, but you know what’s interesting to me about your issue, though, about fighting is that she went there and she had said she wouldn’t support Chuck Schumer. What was the first thing she did? She voted in the unanimous consent for Chuck Schumer. Were there any papers in Arizona running ads–she lied? There will be many democrats who state themselves that they would not support Nancy Pelosi and I’ll tell you what, the fact that there will be no organized campaign for those who suddenly decide they’re going to vote for her, because they are always going to vote for her and say so and so. They lied.
You can’t win when you won’t fight and a fight doesn’t start the day before the election and then my last comment is I’ll tell you, Trump is in danger. He’s in danger of being taken over by Nick Ayers who is one of those corrupt consultant types whose dealings in the White House, he may be chief of staff. He knows as much about why Trump won as the light bulb up there does and he was surrounded. The Trump campaign raised $100 million and did nothing but run a few really terrible spots. He is going to lose this election because of the people around him if he doesn’t get serious and somebody doesn’t tell him. Now, that is the truth and somehow, you would think there would be enough Republican money or people like the Democrats do who would get together and say, we’re not going to put up with this anymore and would form some kind of group to fight. No, because they’re all pursuing their own interest. The day that happens is the day this could be changed, but it’s we can tell here. This election stuff, not much interest to conservatives and Republicans, apparently.