Q. The name of your new book is To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine. Are things really that dire?
Yes. America is not merely a genetic or geographic identity. Our country was founded upon a set of principles clearly expressed in the Declaration of Independence and ensconced in the Constitution. These include: God given rights; the importance of the work ethic; elected representation; local control limited government. All these uniquely American values are under assault from the modern Left, what I describe in To Save America as “Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine.” The President’s ideology is clearly more European than historic American and his policies are clearly going to centralize power in Washington. His economics are going to keep American unemployed while his total lack of reality in foreign policy makes America vulnerable. Collectively, this assault on our core identity and the danger to our economy and safety makes our situation pretty dire.
Q. If so, why did John McCain and the Republicans take so many issues off the table in the 2008 election, especially any meaningful discussion of Obama’s radical background and associates?
It was a mistake. Too many Republican politicians and consultants are anti-intellectual, don’t do their homework, and aren’t prepared to engage in a lengthy, intellectual debate with the editor of the Harvard Law review who taught at the University of Chicago. In order to convince the American people we should govern, we have to be willing to stand on the same stage as our opponents and debate. To quote Margaret Thatcher, “First you win the argument then you win the vote.” If you are not prepared to do your homework and learn the argument, you are not going to win it.
Q. In the introduction to your book, you refer to the legislative program of Obama and the Democrats as “alien ideology,” and quote your daughter as saying that “we were told to vote for change we could believe in and found we had elected people who wanted to change what we believe.” Why did this come as a shock to so many people? Did the media not do its job?
Neither the media nor the Republican Party did a serious job of defining who Obama was, looking at the Saul Alinsky radicalism he taught, looking at the very nature of the decisions he made at the radical foundation that he chaired that gave away money, or taking seriously the things he would say in small groups that were so dramatically more radical than the things he was saying in prepared speeches on teleprompters.
Q. There’s a dawning realization on the right that we’re not dealing with our father’s Democratic Party, or even the Democrats of your time as Speaker. What’s different about this group and what do they really want? Please be as blunt as possible.
Imagine the trajectory which began in the 1960’s with the pro north-Vietnamese communist left, the anti middle class Free Speech Movement, and the rejection of the work ethic, and imagine that that has mutated and evolved for the following 40 years, steadily becoming more left-wing, more dictatorial and more exclusive. In many places you can’t become a tenured faculty member unless your beliefs are certifiably left-wing lunacy. The result is a steady migration towards more and more radical positions, which are leading to what Pope Benedict the 16th described as the “dictatorship of relativism” in a way that is a very profound threat to our freedom.
Q. One of the most stimulating ideas in your book is Chapter Eleven: Replace Not Reform. For too long, it seems, the Republicans have been content to fiddle around the edges of the Democrat agenda but also, essentially, to accept it. Given your experience with the federal government and the bureaucracy, how realistic is it for conservatives to hope for a program of radical rollback and a return to Constitutional principles? In other words: this time, can we really throw the bums out?
You can only have a replacement policy implemented if you have a replacement campaign that wins a majority and a clear referendum. We did that on welfare reform and balancing the budget in 1994, and as a result we reformed welfare and balanced the budget. Reagan did it in 1980 on cutting taxes, cutting regulations and defeating the Soviet empire, and as a result he cut taxes, cut regulations and defeated the Soviet empire. We have to start with a clear message of fundamental change, win an election based on that message, and then be prepared to implement it and live with that message.
Q. Corollary: considering that Republicans have dominated the White House during the period 1980-2008, why hasn’t some of this been done already? Can you blame the electorate, especially that part of the conservative electorate who stayed home in 2008, for doubting the GOP’s will to win?
The only two genuine ideological elections in the last 30 years were Reagan in 1980 and the Contract with America in 1994. Both of those elections had direct and immediate consequences. The other elections were either tactical or involved very small ideas.
Q. Take Health Care — even though it was rammed through using dubious parliamentary maneuvers and remains widely unpopular, how realistic is it to expect repeal? But wouldn’t that be the perfect place to start, setting an example of the GOP’s seriousness of purpose?
I assume the Republican nominee in 2012 will be adamantly and explicitly in favor of repealing Obamacare. And they then need to win big enough majorities in the House and Senate to keep their word.
Q. Much of your book is given over to programs, and the necessity of offering alternatives to the Democrats’ big-government leviathans. The candidate who stands the best chance of unseating Obama in 2012 will be the one who best articulates principles, no?
I believe that we have to match idealism, ideas and competence, so the American people see a clear choice between a secular-socialist machine and a future based on classic American values. This means we need to have a program which helps people understand what that difference would mean in their life. In order to defeat Obama, we have to have someone who ultimately can stand on the same stage for 3 nights or more in October and win the argument.
Q. Another provocative chapter is Chapter Three, “The Lies They Told Us (Because They Had To). What is it about the left that they must seek to win by stealth? If they’re so proud of what they stand for, why don’t they tell us exactly what it is?
The professional politician of the left understands that Arthur Brooks is right in his book “The Battle.” This is a 70+ percent center-right country and every time the left is clear about who they are – George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale – they get crushed. Why would you expect them to voluntarily commit political suicide?
Q. In recent history, Republicans have selected their national candidates according to a kind of familial seniority, while the Democrats tend to nominate the person they met in the bar the night before and swear that this time it’s true love. Will things be any different in 2012?
That depends on the quality of the Republican candidates. A Republican candidate who galvanizes the nation on principle, mobilizes the nation on policy and offers a vivid clear alternative to Obama will probably be nominated. If nobody shows up who can do that, then we will probably go back to primogeniture as a model of picking someone because they lasted the longest and they have been waiting the longest.