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tv   Jeremy Peters Insurgency - How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got...  CSPAN  April 9, 2022 4:45pm-5:56pm EDT

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to introduce our guests this evening jeremy peters. jeremy is a long time new york times reporter and an msnbc contributor. jeremy is a two old-fashioned to say that national politics is your beat. he's covered two presidential campaigns the machinations on capitol hill and also specializes in the intersection of politics and the news media. jeremy lives in the new york area and this is his first book. welcome jeremy. thank you. um insurgency was just published the day before yesterday and
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it's already a lot of attention. um joe scarborough of msnbc called it abrasing account of how the party of lincoln and reagan was hijacked by gadflies and grifters who reshaped their movement into becoming an anti-democratic cancer that attacked the us capitol. the book is available to buy at our program partner watch on booksellers, and we'll soon be available to borrow through the library. now, i'm also happy to introduce jeremy's conversation partner david halpfinger the political editor of the new york times. in fact david is jeremy's editor at the paper. so this conversation might give us a glimpse of what it's like behind the scenes at the paper of record david lives in montclair. welcome, david, having me okay, so this is the moment we've all been waiting for and for all of you at home. please remember that you can
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start submitting your questions while the conversation is going on. i'll be back later after the q&a. great, let's get started jeremy. i'd like to begin with your subtitle. ariel read it to the group, but how republicans lost their party and got everything they ever wanted. could you just talk for a minute about what you meant by that and who are the republicans that you have in mind as having lost their party? and well, that's a great question the it might be a little little bit of writer lee hyperbole, but you know, you wouldn't know anything about that. which yeah the the everything they ever wanted refers most to all republicans. but but most of all the cornerstone of donald trump's political constituency, which is the evangelical christians in the social right? they i think it benefited more than any group of republicans. you have to look no further than the three conservative justices on the supreme court that trump
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appointed and i i think that the reference to how they lost their party is is a it's more those establishment republicans who are perfectly happy with getting most of what they want it if not everything in the form not just the supreme court, but in terms of all the deregulations and tax cuts that trump past but those establishment republicans lost a party that they that they had never really had control of or never really realized that they didn't have full control of because as the other as the actual title says the history of the modern republican party is one of insurgency where revolt and upheaval from the right has destabilized the leadership. yeah. no, it's interesting. i was thinking of people like eric cantor and paul ryan who are kind of like the the bodies
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on the side of the road in this book people who are run out of politics by the same forces that they helped unleash that you describe so well now liz cheney is kind of staring down that same barrel. i wonder if you think mitch mcconnell will be next. i actually think mike pencil is gonna be next but we can we can do that for another person. oh, we should come back to that. yeah. i'm real right that story. so you were you were working on this book. i think you said beginning in 2017. yes the end of 2017, right? what was your original idea going into it? and if you could tell us how that was transformed during the 2020 campaign and it's aftermath so i was always obsessed with presidents when i was a kid. i was kind of a nerd and i would give press conferences in the family room that my parents would pretend to videotape and i had like, you know these placemats with all the president's kind of the circling around and i thought of one of those placemats and what it would look like with donald
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trump's face on it and thought that a book needed to explain how he got there because it's still going to be jarring for people 25 years from now to look at that placemat and see his face there after you know clinton bush obama and in after before biden, it's just nothing in our history as ever been like donald trump, so i wanted this to be the book that is on the shelf for a long time to come that told people the answer to that question. now what we didn't really think through when we started writing the book was how it would end and and in a way that made sense to the reader. there were a lot of books that came out and and in this period and i felt you know, they were all many of them were very very good, but they kind of locked off artificially at a certain point. um, and we said why end it in
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the middle of 2019 or wherever when you can extend it through 2020 and have an answer. as to what trump's impact was on the republican party throughout his presidency. so at least there was a period there maybe in the end of a paragraph. maybe not the end of a chapter. in fact, i think this book is not the end of the story by any stretch of the imagination were somewhere in the middle. i don't know exactly where but whether or not i i want to write the the next book in this series. i've i i don't i don't know if i have the stomach for that right now. yeah, but in effect the ending that you've got became a great beginning for you. it did because on election night. i remember talking to my book editor and i said i think that we have the ideal ending because our fear was always that trump was going to be irrelevant and then and people would be sick of him and no one would want to read a book about him a year
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after he's left office. well, obviously that's not the case. i mean if you turn on cable news my god, it's like the guy is still president. they cover him more than they cover biden and i so i said to my editor i'm like, i actually think this is good because trump is gone. he's defeated but he's still relevant and he's still the leader of the party. so that's where we are today. and i guess that's a big question mark hanging over the party's future. i want to go back a long way back to really where the book kind of takes its starting point. pat buchanan plays a really interesting role in your narrative. he also i understand provided some important source material to you and his 92 presidential primary campaign is where you really begin your chronology of the modern gop and it's steady drift or lurched to the right. why did you begin there? so you can always have this debate about how far back do you go and i think my my editor and
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i decided early on that if we weren't careful we were going to be starting with very cold water, which is fine. i very cold weather. there's a fascinating guy in many fascinating books have been written about it. but buchanan was a contemporary figure. he was one that readers will certainly recognize and remember. i mean, i'm old enough to remember his campaigns for president and i remember that fence he talked about and and i i it stuck with me as an image and his his just his television presence was all so very good because like trump in and there's many ways. he's like a proto trump figure. he was very good on tv, and he had to really captivate an audience. um, he wasn't quite a pop culture figure like trump. he was more of an intellectual, but i thought i wanted to always talk to buchanan and i never really had at length. so again, he invited me over once and i sat in his his living room. a claim and this like mansion that he lives in behind the cia headquarters and you know how you do these interviews david
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were like you you someone's your source says something and it's like an aha moment and like that's the basis for the story that you're going to write and what he said to me that the was like that was hit on the night of the primary in california in 1992 when he was still running against bush. he had no business being in the race anymore because he'd been he he's a dead man on the ballot. essentially. he wasn't gonna in no way he was gonna stop bush but he was looking at the returns coming in that night. in an la county san diego county and a orange county. i believe he was getting 30% of the vote still and it was all about immigration. this was way more of the boat than he had. he received in other recent primaries and in california actually overall. so that was that that told him that what he was saying about immigration was really powerful in a place that was experiencing it first hand as a real societal
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problem. so illegal immigration. that is i should say so it wasn't just that as i talked to him some more he started shedding light on how his 92 campaign as like a much of a pivot point as it was is really kind of misunderstood and people miss remember it because what actually got him into the race wasn't immigration or trade or any of these america first policies. we associate with him. it was affirmative action. it was race-based and there was this element of racial grievance. is anger that people who you know, they were mad that their kids didn't get into the school that they that they thought they should get into and were blaming a minority that took their spots supposedly or they were mad about having to press one for english on the phone. and that's what motivated you can and i thought that that really is not that far from where we are in politics today. so i made him the beginning point chronologically. i just wanted to ask you if i'm so curious to know what buchanan
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thinks of what has happened to the republican party. is he pleased does he you know, i mean is he just delighted with the way things are oh, yeah, he told me a story and i forget if i put this in the book because some of the stuff makes like doesn't quite it hits the cutting room floor. um, but he called jeff sessions after or no jeff sessions called him after trump won in 2016 and began to the that they just laughed like oh my god, can you believe that? we did this because you know the ideas that they talking about we're never really accepted by the mainstream or these, you know, the establishment of the republican party in washington. so he was delighted he i have to say he didn't think trump would win a second term which was interesting and i asked him why and it his reason essentially was that he just didn't think that there were enough white voters left to elect him again. he and the democrats thought that too, i guess right so.
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this week you've actually been covering sarah palin's libel suit against the times in your book. she comes across as as a major precursor even a much bigger and more recently precursor to trump then then buchanan was somebody who instinctively grasped a lot of what he went on to exploit much more successfully. was she just ahead of her time or did she lack something that trump brought to the table? i think it's both actually. um, she was ahead of her time because the republican party at that point was still in a position of strength where it could kind of kill off those elements and and with her it did it kind of it kind of drove her it personally. it really aggrieved her and and angered her and i think really
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ruined her ruined national politics for her as a passion. i don't think she wanted to do it anymore, and she didn't want to spend the time away from her family, but she she was a figure ahead of her time because she had the grievance that trump did but she she experienced it in a more authentic way trump's grievances for the most part are invented trump is is somebody a guy of extreme wealth and privilege. who claims that his idea of being persecuted is macy's canceling his line of ties after he says that you know mexicans are rapists, which he did it after he announced being president. macy's did too and then the pga pulled his tour and was oh my god. i'm so victimized her victimization was actually real and it was it was a condescension that she felt that i think is actually legitimate
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she was she and the people were the area where she were she's from where you know denigrated as quick valley trash because it's this area of alaska outside anchorage. it's not very prosperous and it's kind of the bible belt and it's a they call it the bible belt of alaska. it's a little rednecky and you know, they resented that but then she also was basically throat tossed around by the republican establishment in the state and and she was disrespected by them. they tried to push her out of out of her leadership position on an important board in the state after she was married wasilla and she came back and she beat them. she beat the sitting republican governor frank murkowski, and it was really a feat and she became the youngest. person ever elected governor, alaska the only woman and so yeah, she was she's different than trump in a lot of ways, but
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she's also i think if you you know, because your question was was she was she ahead of her time. did she lack something trump have she lacked the the ambit i think she lacked the grievance to get back at her enemies the way that trump the trump was always trying to prove something and that drove him and he just had more media savvy than she did. she always treated the media, um as if it were her enemy and trump did that but he also never really believed it in the same way that she did like, yes, he'll claim the new york times and all the mainstream media. they hate him. he's taking maggie's calls. right? right, and he's inviting all of us down tomorrow along. i would have talked to him like for our books. i mean it's and she's like that. so yes. gotcha. um another big character in the book is roger ailes delete chairman and founder of fox news. and you know, he was an instrumental figure in the book and in the story of the gop.
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he was out of the picture before trump got elected, but you argue that he did more to see the ground for trump than just about anybody. could you talk about that a little bit? mm-hmm. so roger ailes style of politics was bare knuckled unapologetic. no apologies. he had this this quote famous quote from teddy roosevelt about el mangle it but it's you know the man in the arenas the one worthy of the the most worthiest man is the man in the arena with the blood and the sweat on his face or something to that effect, and that was his vision. for politics and how you could put politics on television in a compelling way and that's exactly what he did. it was it was except for the arena was more american gladiator. style and anything else and he saw it's interesting what he didn't see actually what he didn't see that in people like mitt romney and it drove him
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crazy and he this is why he hated romney and he thought romney would be a terrible. terrible republican nominee in 2012 and if this you know, it shows us similar roger and trump were he complained that if mint was gonna win. i was gonna be roger was gonna be the one to do it. i'm gonna drag him over the finish line now just like trump is taking credit for all these republicans. like i'm the one who to he used to try to toughen these people up as ben ginsburg. one of romney's lawyers said to me roger thought it was his job to toughen mid up through the debate. so they threw all these like really really tough questions at him and that's why mid didn't do very well in the debates and why somebody like gingrich who was one of ales's favorites didn't really well because he was the guy in the arena who voters saw as that combatant that the guy who would rip the other guys face off and that's what republican primary voters wanted because they wanted to see somebody do that to obama. and ales wanted that done to
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obama because ales just didn't trust obama didn't think he was really an american even but you know that so who does that sound like right like they were trump is not only you know a fox character. he is a fox consumer the ultimate fox viewer like there's like told his pulsar tony fabricio calls, and he's like archie bunker with money. and that was roger ailes, too. you know you you you remind me the obama line? that elves in your book you say that he was on really incapable of fathoming that obama had gotten where he had gotten so quickly right that it on his on his own merits that he thought it had to be corrupt. you know, we know obviously that that accusations of sexual harassment lawsuits ended al's career, but do you also think that he was a racist?
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oh, i yes in this in the in the way that like a lot of those people who grew up in that era still really it like talked about minorities insensitively and and were suspicious of their motives and their work ethic. yeah, absolutely and he um famously that on the day that that glenn beck as i point out in the book on the day that glenn beck called obama a racist ales while he thought it went too far on for something to put on the air he told executives at fox that he thought obama was actually a racist. um, so yes his i mean his his views of race were like very much centered in 1960s, ohio working class blue collar, ohio. so, you know you do the math, but it's it's he certainly it was it was funny because as somebody pointed out to me were
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and a lot of people don't know this, but he had a relationship with jesse jackson and he actually hired jesse jackson's daughter to do work for fox and he was he was friendly with al sharpton. but as somebody told me for the book and i quit this in the book those were the kinds of african-american leaders that that ales could contemplate their success, right? he he could get his head around that um, because he he knew them but like some, you know, he didn't work with them. he they were transactional people like he was but with obama as my as my source in the book says rails thought oh, somebody has to be putting up the money or he can't be really who he says he is valerie. jarrett has to be pulling the strings or someone else. it was a very like condescending and patronizing you of somebody who's obviously bright enough and talented enough to become president. right, right. um, just moving on to some other fox personalities or fox
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adjacent ones in your telling there's a great anecdote about sean hannity that paints him to be a big coward. where somebody from breitbart basically bullies them into backing down over the whole roy moore incident or episode rush limbaugh undermines his listeners faith in institutions you write about that really powerfully, but i wanted to ask you about steve bannon. my question is really is it all just a big game to him? because in your book you write that ben and a quote found a way to look past his private doubts about trump's seriousness and competence because he thought the president was the only political figure capable of uniting the fractious populist insurgency on the right that bannon believed he could control himself one day that was interesting to me. elsewhere you note that bannon admired hitler's stagecraft and
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compared trump's launch of his campaign with that famous ride down the escalator to the propaganda films of lenny riffinstall jeremy. does steve bannon want to take over the world? yeah, he would i don't you know in his in his mind. yes. that's where he belongs but i don't see it happening when when trump was winter after from fired him that he was, you know, obviously full of anger and bitterness and talked about even primary trump which is kind of kind of absurd, but i think that for the moment what he what he realizes because he's remembered benin was somebody as the book lays out who saw a real spark and sarah palin and he tried to get her to run for presidents in 2011. um, so bannon is is always looking for these figures who he can help steer right because he gives them you know that the
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idea that um, rove was bush's brain, right? well, like i always say that bannon was trump's translator because he gives them this vocabulary and this kind of intellectual architecture. he did the same for palin because you know, i mean this is not an insult to their intelligence but like, you know, palin and trump are not like steeped in biographies about william jennings bryant right? i mean they populism is not a really and there's a funny anecdote in the in the book about that about what trump says when bannon tells him for the first time about american them in trump says yeah a popularist popular is popularism and that's what i am. so bannon, could he identify the historical trends and the kind of power of? political issues in that moment that could motivate voters to support someone like a palin or or trump and he gives them.
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though he gives them the the the template from which to build a campaign to run on right? so i think yeah, it's that's what he's doing from the sidelines up with this podcast now too is what do you what do you think from having written about him and talk to him and interviewed about just you know watched watched him for this book and and beyond what what was he looking to accomplish? political domination. i mean he has if he has these these fantasies and i don't think this will ever bear out just because like the ugliness of the the right is it's just so visceral and such a such a so offensive to so many people that you could never been and want to construct like a a left right political coalition where where that like the bernie people would unite with the trump people and that would be a
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majority but the problem is is they they just have an excised the anti-immigrant anti-black sentiment, you know, the people even said that the that's enough, you know, we don't need you. we don't want you but that's i think in his you know in his the political theory part of his brain, that's what he would say. he's trying to do but he's also a like trump fascinated with show business. i mean you pointed out that linearif install propaganda and he sees trump and he's so he studies this stuff very carefully and understands the power that the media has to manipulate people and so part of him while he he knows that trump has all these flaws and he doesn't trust trump's judgment on a lot of things and things that trump has squandered a lot of opportunities. he sees a kind of raw in intuition in trump that you can't you can't teach you can't like trump didn't sit down and watch triumph of the will.
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um, but he some he knew that he just he understood the power of images in the same way that that bannon does but ben and studied it for trump. i think it was just more of a isn't of an instinct. so, um, we've touched on maybe one or two, but there's a lot of episodes in the book that are kind of canary in the mine stories about um, you know things that happened on the right years ago that that you know, they're the steps on the on the road pointing straight to somebody like trump taking the over the gop. what are some of your favorites? so the one that i like the most that i hope will the people will especially in in our area will remember well is remember well, but hope but probably not remember all the details of trump's involvement. the extent of this involvement is the ground zero mosque or what they called the ground zero mosque. and as i re-reported that story,
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so i was having lunch with one of trump's former advisors who one of the many who'd been fired and this he was telling me the story of how trump got involved in the ground zero mosque, and i i had no memory of it even though i covered that story as a media story 12 years ago because this is the summer of 2010, you know the eruption of the tea party. um, and what i discovered was that, you know not only was trump involved in that because of course he offered to buy the land. so the the developers couldn't build this this mosque, even though it wasn't really a mosque. it was a community center. that was islamic just like there's a jcc or a ymca. this is the muslim vision for that. but trump saw and i asked him about this when i interviewed him. i said, why were you drawn to this as an issue and it because it was a popularist issue. he saw that it wasn't a popular
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thing that you know, despite bloomberg support for it obama support for it. the polls showed that most people didn't want to build so close to ground zero. so trump latched on to that but so did other people at the time who didn't really know trump bannon is one of them and bannon only met trump that summer on a completely unrelated thing dave bossy who ended up being the deputy campaign manager and a strategic advisor to trump. you had robert mercer who ended up giving one being one of trump's biggest donors. he funded a campaign an advertising campaign to stop it. you had roger stone i could go on and on but all these people and they weren't working together for the most part. they were all working against this issue without having much interact any interaction with each other so i found it. just be such a fascinating way to show that all of these elements were there not only all these elements, but the people it was the same characters and they would converge five years
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later under the donald trump umbrella. it's the most amazing foreshadowing. i mean, you know, can i think can i just ask you can re-reporting that like did was there whether one or two things besides the collection of characters that we now know it's like footnotes on every one of them right but you know it is there it was there anything in particular that you learned and reporting that that you think was just like mind-blowing that that had it come out at the time would have really reshaped the coverage or so yeah, i think and i don't know that it this could have come out at the time because i don't know that the the person involved had the realization until later, but it was rick lazio who was running for governor of new york at the time in the republican primary. and of course he lost because he was an angry enough. he was like a mitt romney. he wouldn't rip the other guys face off, but he tried to get involved in the ground zero mosque and went to a hearing for
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the landmarks commission at testified against it and i interviewed him for the book and he he said to me he was like at that meeting i could hear the booze and and you know see this, you know, the ugliness of some of the signs that were just anti-muslim. they was like pure anti-muslim venom. it wasn't anything else. it wasn't him be sentiment. it was just pure antis islamic stuff and he told me that he really regretted like that was a point where he knew that this had gone to far and it's something dark was being unleashed. and you know, who knows if he had spoken up and said that he i bet it. he probably really would have lost the primary but i really bigger margin. you know, well, yeah, i mean, i don't know if they were throwing around rhino then but yeah, right. yeah. um, so um, let's you mentioned evangelicals at the start and i wanted to just go back to that because it's it's it's a huge.
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chunk of trump's base and you you spend quite a bit of time talking about his relationship. there's a technical give them what they want and that's a quote from trump. can you talk about about that and tell the story of that quote and what it means right? well, it's yeah, it's kind of an echo of the second half of the subtitle and how they got everything they ever wanted. so that was a scene early on in the trump white house, or maybe it was a transition. when trump turns to one of mike pence's advisors and he's insecure about his relationship with evangelicals at this point. he's not sure that they're fully on board with him. that's not his world obviously, so he doesn't really know what to think of them or what they think of him and he says to pence's chief of staff. you know what i'm just gonna give them whatever they want. so they keep coming back and
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that was one of the cornerstone principles of his presidency. he did almost everything with the exception of like one or two things that i can think of that evangelicals and and social conservatives and the religious right pressed him to do. i mean that the embassy in jerusalem that was that was a big checklist item for the religious right and ended up being on all their lists of accomplishments that donald trump had achieved for them and he was somebody who's so transactional that he didn't care about the ideology of it. right? like he doesn't care where the embassy in israel. is it just it fulfilled a i think part of him kind of liked the the fact that no other president had dared to do it because it was so explosive as you know, david because you were there and like you covered it and it was a very disruptive thing. um, and he liked that but there was nothing particularly ideological. it was purely transaction.
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and that was i think a revelation for me in talking to the people in the religious, right who came around to trump and seeing how transactional they could be and i think it also surprised some of them because for them mike pence was the kind of politician who was their model mike pence was the guy had been married to his wife for 30 years. he was the guy who can recite the bible chapter and verse it goes to church every sunday and that's like rick santorum gary bauer and on and on the social conservatives who dazzled the right but trump did more for them than any of those candidates any of those politicians and i think they figured that out and it is other evangelicals who are anti-trump of commented on this phenomenon as well, but it needs to be said that some of them also. didn't just look past trump's boar's behavior and and his ugly and the ugliness and the mean spiritedness. they embraced it. they liked it.
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they as somebody said to me trump may be a bully. this is an evangelical woman. trump may be a bully but he's our bully. they liked pete weiner has written a lot about this. he doesn't even want to call himself an evangelical anymore. he used to write for georgia w bush, but he says, you know that he thinks a lot of evangelicals just liked the mean spiritedness of it and you saw that and i mean, do you probably remember this david? in 2015 when trump went to go speak at that event with frank luntz and he said john mccain is in a war hero. i like war heroes who were captured that was an evangelical event and people in the audience laughed. all right. um, i i wanted to ask you also about this. dynamic that you write about really really well about how trump can really kind of just change people's opinions on things like almost on a dime.
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right and i wonder in particular with evangelicals. whether they're whether you've ever seen any limits on that any you know, but can you talk about that dynamic and just for our viewers kind of? spin that out a little bit right? i do wonder like it was there ever a breaking point there. so i thought january 6th would be it but it really wasn't, you know, i thought that maybe initially it was i because i remember talking to evangelical leaders in the days and weeks after the attack and they were they were shaking just like kevin mccarthy was shaking but then you know, they kind of quickly forgot about that. um, and there's two things there's like you know people who come in live fall in line right because of political pressure and they want to continue to be political.
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right and successful and then there's actually changing people's beliefs on issues. and that's that's what i'm that's the one i'm getting at, you know, like no, that's if that's a good point because that's the that's a phenomenon that is like it's quantifiable like pollsters have looked at this including trump's own pollsters who have who is tony fabricio told me he told trump about vaccines in the coronavirus are another word of vaccines yet, but it was coronavirus and masks and all that like he tony told trump. you're the pie piper, you know, your voters will follow whatever tune you are playing. and that was borne out in data that people were seeing in 2016 when trump started. cozing up the putin. guess what there were fewer far fewer republicans who said that they thought russia was america's enemy. i mean that is mind-blowing. this is the republican party the evil empire of the ronald reagan republican party and people and more republicans were saying
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that they thought that russia wasn't a real threat to the united states and that was all trump. he also did that with trade and immigration. they people have republican voters the electorate at large not so much the you know, the leadership but or the thought leadership, but they have come around the immigration is bad trade free trade policies. heard american jobs that that was the that was unthinkable in the republican party of george hw and w bush. and art and was there or is there i mean, maybe we're seeing glimmers of this with vaccines where? you know, he's lost control but where there was there ever a point at which? you know the base kind of didn't go along with him. vaccines is the is the one that comes to mind right now, and that's the one if you talk to people on the right that he's he could be the most vulnerable
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because that has taken off in a way that i mean just look at what's happening in canada with these protests. it's it's so so powerful and people are so convinced that this is just a mortal thought because as i i don't want to psychoanalyze why but it's such an affront. it's so personal i think and and you combine that with a, you know, our toxic political culture and people it's it's exploded in a way that i as surprised me. um, and it's surprised trump because he certainly wasn't expecting to get booed like he did when he brought up the vaccines at a rally a couple months ago because o'reilly told him to do it because it is a success of his administration like that. he operation warp speed was was his um, and he felt like of course he wasn't getting enough credit for it because biden was getting credit what he tried to take credit. but yeah, i i would say though
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getting back your question. there's something different about like trade and immigration. switch that voters made because i think like what trump did there? wasn't so much like make them change their minds on it and they're like kind of blindly following him like a pied piper, um what he pointed out there i think was that the republican orthodoxy from on high was actually harming american workers and that they ought to rethink this and most people hadn't given it that much thought. it was just kind of like, oh, yes you cut taxes, you know you allow companies to make a lot of money and that's good for the economy overall, but you know. right. i want to ask one or two more questions, but i just want to remind the folks watching or listening that there's a q&a i think button somewhere on your screen if you want to put in some questions, we've only had a couple so far, but we don't want to miss this opportunity. so let me just ask you this.
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he and this is you know putting on your on a customed prognostication cap, but is the trump base here to stay and and what i what i mean is is it transferable to another republican, you know if donald trump were to eat one too many cheeseburgers with a margery taylor green or a matt gates or mike pompeo or someone else be able to exert the same kind of hold on these masses who have so closely almost religiously, i think religiously in some cases followed donald trump. i think not. it's hard for me to admit. there's been no figure in modern political history in america whose followers. print flags with his name on it and t-shirts with his images of him as rambo and his face
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superimposed over rambo's but muscular body and brandishing a machine gun. i mean, it's it's he's so singular. i think that that matt gates is not going to be able to replicate that and i think that his yeah, it's it's just his his connection to his voters combined with his savvy. of the media and his use of the media. it's it's just something that i don't think you can replicate i'm gonna like cheat here and steal an answer from pat buchanan when i asked him why trump was the only one who had been able to do this when you pat had, you know run on these issues a decade ago decade or two ago, and he said that he thinks trump is the indispensable man. i think that's i think there's a lot of truth to that. i think that if you know ron desantis could yeah, all these guys could pick up chunks of
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that. but trump is it doesn't mean that trump is that trump is the is is still that singular of a force and has still that much hold over his base because you know if you look at the poles and and the way people have responded to him about vaccines, there's certainly been some slippage and i think that that is ultimately the story of my book insurgency like the gop. it's modern history has been about overthrows and revolts from within that that are destabilizing to the party leadership. and trump is the party leadership and if history is any guide there are elements of the party that that the leadership has co-opted or tried to co-opt. and it's come around and bit them because it's not controllable those those people margaret. taylor green is not going to be controlled. she's not going to be co-opted and i think that's what's dangerous to trump that he's not
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invulnerable to the same forces that have undone previous republican leaders. so let's take a few reader questions now. one of our neighbors here writes since so many establishment republicans. still vote for today's far right gop. no matter how extreme were they ever really establishment figures to begin with. i mean, i think that they've changed their tolerance for ugliness and and hostility and just the lowering the bar in for what's acceptable political discourse. so i think you get you you look i spent a lot of time talking to people. who were the types that you would think maybe have some misgivings about an event like january 6th, and they did and you know, i asked them
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afterwards was this all worth it. and they said yes, you know, it was despite. you know that i take the bitter with the sweet. we had a we had a good run with him and there. well, yeah sure. there was some bad stuff. it's it's kind of it's kind of extraordinary the the ability to whitewash or you know, hold their nose at a lot of his a lot of his record. that's the like that's the party. another reader asks or viewer i should say. habits, it seems that mcconnell genuinely understands that trump is a real threat to democracy. given that why didn't he get rid of trump forever when he had the chance in the second impeachment? because he didn't know the votes his conference wouldn't have gone along with it that the votes were not there. there was no way that even mcconnell i think ever would have voted to convict trump
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because trump is the source from which the republican party is political power flows. they're afraid of him and until the voters tell them otherwise until the voters toss out trump. he's going to be there because there's gonna be no republican to stand up and say, i mean there will be there'll be like liz chinese and adam kinsengers, but you know those they're essentially i mean for all intense purposes, they're essentially democrats now, and and another follow-up on mcconnell. someone asks, how do you think the pushback from him? about january 6 is going to play out such as it is that pushed back. the pushback against mcconnell. i'm sorry number push back by mcconnell. oh, how do i think that you know what we're seeing now, you know about the censure and so on. so i'll preface this by saying like i don't want to make it sound like as i said in one of my previous answers, i don't think trump is invulnerable. i don't think he's i don't think that people see him as like as infallible as as they used to i think there is something that is
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wearing a little thin about his act although like he hasn't been on the stage as much so i don't know what it looks like when he is once again at the center of our political universe and our new cycle, you know that said i've read enough of these. national review editorials and wall street journal op-eds and heard enough denunciations by romney and mcconnell from the senate floor to know where this is probably heading and that's with trump turning this around to his advantage and i think that what you started to see in the last few days because and we didn't even get into this little big part of the book is about the creation of this alternate reality. and how that was sustained over the years and and expanded in the trump years um, i checked yesterday just out of curiosity.
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how is the mcconnell statement playing? how is the rnc resolution playing conservative media? almost not it's it's it's a very while it was our biggest story one of our biggest stories. well, it was all on cable news with the exception of fox news just wasn't a big story the way it's getting covered. now. this is what i was getting. is people are starting to use this pro-trump people are starting to use this as a way to go after mcconnell to to rally circle the wagon say this is mcconnell is coming for trump. they have a plan. they're gonna try to take him out again, and they're trying to recreate this, you know trump the outside or under attack from from above the the that kind of narrative that you had in 2016. i don't know if it works as well this time and i wouldn't try to to pretend like i do because there's too much too much.
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we don't know about how things are going to shake out. let me just jump in it and ask you to say a little bit more about the creation of the alternate alternate reality or alternative reality. because i think it's important and and what maybe as a follow-up to that what do people who don't assume that media need to understand about it. that they may not. i mean, it's it's a it's like a home. it's like a truck tribe or a teen. you know, you're putting on a jersey that would like when you consume this stuff you feel like you're part of a of a community and a community. that's very good at telling its audience that they're under constant siege and that they are the victims of a of a system that is systemically unfair to conservatives and you know, of course the irony is a conservative conservatives have built, you know, one of the most powerful and effective media
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apparatuses like in modern times and in civilization, i mean, it's it's that they say that the mainstream media the new york times. i mean sarah palin suing the new york times part of our argument today. it was very interesting. it's you know, she called us goliath and you know, she was david looking for stones to throw. no, like that's that that's not the position of the conservatives are in anymore because they have this this megaphone. it's it's say it's diffuses the wrong word because it's just it's powerful because there are many many little entities that you may not have ever heard of. radio hosts little websites social media networks that were that you're just not on but they all work in concert and they talk to each other and they're so disciplined at driving a message and this is why you know, he's hannity is such an interesting figure because people who studies him notice his use of repetition as a
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classic propaganda technique and during the trump impeachment his ability to create an alternate narrative about what had really happened in ukraine and and who the real enemies were what ended up being the the line that trump's defenders used in congress. so it's they're very message disciplined in a way that the left is just not because it doesn't have anything approaching what the right has with media. yeah, i mean the only person who i can think of who uses repetition more effectively as trump himself. it's another reader question. what do the democrats have to do to beat trump next time assuming he does run not being trump wasn't enough in virginia for terry mcauliffe against glenn youngkin. the republicans will win the culture wars biden can't pass bill back better. the democrats are losing working class voters even minorities. can they get it together to beat
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the indispensable man? i mean it at this moment, it certainly doesn't look good, but i would say that trump is always his own worst enemy, right? he lost in 2020 because he couldn't get out of his own way. he refuses to let go this notion that he was victimized in 2020 that it was stolen from him and if he isn't able to suppress the crazy talk about the election. i think that's democrats best weapon against him. it's like, you know biden won because there was this fatigue, you know for it. i think he captured it best in that debate where he said, oh would you just shut up man and people laughed? oh, yeah. it's it was true. people were just sick of turkey like and actually this is another quote from steve bannon, which shows you that he's like how where he is of all trump's
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flaws and yet still it continues. ableton but he said trump is like the tv the bad tv show that you can't cut off. and it's true. i remember but came it was thinking 2018 or something. and yeah, i used to stand in front of the helicopter and helicopters worrying and he shouting um, because he liked that. he liked shouting and he liked that he could pretend not to hear the reporters questions when they asked him because of the rotors and i remember on the somebody we were watching it and said like oh god, would he just stop like leave us alone? and so there is like a certain sense that people remember the absurdity in the exhaustion, especially of those four years, so i wouldn't say that all hope has lost for democrats by any stretch of the imagination because trump has shown time and time again how self-destructive he is. um one question. i want to ask you from another
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one of our readers is it seems that biden didn't win the election, but that trump lost it. is it possible do you think that is that the more trump takes center stage? the more voters will alienate and that linkage to trump will prove to be a disadvantage for them. i think so, but the linkage to trump is only relevant in such a small handful of states and congressional races because they're so what is it now a dozen it used to be 65 70 or something a decade ago of these. these districts house districts where the member was of a different party than the president so like a trump district represented by a democrat say or you know an obama district represented by a republican. there's now it doesn't so, you
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know, they'll only get so far tying trump tying other republicans to trump just because trump is so overwhelmingly popular and a lot of these red districts, but i think that you know, it's it's it's a good question because trump as i said can't get out of his own way, but the democrats need to figure out a way to go back and highlight. and convince voters of what was biden's biggest strength and that's his competence right like his entire argument was it wasn't just like our return things to normalcy. i'm competent in this guy's not this guy is a disaster. he can't do like look at what he's done to our country. um, and it's true like i think like that trump's competence. um, i don't know how that looks now because biden's competence has suffered so much and trump's people have been salivating over the fact that whether it's afghanistan or inflation the supply chain issues that biden
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just looks like doesn't have control. and he also looked at control of the levers of government in the economy, but also control of his own party as a leader as a leader that people respect and and follow so they need to re-establish some of that i think in order to be on a better footing. another reader asks or viewer. sorry. we've seen a lot of trump television interviews over the years. what was he like for you to interview compared to other politicians? and how did you approach your discussions with them? oh, that's a great question because people often ask like what's he like? i gotta say he's pretty much the same as you see on tv except for he swears more. and he'll occasionally go off the record until a dirty joke. he's he can be a very charming guy. he can be very funny and he tells he tells good stories, but he's also somebody who when you speak to him.
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you have to be very strategic as a journalist. i mean if you're very strategic about what questions you're going to ask and and identify your goal what you want to get out of him. so when the first time i interviewed him for this book was about a year ago, and i made it a point not to ask any questions that i thought might elicit some type of response about voter fraud or the election and it didn't always work but for the most part our interview stayed away from that i didn't get i didn't want to get to that kind of stuff until the second part of the interview because otherwise he just he'd go. it's like you see on tv, but with more swear words, he goes into these rants these digressions about the people who have wronged him and the people who have been ungrateful to him. who's who owe their careers to him and his political brilliance and an acumen and that's that's what a conversation with him is
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like it's it's a lot of superlative a lot of i did this. i was the first to it's i hate to disappoint, but it really is it really is what you see in one of those extended interviews on fox and friends? here's another like future predicting question some people believe that a third party might be an option just as the republican party displaced the whigs in the 1800s. do you think a third party could displace the republicans and eventually become a major party? is this my dad it could be i think the sounds like a question that he would ask and i think he tried to ask if the other night moderator was like, nope. we're not talking the ringer. yes. i did recognize the last name. maybe you want to answer this one once it's wrong. well, it's i mean, right because the the wigs went. into oblivion and i think that there's an argument to be made
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that unless the never trump people find a way to work with the democrats. that they're just going to be shouting into the void, right? um, there's a guy who's running in utah. he wants to run for senate. um, he's a and he ran. evan mcmullen and he ran for president last time in 2016, but his whole thing now is how to figure out a way to get the democrats to trust him to nominate him because most democratic primaries of those voters are not going to want to nominate somebody who's just switched his registration from republicans. so yeah, there's the unless they figure that out. you know, the i don't know that a third party is it would really that's that's why these guys like bill crystal have formed these committees where they're encouraging republicans to vote democrat, right like ram emanuel coined the famous phrase biden republican. like reagan democrat and that's that's why but like to the to
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the other questioner, um who asked about you know, the whether or not there could be a custom kind of like synergy there. it's i think that biden is he did he did. win because trump lost right? i mean you're the question was did biden really did biden really win or did trump lose it's kind of the same situation is in 2016 when hillary lost a trump didn't really win. we're getting some comments now, but i want to just keep it to questions. so just going back to insurgency your title. someone asks, you know, what you estimate are the chances that ron desantis could lead the next phase of the insurgency, but i would just widen that aperture and ask you, you know, is is there the next insurgent? on the stage yet or on the horizon.
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well, i think that and i don't know. what we'll see in terms of of her capabilities to lead a national coalition, but marjorie taylor green to me has a lot of the same qualities as a sarah palin, you know, she really does command an audience and people seem to like this. i mean, i've seen her speak at rallies and she's she's quite effective at whipping the crowd up. i don't know it becomes of that. i don't it all depends on trump, right because as trump's advisors will say his effectiveness is not so much in his endorsement. those are fine people like to put that on flyers and they can raise money, but he's effective when he attacks you another republican. and he will attack ronda santos if ronda santis makes a move against him and ron desantis knows this and that's why he's staying quiet the last it look what he did to lion's head and little marco.
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now is he as effective as that at that as he used to be with the sign showing that is you know, he's kind of slipping. um, i i don't know, but i think we should all remember that that is his secret weapon his ability to just humiliate his rivals. yeah. this reminds me of another great passage in the book about the fourth stool. a suit of the fourth leg of the stool. sorry, i'm botching it. but why don't you just describe what that is? because i i you. why the democrats have never kind of added that you know leg to their stool, but what tell people we're talking about. yes, so there's a republican strategist in this will be the backstory is pretty funny and it shows you how much the republican party truly has become trumps the strategist work for brian kemp of georgia governor fame who declared that
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trump had lost which in fact happened and brian kemp was running in a tough republican primary for governor in 2018. and this republican strategist. i interviewed really bright guy was the one who made these ads for brian kemp and brian kemp ran as a full trump republican in the primary ad with a pickup truck. he said standing in front of his pickup truck. i'm gonna drive this baby around the state and around me up some illegals and he won he won the primary on the the of his trump impersonation. well this the strategist was telling me that the that episode. was it really illustrated how republicans have turned to what he called stylistic conservatism. it's about attitude. um more than it is about any policy or or ideology. and so there's the famous republican proverbial stool that
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had three legs. they always used to say fiscal conservatives social conservatives and military hawks, and that was the republican party of ronald reagan that he built. well this strategist. identified a fourth leg. he said that he called the stylistic leg and that's really the one i think that is holding up the republican party today. yeah, the other ones have actually gotten somewhat rickety to some degree depending on who we're talking about. but but is there? is is a totally irrelevant to democrats that stylistic stylistic aspect of politics, you know, is there a way that there you know? there could be a corollary a corollary for democrats that might have, you know broader appeal. i just wonder it doesn't seem like we've seen that it doesn't seem like there's a person who's
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good at it yet. right and that's what it would take because i think a lot of these guys who try to fake being trump are really bad at it. um, so you'd have to have some it's a and you've seen this argue a lot of democrats make this argument in recent weeks and it's not new like philippe rains, um was making this case in 2018, you know, hillary's a top hillary's top guys was saying, you know, you need biden needs to go there and remember biden said something like i'd like to take trump out and encourage him to a fist fight behind the but you know the schoolyard or whatever and i think quite work providing, but you have to have somebody who can do it. well or else they just look down. listen, you've been great. the book is terrific. your answers have been really thoughtful. i'd encourage everybody to pick up a copy and i just want to thank you for your time. and thank the montclair library for hosting us. no. thank you, david.
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aim or the revenge of power. now i have the great pleasure of introducing professor catherine stoner catherine stoner is the deputy director at the freeman smokeley institute for international studies at stanford university and a senior fellow at the center on democracy development and the rule of law and the center on international security and cooperation at the freeman spogli institute. she teaches in the department of political science at stanford. and in the program on international relations as well as in the masters and international policy program, she holds a ba in an ma in political science from the university of toronto and a phd in


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