Interview: Bill Kristol and John Ziegler Agree that Conservatism Would Be Better Off Had Hillary Won
In the modern history of American politics, has there been a group deemed so completely irrelevant, while also being the subject of continuous attacks, even from the president of the United States, as “Never Trump” conservatives? Yesterday, I interviewed conservative commentator Bill Kristol, who is the de facto leader of that movement, of which I am usually a supporter.
The conversation was part of my new Individual 1 podcast, which focuses, twice a week, on chronicling the Trump presidency from a conservative perspective. We hit on a number of important topics, including the lunacy of CPAC, whether it would have been better if Trump had lost to Hillary, whether Kristol’s plan to find a legitimate challenger for Trump in the 2020 GOP primary is realistic, which Democrats Kristol could support in 2020 against Trump, and what the future holds after Trump is gone.
Kristol referred to the just-completed CPAC as a “clown show” that was strong evidence that the entire conservative movement has devolved into a “racket.” He found it interesting that I reminded him that when Trump first spoke to CPAC he had to pay $100,000 over two years for the privilege and that this may have been how he realized that the conservative movement embraced “hucksters,” and was therefore very vulnerable to a hostile takeover.
Perhaps most remarkably, Kristol empathically agreed with me that, contrary to the nearly religious belief of nearly every Republican, conservatism and the country would have been better off today if Hillary Clinton had defeated Trump in 2016. Of course, when you tell Trump’s “Cult 45” this is the case, they look at you like you just defecated on the American flag in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Our case here is that, if Hillary had won, yes the unpaid-for tax cut would not have passed, and Antonin Scalia would not have been replaced on the Supreme Court by an apparent conservative, but that most of the rest of the landscape would have been far better for conservatism, especially in the long run. Specifically, Republicans in Congress would still be acting like conservatives on issues like spending and executive power, and would very likely enjoy strong majorities in both Houses, while not having unilaterally disarmed their credibility and principles for use in future battles.
Our biggest disagreement occurred in the realm of Kristol’s quest to find a challenger for Trump in an effort to prevent him from being the 2020 GOP nominee, with me strongly questioning if that plan is at all viable, especially given the current political realities. Importantly, Kristol admits he is banking on that environment changing significantly (but how?) and admits that it is possible that the effort might be scrapped if it is doomed to failure, while providing Trump with a method to only further strengthen his vice grip on the GOP.
Assuming Trump is the Republican nominee, with the Democratic field starting to take shape, I asked him about which liberals he could see himself supporting over Trump in 2020. While Joe Biden was first on both of our lists, Kristol was willing to go beyond just the former vice-president on Democrats who could easily get his vote when faced with the specter of four more years of President Trump.
As for what happens to conservatism and the country when Trump is gone, we both share the strong opinion that the backlash to Trump will be cause liberalism to be far more readily embraced, much more quickly, than if there had never been a President Trump. The entire interview, which in many ways is a case study in the differences between the way an optimist and a pessimist see our current politics, is well worth a listen (above) or can be found at any of these three links:
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