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Colorado gubernatorial election, 2002

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Colorado gubernatorial election, 2002

← 1998 November 5, 2002 2006 →

Bill Owens 2002 (cropped).jpg
Rollie Heath.jpeg
Nominee Bill Owens Rollie Heath
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 884,583 475,373
Percentage 62.6% 33.7%

CO-Gov 2002.svg
County Results
Owens:      40–50%      50–60%      60–70%      70–80%      80–90%
Heath:      40–50%      50–60%

Governor before election

Bill Owens

Elected Governor

Bill Owens

The 2002 Colorado gubernatorial election was held on November 5, 2002 to select the governor of the state of Colorado. Bill Owens, the Republican incumbent, defeated Democratic nominee Rollie Heath to win a second term. Owen's win set the record for biggest win in a Colorado gubernatorial election. As of 2018, this is the most recent election in which a Republican was elected Governor of Colorado.

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(bell ringing) - [Announcer] This is Duke University. - Good evening and welcome to Conservatism in the age of Trump with journalists Megan McArdle and Ross Douthat. My name's Fritz Mayer, professor here at the Sanford School and director of POLIS, The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service, one of tonight's cosponsors. We have a small banner here. POLIS's mission is really two fold, to inspire and empower a new generation of political leaders, our students, and to engage the Duke community, students, faculty, staff, and alumni in addressing the problems that beset our politics today, tall order. As you see from the banner behind me, we are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Terry Sanford's birth who is the founder of the institute that now is the school that bears his name. Terry would be very pleased with tonight's event. He was of course far from a conservative certainly for his times, but he believed deeply in the value of engaging with people who thought differently than he did. And, he had the all too rare ability to find common ground with thoughtful people regardless of ideology. I know he would find much to agree with in what our speakers tonight will say. I'm gonna turn this over now to my colleague, introduce my friend and colleague, Bill Adair, Knight Professor of the Practice and director of the Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy who will introduce our speakers, Bill. - All right, I want to thank, join Fritz in welcoming you to this great event. It's made possible by the generosity of Jack and Pamela Egan who have endowed Megan's position as the Jack and Pamela Egan visiting professor. That's a dual appointment of the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. As you may know, Megan has been quite active on campus this fall. She had been teaching op ed writing in the Dewitt Wallace Center and often meeting with students and faculty. And, she generously offered to organize and host this event, and we're grateful for that. A little bit about Megan, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with an English degree, she spent four years at a boutique consulting firm building servers and workstations for banks. She realized she didn't quite fit in in the world of IT, so she got an MBA at the University of Chicago and became a blogger eventually working her way to positions at that Economist, The Atlantic, Newsweek and the Daily Beast, and now Bloomberg View. She is the author of the Upside of Down Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success. If you haven't read her work for Bloomberg View, you should. It's smart, and witty, and has some wonderful insights. Thanks to Megan, we are fortunate to also have Ross Douthat with us. Ross grew up in New Haven, Connecticut and is a 2002 graduate of Harvard University. He was the senior editor at The Atlantic before becoming a columnist for the New York Times in 2009. He is the author of Bad Religion How we Became a Nation of Heretics and Grand New Party with, how do you pronounce it is? - Reihan. - Reihan Salam as well as Privilege Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class. So the format tonight is wonderfully simple. It'll be a conversation between Megan and Ross. And, then at the end of that, we'll open it up for questions. We're looking forward to a great discussion. So thank you to both of you for joining us. (clapping) - So I got my start in professional blogging in the Heedy days at The Atlantic with Ross when we were all running around. No one had any idea what they were doing. Actually in fact the reason that I became a professional blogger was that Ross invited me to a dinner with David Bradley who owned The Atlantic. I did not actually know who David Bradley was or really anything about Washington Journalism and arrived 45 minutes late because I had been in Washington for like three days. And, I told the cab driver to take me to the address, and I had no idea where it was. It turned out the cab driver had no idea where it was either and deposited me in the middle of a park. And, I'm frantically trying to call Ross-- - That's how we welcome people to Washington. Happened to Jared Kushner. - I was frantically trying to call Ross and Reihan, and of course they were at a very important dinner with David Bradley and had turned their cell phones off so that they wouldn't. And, I arrived there. And, David Bradley who is like the nicest person on the planet personally made me tea because I was covered in snow and had been wet. And, almost all the people who were at the dinner that night got hired as kind of the first class of bloggers at The Atlantic. And, I think the funny thing was because I had arrived late and the introductions had not been made, for some reason I got the idea that, this is a story that has never been told before. For some reason I got the idea that Jame Bennett, the editor and chief of The Atlantic, was the IT guy. (laughing) - He was really good with computers. - He was. But, it was some of the best years of my journalistic career was working with Ross and having him wander into my office when I was there which wasn't always and just sort of tossing off some incredible insight into the state of Conservatism, human nature, religion. And, so I'm going to try to replicate that experience for us tonight. And, I'm gonna start by asking a question that I might ask you over a beer, Ross, which is you know yesterday, big election day. I think Republicans are feeling a little bit like, in the words of Tom Leher, a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. What does it mean? Like how bad was this for Republicans? - For Republican, for America, for Ed Gillespie? - Any of those questions. - For our business, for what? - Yes. - For the destiny of the human race? - How much should I buy in the way of canned goods and ammunition to store in our basement? - I mean do you work for the Republican National Committee? - I have been accused of this, but no. - The good thing about our profession is that what's bad for America, Conservatism, the Republican Party, and the world is very good for us. - This is true. - So I think you're okay. You don't need the canned goods no matter what. I mean I feel like the election sort of confirmed that the laws of politics have not been permanently suspended, and that a deeply unpopular Republican President will lead to negative outcomes for Republicans in states that are tending towards the Democratic Party. And, that you know I mean I think somebody I'm stealing this insight from somebody, but all insights in journalism are stolen. Ultimately is that what happened in Virginia was sort of what most people expected to happen on election day a year ago which is that the Republican Party sort of lost the suburbs in a big way. And, in a bigger way than they did in the end in 2016. And, that was what made the difference, in this case between Northam being elected governor by what I think was reasonably expected to be a three or four point margin and the much larger margin he actually won by. It's also presumably what made the difference in sort of putting the House of Delegates in play that people didn't expect. So basically to the extent there was a surprise which shouldn't have been necessarily a surprise, but it was that clearly a lot of people who are sort of Republican leaners who in the end went to Trump surprisingly in 2016 voted against Gillespie in 2017 in what seems like an anti Trump kind of vote. So it suggests that there's at least a chunk of voters who were lifelong Republicans who considered pulling the lever for Hilary and didn't who have buyers remorse and are willing to vote against even a Republican like Gillespie who seems like he fits their politics a little better. What it doesn't necessarily tell you is is the Democratic wave big enough to actually turn the House over in a years time? And, my colleague at the Times, Nate Cohn, did a write up that basically said because of the nature of the state of Virginia and the distribution of votes and its demographics and so on, this tells us that indeed the remaining Republican House members in blue states are you know in real trouble. But, it doesn't tell you whether there'll be an extra 10 of 15 seats flipping. And, for that to happen, the Democrats would need either higher minority turn out than they got. That seems to remain an issue for them or stronger inroads among whites without a college degree which they didn't really-- - [Megan] Yeah they did what 72%, I think? - Yeah, I think Northam won like 1% more than Hilary did. So Gillespie didn't add any votes over and above what Trump got but the white working class in Virginia was still firmly in the Republican column. So that's you know in that sense it tells us more about what an energized suburban anti Trump resistance can do. It tells us more about these suburban Republicans who might cast anti Trump votes. But, it doesn't answer the $1,000,000 question which is will Nancy Pelosi be Speaker of the House in, maybe that's only the $500,000 question, and the $1,000,000 question is something to do with Russia or something and you know the investigation. - I mean there's always the danger, right, that when you're looking at these things 'cause we're under pressure to have opinions whether we have any very good opinions or not. - Sometimes, yeah. - But, there's a general temptation to over read history, right? I remember in 2008 enormous numbers of people saying on the night Obama was elected. It's 1932. And, I remember tweeting back at one of them who's a friend of ours-- - Meaning you, just to clarify for the younger members-- - Meaning for those of you who are not as old as I am and don't remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt. - Meaning FDR and not Hitler. - It was a big night for me. Yeah that was the night when FDR was elected, and it was a sense that there was this radical transformation coming in politics. And, if you look at the dominance of the Democrats, it's just astounding right just the length of time that they managed to hold the House, the length of time that they just had this incredible string of wins in presidential and national politics but also at the local level. And, I remember tweeting back at one of them who's a friend of ours, Spencer Ackerman, it's 1929. Right, is in fact the financial crisis has just happened, but FDR had three years, and the financial crisis without saying that FDR did nothing to help the Great Depression. I think there's a mixed record there, but certainly some of the things he did very obviously helped. Nonetheless, things were so bad at the bottom that it was hard for it to get substantially worse. At some point, even if nothing had been done, it would have bottomed out. We were not gonna continue down until GDP was zero. Obama was coming in right after it had happened, and what that meant was no I see why you think this is a historical parallel. Unfortunately that disease had infected, for example Chuck Schumer who thought it's New Deal two. We've got it all, and I think they made some major political missteps. And, I think similarly a lot of people I've talked to are comparing with what's gonna happen in 2018 to what did happen in 2010 to Obama. The thing about what had happened to Obama was that in 2008 in part 'cause of the financial crisis, in part because of Iraq and in part because of Katina, Democrats were holding all of these seats they just shouldn't have. Right if you looked at the demographics of these districts, there was just no reason that there was a Democrat there except the Republicans had screwed up so badly, and while I, in fact, don't think that Bush had much to do with the financial crisis, I certainly think Iraq had disaffected a large number of voters who just didn't show up. And, so you know the first aphorism I ever coined in politics because like stealing this is something you have to do if you want to be a columnist is be constantly coining aphorisms and hope that one of them gets up to the-- - You just need one of them to stick. - The Kinsley gaff for example when a politician accidentally tells the truth. But, this one actually had surprising legs. I was a blogger when I wrote this. I think it was 2002, and it was the devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant, the devotees of the party out of power are insane. I've never had cause to revisit this basic observation which was that it was not good enough that George Bush was like a bad President. He needed to be Hitler. And, it was not good enough that you really didn't like Bill Clinton's welfare policies. He had to be like shooting people in their cars and sneaking out of the White House to like rob orphans. - Running drugs out of Arkansas. - Running drugs. - Was actually the-- - I can't remember all of the conspiracy theories at this point. I'm now freelancing. I do not want to start any new Clinton conspiracy theories. So there's always that affect on midterms, right? But nonetheless, if you look at how much Democrats had, they had 60 votes in the Senate. Republicans actually just had a lot more space to get those insane people out to the polls and knock a lot more people off. So what do you think about the House? It's kind of crazy. - Well here we have the central factor is how popular is Donald Trump, right? And, the way Trump's popularity works is that if he doesn't do or say anything for a period of time, his approval rating floats upward towards a sort of basic Republican coalition norm which to say-- - [Megan] About 45%. - Yeah I mean 43. He got 46% to vote for him, but the percentage who approve of him. It's harder to get above 42 or 43. - [Megan] It's a wonderful commentary about modern American politics. - And, then he tweets or something happens in the world, and you know the fact that he is President is brought to people's attention once again. And, then his approval rating dips down. But, it doesn't usually get much below 38, 37%. - [Megan] It's weird 'cause it's sort of like an ex president, right? You notice that all ex presidents get more beloved after they leave office. - [Ross] He gets more tolerable when you forget he's in office. - We actually have ex president syndrome only while the President is still there. As long as people can kind of forget, he gets more popular. - And, when you know Roy Moore is President, there will be many liberal essays about for the days of moderate Republicans like Donald Trump. Everybody's laughing, but they won't be laughing soon. I think I mean this is sort of a pundit cop out, but there's a sense in which a lot depends on just where in the cycle of Trump's approval ratings the literal election day of 2018 happens to fall. Donald Trump won the White House because election day 2016 was held at a particular moment in his cycle where he was capable of hitting 46% of the vote. Had it been held you know a week later, I suspect that he would've gotten 44% and lost. Had it been held you know when the Access Hollywood tape came out, he would've gotten 41%, and so on. I think a similar reality will apply. You know if Trump's at 36 or 37%, the Republicans will probably lose the House. And, if he's floated up to 43%, they will keep it. And, if he's at 40%, then it's a coin toss. But, you know I mean obviously 1,000,000 other factors play in, and you know ground game, enthusiasm, and candidate selection. But, the Democrats are doing a good job of candidate recruitment overall. They're going to have a lot of enthusiasm among their core voters, and that's usually what you need for a midterm wave. And, so yeah the question is Trump's unpopularity low enough to sort of sink Republican turnout just enough and inspire Democratic turnout just enough to put them over the top. And, I literally like you know you could play that out with this year and go through calendar day after calendar day and say okay on this day, the Democrats take the House, on this day, Republicans hold it by two seats or something. I mean something big could happen that could change that dynamic. But, any time in the last six months, I think that would've been true. And, so projecting forward it's easy to imagine it being true then too. So the Democrats need, you know if they have another Access Hollywood type tape, this time they literally need to leak it six hours before the polls open because they need to assume this sort of wave function in Trump's approval rating in that it shapes who votes for them. - [Meag] Sort of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Princple of Trump. - Yeah. - I actually tried to slip a sentence into my year end appraisal of Trump that I did for Business Week in which I described America as currently living in a permanent state of quantum dread, but the editor thought that was a little too pretentious. - A little too pretentious. But, it's only been nine months. - It's our year end, so we do Business Week does a year end. - You're on the magazine cycle. - On the magazine side. So this will allow me to take a detour which is another thing that columnists love. You're getting all of the profession columnist insight here right now. 'Cause my class is here. - You're not a professional columnist here, Megan. You're a professor. (laughing) - Well I have very little, having taught now six classes, I actually feel-- - You have infinite experience. - Well for a columnist, three is a trend. So we have to kind of assess Republicans, and I want to move onto Conservatism in a little while, but Republicans who are at least somewhat loosely related I think still to Conservatism, Ross may dispute that. You know they exist in beautiful yin and yang with the Democratic Party. And, at the end of 2016 after the election, this had been something that people were saying for years is like the Democrats are in much worse shape than it looks like. That Obama had been masking in a lot of ways. I mean the party had been devastated in the down ticket races and was losing control of state legislatures. That looks like the reports of the Democratic Party's death may have been greatly exaggerated. So where do you think that they are? I mean I've read, I am now at the point where in the past 10, 15 years, I have literally read the description a rump regional party confined to X applied to both parties. - Right about both parties. - At least three times a piece. - Within two years of each other. - Yes, exactly. Right, like the Republicans are gonna be rump party confined to the South. And, then all the sudden it looks like the Democrats are a rump party confined to the Northeast and confined to the Coasts. What do you think? Was that always exaggerated? How good a shape are the Democrats in? - Well I mean they're in bad shape, right? I mean they have no power. That's not good. - Temporary, my boy, temporary. - Temporarily, right. I mean it's not good I would expect that, I mean both parties are in bad shape. You have a Republican party that's running the country that you know is sort of imprisoned by Donald Trump's distinctive qualities and also has a majority by default because the country or some percentage of the country is united on not wanting the Democrats in charge without being united on any kind of substantive agenda. So you have a sort of agenda-less majority party running the country which cuts against everything that journalists are supposed to believe. Like we believe in these narratives where your party loses election, goes into wilderness, emerges with new agenda, rides new agenda to victory, implements New Deal, Great Society, Regan Revolution, Contract with American, et cetera. And, the Republicans have proven that that's completely wrong, and you don't need to develop a new agenda to retake power. You just need to have an extremely closely divided country, some luck, and an opposition party that the rest of the country doesn't like. So the problem for the Democrats is that you know they have moved left faster than the country in certain ways. Not on every issue, but if you go back to the mid 2000s or the early 2000s, you have this famous book called The Emerging Democratic majority which argues that for because of deep demographic trends, the Democrats are destined to have a majority sort of into the distant future because all Democratic constituencies are growing, minorities, single people, you know and so on. And, all Republican constituencies meaning you know white, Christian, married people in the heartland are shrinking, and therefore you know at some point, the lines cross and keep crossing, and the Democrats win. And, that theory has been beaten up and argued over and so on ever since the Democrats didn't claim a permanent majority. - [Megan] It's been emerging for about 15 years at this point. It's like Godot. - But, the fundamental truth there is that had the Democrats maintained their exact issue orientation that they had when that book was written and carried it forward into the present, they would have a majority. - [Megan] But, you can't do that, right? - But, you can't do that because as the country moves, the composition of your party changes. The activists in your party become, for totally understandable reasons, more ambitious. And, so as the country moved left in part for ideological and in part for demographic reasons, the Democrats moved left too. And, so Democratic success or failure over this period has sort of depended on whether they can sort of pull themselves back, so they're slightly behind the country's leftward drift. Or, when it feels like they're slightly ahead of it. And, I think part of what happened in the late Obama years was that there was this sense that sort of certain kinds of cultural change had happened so fast that there was a large constituency for not so much even backlash as just let's not have the Democrats in charge for a little while. And, you know that constituency was for of enough to keep the Democrats out of power even though of because the Democrats had won this sort of remarkable string of cultural victories. And, had gained a kind of cultural power more broadly that I think liberals tend to underestimate how distinctive it is. Like you and I grew up in a world where it was understood that the media was liberal, and that Hollywood had a liberal bias, and so on. And, this was sort of part of the architecture of how Conservatives thought about cultural institutions. And, that higher education was also liberal. So it was assumed among Conservatives that the major institutions of American culture where pretty liberal. But, they weren't all liberal. Like late night television for instance was not considered a zone of strong political engagement. The universities were liberal, but if you looked at like faculty balances in the late 1980s, you know it was like 75, 25 in a lot of major universities Republican versus Democrat. And, you know you could sort of go down a list and say all of these cultural arenas either they were liberal, but they were not that liberal, or they were somewhat apolitical. And, as the country has moved to the left on a lot of cultural issues, and to some extent on economic issues too, those institutions have in turn moved even further left. They've become more politicized. You know the spread of sort of Daily Show alumni across late night TV is a kind of useful sort of microcosm of this larger phenomenon. And, as that has happened, Conservatives, and not just Conservatives but sort of somewhat apolitical people have felt I think more alienated from their cultural institutions than did Conservatives circa 1985 or 1993 or something. And, I think that creates a problem for the Democrats where you have a situation where again their ideology is sort of winning these cultural battles, but it's leading to a situation where people are using political votes as a way to try and sort of resist or slow that trend a little bit. But, with all that being said, that resistance ultimately put Donald Trump in the Oval Office. And, with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, the Democrats should be able to win a lot of elections because Trump you know lots and lots of people voted explicitly voted for Trump just because they didn't want to vote for Hilary Clinton, or they didn't want to vote for liberalism. And, now he's not a sort of locus of protest and resistance. I mean there's a reason that Fox News likes to pretend that Hilary Clinton is somehow President of the United States because they know that the appeal of Trump is rooted in anxiety about Hilary in particular but sort of liberal power in general. And, you know liberal power in the political arena is non existent at the moment. And, so you aren't gonna be able to mobilize voters around that kind of anxiety as long as Trump's in the White House. - Yeah there's a sort of weird phenomenon where both parties would like to have lost because it's much more fun to gear up your voters when you're out of power and can therefore run against whatever's-- - And, certainly the hosts of cable television shows would have liked their party to have lost. - So here is a question that I found myself asking for the first time, I don't know, a couple weeks ago. And, by way of background, I should say I'm basically a cultural relativist in a lot of ways. I take sort of the anthropological view that you can't really talk about culture as having better and worse values because there's not even a place where you can have that conversation. Like you can only start off with the values you have. You cannot converse meaningfully across cultures about bedrock values. I mean can't converse meaningfully is not the right way to put it. You can't have an argument that it is possible to win. If you start with different assumptions, you're going to end with different assumptions. You can't actually just convince someone if their premises are completely different, and they don't accept your basic premises. I think that's something that liberalism in the classical Western liberalism, not in the left wing political sense, sort of forgot. But, I've long thought this about arguments about all sorts of cultural issues with the Middle East and other places. But, I'm starting to ask it about my own country. I'm starting to wonder if it is even possible, at this point, to have arguments that it is possible to win between Liberals and Conservatives. And, I find this a very worrying questions. But, the premises seem to me to be so increasingly different that I don't even know if you can get to a point where you could have an argument. You can shout at each other. You can denigrate each other. You can you know hurl imprecations at each other. But, can we discuss, and can we actually reach a conclusion coming together across this alienated Trump voter and commanding heights cultural divide? - Well first I don't think liberals forgot that. In fact, I think in certain ways they believed it and sell-- - I mean in the liberal enlightenment sense not in the sense the left wing liberals. - You mean effectively in our discourse Libertarians forgot that. - But, I mean all of America has in some sense had certain classical liberal commitments to freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. And, this idea of a public square in which we come for debate and ultimately the best idea wins. And, sometimes, we just agree to disagree, and we're just gonna walk away from the debate. But, always there's a sense that we could have a discussion. Maybe at some point, we'll run into something and say you know what we're just not gonna be able to solve this one. But, there is a constant process by which we change our national idea set for the better. - Yeah, and I mean I think that both Liberalism and Conservatism in different ways, as movement ideologies again not as sort of the framework of our society, have been operating under the assumption that your anthropological relativism is correct or that it's wrong up to a point, and then it becomes right. I think you see this on for instance same sex marriage. I think same sex marriage became a model that a lot of people on the left thought could be applied more generally where you have an argument for awhile, and you know you have that argument till the point where you have won sufficiently that you end the argument and declare the other position sort of out of bounds. And, I think there's a sense on the left that they did that successfully with race and the Civil Rights Movement. They did that successfully with same sex marriage, and that this could sort of be applied to other, that you know you could say that all right now if you are opposed to you know increasing the immigration rate, you are you know - Out of bounds. - We're excluding that from the debate because it is bigoted and racist and rooted in atavistic sensibilities and so on. And, on the one hand, as a Conservative and someone whose own ideas often fall outside that circle, I obviously want to say well that's wrong, and it's illiberal. And, you know you're not living up to our civilization's premises, and you know let me back into the debate. I want to say that. But, there is also a sense in which you know I recognize that we live in a society that is culturally below the level of culture metaphysically diverse in a way that makes it very hard to sort of sustain argument especially between groups at different polls. I mean, right yeah, there is still a center in America. You can still have arguments in the middle. But, between sort of the core activist groups in the two parties it is very hard to have an argument. It is very had to have an argument between immigration restrictionists and pro immigration activists right now. It's very hard to have an argument around a lot of issues related to human sexuality. It's very hard to have an argument around issues related to race. So the issues where we can still have arguments are arguments about the tax code n'stuff. - [Megan] That's coming next. - Well maybe. So this is a pessimistic way of thinking about it, but it also might be a politically useful way of thinking about it. One way to think about our politics is that we, in certain ways, have more in common with a kind of multi ethnic Central European empire circa like 1787 than we do with a kind of sort of like small scale New England town meeting civic republican tradition. And, in a lot of ways, when you think about the job of the presidency, and you could call this how I stopped worrying and learned to love the imperial presidency. But, in certain ways the job of the President is to be a kind of benevolent Hapsburg emperor who is capable of despite of emerging out of one faction or another in our politics or sort of standing a little bit above some of these debates and trying to make sure basically that the groups that are losing politically don't feel like the states are existential for them. That they feel like I'm losing these debates. I'm losing these battles, but I'm not actually gonna get crushed. For one thing, this is part of why Trump is a terrible President. Because Trump is a bad emperor in the sense that he is incapable of reassuring anyone outside his core coalition that he's not out to get them. Basically like if Trump were a good President, he would have spent an inordinate amount of time in his first six months in minority communities. Sort of being like look you didn't agree with me, I didn't agree with you. I'm not gonna be in favor of affirmative action. I'm still building the wall, but I'm here to tell you that I'm your President. And, that's a hard thing to do, and it doesn't necessarily work, but he's particularly bad at it. - [Megan] Well in part because part of his appeal, right, is that no there's people out there, I am an existential threat to them. - Exactly yes. That you feel like liberalism is about to crush you. Vote for me. I will crush liberalism, yes. - But, I remember trying to explain to my liberal friends why religious Conservatives viewed some of the stuff the Obama administration had done as an existential threat. Not like we don't like this, not we disagree with this, but like this could actually make it impossible for me to live my life in my religious community the way I have. And, it was like it just flew over people's heads. Like we're now talking about something so completely different when we thought about what free exercise was and what religion was. And, that's the thing that I look at when I look at my Conservative readers. You know we talk about identity politics. I'm using this incredibly broadly to talk about taxes. So I've been writing about Trump's tax code which, for an econ policy wonk, is kind of the gift that keeps on giving. There's so many things you can write about it. And, here is my kind of take on the tax code which is actually is does some stuff that should be done. You know like the mortgage interest tax deduction should be gotten rid of not merely capped at $500,000. But, $500,000 cap is a good start. And, a number of other things like that. In fact, you know I think there's a lot of things that it tries to do that are totally legitimate things to try to do, but that the way it is done. That it's so completely pointed at one group of affluent professionals in blue states will see their taxes go up quite a lot and who may or may not include people on this stage. And, then there's tax cuts for everyone else including Donald Trump. And, I way saying to a Democratic policy wonk who I was on the radio with last week, I was saying look if this had been done a different way. If those tax cuts had all gone to people who made half what I do, or if it had gone, I don't know crazy thought to deficit reduction and putting our entitlements on a sound footing. - [Ross] I've given up on that by the way. - I've also given up on that. But, I hope. I dream, but I do not believe. But, I would be like yeah, go. But, the way it's done where it's just kind of obvious that we hate you seems to be the major message of this tax code. I think that is a bad tax plan. And, my Republican readers didn't even really come back and argue. And, I'm increasingly getting this from a lot of people. This is just your class interest. That you are one of these cosmopolitan elites. You live in Washington. You go to Georgetown cocktail parties. By the way as far as I know, never been to a Georgetown cocktail party. - Just own it, Megan. Just tell them you go to all the Georgetown cocktail parties. It's better that way. That's the David Frum approach. - It's weird. - He's always like I'm hosting one at my house tonight. - He doesn't actually live in Georgetown I believe. - He's close I think. - But, you know you can argue with this is good policy or this is bad policy. You can argue with this is you know you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs if this is what it takes to do these things, well let's do them, and we'll worry about the rest later. Those are all valid arguments. You can't argue with I am this person. You are that person. Like Megan McArdle you are Irish American you know 44, live in Washington DC, affluent professional, went to an Ivy League school and have an MBA. Yep okay well we've gotten that out of the way. I mean what am I supposed to say, no. Similarly that's the thing that I worry about is that identity in a very broadly construed sense not in the kind of narrow way in which Republicans often criticize it or Democrats for that matter when they just say Republicanism is all white identity politics. I think it's more complicated than that. But, the way in which argument from identity in these really broad senses had infected Republican. What does that mean? Since the title of this is Conservatism in the age of Trump. - You know I mean the affluent professionals though are really bad, right? - But, this is the weird thing is you and I both-- - You're gonna pull me into my own self hating upper middle class anti identity, identity politics. - But, you and I are both self hating members of the swamp elite, right? - I'm gonna speak up more for the self hatred. So I think you're right that the problem with the Republican tax bill is that it amounts to sort of a war within the elites. It's like we're gonna stick it to the people making $400,000 on behalf of rich, wealthy heirs inheriting $5,000,000, and you know corporate CEOs and so on. And, meanwhile everybody else gets very little. - They ensure American flags for everyone else. - Since we're talking about Conservatism, that's the essential. Set aside like these sort of big picture questions about the state of the body politic. On substance, the problem with the Republican Party is that since George W. Bush, it hasn't figured out a way to offer a policy agenda that seems to offer substantive benefits to anyone making less than $125,000 a year. So this tax bill is an improvement on that problem in the sense that it actually you know it does ask some people, who are by the standards of America as a whole very well off, it does impose some necessary pain on them in the form of capping and cutting counterproductive tax deductions and so on. But, it still isn't doing every much for the country as a whole you know the ordinary citizen. It's doing that on behalf of, again, people who pay the estate tax which is nobody and corporations-- - But, those nobodies give a lot of money to the Republican Party candidates. - And, corporations where you have a sort of you know Kevin Hassett has, you know there's the theory that more of the corporate tax gets through to wages and so on maybe that's true. But to me, that problem, that is a case where I think it's legit. This is like the vulgar Marxist in me probably, but I think it's more legit to sort of target people on the basis of economic privileges they enjoy than it is to target people on the basis of either their religious beliefs or their racial background and so on. I would like the Republican Party to engage in a little class war against people like you and me because people like you and me wield disproportionate power in the American political system and have a lot of unearned privileges that have nothing to do with the free market or anything like that. They just have to do with our political power. And, I would be fine with the Republican Party stripping away those privileges if while doing it, it was spending more money on the child tax credit and less money on you know like you could just do I mean they could just take the corporate rate down seven percentage points instead of 15 percentage points, spend the extra money on the child tax credit, and ditch the estate tax, and use that to ease the pain on people like us a little bit. And, you'd have a good bill. But, that's getting into the details of policy as opposed to the sort of larger questions I guess. - When Trump was running, I would have these conversations with readers. And, they would be like but you people hate him. And, I would be like that is true. And, I share your critique of my class. You know I have since way back been critiquing the kind of elite class and-- - The terrible people like us. - A lot of the logic that I got from readers, and I remember actually responding with exactly this to one reader 'cause I am like the only journalist on the internet who goes into her comments regularly. And, I finally said to someone here's what I'm hearing from you. This woman I am dating, I'm getting engaged. She has a substance abuse problem. She spends more money than she has and has buried us in debt. She beats my kids. She tried to burn the house down, but my ex wife hates her. And, I was like that is not a good reason to get married. Yes, like all of these things are true. All of these criticisms that you have of this class is true. That is not a reason to endorse this. And, that is like it is the fundamental thing that we seem to be down to. And again, your argument was these people have too much, they have too much power, and they can afford to let go some of their power and money. That's a class warfare argument that's a perfectly fair argument to have. The class war argument that worries me is like I hate these people-- - And we have to drink sweet liberal tears while we watch Trump romp to electoral victory, yes. - They did a poll in Russia I remember at one point. And, they asked Russians whether they would rather have X amount of wealth, or they would rather have Y amount of wealth but that was less than X but their neighbor would have even less. And, then they asked a third question would you actually just like destroy something your neighbor had at an expense to yourself in order to make yourself better off. And, a shocking number of people were like yes, I would pay a great deal of money to just destroy what my neighbor has even though that will make me poorer. And, there are situations in which that is in fact justified. World War II for example. But, in general that's a bad way to feel, and it is a symptom of an incredibly unhealthy society where I feel like more and more people feel that way is that I literally will destroy what I have if it makes them even unhappier than me. I see an enormous amount of that in the Republican Party. - So it's a big country, right? And, that's also important to remember in these kind of conversations. Every generalization you make about a candidate who receives tens of millions of votes is gonna be true. First, there were lots of people who voted for Trump for defensive reasons. - Yes. - They voted for Trump because they basically wanted the status quo on the Supreme Court. They didn't want the balance of the Supreme Court to change, and they were worried about you know the future of their own religious institutions. They were worried about various other things related to jurisprudence and so on. You know we were both against Trump, so we're having a sort of never Trump con fab here. - We at Bloomberg View do not officially endorse. I was certainly highly critical of Trump. - Yeah, I don't think you voted for Trump. - We at Bloomberg View do not officially endorse. - Well neither do we. I didn't officially endorse either. Whether or not that argument makes sense, it's still the case that that's different from casting a vote that's like nihilistic, a nihilistic fist shake at liberalism. And, then similarly you know, and this is again where my class warfare sympathies come in, Donald Trump won a lot of votes by flying around the country and going to places that had been hard hit by global capitalism and telling them that he was going to bring their jobs back. And, yes like voting for a candidate who promises that is a little bit like letting Lyle Lanley put a monorail between Springfield and Shellbyville or whatever in the Simpsons. Yes, you're falling a little bit for a con man, but by the same token, if all the other politicians, who spent the last 15 years telling you that job retraining is gonna fix your life after the factory went away, why wouldn't you roll the dice on a guy who might be a con man? - And, that deplorables remark hurt Hilary a great deal because it resonated in exactly those places. - Yeah I mean I just think there are a lot of different reasons that one might cast a vote for Donald Trump, and only some of them have to do with a sort of pure fist shake at you know the liberals. And second, that also people are complicated. When I watch politics, is whatever I think about a given election, in the moment that the election is happening, if there are a bunch of liberal talking heads on TV, and something bad is happening to the Democratic Party. I'm gonna enjoy it. And, I'm not proud of that feeling. It's not the best part of me, but I enjoy it. And, I enjoy it for reasons that, yeah anyway. - I have a large number of never Trump Conservative friends who spent nine months wailing. I mean the emotional devastation after the primaries. And, then the night of the election were simultaneously I mean it would be like oh my God this is a catastrophe. I can't believe this is happening. And, then being like have you seen MSNBC. It's awesome. - And, this is not the best part of ourselves. - No, it is indeed not. - But, the fact that it's present you know in people who were against Trump suggests that you know again in people who had other better reasons for being for Trump, you should assume that that's-- - Fair enough. - Yeah anyway. - So to go to our final question because we're going to open this up for Q and A soon. Like what's the future? In 2016, we had like a Republican civil war. - Sort of, yeah. - It was pretty close. I was on the convention floor. I don't remember if you were there when you know Utah and Colorado are trying to lead a revolt. - The Mormon rebellion of 2016. - It was a lot of fun. I was in a throng around Senator Mike Leigh. And, everyone is rushing out there. It didn't go anywhere. But, it was kind of the most political moment I've even been in. But, after the election, it kind of seemed like it died away, and everyone was just kind of stumbling around staring at each other going what happened? And, I feel like in a lot of ways the Conservatives I know are still in that spot of just not really you know on any side, right? The Trump people for a little while maybe thought that this was their big revolution. By now, they seem confused. - Yep. - The Conservative movement that I thought was the Conservative movement and then turned out to be more complicated than that is just kind of despairing and just shaking their head a lot. Where are we? Am I wrong about this? Is there something more going on that I'm missing? - So basically Donald Trump represented a real ideological debate over the future of the Republican Party that he won. But, then he turned out to have no interest in that ideology. - Turned out? - Well I mean I thought he didn't, but there were people who thought that he did - Fair enough. - have an interest in a kind of comprehensive populist, nationalist alternative. - It was revealed in a broader way. - It was revealed in a broad way that he did not have a plan for this, and he also didn't have the personnel for it. There were no Trumpists to staff the White House. There were no veterans of pervious Republican White Houses who were ready to go in an renegotiate NAFTA and design a huge infrastructure bill and so on. And, had Trump been really shrewd and smart, he could've gone into the wonk-o-sphere that you and I know so well and found some people who would've been simpatico and built a White House team. But, he wasn't capable of doing that. - Well to do that he would've had to stop with the tweeting and the over the top statements because part of the problem was that by the time he won the election much to the surprise of everyone-- - Even if he hadn't done that, there were still people who would've worked for him. He wouldn't have gotten the best sort of populist, nationalist brain trust, but he could've gotten something better than Steve Bannon alone making phone calls and trying to take over the government, I mean and Miller too. But, it was basically just Bannon. He could've gotten foreign policy people from the sort of you know American Conservative. He could've brought on Andrew Basovich as a foreign policy advisor. He could've gotten like Henry Olsen. I mean these are semi obscure names maybe, but he could've gotten some smart people who would've at least tried to work with him on making his ideology into something fleshed out. He didn't even try to do that. So having done that, the people who might support that ideology like the people who founded American Affairs you know this sort of journal of Trumpist thought. They're like trying to build the intellectual architecture after the fact with you know an incompetent in the White House whose theoretically tied to their ideology. So they don't know what exactly to do. And, meanwhile the rest of the party is like all right we lost, but let's just pretend we didn't and just keep passing the kind of legislation we wanted to pass, and maybe it'll all work out. And, there's no figure in the party who has a sort of coherent vision of how you would integrate Trumpian populism and sort of the existing Reaganite infrastructure into whatever the next thing is that Conservatism should be. You know I mean you have some very admirable Republicans who have opposed Trump. But, I don't think any of them have a clear vision of what the part should be. Like I really like Ben Sasse, but what does-- - [Megan] Everyone like Ben Sasse. - What does Ben Sasse think the Republican Party should be? Jeff Flake thinks the Republican Party should be this sort of fantasy of Goldwaterite Libertarianism that it hasn't been and never will be. Evan Mcmullin thinks the party should be the Democrats. No, that's unkind. But, the sort of forthrightly anti Trump voices don't have a vision. The people running the party, the Ryans and McConnells are just like we're just gonna try and pass the sort of bad to mediocre legislation we had already and see what happens. And, it turns out that's incredibly unpopular, so they can't get very far with that. And, then you have some people who are interesting in terms of what they're trying to do like you know a Tom Cotton for instance who is like all right I'm going to be sort of I'm going to try and lead the party after Trump. That's clearly the Tom Cotton ambition. But, he doesn't have a fully fleshed out vision for what that would mean. - Why is it? So I remember, I don't know if you remember this, that we were on a panel together done by the America's Future Foundation I believe in 2007 or 2008. And, at that panel, I said it's time for the Republicans to ditch taxes. This is just they've run that issue as far as they can. So 10 years later, what is the one thing Republicans might do is taxes. Why can't they get beyond it? Why can't Conservatives, I feel like Conservatives are doing some interesting things. - Part of it is a failure of political imagination and leadership. Part of it is you know the sort of dead hand of ideological assumptions. Part of it is there isn't a donor base for a more sort of you know ultimately a more popular Conservative agenda would be more centrist on economics. It would be more libertarian on certain things, but it would not be sort of supply side economics as the party has inherited it. And, with the party's donor base really likes supply side economics, and that does seem to drive not all but a lot of sort of the failure of imagination among Republican politicians. And, the fact that they keep sort of cycling back into power despite not having any ideas. In some ways, that's the deepest issue here, right, which is that the Republicans lost hugely in 2008. Democrats, as you say, were talking about how it's 1932 all over again. And, two years later, the Republicans were right back. And, then today the Republicans control the government. Why would they try anything new? You try things that are new when you've been thumped in election after election. Like Bill Clinton really did represent a change for Democrats. That came after three consecutive crushing presidential defeats. And, the Republicans had two with Obama, and maybe if they'd had a third. You know you started to get figures like Rubio and Jeb Bush sort of moving a little bit on domestic policy, but that was like the beginnings. And, then Trump came along, and it was like actually we can just tear it all up. I mean Trumped proved that the part in certain ways had moved too slowly to change its agenda. But, then Trump couldn't implement a new agenda. So the party itself just went back to the old agenda. Anyway it's very depressing. I mean the fundamental reality is that the Republican Party controls the government of the United States, has no agenda, is run by Donald Trump, and doesn't have plausible future leaders who have a clear agenda or sort of path to leadership. And, you know hopefully things will get better. But, since we're here offering takes on the state of Conservatism, that's the fundamental reality. You know it's not a great situation all things considered. And, you know I hold out hope for the Cotton, Ivanka ticket of 2024 or something or the Ivanka, Rubio ticket. - Well when The Rock runs or something. I'm looking for The Rock on the Democratic side. - Ultimatley the lesson of the last election cycle, and I'm only half kidding about this is that if you have a set of ideas, and you care about the future of Conservatism or perhaps Liberalism for that matter, you need to attach yourself to a well known celebrity, gain their ear and their trust. And, that is infinitely better than you know writing white papers and columns and position papers and so on. And, so really, yes, the people who get The Rock's ear are the people who are gonna shape the future of whichever party The Rock decides to dominate. - And, if you know anything about his diet and workout regime it is going to be whoever runs the cod industry in the United States because he east like seven pounds of cod a day. - Wow, I did not know that. - Yeah that's actually true. So we're gonna open it up to Q and A. We have microphones on each, we have a microphone up there for those who ware in these more elevated climes. And, for people down here with the regular people, there's a microphone back there. Please if you want to ask a question, go up to it, state your name because we're recoding this, and this is for posterity. And, one by one, okay great, you sir. - [Audience Member] Hi, I have a question. David Shanzer, I'm a faculty member here at the Sanford School. I wonder if you could explain what Conservatism would say about a very important question before the Supreme Court. Apparently Justice Kennedy will decide this for America about judicial supervision over partisan gerrymandering. I would think one Conservative principle would be that judges getting involved in anything having to do with politics is not very Conservative. But, I would wonder if Conservatism sees a problem in a situation where 60% of the votes result in 40% of the seats. - Yeah, I think my general view is the Conservative one. That's the kind of question that in our system would not normally be appropriately settled by the courts. And, I am also kind of skeptical of what a court ordered system is likely to look like. So that's sort of my boringly conventional Conservative answer in a sense. That basically the way to deal with partisan gerrymandering is the sort of immediate way is for Democrats to win more elections and sort of gerrymander in their own ways and have competitive gerrymandering as God intended. (Megan laughing) But, at a large level, I also think that the sort of the structural problem of partisan polarization does make me more sympathetic to sort of wilder electoral schemes. Again, this is not an area of expertise of mine at all. But, sort of effectively like rank ordered balloting and different kinds of things where the goal is basically to change the ideological composition. I'm open to multiple ideas that would sort of change the ideological incentives for congressmen. And, you could do that with different voting systems within the states. You could potentially do it with stronger political parties in certain ways where you know if you change some of the fundraising rules around what kind of levels of money the central parties are actually allowed to give to candidates. You could theoretically lighten the burden of fundraising on congressmen. I mean part of the issue with congressmen, it goes to the donor we were talking about is that it's not just that they're in gerrymandered districts and so on, it's also that they are you know dependent on being sort of fundraisers of one each congressman which is not how it works in more centralized and often parliamentary systems around the Western world. So there might potentially be advantages in having you know something like Donald Trump is a phenomenon of a weak party not a strong party. So you have intense partisan polarization and weak parties. That's a combination that leads to gridlock. So conceivably you could deal with partisan polarization in part by strengthening the parties in certain ways so that even though they're polarized, they aren't as much prisoners of sort of particular donors. But, I don't know I've not thought deeply about the legal questions in the Supreme Court case. So I can't give you a sort of deep answer on that. My instinctive Conservative bias is that it's not, you know that this is sort of, well I'm torn. This is like a larger question that I wrestle with as you can tell from this sort of Hapsburg analogies. On the one hand, you want to preserve the Republic, right? On the other hand, you need a workable system of government. And, the tendency has been, over the last 20 years, is the way our system keeps working is that Congress cedes more and more power, and the Supreme Court and the presidency accumulate more and more power. And, that's sort of to my mind deeply anti Republican and deeply troubling. At the same time, I know you do need the system to work. And, at a certain point, nostalgia for the days when Congress was really good at legislating becomes just that nostalgia. And, this is where you get into the point well at what point do you see sort of being nostalgic for the Republic that was and start rooting for Caesar Augustus. And, of course this is the theory that brought many people to vote for Trump. And, I'm not to that theory yet, but it is something that occasionally bobs around in the back of my mind. - On that happy note, Asa. - Sorry Megan. - [Asa] I'm Asa. I'm a Junior. I'm taking Professor McArdle's class on op ed writing. So Mr. Douthat, I recently read one of your columns that said somebody should primary Trump because he's a bad president, and that's somebody's obligation. And, one of the people that you suggested was Matt Bevin who's the governor of Kentucky. And, 538 recently wrote that Matt Bevin is an exemplar of Trumpism succeeding without Trump. And, so when you suggested that he run for president, I was curious why? Is it because you think that Trumpism without Trump is good for the Republican Party, it's good for America like why should Matt Bevin run for president and why should he primary Donald Trump? - Well first, as the political landscape looks right now Matt Bevin should not primary Trump. If the political landscape changed to the point where it was plausible to imagine someone defeating Trump in a primary, then someone like Bevin or the other example I gave was Scott Walker seemed to me people who are more likely to succeed in that than is a Jeff Flake. You know someone who's sort of identified with anti Trump sentiment in Washington. So just at the basic level, what you're looking for in that sense is there's a baseline where you're just trying to replace Trump with someone who Republicans would vote for who's less likely to get us into a nuclear war by accident. The baseline problem with Donald Trump is that he is unfit to occupy the office of the presidency. That's sort of separate from all ideological concerns. And, I know that there's sort of a tendency among some liberals to say well actually if we got Pence in, it would really be worse because Pence would set up the Republic of Gilead in the Handmaid's Tale or something, whatever. - And, we would all look terrible in those white hats. - But, the blue, as a married woman, you get the blue dress, anyway. Not that I watch the show or took notes or anything. But, there's a baseline where what you're looking for. Basically I think that's ridiculous. I think liberals should want Mike Pence to be President because the presidency has awesome powers, and you want someone who's not Donald Trump exercising those powers even if you, you know, disagree with him on 16 different issues. So in that sense, if you're looking for an anti Trump candidate, you're looking for someone who you know could appeal to Republicans in a plausible way and make a sort of plausible case against Trump. And, you know the 538 piece was making the point that yeah Bevin shares a lot of political you know tendencies with Trump and so on, but he's running a halfway effective governorship. He's not sort of destroying his popularity with ridiculous online wars. And, he's been sort of effective at sort of compromising or sort of moderating himself on ideological issues where he's out of step with Kentuckians. I don't think Matt Bevin would be a great President in any way, shape, or form. But, I think that he sort of fits the mold of someone you could dimly imagine beating Trump in a primary in the unlikely event that someone could. I would also say that more broadly, as you can probably tell from my back and forth with Megan over class warfare, there is a version of Trumpism that I think would be good for the Republican Party and good for the country. I think the Republican Party needed to become more populist on economic issues than it was. I think it should be more populist going forward. And, to the extent that that was a part of Trump's appeal, and I think it was. That part of Trumpism I think is potentially a good thing. And, I think that there are, in addition to partisan anger, you know racial animus, and everything else, I think there were legitimate grievances animating Trump voters that both parties should address. So I don't think Matt Bevin is the guy to do that, but if you're just asking me, is there a Trumpism without Trump that could be better for the country? I would say in theory, yes. How you get there in practice? I don't know. - [Audience Member] Hello, thank you for being here. Welcome to North Carolina. - Thank you. It's a pleasure. - [Audience Member] I'm Jamie Wagstaff, and in the deep blue counties of Durham and Orange, I have founded a conservative lecture series. So we're trying to have a different voice down here. - We wish you much success. - [Jamie] Well Bill Adair has been one of my speakers, so we're working on it. I have a bunch of questions. Who would be the candidate in the primary in November that could've beaten Hilary Clinton not whether you liked her or not, did you think any of 'em could beat her? - Any of the non Trump Republicans? - [Jamie] Yeah, at the head of the ticket. Who is a Republican Conservative in your opinion whether they'd win anything or not, but who's a true Conservative? And, did you feel that the Tea Party was a legitimate Conservative movement, and if not why or if so why? And, thank you. - Sure. I will say that I think I over estimated Hilary Clinton among that failure-- - You are not the only one, Ross. - Well mostly we underestimated Trump's chances. But, I think personally I thought Hilary would be a stronger candidate. Not an incredibly strong candidate, but a stronger candidate than she was. So at the time, I thought that you know it would be challenging for any of the Republicans to beat her. On the evidence of the campaign she actually ran against Trump, I think Rubio and Kasich would've almost certainly beaten her. And, it would've been tougher for different reasons for Jeb or Cruz. With Jeb for dynastic reasons and Cruz for ideological reasons. - I think Jeb could've beaten her could he have gotten the nomination. Simply because at that point you're like well Bush, oh well Clinton, great. You can't really complain on dynastic. It sort of knocks out the dynastic thing. - Except that Bill, the '90s are remembered. Where Hilary failed, this is sort of a separate issue. This sort of is connected to questions about where the Democrats have moved. I just thought Hilary would capitalize much more on the fact that she was linked to the last period of sort of sustained economic growth and something approaching civic health in our country. And, she wasn't able to for various reasons including her own personality, the state of her party, and the fact that weirdly this is where Trump's sexual harassment stuff sort of you know it hurt the Democrats in this weird way because it reminded everyone of Clinton's in a way that it made it harder for Hilary to make the 1990s argument, such a weird election. But, anyway so I think Rubio and Kasich in different ways would've had the best shots. In terms of who I think of as, I think the definition of Conservatism right now is extremely up for grabs. And, so I don't think it makes sense to talk about anyone as a true Conservative. Like you know Trump and Cruz were very far apart in many ways ideologically, and Cruz sort of identified himself as the true Conservative in the race. That was his pitch. But, now most Cruz voters firmly support Trump. You know it's just not a moment where it makes sense to sort of say this guy is a true Conservative, this guy isn't. I think the question is more sort of what direction do you want the Republican Party to do in in the future? And, you know someone like Tom Cotton would probably take it in a more nationalist direction, and someone like Rubio represents a little more continuity with the George W. Bush era. And, then there's sort of places in between and so on. It's much more about sort of where the party goes in the future than who sort of represents true Conservatism right now. And, the Tea Party was, I mean Tea Party was complicated. I think that people in our profession had a tendency to sort of want to see it as this kind of sort of highly philosophical thing where it was about the Constitution, and it was about liberty, and it was about limited government. And, it was about those things, but there was also a chunk of the Tea Party that was clearly just sort of in it for a kind of identity politics of the right. And, that chunk swung very quickly to Trump in the primaries while the more ideological chunk stayed with Cruz. But, again even the Cruz chunk ended up with Trump. I think the Tea Party was you know it was a perfectly legitimate expression of popular discontent. But, it's ideological direction I think was not quite what a lot of Libertarians especially in Washington wanted to think it was. They wanted to think it was this great movement for liberty, and it was more, you know it was like the resistance right now. There's this weird effect where people get more upset about people once they're elected. The reaction to Obama got so much stronger once he was President. And, the Tea Party was so much more anti Obama than the Republicans had been before Obama was elected. And, similarly like, yes, the left was very anti Trump, of course, but the resistance has like taken it to its own level. So some of it in both cases, it's a reactive thing. The Tea Party was a reaction to the financial crisis being followed by this very liberal seeming President. And, that was more important than any particular ideological position that it took, I think. - We have two more questions. Do I have any questions up there? Okay, you sir. - [Audience Member] Can you hear me? There it is? Hi my name is Max. I'm a divinity student. So one of the funny things we talk about in the divinity school is the kind of pandering to the pews. And, Bush did it so successfully. We were wondering in '08 you know they ask McCain how often do you go to church? And, he says not enough. And, then Trump famously talks about his favorite verse is Two Corinthians 3:17 and says it's the only book that he like more than the Art of the Deal is the Bible. Will the Republicans even bother pandering to the pews in the way that George W. Bush did? Or, is that day over? - I don't think it's over exactly. I think Trump has pioneered a different approach which is to be transactional and to say you know I'm not one of you. You know I'm not identified with you, but I'm gonna make some specific political promises. I will protect you from sort of aggressive liberalism, and I will appoint the judges that you want. And, that has worked. And, it's worked in part there's a sort of portion of American evangelicalism that has decided to convince itself that Trump is really an awesome Christian. And, that does reflect this sort of-- - Have you ever spoken to an evangelical who genuinely believes that Donald Trump is a devout Christian? - I have certainly encountered them. You certainly encounter them online. Yeah no, yeah. It's not that like he's you know Saint Francis of Assisi. (laughing) Not that necessarily evangelicals would love Saint Francis of Assisi. - That is a papist. - It's the idea that he's like King David. He's a sinner but God loves him and has chosen him for a great task. And, sure the Bathsheba incident was unfortunate. And, there was a Catholic version of this too where there were traditionalist Catholics who supported Trump and were comparing him to Constantine. It was like you know Constantine was a bad guy in many ways, but he converted and sort of you know did what he did, and that was good for the church and so on. Anyway I think the major phenomenon is this transactional thing. We tried electing George W. Bush, this pious evangelical to the White House, and you know we kept on losing the culture war. So now we're gonna elect a tough guy who we have no illusions about his piety, but he's going to deliver for us. And, in fact, that is the only area of Trump's White House where he can honestly say that he's sort of delivered on his promises which is a big part of why even though they were more skeptical of him in the primaries, now evangelicals are sticking with him. So that doesn't mean that you couldn't get a sort of more straight identity based appeal again in the future. But, it was interesting that Rubio and Cruz both provided versions of that, and that wasn't enough. I mean part of it was that they split it up, right? Like Cruz got older evangelicals, Rubio got young evangelicals. Trump got evangelicals who don't go to church. No seriously the core of Trump's support was sort of cultural evangelicals in the primaries. - Actually in the primaries, like going to church was one of the best predictors of not voting for Trump like actually going to church not identifying as a Christian. - Within the Republican coalition. - In the primaries, it changed when it got to the general. - But, then when we get to the general election, those Cruz and Rubio voters adopted this sort of transactional well he's a pagan, but he's our pagan kind of thing. And, that has held. And, it will hold unless Trump botches, if there's another Supreme Court nomination, and Trump botches it, I could see that breaking. But, for now, you know he's got Pence there even though, I think we know what he thinks of Pence. But, anyway. Yeah I think going forward, it's a sign of sort of there is a sense in which evangelicals have decided or realized that they aren't a moral majority. And, so that kind of electing a President who embodies that moral worldview doesn't make as much sense anymore. And, instead it's like well we're gonna have a transactional politics. We're looking for protection. - Although if he violates it, then they will demand that unfailingly, right? Because that's a credible signal. - If Trump is seen as a total disaster, and if he fails them on future Supreme Court nominations, I think you could imagine a turn back to we've gotta elect the most pious candidate again. - And, last question, sir. - [Audience Member] Hi there. I'm Matt King, and I'm a senior here at Duke. So I've been reading Plato's Repulic for one of my classes, and in the very first book, there's an argument that the reason that smart people get involved in politics is when they are so angry at being ruled by lesser men. And, you both clearly think that you're smarter than President Trump. Does that ever make you want to put down the pen, put down the word possessor, and roll up your sleeves and get involved in the rough and tumble business of politics? - Mr. Douthat? - I don't think I'm smarter than Donald Trump. Or, I wouldn't think of it that way. I think I'm more you know emotionally stable in certain ways. And, I think without thinking that I'm necessarily a good person. I think he's not a good person. But, I don't think smarts is necessarily the right way to think about that. Yeah, I did think about that during the last political campaign cycle. We have small children, and I've been ill actually with Lyme disease for the last couple years. That made it even more of an absurd fantasy to think about than it otherwise would've been. And, I lived in Washington DC for awhile and now live in Connecticut, neither of which is sort of the ideal state to mount my distinctive Yankee, Catholic convert, anti Trump but pro populist brand of Republican campaign. I have sometimes thought about, I have family from Maine. - But, your market niche, no one else is in that market. You're gonna have 100% dominance. - No one else including the voters, yeah. But, I'll be curious what Megan says. But, I have thought about it without coming to the conclusion that it's in anyway something plausible that I could do. I did speak to a well known best selling author who considered a Senate run in Ohio, and I was encouraging him to actually run for Senate, and he did not. I was sort of considering that my effort. But, JD Vance who didn't run. It's a reasonable question, I think to ask. - I do think that I am smarter than Donald Trump. I'm willing to say it. But, I also think that like Ross that that isn't the right question for a few reasons. So the first is that in the supreme irony of my life as a Libertarian columnist is I'm the daughter of a lobbyist. And, one of the things that that has taught me is that our ideas about how politics work, you know the kind of popular conception of for example how lobbying works is not at all how lobbying works. It was very funny. I would write columns complaining about lobbyists, and I would get an email. You do know what paid for college, right? But, in fact like money doesn't buy you anything big. It buys you access. It buys you the ability to walk in someone's office and pitch them. That's all it gets you. They're not gonna give you anything for money 'cause they gotta go back to the voters every two years. So they're not gonna hurt themselves with the voters in order to give you something you want. Small things like tiny tax provisions no one's ever gonna hear about, sure. But, any major expenditure, any major change to a policy, no way. And, again on regulatory things, AT&T fighting it out with Comcast like Mothra V. Godzilla and no one except those two people cares about the outcome. But, anything where voters care, lobbyists do not have the effect that campaign finance people think they have. They just don't and couldn't possibly in a democracy. But, the broader experience that that taught me is that politics ain't about smart. First of all, it's about a certain amount of charisma, and the higher up in politics you go, the more it's true. I mean I remember at the nadir of my unemployment, I went down and interviewed to be Jeb Bush's speech writer. - When he was governor of? - When he was governor of Florida. And, not the nadir because Jeb Bush. I think he's a perfectly fine man. I think he was a good governor, because I really didn't want to live in Tallahassee. I'm from Manhattan. I've lived in Silver Spring, Maryland for six months. And, that is the farthest I have gotten outside of the city. But, I was surprised when I interviewed with him. Being in a room with Jeb Bush is like being in a room with the sun. You cannot pay attention to anything else as long as Jeb Bush is there. And, you wouldn't think that with Trump saying he's low energy or whatever, but it really is true when you're in person with him. And, the more successful a politician needs to be, the more they have to have it. I don't know what it is, but I do not have it. - Megan. - What? - Nothing. - I don't think anyone has ever walked away and said I met Megan McArdle like being in the room with the sun. (audience laughing) But, also that I have, because my dad was a lobbyist, I have a pretty good idea what politicians do. They do a lot of things that are not my thing. They spend enormous amounts of time hobnobbing with donors and telling them the same thing over and over and over again. It's like being on book tour for a writer, but it never ends. You just go from place to place, and then you spend a lot of time. You don't ever have any time to get smart on policy because you have to have staffs for that. Think about just the range of things we expect our politicians to have opinions on. They're supposed to know about fire safety. They're supposed to know about should we do X with North Korea. They're supposed to know about monetary policy. They're supposed to know about everything. And, the effect is they know about nothing. They specialize in some areas over time, but they never get as deep as their staffs 'cause they can't because Congress is now doing so much. But, also like I am not the sort of personable person. When you meet really good politicians, people who are really successful as politicians, these are guys who like they walk into a room, and they light up. They're like my friends from business school. Like I would go home at the end of a long day of hanging out with people and go thank God. I need like a day to myself now. Like one of the guys who was on my team, he would get home and it would be like five minutes, he'd be like okay I gotta call someone. It's been five minutes. I'm going crazy. I've gotta talk to someone now. That's what politicians are like. You saw how Bill Clinton would work a room. You saw the difference between Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton. When Bill Clinton goes onstage, when Bill Clinton sees a room, he's getting more energy with each additional person he talks to. - And, not only energy. Sorry, sorry, sorry. - But, Hilary's getting less. Her video they made before her convention speech was better than her convention speech, warmer, more personable, better delivered, all of it because Hilary Clinton likes being in small rooms with a few people she knows, and Bill Clinton just wants to meet everyone on the planet so he can love on them, right. Sorry. - It's my fault. I did it. I apologize. - I did not mean to pick up Ross's innuendo. And, being a deal maker and doing all of those things. Like that's not who I am. I actually have enormous respect for politicians. They get a bad rap, and I'm often the one handing out the criticism. But, they work really hard for what they do. - If you look at our neighbors, Canada, Great Britain, even France and so on, you get a different style of person, and this goes to the point of sort of campaign finance and so on. You do get more weirdos like us in politics in other Western democracies. - And, if we had a parliamentary system. If we have a Constitutional convention. - You'll be the member for Silver Spring. I agree with all that. The only reason, this is again sort of maybe a dark thought to leave with you with in certain ways. But, this is a moment in American politics where you have to consider outside the box ideas in certain ways. The truth is that Donald Trump who should not have ever been elected President, got elected President. And, suddenly people like Steve Bannon were like, you know these people who were running a website that other people in Conservative media thought was ridiculous six months ago were like sitting in the hear of the Oval Office. And, there are two ways you can react to that. You can look at it and say this is terrible, and we need to get everything back to way things were as fast as possible. And, that's how a lot of people in both parties are looking at it. But, I think it's a sign that you have to look at things and say this only happened because our system may be in a deeper crisis than we thought it was. And, that doesn't mean you want to elect a New York Times columnist as a Senator or anything else. - Well I think the breaking news here is that-- - It does mean that you know you might want to consider people you haven't thought of before. And, you yourself might want to consider life choices that you wouldn't have made in a situation where the political system were functioning perfectly smoothly. So when I talk to you know people on college campuses. I think it would be good if the Trump era led people in elite circles to widen not only their horizons but their sort of ideas about what can happen in the system, what can change, what can't change, what ideas are on the table, and so on. You know up to and including running for office in strange situations that you wouldn't otherwise which is why Megan is going to run for Governor of Virginia next time. She just hasn't been talked into it yet. - Or indeed moved to Virginia which I believe is a requirement. - Well that's the first step, or is it? - If you're interested in joining, the Ross Douthat 2020 Presidential Exploratory Committee, it will be meeting upstairs. There will be food and beverages. But, thank you all for being a great audience. And, thank you so much to Ross for coming down here. - Thank you Megan. (clapping) - Yeah, let me just thank you both for taking time to do this. This has been fascinating. And, also a lot of fun.


Primary elections

Republican Party

Republican primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Bill Owens (inc.) 189,705 100.00
Total votes 189,705 100.00

Democratic Party

Democratic primary results[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Rollie Heath 98,897 100.00
Total votes 98,897 100.00

General election



Colorado gubernatorial election, 2002[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Bill Owens (inc.) 884,583 62.62% +13.56%
Democratic Rollie Heath 475,373 33.65% -14.78%
Green Ronald Forthofer 32,099 2.27%
Libertarian Ralph Shnelvar 20,547 1.45% -0.23%
Majority 409,210 28.97% +28.34%
Turnout 1,412,602
Republican hold Swing


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