Below are the video and transcript of the panel discussion “2016: What Lies Ahead?“ which took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2015 Restoration Weekend. The event was held November 5-8th at the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.
Richard Baehr: I want to sort of follow up with what Patrick said. I was fairly negative in 2011-2012 about Republican prospects and I also agree that next year is a potentially winnable election. Some of that will depend on who the nominee is and what kind of message he has. But I’m going to go through both negative and positive factors that might influence why a Republican could win next year and so I end on a high note, I’m going to start with the negative factors. The first one is that Democrats have won four of the last six presidential elections and they’ve won the popular vote in five of the last six elections. In terms of the total number of popular votes, the Republicans reached their peak in 2004 when George Bush won 62 million. That dropped 2 million in 2008 and rose by only 1 million in 2012. So Republicans have not matched their high water mark from 2004. The Democrats had 59 million votes for John Kerry; that jumped to 69½ million for Obama in 2008, dropped back to 66 million in 2012. So Democrats have twice exceeded 65 million. The Republicans have never gotten past 62 million. Republicans need to find more votes if they’re going to win an election. I’m going to talk a lot about mathematical-type stuff, but numbers are numbers and the votes have to come from somewhere, and the votes for the Republicans can come any of three ways.
One is that the share of the groups that vote for them increases the share of the total electorate. The one group where the Republicans dominate are white voters. It’s unlikely I think that white voters will be a larger share next year. In fact, over the last 36 years the white percentage of the vote has dropped by about 2 percent every four years. The second is they can increase their percentage among those categories. They can get a higher percentage of the white vote, which they already won by 20 percent in 2012, or they can do better among minorities. That wouldn’t be too hard. They only won 16 to 17 percent of the minority vote in 2012, which is an appalling number and they won fewer than 30 percent of Asian and Hispanic votes. One of the candidates running for president this year may have made it more difficult going forward in the general election with some of those groups. But in general, that’s the only way to win. You’ve got to win a higher percentage of the existing groups or you’ve got to increase your share for the group that favors you.
The Democrats are operating from what Pat would call a very conventional mindset, which is that the collection of their groups will be enough to get elected. They think their groups are now more than our groups with a similar turnout model and as a result, they don’t have to run to the center. They can run to stroke their base, get their groups to show up, and they think their groups as a result will have more votes than our groups because we don’t have as big a base to attract them. There’s the Democrats’ electoral blue wall over the last six presidential elections. Eighteen states have voted with the Democrats every single time totaling 242 electoral votes with only 270 needed to win. That’s not a big jump from 242 to 270. Republicans have their collection of states that they’ve won every time in the last six cycles. They total 110 electoral votes. Realistically though that’s not the real number. The real number for the Democrats I believe is the 242 minus Pennsylvania, which I think is a swing state, but I would add to the Democratic column New Mexico, which I think is gone. That gets you to 227. And the real Republican base is what Romney won minus North Carolina which is a very competitive state. So the real numbers are 227 to 191 where we start. It’s a disadvantage, but not impossible to win.
Demographics. This is an issue. The Democrats are counting on the fact that more of their voters will dominate every single election cycle. In 1976, the electorate was 89 percent white. In 2012, it was 72 percent white. So that’s a 17 percent drop over a period of 36 years, about 2 percent every four years. If that continues, the same pattern, the white share of the electorate will be 70 percent in 2016. I’m not convinced that will happen because while I think the Hispanic share may be up, I’m not sure Black turnout will be as high for Hillary Clinton as it was for Barack Obama.
The other advantage for the Democrats is that their nominees is named. They don’t have to have an expensive fight. They don’t have to waste money attacking each other. Now I’m going to get to why Hillary is both a plus and a minus, but I’m starting with why she is a plus for the Democrats and this does help to some extent. Now the problem is of course she’s got 8,000 advisors meeting every morning for two hours to tell her what her message should be for the day, which is why she’s so authentic. But she will have all the money she needs and she believes she can replicate the Obama collection of groups; Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, gays, young voters, single women, union members, especially public employee union members, and the most important there, the teachers unions. And Clinton is behaving at this point as if those groups can deliver the victory to her; that essentially that is the real wall and that is the new growth in America. Basically, there was a book a couple of years ago on the Democrats’ emerging majority, which argued there were three groups in America; there’s non-college educated whites, college educated whites and minorities. Democrats do very well among minorities, which is growing as a share. They do very well or they have historically done fairly well among college educated whites. They do very poorly and their numbers are declining among non-college educated whites. But non-college educated whites is a group that is shrinking in size. In my view, college educated whites are a real swing group and there’s no guarantee that the Democrats will do as well as they’ve done in the coming cycles as they’ve done in the past.
All right, why are the Republicans going to win now that we know why they are going to lose? First of all, there is something called the 8-year itch. The last six times the political party has won two consecutive elections, five of those six times they lost the next one. All right? The only time that pattern was broken was when George Herbert Walker Bush beat Dukakis, who was an awful candidate in 1988. All right? And you can think about the most recent cycle. Clinton was succeeded by Bush; Bush was succeeded by Obama. I like that pattern. Obama will be succeeded by – doesn’t have to be a Bush, but someone with the Republicans. The difference in cycle votes for that third term is striking. The average vote share for the party in power running for a third term drops 4 percent. So if you look at the two-party cycle, Democrats won 52 percent; that would drop them to 48. That’s an eight-point margin swing. All right, now, Nate Silver, who I respect a lot, argues that in fact it will be smaller than that because Obama is the first incumbent in history to win reelection with a smaller share of the vote, which is what happened in 2012. His margin dropped from 7.2 percent to 3.9 percent and his vote share dropped from about 53 percent to about 51 percent. So Silver argues that half of the decline has already occurred. In other words, we almost got rid of him; we didn’t quite get the job done. So really Obama should have fit into the one-term-and-out pattern, but we missed our opportunity.
There are other models that suggest that if the President’s approval rating is in the 45 percent range, then the successor candidate from his party will lose. Right now Obama is in the range of 45, 46 percent. As Pat talked about forward-looking – you think the country is going in the right direction, wrong direction – those are usually negative numbers; also problematic to the incumbent party. And finally economic growth rate. If the economic growth rate is strong, generally the incumbent party will win. If the economic growth rate is modest, 1 1/2 percent, 2 percent or as the case in 2008 was negative 5 percent for two quarters in a row, obviously the party is going to get thrown out.
Black vote, very important. Give Obama credit. He got his base out. The black vote historically had been 10 to 11 percent of the total electorate in 2008 and 2012 it was over 13 percent. The black share of voters who are registered, who showed up at the polls, was higher than the white turnout. And not only did they turn out, they voted in overwhelming numbers. Typically Democrats win the black vote about 88 to 11; and Republicans get 10, 11, 12 percent per cycle. Obama won 96 percent in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012. If his numbers revert to the norm, which is the Republicans win 10, 11, 12 percent, and the vote share among blacks drops to about 11 percent, more than half of the margin that Obama won over Romney is gone. Okay? Even if it’s replaced by Hispanics and Asians who vote for Democrats, there’s a big difference between having a group that gives you a 40 percent margin than having a group that gives you an 85 percent margin, which is what blacks did for Obama.
Let’s talk about Hillary. Hillary is the nominee and she has shown no ability to be a particularly strong candidate either in statewide or national elections. She blew what was considered a sure thing for the 2008 nomination. She was elected senator twice in New York against relatively weak opposition in a state that’s overwhelmingly Democratic. She’s blown this year such that her ratings, her approval ratings, her favorability ratings, the number of people who think she’s dishonest, untrustworthy, corrupt, entitled; all those numbers have soared. Very good start to her election campaign second time around. Right now she’s got 42, 52 unfavorable. Over 60 percent believe she’s untrustworthy. I mean these are numbers that if Republicans don’t take advantage of, if they cannot create the kind of messaging that will identify for the American voter just what it is they already know and reinforce it, they will have lost an opportunity. Okay. One other thing and I’ll stop here.
Electoral College. The way to look at the Electoral College is: How does the state compare to the national vote share? The state that is right at the national vote share now is Virginia. Obama won nationally by 4 percent. He won Virginia by 4 percent. If the Republicans win the election by 2 percent nationally, they’ll probably win Virginia by 1 or 2 percent. Other states that are just slightly more favorable than the national vote margin include Ohio, which is about 1 percent more Republican; Florida, about 3 percent. If you have a vote that’s about even, Republicans should carry those states. There are four states that are 1 percent more Democratic than the national vote share. Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado. If a Republican wins by 2 percent, they would win two, three, four of those states and that’s enough to win. So it is not impossible to get the Electoral College numbers. Yes, it’s easier for a Democrat to get the 350 than it is for a Republican to get there, but a Republican doesn’t need 350, they only need 270.
Thomas Lifson: Next I have the great privilege of introducing Congressman Gary Palmer, representing the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama, the Birmingham suburbs basically. The Congressman was a wide receiver on the University of Alabama football team and went on to found the Alabama Policy Institute and was a founding board member of the State Policy Network, which seeks to get policy-oriented groups in all 50 states. He’s been representing the most Republican district in the United States in the United States Congress and is therefore very free to speak.
Rep. Gary Palmer: Thank you. Obviously there’s a very important event taking place in Alabama on Saturday. This team from Louisiana is coming to town, Tuscaloosa. It’s amazing how many people I’ll run into that will ask me if I was there when Forrest Gump was there, and I tell them no, he’s a little older than me. I hope you realize there is no real Forrest Gump. So, anyway. I’ll take a few minutes to talk with you about my perspective. It’s going to be a little bit different than what some of you hear and I get asked all the time, well, who are you for and I say that it’s not so much who as what right now and the what is this: What we have to do is win every state that Romney won plus two and that’s Florida and Ohio. That’s the answer. Now, the formula is still being developed, but whatever it is, it’s got to allow us to win every state that Romney won plus Florida and Ohio. If we do that we’ll have a Republican in the White House. I don’t get so much into the numbers. I ran a think tank in which – I know that you have to wonder what kind of think tank would be founded by a former football player. There were a lot of days that I was more interested in the “tank” part than the “think” part and wish I hadn’t, but when I ran for office; the first time I’d ever run for office, I really wasn’t into party politics and I’m still not that into party politics. I understand the importance of what the party’s got to do, but the thing that gets me that is the biggest deficit that we face as Republicans is vision.
I see Congressman Fleming from Louisiana back there. He and I are both members of the Freedom Caucus. Some people refer to us by other names, one of which starts with an “a” and ends with “hole.“ You can figure that out. But the thing about the changes that have taken place, as a result I think in large part of what the Freedom Caucus did, is that it’s going to give us in the House particularly an opportunity to define ourselves by what we’re for and not what we’re against. And I think that’s a huge part of this equation: getting out to the American people and giving them a reason to turn out and vote for us. We had a special conference after Speaker Boehner announced that he was resigning and I don’t speak and conference a lot, but I sat there and listened. It was about a two-hour conference. John was there and people got up and kind of vented a little bit and I decided I needed to say something, and I got up and told them that after I got elected I’d go back home, I go home every weekend, and there’s one question that I get asked more than any other question. I got asked this question yesterday. What is the one thing that has surprised you the most? And I never answered it at home. But I told the guys in conference the real answer is how discouraged everybody is.
I’m talking about everybody in Congress and that we need to raise our expectations of each other. We need to have a vision that we can all get behind, and we need to raise our expectations of what each one of us are going to do to lead the country. Once we do that, we need to communicate that to the American people. You need to know what you can expect from us. But there’s another part of this, and I think this is critical to winning this election, and that is we need to cast a vision that the American people can get behind so that we can let them know what our expectations are of you. And that’s something that’s been missing the last couple of election cycles. There really hasn’t been a vision that’s inspired people to rally behind our candidates. The only expectation was send money and vote. There’s no real call to getting involved and being willing to sacrifice, and I think if we’re going to win, we’re going to have to first of all be honest with the American people about where we are now. I was listening to Bill Whittle this morning and he’s talking about the rabbits and wolves, and I wanted to stand up and say, “You realize that the wolves eat rabbits?” And that’s not exactly a good political strategy.
What we need to do is tell the American people what we expect of them and give them a vision. I think everybody wants to be a part of a narrative. Everybody wants to see their part in the story. When I ran, the local media all admitted that having worked in the think tank area for 25 years, that I knew the issues better than anybody, but they predicted I would finish fourth or fifth, and a lot of people thought I couldn’t win because I didn’t smile enough. Laura Ingraham is a dear friend of mine, and the first time we met wasn’t going that well, and she told a joke and I didn’t laugh. And she said, “That was a joke,” and I said, ”I know, I’ll laugh later.” And she looks at me and she says, “You know, if you’d smile you’d be a good looking guy.” So I told her I started smiling and I got elected to Congress. The political know-it-alls were saying this guy’s really sharp and he knows policy, but he can’t win, and out of a primary with six other candidates, they said I’d come in fourth or fifth. But what I did, and this is I think the key, is I talked about the real issues and I talked about solutions and then I talked about what each person needed to do to be a part of that, and not only did I make the runoff, I won the primary runoff by 28 points because people are desperate for a vision.
I had a meeting with one of our chairmen, who is Kevin Brady. John is now the Chairman of Ways and Means, and I’m very excited about that, but Kevin and I were talking about some of the bigger issues that we needed to take on and I told Kevin just a couple of days before we had our meeting that another member of Congress, I believe a freshman, came up to me and he said, “Gary, what would you like to say after ten years?” assuming I serve ten years, and I said, “Well, I don’t know what I’d like to say after ten years, but I know what I don’t want to say.” I don’t want to get up one morning and look in the mirror and say, ”Well, Palmer, you just spent ten years in Congress.” What I’d really like to have happen is ten years after I’ve left Congress is have people like you come up to me and say, “Mr. Palmer, you were part of the greatest Congress this country has ever seen.” Whether or not that happens is up to us.
And going back to this idea of a narrative, I believe we are still the smartest people in the world. This nation has the best problem solvers, the best entrepreneurs; there’s not a single issue that this country faces that we can’t solve. There’s 247 Republicans in Congress right now and it’s some of the smartest people in the world. You’ve got people who’ve had fabulous careers in business; they’ve been problem solvers themselves. They’ve had great legal careers. We’ve got I don’t know how many doctors. John Fleming back there again is a doctor. They’ve had great careers in medicine. There’s not a single issue that we can’t solve if we put our minds to it, and that’s the key: that we raise our expectations of one another, of what we’re willing to take on and be willing to take on the hard issues; be willing to go out and tell the American people the truth. And I told Kevin if you go back to 1959 – I know some of you in this room remember 1959; Katie doesn’t. I’m not sure Katie remembers 1979, but anyway, in 1959 the Soviets launched Sputnik and for those of you who remember that it sent shockwaves through the country. I mean, we immediately ramped up our space program. We started getting kids into engineering and science and aeronautics and the interesting thing is, and this is so us as Americans, we never made it our objective to catch up with the Soviets. We made it our objective to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade and we did, and I really believe that’s what we need. We need a man on the moon-size vision. We need to communicate that to the American people, and I believe if we do that, ten years after I’m gone, ten years after Dr. Fleming’s gone, people really would come up to us and say you were part of the greatest Congress this country’s ever seen. I think that’s going to be the key to winning this election.
It’s going to be numbers, I get that. But, how do you build numbers? And I’ll end with this, and I told these guys this: everybody wants to see their part in the story. You need to create a great narrative, and I study leaders, and Winston Churchill is my favorite. I have his autograph. Churchill’s most important speech may not have been his greatest speech, but his most important speech was the one he gave to Parliament at the time of Dunkirk when he told the British people exactly what they were facing; the hardship they were going to endure and he ended it with this. He said, “We will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the landing grounds, we will fight in the streets and in the hills; we will never surrender.” And he said, “And if England should fall, we will continue the fight in the colonies because we are defending Western civilization.” Every British citizen could see themselves fighting on the beaches and on the landing grounds and in the streets and in the hills. That’s the kind of narrative that we need to present to the American public because time is so short and things have gotten to a point of critical mass. We cannot afford to not lead with vision. We cannot afford to make another mistake in this election. Thank you.
Katie Pavlich: I am going to touch on some things that I’m seeing going into 2016. The Congressman talked about what we are for, and I also want to thank you for being part of the Freedom Caucus which has stood up for conservative values when no one else would, and for as much as they’ve been through, I think they deserve a lot of credit for holding Republicans in Congress to account. So going into 2016, there is one big issue that has come up on the campaign trail that I think needs to be addressed. When you look at the election of Barack Obama in 2008, if you will remember that moment he had with Joe the Plumber on the street. It was an accident. He had this slip-up of saying he wanted to redistribute the wealth and the Obama campaign really tried to kind of run away from that comment because they knew that the term socialism in America was a bit of a toxic term; that Americans wouldn’t like that; that we didn’t like the idea of redistribution of wealth, and yet here we are almost eight years later after Obama’s first and second term, and we’ve seen a radical shift in the country to the left, and this is evident by the rhetoric being used on the Democratic side of the aisle at this point in time on the campaign trail. And this is evident not only by the fact that a self-proclaimed socialist has given Hillary Clinton a run for her money in certain states. He won’t win, but he’s getting a lot of support which says a lot.
You have Hillary Clinton shifting her narrative to try and catch up with the far left of Bernie Sanders, and my favorite of all so far in this race is when DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was asked repeatedly on cable television to define the difference between a socialist and a Democrat, and not only could she not do it, but she refused to do it. Now why is this important? I’m a millennial and you might not know, but the millennial generation is the largest generation that this country has ever produced. The millennial generation is 83 million people strong. The baby boomers are 75 million people strong. The millennial generation is also the most diverse generation that the country has ever produced, and this is good news because it offers a lot of power to the millennial generation, but this is bad news when it comes to the way that they view our economic system in this country and who they’re going to vote for.
Young people are interested in Bernie Sanders. They’re not interested in Hillary Clinton. That includes young women, as the polls came out showing this week. A recent Q poll showed that 43 percent of millennials, keep in mind this 85 million number, 43 percent of millennials view socialism favorably. That’s almost half. When you ask millennials to compare capitalism to socialism in terms of what system is a better system for the country, 42 percent of millennials say that socialism is favorable to capitalism. Now, the good news there is that 52 percent of millennials still believe capitalism is the best system for the country, but were only at a 10 percent gap here, and that has happened really in the past eight years under Barack Obama’s presidency. Fewer people believe that the American dream is possible, so as we heard eloquently this morning at breakfast from Bill Whittle, that means that people are okay with mediocrity, and if they don’t think the American dream is obtainable, why not just settle for something that is comfortable, but not as much hard work? And so this comes down to this idea of what are people going to vote for, right? And socialism, of course, is the utopia of the left and they’re going to do anything to get there.
Now we heard a lot about the numbers, and it’s important to point out that the way they’re going to get there is by cheating. Voter fraud is a huge problem in this country. They’re going to use voter fraud to get to the utopia that they want and in pursuing the anti-capitalism, anti-free market policies that they want, and when they tell you that voter fraud doesn’t exist, they’re lying. Now one thing that I think conservatives can do that they haven’t done in the past, especially going into a presidential election, is whenever you sign up for federal welfare benefits, you know what they hand you? They hand you a voter registration card and they ask if you want to register to vote. Now why isn’t it that when you get a new job and you’re filling out your tax form to pay the government that we not give people a voter registration card? Right? I mean here you are signing your life away to give a big portion of your money to the government, and we haven’t yet jumped on that. But why is this important in terms of moving forward in terms of voter fraud? We all know all about President Obama’s executive amnesty that he signed last year, and how many of you live in a state where driver’s licenses are given to illegal immigrants? Anyone? Yes.
Well, giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants isn’t about driving. It’s about voting. And if you look at a Harvard study that came out recently, yes Harvard, it shows that illegal immigrants have been voting in elections and actually turning elections in swing states like Ohio and North Carolina and they may have turned the tide for a variety of Democrats in 2008. And you add that in combination with the idea that in the 2012 election we saw Barack Obama pulling in 110 percent of the vote in many precincts in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Isn’t that interesting? And so you add on top of that 53 percent of Democrats believe that illegal immigrants should be able to vote. That’s why they want them to have Social Security cards. That’s why they want them to have driver’s licenses, and when you look at the warnings by the Ohio Secretary of State, for example, directly after President Obama signed his executive amnesty, he warned that his executive amnesty would now give illegals the ability to vote in elections in places like Ohio. So we can have all the numbers that we want; we can pursue all the ideas that we want; we can turn hearts and minds; we can pursue the millennial generation, but if we have people who really are noncitizens voting and voter fraud occurring and stealing elections, it’s not going to matter.
The good news here is that 36 states now have voter I.D. laws and only 11 states, and then on top of that Washington, D.C., have driver’s licenses for illegals. And when it comes to really trying to prevent this and really protecting the votes of Americans so that they turn into elections that are fair and balanced, they’ve been successful at that, but I think this is a very serious issue that we have to counter going into the 2016 election because you can’t win if the other side is cheating. And then finally I want to talk about some of the victories that we’ve had lately that don’t have anything to do with voter fraud that have to do with grassroots efforts on a national level, but at a local level. They say all politics are local. Under Barack Obama, Democrats have lost more than 900 state legislator seats. Nine hundred. That is a huge number. Democrats have lost 12 governorships under Barack Obama. In Washington, D.C., 69 House seats have been lost by Democrats and 13 Senate seats have been lost by Democrats under Barack Obama. And so overall, moving into the next presidential election as we Republicans have lost presidential elections over and over again, they have to find a way to harness the grassroots efforts that are going on inside the states and turning those races into victories. I mean 900 seats lost by Democrats is an enormous number and somehow that is not translating onto the national stage in terms of presidential elections.
So there’s a disconnect happening between the national politics on the Republican side and what’s going on locally with activists in their own communities, and if we can find a way to transfer that to the national level, then we might win a presidential election someday. So, I think we’re going to take questions too are we? Yeah? So there you go. Just to wrap up. The millennial generation is very important. Changing their ideas about socialism is extremely important, not in just the next election, but for the future of the country. Voter fraud is a huge problem and Harvard even admits that it is despite what the media will tell you about it not existing, and third, Republicans have the results and the grassroots and infrastructure to win elections. They just need to figure out a way to do it on a national level. Thank you very much.
Audience member: Katie, how do you think would be the best way – It’s also for Pat Caddell I suppose, and you to speak to the millennials to change their minds about socialism. What is it? What are the words they need to hear, as Frank Luntz would say?
Katie Pavlich: I think that conservatives have, and have for decades, a lot of work to do on college campuses. I travel to college campuses multiple times throughout the year, and the things that are being spewed and the propaganda that is being spewed – and I know that we’ve all heard this before. It really is incredible. But I always tell people, look, you can’t blame young people for not knowing something that they’d never been told. And if they’ve never been introduced to the other side of the spectrum, or even questioned about why they believe in the things that they do, then how can you expect them to believe anything else? And I think it comes down to really basic things. For example, asking them if they like their iPhone, and explaining to them that in places that don’t have a free market system, you don’t get to have an iPhone and your life isn’t easy. Uber is a good example that we can use in terms of the free market. Young people love Uber. It gives them a sense of freedom. They can go wherever they want and you can bring up the idea that the government wants to regulate every single part of their life that they think is fun and that gives them the ability to be individuals. It’s always ironic to me how young people tend to lean left when at the same time they’re constantly fighting “the Man,” so to speak, right? They want to wear what they want. They don’t want anyone telling them what to do. They want to make their own decisions. But yet somehow they believe that voting for more government control is going to give them those things. I mean it’s opposite of really who they are. So if you can just ask them some basic questions about why they believe what they believe and get them to think about those things, I think that’s a really easy way to change the minds. And then finally, getting conservative speakers on college campuses really matters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to college campuses to speak and afterwards, even if it’s just one student who comes up to you and says, you know, I came in here disagreeing with you, but now I see where you’re coming from and you may have changed my mind on a couple of things. That matters, because that student will then go back to their liberal group of friends and maybe open up a dialogue about the issue at hand and issues at hand moving forward. And so I would say starting at the college campus level is certainly a place that we can start.
Rep. Gary Palmer: May I give just a quick addition to that? In going back to my own race, a lot of the folks said that I couldn’t connect with the young people, and it turned out that I won the millennial vote. And one of the things that I did, and I think this is real important for us as a party, is to start talking directly to millennials as adults. And one of the things that I did was they held a fundraiser for me, and it had a bar and it was packed. And I told them that if I were their Congressman that in addition to good representation, that I have an enormous obligation to prepare them to lead. And I said all of you are going to lead. This generations’ going to lead, and I can tell you that with absolute certainty because the rest of us are leaving. And so we host a monthly breakfast for millennials. We’re using a book called We Still Hold These Truths, but I’m investing time in preparing the millennials in my district for leadership. I think that’s something that the party ought to take note of.
Katie Pavlich: And one final thought, too, is I think that being, as the Congressman just said, speaking to millennials like they’re adults is very important. Millennials have been coddled. They’ve been taught their whole life that everyone deserves a trophy, and then they get in the real world and they drown. And they drown because liberals have set them up to drown. And what do they do when they’re drowning? They want to vote for big government to take care of them. It’s a system they’ve set up on purpose, so if you can be honest with young people and say these policies are going to lead you into a place that you cannot get out of and you’ve been lied to your entire life about them, I think that people will think about that. They’ll look at what kind of future that they want and they eventually will change their mind.
Richard Baehr: And one quick comment. The shift towards leftist thinking among millennials is also attributable in part to the fact that more of them are going to colleges where they receive the poison that comes through the humanities departments and the social science departments and impacts the way they think and behave going forward. So all these measures to make it easier to go to college are not in our interests. Get back to aviation high schools and mechanics high schools and automotive high schools. There are real jobs there for people. Everybody doesn’t have to go college.
Thomas Lifson: Yes. Let me add to add to that. I’m a recovering academic. I was, first part of my career was as a professor, and a couple of things. Number one, having lived through the 1960s and early ‘70s rebellion on college campuses, I’m aware of how strongly the raging hormones of adolescent and post-adolescent students can be turned against their faculty, who are feeding them poisonous garbage. Second thing is that college students today, although there are many fine ones, but given what they’re learning in their classrooms, are remarkably ignorant. Most young people, actually most Americans, have a very soft-headed image of Sweden. Now we’ve got Mr. Kent Ekeroth here who will tell us about what’s really going on in Sweden, but Sweden’s been running away from socialism. Socialism doesn’t work. There’s some objective reality out there that shows that when you try it, it doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It can’t work because it’s against human nature. So there are appeals that we can make. Now unfortunately, it’s hard to do them in one image, or one little slogan, but reality is on our side. And so I think turning students against the increasingly oppressive political correctness they face on campus is something that we ought to be pushing at every opportunity we can.
Audience member: Congressman Palmer, you speak of casting a vision, and I don’t think anybody would disagree with you that that needs to be done, that the vision needs to be cast. I think the disagreement is, what is that vision? What is the vision that’s going to unite us on the right and just what is the vision that’s going to unite us?
Rep. Gary Palmer: Well, we don’t have time for the whole thing, but I can tell you that I think most people in this room, and most Americans realize, that the economy has been going in the wrong direction and, for instance, on the energy policy. I point out that the United States is literally an energy super power, yet we’re the only nation in the world that has a self-imposed ban on exporting crude oil. We’ve got one formation out west, the Green River Formation, that holds 3 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. That’s three times what the entire world’s used in the last 100 years and the federal government owns over 75 percent of it. I sat down with another member of Congress and talked about this, and I said we’re not broke. We’re stupid. I mean, people understand this. Regulatory reform. Now that kind of gets in the weeds, but then, you know, I’m a policy nerd. Communicate this in a way that people can get it, and here’s how you do it. The regulatory environment costs us $2 trillion last year. People say that’s a hidden tax. It’s not a hidden tax. There’s no benefit to the government. There’s no benefit to the economy. There’s really no benefit to you, but every person in this room, everything you came in contact with today had a regulatory cost. $2 trillion. I sat down with Kevin Brady and I’ve talked with the new speaker, Paul Ryan, about this. If we broke down the regulatory regime into component parts and started a true regulatory reform effort, and we cut regulatory costs by 20 percent, that’s $400 billion a year, real money, that gets spent every year, goes back into the economy. That’s almost half what we had in the stimulus bill in 2009.
We need sensible, I’d say a sane, foreign policy. We’ve got a complete realignment in the Middle East. Russia is now the dominant influence in the Middle East. They’re the dominant influence in Iran. They’ll soon be the dominant influence in Iraq if they’re not there already. They’re there in Syria. We’ve got to address these things, but we’ve got to break them down in component parts and tell people where we’re going with this. And then the bigger thing, the 900-pound gorilla in the room, is entitlement spending. I’m on the budget committee and we were, just the Republicans, were meeting and we were talking about entitlements, and I said we need to come up with a plan that will allow us to pay for Social Security for everybody over a certain age. And one of the guys, Tom McClintock from California, who’s kind of a numbers guy, said well if we paid for everybody over 50 years old, that’s $25 trillion dollars. And there was kind of a gasp, and I said, “But that’s doable.” You know, you spread that over 30 years. That’s a little over $800 billion a year. The federal government only collects 84 percent of the taxes that it’s owed. Last we collected $3 trillion. That means $570 billion went uncollected. We’re almost there. You go to a fair tax, or a flat tax, the amount the federal government collects goes up. The amount that you pay goes down. We can do this. That’s the thing that I think we’ve got to get out and talk to the American people. We need to be honest with them, tell them the sacrifices that we’re going to have to make to get there, but lay out a clear plan with clearly defined objectives and a timeline that says we can solve these problems and here’s when we get there. That’s the kind of stuff I think we ought to be doing.
Audience member: Congressman, on that vision question, how do you get the Republican caucus coalescing around a common vision rather than segmented? What role does the RNC play in it and can Paul Ryan pull this together?
Rep. Gary Palmer: One of the reasons I’m excited about Paul is that he is a policy-oriented guy, and I think we’re going to see some of this. You know, it’s interesting, and Dr. Fleming is going to be speaking later and he can comment on this, but in the Freedom Caucus, a lot of people thought this was just about Boehner. It was never about John Boehner. It was about the process. It wasn’t even about the policies. It was about getting leadership that allowed every member of Congress to be able to do their job. If you do that, you start pushing these ideas from the bottom up. The House can lead. We’re the Article 1 part of the government. It’s where your revenue bills start. It’s where we can define the vision of what we do through the House. I think the RNC will follow. The RNC’s not a policy shop. It’s a political shop. So, I’m pretty excited about having Paul Ryan as the new speaker, and now having Kevin Brady as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee because I think it’s going give us some opportunities to get these ideas out there, get our guys behind them, and I think the politics will follow the policy.
Richard Baehr: Now one thing about Ryan, which I think is very important going forward, 2016 too. His message has been America needs to grow faster. And if you talk about what Pat Caddell was looking at, some of the numbers, 60, 70 percent think the next generation’s going to be worse off if we grow 1 to 2 percent going forward and historically the country’s grown at 3 or 4 percent per year, that is in fact going to happen. So unless you can find ways, and to talk about it in ways that people can react to – the Democrats have won the debate about tax cuts help the rich and they hurt everybody else. But the regulatory aspect is one that we can win, and it’s an easier argument to make and it is true.
Rep. Gary Palmer: Let me just add this. Among households in which the principal householder’s over age 65, their median income is less than $34,000.00 a year, but they spend almost 25 percent of their disposable income just on household energy costs. And I’ve told folks if we lower household energy costs, that’s like giving an increase in Social Security benefit. So we can win this.
Audience member: I’d like to go back to Nina’s question and also discuss Katie and the millennials with campus issues. Just recently, I received a copy of a list of micro-aggressions, and it was given to a professor where a whole lot of professors were brought together for sensitivity training. And on the list there were things like, you know, you cannot say the word “melting pot” anymore, and if a Jewish student tells a black student, ”I understand your oppression because Jews were also oppressed,” well that’s racist because the Jewish student is white, privileged, has a mother and father, both of whom were doctors, and therefore cannot understand a black student’s oppression because he has one parent generally, and the mother was a waitress. This is true. This is what was said. So, isn’t it true that also the suppression of the free speech and controlling the thinking, isn’t that an enormous issue that’s just growing in leaps and bounds, and how do we stop that terrible tide?
Katie Pavlich: The squashing of free speech on college campuses is nothing new, but we’re in a new era now with this absurd, insane micro-aggression policy that it’s almost hard to comprehend how insane it is. I mean, I’ll give you some of the, more examples of what they consider micro-aggressions on college campuses. ”Why are you so quiet?” Is something you’re not allowed to say. You are no longer allowed to say, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” That is a micro-aggression because you’re not taking into account white privilege, how you may have gotten the position. You know, you have people like Melissa Harris Perry who is a college professor on MSNBC saying we can no longer use the term “hard work” because it might offend slaves. I mean, she actually said we cannot use the term “hard worker” because she keeps a photo in her office of slaves picking cotton because that to her is hard work. It’s like, no that’s slavery. That’s not work. There’s a big difference. But these are the types of things that we’ve seen on college campuses, and my colleague, Guy Vinson, actually just wrote an excellent book about this. It’s called End of Discussion, and it talks all about how the left not only doesn’t want to have a conversation, but they want to kick people off the playing field before the game even starts. And the reason they want to do that is because the only place that these asinine ideas of micro-aggressions exist is on college campuses. They don’t exist in the real world because you can’t survive in the real world on micro-aggressions, and the bigger picture is well, okay. Is ISIS a macro-aggression then? Because I’m pretty sure, you know, I mean, it is so absurd the way that they’ve done these things and people will say well, this is all about treating young people on college campuses like special snowflakes, or flowers and we’re very delicate with them. But that’s actually not true. It’s about bullying people who have a different perspective and a different point of view.
To give a personal story, when I was on campus at the University of Arizona, I brought David Horowitz to speak on campus. And at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday – our event was on Tuesday, and we all know that at 4:00 p.m. on Fridays, college administrators are typically already home. We get a phone call saying that unless we provide security to our event, at the rate of $500.00, which by the way was a lot of money because we didn’t get any funding from the University, our event was not going to happen. We just weren’t allowed to have our event. So we scrambled to, you know, get security, campus police, and we’re not getting security because we’re the ones misbehaving. We’re getting security because we’re getting threats about other people misbehaving. And so it turns into this huge battle. We had to call attorneys to respect, you know, to finally get the thing going on and it happened. But it’s all about limiting what you’re allowed to say and ultimately it comes down to being anti-American. We don’t want to talk about the best person getting the job based on character and not skin color; that’s not allowed. Now that’s a micro-aggression. No, it’s anti-American and it’s anti-First Amendment, and it’s anti every single thing that this country’s ever stood for and it only survives on college campuses because that’s really the only place that liberalism can survive in the way it does.
Audience member: All right, good morning. I was just, I’m wondering how much energy people should be putting into going to campuses that are completely dominated by these really nutso professors who are indoctrinating the students, and it seems to me that a legislative agenda for reforming the higher education system in the United States would have much more, much higher effectiveness because if you stop subsidizing this and start subsidizing, even just by stopping the Pell Grants and other things that are instilling this or engendering the situation where the average university student finishes with a degree and $250,000.00 in debt, then you’re going to change the system for the longer term far better than having a conservative speaker come and be attacked on college campuses would. I mean, it seems to me, and I’d like the Congressman and Richard in particular to talk about the prospects of legislative reform of higher education in the United States, because it seems to me that that’s really how you can begin to fix a situation which has become quite dangerous.
Rep. Gary Palmer: Well as far as the University of Alabama we have lost our minds completely down there and I say that. It’s not a joke. I mean I know the new president. I know a lot of administrators, and I think some of these guys are waking up to this. I thought Katie was going to get the question rather than me, and I wrote this whole note: how do Internet-based college degrees impact this? and I think you’re going to see a transformation take place because more and more people are going to be getting their college degrees through distance learning and that gets them out of the classroom away from these knuckleheads that are doing this stuff that Katie’s talking about, but it’s also incumbent on parents. This is one of the things that absolutely drives me nuts. Ronald Reagan in his farewell address said all great change in America begins around the kitchen table, and it’s what we talk about and Jeff Duncan, Congressman from South Carolina, and I were talking about this and I said, you know, one of the keys to having a conservative revival in this country is to stop blaming Liberals. Liberals are not our problem, all due respect to this discussion. Our problem’s us. Even now the polling shows that we outnumber liberals, but they’re much more committed to their agenda. They’re much more willing to sacrifice. They give their money, their time. They figure out ways to cheat. I mean and most of our folks sit on the sideline, and I’ve told people that we need to have a new definition of a successful life. It can’t just be defined by how big a house or how much money we’ve got in the bank or our net worth. It also needs to have a civic component. How much have we invested ourselves in our country, and our children are going to know how much we value that, and I really do think that we’re the answer to the question of how we turn this around. If we start sending kids to college who can answer the questions that get levied at them on Day 1 and they do it like – my guess is Katie never backed down from a question, but I don’t think she got there because her mom and dad were disinterested. All right. So I think that that’s a big part of it. We need to help our kids make better decisions about where they go to college. You don’t have to go to Harvard or Yale to have a successful career.
Richard Baehr: All right. Let me throw out that I think a big part of the problem is not just demented faculty, but the administrative bloat, and much of that bloat comes from things like Title 9, dealing with international students, multicultural initiatives, diversity initiatives, and these are not people who are there just to serve students. They are advocacy agents. And they are in fact working hand-in-hand with both student activists and faculty activists to change the tenor on campus. I absolutely believe that the expansion of financing for colleges has to be slowed. The more expansion of financing the more the colleges take advantage of it and raise their prices, and then they continue to take advantage of those who can continue to pay the freight, the percent who can pay $65,000.00 a year. So that’s a tough argument to make, but in fact expanding the financing raises the roles of those who are there and creates a bigger problem because not everybody belongs there and the system that exists right now is a lead oriented. The inflation – some states have done a better job than others, but basically you have to cut off some of this funding growth because it’s creating, that’s where the administrative – they’re growing three times the rate of faculty.
Rep. Gary Palmer: One last point on that, and I’m sure nobody in this room does this. You may have friends who do, but quit giving your money, quit leaving endowments to these colleges who are doing that. There’s a much better use for it.
Katie Pavlich: I just want to touch on what Caroline Glick, who is an amazing writer. If you haven’t read her work, the question, and I think that both are very important. I think that asking these state legislatures to take on the issue of never-ending funding for these universities, which really is just a public program for liberals to produce more progressives. The big joke is that the women studies department is constantly complaining and screaming and protesting about women not being in math and science, but then they urge young women to get a degree in women’s studies so they can stand outside of the math and science, engineering buildings with a sign that says, why are there not more women in math and science? And so at this point at the public university level there’s zero accountability to the university for what they produce. If you don’t get a job when you get out of college, it’s not their problem. If you get a degree that doesn’t produce anything, it’s not their problem, and that in return allows for progressives to use the university system and public education system quite frankly. K through 12 is also a major problem to their benefit to train their own activists. That has to be changed at a legislative level. Yes, that should be a priority. On the level of sending speakers with a different point of view to campus, I think it is crucial in the sense of combating this micro-aggression absurdity, which then bleeds into the rest of society because there is a battle going on, and we can choose to fight it where it is, which is on college campuses, or we can allow them to just continue to have this dominance over complete thought. And again I want to stress, you can’t blame young people for not knowing something they’ve never been told. So I think that there’s a place for both. I think there’s a place to send people in to give a different perspective and to debunk these progressive ideas that hold no water in the real world, and I also think it’s incumbent upon Republicans in the states and at the federal level to change education policy so there’s not this never-ending flow of money for progressives to use the university system as activist hubs around the country.