Gov. Mike Huckabee: Why Trump Won 

The former presidential candidate analyzes the political upset we all should have seen coming at Restoration Weekend.

Below are the video and transcript of Gov. Mike Huckabee's address at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 Restoration Weekend. The event was held November 10th-13th in Palm Beach, FL.

Govenor Mike Huckabee from DHFC on Vimeo.

Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.  You know, if you've done a lot of speaking, you know that this idea of giving a guy a standing ovation when he hasn't even spoken yet has nothing to do with the speech, has nothing to do with some kind of wonderful respect for the speaker. It has to do with the fact you've been here a long time and you need to stretch.  I understand that and I'm very aware of it, but I'm going to go home and tell my wife, "Honey, they gave me a standing ovation before I even got up there."  I just appreciate you sitting back down and not getting up to leave like they used to do in Arkansas when I would be introduced.  By the way, Mark, you mentioned if this political thing doesn't work out -- well, this political thing didn't work out, so let's get the band together. I think that's a good start

Folks, let me begin by telling you that Donald Trump was not my first choice for President this year.  I was my first choice for President this year.  But Donald Trump was my second choice and that kind of puts me in a rare stratosphere because there were not a lot of people who believed that Donald Trump would win the nomination, much less win the election.  And I for several months, even at the lowest of Donald Trump's poll numbers, continued to say on television, "Donald Trump will win this election."  Now that got me vilified, even by my colleagues at the Fox News Channel, who often would kind of look down their nose like, "Governor, you wanna really go there?"  To which I would say, "Yes, I really want to go there because he's going to win."  "Well," they said, "all the experts say that not only he will not win, but that he cannot win.  There is no pathway."  And I don't know how many times I heard that there wasn't a pathway.  But the people who were saying it were people unlike me who were living in their own bubbles and they just didn't get out much.  And I was seeing something very different across America.

Just a little over 2 years ago I released a book called God, Guns, Grits and Gravy. I hear it's here. Some of you have a copy.  And I want to thank both of you for getting it. I really think you'll enjoy it.  A lot of people think it is a recipe book for southern cuisine.  It is not.  The title actually comes from something I observed and frankly, the book will explain to you how and why Donald Trump is going to be the next president.  Now, when I wrote it, I really thought it was somewhat of a blueprint for how I was going to become the next president, but the message is valid and absolutely will explain to you what happened. Because there were so many of the network people, beginning Tuesday night -- and I so enjoyed watching some of my colleagues just fumble over their words and say, "Well, I see what the numbers are but our polling didn't show this.  I'm not sure how this happened."  They should have read my book.

And here's the point of it.  The term "God, guns, grits and gravy" is a term that I ascribed to what many people call "flyover country" or "red states."  If you look at the map from the other night, you can see that basically it's a great big red map with a few little blue stripes and dots here and there.  But for the most part, this country is quite unified. People used to say to me when I was hosting my weekend show on Fox, "Oh, you've moved to New York," to which I would say, "Absolutely not.  They won't let me duck hunt in Central Park."  I didn't want to live in New York.  And I know really some of you live in New York, and that's fine, but I never wanted to live there.  It's noisy, it's dirty, it's crowded; it's nothing like where I grew up.  I understand New York because every television show and virtually every movie depicts life either in New York or in California.  And if they're ever to pick something in the area of the country from which I come in the Deep South, it's always somewhat of a derisive kind of approach to where I come from.  So I know they don't understand me, but I do understand them.  And every week I would go to New York, and I commuted there to go to work, but I would get the heck out of there as quick as I could.  And I would go back to what some people call the "flyover states," some people called it the "red states." I called it the "land of God, guns, grits and gravy," because for me, what that meant was if someone came up to you and said, "I heard about your wife getting cancer, I'm praying for you," it didn't seem weird.  Nobody thought you were a little offbeat because of that.  If you owned a gun, people didn't jump up at the table and think that you were a mass murderer.

I remember sitting in New York in my own staff meeting right after one of the mass shootings, and one of my staffers who's grown up her whole life in New York -- a conservative philosophically, but still isolated from the culture in which I grew up -- and when she made this comment I thought, "Yeah, I ain't from around here, am I?"  Here's what she said.  Somebody was talking about the AR15.  "Nobody needs a weapon like that, an assault weapon.  We ought to ban those."  And I said, "Well quite frankly, when you say assault weapon, exactly what do you mean? Because a pencil in my hand could be an assault weapon if I stab it in the side of your neck."  For you to call this an assault weapon, I said, "I hunt deer with a rifle that is far more powerful than the AR15 in sheer horsepower."  I said, "What you really are probably reacting to is the look of the weapon, not the lethality of the weapon, and you haven't a clue as to why it looks like it does. Because everything on there is functional and practical.  But I don't expect you to know that.  I just expect you to know that you don't know and keep your stupid mouth shut about what you don't know about guns."

Grits and gravy: Where I come from, gravy is a beverage and grits is a staple that you can do a lot of different things with. And people turn up their nose and say, "Eww, grits, what's that?"  It's like potatoes. It's just cheaper.  That's all in the world it is.  So don't let the title fool you.

But here is the essential essence of the book: that in America there are three bubbles of influence that pretty much set the table for America's culture:  New York, Washington and Hollywood.  And in these three bubbles, the financial interests of the country are headquartered, the entertainment, the news, the political, the governmental.  Virtually everything that has a significant influence on American culture and American life are headquartered in one of those three bubbles.  But if you live in one of those three bubbles or understand those three bubbles, they are very, very different in terms of the day-to-day operations and lifestyle than the rest of America.  So you have Bubbleville, where people live and believe that everyone thinks like they do, and then you have Bubbaville, where I come from: The land of God, guns, grits and gravy, where people live a very different life.  They like their life.  And they're often looked down upon by the people in the bubbles who don't think they're very smart.

May I say to you, one of the reasons I admired David Horowitz so much is because the smarter he got, the more conservative he became.  You know that?  I mean he starts out on the left. As he continues to get his education advanced, one of the remarkable things is, he recognizes "this liberal stuff I'm into doesn't work."  And see, some of us in the south, we just started smart and conservative.  Now this point that I want to make to you is that the election of Donald Trump was not that big of a surprise to me.  I think I would have been more surprised had he not been elected.

I ran into Frank Luntz in Raleigh, North Carolina, the day before the election on Monday.  I was there with Donald Trump. We were doing a rally.  Frank Luntz came up and I said, "Well, Frank, what are you thinking?"  He just shook his head like this. He said, "Hillary's going to win."  I said, "No she's not."  He said, "Yes, she is.  The numbers are there."  I said, "Frank, I understand all the things you guys have been saying."  "But," I said, "Donald Trump is going to win the election tomorrow."  Frank is a friend and he looked at me with that all-knowing kind of "I'm so glad to hear you feel that way. It will be better."

The next night when I was in the Fox Green Room, and the long faces began because some of them really didn't want Donald Trump to win and others just didn't want to be so wrong -- and as the night wore on and it became obvious that something amazing was happening.  Maybe I was the only unsurprised guy in the room.  Because you see, one of the things that I recognized early on was that Donald Trump was going to the podium and saying into the microphone what people were saying when they were huddled with a group of three or four friends at the coffee shop. And they would lean into the table, "Let me tell you something," and they would say something. And then they'd hear Donald Trump go to the microphone and blurt it out.  And they said, "Dang!  He's speaking for me!"

And I would go to these rallies and people would stand in line for hours just to get in and half of them would never get in. They'd be outside listening on the loudspeaker and the ones inside, they didn't have to invite some celebrity to come in and speak or sing.  It was just Donald Trump.  He'd get up there and talk and they'd go crazy.  And I said, "This is unlike anything we've seen."  He touched a nerve in this country.  Everyone would admit that Donald Trump has got his flaws.  He's a little different than many of us in the way we speak.  As I've told many people, I don't think I'd ever expect him to be my Sunday School teacher, but that's not what we're hiring him to do.

But I'll tell you something that I do believe.  Putin will never send Russian fighters flying 30 feet over a U.S. destroyer ever again with Donald Trump in the oval office.  And I'll bet you the Iranians aren't going to put a bunch of sailors on their knee blindfolded and we have a Secretary of State apologizing for America over the incident ever again!

Our country is moving into an unprecedented opportunity, and I believe Donald Trump will turn out to be one of the great presidents of our time, and maybe one of the greatest ever, for the simple reason that he doesn't know he cannot do the things he's going to Washington to do because he hasn't been infected with the disease of the Potomac that has caused so many people, who, when they get there, become more interested in staying there than blowing the place up and rebuilding it into something like our founders envisioned when they thought that "We hold these truths be self evidence; that we are all equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And maybe, just maybe, he will go to Washington with that understanding, and it won't be that there are two sets of rules:  One for Hillary and her pals and another for the rest of America.  That would be a great improvement when the law applies the same to every person and the alphabet agencies of the federal government, like the IRS and the FBI had the EPA and the DOJ, don't come after citizens because of their political views and they actually play it straight and simply administer the law without regard to a person's politics. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

And let me say that part of the reason that I was campaigning for Donald Trump -- and when people said, "Well, is it hard for you to get behind Trump?  I mean, he said some things that surely you have to be a little uncomfortable with."  I said, "Let me tell you, I'm not nearly as uncomfortable with some of the things Donald Trump has said as I am with some of the things that I know Hillary Clinton has done.  This makes it easy."  And I think people forgot that I came out of Arkansas.  For 40 years I have known the Clintons and the biggest difference between the Clintons and the Sopranos is that the Sopranos never did email.  I've known the Clintons. I've fought their machine. I got elected by fighting their machine.  Every day of my life as Lieutenant Governor and then later as Governor, I had to fight the entire Clinton East Army because you have to understand, every employee and every appointee in the entire State of Arkansas was connected to them.  And so having known firsthand not only what they're capable of but what they have done, it was never a heavy lift for me to enthusiastically support Donald Trump.  And when people said, "Have you had a good week?  Feeling good?"  I responded, "No, I'm feeling ecstatic."  Not just because I think our side won and we have a shot to actually put good people in the Supreme Court, put decent people in the various agencies and stop the overregulation and the overburden that is killing small business and killing jobs; to put people in the State Department that might rid Foggy Bottom of the horrible pro-terrorist nonsense that has infiltrated that hideous agency; not only to get people throughout the agencies who will run a fair show. But part of it is, quite frankly on a personal level, the fact that Hillary didn't win means I don't have to seek asylum in some foreign country because I knew I was going to be a target.

There's some important lessons I think that we've learned from this and I find it real interesting when I'm watching on television now and I hear some of these Republicans who were Never-Trumpers and now they're trying to pretend that, "Yeah, you know, we're okay with all this."  Yeah, it's the classic saying that victory has a thousand fathers.  Defeat is an orphan.  And a 1,000 people out there claiming that they were really with Trump, but I remember the ones who weren't. Some of whom shared the political stage with me and who signed the same pledge I signed and said the same words I said on national television, and that is that we would support the eventual nominee of the party.  I'm going to be very blunt with you.  A person who signed that document, which was a contract with the RNC, and who stated to the country they would support the nominee and then didn't because they got their feelings hurt because somebody said something that they didn't like, had no business playing this game at this level.  This is big league ball, folks, and if you don't think you're going to see the sight of your own blood, don't get in the arena, because the lions will tear your flesh off.  That's how it's played.  And anyone who got into this thinking we weren't going to get hit, hit hard and busted up and bloodied up, should never have gotten on the stage.  And for those who don't understand why that pledge was important, the Republicans across America spent millions of dollars building an infrastructure of information, an infrastructure of data and research, to which we as candidates have access.  What they ask us in return for receiving millions of dollars worth of assets and resources is that we would simply have the integrity to support the person who eventually got the nomination of our party based on the votes of the people in our party.  And for someone to come through that whole process and say, "Yeah, I know what I said, but I'm not going to do it," we should never entertain that person in our party as a serious candidate for public office again.  Let me be blunt.

Some observations:  Those who ran with Trump did far better than those who ran from him.  Those who ran with him won their elections.  Those who ran from him lost.  Some of them were considered shoo-ins, but they lost, and it's pretty obvious why. They tried to appeal to enough of the left who were never going to vote for them anyway, but in so removing themselves from supporting Donald Trump, our nominee, they totally infuriated and alienated that vast number of people who went out and voted for him. And, therefore, they got nothing from the left that they thought they were going to appease, but they did get something from the conservatives.  They got a butt kicking is what they got, and they ended up losing elections they should have and could have won.

Another thing we learned was that the mainstream media has become beyond irrelevant. Their advocacy is now really not helpful. It's toxic.  The one thing you don't want is the mainstream media to come out and present that they're supporting you.  I mean, I'm being very serious here because people so distrust the institution of our news organizations, that for them to come out and essentially play ball for you, means you must be corrupt and part of what they're part of.  It's no longer helpful.

I learned that social media moves a whole lot faster and more effectively and efficiently than mainstream media does anymore.  I learned that the press fueled Donald Trump in the primaries because he was making them an enormous amount of money.  CNN has never made that kind of money, ever.  Neither has Fox.  MSNBC, they still don't make any money because they're so hopeless.  I call them BSNBC.

Polling has become less reliable than ever before because I don't think people want to tell pollsters a whole lot.  They trust the pollsters like they trust the media.  How many want to talk to them?  And a lot of the people who support the conservative cause don't want to talk to pollsters.  I also believe that the smug bubble-dwellers got their comeuppance on election night and it was beautiful to behold.  And no matter what you think of the values voters or however you want to call them, the evangelicals -- or, actually, it's not so much just evangelicals. It's evangelicals, Catholics, it's the faith-based voters across this country who have deep convictions about things like life and family and these aren't just political views. These are deeply-held views that they believe are the cornerstones of our culture, society and future.  They came out in record numbers for Donald Trump, which is a great irony isn't it?  Probably the most vulgar man ever to run for President of the United States and all the religious people say, "Amen!  God bless him!"  I mean you got guys like Santorum and me and we're sucking air and Donald Trump is getting the doggone nomination for heaven's sake!  Proof positive that evangelicals are not some monolithic body that just vote en mass to somebody who can pray.  What they really want is leadership and strength in America and they want somebody who will put their fist in the face of the enemies who hate us and will be Americans first and let us live our lives as Americans, whether religious or not.

Those of us who are religious don't want everybody to have to think like us, but they do want to believe that religious liberty really has always meant something in our culture and in our country.  Donald Trump doesn't have to sit on the pew with me on Sunday as long as he respects that those who do sit in the pew on Sunday are actually people who need to be left the heck alone, and the government doesn't need to tell the pastors in the pulpits or the peoples in the pews the limitations of what they can believe and how much of it they can believe like this administration under Obama did with the Little Sisters of the Poor and said, "You can believe your stuff but not too much, and if it interferes with government, government wins."  Under Donald Trump, we all believe that instead of the government setting the parameters, God and our conscious will set the parameters and government will protect our liberty rather than limit our liberty, and that's what America is supposed to be about.  Unlimited liberty!

I was in the UK in June when the Brexit vote happened.  I came back more confident than ever that Donald Trump was going to be the next president.  And I told this to many people and they said, "It's not the same.  It's not the same."  Okay, you smug indifferent people.  There you go.  But let me tell you what I observed.  I talked to Brits on the street and they told me a very different story than people were telling the pollsters and the news people who put a microphone and camera in their face.  Because nobody wants to be called racist, a bigot, a xenophobe, a homophobe, Islamophobe or any other kind of "phobe."  And so they didn't go down and say, "I'm for getting out because I'm a xenophobic racist bigot pig, is what I am."  And if they said that they were getting out, that's how they would be labeled so they just kept their mouth shut.  And some of them just flat out lied and said, "Yeah, I'll vote to stay."

We all went to bed that night, woke up the next morning, and I turn on the television and David Cameron's walking up and resigning.  Well, something happened during the night.  And I don't believe they were just stuffing the ballot box.  No, what happened was people had had enough of having people go after their culture, their language, their traditions, their religion, their way of life.  They didn't mind them going after the food, for those of them that understand there's no such thing as a British restaurant.  "Hey, Honey, let's go eat British tonight, okay?"  You go to Great Britain and every restaurant is an ethnic restaurant of somebody other than Great Britain.  But they were tired of having everything in their culture basically challenged and taken over by people who did not come to Great Britain to love the country and to assimilate in it, but to fundamentally change it from the inside out and to make it something it had never been before.  And if some people couldn't have seen that happening in the U.S., how dumb were they?  Because across this great county, what we found was that the slogan of Donald Trump, "Make America Great Again," was more than a slogan. It was a conviction; that yes, we welcome people from any corner of the earth who want to come here and become Americans and join with us in this amazing idea of freedom, liberty, individual responsibility.  Celebrate it with us.  Come and bring some of the great things that you have from your country and culture.  Because we like so many things you bring, whether it's the wonderful recipes you bring, or the unique perspective on life.  You can assimilate all of that into this incredible melting pot we call the United States of America.  And we're happy to have you.  Our country was made great by the people who came here from all over the earth representing different colors and different faiths and different ideas and different ethnic backgrounds.  But the one thing we just don't want is someone to come to this country and burn our flag and raise the flag of another country and wave it in our face and tell us that America isn't going to be America anymore.

And folks, what happened in this election were all those people out there in the land of God, guns, grits and gravy had it up to here.  They didn't sit on their butt on Election Day.  They got out of their chairs.  They would have gone to vote if it would have been 16 inches of rain.  Hillary gave them nothing to vote for and Donald Trump gave them something that they'd been missing for a long time, even among the Republicans and so-called conservatives. He gave them hope that somebody was listening.  And somebody would work to restore a sense of pride.  And then on that Election Day the folks from the land of God, guns, grits and gravy would not be taking a knee during the National Anthem and Debbie, what a magnificent rendition of that you gave to us tonight.  And I observed not one person in this place in their chair or on their knee.

I love this country because of what it has meant to me.  I didn't grow up like many or most of you.  I grew up in a little sleepy town in South Arkansas nobody ever heard of until Bill Clinton ran for President.  I'm the other guy from Hope.  I always wanted my presidential slogan to be, "Give us one more chance."  But I really grew up there.  He left when he was 5 years old.  We never really knew he was from Hope, but it sounded good when he ran for president.  "I believe in a place called Hope."  That sounds far more enticing.  The town he actually grew up in was a town called Hot Springs, Arkansas.  With his reputation, how do you think he would ever go around saying, "I believe in a place called Hot Springs!"  I didn't grow up with a silver spoon.  My parents were children of the Depression.  My mother was the oldest of seven kids; lived in a house that didn't have floors, just dirt. No electricity, no plumbing, and she went to work as a young girl to try to help take care of the other siblings that she had.  My father never finished high school.  He worked two jobs, hard work, heavy lifting, got his hands dirty and greasy.  It's all he never knew, was just lifting stuff and getting nasty to do it and trying his best to scrub the stuff off his hands.  He never really could get it all off.  Some of your fathers probably were like that.  I used to say that the only soap we had in my house growing up was Lava.  Most of you don't even know what that is, but if you're old enough and you came from a working class family, you might remember that Lava soap, what that was like.  It's the only soap we ever had.  Look guys, I was in college before I found out it isn't supposed to hurt when you take a shower.  I was quite relieved to find that out.  Some of you here at the Breakers have gone to the spa.  You've had an exfoliation.  You paid a lot of money.  A bar of Lava would have done the same darn thing for a lot less.

I'm the first male in my entire family lineage that ever graduated from high school, much less one that went to college.  But I lived in America and a kid like me who grew up in a little town, never thought I'd see a governor in person, much less personally know presidents and even run for the job; a kid like me to be standing before folks like you because I live in this country -- that's why I love America.  Because I know where I came from and I know what I've been blessed to be able to do.  I don't want to lose this country.  Not so much for me; my wife and I close enough to the finish line.  I'm pretty sure we may slide into it, but we're going to land the plane on the runway most likely at this stage.  But I've got five grandkids now.  I'm scared to death for what their future is if we don't see something dramatically change.

I've been going to Israel since 1973.  I was all of 17 years old when I made my first trip to Israel.  That's 43 years ago and I've been going back ever since.  I've gone so many times I've lost track.  Started taking groups of people there in 1981; I was just there in September.  I'll be back there in January and back again taking a large group of several hundred people in February.  And there's something special about Israel.  I think it's because it mirrors America in so many ways:  A land that was created out of a galloping terror of escaping annihilation to bring freedom and religious liberty to its people, but a people who are going to allow free speech and the power to vote in their elected officials and choose their own government, a true form of freedom.  And sometimes I think Israel is a great reminder of what we have to keep before us.

A number of years ago there was a young father, took his family to Israel.  He wanted them to experience the country and see it.  He took his children to Yad Vashem, the memorial dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.  Many of you perhaps have been there.  He had two teenage sons, a daughter who was 11.  He was a little worried about the 11-year-old daughter because it's pretty powerful to go through Yad Vashem, and back in those days, it was even more graphic.  But he and his wife discussed and decided that the father would take the little girl through Yad Vashem because he wanted her to understand what it means to stand up against evil, to speak up and to put even your life at risk to do it.  And so they decided that he would take the daughter through and if it became overwhelming and too emotional he would simply just take her out.  So he walked through Yad Vashem.  And if you've been there, and especially in the old days of Yad Vashem before they changed sort of the flow of it, the first part of it was depicting how little children would be isolated and separated from the rest of their classmates if they were Jewish and they would make them wear gold stars on their clothes.  It wasn't to elevate them.  It was to denigrate them and their classmates would taunt them and humiliate them and bully them, and the little girl was just stunned.  How could people do this to little kids?  When she saw the pictures of what happened in the Warsaw ghettos, people herded out of their homes and put into tenements, stacked on top of each other, several families to a small apartment in the worst of the ghettos.  And had to give up their clothes, their jewelry, their furniture; herded into these places and forced to live with people they didn't know.  And parents sometimes would be hauled off on the death trains, taken to the death camps, so the kids would be left often to fend for themselves in the streets of Warsaw.  The only warmth they could get was laying over the grate of a sewer.  And if they ate it was because people who were sympathetic to them would toss food out of the windows down to them on the street.  And if they were caught doing that, they'd be on the next train.

In the midst of this, the Nazis were so proud of what they were doing that they actually photographed themselves shooting children in the street for sport.  We know this happened, not because of the stories that were told.  We know it because it was photographically given to us as evidence because they were actually proud of what they were doing.

The little girl went to the part of Yad Vashem that depicted and told in graphic ways what happed at Auschwitz-Berkenau, Dachau and the other death camps.  And when she saw the pictures of the thousands and thousands of bodies, so many that the crematoriums could no longer handle the processing and the destruction of the bodies, they would just be marched out to open pits, shot and shoved over into the pits by bulldozers until another group could come in and their bodies would be pushed in on top of the bodies of those; so many bodies that it no longer even looked like human beings, just sticks of lumber because the emaciated bodies of these people virtually had ceased looking like humanity.  And the horrific nature of what was done sunk into that little girl.  When the father took his daughter to the exit of Yad Vashem, just as you leave there's a guest book, you can sign the guest book, put your name and your address and then there's a place for comments.  The father looked over his daughter's shoulder because he wanted to see what his daughter might write.  He hoped that she got it, that she understood that when you see something so evil and you say nothing and you do nothing, you have essentially given you consent to it and you become part of it.  And he hoped that she would understand that to save lives and to save a nation you have to put yourself at risk.  Did she get it?

She took a pen out of her father's pocket and this little 11-year-old girl started writing in the guest book her name, the address, paused and then she started writing in the comments section.  And when the father, looking over her shoulder, saw what the daughter wrote in the comments, he choked back tears because he knew she got it.  She wrote a simple little phrase.  What she said was this:  "Why didn't somebody do something?"  That's all she wrote.  Why didn't somebody do something?  Why didn't somebody do something?  And with that she put the pen back in her father's pocket.  The little girl didn't say another word for 5 hours.  But it changed her life.  That little girl, 11 years old then, is 34 years old today.  The reason I know her is because she's my daughter.  And if you saw my daughter, Sarah, on television talking for Donald Trump, you saw a smart, tough, little political operator who took nothing off anybody, no matter how much they threw at her and gave back as good as she got.  And people say, "Your daughter is, why she's better than you."  That almost would hurt if she wasn't my daughter.  Let me tell you something.  My daughter realized when she was 11 and it never left her nor was lost on her, that the way to lose a country is to not fight for it.  The way to lose a culture is to not stand up for it.  And no matter the cost, we cannot one day ever have in this country some father leaning over his daughter's shoulder and watching her write about America, why didn't somebody do something?  We're the somebodies.  It's up to us to do the something and when we do, we will save this great Republic, this culture, this country and liberty for those who are coming after us.

Thank you and God bless you!  That's why we're here.