Ana Navarro has long served as one of CNN’s most prominent conservative commentators.
But she’s found a new, and perhaps larger, audience as a weekly host on The View, which she called “the best gig in TV” in a conversation with AU students Thursday at an event hosted by the Kennedy Political Union and sponsored by the College Republicans.
Navarro, who recently received a 2020 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host with her co-hosts on The View, has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump and the former president’s supporters in the Republican Party. She talked about that criticism and her vision of the Republican Party’s future.
SOC professor Jane Hall, herself a veteran of cable news channels, moderated the hour-long conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.
Hall: We've just seen Donald Trump reemerge as a hero at CPAC, the conservative political conference, and many Republicans are saying they would vote for him in 2024, and he's threatening to punish the people who voted to impeach him. How do you see the future of the Republican Party with that split? What do you think should happen, and what do you think is going to happen?
Navarro: I punished myself and watched a lot of CPAC. I've been to CPAC many, many times. I remember being there in 2008 when John McCain spoke. He wasn't very popular with the conservative right at that point because he just attempted immigration reform with Ted Kennedy, and many people were very angry at him. But he showed up, and he reminded people about the shared values and principles, and he did call for unity.
I was there in 2012 when Mitt Romney won the CPAC presidential straw poll and spoke. I kept thinking this weekend, neither Mitt nor John could show up at that CPAC. They wouldn't be welcome; I'm not even sure they'd be physically safe. It used to be a conservative event about debating policy and ideas. (This year was) like an annual pilgrimage to worship at the shrine of Trump. I thought it was a parade of hypocrisy and inconsistency. Ted Cruz, making light of and making jokes about his Cancun debacle. We know people in Texas died. Ted Cruz railing against the elite when he fled his state to go to a Ritz Carlton resort in Cancun amid a catastrophe. To pretend that he is not elite and rail against the elite is the utmost hypocrisy.
Donald Trump talking against cancel culture and yet going through the names of every single Republican that voted to convict him or voted for impeachment.
Hall: How do you see a way forward from this? What’s going to happen to the Republican Party?
Navarro: It's only been a little bit over a month since Trump left the presidency. I think it's a little early to tell. I think we have to see just how involved (Trump) really does stay. He was a little low energy at that CPAC speech. I didn't see the same energy that I've seen from him at rallies. He certainly looms large in Republican primaries, and I think that is going to make a huge difference as to who ultimately gets elected.
I think he's looming large on something that's going on all around the country right now, which is the introduction in legislatures all over the country to figure out ways to restrict voting to make it harder to vote. I think that's part of the Trump legacy. I think some of the people who have been allowed and embraced by the party is part of the Trump legacy.
Hall: In Miami, Trump increased support. How did that happen?
Navarro: (The Trump campaign) drove home and exploited and really drove a wedge of socialism. The Republican Party, led by Trump, were laser-focused on instilling fear in a traumatized community. When you fled communism, as I have and have so many Cuban Americans, Nicaraguan Americans, and Venezuelan Americans who live in South Florida, the idea of socialism has an emotional trigger, brings an emotional trauma that's hard to explain. So for four years, they kept saying, “If you vote for a Democrat, it wasn't even about Joe Biden, any Democrat, it's going to turn America into Venezuela. We're going to turn Florida into Cuba; they are apologists of socialists. By the time Joe Biden showed up as a nominee, this had gotten baked into the pie.
Hall: What's it like being on The View?
Navarro: The View is a show that's been around for over 20 years. It's having great ratings success. It really works like a well-oiled machine. There is an enormous behind-the-scenes team that works really hard to produce the show. I think it's the best gig on TV. You're on the panel with people who have come from different places in life. I think that the diversity of experience is a great thing.
Hall: Over the past several years, President Trump has caused suburban women to turn away from the Republican Party. How can the GOP regain their votes?
Navarro: I think tone matters. I think policy matters. I think respect matters. I think it's hard for suburban parents to explain to children some of the things that we've heard and seen out of the president the last four years. I think it's about inclusivity. I think it's about civility and cordiality, and less showmanship, and more results.
Hall: Do you see a credible challenger to Trump if he decides to run in 2024?
Navarro: I almost hesitate to say this because every prediction I made about Trump and 2016 was wrong. But I don't think Donald Trump's going to run in 2024. He's going to be 78. He's going to have been out of the game for four years. It takes a lot of discipline and work to remain relevant when you're no longer in office. I've seen friends of mine who've left politics and then attempted to come back. They get rusty.
(But) I think it's going to be very hard in 2024 for an anti-Trump republican to win.
Hall: When the Republican Party has changed so much from when you first joined, what makes you stay in the party and gives you hope?
Navarro: That it will return to its traditional roots. And I'm not sure that I'm feeling hopeful. There's this part of me that really rejects the idea of being kicked out by Trump, a guy who was a Democrat when I was a Republican. A guy who was an independent when I was a Republican. A guy who I don't feel is a Republican. I fled my country when I was eight years old because of a political revolution. I think the idea of picking up my toys and leaving is really anathema. I really believe in the need of having two healthy parties, at least two healthy parties offering ideas because I do think that there are different perspectives and different representations of America.