At a lecture on Jan. 31, hosted by the AU School of Public Affairs Political Theory Institute, conservative political commentator Bill Kristol shared his views on the rise of Donald Trump, the disruptive nature of his presidency, and the future of the Republican Party.
“It is an unusual moment. That can be good and that can be bad,” said Kristol of the current political landscape. “A lot of our unusual moments in history have prompted good reforms. One shouldn’t be too gloomy or pessimistic. These things are opportunities as well as challenges.”
Kristol is an inaugural fellow with the AU Sine Institute of Policy & Politics, an incubator for policy innovation and convener of thought leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and journalism. As a fellow, Kristol, founder of the now defunct political magazine The Weekly Standard, will be a regular on campus this semester, hosting a series of seminars on the Federalist Papers.
At the PTI event, Kristol gave his assessment of the economic and social forces behind the election of President Trump and acknowledged — like many analysts — how he underrated Trump’s chances.
“In both parties, sometimes there is someone who challenges the establishment, but they usually lose,” said Kristol, who has identified with the Never Trump Republicans.
On the campaign trail, Kristol said he was surprised by the discontent among voters and the sense that the next generation would not be better off economically in the wake of automation and globalization of the economy.
“There was a subjective hopelessness in middle America that elites and people in the establishment hadn’t realized,” Kristol said. “Trump tapped into something that had been brewing.”
“Despite his complaints about Trump, Kristol emphasized that, so far, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism have worked in containing the damage Trump might have done,” said SPA Associate Professor and PTI Director Alan Levine.
Much of Kristol’s attention has been focused on repositioning the Republican party away from Trump.
“I don’t know if the party is salvageable, honestly, but I think it’s better to have two reasonable parties that are both committed to overall structure of American liberal democracy and democratic norms,” said Kristol. “Having one party that is as nativist and tinged with bigotry as a Trump Republican party is not good for the country.”