Terry Schilling of American Principles Project joins High Noon to conduct an autopsy of the 2022 midterms, and what the results say about the future of the Republican Party as well as the country. 

High Noon is an intellectual download featuring conversations that make possible a free society. The podcast features interesting thinkers from all parts of the political spectrum to discuss the most controversial subjects of the day in a way that hopes to advance our common American future.


TRANSCRIPT

Inez Stepman:

Welcome to High Noon, where we talk about controversial subjects with interesting people. I’m so pleased to have Terry Shilling on with me today. Terry is the CEO, he’s the president rather of American Principles Project from which perch he’s responsible for developing and implementing APP’s strategy, messaging, and political activity, both at the state and federal level. In particular, I wanted to have him on because the way that he has been leading APP and the kind of messaging that he’s been doing has been so different from oftentimes, or maybe increasingly not, you can tell me about the cycle, but has been the messaging Republicans have been consistently unwilling to do. I thought there was nobody better to do an autopsy on Republicans’ disappointing midterm performance than Terry Schilling, although I do want to introduce him with one other bit of information.

Glad.org, Terry, says that you have launched a petition to attack transgender student athletes, misgendering trans women and girls. You have created ads attacking the Equality Act and transgender participation in sports are rejected by Facebook for false and damaging content. That’s the download on Terry Schilling. Welcome Terry to High Noon.

Terry Schilling:

Thanks so much for having me, Inez. I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time. We always have interesting discussions. Even when we disagree, I always learn something. Really excited to be here.

Inez Stepman:

Well, I’m excited to have you. Again, I’ll just repeat myself and say, I don’t think there’s anyone better to do this autopsy. Here, I’m using the word autopsy because I want to recall, for people who were not interested in politics way back in the day, there was an autopsy after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, which to me felt very similar, not in the particulars, but in the sort of sinking feeling that wow, this country kind of went through a couple really bad years and still is not ready to change teams fully. I wanted to do this autopsy with you, because that autopsy is famously bad or was famously bad.

Essentially, the diagnosis for the Republican party from that autopsy after Mitt Romney’s loss was you need to ditch the cultural issues, they’re divisive. You need to run on tax cuts and being the sort of steady hand on the fiscal tiller and get rid of all those icky social issues that are hurting you. You also need to do more outreach to minorities. Well, lo and behold, the next cycle comes around, it’s 2016. Donald Trump does the exact opposite. Not only does he win and put himself in the White House, but he also outperforms or equals Romney on all of the metrics that the autopsy was worried about, including performance with black and Hispanic voters. Obviously that autopsy was totally wrong and led the Republican party towards really bad solutions in terms of looking at how to improve their performance. What is your 10,000-foot autopsy on this disappointing performance? Why do you think that that huge GOP wave did not materialize?

Terry Schilling:

Well, it’s very similar to the problems that we saw in the 2012 autopsy, which as you summarized it, they basically said that social issues distract from our winning economic message and that in order to win, we have to ditch the social issues and really focus on the economic messaging. That’s the same playbook that we essentially played here, except it was in terms of abortion. The reason I’m so familiar with that 2012 autopsy is because a American Principals Project and I basically led an effort internally here to do an autopsy and basically prove that social issues actually do win, they are very popular, especially when you’re talking about late-term abortion bans at the 20th week or cutting out taxpayer funding. Those issues all outperform the Republican party. The vast majority of voters, 60% plus, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or Hispanic or Gen Zer, voters are against the late-term abortions.

When I look at 2022, I see a very similar problem in that Republicans are not comfortable talking about these cultural issues. Even when it’s clear that they have a huge opening to go on offense against their opponent and make them look extreme … Look, aborting a baby in the ninth month paid for by tax dollars is very extreme. Voters don’t like that. It’s actually the obvious counterattack to when Democrats lie and say you want to ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. It’s an obvious and truthful counter to it, but Republicans just aren’t comfortable with it. They are comfortable though talking about tax cuts for corporations. They are comfortable talking about some of the cultural issues, but mostly fiscal issues. They’re more comfortable today talking about women’s sports than they were just two years ago. We’re seeing that. It is beneficial, but they’re still not running campaign ads on it.

The candidate committees and the candidate statements, in large part, revolved around inflation and crime and that’s basically about it. They didn’t really get into any of the family or cultural issues, which frankly leaves out a lot of potential voters that we can turn out to the polls. From the 10,000-foot view, I think two things are responsible for our defeat. One is a lack of willingness from Republicans to actually engage effectively on cultural issues, especially abortion. Two, and I don’t know how to solve this problem, Democrats are collecting ballots. They’re playing a game of how many ballots they can collect and Republicans are still trying to win voters. They’re still trying to win elections, they’re allowing a lot of the turnout just to be driven organically by who voters prefer and which policies they prefer. The big problem there though is that Republicans don’t want to tell voters specifically what policies are going to do. They just want to be an anti-party right now in the midterm.

We’ve got to change those two big things because abortion’s not going anywhere. If I’m a Democrat, those abortion amendments that we saw in Michigan, Kansas, and Kentucky, I’m putting those everywhere I can in 2024 and I’m going to attack my Republican counterparts. We have to come up with the solution and the answer to that otherwise we’re going to continue to lose elections.

Inez Stepman:

It seems like we had two really successful campaigns this round. One is the much-valued Florida over performance, once a swing state may be leaning red, now deep red under DeSantis, how much of that has to do with internal migration, it’s not really clear, but even if migration is a significant factor, it’s obvious that people are leaving and migrating to Florida, because of the policies that have been implemented there. The other big success story for the Republican party, I think rightly being ignored, because at the end of the day it’s kind of one of those close but no-cigar situations, but it is in New York. If Republicans hold the house, it’ll be because of flip seats in New York. It’ll be because of the campaign that Zeldin ran in New York, which swung the state by 17 points. Now, it started below sea level for Republicans, so that wave was only a moderate ripple by the time it got to the beach. But it’s still a huge success.

It seems to me that both those campaigns have two things in common. You tell me how this meshes in with the sort of 10,000-foot picture you just laid out for us. One is they didn’t run away from social issues. They either dealt with them, even abortion. I do think abortion hurt Zeldin in New York, but in the case of Governor DeSantis, he just kind of dealt with it early. They passed a 15-week ban, which is where roughly the American public is, meaning leaving it legal mostly through the first trimester. They passed that, they got it out of the way and then they stopped talking about it.

On every other culture issue, what you might call the “modern culture war issues”, leaving abortion to the side for a moment, both Zeldin and DeSantis went hard. They were willing to criticize corporations, woke corporations. They made a big deal out of what was being taught to children in schools and made sure to advance solutions, including school choice, aggressively. In the case of Zeldin, I do think crime is the number one reason why he was able to even make inroads even into New York City. There are parts of Brooklyn that are red now. He overperformed, I think, due to that issue, which I count as a sort of modern culture war kind of issue, but they also did something else, which is they both came off as kind of reasonable, otherwise. They went hard on exactly some of those issues that you’re pointing to that are 80/20 or 75/25, and on everything else, including fiscal stuff, they were … Essentially, they were trying to exude a certain amount of normalcy on those issues. Do you think that that’s important or am I buying a sort of establishment line about candidate quality?

Terry Schilling:

No, I think candidate quality is very important. What’s the rule in politics? You have to at least appear normal, as I think we fail to do a lot of times. I think Democrats fail to do that a lot of times, but it just doesn’t matter as much to a lot of their base voters. No, it’s very important.

Inez Stepman:

[inaudible 00:10:19].

Terry Schilling:

Yeah. No. Why we have to appear normal and it’s a do-or-die for us is because we don’t have the mainstream media as an enormous, elite cultural institution willing to back us up every single time. Democrats have that, so they’ll exploit every time we come across as unhinged or do anything too crazy. I think candidate quality is very important, but candidate quality is a lot of things. It’s appearing normal, it’s raising money, it’s setting up a campaign infrastructure. It’s also being a leader and being clear about your vision and what you’re going to focus on and what legislation you’re going to work to pass in the next term. Look, I’m still an optimist, I’m still romantic about America. I think that voters are forward-looking. They don’t really care so much about what you’ve done, I think they do in a certain aspect in that it convinces them that you’re able to accomplish things and that if you have a track record of delivering, you’ll probably be able to deliver in your next group of promises. Really, leadership is everything.

That’s where I think you saw the big distinctions between Zeldin and DeSantis versus a lot of the guys that went down in flames on last Tuesday is it’s very obvious what Ron DeSantis is going to do in his next term. It was very clear with voters in New York what Lee Zeldin was going to do if he were to get elected. Ultimately voters rejected the candidates entirely where they didn’t think it was clear or where they didn’t know. Look, I can’t reiterate this enough; midterm elections are base turnout elections. You have to do everything you can to motivate your base. It’s not the presidential years where a lot of people show up just because it’s a president. This is where our voters, your base voters are paying the most attention. If you can’t motivate them, if you can’t give them what they’re looking for, they’re just not going to show up.

I think there’s a lot of other dynamics here that we can maybe get into, but that’s the 10,000-foot view is midterm elections are base turnout elections and you really have to show your voters that you’re competent and you’re going to continue to deliver on your promises.

Inez Stepman:

You mentioned lack of vision. That really comes from the top in the Republican party in terms of, I mean we had a whole debate that kind of went under the radar, I think for most of the country about Mitch McConnell basically deciding to run on nothing, very intentionally not to have a sort of top line. Now, the Republican party sort of resolved on inflation as its primary … To be fair, I mean every issue poll put inflation very, very high on the list or general economic outlook, number one or number two. I mean, almost every poll of voters, and we can get to them in a minute, what happened with the polls. In my lifetime, this is the first time I remember the polls being off in a huge way in favor of Republicans.

To give them their due, that was an issue that Americans were reporting they cared about, but there was no really, as you say, vision. It was not really clear what Republicans were going to do if they won the House and Senate or if they … I mean, I think there were some governor’s races where that was clearer. To your point, there was very intentionally a look at the Democrats, look how much they suck and then what Republicans were going to do about it, especially on the federal level was kind of a big question mark I think.

Terry Schilling:

Also, I think that there’s an aspect of pessimism versus optimism just in America in general. When Democrats do best is when there’s more of a pessimism. Think about social security and Medicare for example. We know that these social programs are huge, enormous weights in our fiscal budgetary and everything. They’re really tying us down. When it comes to 10% inflation, voters don’t want those things cut. When there’s an uncertainty in the future and voters are pessimistic about the future, the last thing they want is to cut out any entitlement reform programs that could help them. What were Republicans talking about in the final days of the election? What were we of the only things that we actually got from McCarthy and McConnell? Entitlement reform. No one was calling for entitlement reform.

I think that that’s one of the biggest problems with Republicans in leadership is they’re just totally out to lunch and they have no real connection with everyday voters. At the end of the day, I get it, you want to reform entitlements, you think they’re going to cause us to go bankrupt, but talking about reforming entitlements is just not something voters want, especially when you have 10% inflation, especially when you think that there’s something that’s going to go bad in the economy. At those times, they want the assurance that someone’s going to help take care of them and giving, as the Republicans have been, all they talk about, giving your boss a tax cut is not really the economic relief and assurance that voters are looking for. They’re looking for something much more direct. I think Republicans need to figure that out if they’re going to win in the future.

Inez Stepman:

Speaking of the leadership and McConnell, there seems to be a coup underway in the Senate. In wake these disappointing results for the Republican party, we had a bunch of senators from Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, some more surprising names on there, a bunch of senators coming out publicly demanding new leadership in the Senate. That’s kind of a moot point at this point since looks like Republicans are going to lose the Senate, but regardless, it’s kind of a break. McConnell had had an iron. There were a lot of dissatisfactions with McConnell over the years, especially from the base, but even within Washington DC, it had all been very quiet and behind closed doors. Now, we have a bunch of prominent senators publicly calling for new leadership. Does this coup have any shot or is McConnell kind of the iron hand? If it does succeed, how is it going to change the vision, or lack thereof, of the Republican party?

Terry Schilling:

Yeah. Look, I’ve been really shocked to see, not the amount, but the quality of senators who are actually calling for a change in leadership. It’s not the Josh Hawleys, not the Tom Cottons necessarily, it’s the Marco Rubios. Lindsay Graham is calling for a change in leadership. Cynthia Lummis is calling for a change in leadership. They’re these guys that really don’t fit into the reformer class and the Republican party that are calling for a reform in leadership. It’s very interesting. I do think there’s a better shot this year than not, just because the results were so lacking. It was obvious that McConnell was playing games. I don’t know how much it would’ve affected the outcome, but we spent 9 million to save Murkowski. I’ve actually heard good arguments for that. You don’t spend that money and she still pulls it out and she might caucus with the Democrats, right?

Okay, fine, I’ll give you pass there. Money is no object when you’re Mitch McConnell. You need another 10 million, you call up your donors and you get them to give 10 million more dollars to your super PAC and they’re probably going to give it. He was purposely playing favorites, I think, in some of these key races or enemies with some of these new Republicans because he thought that they would question his leadership and not fall in line. It’s interesting how things play out. The irony here is thick because he might lose his leadership position because he didn’t invest enough behind Blake Masters and other candidates like that.

I do think we have a great shot. I don’t know how it’ll play out in the house. It looks like a very slim majority that we’re going to have there. Kevin McCarthy’s going to have to play all of his cards right. I don’t know. Republicans could get together, a small group of them could get together and just refuse to vote for McCarthy and that would cause chaos. We’ll see. I think the big race in the house to pay attention to is whip. I think that that’s going to come down, ultimately, to Jim Banks or Tom Emmer. Drew Ferguson’s in the race as well and he’s in the Freedom Caucus, so we’ll see how he does. I think that’s where the real fight over GOP leadership’s going to be in the house is over whip.

Inez Stepman:

The other explanation on the money and something that personally ticked me off, because honestly I would’ve been happy with the performance of those midterms if Blake Masters had made it over the line. I wouldn’t have cared too much if the Republican party had had 51 seats or 54 seats in the Senate. I’ll put my cards on the table, I think that Blake Masters is a very promising candidate for the Republican party. I totally disagree with people who said he was a bad candidate. He’s very articulate, he has a vision. I think it’s an important shift in vision for the Republican party. I was really disappointed to see that he’s not going to be in the Senate.

The reason I bring this all up, there seems to be this sort of blame game going around about Arizona. It seems like there are three potential people or things to blame. One is to recall what you said earlier about ballots versus votes. To clarify, I think what you were trying to imply there, cause I don’t know that distinction, I’ve never heard that distinction before about it, but I assume that it’s about essentially collecting, harvesting ballots before election day versus those votes that are cast on election day. One is maybe we need a strategy, especially if we’re not going to win these races to clean up the election system and prevent some of these mass mail out sort of election disasters, then that’s one big candidate. Maybe the Republican party needs a ground game, in terms of ballot harvesting instead of complaining about it.

Then the other two were essentially money issues. I’ve heard this from essentially both sides of this circular firing squad that has sprung up in the GOP traditional lines. MAGA Trump types versus the establishment. The establishment says, “These candidates were just bad candidates, they were too crazy, that’s why we didn’t put any money behind them because we knew they wouldn’t win. Lo and behold they haven’t won.” Then the MAGA types say, “Well, of course they didn’t win, they came very close, but they had absolutely no money.” Blake Masters got outspent by some crazy factor by [inaudible 00:21:35] and they point the finger at McConnell and say, “You purposely didn’t invest in these candidates because you don’t like their message.”

I read yesterday reported on Twitter from Luke Rosiak, who’s a great reporter often at Daily Wire, other outlets as well, pointing out that Trump also did this “fundraiser” for Masters where the default setting on his website was $99 for Trump and $1 for Blake Masters. Trump generally hasn’t spent out of his war chest to try to get … Even Republicans who are aligned with what we might call either a realignment or a more MAGA sort of vision in the Republican party, he has been completely selfish with that cash and hasn’t helped them get over the line. Which of those explanations, maybe one I haven’t thought of. What does explain the underperformance of some of these more realignment, MAGA-style candidates?

Terry Schilling:

Well, I want to address the Trump fundraising thing first, because I can put this into context so that people can have a better understanding of what actually is happening. Now, I’ll preface this by saying I think that Trump would’ve been in a much better, stronger position heading into 2024 if he had invested a lot more money behind these candidates. One, I think we would’ve won more of our races, but then two, he wouldn’t have this open and easy attack of raising hundreds of millions of dollars and then not reinvesting in the party for the midterms. The reason why those emails go out and those calls to action happen and they swing so heavily towards Trump and not the person they’re saying is because it’s part of a fundraising tactic. You rent out emails, you rent lists, and you open it to whoever. It just so happens that the Trump email list is one of the most coveted and they take a very heavy cut for their organization.

Basically, what campaigns or organizations do when they rent these lists is they’re saying, “All right. It’s not going to cost me anything to rent this list,” which most lists cost to rent, “but I’ll get a list of all these other people and then the next time I hit them up I can get all that.” It’s kind of direct mail meets online marketing and online fundraising, it’s just a different … When you’re doing direct mail pieces, you’re losing money when you send that out. It’s all just a fundraising game. Again, I wish Trump would’ve spent more money, but these are just the type of things that candidates and campaigns and organizations do to actually benefit from Trump and the incredible donor list that he’s built up. That’s context there.

Look, again, I think the distinction that I’m making between ballots and votes is what you said, which is the Democrats have a harvesting effort, Republicans don’t. Republicans shy away from early voting and shy away from mail-in balloting. we have to change that, I think, if we’re going to compete with them. Now, ultimately we should work to get rid of that. Unfortunately, that was the whole strategy behind winning these governor races in Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and in Michigan, was so that we could take over the governorships and then enact the election reform.

Well, we failed on that. Now we’ve got to play by the rules that they’ve set out until we can get power back and change the rules back to something that makes so much more sense. The good news is that we did win in Nevada for the governorship so maybe we can work out a deal and get Nevada closer to how Florida runs elections. Which by the way, it is a really good, clean and effective way to conduct an election. They counted and tabulated over 7 million votes on Tuesday night and released them within five hours. That’s impressive. Arizona still hasn’t and we’re more than a week out from the elections. It’s crazy.

Inez Stepman:

I have friends texting me, mostly less political friends I would say, but people who follow the stuff less than you or I do, but people are texting me, “Do we need the UN to oversee our elections?” What are you talking about? We still don’t have results actually in Arizona.

Terry Schilling:

It’s crazy. As our counterparts in the world, our rivals in the world, our enemies in the world, China’s building enormous hospitals in three days. Three days, they’re building an enormous hospital. We can’t even count election results in that timeframe in some of these states. It’s incompetent and it’s borderline on whether or not it’s an act of will. Ultimately, I think that Republicans had the message, we had the opportunity in so many cases. I do think we need to improve, especially when it comes to showing voters who’s really extreme on the issue of abortion. We have to really start collecting more ballots and we have to start matching … Look, if Democrats get to harvest ballots, then we have to, It’s taking a knife to a gun fight, we’re going to lose every time.

I think I mentioned this already, I don’t know, I’ve already had this conversation with a bunch of people. Republicans got 1 million more votes than they did in 2018. Democrats got 13 million fewer votes than they did in 2018 and we’re still losing these crucial elections. It’s crazy to me. That’s a net shift of 14 million votes and we’re still losing these critical races, it makes no sense. We have to start being more strategic and being more aggressive when it comes to the early vote otherwise we’re going to get left out to dry.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. It’s funny. If there’s no other silver lining about this, at least all the calls about the electoral college and how Democrats always win the popular vote, I mean this time it was the opposite way [inaudible 00:27:32]. Democrats essentially eked out narrow victories in the states that they needed to and Republicans won the overall popular vote. I look forward to pointing that out when there are shrieks about the electoral college.

There’s some other divisions I’d like to dig into here. One of the most stark, in terms of actual voters as opposed to the Republican party and their strategy is that basically married men, married women, and single men all went to varying degrees Republican. The thing that counterbalanced that is that single women went Democrat by over 30 points.

Terry Schilling:

Yeah. 37 points.

Inez Stepman:

There’s a polarized thing here where basically everyone but single women in America or voting red and single women are voting so blue that it’s offsetting everybody else. It seems to me that Republicans, I don’t even want to say Republicans, conservatives, I mean people like you and I, Terry, we’ve been kind of whining about this for a long time, about family breakdown, about atomization, about the radicalism of what people will reach for if they don’t have any kind of civic grounding. Politically now, it seems to me that this should be a big wake up call, that we have to confront this problem politically, in one of several ways. There’s only two ways to fix those kinds of things, we got to drive up the vote in everyone else or we have to find a way to appeal to single women and there’s going to be a lot more of them. Millennials are on track to be the most single and childless generation hitting 40, I think, in American history, certainly in recorded statistics in the United States. What are we going to do about it? They don’t like us.

Terry Schilling:

I don’t know how to win over these single women. I’ve thought about this. I actually gave a speech last Friday to a small group of Catholics in Dallas about the election and about the abolition of the family in America and how it’s played out. This is a major part of it, because part of the thrust for abolishing the family, which is why Democrats wanted to do it, is when you have fewer people getting married, when you have fewer people having babies, when you have fewer people protecting their kids, you create this generation of tyrants, of people that really don’t value the family and value the future, really. That’s what really families are about, is they’re about the future.

Think about this, what is the issue that’s going to win over non-married women? It’s not inflation, obviously. It’s not crime. That was a big theme of this election. Do Republicans start to cave or change their position on different issues? Maybe it’s the trans issue. I would be willing to bet that non-married women are the drivers, especially non-married, white women are the drivers of the whole trans fight in general. There’s this radicalization that’s happened with non-married women in this country, especially white women. I don’t know the issue that would bring them back on board with the Republican party where you could save the Republican party in any meaningful way.

What I told the group of Catholics in Dallas is, we just have to stop having non-married women. We need to decrease the level of non-married women in this country. There’s a very easy fix for that, especially for Catholics, which is to teach your girls to get married and to start a family earlier, stop putting it off. Don’t go to college and get a worthless degree. If you want to go to college, become a lawyer, become a doctor, become one of these positions that has an enormous and outsized influence on our culture and the direction of the country. But don’t go to college anymore to get a women’s history degree or something like that. If you really don’t know what you want to be when you get older, then don’t go to college. Just figure it out.

I don’t know. We really need to encourage family formation in our families. I think you start with the more conservative families and the Catholic families, just keep having babies, like I’m doing. Teach your girls that there’s nothing wrong with being a mom. There’s nothing wrong with getting married early. If you find the one that you want to spend the rest of your life with at 22, do it. Just get married. Life’s a lot easier with a partner to support you and to help you. It’s a lot easier, actually. Economically, psychologically, everything. Marriage alleviates a lot of your problems and makes you a happier person, just marriage alone. We need to do more to encourage people to get married at younger ages, but it might not be actually talking young married women into, I’m sorry, young, unmarried women and getting married. It might be more about encouraging men to grow the hell up.

I think men are part of the big reason why marriage is craters is because we’re all so immature now. We play video games, we smoke a lot of pot, we don’t get serious with our job. I know a lot of my friends, they still live with their parents at 35. That’s a red flag, I think, to most girls if you try and take them on a date to then take them back home to your parents’ house.

I think this next generation really needs to be taught that family is a good thing, marriage is a good thing, having kids is a good thing. Other than that, I just don’t know the silver bullet that’s going to bring non-married women back to our corner. It’s very difficult.

Inez Stepman:

What about the flip side of that equation? It seemed like for a while the Republican party was going to become the party of parents. Terry knows of whence he speaks on this, he’s got six kids. I mean that’s kind of the basis for a lot of APP’s ads, is talking to parents about issues that are affecting their kids, cultural issues that are affecting their families and their children. For a while, it seemed like we do have sort of a parent army marching to school boards. Did this midterm show the proof of that concept in the underlying data, even though overall we lost or did it kill it? In other words, this marching army of parents, did they show up in the midterms and just were offset by whether it’s unmarried, single women on the issue of abortion or whatever else? Or does the GOP still have a really long way to go before actually convincing these parents that the Republican party is their friend in this fight for their children?

Terry Schilling:

If you look at the exit poll numbers, gender by marital status, married men made up 30% of the electorate, married women made up 30% of the electorate. We won those two by 59% and 54%. I’m sorry, with 59% of the vote and 56% of the vote. Those are married people. We win those. We won married women by 14 points. We won married men by 20 points. Those are margins and we need to drive those up. Republicans need to understand that their only path to success in the future is to drive the turnout among married men and married women.

Now, the big deficit is something you were hitting on towards the end of your questioning, which is, do they look to the Republicans as an alternative to the Democrats? I think that of all the liabilities that Republicans have in their brand, we’ve been branded as the corporate party that only cares about businesses and rich people. We’ve been branded as racists and Nazis and fascists, whatever you want to say. I think the bigger problem that the Republican party has been branded on as, because it’s with our base and it’s with people that the only people that are willing to vote, is we’ve been branded as a bunch of liars. We’ve been branded as con men who make a bunch of promises to the American people and then never deliver on it. I think that’s why Trump is so beloved in the party and that’s why there was no stopping him in the nomination process in 2016 is because Republicans were so fed up with their own party that they were willing to blow up the whole system. They were willing to take a risk and blow up the whole system.

Think about this, we gave them 2010, the Republicans took over the house by huge margins, I think it was like 63 new Republicans elected that year. It was a huge year. But then 2012 comes around, we nominate Mitt Romney, well, we lose. 2014, they tell us, “Oh. If we want to balance the budget, we want to do all this stuff, we’ve got to get the Senate back, so we give them the Senate.” They still didn’t do anything. Republicans have a long, sordid history of breaking their promises to the American people and not delivering. That’s why people like Trump, who ends up overturning Roe in his first and only term … Why did it take Republicans 60 years to overturn Roe? Or I’m sorry, 50 years to overturn Roe? We’ve had more Republican-nominated Supreme Court justices in that timeframe, way more than Democrats have. It’s because Republicans never deliver on their promises and that’s the real threat.

Once Republicans really start delivering on opposing the threats to the American family and to our children, I think things will start to turn around more. That 60% of the electorate of married men and women, that’ll increase to 65%. The margins will also increase, because those will be our people. We have to treat married men and women the same way Democrats treat unmarried women. We have to value them just as much and give them what they want. Democrats are willing to embrace abortion after birth in order to keep unmarried women on board. What are Republicans willing to do? That’s an open question, because I don’t know what they’re willing to do.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. There are some issues that are actually easier low-hanging fruit that Republicans just don’t … Here I’m thinking about in the states. There was this huge push in 2021, that was the biggest school choice push in history. What I was really worried about is actually, yeah, I mean we have a lot of people who are coming out to vote Republican for the first time, because they’re so fed up with what’s going on in the school system. Here I do think Florida’s probably the instruction manual. DeSantis, he’s expanded the state school choice program. Florida already was pretty robust in terms of school choice options, but he’s expanded them further. On top of that, he’s put a bunch of content restrictions in place and he started to actually make sure that those content restrictions are enforced. He’s consistent in actually not just talking about the issues in schools, but actually backing it up, both with legislation and with executive enforcement.

It seems to me we don’t have a really good example of that. I’ll give you the corresponding example would be Texas, where Republicans have ruled for decades and Texas is considered the, I don’t know what metaphor I want to choose here, the sort of …

Terry Schilling:

The Mecca.

Inez Stepman:

The glittering jewel for school choice, because for basically 20 years, Texas Republicans have resisted passing any kind of private school choice program and it’s Republicans that have stopped it. Every poll shows that Republican base is like 85% in favor, especially now it’s an 85 to 90% in favor of the Republican base. Now they care specifically about this issue given the last few years and shutdowns and all the content that’s been in the schools. We still don’t have school choice in Texas. School choice is just one issue. There’s a huge danger here in actually making these promises, promises that I think you and I and people who are into the culture war think are so necessary, but then what are we actually going to get out of the Republican party for making those promises? That’s a totally open question.

Terry Schilling:

It’s amazing how little Republicans have delivered over the past few years. You talk to a Democrat and they have the exact opposite take. They look at the Supreme Court as everything. When you get down to it, what did Trump do in his first term, or in the first two years when we had a Republican [inaudible 00:40:28]? He gave us basically corporate tax cuts. He gave us some good family tax cuts, but those are temporary. The corporate tax cuts are permanent. I think it should have been the exact opposite. Look, I think Texas is an example of a red state that is very close to becoming purple. I know Abbott proved us wrong here in this last election, he won by a pretty sizable margin. The problem is that if you don’t actually reinforce American values in your law and you don’t continually update it and protect it from all these new threats, you end up turning into California.

California used to be much redder than Texas is now. It was a solid, red Republican state. Ronald Reagan won it. Nixon won it. It wasn’t until the nineties when things started really falling apart for Republicans out there. They used to control everything, but they stopped delivering. They had too much prosperity. But they didn’t protect themselves socially. What happened is if all these blue voters started flocking to the great economy of California and there were no social laws restricting all the things that liberals want, like free sex and drugs and all of that, and so they didn’t really have to choose. States like Florida are making voters choose. You can have our great economy, but you can’t groom children in schools. You can have our great economy and our great business environment, but you can’t do abortions after 15 weeks.

We need to start thinking in those terms, at least to keep more blue voters out of our states. That’s how Democrats think and we need to think a lot more about it.`I think the heartbeat bill did a lot to fight against that. We’ll see the long-term effects of it, but they really need to start doing more to protect the minds of their kids in that state because if you can’t protect the minds of your kids from being indoctrinated or groomed, it’s only a matter of time before you start losing your elections.

Inez Stepman:

Let’s wrap up with this: where is the average American voter? This is the all-important question. Where are we as a country? Once again, I find myself sort of up a creek without a paddle. I was joking online that this is my ‘I don’t know anyone who voted for Nixon’ election. I really don’t understand how, even with all of the sort caveats that we’ve just talked about, how Republicans had no vision, how they haven’t delivered on promises in the past, how they are reluctant to actually defend themselves when they’re attacked, for example, on issues of abortion. They just sort of retreat and try to talk about inflation. I understand all that.

Obviously I think it’s important or I wouldn’t have hashed it out on this podcast with you, but it still shocks me that after the last two years that we’ve had, after the continued lockdowns and masking until just six months ago, basically, and still fighting out those issues in some public school districts. Yes, the economy and inflation going through the roof and the economy in the tank. After two years of aggressive defense of the most heinous things you could possibly imagine in public schools, pornography in school libraries, after the energy crisis and after Biden still going out there … Biden’s midterm of closing message was Republicans are a bunch of Nazis. By the way, I talked to this trans kid about how transitioning for minors is a moral imperative. That was his closing message and still, we get these very muted midterms where Republicans do pick up some seats in the house, but it’s no more than your typical party out of power sort of rebuke.

Where are the American people? Am I just off in a corner here with our buddies where these things are obvious? What is going on in the mind of the average American voter that they basically pretty solidly came out for Democrats after these last two years?

Terry Schilling:

Well, first of all, I think the number one thing when you’re thinking about the American people that you have to keep in mind is that people like you and people like me are very odd. This is our life. This is our job. We are nonstop paying attention to the national discourse, the public policy that’s being debated. The time of the day when everyone’s shutting off the TV, because it’s the news and it’s politics, we’re turning it on. We’re very odd. The things that are puzzling to us are not going to be puzzling the American people. I realize you’re from New York, so you’re a little even more different than I am, but I’m from the Midwest and I talked to …

Inez Stepman:

I’m from California, actually. It’s worse.

Terry Schilling:

Oh my gosh. Okay. My friends in the Midwest though, they hate Republicans almost as much as Democrats. They don’t trust Republicans, and so they’re not motivated to go to the polls and vote. The first person that they really showed up to vote for was Donald Trump. Now, that said, I don’t think that those guys are still going to show up to vote for Donald Trump in 2024. I think that they’ve been disillusioned again at the lack of progress. Ultimately, where I think the American people are is they know they’re hurting, they know that things aren’t looking good, they don’t like Democrats, but they dislike Republicans more, at this point. That being said, I don’t think that has to be the case.

This is a topic for a whole other discussion. I think that the number one theme from the Republican nominee in 2024 has to be about firing and getting rid of everyone in the administrative state, cleaning house. Not eliminating it, but replacing it with everyday Americans, at least temporarily. Because right now, the president doesn’t really do anything. My message to the American people if I was the nominee would be, things really haven’t changed much in this country for the better. We’ve had so many different presidents, we’ve had Democrats and Republicans, but things only accelerate and get worse for us. Republicans get elected and they pump the brakes on all the bad stuff that’s happening in our lives, but then Democrats get in and expand the administrative state and things get so much worse faster. That’s because the president doesn’t do anything anymore. The president is now a ceremonial figure. That’s why Democrats don’t really care that Joe Biden has dementia and is senile as hell. It doesn’t matter because the administrative state’s running everything and they’re fine with the direction that they’re taking the country.

I think, ultimately, it has to get back to normalcy and having a constitutional government where the executive branch executes the law, the legislative branch legislates, and we start to really cut back on the power and influence that the administrative state has over this country. If we don’t do that, then we’re just going to continue to slow boil into literally … You think about this, the U.S. government today is much bigger than the United Socialists of the Soviet Republic. Our government is much bigger than the Soviet Union at its height. That needs to change, because our government is doing even worse stuff to us now. I mean, we’re not going to gulags, but it runs our lives in incredible ways that we don’t even see. I think there’s hope, Republicans just have to be that effective alternative and give the American people the hope, otherwise it’s just going to continue to slow boil into disaster.

Inez Stepman:

Yeah. You make a good point that things don’t change. I feel like maybe that is more of an inside explanation, but that has increasingly been my explanation, is that really changing the president doesn’t do much. You make a good point that that’s the reason that it’s fine. I think that’s also why it was totally rational to cast a vote for Fetterman, if you’re a Democrat. That’s going to be a party-line vote. Increasingly, our actual elected officials are secondary to what actually happens for four years while they’re ostensibly in charge or two years where they’re ostensibly in charge. I think that’s very true.

I thought of one more question to ask you, and this one’s kind of a controversial one to close it out. What do you think the role of Trump will be going forward in the Republican party? Obviously, now there’s this contrast Trump’s attacking Youngkin and attacking DeSantis, he’s got nicknames for them. I laughed a lot at Youngkin. He said it sounds Chinese. If nothing else, Trump is entertaining. What is Trump’s role going forward in the Republican Party going to be. You just said that your friends in the Midwest are disillusioned yet again, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to be not disillusioned with one of Trump’s primary opponents. Where are we going on this Trump train here?

Terry Schilling:

I’m not punting, but we saw what happened when DC tried to stop Trump in 2016, NRO … They all pulled out the stops to try and stop him, and it didn’t work. It actually backfired. The more that DC tried to play in that game, the stronger he got. I think, ultimately, Trump’s going to remain in the Republican Party. It would be having any other very popular Republican president being involved. Ultimately, how big his role’s going to be in the Republican Party, is going to be up to voters. I think, ultimately, he’ll at least be a king maker. I think he feels shortchanged, but at the end of the day, I think that Republican voters don’t hate him as much as the mainstream media want them to. I don’t think that they blame him for the midterm results. I think they blame Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy and Rhonda McDaniel much more.

He’s still beloved. A lot of people really love him. As much as my friends feel disillusioned, they still view him as the best Republican we’ve had in a very long time. I think they’re more just worried about whether or not he can overcome the administrative state because that didn’t work out for us so well, in his first term, but we’ll see. I don’t know. I don’t want him to go away, because he really did something that no other Republican was able to do, which is show Republicans how to fight and show Republicans that they shouldn’t just get bullied and slapped around so much by Democrats and that you can take on the mainstream media and win. You shouldn’t take their lies and you should push back as hard as you can. He really did revolutionize the Republican party in huge ways.

There is no DeSantis without Trump. There is no new Republican Party. We’re Jeb Bush right now without Donald Trump. I don’t know what his role is. I mean, as it stands now, I think he’s got a great shot at retaining the Republican nomination. It’s going to be up to DeSantis on whether or not he gets in, but I kind of take an all-the-above approach. I think we should hash things out and then get back together like a nice, big happy family and win this republic back. There’s a lot of issues and strategies that need to be debated and discussed. It’ll be interesting to see who gets into this 2024 field.

Inez Stepman:

Terry Schilling of APP thank you so much for joining High Noon. Really loved having you here.

Terry Schilling:

Thanks, Inez.

Inez Stepman:

Thank you to our listeners. High Noon with Inez Stepman is a production of the Independent Women’s Forum. As always, you can send comments and questions to [email protected] Please help us out by hitting the ‘Subscribe’ button and leaving us a comment or review on Apple Podcast, Acast, Google Play, YouTube, or IWF.org. Be brave. We’ll see you next time on High Noon.