Tomi Lahren wants to have "the difficult conversations." This would be one of those

Fox News' millennial star tells Salon she wants to "bridge the gap," if only lefties would stop the "name-calling"

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 2, 2019 8:00AM (EDT)

Tomi Lahren (Fox News)
Tomi Lahren (Fox News)

Tomi Lahren's new book calls for an improvement in the tone of our political debate, one in which our conversations revolve around the merits of ideas rather than distortions and personal attacks. It is a welcome argument — one that she will hopefully apply to herself as well as her opponents.

"Never Play Dead: How The Truth Makes You Unstoppable" contains the provocative right-wing opinions one has grown to expect from Lahren, and that turned her into an online celebrity and then a Fox News commentator and Fox Nation talk-show host. Topics from immigration policy and feminism to college debt and the Dakota War of 1862 are covered in terms that some readers are sure to find offensive. The standout theme in the book, however, is Lahren's call for civility in political discourse. She discusses a number of occasions when she has been mistreated or mischaracterized by her critics because of her views, has been mocked for her physical appearance, experienced social rejection, been characterized as evil and threatened with physical violence.

Of course Lahren is correct that liberals should be able to criticize someone's ideas without attacking the individuals themselves. There is no excuse for engaging in sexist attacks such as calling her a "bimbo" (as our conversation made clear, she's not dumb), or suggesting that she deserves physical harm. Our social contract is frayed enough at present: We have to be able to live with people whose opinions we believe are wrong or even harmful without perceiving them as genuinely malevolent.

At the same time, if Lahren means it when she calls for civility, she needs to practice what she preaches. At one point in her book she writes:

I don't care if someone is a liberal, conservative, an atheist, or whatever: don't be the mean girl. You may be in that position of power where you feel like you are controlling the room or you own the moment — whether that's at school, work, among your friends — but if you're a crappy person, it's worth nothing. Even when it's easy to be a mean girl, even when other people cheer you on for being one, don't do it. You won't be happy with yourself.

She's absolutely right, of course. But can she accept criticism when she's being the "mean girl"?

In a series of follow-up questions sent after our initial phone interview, I asked Lahren whether her desire for civility could be extended to some of her own past comments. I brought up an occasion when she tweeted that Black Lives Matter was analogous to the Ku Klux Klan. She replied: "I deleted the tweet you are referencing after I realized it was an insensitive remark. I have always apologized when I've said things that have gone too far and similarly I won't apologize when I am not wrong just to appease the Left. I discuss this at length in my book."

I also asked her about her frequent references to liberals as "snowflakes." Describing someone that way, Lahren responded, "is not the same as labeling a Trump supporter racist, homophobic, sexist, irredeemable and deplorable. The adjectives are on opposite ends of the spectrum."

I'm not sure. Liberals are called "snowflake" for much the same reason that conservatives are insulted with the epithets she listed — to deflect attention away from the substance of what is being argued and replace it with a straw man, a caricature or a degrading stereotype. I'd rather be called a snowflake than a bigot of any stripe, but the underlying intent is the same, to insult the other side rather than listen.

Lahren is undeniably intelligent, as I learned from talking to her about history and politics. She is certainly sincere in her belief that small-government conservatism is the ideal path for America to follow. She has also been willing to break with her own side on issues she feels strongly about, like abortion rights, and has stood up to fierce criticism from conservative allies for doing so. That takes courage — a quality many Republicans have sorely lacked in the Trump era — and she deserves credit for it, especially when she stood by her positions despite the damage to her career.

But there are high stakes involved in political debate. This isn't a game where the winners brandish a trophy and the losers go home disappointed. People can be hurt, or even die, based on government policy decisions. If we want to create a more civil political culture, as Lahren suggests, we must be able to accept criticism offered in good faith, even if we disagree. I claim no moral superiority over anyone on that front: Like most people, I do not enjoy being called out when I've made a mistake.

I tried to ask Lahren respectfully about the false and damaging claim she made on her Fox News show that migrants heading for the U.S. were dangerous vectors of disease (she referred Salon to a Los Angeles Times profile in which she stood by her remarks). Her viewers were shown a chyron saying "Caravan of Diseases," while Lahren claimed that a so-called caravan of migrants included "three confirmed cases of tuberculosis, four cases of HIV/AIDS and four separate cases of chicken pox." 

She added that "over 100 migrants have lice and multiple instances of skin infections" and said there was also an unexplained threat of "hepatitis outbreak." In her conclusion to the segment, Lahren said that "people in border states like mine better pull their heads out of the sand real quick. Do you want TB, HIV/AIDS, chicken pox or hepatitis in your communities at your children's schools? Because I have a feeling the warm and fuzzy spirit of compassion doesn't treat or prevent diseases like those."

Lahren's claims were inflammatory and at least partly untrue: PolitiFact reported "no documented cases of tuberculosis." In any case, the numbers Lahren reported, right or wrong, are not medically significant or cause for undue alarm. In any randomly assembled group of people, one would expect to find a few cases of serious disease. If there are questions about how such cases are handled by immigration authorities, or whether this poses any threat to public health, she did not raise them.

For what it's worth, I am grateful to Lahren for her willingness to speak with me, especially since Salon has been highly critical of her in the past. As I wrote to her in my initial email, "my goal is to build a bridge between liberals and conservatives — not one where we always agree, but rather one in which people can have intellectual conversations about our disagreements in a respectful way." On several occasions in my interviews with prominent conservatives, I've expressed the view that curiosity about other people's opinions can allow us to build bridges where we didn't think they were possible, particularly during my interview with Tucker Carlson earlier this year. Failing that, it allows us to better understand the ideas we oppose — and come up with better arguments against them.

As usual, this interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

In your book, you discuss the toxicity you've encountered in both your professional and personal life as a result of your political views and your career. I keep thinking that the common theme here, cliché though it may sound, is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. Do you try to follow that in terms of your own interactions with liberals who disagree with you?

One of the things that I'm most proud of in my career — which again, you know I'm only 26, but I've been doing this for a little while now — and one of the things I am most proud of is that I've had some really amazing conversations with people on the other side of the aisle, and they've been very public conversations, and they've gotten a lot of attention.

But I look back at all of those people, and I'm really proud to say that if those people would see me in the street they would greet me warmly, and I think that we'd be very cordial to one another. I'm speaking of Trevor Noah, Chelsea Handler, Bill Maher, even the ladies at "The View." I've always had really great interactions with people, and I think that sometimes people, especially on the left, are quite surprised that in an environment where I'm in a panel setting or a conversation or a dialogue, I'm very fair and I'm very easy to talk to. So I really do think that's what we need more of in this country.

In a broader sense, how do you create that? How do you build a bridge between liberals and conservatives? One in which ideas are discussed based on their merits, rather than on personal attacks?

So for me, I think that having the difficult conversations is what's so important, especially when we're bridging that gap. And you know, something that I'm very proud of, is that I don't really tick the box of what your, quote, "conservative" should be, or what some conservatives think I should be. I'm a free-thinking person, and I'm not afraid to be contrary to what my "side" is supposed to believe and stand up for.

So I think finding our commonalities and being able to discuss the things that make us similar, that make us uniquely American, that's a great way to bridge the gap. But also, for me, although people see my commentaries and they're very passionate, when I'm in a conversation with somebody I really try to listen and to learn, and to try to understand their perspective. I don't think you'd ever find an interview with me where I sat across from somebody and name-called them, or labeled them, or tried to shut them out.

I've always been very interested in the conversation, and I quite honestly wish there was more of that coming from the left. I think that conservatives sometimes do a better job with it, to be honest, of being more personable and not going for the attack and not going for the name-calling, the labeling — that's "deplorable," "racist," "sexist," "homophobic," "xenophobic." I mean, that comes more from the left than it does from the right, to be quite honest.

Well, William F. Buckley said that the key to effective debate is that it's always fair to challenge the objective consequences of what someone is advocating, but that unless you can prove malice you shouldn't challenge their subjective reasons for feeling the way they do. Is that an accurate formulation of how you feel?

Absolutely, and I think that that's what we need to do better in this country — and I write about it a lot in my book — is being able to separate people from politics. And I think a lot of the problem is, you know, especially in the era of Donald Trump, and those that are so fiercely anti-Trump, is that they look at conservatives and Trump supporters as monsters, as the enemy, as deplorable people. So they don't really care what they say to us, or about us, or direct specifically at me.

They don't care what they call me, they don't care if they attack me, the don't care if they throw water at me. I feel that some on the left feel like it's almost their moral duty to attack, disparage and degrade conservatives or Trump supporters because they think that they're morally superior to us. And I think that's a big problem in this country right now.

I want to dig a little deeper into something you said earlier, when you mentioned that there are issues where you've taken unorthodox stances for a  conservative — abortion rights comes to mind. You also mention in your book that you were critical of conservatives who've defended Roseanne Barr and Kanye West. What would you say is your deeper political philosophy? What are the themes that link the ideals that cause you to be conservative on some issues or more liberal on others?

Sure. Well, I wouldn't necessarily call myself "liberal" on any issue. But I consider myself very socially moderate, especially regarding the pro-life/pro-choice issue. For me, I think there's such a gray area in this country that most people fall into, and the extremes on both sides are very damaging because most Americans don't exist on either side of the extreme.

But I've always been very consistent in that I believe in limited government, and that's something that I've echoed really through all of my sentiments, from gun rights to abortion rights or what have you. I just believe that the less intervention by government, the better. I think that people are best when they make choices for themselves, make choices based on personal responsibility, personal goals, family and friend space. I think that that's always going to be a more productive method than government intervention.

So on that issue I'm very consistent. I also feel the same on gay rights, LGBT rights. I am, very much so, limited government. I don't think that the government should intervene in areas such as those. So that is a very consistent stance that I've always held, and I am very vocal about it.

And then, in regard to other things, I don't like it when anyone plays for a "side." That's something I write about a lot in my book. I don't play to a side. I think it's easy to get into a time where it's very profitable, and it's attention-seeking to play to a side, and to play for the hit. And I learned early in my career that that's not something that I was ever going to be a part of because, quite frankly, fame and money don't mean much to me.

It's all about being a voice for the voiceless, getting out there and expressing myself and being a voice for others, and being forceful and passionate. That's what I do and that's why I do it, and I think that sometimes on both sides we do the mental gymnastics of trying to make our side seem better, or our side seem in the right, and we're just playing to win. We play to make the other side look stupid, or the other side made a fool of, or the other side evil.

And I don't like that. I think you need to take things issue by issue, and if you don't stack up on what you're supposed to stack up to, I think that's perfectly fine. But we're in this time right now where you have to be left or right, and it's getting worse. I fear that going into 2020 it's going to get even worse yet, and that's why I'll just never do it. I'll never play to the hit. I'll never follow a list of talking points or a checklist of things I need to say in order to be the golden child of the conservative movement because that's just not what I seek to be. I just want to be an honest, genuine, authentic person.

Who would you say has had the most influence on you? You seem to be very focused on ideas, and on trying to bring about a kind of idealistic representation of these core principles. It made me curious, are there politicians? Philosophers? Pundits? People you met growing up who've been really influential for you?

The most influential people in my life are my parents, and I'm very proud of that because I think part of my appeal, and the reason where I am in this career and in the place that I've gotten to, is because I am very middle America. I say the things and I represent the things that a lot of middle Americans are feeling, you know, as the forgotten Americans. And I come from that. So I think that I represent those views very well.

So when I look to the role models or who's been a guide for me, it's definitely my parents, and the people I was surrounded by growing up that were not hyper-political, that just worked hard, wanted to get by, wanted to provide a good life for their family, and didn't want the government to be taking from them, or didn't want the government to tell them what to do. So my biggest inspiration is where I come from.

But also, in terms of thinkers, I think especially on my view on pro-choice, limited government, Barry Goldwater is an inspiration for me. I think a lot of his writing, especially towards the later part of his career, you know, "Conscience of a Conservative," where he really goes into how true conservatism should be about limited government, and we should stay away from social issues if we can. We should let personal responsibility and our faith guide us, that that's not government's place. So I've done a lot of reading on Barry Goldwater and he definitely is an inspiration for me politically.

In Barry Goldwater's memoirs, he says that one of his great regrets is that he never had the opportunity to debate John F. Kennedy. Are you familiar with this? He said Kennedy and he had discussed doing a nationwide tour [during the 1964 presidential election] where they were going to go through all of the issues in depth, but then Lyndon Johnson, of course, had no interest in doing anything of that nature.

Yeah, I am familiar with that, and I think that that's very much —even though, honestly, Barry Goldwater and I are very different aesthetically — I think that that's really how I feel too. I really love having conversations with the other side, and I really love talking about the issues. Not from a place of, "I want to win. I want to beat you. I want to belittle you. I want to make you look like a fool. I want to drag you for a headline." For me, it's I really do enjoy the conversation, and I think we need to get back to a place in this country where we do have conversations about the issues. And I think that was very much Barry Goldwater's wish.

Now thinking about the unintended consequences of his career. When Goldwater was nominated in 1964, he ushered in the conservative revolution within the Republican Party. But in his later years, in the late '80s and through the '90s, he actually expressed some dismay with how the Republican Party had evolved. It had become much more conservative on social issues, particularly in terms of the power of the religious right, than Goldwater had ever intended. Is there a lesson there that Republicans could learn today?

I think everybody's allowed to evolve, and to change their opinions, and their feelings. I think that, for me, when I cite Barry Goldwater and one of the things I talk about, especially in the pro-choice discussions, and people say, "Well that was at the end of his career when he was insane. That's when he became for pro-choice, limited government." And I think that that's really a cop-out by people that don't understand the brilliance of that man.

So I think everybody's allowed to change, grow and evolve, and we shouldn't attack people for not being conservative enough. That's something that I will say is a big pet peeve of mine, is, telling people that they're not enough of anything. I write about that a lot in my book, and I think that's a lot of, you know, in his later years, what happened to Barry Goldwater.

Let's talk about Donald Trump's presidency for a moment. One of his challenges is that I get the feeling that he wants to expand his populist base beyond the right wing, but he has struggled to do so. Do you think that there is any way that Trump could effectively reach out to at least some liberals?

I think the economy is a great way to do that. I think when Donald Trump sticks to his gut instinct, he's right. When he sticks to, again, that populist method that bringing jobs back, lowering taxes, the forgotten American, the silent majority. I mean, that's why — you know, I call them the Trumpocrats — voted en masse for Donald Trump in 2016, because he was speaking to those issues.

And you know what? When he was filling stadiums full of people, they weren't chanting anything about social issues. They were chanting, "Build that wall." You know? They were chanting, "Make America Great Again," "USA," "America First."

So I think a lot of times — and again, he, like any other conservative or Republican is going to struggle with that — you know, you want to appeal to your base, and you want to make sure that they feel that you're with them, and you're one of them. But also, at his core, I do think Donald Trump is an America First candidate who believes in economic freedom, and he believes in putting the forgotten Americans first.

If he sticks to that method he will win again. Unless he gets caught up in the extremes, especially in the abortion extremes, which I think he's done a great job staying out of, I think he'll win again.

OK, so I want to return to something you said earlier, and this is an area where I disagree with you. You talk about small government, and how that is necessary to maximize freedom. I think of Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech, in which he said that freedom depends on "freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear." The point he was making, is that, if you are wanting, if you are poor, if you are born into a situation or through bad luck enter a situation in which you don't have the material resources to control your own destiny, then you are, in effect, not free. And progressives like myself feel that the government should step in to help people in situations like that. Does that make sense?

Well, sure! I hear that and I understand that and I appreciate that perspective. For me, I do believe that government exists, and the welfare state exists, as a safety net. I think when it becomes a hammock that that's when it becomes problematic. I talk about this a lot, and I really get ripped for it. Over the weekend, even tweeting about reparations, getting ripped by the left for it.

For me, if you really want to help people, and you really want to allow them to maximize their potential, you lower the barriers of entry for ownership. And that includes deregulation, that includes getting rid of the red tape and the mandates. I think Obamacare being a big one for businesses, for the mandates on small business ownership. I think that limits a lot of people who were in that position where, you know, they want to achieve, grow, they want to own something. And I think limited government is the best way to lower that barrier to entry for people.

I understand that everybody has different situations in this life, and everybody's been a victim of something, and some people probably have more struggles and challenges and obstacles than others. I do believe, though, that the government can give you a lot of things, but a sense of accomplishment isn't one of them. So I believe that we are best when the government gets out of the way and allows people to thrive and to achieve.

But I know that that's just a fundamental difference between my perspective and the progressive belief. I see the other side, and I understand. It's just not what I believe.

That makes sense. I don't think that people who believe the way you do should be insulted for it. I don't think it's because you hate the poor, or because you're racist, or any other epithet. I think it's simply a different worldview. I will say, I've often been criticized by people on the right as being an authoritarian, or for hating freedom, because of my point of view. You know, I don't think Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hate freedom. I just think they have a different approach to providing the same opportunities, and the same capacity to shape one's own destiny, than people from conservative movements. Does that make sense?

I think that most of us love this country, and we want to see this country and our fellow Americans succeed. We just have different ways of going about it. If we could learn to respect that other people have different ways of going about it because they just philosophically believe in a different path, it doesn't make them bad people, it doesn't make them unloving and unfeeling, it doesn't make them un-American.

I hope we can get to a place in this country where we can civilly agree to disagree instead of this, "One of us has to be right and one of us has to be wrong. One of us has to be the winner, and the other has to be the loser." I think especially when we're trying to have dialogue and debate, that's a non-starter.

In terms of some of the criticisms you've received from the left, which ones would you say have been the most unfair or most destructive in terms of cultivating a productive discussion?

Well to me, when we talk about non-starters, when someone out the gate, who has never met me, who has never cared to get to know me or talk to me: When they immediately come at me with the labels, the cheap shots, that's — I've learned to not let it be hurtful anymore because like, I write about it in the book, I know who I am, and I'm very comfortable with who I am, and I know what I'm not.

So it doesn't necessarily bother me anymore. I just think that it really doesn't foster debate or goodwill or dialogue when out of the gate you just say, "Well she's a racist, she is a white power Nazi Barbie." You know, you're labeling me, you're casting me aside, you don't know me. It's just easy to call me a name, and to be dedicated to misunderstanding me.

And that's frustrating for me because I wish that people would take me for what I am, and say, "You know, I might not agree with her on the issues, but I'm not going to go ahead and say she's a bad person because truly I don't know her, and I've never taken the chance to." So for me that's the most frustrating part. But it is what it is. I'm quite used to it at this point.

I guess the question then would be, what about when you're talking about someone who isn't just a commentator but has real political power? Someone like Donald Trump? People will often accuse him of being a Nazi, and obviously he is not a literal Nazi. But there are policies that he's implemented, such as the family separation policy at the border, that have a direct, harmful impact on people's lives. How can people who are concerned about those humanitarian crises convey the seriousness of their concerns without vilifying Trump himself or people who support Trump?

Well again, I have very, very, very strong opinions on immigration. I would rather not take this entire interview to talk about my opinions on immigration because I think that they're very well documented. But, you know, in that area when people say, "He's done things that have hurt people, therefore he is this," I guess I just take issue with that.

I believe that when we're talking about the humanitarian crisis at the border, that has not been Trump-created. The humanitarian crisis has been created by, in my opinion, Democrats who are not willing to address the immigration crisis. Therefore it has gotten to this level where people are coming over to this country — you know, 100,000 or more a month in apprehensions — and they've been sold a bad bill of goods. I think the only way to stop that is to have zero tolerance for illegal immigration. I have a very well-documented position on immigration, and that's one of the areas that I won't back down on.

I want to ask about some of the personal experiences you discuss in your book. You open up about some really vulnerable things that have happened in terms of your social life, in terms of how people have treated you, things that made you feel uncomfortable, or that were hurtful. Not all political commentators would be comfortable going into that area, and really showing how people who have treated them badly have had a negative effect on their lives. Was it difficult for you to take that leap?

Not at all. Because for me, what this is book is really for, and who it's really written for, is the young girls who follow me. And you know what? The older women that follow me. Because to be quite honest, I have had just as many middle-aged women come up to me and admire, maybe not my opinions, but my strength. That's something that means a lot to me.

But, like I write about in my book, there are girls that look up to me, and they see where I am at 26. They see the outside, and they see that I work at Fox News, and they see that I've been successful and that I'm a confident person. So they just think that I don't go through the things that they go through, or that I never had to, or that everything has been rainbows and butterflies for me.

Yes, I have been very blessed in my life, but by showing some of those things and saying that I've gone through many of the things they have gone through, things that they've experienced — whether it be addiction, depression, suicide, mental illness in my family, or whether it be just like any other teenage girl or college girl or middle-aged woman that's gone through being broken up with, or gone through feeling that they're not enough, and they haven't been able to really come into their own — I wanted to write about it to show people that yes, this is what you see on TV, this is what you see me doing in my commentary and my final thoughts, and talking about Donald Trump. But I'm just like you, and I know that my stories help you, because if you can just relate to me and see what I've been able to do, I think that I can get them through some hard times, and allow them to find that confidence.

And I really could not care less if they were conservative or liberal or libertarian independent. I don't care. I want, especially women, to be able to find their voice and use it.

Have there been any specific occasions when you know that you've been able to help someone that really mean something to you? 

Yes. I actually write about them in my book, and I changed their names for their protection. But I have a couple of girls who have been my super-fans for a very long time. They come to all my events, they've very involved in everything that I do, and I write about them in the book because one of them has gone through horrible addiction — I mean, as a teenager, heroin addiction, to the point where she was spiraling out of control.

Then somebody showed her a "Final Thought" commentary that I had done way back at One America, and it was talking about personal responsibility, and talking about rejecting the victim narrative, and about how if you want to do something with your life you've got to make that choice. You've got to look in the mirror and change your life.

That helped her find that she could do it, and she looked at herself in the mirror, and then she also gravitated towards politics and started to get into that. And she really found a place for herself, in terms of belonging. Although I can't take credit for her getting clean and turning her life around, she gives me a lot of credit for that, and it's an incredible feeling for me, and it's also an incredible responsibility to know that I can inspire somebody in that way. Not through me being approached as an immigration hawk, but just by me being able to stand up for myself and to preach personal responsibility and empowerment.

Then there's another girl who, you know, we go through times when she's struggled with her weight, struggled with her confidence, struggled with family issues. We've had several conversations where she's been at the point of considering suicide. We talk and I try to help her through it. She's a fan but she's become a friend, and she finds joy in being able to talk to me, and knowing that I'm listening and that I care and that I pay attention and I can relate to her, and I've gone through something like that.

She feels comfortable sharing with me and, again, that's a great responsibility. But it's something that I am most proud of. If I write this book and only those two girls read it, and only those two girls can find some kind of comfort in it, then the whole process is worth it to me.

It is interesting hearing you talk about inspiring young girls, and trying to serve as a role model. You are a Fox News personality associate you with the conservative movement, which is perceived as mostly older and a lot more male. How have you branched out into this more apolitical perspective, when it comes to being a role model?

Well again, for me, I look at people on both sides of the aisle, and I hope something that people can respect is, you might not like what I'm saying, you might not like my opinions, my stance. And you could be as liberal as they come or as conservative as they come, because I've had people attack me and hate me on both sides.

If you can look at me and say, "You know what, I don't agree with that opinion on that issue, but I appreciate the fact that you don't go which way the wind blows, and you don't play to the hit, and you don't play for a side, and you are willing to lose it all," literally, because I did lose it all, "to stand up for yourself and go to bat for what you believe in." That's why it's called "Never Play Dead: How the Truth Makes You Unstoppable," and that's really how I characterize everything that I've gone through.

I also think I let people into my life on a much more personal level than a lot of commentators, and that's a product of being 26 years old, I'm sure. But especially on my Instagram, you know, it's just me, and I live my life. I'm not afraid to show people my life, and be an average person and show them my friends and my weekends. I want to be relatable. Because I get tired of everybody having to exist in this box or this bubble, and it's like on TV and you're just one-dimensional. And nobody is that way, so I try to show more sides of myself.

In terms of Donald Trump in 2020 running for re-election, how do you think people will react on the conservative side if he loses? And how do you think liberals will react if he wins? Do you think we'll be able to continue to have civil dialogue? Because regardless of which one of those things happens, half of this country is going to be extremely upset.

Right. I worry, because it seems to be going in that direction where it looks as though we're going to be divided. I also think as much as things feel divided now, and they certainly are to a degree, and we see it every day, I truly don't believe that this country is as divided as the mainstream media would have you believe. I just really don't. I don't see it in my daily life.

Of course, who you voted for has become a litmus test for a lot of people, but maybe it's because I grew up in middle America, I just see a lot of Americans out there who might be pro-Trump, anti-Trump, they might be pro-Elizabeth Warren, pro-Bernie Sanders. But I think at the end of the day we can remember that we are Americans and that's what binds us together.

I do worry, though. I think if Trump wins again that the liberals are going to be very upset, obviously. But I hope that also becomes a point to re-evaluate and say, "What are we doing wrong? You know, we've lost twice to this man, and this idea and effort." Quite frankly, they've spent the last two and a half years or more calling him a buffoon. If they lose to him twice, maybe it's time to re-evaluate.

And you know, if Trump does lose, I think that the conservative movement and the Republican Party, like I write about in the book, are going to have to learn how to get out of the era of Trump and be able to sustain ourselves afterward. Even if he wins again, we're going to need — he can't be president forever. So we're going to need to transform as well, and to make sure that we've found other ideas and other leaders that are able to be as inspirational as Donald Trump has been.

I think a lot of that is, again, very much that populist America First, putting hardworking Americans first. We're going to need to find somebody else who's able to do that. It can't be coming from the swamp because after Donald Trump — you know, I don't know who we have next in line. I actually worry about that, because I don't see anybody that's going to be able to capture what Donald Trump has captured for our party.

Normally the vice president is considered the logical runner-up but, I mean, you and I may actually agree on this. Mike Pence, because of his views on LGBT issues, is extremely out of step with where American politics is headed. So he might be one of the worst possible choices.

I don't see him as a choice, and I like Mike Pence. But I don't see him as a choice. I don't think that — I don't think that where our party has gone to Donald Trump, I don't think you can go back to a traditional candidate again. I just don't think that we're going to be able to go back there. And I think if we do, it's going to be a mistake. If we go back to the John McCain or Mitt Romney model, it's going to be a mistake.

We have to go to somebody like — they don't have to be just like Donald Trump because, let's be honest, Donald Trump is one of a kind. But it has to be somebody that speaks to the American people the way Donald Trump has been able to. And I don't see anybody, as of now, that's able to do that on our side.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa