Rick Wilson - Saving America from Trump

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:09 pm on 12 February 2020

For 30 years political strategist Rick Wilson helped Republican candidates get elected in America.

Now he is doing everything he can to make sure the top Republican, Donald Trump, gets kicked out of office in 2020.

He offers insights about the challenges for both sides in his new book, Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump-and Democrats from Themselves.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a 'Evangelicals for Trump' campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry on January 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida.

Photo: JIM WATSON / AFP

Wilson says, Democrats are holistically bad at politics. They also follow their impulses, which he says is almost always a mistake in politics.

He says if Democrats pick someone like Bernie Sanders to be their nominee, it would be a recipe for losing about 44 states in the election.

“Most of the country, and most of the country where the election will be waged in the electoral college states, the swing states, they are much more moderate than the rest of the Democratic electorate, they’re much more centrist than what we call the Twitter party, and they’re a lot less woke in terms of their social activism…”

He says in the past 60 years there has been three superstar Democratic candidates; JFK, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama.

“No-one in this field is even close to being a superstar candidate.”

It’s very difficult to win against a guy who is the king of reality television if you’re running as a policy nerd or a crusty “red diaper baby”, he says.

While Trump may not be a serious person in many ways, he’s surrounded by serious people that will follow the playbook, says Wilson.

Despite Wilson being a Republican himself, in his new book he writes that the US will become a darker and more dangerous country if Trump is re-elected.

There’s a rise in the nationalist, populist side of the Republican base that loves Trump who are overtly xenophobic, racially inflected and driven by a fear and hatred of immigrants, Wilson says.

If Trump is re-elected, the United States is looking at a country not bound by the rule of law or constitution, he says.

Donald Trump is like a parasite that has eaten its host from the inside out, he says.

“There’s a fundamental truth about candidates that no one wants to admit, that the tougher they generally talk in public the weaker they are in private. A lot of the people that were supposedly going to be the heroes of the Republican movement have turned out to be terrified of Donald Trump.”

It’s easy to be scared of him, Wilson says, as soon as you oppose Trump you’ll get death threats against your family.

He says he understands the internal mechanisms the Republican Party has used because he was a part of building them.

He also knows how the party has managed to alter the political landscape over the past 20 years by deploying some smart strategies that exploit the cultural differences between the coastal elite Democratic Party and the rest of the party.

The race needs to be a referendum about Donald Trump, he says.

“Because it will be in the end anyway.

“He gives them material all the time; he puts children in cages, he manipulates the judicial system, he tries to get foreign powers to investigate his political rivals.

“All of these things add up to a very ugly picture and Donald Trump hands them the weapon to chop of his head, they just have to pick it up and use it at the right moment.”

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)