Category Archives: Feature

Iowa Caucuses: What You Need to Know

What are the Iowa Caucuses?

In both parties’ nomination processes, the first state to cast its votes is the state of Iowa, which does so in the form of a caucus. While New Hampshire’s state constitution has a law dictating that New Hampshire must be the first state to hold a primary each election cycle, Iowa skirts this law by remaining loyal to the caucus system. The Iowa caucus rose to prominence in the media in 1972, (in large part due to the long-shot candidacy of then Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter) and has not left the spotlight since. While most states used to use a caucus system, states including Texas, California, New York, and many others have recently opted to abandon them in favor of primaries; most caucus states are smaller (population-wise) than average. Caucuses are far more interactive than the primary system, but actually work quite differently for the Republican and Democratic parties.

During a Democratic caucus, voters are free to discuss and debate their candidates’ merits. After the allotted time period (typically 30 minutes) is up, the organizers take up a head count of the supporters for each candidate. Any candidate with less than 15% of the caucus supporting him/her is eliminated. The caucus goers whose candidate may have been eliminated are given an additional 30 minutes to reassemble themselves and choose a new candidate to support, or abstain from voting. After that time period is up, a second count of the room (or caucus location) is taken and results are recorded. The full caucus takes about an hour and a half.

For Republicans, the process is substantially simpler and more reminiscent of what the primary system normally looks like. Republican voters (you must be a registered Republican to participate in the caucus) make their way to a caucus location, which may be a church, school, or even a private home. Once there, Republican voters cast secret ballots for their choice of candidate by writing down the name of said candidate on a piece of paper, submitting it, and then leaving. This is a much quicker and more intuitive system, in total taking a maximum of around 30 minutes. Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, released a video explaining how to vote in the Republican caucus. Ivanka outlines the process, using the buzzwords “quick”, “easy”, and “simple” no fewer than four times in the brief video. The Iowa Caucuses for Democrats and Republicans have correctly predicted the nominee in 5 of the last 7 contested (non re-elected) nominations.


What do the Iowa Caucuses mean for the Democrats?

Symbolically, the Iowa caucus is important for the Democratic party. At this time eight years ago, future President Obama was trailing Sen. Clinton by 20 points. The Iowa caucus was the first  in a string of Obama victories that would propel him to securing the nomination and presidency later that year.

The system the Democrats use will likely undermine what little support candidate Martin O’Malley holds. Because the Democrat ballots in the Iowa caucus are not secret, O’Malley supporters may feel pressure to support either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. This effect likely favors Clinton by a slim margin, and may swing the hotly contested Iowa caucus.

If Bernie Sanders wins Iowa, he will likely prolong the nomination process, and could even become the Democratic candidate. If Clinton cannot quickly and loudly squash the Sanders campaign, both camps face a long, drawn-out primary battle. Such a battle will both eat away at the Democrats’ resources and decrease the candidates’ favorability in the eyes of the voters. A Sanders victory in Iowa will cost both Sanders and Clinton a substantial amount of money as both sides levy negative campaigns against the other in the remaining 49 states and at the DNC, ultimately helping Republicans.


What do the Iowa Caucuses mean for the Republicans?

For candidates other than Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, a strong showing in Iowa will be necessary to stay in the running. This doesn’t necessarily mean the candidate has to win the popular vote in Iowa, but coming in anywhere behind the fourth place winner will seriously diminish any candidate’s prospects of winning the nomination. Some of the candidates with stronger polhling in New Hampshire, including Kasich and Christie, will likely hang on to their campaigns, even with a poor showing in Iowa, but Bush (who has name recognition) and Carson (who is polling at a steady 4th in most polls) need a large turnout to maintain their candidacies.

The most notable distinguishing characteristic of the Republican caucus as opposed to a mainstream primary system is that instead of receiving a list of all the candidates and selecting one, the caucus voters are given a blank piece of paper and write down the name of the candidate they support. This helps candidates like Trump, Bush, Rubio, and Cruz–who have spent more time in the headlines–and hurts candidates like Fiorina, Kasich, Paul, and Santorum, who have less name recognition. For voters who are deciding who to vote for in today’s caucus, the candidates with significant amounts of air time will be percolating in the minds of the swing voters, and name recognition will go a long way in bolstering these candidates’ numbers.

The Iowa caucuses carry significant weight, but are not the end of the road for either party by any stretch. Whatever the results in Iowa, the primary contest for both parties will likely draw pundits’ attention for many months to come.

277 Students Dissent and Ask For Reconciliation

Nathan Tsai (CMC ’17) wrote a campus-wide letter, which was sent out this afternoon. The letter was sent out with 236 anonymous CMC student signatures, and it has since reached 277 signatures. The content of the letter has been reprinted here, and it has not been modified or altered for publication.


Fellow Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and CMC Community,

Undoubtedly, the events of the past week have resulted in much pain, anger, and sadness. It is now more important than ever for us to remain a community and family. However, before we begin the reconciliation process, it is our obligation as students, and citizens of this college, to speak our minds free of any fear of retaliation. With the utmost amount of respect for the movement, we ask that you hear us out so that we may begin to resolve the issues that have consumed our campus and the nation.

To preface our opinions we would like to state that discrimination is not an aspect of society that we will ever endorse. No matter what form of prejudice exists, we acknowledge that such behavior is harmful to both the victims of it and those around them. We reiterate that such acts of bias and intolerance will be met with the same amount of tenacity that compels you to your activism, and we shall channel that strength to more effective and productive means of resolution. We acknowledge that marginalization is a problem throughout the entire nation, and regardless of the color of our skin we promise to continue to change the status quo until people of all backgrounds and dispositions can live together without any fear of racial intolerance.

That being said, we do not condone many of the actions of the movement this past week. We have tried our very best to listen, and stand with you. In spite of the patience we have shown, we can no longer be silent. Members of the CMC community will always stand by one another, and we have done so, but it is now time to share how we feel.

Keep in mind that we are not your opposition, we do not fight against what you are trying to accomplish, nor do we seek to discredit you. Rather, we are another voice, different as it may be from yours. We cannot be silent any longer for this is now an issue that has an impact on all of us. It is of utmost importance that we begin to openly share with each other how we feel so that all voices have the opportunity to be heard.

The following grievances listed are those that the signers of this letter reprimand:

I.            Halloween: While we do not condone the costumes and cultural insensitivity that the girls in costumes displayed, it is not permissible to publicly humiliate and essentially cyber bully girls that have repeatedly apologized. We are young and we make mistakes. Though that does not excuse actions, it warrants forgiveness and understanding that we learn from our mistakes. This letter serves as a petition and a request for you to remove your photos of those girls online. They are already in the news, and were on live television for multiple nights in a row. It is time that you see this from peer to peer. These girls made mistakes, they do not deserve to publicly shamed for the rest of their lives.

II.            A student has opened a federal investigation of Claremont McKenna College. The investigator, Mr. Howard has made it very clear that the consequences are severe whether or not CMC is found guilty. We have already written to Mr. Howard and it is now up to you to decide what course of action to take. We realize that you have a right to do so, and ask that you reflect if CMC’s offenses are so great that you would ask for an audit of every and all programs and resources on campus that could take years. Unlike the movement, we do not publicly ostracize the student responsible, but instead ask you to reconsider what you’re doing for the future of CMC. The future of the incoming class of 2020, and the generations of CMCers to come relies on whether or not you decide to pursue the investigation by the Department of Education, that may indeed cripple CMC. Please, please rethink your actions and ask yourself if you have that much hatred for this school, that you would knowingly soon depart and leave this mess in the hands of those students who inherit it from you. This is not the route to take for resolutions of the issues on campus, and doing so will simply divide CMC further.

III.            Regardless of how you interpreted the former Dean’s email, it was extremely inappropriate to hunger strike for Mary Spellman’s resignation. A hunger strike implies that you are willing to die for the cause you strike for. Were Mary Spellman’s offenses so great that you would die for her resignation? You ask what the alternative is? It sits in front of you, a petition, a civil and democratic tool. Instead you accuse the Dean of not caring about your health and not listening to you when you chose to starve yourself. If we were to starve ourselves unless you left this campus, how would you feel? The most effective form of government reform comes from petition by the people, not drastic measures by the few. Mary Spellman is a person, a human being, and you put her in a situation where the Dean had to decide to sacrifice her whole career or let you starve. No matter what you think of her, as an administrator of this campus she would do anything to ensure your health and well-being. Your claims of democratic principles through assembly are invalidated by the savagery of your actions. According to sources in the faculty, Dean Spellman was not pressured to resign, nor were members of the administration expecting her to. She resigned of her own accord, showing that she does indeed care about you. Reflect on what you forced her to do as human beings with feelings and emotions. In 2 days you destroyed a career that a woman has worked for years to build, and you have removed a resource from campus that many marginalized students were using as theirs. We pray that someday when you are all in positions of power, and you will be because you are CMCers, that acts such as these will never force your hand and make you feel the way you made Mary Spellman feel.

IV.            There is not a single college president in the United States, and perhaps even the world, that will not only allow you to call him by his first name, but also allow you to berate and yell at him for more than 3 hours. While you accused him of taking too long to respond, and belittled him for speaking through a microphone, you began to lose the legitimacy the movement had, and the humanity that you had. Did Hiram not open his doors for office hours the night before? Did he not open his ears to listen to all that you had to say? For someone who has listened to so many voices, so many stories, and so many profanities, is it not warranted for him to have a pause before his response? This is not a Presidential debate where an answer is prepared for every possible question. This was an open forum with the opportunity to have constructive criticisms and productive discussions, yet it became an open humiliation of the one of the most important people that will ever be on your side.

V.            Though you have every right to assembly, the message you preached on Wednesday was tainted by the profanity in both your voices and on your signs. On live television, 3 students yelled profanities and the crowd cheered them on. On live television you told the world that we are too immature to handle these issues on our own. On live television, you compromised your legitimacy as educated students and protestors, and instead appeared as though you just wanted someone to blame.There was no room for discussion or debate at your rally, and voices opposed to yours were silenced. You have the freedom of speech to say what you will, as we do so in this letter, but you have publicly humiliated CMC and tarnished your legitimacy as student leaders.

VI.            Jeff Huang, you stood idle as Mary Spellman went through all of this. You were content to sit against the Athenaeum wall while Hiram and Mary took every word spoken to them. You are a Vice President of CMC, and Mary Spellman was often under your directive. It is shameful that you are more protective of your position as an administrator than of your employees, coworkers, and the students of which you are an administrator for. You have as much to answer for to the students of this college as Dean Spellman, and we are disappointed in the lack of your response to any of the events occurring. We have not received a single email or note from you, yet you are supposedly one of the most powerful voices on campus. You did not even show up to the Athenaeum discussions on Friday night. Where’sWaldo Jeff Huang?

VII.            Our grievance with ASCMC lies mainly in the lack of representation of your student population. While we realize that you as individuals have the right to the freedom of speech and assembly, some of you chose to utilize your positions to push for this movement, and by doing so marginalized many students who voted for you. In this sense, we do not feel that we are represented by the Executive Board officers and request that more thought be given to your actions as members of the student government, before participating in actions that would cause your constituents to question whether you truly represent them.

All these acts were not those of integrity, democracy, and educated CMCers. These actions were the result of emotional and angered students. While your good intentions of reform and change were present, many of your actions proved to have a negative impact on the progress that has been made. Nevertheless, we choose to move on; we have learned from your mistakes and are sure that you will as well.

Claremont McKenna College is a special place. The nation praises us for our tight knit community, the quality of our education, and the professionalism that students display as they dip their feet into the real world. Amongst thousands of applicants, you were chosen because of your merits, to attend a school that many pray to receive a letter of acceptance from. Before you even arrived here at CMC, the college began its preparation to welcome you with open arms into its classrooms, dormitories, and dining halls. CMC’s attitude of not having money become an obstacle for your attendance is the first of many resources that were offered to ensure that you could continue your education without interruption.

Never have we been more divided as a community. Never have we been more humiliated on national television with profanities being yelled at the only college president who will come out and let you berate him for 3 hours. Never did we think we would regret the day we became “Buzzfeed famous”. Never did we think the day would come where we were scared to speak our minds, where fear of our fellow students’ rage silenced us.

Numerous resources have been created in response to the needs of the student body in the past years; the Student Disability Resource Center, the Title IX investigator that now resides on campus, the partnership between the Claremont Colleges and the Project Sister Family Services to provide resources for victims of sexual assault, the Queer Resource Center, and numerous student panels and representative positions. Those are just a fraction of the resources that Claremont McKenna College offers you, and none of these programs and centers resulted from the threats of an angry student movement.

You are our friends, our family, and people that we talk to everyday, but out of fear for what you might say to us, we held our tongues. But as of this moment, we are speaking up. It is time for the demonstrations and the hostile rhetoric to stop. Hiram and the rest of the administration are offering us seats at the table to resolve these issues together. It would be foolish and immature to reject the opportunity to discuss the inequality issues on campus.

In fact, as a show of faith, we still promise to help improve the lives of every person in the CMC Community by working with you to fight discrimination and racial intolerance. There are student committees we can form, support groups that can start meeting, and open forums where our voices will be heard. If we can organize such student organizations as well as you organized your demonstrations, there is nothing that will stand in our way of reforming Claremont McKenna College. Together, we can shape the future of CMC, and help change the attitudes of the nation. And we will achieve this through progress, communication, and collaboration.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are grateful for CMC.

Very Respectfully,
Nathaniel Tsai,

Claremont McKenna College c/o 2017

236 Claremont McKenna College students support this letter. Out of respect for a request of anonymity, those students will not be named publicly. 




Image Source: Wes Edwards

Who We Are: A Survey of the Claremont Independent Staff

Between the George Will disinvitation at Scripps, the Allan Cunningham controversy at Harvey Mudd, and the one-sidedness of political discussions at the Claremont Colleges as a whole, it was a rough year for those who made controversial statements at the 5Cs. It is no surprise, then, that the Claremont Independent has experienced unprecedented growth this year, doubling the size of its staff to 40 writers. While CI writers used to be almost exclusively CMC students, all five schools are now represented, with the majority of our writers (56%) hailing from one of the other four Claremont Colleges. 

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The CI often gets a bad rap around the 5Cs—many people consider us to be a group of crazed right-wingers trying to spread our propaganda around the campuses. In reality, we are an independent publication in all senses of the word. We do not receive any funding from any of the colleges, and we have no official political affiliation. As an independent magazine, we have the autonomy to write articles about things that other Claremont publications cannot or will not comment on. As a result, students are often drawn to us because we can provide them with an outlet to express opinions that would be frowned upon elsewhere.

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Consequently, our staff is predominantly conservative: 63% of CI writers describe themselves as either Moderate Republicans or Republicans, and 96% of our staff identifies with a political ideology that is typically considered “conservative.” Almost everyone on our staff supports a Republican candidate for the upcoming presidential election, and nobody on our staff is planning to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

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To gain a better sense of the CI staff’s political leanings, I took a survey asking about our writers’ opinions on twenty different major political issues. The issues surveyed included economic, social,
environmental, and college campus-related topics. The responses revealed that the majority of our staff supported the conservative stance on sixteen of the twenty questions. The issues where our staff’s collective stance leaned more toward the traditionally liberal side were gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, abortions, and income-based affirmative action.

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On the whole, the respondents were conservative on fiscal issues and split on social issues. This is to be expected, given that approximately one-third of the CI staff identifies as either a Libertarian or a Classical Liberal, both of which tend to be socially liberal.

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For eleven of the twenty issues surveyed, at least 20% of respondents fell on each side of the debate. For all but five issues, at least 10% of respondents held the minority opinion. There was only one question that every CI survey respondent agreed upon: “Should able-bodied, mentally capable adults who receive welfare be required to work?”

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While the CI staff remains divided on several issues (such as the death penalty and gun control), we are much less divided on more prominent issues (such as sexual assault adjudication policies, minimum wage, and Obamacare) that are frequently brought up in conversations around the 5Cs. Those who feel like their opinions are left out of these common campus conversations are more likely to join the CI to articulate and reflect on their ideas without getting shut down, which explains why our staff’s opinions are more homogeneous on the more popular topics and more divided on those issues that are discussed less often.

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Though the CI staff is not especially diverse on the “Democrat vs. Republican” front, there is still plenty of variety in the different types of conservative ideologies our staff members hold. At schools like the Claremont Colleges, where there are ten or more students who support the Democratic Party for every student who supports the Republican Party, most politically conscious students can easily distinguish between a liberal, progressive, and centrist Democrat. However, it is harder for students who lack exposure to conservative thought to immediately recognize how various types of conservative opinions differ from one another.

Democrats typically advocate for social and economic equality through a combination of progressive income taxes, government regulations, and interventions. In general, Democrats believe the best solution to economic and social problems is the institution of more government programs. Therefore, most Democrats support universal health care, environmental regulations, and labor unions.

The Republican Party’s platform is based on conservatism, advocating for a free market capitalist economy, small government, strong military, and social conservativism. Like Republicans, Libertarians, who are not designated as either Republicans or Democrats (although Libertarian politicians tend to run as Republican candidates), support the free market and limited government. However, Libertarians differ from Republicans by calling for a more limited military, unrestricted migration, and social liberalism.

Classical Liberals’ political opinions are quite similar to those of Libertarians, but they arrive at their conclusions for different reasons. As perhaps best explained by Richard Epstein, the main difference between a Libertarian and a Classical Liberal is that Libertarians tend to focus on ensuring that the government acts in accordance with its designated role (or, more often than not, its lack thereof), while Classical Liberals are typically more concerned with the consequences of governmental interventions.

At schools where there isn’t usually more than one conservative in the room, it is easy to ignore the vast array of right-of-center perspectives. Being pro-life does not preclude one from supporting gay marriage, and favoring lower taxes does not require one to oppose a reduction in military spending. Political opinions are a spectrum, and the CI strives to provide a look into those opinions that often go ignored.

Full Gallery of Responses (25 Slides):

Bill Kristol Talks Microaggressions, the Media, and Newt Gingrich

Bill Kristol has made quite the career for himself. Twenty years ago, after stints in government, the academy, and non-profits, he co-founded the Weekly Standard, the nationally influential conservative magazine where he is editor today. Kristol is also the Chairman of the Board of Governors at Claremont McKenna’s Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World, which hosted his talk at the Athenaeum last Thursday. At the Ath, Kristol predicted that, like 1980, 2016 would be a foreign policy election. Unlike in past elections, among the Democrats, Hillary Clinton shall inherit the nomination, while Republicans will engage in a great intra-party debate. Whereas usually Republican candidates are older, whiter, and more staid figures as compared to a younger, more diverse Democratic field, again the roles are reversed. Clinton is approaching seventy. The Democratic field trends old, white, and traditional. But the Republicans contenders are mostly 40 or 50-somethings, diverse and dynamic. The Independent spoke with Kristol shortly after his talk. Here’s what we said (edited and condensed for space and clarity):

Bill Kristol: Do people believe, since it’s your generation, the microaggression stuff? It’s just so ludicrous, I can’t even… I don’t know whether to believe the people who are making the complaints are in fact being honest and are in fact extremely sensitive people and don’t know what the world is like. Or is it just a charade to sort of shut up other people?

Claremont Independent: They definitely take it seriously.

BK: So they really think they’re supposed to go through their life never being offended by anything?

CI: It’s kind of like a personal attack…

BK: Even if it is a personal attack on you, like, so what? You’re not guaranteed to live a life without being personally attacked. Someone might tell these kids that some time.

CI: The Independent has made significant changes in recent years to adjust to the changing media environment. It seems the Weekly Standard has as well. What do you think about the ongoing digital disruption in media?

BK: I think it’s a big deal. Most of it is ways to get your arguments out. They shouldn’t really affect the content of the arguments and I think the content is still crucial. You can be very energetic on Twitter and have very effective social media people. If you don’t have something to say, it doesn’t do you much good. So I think people sometimes overstate it in that respect. We started the magazine almost twenty years ago, and we thought we’d be putting out a weekly magazine, and, you know, it would go through the mail and people would read it and it would have its effect. [Now,] everything goes online and a lot of the content is addition online-only content, and as many people read the weekly standard online as read it in print. For us, thank god, we still sell 90-95,000 copies a week of the print magazine. And that’s good because that’s revenue, and it’s reassuring that people are willing to pay for the magazine, but so for us so far we haven’t suffered for the fact that people can read stuff online for free. And of course, it has increased our reach. If people read a post or read one of the print articles online and it gets to an extra thousand people that’s great. And so who knows where it’ll be in five or 10 years from now.

I do think generally, the magazine brand, I say this with some reluctance since I edit a magazine, the magazine brand might be slightly less important than it was twenty years ago. Of course, we still try to put out a good magazine, a variety of articles, short articles, long articles, foreign policy, domestic policy, but people don’t really read it as a magazine the way they used to. In some way the individual authors become more important, the brand of the magazine, less so. I don’t think that’s necessarily good or bad, you know. Editors probably had too much control in the old days. So I’m happy that individuals get more attention, but it probably does mean that the Weekly Standard as a brand isn’t seen to be as distinctive as 30 or 40 years ago. I still think [the magazine] has a kind of certifying or credentialing effect. The fact is, if you submit an article to the Standard and we accept it and print it, it does mean that a bunch of editors have thought it was worth printing.

People often ask, should I submit stuff to magazines, or should I just have a blog? And I’m actually for blogs, you know, I’m not a snob about this at all, but I do think if I were hiring someone, and you were 25 years old, and let’s say you have a great blog, and linked to a lot and people liked it. It would still, I would still give an edge to people who had had articles published in the Weekly Standard, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times op-ed page, maybe, because it means that different editors thought his or her stuff was good enough.

CI: Has the new age changed the nature of political talent, in terms of discovering and developing it? And what of political effects of Charles Murray’s fears of America’s Coming Apart thesis?

BK: On the one hand, I worry as Murray does that there is a sort of self-sorting segmentation, where you don’t get the kind of not-so-well-educated city boss of 50, 60 years ago who was a very shrewd politician and in touch with the voters, and a good, very good political leader, he just wasn’t terrifically articulate, wasn’t well-read, didn’t have great manners. And we put so much of a premium now on a sort of superficial sophistication and I think that’s unfortunate. On the other hand, I think the Internet and the general fluidity of things these days allows people to rise pretty quickly, from nowhere. I mean Obama, Rubio, Ted Cruz. These were not people who came from particularly well-off backgrounds or prominent families or anything like that. And they’re pretty important people, so that’s good, I think. I worry, though, a little, that we put a little too much weight on credentials: what college you went to and sort of how you present yourself, as opposed to what you have to say. And there’s a little too much conformism for that reason, intellectually but also socially. Either way, you want people to be idiosyncratic. I do worry that the schools are more conformist than they used to be, less rewards for idiosyncrasy.

CI: Is the new senate class more diverse than normal in terms of talents and backgrounds?

BK: Yeah I think so, and I think that’s a good thing. I mean Tom Cotton, Joni Ernst, come from their own backgrounds. A lot of them went to good schools… but yeah I’m very encouraged as a Republican, as a conservative, particularly, of the quality of the younger Republican members, which I think is very much higher than it has been for several years in both the Senate and the House. It’s also true of some of the younger governors.

CI: Does the new tech/media age weaken the importance of elected officials?

BK: Electoral politics is still very important. At the end of the day you need an elected official to carry the ball and to put an idea seriously in play. You can have all the think tanks all the magazines, floating this idea or that, but until some elected official comes along and says I’m going to make this my legislative priority or president try to get this enacted, it’s still sort of theoretical. I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of electoral politics. It’s also something about being elected in a democracy that gives you a kind of standing that you don’t have if you’re just editing a magazine or at a think tank. People think, oh it’s nice that you’re at a magazine, but there’s something about the ballot box, about people actually voting for you over someone else, that gives a kind of credibility. So I think for a political movement, you should never ignore elected officials. What really matters is the quality of candidates. I think Republicans and conservatives actually for quite a long time had very good magazines, good journalists, good think tanks, not so good elected officials. I think that’s been changing a little bit.

CI: Among conservatives on campus, there is a strong preference for libertarian politicians like Ron and Rand Paul. Does a more dovish Rand Paul-type stand a chance in 2016?

BK: I’d be very surprised if the Republican Party went with a dovish candidate. [In 2011,] there hadn’t been any obvious repercussions of what [Obama] had done. Of course he had a much more centrist foreign policy team. He had Gates. He had Petraeus. He had General Jones as National Security Advisor. And even Hillary. Now I think we’re seeing some of the consequences of Obama’s policies. And that’s why I think that this will be a foreign policy election. Rand Paul in a way would have been better off running four years ago. He’s much more presentable than his father, but his father actually ran at a time when there was really a mood in the party that was somewhat skeptical of interventionism. The consequences of noninterventionism are looking pretty grim these days, so that’s why I’m skeptical of Rand Paul.

CI: Why are Republicans having such a hard time in California?

BK: The state hasn’t changed that much. So you’d think that some Republican could occasionally win. I do tend to think that part of it is an accident of just candidates and sort of bad luck on Republicans’ part. It is frustrating. You’d think with Boxer retiring, there’d be a chance to have an attractive Republican run for that seat, maybe a different type of Republican, one who is in sync of California. In 2010 they thought that having women run would really helped, and it turned out to not help at all.

CI: Finally, many conservatives see that a lot of the negative trends our political system that Americans are concerned with today seem to be traceable to the late 60s or early 70s. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, for instance, or Peter Thiel’s observation of a switch from “definite optimism” to “indefinite optimism,” originate in that era. What changed? Can we undo that?

BK: Yeah, these things are deep trends, and obviously people like Tocqueville saw that this is kind of the way that democracy is tempted to go almost 200 years ago, so it’s not even something that began in the 60’s, but the good news I think is that all these trends are and often deep rooted but they can also turn around. I think that Peter’s point on indefinite optimism is very interesting, though. To the degree that this is political, I do think that Thiel is onto something in a sense. I do think that the conservative agenda can’t just be anti-government, Hayekian, almost, though I do think that’s an important part of it. But also government is supposed to be limited and energetic, if you read the federalist papers. Lincoln certainly believed in a strong government for doing the things that government should do. And conservatives could be in favor of energy and competence, as well as limited government. I think the two go together. I think big government is bloated government, which is an ineffective government. So I think we conservatives have overdone the critique of government by itself, as opposed to critiquing government for doing things it shouldn’t be doing. But also making the case there are some core government functions we want the government to do them and to do them well.

CI: Newt Gingrich seemed the closest person in the 2012 GOP field to promote that “definite optimism,” but it seems hard for him to reach a broad swath of voters.

BK: I think it wouldn’t be so terrible to look a little bit like Newt Gingrich. I mean he has his flaws. I disagree with him on some things. But he was one of the more successful conservative leaders of modern times.

If the electorate is sort of demoralized, maybe someone with a little different background from Newt, someone military or sort of an organization that people think can get things done needs to step up and say we can get some things done. But I mean Newt ran only once for president, and he was a flawed candidate in many ways, but he did make a run of it against Mitt Romney, who had so much more money. I think there’s more of a market – and I’m glad you mentioned Newt – for a version of Gingrich’s conservatism than people think. I think the mistake of conservatives is [the perception that] we just want to save money. We don’t care about a space program. We don’t care about any major scientific achievement. We don’t care about interstate highways. We don’t care about having great universities, which include public universities.