Why you should care
Because sometimes, to be in the know, you’ve got to ask that right person in the know.
Karl Rove is familiar with being under fire. The strategist who helped deliver the presidency not once but twice to George W. Bush has achieved the sort of scrutiny levied only against those whose influence shapes nations. That was no different when the Republican kingmaker spoke at OZY Fusion Fest. Sure, an outdoor festival in New York City’s Central Park isn’t exactly where you might expect to find a die-hard conservative, but the self-deprecating history buff won over the crowd with rollicking humor, ripping through the current state of American affairs and reminding the audience that, yes, it’s been bad before. Read on for OZY’s edited conversation, with questions from our “addicts” as well as cofounder Carlos Watson.
OZY: Who becomes the next power from this election? Let’s say Donald Trump loses and Secretary Hillary Clinton wins. Who emerges in the Republican Party for 2020?
K.R.: Let’s assume he loses. The Republican Party will go through a period of introspection — otherwise known as fratricidal warfare. The Republicans will have what could be an advantage, but also a disadvantage, over the Democrats because the Republicans have a much deeper bench. So they will have a lot more people angling for the future of the Republican Party.
OZY: Could you see more people who have never served in office following his example?
K.R.: We are in an era in which the ability to get on the front page of People, or in the tabloids, or make a splash on E! has an impact on the national consciousness. Trump looks like he’s winning, and who pops up and says he’s running in four years? Kanye West. Because, yes, I want him negotiating bilateral trade agreements.
I curated the Presidential Daily Brief, and they say you have to come up with five intriguing stories. Now I know politics, but I know popular culture like shit. So my wife says, well, celebrities, go check out Forbes.com. They had a list of the 100 most financially remunerated celebrities in the world. No. 1 on that list is Taylor Swift. Last year, that woman made $170 million. That is more than the combined pay of the CEOs of the six largest banks in America. So I’m waiting for Occupy Hollywood. When are they going to share the wealth? I know I’ve got 1 percent of the crowd there, but the rest of them are just going to start shitting on me now.
— Katherine Browne (@KOBrowne) July 23, 2016
OZY: Third-party candidate Gary Johnson is polling in the low double digits, on the edge of making it to the debate stage. Will he?
K.R.: No. Third-party candidates fade like the morning dew. You know where Johnson is polling the highest in any state poll? Utah. Now I went to high school in Utah, a couple years in college. Let me tell you: People who think caffeine — Coke and coffee — are dangerous drugs are not going to be voting for someone who smokes dope on a daily basis.
OZY: How is this trend toward nationalism and antiglobalism, which has led to the Brexit, influencing this campaign?
K.R.: Some of the things that were there in the Brexit vote are present here. I literally landed in London that morning, and there was a guy on the plane with me, clearly in the financial world. One of the earliest numbers is, if you were over 55 or 60, you voted overwhelmingly to leave. If you were under 35, you voted overwhelmingly to stay. And so, this guy, he’s obviously in his 30s, is on the phone and he just says, “Why the [sounds like the F-word] do we allow these old buggers to vote?”
Implicit in that vote was a sense that we’re losing our national identity to Brussels, and losing our sovereignty to Brussels. We’re being told how to live, to operate and what we must do. In flyover America, there’s a sense of that too. We’re losing our authority to Washington and experts who don’t have to deal with our lives as we experience them.
OZY: What did you think about Ted Cruz and his decision to give a speech but not endorse Trump at the convention?
K.R.: I have rarely seen somebody commit political suicide in front of a nationally televised audience. I understand people whose attitude is “I can’t bring myself to vote for Trump, and I’m a Republican.” But if you accept the king’s coin, you have to sing the king’s song. Accepting a piece in the Republican National Convention, on the stage in primetime, you don’t go up there and say what he said without paying a price.