Conservatives Tell OZY Fest How They Really See Gun Control

Conservatives Tell OZY Fest How They Really See Gun Control

Mark Sanford speaks to the crowd during a conversation with Grover Norquist and Ana Kasparian

SourceZenya Arrowsmith/Ozy

Why you should care

Because the battle of ideas rages on.

When making a historical case for gun rights, conservative activist Grover Norquist doesn’t just rely on America’s Founding Fathers and the text of the Second Amendment. He talks about Nazi Germany and America’s civil rights era.

“Countries have lost their liberty when their populations have been disarmed,” Norquist said Saturday at OZY Fest, on a panel about the #NeverAgain movement and gun control, where he sparred with Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Kristin Lemkau, a gun control activist and Chief Marketing Officer for JP Morgan Chase. “A good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun — just sounds like someone trying to sell two guns,” Lemkau said. In an exclusive backstage interview, Norquist went so far as to compare the removal of gun rights to “Jim Crow laws.” “People who want their own rights protected will always defeat those who want to bully people.”

Speaking on the future of conservatism with Rep. Mark Sanford, Norquist, best known for convincing lawmakers to sign a pledge promising not to increase taxes as the president of Americans for Tax Reform, gave a defense of Trump’s constitutional right to institute tariffs — but criticized them as “particularly stupid taxes.” Trump “said he didn’t like wars of choice, in Iraq and Afghanistan, but trade wars are wars of choice,” Norquist said. Still, he likes some of the president’s choices: “Very good on deregulation,” Norquist said. “In some ways much better than the Bushes.”

Will There Be Another Sanford Comeback?

The libertarian congressman rose to become South Carolina governor, suffered a sex scandal and then came back to win his old congressional seat in Charleston. But Sanford lost his Republican primary in June after three years of dissing Donald Trump, and the master of political reincarnation said he was at peace with accepting there won’t be a third act. “If there is anybody who has said ‘you never say never,’ it’s me, but I don’t think so,” Sanford said when asked if he will run for office again.

But the 58-year-old, who had never lost a campaign since entering politics in 1994, says he has no regrets in opposing Trump. “I respectfully disagreed on the issues I disagreed on, and agreed on the issues I agreed on. That’s the real world. We need more real world these days in politics.” With a congressional battlefield that will include many Republicans running in competitive districts this fall, winning candidates will have to “straddle the Trump question better than I did,” Sanford said. “What people have done is just avoided the Trump question: I hear no evil; I see no evil; I speak no evil. They will not talk about it. I think it’s incredibly destructive to the Republican Party, but that’s where we are right now.”

Nixon Wants to Move Her Party to the Left

Cynthia Nixon is tired of California getting all the credit. In a speech to a packed crowd Saturday at OZY Fest, she said her state can be the anti-Trump capital. “New York is the rightful seat of resistance,” she said. That is, if she becomes the state’s next governor, as the former “Sex and the City” star takes on incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary in September.

“We are sick of politicians who campaign as Democrats but govern as Republicans,” said Nixon, an activist competing to become New York’s first woman governor. “We must not only elect Democrats we must elect better Democrats.” Among her priorities: ending cash bail and solitary confinement, and granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, which she said she’d do in her first week in office by executive order. “The movement we are building in this country isn’t just about the next protest,” she said. “It’s about offering a vision of how things can work.”

DNC Chair Doesn’t Hold Back

Tom Perez was scorching in his criticism of Trump’s Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin during an onstage interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. “You had Donald Trump who blinked this week. He’s Putin’s poodle,” the DNC chair said, while calling Russia’s role in 2016 an “act of war.”

Perez said the party was “working our tail off” to protect itself against cyber attacks after the last presidential election saw secretaries of state, boards of elections and the national party itself targeted by foreign agents. He also admitted other mistakes: a de-emphasizing of red states and grassroots activists that led to Democrats losing over 1,000 seats in elections nationwide during the Obama years. “We allowed politics to become transactional instead of personal,” Perez said, claiming that was the “old DNC.”

Now, the party has revived a 50-state strategy, Perez argued, flipping 43 seats from red to blue while winning in places “you never imagined it could be done,” pointing to wins in four legislative seats in Oklahoma: “Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez] here in Queens ran a spirited campaign, and I spoke to her and congratulated her. And I’m equally excited about people like Conor Lamb,” the moderate congressman who won a special election upset in Pennsylvania. “The common denominator with all of these candidates is that they are not trying to put fear on the ballot. They are trying to put hope on the ballot.” He paused, before adding: “We lost 2016 because we allowed fear to triumph.”

Curbelo Searches for Middle Ground

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is going where few in his party dare to tread: He’s introducing a carbon tax bill. Speaking at OZY Fest for a live taping of McClatchy’s “Beyond the Bubble” Podcast, the Florida Republican said climate change is a local issue for him and his Miami-area constituents.

Curbelo’s bill would add a cost to carbon emissions and use the money to fund roads, bridges and other infrastructure, while repealing the gas tax that funds it now. He acknowledged it’s a hard sell for people like Norquist and a party where new taxes are anathema. But he’s eager for a bipartisan solution to a globe-threatening debate — and he says his idea is projected to reduce emissions by more than the targets set in the Paris climate accord.

“Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agreed on one issue during the 2016 eletion and that was the importance of infrastructure investment,” said Curbelo, who is running in one of the toughest re-election races in the country this year. ”It’s an 80 percent issue in our country.”

Daniel Malloy, Sean Braswell and Eugene S. Robinson contributed.

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