You’ve written a new biography, The Triumph of William McKinley. Why should we care? Because he is the author of a realigning election that changed America’s political system from dysfunctional and brought about an era of durable dominance for his party that lasted 36 years.
Does he have a modern analog? He doesn’t. Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR — all were authors of realigning elections. But we don’t talk about McKinley. We spend more time talking about the man McKinley beat, William Jennings Bryan or the man who succeeded him, Theodore Roosevelt.
How long did the McKinley realignment last? Between 1896 and 1932. Republicans controlled the White house for 28 years, the Senate for 30 years and the House for 26 years in the years that ensued.
Lets jump ahead: what has surprised you most about the 2016 race? How many candidates and how complicated it and how angry the GOP electorate is at Obama.
Will GOP hold together or are the divisions too deep? I think they will hold together because the great unifying forces are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Trump is still ahead after four months. How come? Because he speaks to the angst of blue-collar Republicans who don’t care about his specific views, detailed plans or past statements and actions. All they care about is having somebody who appears to be a strong leader who channels their concerns about immigration and America’s status in the world, and the effect of the economy on their personal circumstances.
He did call you “a dope” and “a fool”— — A nd a total moron
And you called him “childish.” Can he win the nomination? I don’t think he will. I don’t want to say the chances are zero. I think it’s going to be difficult for him to move beyond where he is. The question is who is going to consolidate the not-Trump voters.
Does Paris change anything about this race? Yes. Paris and the president’s feckless foreign policy will make terrorism the number two issue after the economy, and cause people to ask if candidates have the temperament to handle that job. We’ve already seen the initial effect of that on Ben Carson, who has not handled foreign policy questions particularly well, even before Paris.
What are you gonna do in this cycle? My principal role has been as senior advisor — uncompensated I hasten to say — to American Crossroads, a super PAC I helped organize.
Your party has opposed gay marriage in past elections. The country has changed. Is it time for the GOP to change? My personal view is that the issue is settled by the Supreme Court. I’m still a hopeless traditionalist, surrounded by people who I love dearly I would love to see get married. So I’m hopelessly muddled.
Chances for a brokered convention next summer in Cleveland? Not brokered. But Republicans could end up going to a multi-ballotted convention for the first time since 1948.
Which state is going to matter most —or be most closely contested—next November? In order of importance: Florida, Virginia and Ohio.