Q&A: Why the Great Society Wasn’t
American Experiment President John Hinderaker interviews acclaimed author Amity Shlaes about the lingering burdens of Big Government domestic policies from the 1960s. Your new book, Great Society, turns out to…
American Experiment President John Hinderaker interviews the popular Fox News host about the Trump legacy, the future of conservative politics, and fishing in Minnesota.
Laura Ingraham has been the host of The Ingraham Angle on Fox News Channel since October 2017. She hosted the nationally syndicated radio program The Laura Ingraham Show for nearly two decades. Ingraham, a lawyer, worked as a speechwriter in the Reagan administration and then worked as a judicial clerk in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York and for United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
You had a nationally syndicated radio show for a number of years. And then, more recently, you’ve got a terrific television program on Fox News. How do you like television compared to radio?
They’re totally different. I was in radio for 17 years. It is long-form and allows for a lot more spontaneity and more in-depth interviews. Radio is my first love because it allows slower, more in-depth examination of the issues and gives you a lot more breathing room for humor and music. Like, I can have a lot of musical guests in my studio, but prime time cable is much more focused on politics and the law and culture. In radio, I could do an entire hour on Bob Dylan. I could do an entire hour on what the porn industry has done to children and young boys. On television, unless it’s a special presentation, you really have to move around on the topics. I miss radio. I did both radio and television for the first year and a half of The Ingraham Angle, and it may have about killed me. I couldn’t be a present mom and be a radio and television host. I just had to give it up.
As you and I are now talking, we’re in this post-election period. The electoral college hasn’t yet voted, but everything seems to be moving in the direction of an incoming Biden administration. What has the last month or two taught us about election security in this country?
I think a couple of things. A candidate who will successfully take on the establishment in everything from national security and foreign trade to economic policy and the media is going to have to work three times as hard. There were a lot of folks, smart folks, warning about mail-in ballots. The president himself was very concerned about how they would open the door for potentially widespread instances of fraud. I think he was right.
Uncovering that fraud and proving it sufficiently in a court of law in a short timeframe was always going to be difficult—which is why you have to prepare on the front end. I think more could have been done in that regard, especially on the legal side. At the same time, the National Republican Party doesn’t control what the states do. If Republican legislatures are going to be cowed into agreeing to procedures that would make it impossible to verify a signature, for example, then there’s only so much that a national political party can do to stop that.
Executive officials in some states just negated legislative provisions without any involvement by the legislatures at all.
If executive officials in states are just going to use their executive authority to change election law, with or without the approval of state legislators, then you need an immediate response to that. The bottom line is, what did we learn? We learned that if there’s an ability to flood the system with votes that are not verifiable, bad actors will do it.
On top of that, we need billionaires, on the conservative side, who are willing to invest just as Mark Zuckerberg did. We have to find billionaires who are willing to spend money to both get out the vote and organize in key states just as fervently as the left has. And we also have to run a 50-state campaign. You can’t expect to win through Florida, Texas, plus these few states in the Rust Belt region. Every year we have to get closer to taking back New England, and not give up on states like California or New York. This has to be a 50-state conservative movement that fights for every vote in every state. And I think until the Republicans really invest the time and money into doing that, it’s going to be difficult—especially if these mail-in ballots become permanent.
Assuming that Joe Biden does become our next president, looking back on the Trump administration, what do you think will be some of President Trump’s lasting accomplishments?
His 300 federal judges are one of the biggest contributions to judicial conservatism that we’ve seen in our lifetime. Obviously, the Supreme Court with three justices. We’ll see how their legacies shape up individually. In the end, Donald Trump will have appointed close to a third of all judges on the federal courts of appeals. I used to clerk on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in lower Manhattan. Very important appellate court decisions about securities law are made in the second circuit, along with, obviously, a lot of other issues that have profound implications for our system of checks and balances and preserving our economic and civil liberties. Those are Trump’s judges. It’s huge.
One area in which President Trump did terrific work is foreign policy. We think about the Middle East, but also standing up to Russia and China and reinvigorating NATO. Do you think that progress will be undone in a Biden administration?
I think Joe Biden is getting himself in a tricky box early on with China, because he’s already signaled that he’s not going to really take on China unless he’s joined by other countries. His foreign policy team has been very clear that unilateralism is not the way to go, that we need global partners to make big decisions. That’s music to the ears of China. They were giddy when Trump lost because Trump was the only thing between them and their Belt and Road initiative becoming a pathway to global domination. This is China’s chance to run the table against the United States and Europe. If this idea of “working with your allies to counter China” was a winning formula, then why wouldn’t Barack Obama have done it successfully? Barack Obama was a lot more popular than Joe Biden in elite foreign policy circles, yet China just grew more powerful, more emboldened against the United States over eight years. And right now it’s going to be a return to those policies of acquiescence and an emboldened Chinese Communist Party.
Goldman Sachs and the rest of Wall Street poured money into Biden’s campaign for a reason. They wanted to be able to do unfettered business in China—IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, and deal-making. They knew that things were going to always be difficult as long as Trump was in office. Trump’s gettough approach on China will be a lasting legacy. Biden will try to undo the China work that Trump did, but that’s only going to make what Trump did all the more impressive. In the end, Americans didn’t vote for Joe Biden to undo Trump’s China policy. I think Americans probably voted for Biden because of the pandemic, and maybe so that things would calm down with the press, but there’s no sense in exit polls that people wanted Trump’s China policy undone. That was only Wall Street.
As we look back on the way Trump took the Republican party by storm, do you think the Trump era will have led to some significant changes in the Republican party?
I don’t think the Republican party will ever be a dominant party if it attempts to return to the open-borders interventionists or pro-China trade Bush years. The party is now a working-class party with growth among Hispanic voters and new inroads with African American men, especially. That’s significant. And that’s all because of Trump’s message that, “I haven’t forgotten you. We won’t forget you. You’re the lifeblood of this country—small businesses, entrepreneurs, working class Americans should be our focus.” Again, Wall Street, the social media companies, and the Fortune 500 overwhelmingly gave money to Biden and the Democrats. Why? Because the last thing they want is rising wages. They want free rein to do whatever they want on outsourcing, or bringing in foreign workers, and expanding immigration.
Trump showed that we don’t have to have flat-lining wages. By the end of Obama’s term in 2016, real household median wages had only increased back to the 2000 level. Under Trump, they actually grew by something more than $6,000 per household. That’s real money. Capitalism and free market theory tell us that when you tighten up the labor market, employers have to start paying higher wages. And that’s exactly what happened.
We’ve seen some radical developments from the left in the last few years, like Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and socialists now in Congress. We’ve seen crime out of control in some of our major cities, and cancel culture has swept across social media and our universities. Some people think that this radicalism is really a manifestation of Trump derangement syndrome. Others think it’s here to stay. What do you think about that?
I don’t think it’s going to calm down at all. The forces supporting these movements are just getting going. You have Washington and Lee University pulling down statues. You have people seriously discussing whether Monticello should be closed. You have college campuses refusing to allow conservative professors to speak freely without fear of losing their tenure track position. The cancel culture is the only way they’re going to proceed because they don’t want any real debates. Biden never really debated China with Trump. He never had a real debate about whether Biden’s China policy was going to be good for the United States. They don’t want debates. They want to dominate.
So that’s going to continue happening. That was already starting in the late ’80s. Occupy Wall Street was happening during Obama, and all the Freddie Gray riots, and Ferguson, and the uproar over Trayvon Martin were all during Obama, the first African American president. We haven’t even talked about what’s going to happen if they try to tax people’s current firearm ownership, or if they try to keep kids out of school if they don’t get a vaccine, or if they demand a vaccine certificate to fly internationally or to get a job in the government. We haven’t seen resistance in the streets to that. What that would look like, I don’t know. But at some point, when people are going to be told they have to wear masks for the next 10 years or something, they are going to say, “We’re not doing that.” How the government balances civil liberties and its policy goals is going to be very tricky. I think people are being pushed to the limit.
A lot of people may not realize that you have a strong connection to Minnesota.
I do. I grew up in Connecticut outside of Hartford. When I first heard of a friend of mine at Dartmouth being from Minnesota, I remember saying, “Wow, that’s far.” I’d never been to the Midwest. It just seemed so remote and foreign to me when I was in school. One of my close friends, who actually was the president of our school newspaper, The Dartmouth Review, was from Minnesota. We became comrades in arms, fighting against the rise of the far left on campus and in our newspaper.
And that’s how I first even thought about Minnesota—by hearing Doug Fulton’s stories about playing pond hockey, and ice fishing, and just all the classic Minnesota things. It wasn’t until years and years later that I started visiting Minnesota. I confess: It was only in the summer to visit Doug and then meeting others who live on Lake Minnetonka. But that’s when I really began to explore Minnesota and kind of fall in love with it.
We still come for a couple of weeks, usually in the summer. We go up north to a lake in the Grand Rapids area. It’s amazing. I love the serenity of it.