American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk spoke on Tuesday with Jeremy Peters, a national correspondent for the New York Times who covers the American Right.
Chris Buskirk: Hi, I’m Chris Buskirk, he is Seth Leibsohn, this is the Seth and Chris show. We are joined by Jeremy Peters. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times who has just written the best piece for the Times he will ever write. It’s called “They’re Building a Trump-centric Movement. But Don’t Call it Trumpism.” Have you peaked to soon, Jeremy?
Have you peaked to soon, Jeremy?
Jeremy Peters: (laughter) No…
Buskirk: The joke here for people who are listening is that you wrote about American Greatness, where I’m the editor and publisher, quoted me warmly, and I appreciate it.
Peters: Well no, I think it was an important story to do, because I think that people sometimes overlook that there is a serious intellectual underpinning to a lot of the ideas he represents, even though he may not always faithfully or reliably adhere to them. Trump is ultimately about Trump, but there’s certainly a set of beliefs that he represents to a lot of people, and you can’t ignore that.
Buskirk: Jeremy, you’ve been on this beat for a long time, and you are somebody who has taken the time to understand what we might call the new right, or there’s different names floating around for it, but it’s not the old movement, conservatism that we saw in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, there’s been something building for awhile. I believe I’m right in saying that you knew Andrew Breitbart, you’ve known Steve Bannon for awhile. You’ve covered this for years, right?
Buskirk: I’m interested, what drew you to the subject in the first place?
Peters: Well, I think that like any movement, it’s going through something of an identity crisis, and that is happening, interestingly enough, while they have a Republican President in office, so you have a conservative-led government that has so far been unable to really govern and get much of anything of what they had promised voters they could do through the Congress. We just had this big failure with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, they’re gonna tackle tax reform next, and I think that part of the issue, part of the reason why a lot of conservatives are saying, yes these are failing, is because the Republicans in Congress aren’t willing to take the steps to enact the conservative reforms they promised. So there’s a question, I think, about whether or not the ideas actually line up with their actions.
Buskirk: In the years that you have covered this new political movement on the right, starting with people like Andrew Breitbart, I’m sure you covered the Tea Parties, Steve Bannon, and now, of course, in the 2015-16-17 era, this is, I won’t say fully formed or mature, but maturing movement, certainly has political power, maybe that was in some ways unexpected. How have you seen it change? How have you seen it develop?
Peters: I actually think that’s an interesting way of putting it. Is it a maturing movement? Will it eventually get there? I think that to hang that question on a Trump presidency is in a lot of ways a risky one, because Trump is not a conservative. He’s not really a Republican. He’s Trump, and he’s ultimately gonna do what he thinks is best for him. Fortunately for a lot of conservatives, those ideas that got him elected are conservative ones, and he promised to fulfill those. When you think about what is Trump gonna do? He’s gonna do what he promised, because he knows that that’s the way to get re-elected. But I think that-
Buskirk: Yeah, yeah. This is something, and you’ve seen it for sure, this is something that the president seems to take very seriously, I think he does, the people around him take seriously. They have lists. We promised X, Y and Z during the campaign, and we’ve done X, we’ve done a little bit of Y, we haven’t done any of Z, and we need to do these things.
Peters: Yeah, I agree with that 100 percent. There’s a reason to travel the country with banners behind him that say “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” because if there’s one thing, he’s already fallen so low popularity-wise, 36, 38, 39 percent is not great, and it’s certainly not where any president should be if they want to get re-elected or they want to see their party prevail and not lose seats in the midterm elections, but in order to survive with that low approval rating, you need to retain your core supporters, your base, and that’s what he’s been doing.
Buskirk: Jeremy, you hear the music, we’re gonna go to do a break. Do you have one more segment in you?
Buskirk: Very good. Jeremy Peters is my guest. He’s a reporter at the New York Times. We’re going to ask you, Jeremy, when we come back, we are gonna ask you about this piece that you wrote over the weekend, “They’re Building a Trump-centric Movement, But Don’t Call it Trumpism.” I want to dig into what you mean by that when we come right back.