Subscribe to the IHARE Blog

State of American History, Civics, and Politics

Rick Wilson Entertains and Frightens a Scarsdale, NY Audience

On January 15, 2020, Rick Wilson took his book tour to the Scarsdale Adult Education School. There may have been a couple of hundred people in attendance many of whom purchased his book. My impression is the audience leaned Democratic.  In other words, if Wilson had appeared here back in the 1990s or 2000s when he was working for Republicans, his audience would have been much smaller. Indeed, an event would not even had been scheduled even if he had written a book then.

Back in the good old days of Republicans like the Bushes, McCain, and Romney, Wilson would not have been a draw. Wilson said he had not tried to become famous as a consultant. He mentioned that Hispanics had been welcome in the Republican Party under Bush [and certainly would have if Jeb had been nominated given his Mexican-American wife]. He favored marriage of consenting adults. And he was perfectly willing to continue operating in the Republican world had he been able to.

Wilson even chastised the Democratic Party for enabling the Republican Party to eat their lunch. By this he meant that over the past two decades, the Democratic Party had lost hundreds of jobs in below the national radar positions. By that he means that when it came to state and municipal positions, the Republican Party for the last 20 years destroyed the Democratic Party. His book explains how he contributed to this victory. He also noted that it is with these grassroots jobs that people eventually move up to larger and larger positions. [Note – he may not be familiar with the Democratic carpetbagger tradition in Westchester, the Hudson Valley, and New York even though we were meeting a few miles south of Chappaqua.] However, this is not the Rick Wilson the audience came to hear.

Then something happened. Something happened that changed Wilson’s life. That something was his previous book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever.  Even the people in the audience who had not read the book knew the book. They knew it because they had seen Wilson on the Fake News talk shows. They enjoyed watching him skewer Little Donnee Waney in ways Democratic guests tend not to. Indeed, it well may be that it is the Never-Trumper Republicans who have lost their party forever who vilify him the most.

So let’s turn to the topics of why the Democratic people showed up on a winter night to hear a Republican consultant. First he spoke about the Congressional Trumpicans [not that he used that term]. He divided the Congressional Trumpicans into three groups much as John Adams had divided the American people at the time of the American Revolution. One third were Loyalists [obviously an important trait for others to show this President]. For these people, the impeached President is their God-King. As an example, Wilson cited Clueless Jim Jordan, he never knows what is going on. Wilson did not use those terms. He just said Jordan wasn’t the brightest.

Another third were moderate conservatives who were scared. Wilson said people were scared of Fox and the mob. He acknowledged the success of Ailes and Murdoch in creating the Fox monster. They were TV and political geniuses. And Trump makes Fox a lot of money too. One might add that he makes Fox so much money, the network can afford to show his political professional wrestling arena performances without concern for lost advertising revenue. On a side note, Wilson said Fox loves stupid liberals and wild caricature liberals that Fox can use to stoke outrage while the liberals play the clown without meaning to.

The final third were the opportunists. These people were hustlers looking to get ahead. In my other words, one could say that if you focused like a laser on your political viability in 1960s in Arkansas, you became a Democrat. In other areas today, you became a Trumpican. Wilson cited Matt Gaetz, house frat boy [not his term] as an example. He predicted that even Mitch McConnell would drop the Impeached One if control of the Senate was at stake. He even predicted that Lindsay Graham would return to a facsimile of normalcy once the March 5 filing date for Senate candidates passes and he no longer has to worry about a primary challenge.

Since then we have seen Martha McSally’s staged “liberal hack” performance as an example of a Republican who went over to the dark side. Earlier we saw Nikki Haley correctly ascertain that she could not fulfill her ambitions for national office as a Republican so she switched to being a Trumpican. If Wilson is to be believed, then the non-believing opportunists will abandon ship if another RED WAVE wipes out as many Republicans in 2020 as it did in 2018. But by that time, it may be too late and they will have the mark of Trump taint on them.

When Wilson referred to the Impeached One’s servants, toadies, and lackeys, it was not clear to which of the three groups he was referring.

Turning to the 2020 elections, Wilson had a lot to say.

1. The election will be a referendum on the incumbent. His advice is to ignore policy calling it “poison.” “Medicare for All” would be a disaster for Democrats. The issue is the same as it was for Democrats in 2018: Do you want candidates who can win? It worked in 2018, it can work in 2020. He also spoke about demagogues but I can’t read my notes. I presume he was not talking about the Democratic candidate.

2. The Electoral College is the only game in town. Live in the real world or die. There are 35 states that are set and 15 states which could go either way. Concentrate on them. Don’t look at national polls. Look at the state polls. It is a game of small numbers.

3. Democrats should target the voters they can actually move to vote. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME AND MONEY ON GET OUT THE YOUNG VOTE! That is a pipe dream. Focus on the groups that can make a difference – GOP women, Obama Democrats who voted for Trump. Wilson also encouraged retail politics – knocking on doors and making personal contact even if it means New York Democrats going to the battleground states.

Wilson warned the audience: Trump can’t win but Democrats can lose. He cited the 2016 example of Democrats measuring their White House offices for curtains before the votes in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan had been counted. It’s a game of small numbers and people won’t focus until the fall, maybe not until the last 3 or 4 days. {They may not focus until then but the idea that they are not aware of the election and don’t know how they are going to vote is wrong. They just don’t admit to themselves or others for the record until the end. It’s a mental game people play.]

There were other ways Democrats could lose. Nominate Bernie Sanders, the Jeremy Corbyn of America. Democrats would lose 44-45 states then. Be a party of no discipline and many voices and see how that works out!

He noted that Bloomberg was spending at an unprecedented rate. In fact, Bloomberg seems to be taking Wilson’s advice to heart. He has launched a massive campaign that ignores Democratic rivals and hones in on one and only one target…and will continue to do so until November regardless of who the Democratic nominee is. Wilson claimed Bloomberg does make a difference.

I will skip over his comments on Ridiculous Rudy, Attack Mutt, except that Wilson thinks Rudy is drowning now and doesn’t know it.

I will skip over his comments on the Lincoln Project because the Republican Party is dead and doesn’t know it. Bret Stephens wrote in op-ed piece printed January 18, 2020 (NYT) “Can Anyone Save the Republicans?”

(Republican Presidential candidate Bill) Weld compared the party to the late-stage Whigs of the early 1850s, which were riven between the nativist Know Nothings faction and the antislavery wing that would become the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately, the good side won that time.    

Stephens suggests the only way to save the Republican Party is if a critical mass of conservatives repudiates Trumpism or forms a new party. Weld calls it the Liberty Party. The latter seems more likely but not easy. Even if the RED WAVE decimates the Trumpicans at the Presidential, Senate, and Congressional levels in 2020, he will still be around as will those who accept him as their lord and savior, the chosen one, blessed be his name. Even though McConnell is the one rigging the game, it is the Trumpicans who will be yelling (and more) if they lose in November that the vote was rigged. At that point, the Republican-in-Name-Only party will become even more extreme in its resistance and efforts to take by the country.

Wilson had more to say to frighten the audience. He said the Trumpican political operatives will run the nastiest campaign ever. It will be a barroom fight with chains. He didn’t mention Sean Connery’s line about bringing knives to a gun fight but he might as well have. Another way one could put it is Kumbaya versus assault weapons means you will die happy as you are slaughtered.  Wilson singled out Zuckerberg for providing one weapon of choice in the 2020 brawl: he could stop the Russian violation of America but he won’t.

Excerpts from Wilson’s book quoted by Timothy Egan in “Trump’s Evil Is Contagious,” (NYT January 18, 2020, print) expand on his warning about the pending war:

Do not, as my party did, underestimate the evil…There is no bottom. There is no shame. There are no limits….Do not come to this fight believing that the Trump team views any action including outright criminality, as off limits…[I]t means you do have to fight, or be counted among the do-nothings who allowed evil to flourish.

Yes, Rick Wilson can be very entertaining to listen to but the bottom line for the Scarsdale audience and America is “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”


In a party-line vote, the Senate blocked Democrats’ bid to subpoena documents for the impeachment trial that the White House has refused to release.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:51 PM EST NYT