For 30 years, Stuart Stevens was one of the most influential operatives in Republican politics. He was Mitt Romney’s top strategist in 2012, served in key roles on both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, and worked on dozens of congressional and gubernatorial campaigns — building one of the best winning records in politics. Then Stevens watched his party throw its support behind a man who stood against everything he believed in, or thought he believed in.
Most dissidents from Trumpism take a familiar line: They didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left them. But for Stevens, Trump forced a more fundamental rethinking: The problem, he believes, is not that the GOP became something it wasn’t; it’s that many of those within it — including him — failed to see what it actually was. In Stevens’s new book, It Was All a Lie, he delivers a searing indictment of the party he helped build, and his role in it.
This is a conversation about the Republican Party’s past, present, and future. Stevens and I discuss the differences between the Democratic and Republican coalitions, whether party elites could have prevented Trump’s rise, the power the GOP base holds, the relationship between tax cuts for the rich and white identity politics for the poor, where the party can and can’t go after Trump, the GOP operatives trying to put Kanye West on the 2020 ballot, how Stevens played the race card in his first campaigns, why Romney lost while Trump won, and more.
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