By Andrew C. McCarthy
Arizonans should send Leibsohn to the House of Representatives. I can’t say I was vested in any of the Republicans who were thumped in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York City on Election Day. I sensed, though, that last week’s off-year, not-exactly-bellwether contests were mainly a matter of blue states acting blue (and, as Jim Geraghty illustrated regarding Virginia, getting bluer). That said, there’s no doubt the GOP took a battering ten months into the tumultuous Trump presidency. The 2018 alarms are already sounding.
On that score, I’ve been meaning to note that my good friend of many years, Seth Leibsohn, has thrown his hat in the ring for the congressional seat in Arizona’s ninth district, which includes Maricopa County. His campaign website is here. It will be a competitive race, especially if Democrats remain as energized as they now appear to be. Still, the thought of Seth running for the House makes me feel better about the midterms . . . and the reality of Seth in Congress would make me feel better for the country.
A number of us NR-types know Seth from his years as former education secretary Bill Bennett’s radio producer, co-host, and sometime co-author (including a book, The Fight of Our Lives). Seth has been settled in Arizona for a number of years now. He co-hosts a radio program there with Chris Buskirk, and he’s a senior fellow at a West Coast conservative powerhouse, the Claremont Institute (of which Seth was vice president, as he was at Empower America).
As that pedigree implies, Seth is as solid a conservative as you’ll find — on policy points and on the things that really matter, such as the defense of liberty and Western civilization. He will promote an Arizona that has more say in how it is governed, and an America that is unabashedly proud to be American because of what that means about equality and dignity, about how we best lift every person up by unleashing every person’s ingenuity.
Seth would also come to Washington as a conservative who can work with the Trump administration. Here at National Review, our views about the president vary, but generally within a range from opposition to grudging acceptance, which is natural because he is transactional and we are not. Seth, to the contrary, has been a Trump supporter from an early stage. In American Greatness: How Conservative Inc. Missed the 2016 Election and What the D.C. Establishment Needs to Learn, the book he co-authored with Buskirk, he acknowledged Donald Trump’s flaws but found them, in historical context, to be forgivable, or at least tolerable. He thus chided the president’s conservative critics — “critics” is putting it mildly — for failing to distinguish Trump the man from the policy agenda Trump the candidate represented to his supporters.
I’ll have more to say on another occasion about this critique, because I’m not swayed by the ongoing enterprise to give substantive content to the wispy notion of “Trumpism” — or what the president’s core supporters call the “MAGA agenda,” to which they are far more committed than their champion. For now, suffice it to say that I think Seth has been trying to do what Senator Mike Lee, the terrific Utah Republican, took the lead in doing after the president’s stunning victory last year: namely, to infuse Trump’s populism with conservative principles.