This morning I appeared on KUT News Austin, the local NPR affiliate, about the battle for control of Congress in the 2018 elections. You can listen to my interview by clicking the play button above.
This excellent book covers Austrian history, self identity, and political culture over the centuries. It focuses mainly on the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Austrian empire was beginning its decline. The author does a good job explaining the tensions between the various nationalities within the empire (Germans, Czechs, Magyars, Slovenes, etc.) but he also helps the reader understand the tension between Austria and the German empire / Germany. He explores the Austrians' "Germanness" and their relationships with Prussia, Bavaria, and other German states and principalities throughout Austrian history. After reading this book, the reader will better understand the Austrian psyche, the country's glorious past, and its modern psychological insecurities. (As someone who has visited Vienna, I have seen these first hand). I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Austrian history, German history, or Central European history more broadly, as they are all intertwined, and almost inseparable.
Here is my recent interview with NPR about congressional redistricting, and the court cases that are being considered around the country. The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the topic soon, so that will be interesting. The main question concerns the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.
This is an excellent biography of Ulysses Grant: the man, the general, the president, and the international celebrity. The author, University of Texas professor H.W. Brands, does a great job telling Grant's story with a compelling narrative that holds the reader's attention throughout the book. Upon reading this book one has a much better understanding of the characteristics that made Grant a cool, calm, strategic thinker who led his men to victory during the Civil War.
I found his interactions with other Union leaders particularly interesting -- especially President Lincoln and General Sherman. This trinity of Northern leadership and warmaking was integral to the Union's victory in the war. They had the resolve to continue to fight, even at a terrible cost in blood and treasure. In fact, General Grant earned the respect of his Confederate enemies, not only for his victories, but for his character and actions as a victor. His grace and humility at Appomattox made it easier for General Robert E. Lee to surrender with dignity, and ride off with his men with their pride intact. Actions such as these helped to finally end the war and to start the healing process in America.
My former professor at The Institute of World Politics, Dr. John Lenczowski, has written an excellent article about how the United States can pursue regime change in North Korea without using nuclear weapons, or launching a preventive war. The article is worth a read, and Members of Congress should consider the ideas that Dr. Lenczowski explores for waging a strategic campaign to topple the communist regime in Pyongyang.
"These are the methods of public diplomacy, political action, ideological and cultural warfare. These are key ways of defeating an enemy without using force. They are remarkably inexpensive. They are methods recommended by North Korean defectors themselves. And they can be used against other powers that are conducting cold war actions against us."
This is one of the best books I've read about ancient Greece. The author, Thomas Martin, covers everything from the people inhabiting Greece centuries before the classical age to the rise and fall of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic age. The book is fascinating, well written, and concise. It provides a good overview of Greek history, with an introduction to some of the most important events, thinkers, and battles in the vast time period covered.
Anyone interested in diving deeper into the topic should of course read the ancient historians, playwrights, philosophers, and writers who provided the best primary sources we have to illuminate the culture of the ancient Greeks. But the author does a great job placing these thinkers into their proper context, and weaves a narrative that is hard to put down.
Nebraska senator Ben Sasse has a bright future, or so I hope. His book on "The Vanishing American Adult" is spectacular. It's not the typical politician's book about "me, me, and me." It's a social diagnoses about what ails us, and how to begin healing our society. Sasse leans on his historical knowledge and training to examine what made America great in the first place, and where we may be going wrong. He writes about the epidemic of extended adolescence, where millions of young men would rather play video games for hours a day rather than get a job and become productive citizens. He encourages all Americans to work hard, be productive, read prodigiously, travel discerningly, and reduce the amount of screen time in their lives.
Sasse's politics are conservative, but this book is not a polemic against the left, or a partisan attack against Democrats. Rather, it is a thoughtful call to action for parents who want to raise good kids, for citizens who want to foster republican virtue, and patriotic Americans who want to preserve those attributes that have always made America great.
Here is my quote in McClatchy news about the failed effort to repeal ObamaCare in Congress:
I appeared on local NPR affiliate KUT Austin to talk about voter data and how political campaigns use it. Below is an excerpt from the story KUT posted on its website.
Brendan Steinhauser, a political strategist living in Austin, uses the state’s voter file all the time.
“The voter file is quite simply a list of voters who are registered to vote,” he explains. “You can you also obtain their voting history to see if they have voted in past elections.”
He runs political campaigns for candidates and non-profits across the country at Steinhauser Strategies. Steinhauser says he uses the file to figure out who to target when he’s trying to get votes for a candidate. For example, Steinhauser pulls up a list on his laptop he created for a statewide race. It’s a list of roughly 20,000 Asian-American Republicans.
“And it shows you the name, it shows you their address, their zip code, their phone number,” he says.
Steinhauser says this file mostly contains basic information, but everyone who uses this data agree to some rules.
“You can’t use the voter file for commercial purposes,” Steinhauser explains. “You can’t just spam people or try to use it for nefarious purposes. You do have to make sure you use it for political purposes – what it’s meant to be used for.”
Steinhauser argues people are actually handing over way more information to companies online. For example, he says information political strategists can get from Facebook is way more useful to campaigns. He says emails, which aren’t in the voter file, are also better for reaching out to voters who tend to move or stop using their landline after a while.
I just finished this excellent book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is fascinating, well-written, and based on a close reading of the journals from the expedition, as well as the other important books in the Lewis and Clark cannon. The author, Stephen Ambrose, makes the reader feel like he is part of the journey, with detailed accounts of the difficulties the expedition faced along the way. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Lewis and Clark, the exploration of the Northwest, or life beyond the frontier in 1804-1806.
The reader is treated to tales of interactions with both friendly and hostile Indians, the Blackfeet, Nez Perce, Chinook, and Sioux. He also reads about the extremely harsh winters, and how the men had to survive by eating spoiled elk, horse, or even dog meat. The author chronicles the tough decisions that had to be made by captains Lewis and Clark, the political ramifications of failure, the glories of their success, and the tragic end to young captain Lewis's life.
"Undaunted Courage" is a great history book, as well as an adventure story. Upon reading the book it becomes clear just how wild and unique this region of the United States was before settlement by Americans in the 19th century.
I just finished this excellent book about what life is like in North Korea for a political prisoner. This was one of the best books I've read in years. The terrorist dictatorship of North Korea has imprisoned its population in a land that lacks adequate food, electricity, clothes, and other life essentials. And those in the concentration camps of North Korea fare even worse. They face daily humiliation, torture, mind control, beatings, rape, and cruelty unmatched by anything else on earth outside of the Islamic State controlled areas.
With North Korea in the news once again, I recommend that all Americans read this book and learn more about this inhumane regime led by psychopaths with nuclear weapons. The dictators of North Korea are right up there with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Hitler when it comes to how they murder their own people and would murder millions more if they get the opportunity. Humanity cannot allow that to happen, and the first step is to educate ourselves about the internal and external threats posed by this homicidal communist regime propped up by the Chinese and Russians.
I appeared on Meet the Press Daily with Katy Tur on MSBNC. I talked about how the tea party's strategy and tactics have been studied and employed recently by left-wing activists. Below is the clip.
This is a fantastic epic history of the holy city of Jerusalem. The book covers the entire fascinating, bloody, chaotic, and consequential history of this enigmatic city. Jerusalem has always been at the crossroads of three continents, and at the crossroads of history itself. In this biography of the deity's city, you learn about the Hebrews, the Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Crusaders, Turks, British, and Israelis. And many other people who have made their imprint on this beautiful, holy, yet tragic city. And you learn about the history of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims who have ruled, and been ruled, in this city. I highly recommend the book, "Jerusalem: The Biography" and give it five stars.
"Too Dumb to Fail" by Matt Lewis is an excellent book about the history of the conservative movement and the future of the Republican Party. Lewis makes the case for conservative principles based on an ancient tradition of intellectualism that runs through the modern day.
He writes about the future of the Republican Party and urges candidates, elected officials, consultants, writers, and activists to base their work in conservative ideas and public policy solutions that are not only right, but will lead to long term victories. This book is an important one for anyone that cares about the future of the conservative movement.
This is a great biography of Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph, as well as an excellent history of the time period in which he ruled: 1848 until 1916. Emperor Francis (Franz) Joseph was the longest ruling Habsburg king, as well as one of the most important rulers of the dynasty. His reign began during the revolutions of 1848, saw the rise of Prussia, Italian independence and unification, the creation of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1867, German unification under Prussian dominance, and the beginning of World War One. Quite a bit of consequential European history occurred during the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph.
But he also saw personal tragedy during this time, including the assassination of his wife, Empress Sisi, and the suicide of his son, Crown Prince Rudolph. At the end of his life, the Emperor's long-term work to retain Habsburg power and influence proved futile, as his empire crumbled in the aftermath of World War One and the Austrian republic began. His dynastic successors had to leave Austria, and renounce their claim to any power over the Austrian people. But the Habsburgs had ruled for centuries, and had made their mark on Europe in countless ways. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Habsburgs, Austrian history, or 19th Century European history.
In the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses, one thing is certain: trying to predict electoral outcomes is exceedingly difficult, even with an abundance of public polling. That being said, I always believed and publicly stated that I thought Donald Trump would lose Iowa, and that Ted Cruz would win it. This was based less on polling, and more on years of experience working with the grassroots of the Republican Party in more than 40 states. I have closely observed the GOP electorate, and have spent countless hours in conversations with them, mostly listening, which political professionals should do more of.
It is clear that Ted Cruz is the candidate that best understands and appreciates the zeitgeist of today's Republican Party. I still believe that he will be our eventual nominee, after a hard fought battle for delegates. But what about the next state on the presidential primary calendar, New Hampshire? What should we expect to happen in the Granite state on Tuesday?
My sense is that New Hampshire will be a close battle, and a number of candidates will compete for the top three spots. The gap between first place and fifth place will be much smaller than in Iowa. It does appear that candidates like John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush have a fighting chance to be on top of the pack in New Hampshire. Depending on what happens over the next few days, and whether there is a big swing in any direction, I would bet on a close race that does not really lead to a huge victory for any one candidate. Expect more of a muddle, with everyone quickly turning their attention toward South Carolina.
Yes, it is still possible for Trump to win, although I doubt that will be the outcome. He is damaged, and the wind is no longer blowing quite so hard in his direction. He will do well enough to continue the campaign, but don't expect a big victory for Trump. As for Cruz, he should get a nice bounce from Iowa, but remember that the good folks in New Hampshire are very independent, and tend to pick someone besides to winner of the Iowa caucuses.
If Cruz wins New Hampshire, that would be a huge victory, and would make him the favorite in South Carolina. If Cruz wins both New Hampshire and South Carolina, those victories would solidify him as the front-runner for the nomination. But even a second or third place trophy for Cruz in New Hampshire would be a big win, and would keep him in the conversation in the days to follow. In that scenario, he would not be facing naysayers and doubters who would raise questions about his viability as a candidate. It seems apparent than many in the media and the "DC cartel" are hopeful for such an outcome, precisely because they want Cruz to lose this race.
Now on to Iowa's third place finisher, Marco Rubio. He is riding high, and is confident as he goes into New Hampshire. He is facing attacks from Bush, Christie, and Kasich, as they try to slow his rise nationally. These three candidates know that they must place at least in the top three in New Hampshire to be seen as credible candidates going forward. And they know that Rubio is sucking up all the oxygen out of the room. I have seen no evidence yet that Bush's super PAC "Right to Rise" has done any damage to Rubio, so why should we think that it will do so on the eve of New Hampshire?
And Christie's line of attack against Rubio is that he hasn't achieved anything as a U.S. Senator, and that he consistently stays on message. I doubt that this feeble attempt to bring Rubio down will work. The voters are looking for someone who is principled, is fighting for them, and has the ability to beat Hillary Clinton in the general election. They are not necessarily looking for a presidential candidate who has successfully shepherded a major piece of legislation through Congress. Typically, "getting things done in DC" means growing the size of government and reducing liberty.
So, in the end, I think that Rubio may be the candidate to beat in New Hampshire. He will appeal to conservatives, independents, and enough moderates to beat the other candidates. He will be seen as a very strong general election candidate, and as someone who is young, fresh, and conservative. As stated above, I do not think this will be a big victory for anyone, but rather a close race that merely reminds us that there are dozens of states to go, and months of campaigning to endure, before we eventually nominate our candidate. So watch closely, enjoy the show, and trust the voters that they will continue to make this race a fascinating one, as critical as it is to the future of our country.
Potential outcomes in New Hampshire
1. Marco Rubio
2. Donald Trump
3. Ted Cruz
4. John Kasich
5. Chris Christie
6. Jeb Bush
7. Ben Carson
8. Carly Fiorina
1. Donald Trump
2. Marco Rubio
3. Ted Cruz
4. Jeb Bush
5. John Kasich
6. Chris Christie
7. Carly Fiorina
8. Ben Carson
After last night's stunning victory in the Iowa Caucuses, Ted Cruz will lead much of the media coverage on the Republican side. He will head into New Hampshire with momentum, and will benefit from millions of dollars in earned media that will make him more well-known with Republican voters nationwide. As more people turn their attention to the presidential race, and start to decide who they will support, Cruz will continue to pick up support from the grassroots of the GOP. Here is why.
All throughout this presidential campaign, Senator Cruz is the Republican candidate who best understands and appreciates the frustrations of grassroots conservatives and tea party activists nationwide. His rise to prominence and a U.S. Senate seat in 2012, (I campaigned for him that year), was built on a consistent message of limited government and conservative principles. He picked a fight with the "DC cartel" as he calls it, and has not changed his message significantly since then. Cruz entered the Senate with a head of steam, and fought hard for his beliefs, often making some folks in DC quite uncomfortable.
But he never sought to appeal to DC -- he sought to appeal to people outside DC. On the campaign trail in 2012 I remember showing up at tea party meetings or Republican clubs, and making the pitch for Cruz. There was always a lot of skepticism at first, and folks were not completely sold -- until he showed up and spoke to them directly. Cruz spoke to the grassroots activists in their language, and showed that he understood their values, fears, and desires. He was one of them -- and he would be their messenger in DC. He would not go there to get along with the "DC cartel." He would go there to disrupt and upset the establishment, and he would never apologize for it.
Because Cruz did just that, starting on Day One of his job as U.S. Senator, his supporters became extremely loyal. And as he took his message to the rest of the country from 2013 - 2015, it resonated with grassroots activists in places like Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and other states. Here was a Senator that was willing to fight for them, and for their ideals. Here was a potential presidential candidate that would represent the conservative grassroots of the GOP, and take the fight to the liberal Democrats. And never apologize for fighting for his, and their, beliefs. If you understand that, then you can understand Cruz's appeal, and you can understand why he will do very well in the weeks to come in this presidential race.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to speak to couple hundred pro-life students who were in Austin for the annual March for Life at the state capitol. We had just rallied together with about 4000 other pro-life advocates from around the state, and the students were energized and engaged. They were attending the Boots on the Ground training seminar being hosted by Texas Right to Life. During this two day event, the students were learning how to fight and win for the pro-life movement. I was so impressed with these students, and encouraged by their enthusiasm and determination to make a difference and save lives. I have no doubt that many of the future leaders of the pro-life movement were in that room, and that they will be fighting for life for decades to come. I was proud to stand with them, and to speak with many of them after my speech.
Texas Right to Life asked me to speak about my views on the 2016 presidential campaign, and provide some insight and analysis. I did my best to paint a picture of the race, and to walk through a few different plausible scenarios for the outcome of the campaign. It is always difficult to predict political outcomes, even with all the modern polling that we have at our disposal. Ultimately, there are many variables at play, and there is a lot of inherent chaos in national campaigns. The candidates, their campaigns, money, organization, news events, opposition research, social media, and dozens of other factors are all moving at the same time, in different directions. It's hard to know exactly what will happen, but I try to look at things like historical precedents, data, patterns, and even anecdotes to get a sense of where things are moving, and what is likely.
The Iowa caucuses are only a week away, and anything can happen. But it does at least seem clear that on the Republican side, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are going to fight it out for first and second place, with Marco Rubio coming in third place. And Bernie Sanders does look poised to potentially win Iowa, but the Clintons are starting to hit him hard on the campaign trail. It will probably end up being a close race. Either way, no matter what the outcome, Iowa is merely the beginning of a long. arduous path to the eventual nomination for both the Republicans and the Democrats. We are in for a long year of hard fought campaigns on both sides, and ultimately no one knows for sure what will happen. I guess that is why we have elections, after all. The people will decide, and then we will look back and try to figure out what led to the outcomes of the elections, whatever they will be.
I gave a lecture at my graduate school alma mater, The Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC. The topic was Strategic Communications: Lessons for Grassroots Movements. I discussed how the tea party movement used strategic communications to organize a mass movement, and demand political change.
About five years ago, I appeared on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." It was the most difficult media interview that I've ever done. It was a fantastic experience, though, and I'll never forget getting picked up at my hotel and dropped off at the studio in midtown Manhattan. There was a line forming outside, and I was the guest that night. It felt surreal, but I calmed my nerves and gave the interview my best shot.
Colbert and his producers were very nice, and made everything a lot of fun. The studio was much smaller than I thought it would be, but I felt the heat of the bright lights beaming down on me just the same. The somewhat hostile audience didn't make things any easier, but hey, when the lights turn on and the show starts, you have to bring your A game.
Below is the clip of the interview, which I will never forget. At the end of the day, I survived the gauntlet, and Colbert even gave me a nice compliment about how well he thought I did. Watch the clip and let me know what you think.
Originally Published on Campaigns and Elections
October 3, 2014
The Republican Party has spent the last two years trying to figure out what went wrong in 2012, and what needs to happen for the party to retake the White House. This is a complex question, and one that doesn’t have an easy answer.
One startling fact that has crept into the consciousness of many Republicans is that Mitt Romney received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Others have made the point that even if he had done much better with Hispanic voters, the former governor of Massachusetts still would not have defeated President Obama. Part of the problem is that too many Republicans stayed home in 2012.
Even if we agree that there’s not an easy solution to fix the problem of future competitiveness in national elections, we can also agree it would be a good thing for the GOP to expand the party. We can do that by taking demographic changes seriously. Otherwise it will be next to impossible in the next few decades for Republicans to win the presidency.
If the GOP is going to compete everywhere, from the local level up to the presidential, it must do a better job of outreach to Hispanic and Asian-American voters, among other groups.
Some GOP lawmakers are taking this kind of outreach seriously. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, whose reelection I’m managing, has tasked his campaign team with making inroads with Hispanic and Asian-American voters. He wants these voting groups to support the GOP, not just in 2014 but also in 2016 and beyond.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the 9/12/09 Taxpayer March on Washington. It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since the tea party movement burst onto the scene in a big way and gathered in one place at one time – the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. What started as smaller grassfires of protest in cities across the country in February 2009 became a conflagration of taxpayers’ outrage at big government in September 2009.
I remember the first tea party protesters, Mary and Ron Rakovich, from the Fort Myers area, in Florida. In early February they took to the streets with a dozen or so protesters and told President Obama that they were not happy with his big government assault on our liberty. Only a few days later more protesters gathered in places as diverse as Mesa, Arizona and Overland Park, Kansas, and sounded the alarm that the American people had to wake up from their slumber. The Paul Revere of this movement was a reporter for CNBC, Rick Santelli. On Feb. 19th he went on a rant on live television as he railed against the big government policies of the Obama administration. Thousands of folks around the country were watching, including me, but within a day more than a million people had viewed the rant on YouTube. Santelli called for a new tea party protest, in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Some of us reached out to CNBC through our producer contacts, but they made it clear that they would not be organizing any tea party rallies. So, a few dozen of us got together on a conference call to discuss how we might go about organizing a national protest the next week, on Feb. 27th.
I wrote a blog post with instructions on how to organize a tea party protest, and posted it on my blog The Conservative Revolution. I emailed it over to Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds, who both linked to it on their blogs. My site nearly crashed in the next week but I was able to give guidance to hundreds of tea party organizers around the country. It was pretty simple, actually. I just told people to show up, bring signs, make them legible, bring friends, family and co-workers, contact the local media to cover it and be sure to collect email addresses. The first tea party protests occurred in more than 50 cities across the country, and I gave a speech at the event in DC. Some liberals snickered when I said that this was the start of a grassroots revolution that would sweep around the country, and even around the world, but that’s exactly what happened over the next few months.
New York Times reporter Kate Zernike has written the definitive history of the tea party movement. She chronicles the rise of the movement, the key players involved, and how it became a historic force for change in America. Her book is called, "Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America," and it can be purchased on Amazon here.
I spent hours meeting with Kate and speaking with her on the phone for this book. She is a diligent, observant reporter with excellent writing skills and a keen mind. The book is definitely worth a read if you want to know the inside story of how the tea party movement came to be.
Much has been written and said about the so-called GOP civil war between the tea party and Republican Party regulars. The media and the Democrats are salivating over the prospect of a permanent war between the tea party and the GOP. As an active member of both the tea party and the GOP, I submit that we cannot let this happen. Both of these political entities need each other to survive and thrive.
The GOP needs the energy, innovation and dedication to first principles of the tea party. And the tea party needs the infrastructure, resources, institutional knowledge and name identification of the GOP. Sure, many tea party folks are independents, and many independents fall outside the GOP. That’s okay. Many independents also identify with the GOP. This healthy mix of different people and ideas is normal within our two party system. And these folks who share a common belief in limited government, fiscal responsibility and free markets have more in common than that which divides them.
Now, admittedly it is fair to say that the tea party would not exist but for the fact that the GOP strayed from its principles. But it’s also fair to say that the tea party would not have made such a huge impact in the 2010 elections were it not for the infrastructure and resources of the GOP. The tea party is there to remind the GOP of its principles, and the GOP is there to remind the tea party that only candidates from one of the two major parties actually wins elections.
Brendan Steinhauser is a national political strategist focused on campaigns, media, and public policy.