Political Pageturners: Kayleigh McEnany

On Tuesday, February 13th, GU Politics hosted a discussion with the official spokesperson for the RNC and former CNN commentator Kayleigh McEnany about her book, The New American Revolution, The Making of a Populist Movement. The discussion was moderated by Tony Arend, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Graduate Affairs at the School of Foreign Service, and GU Politics Faculty Liaison.

McEnany identified her educational and early work experience as important factors that paved the way for her later success. While a student at Georgetown, she interned on Capitol Hill and then at the White House during the Bush administration. McEnany said that her boss was tough, but that the experience showed her that every mistake has consequences in politics. She credits the tutorial system at Oxford University, where she studied politics and international relations, with teaching her the importance of coming into contact with other views, considering other perspectives, and being able to articulate your own view while taking into account the position of those who oppose it. This prepared her for a later role at CNN, an organization that is not ideologically in line with her own views but that gave her the opportunity to engage in necessary conversations with people who disagreed with her.

McEnany explained that, in writing her book, she intended to shed light on not just the Trump administration, but the country as a whole. “There are so many books that profile the President, but I wanted to profile the people,” she said. She chose to do so as a result of her belief that it is important to “leave the confines of academia and Congress and talk to the voters.” She addressed the struggle of universities to effectively reach out to people across the country and avoid being disconnected, stressing that there is an often unfulfilled need to “put a human face to issues that are otherwise academic and theoretical.”

McEnany has received pushback for labeling President Trump’s movement as populist rather than simply conservative in the title of her book. However, she explained that this was an intentional and significant choice. Since Trump, while still remaining mainly conservative, took positions on issues such as health care that deviated from the rest of his party. “He didn’t sacrifice principle. He is pro-life. He professed those conservative, Tea Party values but on certain issues like social security he said ‘this shouldn’t be taken from you’” said McEnany. “Ivanka described her father to me as pragmatic, and I think that pragmatism allowed him to see, these trade deals are hurting factory workers--again, not necessarily what most Republicans have said in the past.”

An early supporter of Trump during his campaign, McEnany believed that Trump would win the election. According to McEnany, the result of the Brexit vote confirmed her view that standard polling systems were wrong. Looking forward, she predicts that Trump will be re-elected as a result of his willingness to take positions that most other Republicans would not, and his commitment to following through on campaign promises. She noted that as RNC spokesperson she will be supporting President Trump for re-election, affirming “My job is Republican unity, and Republican unity is standing behind the President.”

Max Magid