CPAC

CPAC: Fiorina Offers a Welcome Counterpoint to Trump's View of Small Government Conservatism

Would Fiorina have been a better president than Trump? Who knows. She almost certainly would have been a better advocate for small government.

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Eric Boehm; Reason Magazine

It says a lot about the Republican Party that when their voters went looking for a political outsider presidential candidate, they picked Donald Trump over Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina, the former head of software company HP who briefly sought the presidency last year (and even more briefly ran, weirdly, as Ted Cruz' vice presidential nominee during the primaries), before being overwhelmed by the unstoppable force that was Donald Trump.

Both Trump and Fiorina spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, but the two appearances could not have been more different.

Trump was brash, as always, and continued to talk about his victory over Hillary Clinton—and how the media, pollsters, pundits, the professional political class, and everyone else failed to see it coming. No one knows when, if ever, Trump will shift out of campaign mode.

When he did talk about policy, not much of it sounded very conservative, at least not in the sense that you might expect at an event like CPAC, which brings together right-wing activists and power brokers from around the country. He talked about expanding the power of the federal government to round up illegal immigrants, to spend untold billions of dollars on the construction of an unnecessary border wall, and to spend more money on the military (though he also bemoaned how tax money is wasted by that very same military).

Perhaps the most stunning thing: he got applause for all of it.

Fiorina never once mentioned Trump's name, but clearly aimed to strike a different tone. Rather than recapping the past six months, she was looking forward.

"It's fun to have a fight and its' really fun to have a fight when you win, but now that we've won, it's important to bring people along," she offered.

While it would be hard for a libertarian or a libertarian-leaning Republican to find much to like about Trump's speech, Fiorina talked about taking "big ideas" like free market capitalism and turning it into something meaningful for people—relating a story about going to New Delhi, India, to help entrepreneurs start a business.

She advocated for decentralized planning, local control, and letting individuals and markets solve problems because that's the best way to get results.

"We know that, in life. You don't need to be political to know that," she said. "You put too much power in the hands of a bureaucrat somewhere, that power is going to be abused."

That's all standard CPAC fare, or at least it would be in any other year.

Would Fiorina have been a better president than Trump? Who knows. She almost certainly would have been a better advocate for small government. Draw your own conclusions about what that says about the conservative movement in 2017.

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31 responses to “CPAC: Fiorina Offers a Welcome Counterpoint to Trump's View of Small Government Conservatism

  1. I have no idea how she would be as president. But the election would have been amusing (in a different way).

    I wonder what Hillary would have campaigned on if she didn’t have “you want to vote for a woman president, don’t you” as her main selling point.

    1. Given her performance against Trump, I’m not sure her campaign would have thought to go a different direction against Fiorina.

      1. “I’m with her”

        “Who?”

        “That’s ‘whom’, you ignorant turd”

    2. Fiorina’s less than stellar performance at HP would have allowed Hillary to characterize her as the worst CEO in all history, a huge setback to women climbing the corporate ladder, and a total bitch rather than assertive game changer like Hillary. It’s too bad Fiorina didn’t double or triple HP’s sales, employment, and stock price: if she had, she
      may be VP (or even P) today.

    3. Fiorina talked about that during the primaries. In an NPR interview, she expressed her annoyance with Hillary using the ‘female’ card in her card repeatedly. The interviewer seemed surprised by Fiorina’s allegation and asked for specific examples. Fiorina didn’t miss a beat and pointed to Hillary repeatedly referring to the “Historic Nature of her Candidacy”.

      Sure, you could make an argument that once nominated as the DNC candidate, sure, there wan an historic aspect to it. But during the primary? Not even close. That’s how sure Hillary was that she’d win.

    4. “I wonder what Hillary would have campaigned on if she didn’t have “you want to vote for a woman president, don’t you” as her main selling point.”

      They would have gone with the old “real women aren’t Republicans”, so there is really only one woman running..

      1. Bingo! You win. It works for every “other”. Real —fill in here— aren’t Republicans!

        It’s worked for years, why change the program.

        Pro Tip: they do it to Libertarians too.

  2. “Would Fiorina have been a better president than Trump?”

    She sucks, but yes.

    1. I pretty much thought Trump was the worst candidate possible, except for Clinton. Nothing I’ve seen so far has changed my opinion.

      1. I agree. It’s been a tough year. I hated hillary with the white hot passion of a thousand suns, but Trump is turning out to be pretty awful.

        1. I also agree. It was a pretty awful list of candidates on both sides. I think I actually had Carly pretty high on the list, but given the list, that’s not saying a whole lot.

  3. He talked about expanding the power of the federal government to round up illegal immigrants, to spend untold billions of dollars on the construction of an unnecessary border wall, and to spend more money on the military (though he also bemoaned how tax money is wasted by that very same military).

    Protectionism: It’s not just for Democrats anymore.

    1. Often times, I get the feeling Democrats will be against anything Republicans are for, and vice versa, so maybe Democrats will become free traders. I’m not going to hold my breath, but hope springs eternal.

    2. Corporate limited liability
      Government monopolies in “intellectual property”
      Differential tax treatment for wages and capital gains
      Tax on income instead of property
      Violation of Lockean Proviso

      A lot of rage against violations of the free market. Except when it helps those who Own over those who Labor.

      1. Benjamin Tucker’s critique of Herbert Spencer in 1884 could apply to many of the commenters on Reason:

        It will be noticed that in these later articles, amid his multitudinous illustrations (of which he is as prodigal as ever) of the evils of legislation, he in every instance cites some law passed, ostensibly at least, to protect labor, alleviate suffering, or promote the people’s welfare. He demonstrates beyond dispute the lamentable failure in this direction. But never once does he call attention to the far more deadly and deep-seated evils growing out of the innumerable laws creating privilege and sustaining monopoly. You must not protect the weak against the strong, he seems to say, but freely supply all the weapons needed by the strong to oppress the weak. He is greatly shocked that the rich should be directly taxed to support the poor, but that the poor should be indirectly taxed and bled to make the rich richer does not outrage his delicate sensibilities in the least. Poverty is increased by the poor laws, says Mr. Spencer. Granted; but what about the rich laws that caused and still cause the poverty to which the poor laws add? That is by far the more important question; yet Mr. Spencer tries to blink it out of sight.

  4. Over this weekend I had an argument with a libertarian-leaning conservative with whom I have generally had common ground over the past ten years. I was really surprised with how far Trump and being on Team Red has dragged him towards anti-market tendencies. It’s kind of amazing to me how tribe affiliation seems to trump (har har) so much. This guy is one of the most logical, rational guys I know, but suddenly the “evil” authoritarian practices of the Chinese were weighted much more in his analysis of whether or not free trade is good. He was still making generally rational statements, but the starting premises were weighted in priority and severity totally differently.

  5. Perhaps the most stunning thing: he got applause for all of it.

    The inner party has spoken, it’s now time for the outer party to get on the “We’ve always been building infrastructure in Eastasia” bandwagon.

  6. I remember when Fiorina challenged Boxer in 2010. She sounded like a perfectly decent (and sane, compared to the loony CA politicians) candidate. She did OK in the election considering the state for being what it is.

    But when compare how those two ran their campaign, you get an understanding of how Trump did so well while she went down like Romney and Mccain. She was mostly silent when the democrats predictably attacked her record of laying off people at HP, her views on abortion and gun control. Fiorina didn’t even run TV ads, if I recall correctly.

    Trump was attacked by members of his own party for worse transgressions. But he fought back, in ways unimaginable for a generic GOP candidate. He fought DIRTY too. When the tape leaked, he instantly went on offense and recruited the Clinton accusers. The guy’s penchant for not allowing any slights to slip by was actually a major draw for an angry republican electorate looking for a champion.

    Voters aren’t all that different from consumers in a market. When they aren’t happy with a product, they’ll eventually move on. The two moderate republican challengers each got spanked by Obama. Limited government philosophy did not win out beyond certain local levels. Trump came along and offered something different.

    1. I think it’s tough to compare Trump to Romney and McCain in terms of performance. Each election happened in a different environment, and most importantly, he was up against a much weaker opponent than they were. I don’t think any Republican was going to win in 2008. 2012 was winnable, but I don’t know if any of the other Republican contenders that year were the ones to win. That’s not to say McCain or Romney ran great campaigns or that they don’t suck in many ways, I’m just saying that beating Hillary Clinton in 2016 was an easier task than beating Barack Obama in 2012 or 2008 (especially 2008).

      1. Yeah I have only recently begun to really accept that Obama is genuinely considered to be a decent dude who tried his best by a majority of the electorate. Yes, the media has fully deepthroated him for going on 10 years now, but they have done the same for Hillary!, and she’s not popular at all.

        Obama consistently polls better than his policies, while Trump has polled worse. Very interesting dichotomy.

  7. I raise an eyebrow at the idea of promoting entrepreneurship in India by going to New Delhi, about which the one thing I know is that it’s a city created to be the seat of the state. One might expect Bigger Older Delhi, not to mention plenty of other cities, to be more fertile ground.

  8. In fairness, the two examples you cite – securing the borders and defense spending – are standard conservative fare in any era.

    Where he runs off the conservative reservation is in his protectionist streak. I would like to claim that his recent legal MJ trial balloon was against conservative principles, but we all know that the vast majority of that crowd are committed drug warriors.

    There is an undercurrent of anti-immigration interwoven with the whole illegal immigration fight, but I’d say it is impossible to tell if that is part of the design or not. It sure seems like guys like Bannon are on the “all immigrants are bad” train, but I don’t see how Trump could go all in on that sort of idea, given his sourcing of pussies to grab.

  9. Would Fiorina have been a better president than Trump? Who knows.

    Fiorina is incompetent; the fact that she sometimes pays lip service to ideas that sound nice doesn’t change that.

    Trump, on the other hand, is inarticulate and sounds like a moron, but actually seems to be more competent than people give him credit for.

  10. Why does Reason cover CPAC? You don’t cover liberal conferences, do you? (Maybe you do.)

    And what’s even weirder is the frequent, “gosh, these guys don’t sound very libertarian”. DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

  11. Carly Forina’s campaign ended when she made the Big Lie about Planned Parenthood cutting up near full term fetuses for body parts to sell, based on a fake video. She wouldn’t retract after the video was clearly shown to be contrived. She was supposed to be sophisticated, but with so little going for her, that unforced error killed her chances. Trump, on the other hand, the more he lied the better his base loved him.

  12. She might’ve been better on trade, immigration and maybe taking on crony capitalism (I remember her being explicit in her arguments against “rent seeking”). On the other hand she seemed far too hawkish on foreign policy, was definitely not a civil libertarian, and was only some what favorable to allowing states to reform their marijuana laws.

    So looking at what her overall campaign profile was, she seems like she might’ve been better than almost all of the candidates who ran on both sides except Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. I would say she’s worse then Trump on foreign policy, but on that one its far too soon to tell.

    I’ll rate Trump much more favorably if his cabinet is successful in reducing the regulatory powers of the EPA, the FCC, DOE, etc., he doesn’t allow his new AG to go after dispensaries in states that have legalized marijuana, and he doesn’t get us involved in any more clusterfucks abroad.

  13. He talked about expanding the power of the federal government to round up illegal immigrants, ,,,

    Perhaps the most stunning thing: he got applause for all of it.

    Who could be “stunned” by conservatives wanting immigration law enforced?

    Reason: delusional, or lying Open Borders Uber Alles propagandists?

  14. Carly Fiorina is considering a position with the Trump Administration.

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