The TV pundit Tucker Carlson, fired by Fox, is now seeking a new gig, but appears to be hampered by non-compete clauses in his agreement with Fox, which extends to December 2024. As the columnist Frank Miele of RealClearPolitics has suggested, one way around this would be for Carlson to run for President, which would give him a “bully pulpit” until November 2024, with the major networks forced to cover him. Miele sees this as a way round Carlson’s Fox problem. I would go further and suggest that Carlson, if he ran, would have a sporting chance of winning. This column outlines why this is so, and what he should do if he won.
The Donald Trump and Joe Biden presidencies (and indeed that of Ronald Reagan) demonstrated that an Ivy League degree is not essential for success. Carlson’s degree is from the second-tier Trinity University (Connecticut, not the one in Dublin, nor alas the one by the Cam) but he has clearly thought in depth about the major political issues. Political experience used to be thought an essential prerequisite for the Presidency, but Trump showed that one can do a plausible job without it, while the two most politically experienced Presidents of all time were Joe Biden and James Buchanan, suggesting that you can have too much of that particular good thing.
Should Carlson run, he would have a good chance of the Republican nomination. Currently, Trump leads in polling for the nomination, with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida a distant second and other candidates in mid-single digits at best. However, DeSantis’ decline in the polls after waffling on Ukraine demonstrates a key weakness in his candidacy: the majority of the Republican electorate may be doubtful about Trump’s chances to win the general election against Biden, but they believe he did a good job as President and want as a minimum someone who shares his policy proclivities and will stand up to opposition from the left and the bureaucracy.
Polling shows that for the Republican primary electorate, the two most important Trump policies where he differs from his Republican predecessors and many current officeholders are a negotiated Ukraine peace and vigorous enforcement of immigration restrictions, especially at the southern border. The early and surprising strength of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in the Democrat Presidential polls suggests that the demand for such policies extends well beyond the Republican base.
The Republican establishment, in the form of ex-Speaker Paul Ryan, betrayed Trump’s voters in 2017-18 when the House failed to fund Trump’s southern border wall, which if completed during Trump’s term in office would have greatly reduced the flow of immigrants since Biden took over. As for Ukraine, Trump’s voters believe that foreign entanglements of this kind do nothing for the U.S. people and have been largely responsible for the deterioration in the U.S. budget and debt positions over the last two decades. Hence, they want a rapid negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine.
On immigration, DeSantis talks a good game currently, and opposed the lax “Gang of Eight” immigration bill in 2013, so may pass muster. On Ukraine, when asked by Carlson’s talk show, DeSantis at first seemed opposed to Ukraine aid, but then reversed himself quickly, presumably having come under pressure from donors and Congressional colleagues. Overall, DeSantis has difficulty convincing a Trump-inclined primary electorate that he truly represents their policy wishes and will not cave in to those of the Republican establishment or the leftist bureaucracy.
Carlson does not have DeSantis’ policy problems — he is firmly associated with Trump’s policy preferences. However, to the extent Trump is likely to beat Biden, it would be pointless for Carlson to run (except possibly to be picked as Trump’s Vice President). Nevertheless, Trump has three weaknesses. First, he is unacceptable to a significant sector of establishment Republicans and floating-voter “suburban housewives” and it is by no means clear that they can be made to swallow their objections to him. Second, the Democratic Left may get lucky in one or other of the legal cases against Trump; if he were convicted of a felony, however unfairly, the group of moderates to whom he was unacceptable would expand further. Third, it is by no means impossible that the Democrats may do a “bait and switch” and replace Biden with a younger candidate before the election, in which case Trump’s age, even allied with Trump’s remarkable vigor, would become a significant negative.
Carlson has none of these potential problems and, because of his relative youth, good looks and upbeat manner, would be an above-average candidate in a general election, whether against Biden or another Democrat. In an ideal world, therefore, Carlson would run as an emergency alternative to Trump, pulling out and throwing his delegates to Trump when the Republican Convention drew near if Trump had avoided problems. Carlson’s existence as an alternative would itself make it less likely that corrupt courts would convict Trump.
Overall, Carlson, should he run, would be the strongest alternative to Trump in the Republican primary, with mostly Trumpist policies (unlike DeSantis, Pence or Haley). If selected as the Republican candidate, he would have an excellent shot in the general election, provided Trump did not vehemently oppose him. We should therefore consider what his priorities should be if elected.
Economically, Carlson’s first priority if elected should be deregulation, a policy mirroring Trump’s of 2017-21. Productivity growth is the key to rising U.S. living standards; experience over recent decades shows that two things kill it: artificially low interest rates and thoughtless regulation. During the Biden administration, this has proliferated, both at the federal and state levels, with endless mandates forcing the population to buy electric cars, give up gas stoves and install only ineffective dishwashers. Each of these regulations imposes vast costs on the economy, without any benefit to the public. Eliminating them should be an immediate priority on taking office; passing legislation that prevents their re-imposition should be a key long-term goal. This is especially true for the regulations surrounding climate change, in which a mild global warming over the last two centuries has been elevated by the left into a gigantic hoax, by which they hope to control the global economy and impoverish the “non-woke” majority. With this done, the U.S. economy would flourish under Carlson as it did under Trump before Covid-19 was imposed on it.
If he wants a really good “wedge” issue to enthuse his supporters and enrage the left, Carlson should consider capping the Federal income tax deduction for charitable donations at $10,000 annually, or $20,000 for a married couple. That would preserve tax deductibility for the charitably minded or religiously devout middle classes, while closing the largest tax loophole by which the ultra-rich drain the Treasury to fund leftist causes. The benefits, to both the Treasury and public discourse, would be immense.
Carlson must ensure that the recent improvement in monetary policy rigor is maintained, with interest rates at all times above the level of inflation, to ensure a positive real time value of money. Ideally, he would appoint an Austrian economist to head the Fed when the post becomes vacant in January 2026. From her writings and track record, Judy Shelton would seem the best candidate for this appointment.
On immigration, Carlson should as a top priority get full funding for a wall along the southern border and begin an aggressive program of repatriation of the illegal immigrants who have entered during Biden’s term. It is essential to make it clear that merely because an illegal immigrant enters during the term of a supine President, he does not thereby gain the right of residence, but may still be deported once proper government has been restored. Aggressive legal measures should also be taken against the people smugglers and against the Third World governments that encourage them. Assistance could also be given to those countries to beef up any programs of population control – the world is already vastly overpopulated, at about eight times the pre-Industrial Revolution equilibrium. European and Japanese populations are already beginning their desirable long-term decline; the rest of the world must follow suit.
Carlson would doubtless find foreign policy the most difficult area of his Presidential brief, since the President is wholly responsible for it, with the assistance only of career foreign policy specialists committed to the self-destructive policies of the last two decades. Trump found his métier in this area, doubtless because dealing with the sleazier participants in the New York real estate market trained him well for dealing with foreign despots. Here Carlson should take advice from Trump, who during his term in office established a new and better direction for U.S. foreign policy, free from Wilsonian interventionism and moralist cant. With Trump’s help (possibly as Special Envoy) Carlson should establish an even-handed peace between Russia and Ukraine as quickly as possible, treating both as the flawed, corrupt and undemocratic polities they are, but ending the appalling slaughter and waste.
Finally, Carlson as President needs to do as much as he can to re-establish proper “habeas corpus” and civil liberties protections for U.S. citizens, so that non-violent offenders disfavored by the regime cannot be incarcerated for more than two years before their cases come up for trial. The current “two-tier” U.S. justice system is a disgrace to the country’s noble history; it needs to be reformed from top to bottom.
The issues of immigration and Ukraine disqualify many of the politicians to whom Republicans looked in 2016, yet Donald Trump, the principal reformist figure, is subject to irrational hatred by a substantial portion of the electorate who might be attracted by a new approach. Tucker Carlson, with a program as outlined above, is the one figure who might cut through the difficulties, win in 2024, and put a reform program into effect. It is to be hoped that he can find the funding to mount a strong campaign.
If the contemporary nature of this piece aggrieved you, I recently wrote a book list on the Industrial Revolution that may be of more interest: The best books on industrial revolutionaries
(The Bear’s Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that the proportion of “sell” recommendations put out by Wall Street houses remains far below that of “buy” recommendations. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)