Senator Marco Rubio takes a seat at a table in his Senate office, carrying a notepad, on which he says he is drafting a speech on his thoughts for a new reform conservative agenda. Lexington had requested an interview with him, several weeks previously, to discuss precisely this.

Lexington:  The speech?
Marco Rubio: Yeah, I’m kind of giving a framework on our, I say domestic policy, but really it’s the challenges that every, advanced, industrialised Western country, and maybe some in Asia are, are facing. You see it manifest politically, but you see it manifest socially and culturally, so…

You’re planning a speech in the Senate on this?
I don’t know when it is, I’m trying to write a bunch of my thoughts together.

But this is the new conservative agenda?
Well, I mean the conservative part is about what the broader conservative response to the issues should be. I’m, I’m an incredibly optimistic person; like I believe human beings are creatures of, by nature, problem solvers. Not...we wouldn’t be on earth still if we hadn’t solved problems, but that doesn’t mean  solving them is easy. But I still believe that some point in the future, a hundred years from now, fifty years from now the– the people, including the Americans alive, my children, my grandchildren, are going to be the freest, the most prosperous, the safest, and the healthiest human beings that have ever lived. But to get there, we're going to have to overcome and confront some, probably, I should say, the most extraordinary challenges that mankind has ever faced, in terms of solving some of the problems of modern life that...I don't mean to overstate it, but, the more advanced we get, the more advanced our problems are, and therefore really challenge us to confront them at every level. You know, it's interesting, as part of what I was going back and thinking, I mean, what would people say about America today? You know, we have bad economic trends, you know, loss of major jobs in entire sectors, I wrote it down, we have rising inequality, a decline in social mobility, these huge companies that dominate entire sectors of certain economic fields. In the social front we have, you know, an era of rising racial tensions, you see these instances of senseless violence, anti-immigrant sentiments that aren't just unique to the United States; you see them in Europe. Politicians that don't know what they're doing, a media that's heavily polarised and sometimes irresponsible. Many people would say "Yeah, those are characteristics of today." Those also happen to be quite similar to what the United States went through probably the last forty years of the 19th century. And it's very similar to what things had looked like, and that's one of the things that I'm focused on because I think we've been here before, the challenges were different, but if you look at that period of time, I went through and wrote some of the things about, I mean, that was a time when you had these rapid technological advances and social changes, so you had a country that was basically an agrarian-based [sic]. People did two things for work...

The 1930s I guess is the...
Well, even before that time, but certainly from the end of the Civil War up until about the early 20th century, America was largely a country where people either worked on a family farm or were artisans in the shop, and then, industrialisation began, and it basically pushed all of those people out of farms into cities that were crowded, poor housing, poor work conditions, lack of access to healthcare, kids didn't even go to school, many of them were working in those factories themselves. On top of that, the cities were crowded with immigrants and people from all over the country, so that created tension. Or you had these artisans that worked in these little markets, and they got wiped out by industrialisation because suddenly someone made the, whatever it is they made, they made a lot of them, they made it a lot faster, and so they got wiped out. And the institutions that existed at the time had no answers for that. I actually went back, I picked it up from an article, in 1850, 64% of Americans worked on a farm. Just fifty years later, that had been cut in half. So just think about how rapid that transition was, and then the government had no answer for any of these things. It didn't know what to do about any of them. None of the institutions that were in place knew how to confront and solve any of those challenges. And then America began the process of reinventing itself. And it did some things, you know, the New Deal was a part of it, I think all– really, what kind of, and that's not the answer I think we need to pursue now, but if you think about it, from that period of time, we get the Federal Reserve, the FDA, women got the right to vote, then income tax, none of that- again, I read an article recently that highlighted some of these things- but really, what kind of began to change those trends was World War II. I don't want us to have another World War, but World War II basically forced America to harness the industrial power that it had towards the goal of saving itself and the world. And it emerged from it a reorganised society. And for the next fifty years, I would say from the end of World War II until about the end of the Cold War, you had a country that was largely comprised of a strong middle class made up of either blue-collar workers or white-collar workers that lived in suburbs or cities, I mean, stereotypical America that I grew up in, the one, you know, that a lot of people want to take us back to.

What you're describing, a past economic disruption that put the country on a different course, with all manner of social conniptions, led to a review of the role of government in the economy…
Not just the government, of every institution.

You know, the most daring and to me interesting part of your National Review piece [an article published the same day—in which Mr Rubio outlined some thoughts on the new conservative agenda under discussion] is you're shyly tending towards a position where a hitherto mainstream orthodox Republican conservative is examining whether you need more government, whereas in the past you might have said that government is the problem.
I would say that one of the things...I think I knew that going into the campaign, I'm not sure I fully connected it all the way through.

Going into the campaign, I realised that our traditional political debate in this country, right versus left, more government versus less government, higher taxes versus lower taxes, is largely a debate framed around 1980. From 1960 to 1980, that was the debate, you know. And we're still having that debate in a very different world. So I knew that going in, and I tried...what I didn't kind of complete the cycle on was the following, and that is: here's the last mile of that journey that I didn't put together. I'm not sure that would have changed the outcome of that race, given the mood of the country. The 1980 comes, globalisation is this great thing, people are going to be able to do trade with people all over the world, communism is dead, we're all going to be capitalists, and we're all going to be democrats. And it didn't kind of work out that way, but beyond not working out that way, what we forgot is that in the process of incredible success, people that are in the right jobs, with the right skills, particularly in the information jobs, information workers, technological workers, have extraordinary levels of success. But there are millions of people that are not enjoying that success. There are millions of people that are being displaced by it. And sure, theoretically, in a laboratory, or in a political debate, you would argue, sure, artificial intelligence, automation, trade, it's going to wipe out 2m jobs but it's going to replace it with 2.5 million jobs. The problem is, the 2.5 million jobs that are replacing it are not in the same place, they're not going to be filled by the same people. So it's easy to look at that and say a ten-year-old is going to be trained to one day fill one of those new 2.5 million jobs...

You say you went into the campaign with this in your mind?
Yeah I went with a…

I didn't hear that, I confess.
Well, it was, the idea that our ideas were old, and that we needed...I mean, the theme of the campaign was "a new American century," and it was largely built around the notion that we needed to change the dynamic, that our answers were all rooted in the past, and needed to be rooted in the future. Still was a conservative, from my point of view, preserving and conserving the things that made America unique...

But those conservative verities are primarily about freedom from the government. They’re not about the freedom to be something, which is the other daring thing that you raise in this piece…
Yeah, so I think the best way I can describe it is I spend a tremendous amount of time focused on how successful, and the opportunities that I've had, as the son of a bartender and a maid, as the son of a blue-collar, working-class product of the last century. I didn't spend nearly enough time talking about what that bartender and that maid face today. I talked about the end product, but I didn't talk about the people that are being left behind, and so my parents were...

The end product?
So I talked about the success of the new era and how I think all Americans could benefit from all great opportunities, and I still believe in that. What I didn't talk about nearly enough was the people caught in the interim...the 55-year-old, the 50-year old, the 45-year-old, who isn't in a position to fully benefit from what is going to happen one day, potentially being left behind by it. For them, this is devastating. Again, it's very easy, I’ve had people tell me all the time, "all that person needs to do is they need to move to where the job is." That's a very easy thing to say- for a working-class family, it's incredibly disruptive to simply get up and move halfway across the country, away from your support network, away from the community you know. And if you're 50-years old, 55-years old, the employers aren't going to pay to retrain you.

But you don't have a policy regime that is currently encouraging that mobility.
No doubt. 

You've got to make it easier. You've got to recognise the problem and then see what government can do to…
Correct. And that is, we nibbled at the edges of it, to be frank, I mean, American presidential campaigns are not the most conducive environments anymore for deep public policy conversations. But even in my second book and in all of my speeches, we talked about that reality. The part I think we missed, didn't spend nearly enough time on, is the anxiety and the anger felt by the millions of Americans who are not benefiting from it. And even if you think free trade is 80% good, that means it's 20% bad, and those 20% represent millions of Americans and their families, some of whom will never recover because they are too far advanced in their years to be able to go back and be retrained and move from somewhere in the Rust Belt to Silicon Valley and suddenly become someone writing software, or working in...and what about them? Who's talking for them? Who's speaking on their behalf? And you compound it with some of the cultural disrespect embedded in these talks...

But let me stop you. I don't want to quiz you on specifics and suggest that you need to have policies for all of these things. That's unreasonable and not what I…
I agree, that's where we need to go.

But, you must be able to say that you've revised your view of government. You were  a caustic anti-government conservative, and the line of inquiry that you're now pursuing doesn't allow that. Or at least it shows the limitations of that approach.
I would say it's probably an over-simplification to say anti-government. I believe in limited government, no doubt about it, and I still do. But I'm not, I never was a pure believer that government has no role to play as I recall, going as far back as my time...

How is your view of government changing then?
I think it begins with the following: that is, if you think about it, even to this day, I remain a class migrant, born and raised. Still live in a working-class neighbourhood but every Monday I get on an airplane and fly to work in an elite institution, surrounded by elite people in an elite city, and then fly back to that working-class family where my relatives are firefighters and nurses, teachers and electricians. So I make that journey every week, and I would say that there are people in that demographic, in that group, they are not necessarily as excited about the new economy as some other people I work with or around. And our government has an obligation to deal with that, to address it. Because if it doesn't, the glue, the cohesion of the nation ruptures, and that's what we're seeing play out. And government does have a role to play. I think the other thing I would say...

But that role immediately suggests subsidies, workforce interventions of various kinds, apprenticeships…
Sure. And all those are great. I mean, those are positions I've advocated for the better part of four years, for five, for most of my time here.

It means more government.
It means more government involvement targeted at those things, absolutely. But those are not new...I had a wage subsidy proposal a few years ago. I think I was the only one running for president on the Republican side that talked about things like paid family leave. I've talked about ways to innovate workforce training, alternatives to college- none of that is enough, that's just nibbling...I mean, there is no way that I, I myself, in this office, can innovate all of the ideas to confront challenges that none of us can fully yet comprehend. If I had told an American in the mid 1800's that only 2% of Americans would work on farms in 2018 they would ask themselves "well where do they work?"

Reading this tentative new line of inquiry towards a reformed conservative manifesto, which is what I took the National Review piece to be…

The two novel, and I would say essential, fundamental, changes it signals are around the idea of government and the idea of liberty.
But I would only caution that not through the lens of the 20th century politics. When people hear "more government," they immediately associate that with the Democrat answer of some government programme that's going to step into the breach and offer a government service that's going to lift you and perform. And I believe in the safety net, I always have, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about rethinking government in a way where government does have a role in supporting human beings because ultimately America is not an economy, it's a nation made up of people. And government's job, first and foremost, is to support her people,  the people of this country. There is a role for government to play. I would say even the strongest conservative even libertarian running around, for the most part, is not an advocate for eliminating Medicare or Social Security or the social safety net or Pell Grants or the GI Bill, or any other things government did in the 20th century to support human beings.

All of those things, to sustain current living standards, America will need to spend more on, because of this economic disruption that you're responding to.
Except I would argue that we may need to continue to fill those gaps, but not necessarily spend more on programmes that no longer apply to the 21st century. So as an example, when you talk about education for the moment and how we subsidise it, we are largely subsidising sending Americans, in the millions, to a higher education system designed for an era that no longer exists. We are training people in knowledge and skill that is not applicable to today's workforce. We are, in essence, pouring billions upon billions of dollars into an education system designed for the industrial era, not for the days– we are preparing people for a world that no longer exists, and we spend billions of dollars to do it. So, we will still have to help people, but we may have to help retrain people multiple times in their lives. We, today, approach, I would say one of the failings of the right, is that we continue to argue that the market fixes almost anything. Well that might necessarily have been true in the 20th century when employers offered their employees not just a pay check, but offered them a pension, a defined benefit pension, and health care. Well, a growing number of Americans in the 21st century are not going to work for large companies that provide these benefits. Many of them may be working either in small businesses or as freelancers, operating on an as-need basis. What platforms are we going to create for people in those circumstances to be able to provide for retirement, to be able to provide for their own health care. So on the retirement front, I proposed a couple years ago, opening up the congressional retirement plan to any American who didn't have such a place in which to contribute in their own lives. I'm not telling you that's the perfect answer.

You won't acknowledge that the logic of what you're saying is that your view of government has evolved?

So just address that specific thing for me.
Again, it's important, because I think someone on the left would read that and say "that means he agrees with us, that what government needs to do is get bigger and spend more money", and my argument is no, it's...

In certain ways it does, right?
Well, I don't know about spend more money, in some cases, but it needs to spend that money differently than it spends it today. It needs to be creative. But there are certain government benefits that are important for holding the cohesion of a country together, on issues like Social Security and Medicare. It's not new to me; I've never not supported those programmes. My argument has been that they're not sustainable.

But if the government is going to intervene in the economy to try to compensate and smooth the disruption for underqualified or unqualified people...
Well, here's a better way to put it: government has a central role to play in buffering this transition, without a doubt. If we don't buffer this transition, it basically says everyone is on their own, the market is going to take care of it, we've kind of entered this Darwinistic survival of the fittest environment that will rip the country apart. It will rip the country apart because you will have millions of good, hardworking people who do not have the ability at this moment in their lives, wherever it is they live, to deal with it. And they need to be accounted for, and they've been ignored. And I've...

The government is already involved in this. "No government" is not a solution.
The government is already involved, but it is still largely involved in delivering assistance through mechanisms and institutions that were created for an economy, for a country and an era that no longer exists. We spend significant amounts of taxpayer dollars on job retraining programmes that do not retrain people to work in the 21st century. We spend significant amounts of money sending people on an educational path that does not appeal to their natural interests or talents and that may not lead to productive work in the new economy. Meanwhile, we have a shortage of skilled trade machinists and all sorts of other vocational training that we don't have any mechanisms to address and that culturally we've stigmatised so that no one wants to enter those fields anymore. On tax policy, in my own party we had this knock-out, drag-out fight over whether or not to take the corporate rate from 20 to 21, understanding it's much higher now, the holy grail was 25; they cut it to 20, some magic number that someone pulled out of nowhere, and I said why don't we just raise, instead of 20, let's make it 21, still lower than 25, which was what everybody wanted, and use that extra point to pay for the child tax credit, to deliver benefits to working people under certain income thresholds. I was told that was welfare. The Wall Street Journal shredded it. That is not welfare. You don't earn it unless you're working, and what better investment can we make than an investment in the most important institution in society, the family. I wasn't arguing that was going to solve everybody's problems, but basically I had to threaten to vote against the bill just to get three-quarters of what I wanted done. It forced me to confront the orthodoxy of our party. You hear it now with paid family leave, the argument that well, ultimately employers will provide it for their employees. That's...there's not evidence of that.

Is there a fundamental evolution on the idea of liberty for you in this, too? Again, it was striking to me that you're defining liberty as a sort of quality of life issue, liberty to be free, to live in a fulfilling supportive community, to be fulfilled by work.
Actually again, it's not new, I actually used to say on the campaign trail, that most Americans wouldn't mind being rich, but their goal in life is not to be rich, the American dream is not about how much money you make. To the extent that it's sharper now in its distinction from what others may have perceived, I'm saying it's the liberty to live in family, in community, and in accordance with your faith, and to have dignified work.

So you never were a liberty-from-the-government conservative?
I've always argued that government has a proper role to play, and our job is to make sure it's not doing too much, but it's also not doing too little. When government does too much, it can be harmful. That's why I'm not a socialist. When government does too little, societies can fracture, that's why I'm not a libertarian. And I think where the left fails is in the argument that behind every problem is some new government program that some technocrat or bureaucrat is going to solve. And on the flip side of it is where the right sometimes fails is the argument that the market can magically take care of everything and that it particularly can in instances of massive transformation. But going back on the work/dignity part for a moment. I was in Miami's inner city on Saturday visiting a programme that started when I was Speaker of the House. It's modelled after the Harlem Children's Zone, and largely, I've pursued's been successful in Harlem, got off to a slow start in Miami, but basically, it has a geographic area in Miami's inner city, and it is acting almost as a clearing house for providing holistic services to all the children living in that community, to remove the five strikes against them so they can be successful. They produced this video, and it's a 45-minute video, but they produced a condensed version. And there's a scene, it's not a scene, it's real people they're interviewing, there's a gentleman, probably, I'm guessing late 40s, maybe early 50s clearly a worker of some sort, got a T-shirt on, jeans, a hard-hat in his hand, and the guy's just going crazy angry, so angry. And at one point he says, "I can't even look my son in the eyes anymore. I'm embarrassed when I'm around my daughter and my wife, because how do I tell them that I'm unemployed, that I don't have a job." It is so corrosive to the soul of people, and particularly to the working-class men when they can no longer through their hard work and labour provide for their families. It reminds you that it isn't just about the money in the bank and the things that it allows you to go buy-

I believe that you're in the process of a fundamental revision of your previous positions. Where you end up is uncertain. Maybe you don't know. But you're telling me, when I try to put you on the spot on that, that actually this is really just a reemphasising of positions that you'd always held.
No, no, no, I think that's the wrong way to think about that. I think it is a further...I realised things today- my instincts were, they are on a lot of these issues: we either did not have the mechanisms in conservative orthodoxy to fulfil them, in essence...

What do you mean by that?
For example, I realise that there are some issues where there's a transition, I'll go to those in a moment, but a perfect example is: on the issue of paid family leave, I've long understood that is a real problem for someone, but if you go to a leading conservative think-tank, their answer...

But you've argued that for a long time.
Well, I've argued for the fact that we need to address it. I haven't found an answer that may involve a role for government.

I think that you're opening your mind towards a bigger shift.
Well, here's what changed. It's the same thing that happened to me when I first ran for office in the city of West Miami. I thought that I knew my community until I knocked on their doors and went to their living rooms. When you run for president, you meet a lot of people. You are exposed to things, and you see things that sometimes introduce you to new ideas and perhaps new views but sometimes just makes clear to you what perhaps you always felt but never didn't fully put together until you were there. And so, as an example for me, immigration has always been about more people like my parents and my family, but for a lot of people I met, immigration was about more competitors for the limited number of jobs that were available. I didn't fully appreciate that, though I heard it, I didn't hear it until I met people in those circumstances and understood their point of view. That's what happens when you expose yourself to new ideas and you're thinking "I've generally been a supporter of free trade because I believe that, all things being equal, trade is good. It makes them more prosperous, it makes us more prosperous. What I failed to fully appreciate was the millions of people that it was displacing in dramatic ways. Again, because I come from a community that's largely benefited from international trade, in South Florida. But for someone whose job, or the job they used to do, is now located somewhere else, as a result of globalisation, it's not nearly as positive as an experience. And I think conservatism in general, and myself in particular, did not spend enough time or give enough attention to the people being left behind in that...

So it's possible to read your thesis both as a surrender to Trump and a repudiation of Trump. It's a surrender because ultimately you say you’ve evolved on protectionism, and you don't talk about immigration in this piece. And it's a repudiation because you say that authoritarianism is the cost of a democracy that people don't believe in, that that's the risk. And we have a president who has decribed many of the problems that you sketch out and is himself a would-be authoritarian. 
Well, I think it has a lot less to do with the individual. I credit Donald Trump in sort of speaking to these realities faster and better than the other candidates in the field did. But I don't think he created these conditions. I think these conditions explain what happened in 2016. And I think it would be both foolish and irresponsible...

He showed you and others that your electorate just didn't want the things that you were saying.
More than the electorate, he revealed, at least his candidacy did, and exposed us, to the feelings of millions and millions of Americans and the frustrations that they feel about how globalisation may be working out really great for a lot of people in this country, particularly people working in LA, the ones who control the media, political elites, it's not working out for them. And I think it would be, quite frankly, irresponsible to ignore that. And to ignore what his campaign revealed about how they feel. Now my approach to solving it may be quite different from the approaches taken, in fact it is, but nonetheless, it would be irresponsible to say these people are wrong and need to be quiet. Because it represents at least 63 million Americans that work that voted for him. So, I don't know that I'd call it surrender. I think it is responsible to say that we've got millions of Americans in this country that feel this way, and they expressed it by electing someone that no one thought would win. It would be irresponsible for policy-makers, any of us, to ignore it. And on authoritarianism, I don't think that's a fair– I understand that perhaps in his speech and in some of the things he expresses, he may come across that way, but I don't have fear of authoritarianism in America. Our institutions are significant, they're strong, and we still have strong commitments. If...

They're under attack right now.
Well, they may be, but I think they emerge from it stronger. Every time a court rules a certain way, we may not agree with it, but it proves our institutions work.

With respect, it’s down to people like you to defend those institutions.
Sure, and if they're challenged, we should.

They're being challenged every day from the White House.
Now, they've been challenged rhetorically, they haven't been challenged legally. They haven't been challenged– people have a right to say whatever they want, including the President of the United States. I think that's different from a proposal...

He tried to sack the Special Counsel. He sacked the director of the FBI. These are real problems.
Well, let me start by saying that Special Counsel stuff is a report. I've never heard him say "I'm going to fire..." I've heard it written in an article somewhere. I think it would be a terrible mistake. I've said it clearly that it is. It wouldn't solve anything, because the special counsel will be replaced by another special counsel. I think that's not authoritarianism. That may be rhetorical things that he's saying, but it's not actions. If you actually take steps towards undermining, abolishing courts, or trying to pass a law that restricts what the media can report, we're going to have a big problem.

I think, in America, that's a high bar to set.
No, but I think, for example, I understand for the presidency, to attack institutions may be viewed as promoting authoritarianism, and I certainly don't speak that way and when necessary have criticised it, but I think it's a big step to go from there to what you've seen Erdogan do in Turkey, or Duterte do in the Philippines, where you have police officers and others in the streets shooting everyone who's there, a few of them are drug dealers, a bunch of them are not. 

Sure. But America's descended a lot further than any of us could have expected a few years ago, nonetheless. 
I saw a well-published writer yesterday in the Miami Herald, Leonard Pitts, write that people who voted for Trump are by definition racist, they hate women or the like, that shouldn't be heard from, are ignored. So I think the rhetoric on both sides has reached a very dangerous point that makes us, at the worst possible time, because we have some big issues to confront, we can't even talk about...

This is not about Democrats, though. So there was that big debate through Trump's campaign: is this about the economy, is this about race? What you seem to be doing is saying that you can address the economic concerns and that will put you a long way to dealing with those social concerns, including these…
Yeah, but is this the wrong way to...

You're cutting out that race question.
No, no, it isn't the race part, it's the identity part. I think it was an identity-based campaign, but identity may not be race-based. Identity, I think, is largely based on both one's cultural norms and also...

White people heard it as an address to white people.
It's interesting though, because I can also tell you, and I know it's probably anecdotal, but I know a lot of working-class Hispanic males who initially were not Trump supporters but in his message heard a defence of them, of people who, not so much...

But an attack on them, too.
Not so much...for an example, I interacted with a lot of people on the campaign and even now, who don't really have a problem with a billionaire like Donald Trump. It's not a wealth-based resentment, but they do resent professional, know-it-all elites who sometimes seem to prioritise their intellect over common sense, who talk about these global principles but don't seem to care nearly as much about the plight that they and their families are going through. So I think there's an identity built around that, and a large number...

So I think you're taking Trump's -  in this article at least - you're taking the anti-elite populism of Trump's message and you're separating it from the ethno-nationalism, two things that were inseparable in Trump's campaign.
Well, I think that the truth is that, in the history of the world, if you do not address these factors, these frictions in our society, you leave people vulnerable. You leave entire populations vulnerable to appeals from the far left, and from ethnic-populists on the right. Both of which are a dangerous direction for our country to go. And that's one of the things that gives urgency to it. You've got to be able to address these factors in our society without saying to people, "the reason why this is happening to you is because of them." And "them" can be defined any way you want. I think that we need to figure out a way to say "we have nothing against people that are successful." But we have to understand that we have an obligation to help the people who are being left behind in this economy.

It's not about class, it's about race.
Well, I don't necessarily agree with that. I just don't. I mean, I don't think...there may be a component of that for some people. You're asking me about the way he expressed himself on certain issues and the rhetoric that he uses.

I don't think it's just a communication issue.
I do, I do. Because I think oftentimes he's used phraseology that people have misconstrued, and other times he's used phraseology that, quite frankly, is deeply problematic. And so I see people see that and they think that it's simply race-based, but it would be a terrible mistake, I really do, to argue that his entire election...understand that I have differences of opinion with him on a significant number of policies, that his entire election is based on racial...

With respect, I wasn't arguing that. He was tapping into two epic changes in this society. One, the economic disruption that we started off talking about, and two, the enormous growth of diversity and the sense of vulnerability…
They go hand in hand...

...That the white majority feels about that.
But they go hand in hand, and here's why. To view the economic disruption simply "I used to make more money than I make now", or "I cannot buy as many things as I make now", is to argue that Americans are nothing but consumers, and they're not. Americans are not just consumers, they're people. And human beings who live lives, and I do think that economics - to simply view it through the lens of how much money people make is the wrong way to analyse it. There is a cultural component to that distinction, and that is, that in large, millions and millions of Americans, many of whom perhaps happen to be white, working-class voters, but not exclusively, feel like whatever it is we have right now is not working for people like them, and it's got to be somebody's fault. This is happening for a reason. And in some cases they have a point, and in others they're just caught in a massive disruption and neither party has done enough to address it. The left seems incredibly focused on the people who are very poor (and I do believe in the safety net). The right seems to be arguing that if we just make rich people richer they'll take care of everybody. And you've got millions of people kind of stuck in the middle saying "who's fighting for us?" And it isn't just about how much money they make, it is everything. It is the values that they hold are mocked. It is the job they once had is now held by someone else in another country, even though it may actually be held by a robot in another country. And that, in my mind, is about economics, but it's not about dollars. It's about the quality of their lives and the productivity of their work and their ability to achieve for themselves the sort of life that they want. And when that falls apart, you can't build communities, families fracture, faith is tested, as it is now, and you lose the dignity that comes from work. And now you see the fracture.

You're connecting social conservatism with this new Trump working-class constituency, and you connect them by saying that both are under attack from a liberal elite. One, a liberal elite that is offshoring their jobs to China, and the other from a liberal elite that sneers at their traditions. 
It goes deeper than that, though. I wouldn't say it is just social conservatives. I think there are certain values that you can teach outside of a religious realm—hard work...

But you link it to faith.
Well, because it happens to be in our country, perhaps the best teacher and reinforcer of those values and those virtues. I imagine you could find non-religious sources for teaching virtues, but religion is a pretty good- Judeo-Christian tradition- is a pretty good teacher of those virtues, virtues that are important to be successful. And when those virtues and the institutions that teach them are attacked, when there's no right or wrong and it's all relative, you're going to have pushback against it. And you're going to have a problem, societally.

But secular liberalism doesn’t mean "there is no right or wrong." I mean, that's not where the country is going.
Well, again, I think that if you look at the mainstream values of millions and millions of Americans, we do not necessarily represent what you see reflected in the bubbles of academia or in the bubbles of the media elite or even the political class. Millions of those Americans feel like the values they believe in are being mocked on a routine basis, that they are the only group in America where it's permitted to make fun of them. And so, while society has been moving in one direction or another, millions of Americans frankly don't care if people of the same sex want to get married, it's not the thing that drives their day, but they also don't want to be consistently told that if they don't agree with that they're homophobes. There are millions of Americans that believe that life should be protected but don't want to be habitually told that if you hold that position it is an immoral and invalid position and therefore should be silenced. 

The Republican Party is committed to a pro-life agenda. This is not an ignored minority…
You see a country, for example, and this plays out whatever way people want, where it is acceptable and cheered on when there are boycotts of companies or companies unilaterally deciding that because of recent violent events they will no longer sell certain guns or associate with the NRA. It's their choice, it's a free country. But when Chic Fil-A or Hobby Lobby even dares to speak out on the views of the people who own those companies, then there are criticisms of it. And that's not acceptable. People view that as a hypocrisy. They get angry about it, and rightfully so. So those are the kinds of things you see...                                                                                                  

Everything in this country is on two tracks right now, culturally and politically, unfortunately. So you have these conflicts over everything every day…
Oh, there's no doubt about that.

That's not where you're going with this agenda, though. Your challenge is, if I understand it correctly, to your own side. It's not just continuing a partisan war. It's a challenge to your own side to rethink on some of these questions.
Well, my argument is that there needs to be an American conservative movement that addresses these realities. I can't control what the other side does. I do say at the end of what I wrote that in order to solve these problems, conservatives alone can't solve it. We have to be able to, in this country, work through some of these things, because we are in a republic. And in a republic, there is no way that I'm going to get 100% of what I want and the other side will get nothing. So we do have to have a process, a society in which we can dialogue and reach progress, even if we don't get everything we want, we're moving in the right direction. We do not currently have that. That one I don't know how to solve, other than to lead by example the best I can, imperfectly. But I am largely focused on where I think I can have the greatest impact, and that is on the right of centre, where my home is, not left of centre, where my views, quite frankly, are not appealing to the people that...

But it's the right of centre that went through the experience of 2016 and ended up with a candidate and then a president…
It's the right of centre where I lived that experience.

Who stamped all over most of the things conservative politicians thought conservative voters voted for.
I said that in the essay, that voters that I interacted with cared very little about whether you had a great scorecard from a conservative think tank and cared a lot more about whether you understood what they were going through in their lives and had any answers for it. Their instincts were free enterprise and limited government and the American dream, but they still wanted their issues solved, so that is where you run into Americans that would basically say "of course I want the debt to be dealt with, of course government spends too much, but don't touch social security and don't touch Medicare." They view that as something they have paid into, it was a promise that was made to them, and they want to see it fulfilled. And while I may generally agree with that, I also believe they need to be reformed, and reform to a lot of people sounds like cuts. But I would challenge you on the notion that it only happened on the right. I think it happened on the left.

When Republicans say they want to reform social security, it's not surprising why people hear that you just want to cut it. What is required, to reform those programmes is for you to have good faith with the electorate. And the kind of things that this line of inquiry will lead you to propose, an intelligent expansion of the government role, not necessarily more dole, but for example regulation in the workplace to ensure better skills and training and more adaptability for American workers, will get you that good faith.
Well, it goes beyond that, I think first a lot of voters need to be convinced...If voters are convinced that, deep inside, you really don't believe in social security and Medicare, that the market should have taken care of that, and that you should have saved enough money while you were working to be able to take care for yourself, if they believe that those are your instincts, then of course they're going to be suspicious of any proposal you make. And that's why I always tell people that my mother is on Social Security or Medicare, that I don't want to harm her, but I don't want these programmes to go bankrupt. We know this is a function of math, not of ideology. But by the same token, I would argue to you that none of us want to live, that we're not going to be a very prosperous or successful country if we have millions of senior citizens living in poverty because there isn't a programme to hold them up. So somewhere between those two extremes of everyone's on their own or we just pour money into it irresponsibly until we're broke, there's got to be an answer. And, in the end, that answer is going to involve some government activity. But I want to go back to the point you make, because I know your article isn't about it, but I think both parties are going through this convulsion. If you look at the left, if they had run their campaign under the rules Republicans had, Bernie Sanders would have been their nominee. And in many ways, Hillary Clinton loses because she doesn't generate the same level of energy that Sanders did. Because he was making the same fundamental argument on the opposite side of the scale, and that is what we have today is fundamentally broken, and the answer is European-style socialism in which government completely intervenes and fixes all of these disruptions in our lives.

That's not socialism, by the way.
Well, I don't know, whatever you want to call it, he describes.

But sure, he's an old-style–
But they're going through that and now, they're moving in that direction.

Social democrat
But I can't reform the Democratic Party.

But it's the Republican Party that has a unified government, it's the Republican Party...
In its simplest terms...

...That elected Trump.
In its simplest terms, okay, we cannot continue to believe that the ideas and the answers of the 1980s work today the way they did back then. Our instincts are right, but the solutions that our instincts produce are going to look different in an economy as different as this. I also think, and Olsen makes this point, that Ronald Reagan is fundamentally misunderstood; he was not Barry Goldwater. He did believe in a role of government to lift people up. He did believe that there should never be a ceiling on how far people should go, but there should be a floor to help people. And there's a record that indicates that. He is not some pure libertarian that said "the market takes care of everything." He was also someone that was willing to work on finding solutions because he understood, in a pragmatic point of view, that if he could get 70% of what he wanted that was better than getting nothing of what he wanted. But again, yes, to go back to the point, I am in many ways a product, for many years, of the traditional Republican view on a lot of these issues, largely dependent on think-tanks and institutions whose answer to every problem was limited to a handful of things that involved lower taxes, less government, less regulations. And I see the value in all those three things. But that alone is not enough. Those principles have to be applied to the realities of today, and I think that conservatism, frankly, ran out of ideas, and they most certainly got outrun by events and by changes in our society. And a lot of the things that we're proposing just don't work the way they did. Growth does not distribute the way it used to. It just doesn't. We can grow our economy, I mean, yes, I'm very happy that we have 3% growth GDP every quarter, but it would be a mistake to argue that that somehow was going to distribute to every American, because it's not. If you don't have the right skills and you're not working in the right industries, you're not going to benefit from that growth. Not because of evil, not because of some cabal, it's just because of the restructuring of our economy. And if we don't address that, you can have all the growth in the world you want, it may actually exacerbate these tensions, and not improve them. So we have to recognise that, and we have to have an answer to that.

So Trump defined the problem, and that's why he got elected. Trump has no answers to this problem, which is why he stirred ethno-nationalism. That's why his answer was "that guy's hurting you!"
I think part of the challenge he faces...

If you want to avoid the debate stopping there, you do have to push forward for solutions. So where do you go?
But I think part of the challenges the administration faces is that it is still heavily populated by many people who come from the traditional branch. So we went through this debate on the tax reform. You know, I think his instincts about helping American workers were right, but the tax reform, while I still think a net positive for the country, missed a few key opportunities like getting to the two thousand dollars for everyone, fully refundable, on the child tax credit and perhaps other opportunities that...

You needed a progressive tax reform, and you got the opposite.
It's all relative. At one point we proposed a corporate rate of 20.9% to be able to fully do what we wanted. We did the .9 just to show the absurdity of it. And it was a massive fight because, at the end of the day, there was still a lot of thinking on the right of centre that if Apple is happy and the big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money that they're saving and reinvest it back into American workers when in fact they bought back shares, they'll invest in automation and productivity that way. A few of them gave out bonuses in the short term, but there's no evidence whatsoever that this was massively poured back into the American worker. Now, I still think there are a lot of net positives of the tax reform, let there be no doubt, I do think a lot of small businesses will now expand and immediately invest, but that had nothing to do with the rate, that had less to do with the rate and more to do with the immediate expensing component of it. It had more to do with that than it had to do with the corporate rate. I was not a big fan of slashing massively the taxes of multinational corporations that are not even American companies. We shouldn't be discriminatory towards them, but we don't have any special obligation towards them either. These are citizens of the world.

Your obligation is to grow the economy, and the pretext for that cut was that it was going to give you a lot of economic growth.
The problem is that growth, as I said, if you're a multinational corporation, you may be growing, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's helping Americans. Your shareholders are from all over the world, your customers are from all over the world, your supply chain and your production chain may not even be in the United States. The idea that you know, massive growth by some large entity that has a multinational footprint is going to somehow benefit Americans especially, because they happen to be headquartered in the United States of America is a...

You are unhappy with the tax reform because of the cut to the corporate rate?
I think that I had no problem with cutting the corporate rate. I had proposed a cut myself. I just felt that we could have cut it, a lot, to 22, 21, and used that extra point as a tax cut. But instead of for the multinationals, applied it to the working families making 50 to 60,000 a year. It wouldn't have changed their lives, but it would have shown we cared. And we did some of it. But we had to fight. The fact that we had to fight so hard to achieve it, and the arguments that were used against it, showed me how far I have to go.

Within the…
The Republican conference. The House hated the child tax credit. Many people in the house didn't like it, or upset about even change that was made at the end, and they voted, many of my colleagues, voted against it on the Senate floor because, to them, 20% was the ideal rate, but at 21, it's catastrophic. But then, they went into conference and raised it to 21 to take care of another sector in the business community.

So what does that tell you about the openness of some of your colleagues to this?
It shows me how long we have to go, why these changes need to happen, why we need to stop thinking about America as an economy and start thinking about it as a society made up of human beings. Why we need to stop thinking about Americans as workers and consumers and start thinking about them as parents and members of a community. I should say, we should stop thinking of them simply as employees and consumers and start thinking about them as workers and families and parents and the Little League coach. And that's, right now, not conservative orthodoxy.

On concrete policy...
It's a huge challenge.

You've changed on trade, right? That is an area where you've fundamentally shifted since the election?
I fundamentally shifted on, not even fundamentally shifted, I have become more aggressive on China. My focus is on China. In fact, I've told the administration that we should cool the tensions and grant the exemptions to our allies in Europe and in Argentina and in Brazil, and I'm glad they worked it out with South Korea, that we should be singularly focused on China, and that our allies around the world will join us. Because I think ultimately, that really is the trade imbalance that we should be concerned about. For geopolitical purposes.

You're talking about their misdemeanours. You're talking about their IP issues, all of that stuff? 
Beyond that, I mean, sure. IP is a big part of it.

But you're not talking about a blanket tariff on steel and aluminium, for example?
I think it needs to be smart rebalancing, but it needs to happen because we basically have a trade policy towards China that's built on 25 years of conventional wisdom that we should let them go ahead and get away with certain criticisms.

They [the steel and aluminium tariffs] were a haymaker thrown at the world, not at China.
The broader one, the early one, that was a mistake. So to come out with all those other tariffs first and then come after China was an enormous mistake that I suspect people will write off...

But will you get to the tariffs? 
Which ones?

By the way, we're nothing if not pro-free-trade, but we would take some measures against China. That's a different story.
Right. That's my point. There's a difference between trade disputes between countries that generally agree with the rules of free trade but are each trying to protect their domestic constituencies. You know, the obligation of French policymakers is to support the French people, and so they're going to want to look for trade arrangements that are supportive of their core constituency. But there's a difference between having a dispute with them and a trade imbalance that has geopolitical implications in the case of China. And we have 25 years of flawed thinking in both parties that go ahead and let China cheat because ultimately they're going to get rich, and they're going to become democratic, and they're going to buy into the global order, and that's not what happened. And that, what the Chinese basically did, they figured out, they knew that the more prosperous their people became the more that they would demand politically, so they basically have made this fundamental argument that democracy is some Western idea, foreign to us. Our greatness, look at our history, our greatness comes from strong leaders. And they took that Confucian heritage, combined it with the strong Communist party, and what they've argued is we need a strong government to govern our society, we're going to let the government do a few key sectors but basically allow Chinese companies to operate. But we are going to use the power of the government to advantage these companies in critical industries until we are the dominant power in the world in each of these. And that's why you do business in China, you got to have a Chinese partner and transfer IP to them.

Then you are no less a proponent of free trade than you were before?
Free and fair, absolutely. And I think that's why NAFTA, if we get a good deal and it works out, is going to be positive for everybody. Because I think there's mutual benefits there. It benefits the United States to have a prosperous...

You're not an enemy of NAFTA
I'm not generally an enemy of NAFTA.

Would you have opened up NAFTA in the same way?
I think there were elements that needed to be modernised, but neither the Canadians nor the Mexicans would disagree with it. I've got issues in Florida.

But they weren't the things that the president wanted.
Well, the president comes from a real estate background where you make maximalist opening offers.

No, the president didn't know what was in the agreement.
To give you an example, I think that the president went into the NAFTA talks fully cognisant of the impact it may have had are a bad example because there's no such thing as "a car," a car is the sum part of multiple components, some of which are made in the United States- but I don't think they fully appreciated the benefits that NAFTA has for American agriculture. By and large, except for seasonal growers in Florida who get dumped on every year in NAFTA, but there are mechanisms we can agree to within NAFTA to address these, and they need to be enforced and they need to be fixed. We can fix and modernise NAFTA because even the Mexicans agree with that, and I actually think the Canadian portion, with timber and the like, are harder than the Mexican portions of NAFTA. But I would have approached it differently. I would not have started with NAFTA and I would not have started with the Europeans. I would have started with China, and I'm telling you, that all of these other countries...

Wouldn’t have started with? But that is the problem.
I'm not a protectionist.

But the president is.
Well, I'm not the president. I don't agree with him on that.

But you said you would have started with China...
I would have focused on China because there may be imbalances that have developed unfairly. You know, non-tariff barriers in Europe and some other markets, but I feel like we can address those with these governments because...

In the normal way, these conversations happen all the time.
Correct, especially because of geopolitical alliances, because we have deep ties to them, because of symbiotic relationships, because it's not like they're not trying to put us out of business and overcome us.

They weren't the problem. I mean–
Well, there were imbalances that had developed, but they could have been addressed without doing it the way they did it.

What imbalances?
Well, for example, you could argue that non-tariff barriers, some of the ways these things are applied to some trade with some other nations, and I'll give you an example. South Korea, with whom we have a free trade agreement, there was a time in South Korea where they were figuring out how to impose duties on Florida citrus. Even though it was clearly covered under the deal because they needed to generate revenue. So they were arguing "how do we know these oranges are from Florida and not from Brazil that just came through Florida?" But we were able to work it out with them. Why? Because we have an alliance with them that extends beyond trade, and because ultimately they wanted the deal to succeed. They needed more revenue, they figured out an angle to get more revenue, but in the ultimate scheme of things it worked itself out within the deal. And it was the first deal that was renegotiated. My advice is to put all these things to bed right now. These are not major issues for the United States. They can be dealt with through the existing rules of those agreements or through the World Trade Organisation or through a series of mechanisms. China is the central issue we should focus on.

The only reason we're even talking about all those other things is because the president sold this junk idea to the American electorate.
I have no idea why they started out with all these other countries. You'll have to ask them why they started there. My whole point is that they should figure out how to get out of it now.

Because he's a protectionist.
Well, I don't know, again. I think there are some in the White House that are protectionists but wouldn't have started there, either. But my view is that we should have focused on China. It should have been the starting point and the sole focus of our attention.

The Republican Party has got to expand its electorate. It's not just dealing with the Trump insurgency. It's got to expand its electorate. So is your pitch one that Hispanics, non-whites more broadly, can sign up to?
Absolutely. In fact, if you look at the people that have been most impacted and left behind, it's people in communities that don't traditionally vote Republican. So this weekend I spent two days in Miami visiting potential opportunities under the tax bill. And one of the things that really appealed to people is, you know, under this provision of the tax law, if you can invest in these communities, you can defer capital gains for up to a decade. And my argument is, we are basically trying to do for these communities that have been left behind what other nations have done in order to attract labour from the United States. That was hugely popular. People understood that concept because these are the communities that largely have been disadvantaged in proportion to the rest of the country, in some cases by this displacement. It's made it even harder for them. Look, at a very simple level, I had an aunt when I grew up who worked at McDonald's. And I'm not saying that you can sustain a family on a McDonald's salary, but nonetheless it was a job that was available for her. Today, more and more McDonald's I go into have these automated screens. Automation is replacing that worker. Now, you could argue that someone's got to make that machine, but it wasn't going to be my 51-year-old aunt that was going to do it. So those communities are feeling the pinch first in terms of some of this displacement. And taking our message into those communities will help expand it. But the identity that will attract them to us will not be the colour of their skin or their religion or how their last name is pronounced; the identity that will attract them to a movement is that we are the people fighting to ensure that people like them are not left behind by this transition. And government will have a role to play in it. And ideally, it took us 80 years, but America eventually figured out how to take the disruptions of industrialisation and harness it into the most prosperous society in the world and the vast middle-class. I believe we can get there. And government's role will be diminished as the need diminishes. But there needs to be some conservative government role to play in buffering this transition. Or in addition to being left behind economically, the fibre, the glue, the social contract that holds the nation together as a nation will continue to fracture even faster than it did 100 years ago. Because they didn't have Twitter and Facebook and fake news and all the other tools now available today to exacerbate those sentiments.

Off-the-record, Senator: For this to get real credibility, it has got to look like more than a capitulation to the Trump agenda, which will take the country nowhere good. There has to be both an acknowledgement of what Trump showed the Republican Party about where it had got things wrong, but also a considered distance from the snake oil that…
I can answer that on-the-record. I think one of the by-products of this global disruption is the appeal of authoritarianism as we talked about earlier in multiple countries in the world. You go into a society where things seem chaotic, where things seem disordered, and there is a natural temptation to look for, to gravitate towards strong, authoritarian leaders that are going to restore order to society and to make sense of things again. And that's why I think it's deeply disturbing to see, not just what's happened in China and Russia, what's happened in Turkey, what's happened in the Philippines, what's happened in Hungary, what's happened in multiple places. What's happened potentially in Latin America. I came back from the summit of the Americas where recent polling shows that the appeal of authoritarianism is on the rise and the appeal of democracy is on the decline. I've seen polling in the United States that indicates that, in comparison to...

I think that for average Americans, the president's hankering after authoritarianism is the least troubling or the least conspicuous thing about him.
What I'm saying to you I've said to them. There is nothing admirable about Duterte in the Philippines, nothing.

That’s not answering the question that I put to you, which is that for this to be a credible and exciting new conservative agenda, it has to acknowledge the fact that it's an agenda that in a sense the president has mapped out, but the president has no answers to the problems that he describes.
Well, I don't think he's mapped out an agenda. I think he's offered some ideas, but I think he's described a problem. But that problem doesn't exist in a vacuum. I also don't believe that the answer to these challenges is to tell people that we're going to restore the industrial greatness of the United States back to where it was in the 1970s. The fact is that the future is going to happen.

But his crazy protectionism is based around that idea, so why…
What I've told people is that I have no problem with bringing back more American manufacturing, car manufacturing facilities. But in the end, whether they're American robots or Mexican robots, they're still going to be highly automated. Artificial intelligence, over the next ten or 15 years, is going to wipe out many more jobs than outsourcing is. We also need to understand that there are reciprocal...

By the time you've explained that properly, it's already a repudiation of the president's line on this. The classic example of the president's snake oil is that his protectionism will bring these industries back, and that will solve the problem.
But again, at its core, I am arguing that the new economy has the potential to do extraordinary things. But from the time we get there to where we are today, millions of people are going to be left behind and disrupted and therefore, we may never get there unless we address those challenges in the short term. I do not believe that the way you deal with those challenges is to promise people that you're going to bring back the way things were 30 years ago. The future is going to happen. I believe that we need to harness the benefits of the new economy while using those benefits to address the harm inflicted in this transitionary period that could last 30, 40 years, and it's going to move much faster than what we went through in the industrial revolution.

The moment that you—and the president is the elephant in the room in this discussion, this metaphorical discussion—the moment that you reveal a list of serious, radical changes for imaginative conservatives to broach, around these interventions into the labour force, these things involving the government hand extending, rather than retreating, that's the moment at which people look and say, "whoa, this is serious." Because that, of course, is what the president doesn't do, because he has no solutions.
That's true, and I would say that we've already had some experience in that regard. I have been routinely attacked for paid family leave, so we're going to have more and more of that.

Your fighting on family leave was the thing that brought you to my attention on this question.
Right, but we're going to have more of those experiences as we challenge some of the orthodoxies that are not liberal, I'm not arguing for the Gillibrand proposal. I'm saying we have a problem here. I'm not arguing that I've figured it out, but I'm arguing that we have to start figuring it out.

Give me two, three fights that you can imagine. I'm not pinning you down to particular policies.
In terms of all this new thinking?

Yes, you say we're going to have all of these fights with orthodox conservatives, just as you have on family leave.
For example, what should government's role be in the safety net, and whether or not...I think while many Republicans might agree about workforce requirements to be on the safety net, I would argue that that's largely insufficient because if you're truly trying to get people to be self-sufficient, putting them back to work in a job that's never going to pay enough and may vanish in two years isn't going to solve the problem. It may involve doing both- continuing to assist people while they go back to school, or while they are retrained. I think that's an example some of the people would look at and say "well we're going to be paying people to go to school," and my argument is going to be yes, we're going to, we're going to need to, if we ever hope that that person will become productive. And we may need to do it more than once. Because that person may get displaced in four years by a technology that doesn't even have a name yet. That's a reality of the 21st century. We're going to have to confront it. I think government investment in basic research is critical. The Chinese are pouring billions upon billions of dollars on artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and if they beat us in that race, they will fundamentally alter the geopolitical landscape. Basic government research as the seed funding that allows for new technologies to emerge and grow is something that I believe in. And people would say "that's government spending, the private sector..."

Industrial strategy, almost?
Potentially, but I think it's largely, at this point, it's not industrial, it's technological. The private sector innovates in order to find solutions to a problem or something they can commercialise. Our mandate in government is different. I know, for example, that whoever dominates personalised genetic medicine will have the power to do a lot of good and potentially a lot of harm. If you can imagine the misuse of CRISPR, genetic modification, to the point where you could create chemical or biological weapons that kill people of a certain genetic makeup but spare people of not, just imagine the evil that could do. Imagine living in a country where the basic elements and the core expertise behind personalised medicine belongs to another nation. We would be basically dependent for our safety and security on another nation's willingness to share that technology with us. Think about the advantages China already has. They have DNA data of over a billion human beings that they can compel. And I'm not arguing that we need to do that, but then imagine if they hacked 23andMe, they'll get all of ours as well. So there is no way the private sector can respond to that threat. It can be a participant in it at some point, and it can most certainly...

I'd like to hear about the energy transition next, but I guess you can't do that
The energy transition to?

To a low carbon economy.
Well, I think we're headed there now if we would fully utilise our natural gas, but we can't build pipelines.

That's a stepping stone
[Other voice: Senator, you have a call]
I think that's a significant stepping stone.

Hugely significant
It also happens to be a strategic advantage. Every country in the world has sun and wind to some level, and I'm not against those industries, and I know China...

Your party is still mad on this issue
It depends on where you live. I mean, if you're in Iowa, you like the wind credits and you like the biofuels. But I would say to you that I also don't want to...

That's just gravy. The fundamental madness is the anti-empiricism, the failure to accept scientific truth.
Yeah, but on solar, the Chinese have kind of invested heavily in that technology and made some significant advances, but as an example, there are multiple major utilities in the United States that are already spending significant amounts of money...Florida Power and Light...

The government could make that coming transition so much smarter–
I think the one I'm most focused on is natural gas because in the United States we've found these vast deposits. It's a strategic strength, it has implications across the board. Every time you use gas to generate power, you're replacing coal plants.

That's transitional. It's not the fundamental change.
I think it's…why would that be transitional? We have a significant amount of natural gas for the foreseeable future available to the country.

Because we have to find a cheaper alternative to fossil fuels because we can't keep burning fossil fuels because the climate is not going to support that.
But the carbon footprint of natural gas…

Is significantly lower than coal, but it's too high. We're going to carry on burning oil…
Sure, then let's do more nuclear energy. We know how to do that.

I'm all for that, too. But…
Well you’ve got a problem with some of the people on the other side with that.

But America is giving up, every day, its technological lead on these innovative energy solutions. To China, to a certain extent to Europe even, and it's a straightforward example of self-harm because of a partisan fight over a non-issue.
You may not be seeing that investment on a mass scale, but I can tell you that elements of the US government are investing heavily in those. For example, the US military wants to be able to generate power in the field, so it's investing...

[Rick] Perry at the Department of Energy is cutting its renewables programmes. 
For the US military?

No, no, no.
Well, I can tell you the US military is deeply interested in being able to generate energy in the field.

Sure, because it's rational.
For them, it's a strategic advantage to be able to generate power in the field. Anyway, I got a call.

Thank you, Senator.
No, it's an interesting topic. Listen, I don't have, you know, a lot of allies on this view right now. I mean, this is a minority in a minority in the party right now. I think instinctively a lot of my colleagues are there, but we don't have a network of think-tanks that you can plug into and start popping out ideas. We only have four people thinking this way. But I think it's inevitable for the conservative movement, and quite frankly I think the movement that captures this ground first will have a huge advantage in American politics for many years to come. I don't think the Democrats are necessarily competing for it right now. The last point is, I know you asked a lot of questions about Trump. My view of it is, these issues and these challenges that we're confronting are going to be with us and around, well after I'm gone and most certainly after his presidency is over. These are not six-year issues. These are ten, fifteen, twenty year issues and more.

It's about designing a Republican Party that can survive Trump with its dignity intact and still be answering problems that…
That may be true, that may be the way some people view it, but I can tell you, I haven't really viewed this from a political lens. This has not been about cracking an electoral majority. It's been about the fact that I have strong feelings about us living in this pivotal moment in history similar to periods in the past, and my home is the Republican Party and the conservative movement. And that is where I think I can make an impact. I can assure you the conservative movement is at least offering ideas and is hopefully offering the ideas that help make this transition. But to be honest, the way things are changing, I don't even know if in 20 years we'll be able to describe American politics the way we do today—left versus right. I think in many ways those distinctions, the way politics is covered, the binary choice between more government and less government is as outdated as the VCR. In many cases, it doesn't neatly apply anymore. So, there's a lot to work on here.

Thanks a million.
Thank you.