Resolute Square

My Personal Confession

Stuart Stevens was a Republican political consultant for decades. This is his personal confession.
Credit: Becker1999/Wikimedia Commons
Published:December 6, 2022

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I keep getting it wrong.

A lot of people were wrong about Donald Trump in 2016, but it’s difficult to find anyone more wrong than I was. I didn’t think Donald Trump would win the Republican primary in 2016, and I didn’t think he’d win the general. In retrospect, much of my thinking was influenced by my inability to admit that the party in which I’d worked for decades at the highest level could embrace Trump. Asking myself how it happened and how I got it so wrong led me to write It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump. It was my bleak assessment that the Republican Party wasn’t hijacked by Donald Trump, but rather he was the logical conclusion of what the party had become.

Writing this in December 2022, it’s clear that my dark conclusion about the party was wrong. I was overly optimistic.

As honestly as I had tried to confront the reality of the party that I had helped win so many elections, I never would have thought that the events of the post–2020 election were possible. Had you asked me on November 2, 2020, if Republican senators and members of Congress would accept a Biden victory if he won by over eight million popular votes and with north of three hundred Electoral College votes, I would have said, of course, they would. They wouldn’t like it, but they would not challenge a peaceful transition of power. Had you asked me on January 5, 2021, if it were possible that the United States Capitol would be attacked and breached by a group of domestic terrorists attempting to overthrow the government of the United States, I’d have called it paranoid and impossible.

I was wrong. I could not conceive of the Republican Party becoming the greatest internal threat to democracy since the Civil War. But that is the reality of this moment. That is the challenge we face if the American experiment is to survive this decade.
Today there is a patina of much-missed normalcy across the country. After four years of a despotic lunatic, we have a normal president dedicated to the normal business of government. As comforting as it is, within this illusion of normalcy is a seductive threat. The greatest danger we face is not confronting the greatest danger. For the first time since 1860, a major American political party does not believe we live in a democracy. It is the official position of the Republican Party that Joe Biden is not a legally elected president, that Donald Trump was illegally removed from office, that 2020 was not a legitimate election.

This means that it is the official position of the Republican Party that America is not a democracy. The dividing line in American politics is no longer ideology or policy. The line is between those who believe in democracy and those who believe in democracy only when their side wins.

I spent decades making ads about tax policy, health care, and foreign policy. None of that is now important. In retrospect, those campaign issues seem almost quaint. Certainly, they were naive. While I was focused on defeating Democrats, an evil was building in the Republican Party, an anti-democratic, pro-autocracy movement based in white grievance. I should have recognized this for what it was, but I was too focused on winning each election to think about losing a country. I looked the other way.

Not again. None of us choose history, but history has a way of choosing us. Most modern democracies do not end because of violent coups but at the ballot box and in the courtroom. This is the path the Republican Party is on as it dedicates its purpose to subverting democracy. This is the fight of our time. The outcome of this struggle will determine if the legacy of free democratic elections is passed on to another generation or ends on our watch.

The storming of the Capitol on January 6 was not the end of the 2020 election but the beginning of a long fight to defend the America many of us love. I would like to say that I believe the outcome is certain, but that would be naive, and the time for naivety has ended. The effort to deny Joe Biden the presidency was a betrayal of all those who had sacrificed to defend America.

Men like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who led the effort on January 6 to disenfranchise millions of African American votes, do not share the values of those of us who support a pluralistic democracy. We should not grant them the privilege of considering they will change. They believe in a different America. We cannot compromise with their vision of what it means to be an American. We cannot take one step back. The evil they represent must be confronted and defeated.

I spent the 2020 election working with the Lincoln Project, and I had hoped that the defeat of Donald Trump would allow me the personal justification to withdraw from politics. In the long days and short nights of that campaign, I allowed myself to envision what a life removed from political battle would be like. It was a different place, and I longed to move there, to put all of the anger and intensity that comes with campaigns behind me.

That’s not possible today. I helped create this crisis, and I must use the skills and dark arts I had mastered building the modern Republican Party to destroy what it has become. At the Lincoln Project, we are fighting Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box. Over $300 billion was spent on campaigns in the 2020 cycle. But the only organization that Donald Trump tried to have the Department of Justice shut down is the Lincoln Project. Why? Because he knows we understand him and the crew of angry freaks, who surround him. He knows the Lincoln Project did more to damage his re-election campaign than any single organization. 

But fighting Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box is not enough. Every minute of every day, a vast web of right-wing propaganda is poisoning America and creating the sewer of hate and lies that have turned Trumpism into the greatest threat to the American Experiment since 1860. What has clearly been lacking is a gathering place for the defenders of democracy, a media platform that can attack Maga Media the way the Lincoln Project attacked Donald Trump.

That’s why a group of us came together to launch Resolute Square. We can’t wait for billionaires or corporate media to fight back. We must do it ourselves. We believed in this mission so much that we dug deep into our pockets to fund the launch of Resolute Square. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, drawing a diverse collection of voices driven by the core values of democracy versus autocracy. 

Now we are asking for your help. Spread the word about Resolute Square, subscribe, and ask your friends to subscribe. We are building this from the ground up, and every voice is critical. There are more of us than they’re of them. We know we are right, and they are wrong. This is our moment. It’s time to fight. Join us. 

Adapted from preface to paperback edition of “It Was All A Lie,” published by Viking Books.