“Politics produces good men and sometimes great men, but sometimes the great men are not good men," says Republican media strategist Rick Wilson. Wilson met with Robinson Professor of Public Policy Steven Pearlstein as part of the First Tuesday political guest-speaker series. He is co-founder and “creative genius” of the Lincoln Project, a political action committee formed in 2019 with the intention to prevent the reelection of Donald Trump as president.
Throughout his career, including running campaigns for George W. Bush (R), Dick Cheney (R), and Rudy Giuliani (R), Wilson has seen the rise and fall of many candidates and an evolution in the dynamic of political parties. Giuliani in particular caught Wilson’s attention, as he has experienced a major decline in the public eye, from occupying the role of New York’s heroic mayor with his presence during 9/11, to becoming the “corrupted lawyer” serving Trump.
“There is a great tragedy to Rudy,” Wilson said. “There is a certain addiction to being in power, a certain addiction to being involved in the key moments of our day, and only Trump was going to offer him that. He will go down in history as a once great man who collapsed and became corrupted by a president who corrupts and destroys everything he touches.”
Wilson has written two New York Times best sellers, Everything Trump Touches Dies and Running Against the Devil, as well as played a critical role in the creation of the Lincoln Project, all in efforts to draw attention to ways Trump has failed Republicans and the nation.
“I started having a deep concern for the direction of the [Republican] party around 2011,” Wilson explained, pointing to the public’s response following the Tea Party movement. He was particularly alarmed by the reaction to his comment against government involvement in the issue of gay marriage, claiming it as a “personal decision” and not the states’ business. After being publicly attacked by Tea Partiers and called out for an apparently “radical belief,” Wilson said, “When I saw that reaction I [realized], ‘There is something broken here. There is something wrong here.’”
By the time Trump was elected president, the political climate was already prepared for him, Wilson said. “The [Republican] party had changed from being a party of ideas, to being a party of oppositional defiance… [The party] hasn’t been the same since then and probably will never be the same.”
Thus the Lincoln Project came to fruition.
The Lincoln Project was built with the mission to “eliminate Trump, Trumpism, and its enablers—the people who have violated their oath, who have lied to the American people, who’ve compromised our security, in order to support Donald Trump,” he said. He has worked countless hours raising money and making eye-catching, if alarming, advertising videos to reach different demographics.
“An ad has to be a clean, elegant, simple thing. One message, one set of voters,” says Wilson. “That tight focus on a narrow range of one issue, one demographic, one message, is why our ads punch.”
First Tuesday continues with Amy Gardner, a political reporter and editor for the Washington Post, on October 6th at 9 a.m. The series, sponsored by the Honors College and the Schar School of Policy and Government, is open to the Mason community. Sign up and participate.