Anthony Scaramucci: Re-Establish Civic Virtue to Protect Democracy
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I'm pleased to bring you this interview with Anthony Scaramucci, who is the Founder and Managing Partner of SkyBridge Capital. He is the author of four books: The Little Book of Hedge Funds, Goodbye Gordon Gekko, Hopping Over the Rabbit Hole (a 2016 Wall Street Journal best seller), and Trump: The Blue-Collar President. Anthony is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), vice chair of the Kennedy Center Corporate Fund Board, and a Trustee of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Foundation.
In November 2016, he was named to President-Elect Trump’s 16-person Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee. He served as the White House Communications Director for a period in July 2017. Our conversation took place on October 19, 2021, and has been edited for clarity and flow.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat (RBG): You are prominent in the financial world. I want to ask you how those who care about democracy protection can appeal to people in business and finance who are currently Trump followers, letting them know that what the GOP is causing with its extremist rhetoric and policies (mass sickness, civil unrest, political violence) is bad for business.
Anthony Scaramucci (AS): Business people are more indifferent to the radical right than they are to the radical left. They believe that the radical right is not interested in overly taxing them or taking their enterprises away. And they think the proposals made by someone like AOC or Bill de Blasio, which would flatten society and reduce meritocracy, would be very unfair. The great irony is that it's the two extremes that are against individuality and against freedom, but the radical right, for whatever reason, is perceived as being pro-business. And so that's one reason why there's indifference.
As you know well from the history of Nazi Germany and the rise of other Fascist states, Fascists are usually supported by business people who see autocracy as efficient and pro-business, and they're often people who are apathetic towards politics. A good history lesson would show people that that's a very flawed way of looking at things.
You get your best amount of freedom in a democracy, and you get your best amount of freedom if there's checks and balances in that democracy and the power is diffused. But we lose our memory of this stuff. And then we unfortunately get kicked in the teeth by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Donald Trump, and then we're reminded of what we're taking for granted.
RBG: What you're also describing is the effort to disappear the center. Biden's a centrist, he's not a radical left person and yet he's being called a Socialist dictator.
AS: It doesn't matter what Biden says, he will be pilloried and demonized. But there's a larger problem of our system as a whole not solving the issue of order of needs. To feel invested in the system, people need to feel they can get ahead and have a better life. Right now, many feel left out and they're very angry. And very angry people go towards Fascist politics, right? They would reject somebody that's moderate or centrist, they like the Steve Bannons and the Donald Trumps because they're fueling anger. They want to put a boot stamp on somebody's forehead. And we're allowing that.
So with Joe Biden or anybody else, I'd say you have to solve this problem. This isn't a left or right thing. This is about right or wrong. And the first thing we have to do is empower these people and make them feel like they can contribute to society and restore their faith that their children can do better than them.
RBG: I'm sure you get asked a lot about the future of the Republican party. Will it remain Trump's tool? He is trying to keep any rival from emerging. I found it interesting that Mike Pence is floating the idea of presidential run. Do you see anybody else who could be a contender?
AS: The short answer is no. And the longer answer is Trump is a conniving guy and he would do anything to kill the young people that are in the nest. He would eat the young of the Republican party to perpetuate himself. I guess the good thing that we have going for ourselves right now is he's 75. He's in declining health. I'm not in the dementia camp with Donald Trump. I just see him as a 75-year-old that hasn't taken good care of himself. So he's going to be 78 on his way to 80. And I think it's going to be very hard for him to pull off.
I'm most worried about the guys like Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Ron DeathSantis [sic], who have decided they're smarter than Trump and are certainly younger than Trump and can implement the playbook of the tyranny of the minority. The Republicans have totally put that on steroids. They have lost every popular vote in a presidential election since 1988, except for 2004, and yet you've got them sitting with six Supreme Court justices. They've also done a very good job of the process of gerrymandering.
Trump only lost by 40,000 votes. The Republicans figure they can race bait and get more of these people out of the woodwork and increase white voter participation. And even if they lose the popular vote, they think they can win the Electoral College. I don't think people realize how close the election was last time.
RBG: That's a good point. So, are we prepared to beat back this challenge?
AS: We need an American renewal. We need to re-establish our civic virtue, and to pull ourselves back together. That could mean mandatory voting. Of course, the Republicans would reject that. It could be mandatory public service, but whatever it is we've got to pull together and we have to ignite people's passions about democracy. If we don't do that, we're going to be in a lot of trouble, unfortunately. It's sad to say, but that's the truth.