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Conservative Radio Host Says It's Hard To Wipe Trump's Slate Clean


Charlie Sykes is a conservative talk show host on the radio. He's based in Wisconsin. He has a huge following, which made it significant when he came out forcefully against Donald Trump. He actually became a leading voice in the Never Trump movement. We have met Sykes on the program, and we caught up with him after the election to see how he's feeling.

CHARLIE SYKES: The loneliest person in America is the anti-Trump Republican today. Because we - we're out here in the wilderness.

GREENE: Sykes feels out of touch with his party as it cautiously embraces Donald Trump. He would have preferred a candidate more in the mold of another political outsider, Ronald Reagan. Now, Trump and Reagan did attract similar voters. Many Trump voters Tuesday might have even been called Reagan Democrats in the 1980s. But Charlie Sykes says those were two candidates who are very different.

SYKES: Ronald Reagan believed in America as the shining city on the hill - Morning in America. But Donald Trump has a much different vision of American greatness, of nationalism, a much darker view, I think, of the world. Look, I think he's going to be able to accomplish a lot with a Republican Congress. I think that he's going to be able to move quickly on a number of things, the Supreme Court, executive orders, possibly, you know, some tax reform.

GREENE: So this is stuff you like?

SYKES: These would be things that I certainly hope that I like them when we see them. You know, I will support him when he's right. And I'll criticize him and hold him accountable when he's wrong. But this whole notion that somehow you can wipe the slate clean, I think, is incredibly naive. Donald Trump is a 70-year-old man who has said and done a lot of things, and none of that's going to change. You know, I think President Obama said this the other day - the presidency doesn't change who you are. It magnifies who you are.

So going forward, all of these ideas that I actually like are going to be toxified, you know, inextricably linked with Donald Trump. And who knows what he is going to say and what he's going to do or where his policies are going to lead us?

GREENE: So what do you do if you're a person in your position, part of the so-called Never Trump movement, now that he is going to be president? This is your party. You like some of the policies you've heard. You don't necessarily like the man who you expect to be trying to implement them. So what do you do?

SYKES: Well, this is a situation I was hoping I was never going to find myself in. And I think that what we have to do - and I hope this happens - is that there remains a principled, independent, conservative opposition willing to stand up and say, OK, you've gone too far; you've broken this promise? Or this is not who we are; this does not represent who we are.

And again, there's this long-term demographic problem. Donald Trump has managed to arouse, you know, white, working-class voters who have, I think, legitimate grievances and who have been ignored and have been forgotten. And he was able to put together a majority. But the reality is that, going forward, the Republican Party cannot alienate women, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Asian-Americans and hope to remain a significant viable national party. So they...

GREENE: But it's interesting you bring up minorities because I was struck by some of the exit polling. I mean, it appears that Donald Trump got more Latino support than many people expected. So there was all this talk four years ago of the Republican Party needing an autopsy report to see how they can better reach out to minority communities. Didn't Donald Trump actually do that, in a way?

SYKES: Yes, but only in a small way. Look, the reason why the Republican Party had an autopsy four years ago was they lost. So Donald Trump may have moved the needle just slightly. But still, you know, the long-term pattern is - it's not favorable. I don't want to concede the message of inclusion to the left.

GREENE: May I ask who you voted for in the end?

SYKES: Oh, yeah. No, I made no secret of it. I - in the end, I wrote in Evan McMullin who was the independent conservative.

GREENE: He's the Mormon candidate from Utah who got a lot of support in his home state.

SYKES: He did, and it was a protest candidate. Look, I wanted to vote for a principled conservative. And since the Republican Party did not give me that opportunity, I chose to go with the write-in.

GREENE: Do you think Donald Trump could win you over enough that you might vote for him in four years if he runs again?

SYKES: Well, four years is a lifetime. He's going to have to change a lot of things about himself and about his inner circle and about his style that I'm extremely skeptical that he's going to be able or willing to do.

GREENE: Charlie Sykes, always a pleasure. Thanks so much for talking to us.

SYKES: Hey, my pleasure, too.

GREENE: He is a conservative talk radio host in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.