Editor’s note: Our own Jake Gambino was invited to coffee with Paul Nehlen, a Trump supporting GOP challenger to Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin. Nehlen lost in 2016, but far from going away, he’s building on his efforts for 2018. What follows below is purely Jake’s personal opinion. The Federalist Party has not issued any statement, in support of or opposition to, Nehlen’s candidacy. NOQReport stands by Jake’s reporting.
Early yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to get coffee with Paul Nehlen. For those who aren’t following the Wisconsin primaries, Paul Nehlen is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District for the second time. In the 2016 primary, Nehlen didn’t do so well, to put it lightly. He lost by upwards of 60 points. The fact he is coming back for a second round says something.
Funnily enough, he reached out to me for coffee after I said he came off as a prick. Prior to this, I had never personally spoken with him.
@pnehlen is a Trump meme running for Congress.
Ryan is beatable, but this guy isn't going to do it.
He comes off as a prick.
— Jake Gambino (@JakeGambino1) September 15, 2017
He could have read my comment, taken offense, and blocked me. He could have also read it and went on offense to criticize me. Instead, he read it and asked about it. That is impressive in today’s political climate. Too many of us assume that anyone who voices criticism must be a blind partisan or ideologue (some are).
As we were setting up the meeting, I wanted to emphasize that I specifically said he “comes off as.” Without knowing someone, I can’t say for sure what kind of person they are. I can only speak to their public presentation.
He basically told me not to worry about it and then made an emphasis of his own:
“I’m a nice guy who cares deeply about this country. If that comes off as harsh, I need to work on it. I’ll never back down to criticism of defending American citizens, so that is startling to some.”
The only thing that startled me was the fact that he didn’t plaster this statement to everything around him. Instead, the message I got from his social media was “#MAGA #NoDACA #DrainTheSwamp #TrumpTrain.” This is a winning strategy when it is a field of 17 candidates, and also a winning message against the greatest D.C. swamp monster that ever ran, Hillary Clinton.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a winning message in a Wisconsin GOP primary. What I quoted above, however, is a winning message as long as he sticks to it and can communicate it to the voters in his district.
At our meeting, Nehlen was adamant about national reciprocity for CCW, his opposition to TPP, and his opposition to DACA. Although specific policies weren’t the focal point of our discussion, those three were often referenced. His website lists that information.
What impressed me about Nehlen was how receptive he was to criticism. I’m not someone to bite my tongue when I see something I don’t agree with. Throughout the entire discussion, I never felt like I needed to hold back. He agreed on some of my points and challenged me when he thought I was wrong.
Our discussion was very casual, but he left a great impression. He was polite, enthusiastic, and I have zero doubt that he is in it for the right reasons, even if we disagree about the best way to get there.
If a time comes where I must eat all the words I just wrote, I will. But until that time, I think he is a good candidate and someone I could support as an individual. What I cannot support is an establishment that doesn’t give someone a fair shake with the voters.
In the time between setting up the meeting and having the meeting, Nehlen shared a letter he received from a GOP event in his district.
While the letter is written to Nehlen, it represents a problem far bigger than one primary. It represents everything wrong with establishment politics and, to borrow a phrase from Ted Cruz, the two-party cartel.
Our nation’s government is reliant on open discourse, public debate, and We the People choosing who will represent us. This requires being able to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable to their promises.
We have far too many D.C. politicians who care more about getting elected than keeping the promises they made or defending their positions. This seems to have become the rule rather than the exception.
If an idea or policy won’t stand up against dissent, then it isn’t an idea with a strong foundation. And when discussions are avoided, We the People can’t see how either of the candidates’ ideas stand up to a challenge. This is the real tragedy and why I am a Federalist.
The Federalist Party is doing their absolute best to hear ideas from everyone involved with it. It is very much a grassroots party of people who are #FedUp with the status quo. We are sick of political prescriptions from high. The Federalist Party is grounded to life, federalism, and the Constitution.
The Republican and Democratic Parties should take note. They need to encourage discourse among the ranks and quit playing favorites. Let the people see the candidates, get the information they need, and make their own decisions. These organizations should support We the People and our decisions, not the candidate they prescribe.
Watch the Periscope session here: