Davos 2024: Remarks by Kevin Roberts, President of the Heritage Foundation (Transcript)

Moderator: If a Trump administration comes in, what kinds of people do you think might be the kinds of people that they would bring in?

Roberts: The kind of person who will come into the next conservative administration is going to be governed by one principle: Destroying the grasp that political elites and unelected technocrats have over the average person.

The agenda that every single member of the administration needs to have is, compile a list of everything that’s ever been proposed at the World Economic Forum and object to all of them, wholesale. Anyone not prepared to do that and take away the power of the unelected bureaucrats and give it back to the American people is unprepared to be part of the next conservative administration.

Moderator: What would a new President Trump mean by retribution? You said yourself that anyone who is not “with the program” is not going to be in an administration. One thing that Davos, you might say, and people come here to stand up for is liberal democracy. So, if the idea of that will be swept under the table is part of the idea—hopefully that’s not what he means—what do you think he means by retribution?

Roberts: It’s laughable that you would—or anyone would—describe Davos as protecting liberal democracy. It’s equally laughable to use the word “dictatorship” at Davos and aim that at President Trump. In fact, I think that’s absurd, but I’m going to step aside from that constructive criticism and instead answer your question—and I’m going to be substantive here.  President Trump, if he’s the next president–for that matter, I think whoever the next conservative president is—is going to take on the power of the elites, which I mentioned earlier. But the thing that I want to drive home here, the very reason that I’m here at Davos, is to explain to many people in this room and who are watching, with all due respect, nothing personal, but that you’re part of the problem.

Political elites tell the average people on three or four or five issues that the reality is X when in fact reality is Y. Take immigration: elites tell us that open borders and even illegal immigration are okay. The average person tells us in the United States that both rob them of the American way of life. They’re right. President Trump will take that on, on behalf of the average American.

Elites also tell us that public safety isn’t a problem in big American cities. Just travel to New York, or Washington, or Dallas, Texas. The average person will tell you that the lack of public safety damages not just the American way of life, but their life. President Trump will take that on.

Thirdly, I guess the favorite at the World Economic Forum, is climate change. Elites tell us that we have this existential crisis with so-called climate change. So much so that climate alarmism is probably the greatest cause for mental health crisis in the world.  The solutions, the average person knows, are far worse and more harmful, and cost more human lives, especially in Europe during the time that you need heating, than the problems themselves.

Fourth, China—the number one adversary not just to the United States, but to free people on planet Earth. Not only do we at Davos not say that, but we even give the Chinese Communist Party a platform. Count on President Trump ending that nonsense.

And fifth, as we sit here, another supranational organization, The World Health Organization, is discussing foisting gender ideology upon the Global South. These are practices that are under review, if not being rejected, by countries in Northern Europe.  The new president, especially if it’s President Trump, will, as you like to say, “trust the science.” He will understand the basic biological reality of manhood and womanhood. And do you know why?  Not because of retribution, not because he’s a dictator, but because he has the power of the American people behind him.

And in addition to needing a vigorous executive, we look forward to having the popular will inform both the House and Senate in 2025 to pass laws on all of those issues and many others.

Ultimately, I think President Trump, if in fact he wins a second term, is going to be inspired by the wise words of Javier Milei, who said that he was in power “not to guide sheep, but to awaken lions.” That’s what the average American and the average free person on planet Earth wants out of leaders.

Moderator: What do you take on the foreign policy agenda on Ukraine? What’s your view of this? And China, which you mentioned it in your list, but if you have it in the list, and let me just say one thing that WEF stands up for very strongly is Ukraine and its right to exist and defend itself. So, if that’s something you think also needs to be swept away, let us know, yeah? But on China as well, what would be done differently, if you see what I’m saying? Ukraine and China.

Roberts: Let me just correct the slight assertion you made there. We want Ukraine to win. We want to see Ukraine win with a lot more help from European allies. I think the United States has a role.

Heritage has been clear about this for two years now. There is a world in which we support military aid for Ukraine. I think the entire American Right would, or almost all of them, provided it’s 100% focused on military aid. If there is real transparency in how the funds are used. And it’s just a fact, this is not conveyed pejoratively, if you look at our Index of Economic Freedom at Heritage, Ukraine is in the bottom 10 on government transparency. We don’t celebrate that. We wish that were different. But the transparency concern, which the political Right has voiced from the beginning, is real. Third, it actually needs to have a strategic end game.

Moderator: So, day one of the Trump presidency, what does he do? What are the first two or three actions that he does?

Roberts: As soon as what I hope is a very brief inaugural address concludes, and brief not because what would be in it would be unwise, quite the opposite, but because our country is on fire.

First, there needs to be Schedule F civil service reform so that the president can fire a good number of the unelected bureaucrats in the administrative state. The administrative state is the greatest threat to democracy in the United States, and we need to end it.

Second, he needs to really confront all of the policies surrounding so-called climate change. We’ve had a great discussion here by Walter and Allison, who are excellent on that point, about focusing on fiscal policies that have nothing to do with wrong-headed and really harmful subsidies of wind and solar.

We love wind and solar energy at Heritage, we just want them to stand on their own in the free market. And because that affects human prosperity, more than a billion people in the world have been lifted out of poverty in the last 35 years because of fossil fuels. The president is going to take that on.

Third, and this would be a bit of a departure from [Trump’s] last administration, when he spent too much money, is really be focused on fiscal restraint. Because we simply can’t afford it. It’s something that transcends the political Left and the political Right. And I can certainly tell you from the standpoint of Heritage and all of us at Project 2025 will be zealously supportive of all three of those actions.


Photo by Gage Skidmore, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

First published at Heritage.org.