Tim Chapman

2015 Lincoln Fellow

What is your current position?

Executive Director, Heritage Action for America

What inspired you to choose this career path?

I grew up in a family that was mission oriented. My Father is an Anglican Priest and my mother was always engaged with the mission of the various churches in which he served. I remember always being aware that your values had an impact not only on your own life and of those close to you, but on the community and the broader culture. I was fascinated with this dynamic and came to see politics as a means to have this conversation writ large. 

What are you currently working on?

The 2016 election gave the conservative movement an idea of what a future conservative governing coalition could be. As a candidate Donald Trump put states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the Republican column. He did this by appealing to working class voters who previously voted Democratic. It was a coalition of working class voters, grassroots conservatives and suburban Republicans that won the day. We recognize that those voters are on rent and could very easily leave the coalition in 2020 and beyond. To keep them in the fold we are working on putting together a conservative policy agenda that addresses issues central to the working class and then driving legislative strategies, public persuasion campaigns and grassroots tactics at those issues in an effort to win the argument in 2020.

How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?

I had many friends who participated as Lincoln Fellows and loved their experience. 

What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?

A couple years ago I attended an alumni program in Williamsburg. As much as I enjoyed my fellowship experience I enjoyed the alumni weekend even more because it was packed with alumni from many years. Not only was it a great chance to meet people, but it was a chance to reconnect with friends who had attended different programs that I had not even realized were part of the network. 

There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?

Claremont is very good at making philosophy relevant to politics. The Claremont Institute’s Fellowship programs are perhaps the most relevant and current of any available right now. I think that speaks to Claremont’s unique perspective on American politics. When you attend a Claremont fellowship you will come out with a better understanding of overarching principles and timeless truths but perhaps more importantly with an ability to connect them to current debates.

If you could have a fireside chat and drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, what would you order, and what would you discuss?

G.K. Chesterton. I’d want to ask him what he thinks of our era of woke corporatism, open borders globalization and radical individualism. He’d have a lot to say on that. I’d order exactly what he orders!

Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?

That’s hard because in a sense they were both Founding Presidents. Washington was our first President and his leadership helped forge a great nation. Lincoln presided over what could have been the end of the United States but his leadership helped refound the nation. If pressed I would say Washington because he set the mold. The man could have been King or he could have stayed in office till he died. Instead he served two terms and set the example of what a President should be.

What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?

Jefferson’s pen…because how cool would that be!

In which one of the original 13 colonies, looking back on history, would you have wanted to live and why?

Definitely Virginia. Life was miserable up north. It also produced some of my favorites in Washington and Jefferson and it is a beautiful place. 

What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?

We have no civic solidarity. There is no common sense of the values that unite us. We intuit as Americans that this is a problem – in no small part this is what helped Trump win in 2016. He proffered an unapologetic defense of America as a great nation and rejected the modern trends in globalization that tend to downplay the importance of nations in favor of global commerce. As impressive as Trump’s victory was, it was not, to my mind, a comprehensive and well thought out attempt to recover civic solidarity. This is a project of decades not election cycles. I think it imperative that the conservative movement take this as seriously as any other issue facing us. 

What are the qualities that make a great statesman in the 21st Century?

Courage, humility and integrity. You need courage because modern politics is a minefield and the left has demonstrated that they will adopt the politics of personal destruction in an attempt to silence dissent. We need humility in recognition of the inherent limit to the scope and reach of politics and government. We need integrity because character really does matter and we need leaders who can set an example for our fellow citizens to admire and strive for. 

What would the subject be, if you were to write an op-ed on one pertinent topic and why?

There has been plenty of ink spilled already over the plight of the working class but I think there needs to be some concrete proposals about specific policy solutions that conservatives can embrace combined with strategies to implement them. Certainly many such proposals are out there, but I think we have a ways to go before we are presented with an agenda that is more comprehensive. I’d like to be able to help put that together. 

What books are you currently reading?

The Masters, by Curt Sampson. I don’t know how he did it, but Sampson got so many people involved with the most elite and secretive golf club in the world to spill the beans. The book is not just a history of Augusta National and the Masters Golf tournament, but it is also a history of the post-civil war tension between the north and south, of political power and golf (Eisenhower was a member and so much of his campaign money came from the club), of a brilliant but tragic southern gentleman named Bobby Jones and a ruthless visionary Cliff Roberts who led the club like a dictator but is largely responsible for so much of its success. 

What book has left a lasting impression with you and why?

Orthodoxy, by Chesterton, will forever be my favorite. He describes the draw of mystery, beauty and wonder and how, believe it or not, those things can be found in a rigorous religious system. 

What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in the state where you grew up that you genuinely admire?

I grew up all over the place but was blessed to have so many people around me who shared a common trait – devotion. I most admire genuine devotion to faith, applied over years and years and years. Over time this grooves a pattern in a soul and it creates a genuinely good person.

If you had spare time in your busy day, what would you do to relax?

Play 18 holes of golf. Then play 18 more. 

Do you have a favorite quote?  Is there a reason this quote resonates so strongly with you?

I love this quote from Chesterton because it helps us to put in context the many struggles we are having today:

“The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.”