Chuck DeVore, Lincoln Fellow 2004
What is your current position?
Vice President of National Initiatives for the Texas Public Policy Foundation. With some 80 employees, we’re akin to the Heritage Foundation of Texas.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
Bolstering freedom in Texas, the largest state amenable to liberty, was an attractive prospect. If Texas heads down California’s path, prospects for the American experiment will be considerably dimmed. Of course, being termed-out of the Assembly, beaten by Carly Fiorina in the 2010 Senate primary, seeing the aerospace industry (my old employer) leave California en masse, and then have the responsibility of caring for aged in-laws conspired to drive me out of California. The upshot being, as a conservative and former California lawmaker, I’m just thankful to have a job!
What are you currently working on?
I’m responsible for some 18 people who work on conservative criminal justice reform all around the nation. We apply proven policies to improve public safety—policies that, if implemented correctly, result in reduced crime and frequently reduced incarceration and reduced taxpayer expenditures. When I started on the project in 2012, we had three staffers. I also do research and writing on poverty, taxes and regulations as well as the occasional defense and foreign policy perspective. This often results in an invitation to appear on Fox News or radio.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
My earliest recollections of the Claremont Institute predate the Internet and commercial email, so it is lost in the mists of time I’m afraid. I likely first heard of the Claremont Institute outside of Harry Jaffa’s office on campus at Claremont McKenna College.
What is your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
Being laid off at the Claremont Institute by Larry Arnn himself in 1990 as I went off to active duty in the Army to support the first Gulf War. Unfortunately, California was suffering one of its economic slowdowns at the time and the Institute’s budget was tight. This apparent setback led to my highly remunerative career in aerospace consulting which led to my winning elective office in 2004 which led to my crushing defeat in the 2010 U.S. Senate race which led to… working in a think tank in Texas. Come to think of it, had Larry kept me on, I could have saved about 22 years of milling about aimlessly doing non-think tank work.
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?
The seriousness of the topic and the effort it takes to prepare properly. The read ahead box for the Lincoln Fellowship was at least a foot tall. It took longer to read it than the time spent on the eight-day course. I completed the fellowship just after winning the Republican primary for the California State Assembly in 2004. Sadly, it meant that I was much more aware as to how far astray from the principles of the Founding California governance had become. Come to think of it, I would have enjoyed my six years in the legislature far more if I had remained ignorant.
If you could have a drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?
It depends on who was paying—most of the Founders could drink me under the table.
Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?
As much as I admire George Washington, there were probably a few other generals who could manage to lose almost every battle and still win the war. Of course, Washington’s rejection of the offer of becoming a monarch and his example in office as the first chief executive are vitally important. That said, the resolution of the question of slavery and bringing the practice of American government in line with its promise as set forth in the Declaration’s Preamble was a more difficult task. In that regard, Washington created an America with promise while Lincoln aligned America with that promise.
In which one of the original 13 colonies, looking back on history, would you have wanted to live and why?
Georgia, because it is too cold in what was then the four eastern-most counties in New York where Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys lived. Were it not for the cold, imagine the scene in a Burlington pub where the militia commander who had demanded surrender of the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga by variously bellowing, “In the name of the great Jehovah, and the Continental Congress!” or “Come out of there you sons of British whores, or I’ll smoke you out!” was holding forth. It would be at least as entertaining as listening to the collected speeches of the 37th Mayor of Burlington.
What would the artifact be, if you could hold one piece of history from the early founding of our country and why?
One of the four-pounder cannons dragged overland from Fort Ticonderoga by Colonel Henry Knox during the winter of 1775-76 to the siege at Boston. Why? Because every home needs a serious self-defense weapon and, at 637 lbs, if I could hold it, I’d be really buff.
What is the most distinctive attribute/character of the people in Texas you genuinely admire?
Texas chauvinism. Texas was a functioning republic for almost ten years (California was a republic for three weeks and never had a functioning government—meaning it had a head start on its present form of government) and has its own pledge of allegiance, said immediately after the pledge to the flag of the United States of America. How great is that?! Also, delicious Texas barbecue and the strong opinions it generates among Texans.
What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
Maintaining national strength and resolve to see through the growing threat from China.
What books are you currently reading?
Just finished Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order by Steven Mosher, formerly Director of the Claremont Institute’s Asian Study Center and The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia by Ian Easton.
What book has left a lasting impression with you and why?
Harry Jaffa’s Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War because the books lay bare just how difficult and important it is to get the underlying principles of government correct. These books would instill a large degree of solemn modesty in elected officials—if they took the time to understand them.
Do you have a favorite quote? If so, do you mind sharing?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one, but, other than “Nuts” (BG Anthony McAuliffe, the acting commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II in response to the German demand for surrender), I’ve always been fond of Churchill’s “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.”