In this week’s installment of our interview series with prominent political voices, we asked Bethany Mandel of The Federalist to answer a few questions. The reader may recognize some of the questions from our previous interviews. At the end of this series, we’ll be exploring the variety of answers when compared to one another.
Mrs. Mandel is a stay-at-home mother of three children under four and a writer on politics and culture. She is a senior contributor to The Federalist, a columnist for the Jewish Daily Forward, and a contributor at Acculturated. Previously she was a fifth grade teacher in rural Cambodia, an online fundraiser for the Heritage Foundation, and the social media manager (and sometimes blogger) at Commentary Magazine. She lives with her husband, Seth, in New Jersey. You can follow her on Twitter @BethanyShondark.
- Although it has nothing to do with politics, the story of your son’s birth is pretty incredible. Congratulations! Is your son doing well? Any advice for expecting parents who may find themselves in a similar predicament?
- He’s doing really well! We were rewarded after a horrible pregnancy and a crazy birth with the easiest, sweetest baby yet. We’ve been really blessed and are remarkably well-rested for the parents of three kids under four, including a newborn.
- OK, now on to politics. As a writer for the Federalist, and a former employee at the Heritage Foundation, what is your current impression of the state of the conservative movement?
- The state of the conservative movement isn’t good. A lot of folks have sold their souls for a chance at staying in the good graces of the guy in charge, and while I understand rallying to his side because he’s actually taking on media bias, in the long-run, it won’t reflect well on us. I’m a social conservative as well as a fiscal one and foreign policy hawk; and the President doesn’t align with my beliefs in any of those realms.
- Although many of us are conservatives and libertarians by nature, our members generally speak of ourselves as federalists. I’ve come across a lot of people who really don’t understand what federalism is, and how important it is to our system of government. How can this be remedied?
- I have never put much thought into federalism. I’m not into political philosophy in this way; count me among the majority of Americans I suppose.
- You spent some time in Cambodia. How did that experience affect your personal political philosophy?
- Cambodia was a life-changing experience, though outside of driving home for me the absolute evil that is Communism, hasn’t shaped much more of what believe today.
- Along those same lines, how would you explain the importance of protecting civil liberties to someone who has never left the United States?
- What disturbed me most about the populist messages of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump was the America-bashing; they made it seem as though people were dying in the streets for lack of health care or that airports were crumbling in ruin. I’ve lived in Third World countries, and I’ve seen actual people die in the streets and actual crumbling airports. We’re blessed to live in the United States and I wish we had a candidate make that case forcefully and often.
- We often talk about the federal government being too expansive in power, and traditionally, the Republican Party has been responsible for pushback on growth. Has that changed? If so, who takes up the flag for limited government?
- With control of Congress and the White House it would be nice to see Republicans working towards reducing the size of government. I haven’t seen that happen; perhaps I just haven’t paying close enough attention. The problem is this: once a party is powerful enough to rein in the size of government, they want to enjoy the perks of power instead.
- Many of us are Everyday Americans, individuals with full time jobs and families. None of us are politicians or political operatives. Do you have any advice for citizens who want to make a difference but don’t have the connections to run for office?
- I feel the same frustration, though I have a bigger reach with my ideas and words. I think it’s important to focus on a few issues and make a point to make some change. I have a girlfriend who is passionate about foster care, so in addition to being a foster parent, writes articles and letters to the editor. She has contacted lawmakers to try to pass specific laws making fostering easier and more appealing to families. She is making more change than anyone I know, and it’s because she’s driven and singularly focused on an issue few others are.
- Who is your favorite founding father and why?
- John Adams because I’m a sucker for good love stories. The way John and Abigail worked together in a mutually supportive and loving manner is something every couple should aspire to. They made each other better. One of the many times I realized I wanted to marry my husband Seth was when he gave me a copy of a book of their letters while we were dating.
- How did you get involved in politics in the first place?
- I’m not even sure. I’ve always been interested in politics, though I was a liberal during my childhood because my mother was. I remember signing up for phone banks for the Al Gore campaign, and had his bumper stickers all over my locker and school planner. I recall playing hooky from school one day to watch a particularly riveting day on CSPAN.
- Which current member of the House of Representatives would be most likely to cane a colleague on the floor of the senate?
- Eleanor Holmes Norton. She’s got nothing to lose. She’s not even a real Representative.
We offer our sincerest thanks again to Bethany. She was one of the first interview candidates that we reached out to, and she graciously accepted without hesitation. We look forward to further interactions as we grow and spread the message of federalism!