Governor John Hickenlooper in Iowa to campaign was the perfect excuse to get some air time with him in the WHO Radio studios. We discussed breaking up big companies, socialism, and abortion among other things. This interview is a great example of two people with different opinions holding their ground, but mutually respecting each other.
Great communications strategies start with open and honest dialogue, respecting everyone’s opinion, and most importantly not misrepresenting each other or labeling each other. Although I don’t agree with the Governor, I left the interview with a greater opinion of him. I believe mutual respect is a major missing component in our corporate and government communications efforts.
Governor John Hickenlooper Interview
Full Transcript: Governor Hickenlooper with Justin Brady
Brady: It is the Justin Brady show. Thank you so much for joining me, everybody. I appreciate you being here. I’m not going to draw this out any longer than it needs to be. I welcome, today, in studio, Governor John Hickenlooper who is running for president. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
Hickenlooper: Hey Justin, thanks for having me on.
Brady: So, before we get into anything more serious, let’s talk about something a little interesting. You have, I don’t know if most people know this, but you have a very fascinating and close Iowa connection.
Hickenlooper: Oh sure, Hickenlooper started the family, my great grandfather, Andrew Hickenlooper was a third-youngest general in Civil War, just my great grandfather. And his father was brothers with the father of one of the great Iowans in history, Bourke Blakemore Hickenlooper. Bourke Hickenlooper was the lieutenant governor, governor, and then for 24 years until 1970, was U.S. Senator from Iowa, so at least I have an advantage of name recognition with people that are over 60.
Brady: Yeah, exactly. So, I wanted to address that right away because that’s kind of an interesting connection I am sure nobody is really aware of, but Colorado, this is one interesting thing you talked about in the debates, the democrat debates. Colorado is a purple state like Iowa, Iowa is very much a purple state, and so, throughout your career, you’ve, based on what I gather you seem to be a middle of the road kind of guy, you try to approach things very objectively which I appreciate.
Brady: One quote stuck out to me, “You don’t need big government to do big things.” And I really really like that quote, but I want to, again like the debates, it was a really bizarre moment at the California Democrat State Convention, you were booed for, “We shouldn’t guarantee”… you can correct me if I’m wrong, but basically you were booed for, “We shouldn’t guarantee every American a government job, socialism isn’t the answer, and we shouldn’t eliminate private insurance.” So, here’s my fear. Words like “corporation” and “billionaire”, and everybody I’m using air quotes, Governor Hickenlooper here can see that. These words are kind of becoming curse words from a lot of your opponents. They use them as curse words so, is your party, and is the country at risk for demonizing hard work and business? Is there kind of an anti-business, anti-success movement welling up deep within the democrat party some places?
Hickenlooper: Well, the democratic party has always been a bit tense so, there are all kinds of different currents. And you’re absolutely right, I don’t think it matters how big or small government is. People should want good government and when I was mayor of Denver, I was mayor for 8 years, and we turned our economy around, we got all the regional mayors to work together, we got all 34 mayors to build one of the most ambitious transit initiatives in the history of the country, we were able to get universal Pre-K, we did major police reform, and at the end of those 8 years there were 7% fewer employees for the city of Denver.
Hickenlooper: Now, I didn’t fire anybody, we had two big recessions though, and I told city employees, if they could find a way to cover their job and people retired to make sure that everything got done better than it was before, then I would share those savings with them. So, we really did transform the way city workers thought about their jobs and the police union, firefighters union, they all became my allies, trying to make sure that we made better government. It didn’t have to be bigger, didn’t have to be smaller, but we wanted better government.
Brady: Do you think a part of this is that people don’t even know what socialism is? Now, in those debates they talked about… now, there’s only one person on stage that identifies as a socialist, but a lot of the policies I’m hearing people bring up are very much socialist so, when they think they’re a socialist, do people even know what this means?
John Hickenlooper in Iowa interview continues below…
Hickenlooper: Well, some of the younger people didn’t grow up in the Cold War and they didn’t see with the same clarity that those of us see who did grow up in the cold war. They don’t see some of the risk that having large expansions of government does, and often times hurts people at the bottom of the pecking order, the people that are really trying to grab the bottom of the economic ladder and pull themselves up. They end up having less opportunity. I don’t deny that capitalism needs to be fixed. Since 1981 till today, that’s almost 30 years or almost 40 years, if you adjust for inflation, half our population has not seen any increase in compensation. That’s not America.
Hickenlooper: If you go back to the end of World War Two, 1946 to 1980, every man, woman, and child in this country doubled their income, adjust it for inflation. So, we need to go make sure there’s more competition in our economy. We let all these mergers, just bigger and bigger companies, that’s not helping the people, it’s certainly not helping workers. And we also have allowed there to be one after another, a compromise so that… well the middle class has just been getting smaller for almost 40 years.
Brady: But would you cap growth for bigger companies? I know some competitors have said, “I want to break up big tech companies.” Is that appropriate? Is that the role of government?
Hickenlooper: We have a very complex system, we have a good system for defining, “What is a monopoly? What does it look like? How do we measure that?” And that’s when you break up big companies, but I think when you got two pretty large companies and they want to merge, those mergers, they always have a team called the value capture team, and those are the people who decide who gets laid off. You’ve got two marketing teams, you’ve got two accounting teams, you’ve got two government relation teams, and you only need one. So, when they merge these big companies there’s basically a huge number of jobs that are lost, and what you do is you create a bohemoth, a much larger company.
Hickenlooper: You look at almost every industry now, and this dates back to almost 1981 when the Clayton Antitrust Act was amended so it would only measure consumer prices. If there was a merger, would prices for the consumer go up or down? Before that, they measured consumer prices and whether there was enough competition, but they stopped measuring competition in 1981, originally just for a couple years. They’ve never addressed it again, they don’t collect the data, now you look at something like a hardware store. You’re a young entrepreneur, maybe you want to start a business and 80% of the hardware sales in America are from two companies. And it’s like that in almost every company. You know for the last 20-some years we’ve had less new businesses started every year than we’ve had the year before. That has never been the case in America and I think part of its competition. There are too many massive companies, it makes a would be entrepreneur think twice about starting that business.
Brady: You know, one of the things I’ve heard a lot said is that… I think Elizabeth Warren said this, “Investors are leery of investing in companies that have an Amazon type model.” I don’t want to completely misphrase her, but investors are leery of investing in models like that because Amazon’s too big and I’d push back on that saying, “It’s not because Amazon’s too big, it’s just because that’s not a creative idea. It’s not a new idea. And whenever you have the same idea, investors shouldn’t invest in that anyway, right?”
Hickenlooper: Right, you’ve got to have some source of innovation, but I think it’s fair to say when you have these massive companies, it’s hard for companies to go up against them. I think Amazon, we should look very carefully at just what is Amazon. When they are advertising if you’re making widgets into [inaudible 00:07:49] and you want to start exporting them to other states and you go onto Amazon and you negotiate a deal and they’re selling your widgets. Well, other people are selling a different kind of widget, but sort of the same widget, but they’re selling a different widget in a different way than you’re selling it, some of them do better than you, some of them do worse. Amazon gets to see the sales of every widget seller, they get to see exactly what their margins are, they get to know everything about those companies, and then they decide who to buy. I think that is a monopolistic advantage.
Brady: But those sellers…
Hickenlooper: And it decreases competition, it allows Amazon to have the best in the market, and even then Amazon has still seen what all the competitors are doing.
Brady: Right, but those sellers can opt-out into Amazon, right? They don’t need to do business on Amazon.
Hickenlooper: You’re right, but Amazon has got a monopoly. If you want to sell widgets in the United States online, you’ve got to be on Amazon, there’s no other choice.
Brady: So, allow me to push back on that a little bit, and this is obviously anecdotic because we’re in studio, but my sunglasses right here are Warby Parker. You can’t get those on Amazon. My shoes are Allbirds, can’t get those on Amazon. Allbirds, I don’t have the data with me, was just evaluated being a giant company. I have the inner belief that Amazon… you’re probably not going to beat Amazon at their own game, but Amazon, if they don’t treat customers well, will die a death of a thousand paper cuts by all these direct to consumer companies taking over. I don’t think they need Amazon.
Hickenlooper: There are some exceptions where you’re right. I think Allbirds, they’re a couple guys in New Zealand that have a different idea for what a shoe could be.
Hickenlooper: And they go direct to consumers and they do it with a spirit that’s very powerful, but they’re the exception. If you want to look up shoe sales and see how many companies have gone direct consumer, you’re going to be under a half a percent. If you want to go look at sunglasses and see how many companies have gone direct to consumer, I’ll bet you’re under a tenth of a percent. So, you can find examples, but basically scale matters, especially when you’re talking digital.
Hickenlooper: When you’re talking online. I’m not saying we have to break up Amazon, but I think we should be considering whether we allow them to buy all these companies and have this unfair competitive advantage. Let them choose who they want to sell, whatever. Let those companies do what they can, but why should, Amazon, should we allow them to merge with these other companies when clearly we know it’s got to hurt competition. Competition has made capitalism work. Without competition it becomes an oligarchy, it becomes monopolies.
Brady: Right. So, I appreciate that. I don’t know if I’m going to see you eye to eye completely on it, but I do appreciate that perspective. [crosstalk 00:10:30]
Hickenlooper: Wait, wait.
Brady: Yeah, yeah, go ahead.
Hickenlooper: I’m the entrepreneur, I’m the one that started businesses. I know what it’s like to risk everything you own, put it out there, and work 70, 80 hours a week and it does take a gut risk.
Brady: Yeah, yeah.
Hickenlooper: We were at Winterset today, we went to the farmers market and I talked to these small, two and three-person, you know. One was a bakery and they’re making baked goods in their home. Each one of these were small businesses really trying to get a foothold. They roast their own tea and their own coffee out in their farm. These are great, we should encourage them, but if we allow everybody to just get these massive companies, it makes it harder and harder for the small guys to even have the courage to start, to take the risk.
Brady: No, I understand that. One of the thing I also want to talk to you about, and this comes up every election cycle, there’s zero way to avoid it seems, but I think the country’s at a turning point, I don’t know what that turning point is, mind you. But you stated, your administration, and this is to be applauded to be honest, “reduced teen pregnancy by 54%, reduced abortion by 64%.”
Brady: Obviously these are good things and you should brag about them, but taking the country’s temperature, New York is passing almost no restrictions, Georgia and Iowa, Iowa at least temporarily, passed a heartbeat bill and even the AP reports that Governor Northam appears… this is the AP writing this, appears to have endorsed infanticide. We’re sitting here, it seems like 81%, this is Gallup by the way, 81% of Americans think late-term abortion, third trimester, should be illegal. That’s what Gallup says. It looks like 60… second trimester, 65% of the country think that should be illegal. My question is this, with a record-high number, 30% nearly, of candidates saying I’m only going to consider a like-minded candidate on this issue, do you stand with the 81% of Americans that agree there should be bans at that third, maybe second, trimester or do you stand with most of your opponents that are pretty much all across the board abortion, no restrictions? Where do you stand on this?
John Hickenlooper in Iowa interview continues below…
John Hickenlooper in Iowa with Justin Brady. WHO Radio, Des Moines.
Hickenlooper: I’m a big believer that women get to make decisions about their own health care, but let’s be very honest, late-term abortions are almost 0% of abortions and the doctors I’ve talked to say that in every case, it is a question of the mother’s life or not. And this notion of, when a child is born, helping them die, I’m against that, no question. But I think…
Brady: Right. Are you referring to Governor Northam’s comment?
Hickenlooper: No, I don’t know anything about that. I’m not referring to anything, I’m just saying I’ve heard stories of that… I’ve never heard of it, never seen it happen in Colorado, not aware of it ever happening.
Hickenlooper: I think that when a mother’s life… they think if you give birth to this child you’re going to die, and sometimes that is just the situation. I think that’s a woman’s decision to make, whether she’s going to try to save her child. In most cases, the child’s going to die as well, and that’s got to be the worst, most horrible decision a woman can ever make.
Brady: I can’t imagine.
Hickenlooper: But I think she’s got to be able to make it, she makes it with her doctor. It should not be government coming in and telling women, in a situation like that, what they can and can’t do.
Brady: So, would you be okay then banning abortion except for those circumstances? Because if we want to use just exceptions to dictate the rule, that should go both ways. So, would we be willing to say, in the case of a medical decision to save a woman’s life, and I’ll even stretch this, I don’t personally agree with this, but I’ll stretch this to include rape and incest which are obviously thrown in there a lot, would you be able to say, “Hey, abortion is banned except in those circumstances.”?
Hickenlooper: Again, it’s a pretty long list, but I’m certainly willing to sit down and have the discussion because, ultimately there are so few late-term abortions, and in Colorado, it is amazingly rare. We can have a fight over that and try and divide each other and make a big battle out of it, or we can look on what’s it take to expand access to birth control to young women at their choice. At every clinic we had in Colorado we told teenagers, “You should not be having sex. You are too young to be having sex.” I got a 17-year-old son, he is too young to be having sex, no questions asked, but we also recognize that some kids, young women and young men, are going to have sex anyway, so don’t compound one mistake with a second one.
Hickenlooper: And shouldn’t we be focusing on making sure that young women get to decide when they want to have a family, so that when children are born they’re loved and that they are coming into a home and a family situation where they’re going to be cherished and embraced instead of the awful situations we’ve all read about when they’re not wanted.
Brady: Yeah. So, let’s say Senate, Congress, they put a bill on your desk, and then we’ll move one, Senate, Congress put a bill on your desk that says…
Hickenlooper: I’m not going to do hypotheticals, I’ve never done hypotheticals.
Brady: All right.
Hickenlooper: But I do think that it’s worth sitting down and going through, what are we really talking about here? And what do we really care about? Do we really want to make the lives of young women safer and healthier? Then let’s make sure they get a choice on when they’re going to have a family, and if they make a mistake and something awful happens, if they want to get an abortion, how do we make sure it’s safe? They get the information, they know exactly what they’re doing, and they make that decision the first trimester. That’s better for everybody.
Brady: So, Governor, I appreciate you being in here and I want to leave some time for you to talk to Iowans directly. Can you stick around and we will put an endcap on this interview with you talking to Iowans. Does that work?
Brady: Awesome. We’ll be back with Governor Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado who’s running for president in 2020. You’re listening to the Brady show.
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Brady: It is the Brady show. We are still joined by former Colorado governor and 2020 presidential candidate John Hickenlooper. Governor, the final words go to you. What do Iowans need to know about you?
Hickenlooper: Thank you Justin. They need to know that I am a small business owner and an entrepreneur and I took that entrepreneurial spirit and approach to when I became mayor of Denver in 2003. And I’d never run for student council class president. My first campaign was when I ran for mayor of Denver. Denver’s a strong [inaudible 00:16:53] but we got those suburbs to help us build the largest, most ambitious transit initiative in modern American history. We got to universal Pre-K by getting people to work together, we created major police reform ten years before Ferguson. We did all this by getting people to work together, we didn’t demonize business, we brought everyone in and we did the same thing when I ran for governor. When I ran for governor and I won in 2010, a bad year for democrats, but I won because we had shown as mayor that we could bring people together and get the big progressive things done that, in an awful lot of ways, Washington just hasn’t delivered.
Hickenlooper: So, as governor, we went from being 40th in job creation in this country for the last 3 years according to U.S. News and World report with the number one economy in America. We got to near universal healthcare coverage, not by creating Medicare for all but by expanding Medicaid and creating one of the most innovative healthcare exchanges in the country. We got universal background checks passed and really made sure that only dangerous people can’t get guns.
Hickenlooper: What I say to people in Iowa, what I’d like to say, is I’ve done the big progressive things that other people are just talking about, I’ve actually got it done, and it wasn’t by demonizing government, it wasn’t by having a massive expansion of government, it was by bringing people together. Democrats and republicans and independents, businesses and nonprofits, and we got the environmental community to work with the oil and gas industry to create methane regulations. Methane is 25 times worse than CO2 as a pollutant and yet we got them both together and in the end, the oil and gas industry paid 60 million bucks a year to remove methane from their emissions and to make sure… in the end it’s like taking 320,000 cars a year off the road. That’s what I want to do for America. I want to bring people together and demonstrate that we are able to deliver real progress to this country that we love.
Brady: Governor John Hickenlooper in Iowa, running for president in 2020. Please give your website out, if people want to reach out to your campaign.
Hickenlooper: Yeah. Hickenlooper.com and we need small doners so, go online, give a dollar or two dollars or whatever you can afford. Thank you so much.
Brady: Thank you so much for coming on Governor — You’re listening to the Justin Brady show.
End Of Interview Transcript / John Hickenlooper in Iowa.
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