VOLUME 18 #2

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DEPARTMENTS

A loud voice for small government

Bill Wilson
Photo by Luke Sharrett/The New York Times/Redux
Bill Wilson's organization sends 90,000 emails a day.

ALUMNI | With the increasingly prominent role of UD alumni in U.S. politics, it's not surprising that yet another alumnus is stirring the proverbial political pot.

Bill Wilson, AS ’75, is a conservative opposed to what he sees as a government that is way too big and is spending way too much money for all the wrong reasons. As president of Americans for Limited Government, a nonprofit advocacy group in Fairfax, Va., the former political science major says he takes issue with the actions of both political parties.

Wilson says he disliked many of George W. Bush’s policies, including the Patriot Act and the Medicare prescription drug program, and supported neither Barack Obama nor John McCain in the 2008 presidential race. But now, with Obama in the White House, Wilson and his organization have what The New York Times called in a recent article about him “a fully satisfying target.”

Like many other conservative groups, Americans for Limited Government has gained momentum since 2008 through opposition to President Obama’s policies. It has established a strong online presence, including a website, GetLiberty.org, and daily email messages to more than 90,000 conservative individuals and bloggers.

Because politics is, in Wilson’s words, “a full-body contact sport,” he says the confrontational style of many of his messages is designed to get attention for his limited-government ideology.

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“To some degree, the old terms [such as ‘conservative’] are no longer really descriptive,” he says. “We advocate more adherence to what we see as a traditional view of the Constitution. In that sense, our goal is more restoration than conserving.”

Americans for Limited Government has about 18 staff members and an annual budget of $4 million. Howard Rich, a New York real estate executive who funds many conservative causes, is a major supporter.

Spending, taxes and the scope and reach of government are among the hot-button issues that raise the hackles of Wilson, who earlier in his career worked for organizations supporting such issues as right-to-work laws, term limits and school choice.

“Governments feel a need to justify themselves, so what you end up with are policies that justify government initiatives,” Wilson says. “The problem is that the money the government spends comes out of the private sector or from debt servicing.”

Part of the solution, he says, is a return to small localized and sustainable communities, where members have a more direct say in what goes on.

“Creating sustainable communities is what it is all about,” he says. “This is an American experiment, and it has the potential to unite liberals and conservatives.” Wilson’s involvement in the political fray continues a recent flurry of high-profile political activities by alumni, including Vice President Joe Biden; Steve Schmidt and David Plouffe, who led the 2008 presidential campaigns for McCain and Obama, respectively; and recently elected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

“One of the positive aspects about the University of Delaware and the state of Delaware is that you have a chance to move up and try things that aren’t available in a larger, less intimate setting,” says Wilson, who cites the influence of James R. Soles, now Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Relations, on his own passion for politics. “To have all of those alums involved at those levels, the school has to provide an environment that generates people who are inquisitive and always ready to learn.”

 

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