5 Questions with Trent England
The New VP for Strategic Initiatives at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) tells us about himself.
1. Tell us about your roots?
I spent my whole childhood near Tacoma, Washington, where Mount Rainier towers over the Puget Sound. It’s beautiful. My parents have had their own business as long as I can remember—dad is a builder and a woodworker. He swings the hammer, mom does the books.
You learn so many lessons in a family like that. For one thing, I love rich people. We had some good years, but we were never rich. But no carpenter ever paid for his kids shoes by remodeling shacks. I came to recognize a sharp contrast between my folks and my teachers; the latter were usually clamoring for higher property taxes and going on about spotted owls and such things. Government is power, and Lord Acton nailed it. My teachers had good intentions, but the policies some of them supported would have devastated my family and many others.
In fact, I watched my parents choose to keep their business small in order to minimize the burden imposed on them by government. Even to a kid, that showed me something was wrong. By the time I got my driver’s license, I was mostly just excited that I could drive around putting up campaign signs. From there, I went and studied government at Claremont McKenna College.
2. Why make the move to the Sooner State from Washington State?
We have inherited an exceptional country. My question is, Why? And then how can we preserve or revive those things made us exceptional? I believe one of the most important constitutional structures is federalism—I tell people, we’re not just united, we’re also states.
Federalism was something the Founders created almost in spite of themselves (it flew in the face of earlier political theory), but it turned most of North America into a massive free trade zone where the governments that did the most governing were unshackled from concerns about (or excuses related to) national security and foreign policy.
I’m getting a little wonky, so I’ll sum up—federalism is essential, I believe, to American exceptionalism. Oklahoma, and specifically OCPA and its national affiliate Liberty Foundation, is an ideal place to work toward a revival of constitutional federalism. The team at OCPA is also a really fun bunch of people to work with.
3. What does a VP of Strategic Initiatives do?
Right now I am working to launch a series of citizen education programs. The Rule of Law and Liberty is a four-part series open for anyone who wants to understand what the Constitution is really all about. We will offer the program in 12 locations around Oklahoma, starting in October.
I will work both here in Oklahoma and across the country through Liberty Foundation on federalism issues and strategies. One current fight is defending the Electoral College—I love the issue because you can actually win it through education. I have had state legislators who were cosponsors of National Popular Vote legislation completely change course after I talked with them for just a few minutes. That is encouraging.
Another part of my role at OCPA is to help us get even better at turning policy ideas into messages—that was a big part of what I did in my last role as Executive Vice President of Freedom Foundation. Ideas have consequences only when you reach people with them, not just educating but inspiring.
4. How many times have you read the entire constitution? No, on a more serious note, what are you hoping to accomplish at OCPA?
I want to anchor our political conversation in principles, inspire more citizens to take part in that conversation, and get rid of the state income tax. In between those objectives, I am also working on a book about The Federalist Papers.
5. When you are not being strategic, what do you like to do for fun?
My wife and I have three kids, so that keeps us pretty busy. One of the joys of moving to a new place is learning the history and culture, and we have lots of plans to explore the region. We love to camp and hike. I try to climb a couple mountains every year and am hoping to join the rock gym here in Oklahoma City.