While the congressional Democrats continue to hopelessly spin their wheels on the package of campaign promises that handed them the House, the Senate and the White House last year– predictably unable to get the Republican wing of the Democratic Party to sign off on most of Biden’s modest agenda– Trump and the GOP are building their strength for a comeback.
Yesterday, Judd Legum and his team wrote about the transition of the Republicans’ oldest senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who has decided to run for reelection again and who would be 96 when his next term ends. In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Legum noted that Grassley– like many institutional Republicans, seemed to want the GOP to dump Trump overboard. “Everyone must take responsibility for their destructive actions yesterday, including the president, said Grassley. “As the leader of the nation, the president bears some responsibility for the actions that he inspires– good or bad. Sadly, yesterday he displayed poor leadership in his words and actions, and he must take responsibility.” The following month, in announcing he wouldn’t vote to convict Trump on the impeachment charges leveled against him by a bipartisan House vote, he explained that Trump lost the election, and, wrote Legum, “harshly criticized Trump’s efforts to retain the presidency after his legal efforts failed: ‘The reality is, [Trump] lost. He brought over 60 lawsuits and lost all but one of them. He was not able to challenge enough votes to overcome President Biden’s significant margins in key states. I wish it would have stopped there. It didn’t. President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn’t back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count. My vote in this impeachment does nothing to excuse or justify those actions. There’s no doubt in my mind that President Trump’s language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible.’ Nine months later, Trump’s conduct has only gotten worse. Trump’s lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud have gotten wilder. Trump has recast the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a “protest,” claiming those charged with crimes are being “persecuted so unfairly.”
But it’s the 88 year old Grassley who has changed in the interim. “On Saturday, Grassley appeared on stage with Trump in Des Moines, Iowa, and accepted his endorsement… Grassley has conveniently forgotten about his concerns in the wake of January 6. And he is not alone. Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (R-IA) sharply criticized Trump after January 6, saying Trump was ‘responsible’ for the violence, but appeared on stage with Trump on Saturday to accept his endorsement. The presence of former critics like Grassley and Hinson sent a clear message: the Republican Party is still Trump’s party.”
Legum laid out Trump’s strategy– which he’s already putting into place now– to seize the White House if he loses in 2024:
Part 1: Put Trump loyalists in charge of election administration in key states
Part 2: Elect Trump loyalists as governor in key states
Part 3: Put Trump loyalists in charge of Congress
Monday’s guest essay by Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman, We Are Republicans. There’s Only One Way to Save Our Party From Pro-Trump Extremists, would have been more bound in reality had it been entitled “We Were Republicans. There’s No Longer Any Way to Save Our Party From Pro-Trump Extremists So Let’s Take Over The Rudderless Democratic Party.”
They wrote that after Trump’s 2020 defeat “there was a measure of hope among Republicans who opposed him that control of the party would be up for grabs, and that conservative pragmatists could take it back. But it’s become obvious that political extremists maintain a viselike grip on the national and state parties and the process for fielding and championing House and Senate candidates in next year’s elections. Rational Republicans,” they wrote referring to a moribund, near-legendary species of the distant past, “are losing the party civil war.”
Then they get to the unpleasant truth for conservatives: while the GOP has embraced fascism, the corporate Democrats have become the conservative party fighting the preserve the status quo, even if there is still a strong contingent of progressives in Congress fighting to maintain the party as a bastion of support for working families. Taylor and Whitman, like many conservative, anti-Trump and/or anti-fascist Republicans would like to take over the conservative Democratic Party. They wrote that “the only near-term way to battle pro-Trump extremists is for all of us to team up on key races and overarching political goals with our longtime political opponents: the Democrats.”
Politically impotent, they admit that “Starting a new center-right party may prove to be the last resort if Trump-backed candidates continue to win Republican primaries. We and our allies have debated the option of starting a new party for months and will continue to explore its viability in the long run. Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of failed attempts at breaking the two-party system, and in most states today the laws do not lend themselves easily to the creation and success of third parties. So for now, the best hope for the rational remnants of the Republican Party is for us to form an alliance with Democrats to defend American institutions, defeat far-right candidates, and elect honorable representatives next year– including a strong contingent of moderate Democrats.”
Ah… “moderate Democrats.” Not, Bernie or Elizabeth Warren or Pramila Jayapal, Jamie Raskin, Ted Lieu, Ro Khanna, Andy Levin, Mondaire Jones, Marie Newman, Barbara Lee… let alone, AOC, Ilhan, Cori Jamaal, Ayanna or Rashida. They’re talking– quite blatantly– about allying themselves with the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, enemies of working families like Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Maggie Hassan, and Tom Carper in the Senate and the Blue Dog shit stains on history in the House, like Josh Gottheimer, Kurt Schrader, Henry Cuellar, Lou Correa, Ed Case, Jared Golden, Jim Costa, Stephanie Murphy, Abigail Spanberger, Jim Cooper, Tom O’Halleran… Watch as they get behind the worst proven conservative candidates in contested Democratic Senate primaries, like Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, Alex Lasri or Sarah Godlewski in Wisconsin, Tim Ryan in Ohio, Jeff Jackson or Cheri Beasley in North Carolina, Abby Finkenauer in Iowa, Val Demings in Florida…
Schrader’s progressive opponent in central Oregon, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba told me this morning that he “always thought that America would have a much healthier democracy if we had more than two viable parties. I could easily imagine 4 natural parties. The racist, mysogynist, homophobic, xenophobic hard right wing–Trump, McCarthy, Cruz– the center right, classic business oriented Republicans– Cheney (Liz), McCain, Schrader– the center left business oriented Democrats–Biden, Clinton, Obama– and the people and planet oriented progressives– Bernie, Warren, Jayapal, AOC. This would change the primary system dramatically and give people real choices in the general election. Which is exactly why the wealthy powers that be, won’t ever allow it to happen. They don’t care who you elect as long as THEY get to choose the candidates. Between that and ending Citizens United and creating publicly funded elections, we might actually save our democracy and with it our planet.”
“What Taylor and Whitman are proposing,” said northwest Washington candidate Jason Call, “is the next evolutionary step from the Lincoln Project to undermine the economically destabilizing radical right wing faction led by Trump. On the one hand, as a preservative measure for the status quo, it makes sense. On the other, it’s still just another political alliance that offers nothing of substance to the underclass of the nation. The ‘moderates’ of both parties aligning to protect their corporate donors, to preserve the corrupt system of crony capitalism, and to continue the vast sucking upwards of labor-produced wealth. It’s not a faction that will address economic inequality, climate change, debt crises, healthcare– in fact its inevitable adherence to austerity politics will very likely drive the growing poor and working poor to the right or left margins rather than secure a viable ‘moderate’ center. Because there is no viable moderate center, if we define those terms by popular usage. Center politics only exacerbates the miserable conditions of the majority of people, who are watching continued reports of the ever-increasing wealth of the top 1%. I certainly expect, if they get this effort off the ground, that they would endorse WA-02 conservative corporate incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen. His 20 year voting record checks all the boxes of being protective of fossil fuels and the military industrial complex, and generally expanding corporate power. It would, however, completely undermine his cynical projection as a grassroots progressive and could bolster sentiment for a progressive representative here.”
The two conservatives wrote that their strategy has already worked, claiming credit for defeating Trump in 2020. He lost re-election, they claim, “because Republicans nationwide defected, with 7 percent who voted for him in 2016 flipping to support Joe Biden, a margin big enough to have made some difference in key swing states.
They correctly assess that Republican congressional leadership has gone the way of fascism and must be blocked from regaining control. They wrote that “Some of us have worked in the past with the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, but as long as he embraces Trump’s lies, he cannot be trusted to lead the chamber, especially in the run-up to the next presidential election.” So was that leading up to an endorsement of Bruno Amato, McCarthy’s progressive, working class-oriented opponent? Of course not!
Instead: “we will endorse and support bipartisan-oriented moderate Democrats in difficult races, like Representatives Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, where they will undoubtedly be challenged by Trump-backed candidates. And we will defend a small nucleus of courageous Republicans, such as Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Peter Meijer and others who are unafraid to speak the truth.”
In addition to these leaders, this week we are coming together around a political idea– the Renew America Movement– and will release a slate of nearly two dozen Democratic, independent and Republican candidates we will support in 2022.
These “renewers” must be protected and elected if we want to restore a common-sense coalition in Washington. But merely holding the line will be insufficient. To defeat the extremist insurgency in our political system and pressure the Republican Party to reform, voters and candidates must be willing to form nontraditional alliances.
Conor Lamb, the conservative choice in PennsylvaniaFor disaffected Republicans, this means an openness to backing centrist Democrats. It will be difficult for lifelong Republicans to do this– akin to rooting for the other team out of fear that your own is ruining the sport entirely– but democracy is not a game, which is why when push comes to shove, patriotic conservatives should put country over party.
One of those races is in Pennsylvania, where a bevy of pro-Trump candidates are vying to replace the departing Republican senator, Pat Toomey. The only prominent moderate in the primary, Craig Snyder, recently bowed out, and if no one takes his place, it will increase the urgency for Republican voters to stand behind a Democrat, such as Representative Conor Lamb, a centrist who is running for the seat.
For Democrats, this similarly means being open to conceding that there are certain races where progressives simply cannot win and acknowledging that it makes more sense to throw their lot in with a center-right candidate who can take out a more radical conservative.
Utah is a prime example, where the best hope of defeating Senator Mike Lee, a Republican who defended Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election, is not a Democrat but an independent and former Republican, Evan McMullin, a member of our group, who announced last week that he was entering the race.
We need more candidates like him prepared to challenge politicians who have sought to subvert our Constitution from the comfort of their “safe” seats in Congress, and we are encouraged to note that additional independent-minded leaders are considering entering the fray in places like Texas, Arizona and North Carolina, targeting seats that Trumpist Republicans think are secure.
More broadly, this experiment in “coalition campaigning”– uniting concerned conservatives and patriotic progressives– could remake American politics and serve as an antidote to hyper-partisanship and federal gridlock.
To work, it will require trust building between both camps, especially while they are fighting side by side in the toughest races around the country by learning to collaborate on voter outreach, sharing sensitive polling data, and synchronizing campaign messaging.
A compact between the center-right and the left may seem like an unnatural fit, but in the battle for the soul of America’s political system, we cannot retreat to our ideological corners.
A great deal depends on our willingness to consider new paths of political reform. From the halls of Congress to our own communities, the fate of our Republic might well rest on forming alliances with those we least expected to.
Florida progressive icon Alan Grayson hit the nail right between the eyes: “First of all, no one cares what these people think or do. They are indeed a coalition: of has-beens and never-wases. Second, it sounds like they think that Trump is just a little wrong, not a lot wrong. Trump is the apotheosis of conservatism. If they reject Trump then, a fortiori, they need to reject conservatism. Third, they should just mind their own business. The GOP does not need to have even more influence over Democratic primaries than it already has. Look at all of those “independent expenditures” in Democratic primaries, funded by dirty money. They’re taking what already is a very big problem, and doing their best to make it worse. Fourth, anyone who thinks that they can win a GOP primary these days by ‘trumpeting’ the fact that they’re not crazy is crazy. An awful lot of GOP primary voters are pro-crazy. What they’re saying is nonsense, squared.”