Members of the Republican establishment who refused to lend their support to Donald Trump spent the four years of his presidency hoping first that he would lose his candidacy for re-election, and then that things would return to normal. ‘approaching pre-2016 normal once it is gone. But the appalling events of January 6 and its aftermath shattered that hope. As David Frum points out in Atlantic, most of those Never Trump Republicans have now become Never Republican Democrats.
This could be very good for the Democratic Party, which (unlike the GOP) cannot win national elections while pursuing a grassroots mobilization strategy. As Frum explains, the “progressive democratic base is not cohesive enough or large enough, and does not live in places favored by the rules of American politics.” This means Democrats must form broad coalitions to win, and voters fleeing the now completely Trumpified GOP may be a big part of it.
How could refugees from the “cultural core” of the GOP change Democrats? Frum lists five ways: they will keep the party focused on preserving free and fair democratic elections, especially for residents of deep blue towns within deep red states. They will ensure that Democrats proudly remain the party of expertise. They will strengthen the democratic commitment to defend the values and policies of globalism on immigration and trade. They will insist that Democrats take moderate positions on the economy, social programs and spending. And they will reward the party for deploying political rhetoric of civility and inclusion (compared to the outright insults and demonization that now dominate on the right).
Most of this makes considerable political sense – although I wonder if it’s really a good idea for Democrats to risk alienating Rust Belt voters (and losing crucial Midwestern swing states) by doubling down on free trade and liberal immigration policies just to increase margins in the already solidly blue suburbs where most former Republicans live. The same could be said, given the demographic realities, the emphasis on respect for expertise. University graduates are the most likely to rely on the experts, but most Americans are not college graduates. Yes, Democrats should consult experts when formulating policy, but they don’t need to brag about it or patronize those less inclined to trust the better educated and highly educated among us.
Democrats should welcome former Republicans with open arms. But precisely because the party is large and diverse, it has to strike the right balance to attract one of the coalition members. This largely includes those seeking political asylum from a morally degraded GOP.
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