Democrats and Reasonable Republicans Need to Come Together

(Posted at Last Left Turn Before Hooterville)

Let me start by saying that all of us are on a continuum, and our major differences stem from where we sit on that continuum.

As Americans, most of us believe in the same general ideas. For instance, in America we use the tax system to fund our government and the things we use in common that can’t be built individually. So it’s not that Democrats believe in taxes and Republicans don’t; it’s where on the continuum we stand on them. We have a set of laws and regulations that define us as a society. If every single thing we do in public or private is regulated by the government, we have no freedom; if nothing is regulated, we have no freedom either.

We’re not polar opposites; we are just on different places on the spectrum.

The way our democratic/republic system is supposed to work is that we have input from different points of view, and by negotiation and compromise, we come to a place where there is something for everyone — no one gets all of what they want, but everyone gets some of what they want. We are not an autocracy where everything is determined by one person or party. We are not supposed to be trying to stamp out the other’s point of view. It is not good vs. evil.

Somewhere along the line, but brought to a fine point by Newt Gingrich in the 90s with his “Contract with America”, came the idea that Democrats were not the loyal opposition but enemies to be eradicated, and that the goal was not a compromise between both parties in the marketplace of ideas, but to usher in permanent Republican rule, as Karl Rove declared. These radicals evolved into the Tea Party, and it’s not too strong a statement to say that their aim is not cooperation but permanent political dominance. And this position has gotten more and more extreme, with little to no respect for the other side. Liberalism is not a balancing factor but a dangerous ideology, to be vanquished whenever and wherever possible. Hatred for liberals was a significant factor in Trump’s election.

But it has not only been Democrats who have been demonized; it has also been reasonable Republicans. Moderate Republicans have been largely forced out or marginalized by this radical right, which is largely responsible for the inability of the Republicans to pass much significant legislation despite controlling the House, the Senate and the White House. In the meantime, a rogue President goes unchecked.

Reasonable Republicans are in a bind — they don’t want to align with the radicals who are clearly out of their minds, who defy facts and science and math, who are racist and misogynist and homophobic and xenophobic and theocratic, who are going against everything that this country stands for — immigration, equal rights, public safety, separation of church and state, the integrity of the vote — yet they are not ready to identify with Democrats, either.

To them, I say: it’s OK. You don’t need to be a Democrat to help us regain what the radical Trumpists have taken from us. I know you worry that by aligning yourself with Democrats you are betraying your core identity as a Republican. But let’s be honest — Democrats and reasonable Republicans have more in common than reasonable Republicans and the crazy Trump fringe. We’re not asking you to give up your identity or be a Democrat or a liberal. We can agree on common facts and reality. They are in an ‘alternative’ universe. Which would be fine, except they have taken the power to inflict that alternate reality on us. This is already damaging us both inside our country and with our relationship to the rest of the world. And it can literally lead us to nuclear war. We have never been closer, even during the Cold War, because it would not happen as a deliberate policy decision by a nation, but as a confrontation between two unstable world leaders. Any little mistake, accident or provocation could bring it on.

As firmly as I believe in my liberal ideals, I also believe that my ideas should not be the only ones. I believe that Democrats and Republicans have to work together to temper each other’s extremes or excesses. I don’t want a permanent Democratic majority. There are good and bad ideas on both sides, and that’s what America is to me — a place where everyone has a voice and can work together, a place that was built by and enriched by immigrants from its very inception, a place where one side does not control everything. It should also be a place where we share our common values, and respect facts and science.

So I’m calling on reasonable Republicans, not to become Democrats, but to take your party back from the fact-challenged extremists who are not even conservative. You don’t have to give up your beliefs to join us, because at the end of the day we have more in common with each other than with Trumpism.

(I should add that this applies to progressive v. centrist Dems as well — we can hash out differences in party direction later, but right now this is triage. We cannot afford to dilute or fracture our vote and risk losing another election, or at least enough seats to have some kind of say rather than being shut out altogether as we are now.)

Our differences can be debated from a foundation of a shared reality. Not so with the Trumpists. They are neither real conservatives nor Republicans, but authoritarians following a narcissistic, childish despot-wanna-be. It is urgent that we come together to save a place where we can have those differences — while we still can.