Winston Churchill understood that in times of national emergency, it was imperative to forge alliances with anyone willing to help — no matter how odious those allies might be. As the British prime minister famously declared in 1941, “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”
That was his inimitable way of saying, “All hands on deck.” That’s why he welcomed the communist Soviet Union into the western alliance, despite his contempt for that nation’s anti-democratic tyrant.
In politics, as in international warfare, you win by addition, not subtraction. You win by welcoming anyone who wants to join the ranks. That’s how successful coalitions are built. But it’s amazing how so many litmus-test Democrats seem impervious to reality.
Case in point, Oliver Willis, a senior writer at ShareBlue, a liberal media website. The other day, he tweeted his disdain for three prominent anti-Trump Republicans: ex-GOP congressman Joe Walsh, and conservative commentators Bill Kristol and David Frum, all of whom have signaled their willingness to make common cause with Democrats. But Willis tweeted, “Joe Walsh isn’t good. Bill Kristol isn’t good. David Frum isn’t good. These people are not worthy allies. They’re working to undermine what is good. They’re just embarrassed at Trump for saying the BS out loud.”
Willis was applauded by many in the lefty Twitterverse. A guy from Memphis tweeted, “Yeah, screw them! We don’t need their opinions or their votes. Us pure progressives will smash Donald Trump without them just like we did the last time. To hell with their apologies. If you ain’t pure from day 1, we have no room for you in our tent!” Another purist tweeted, “They may be fighting the good fight now, but they created this monster & their loyalty is not to our cause.” (Litmus-test liberals hate it when Joe Biden says things like, “There’s an awful lot of good Republicans out there.”)
But prominent Trump critics on the right — including George Conway, Max Boot, George Will, and Peter Wehner — give voice to the restiveness within Republican-friendly ranks. Let’s do some basic math. The latest Fox News poll reports that Trump, when currently matched against the top 2020 Democratic candidates, wins only 38 percent of the vote. (Trump’s reaction to that poll yesterday: “There’s something going on with Fox, and I don’t like it.”) And since he won 46 percent of the vote in 2016, it’s therefore fair to deduce that a sizable number of reality-based Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are loath to vote for him again — not necessarily because they now oppose him on policy, but because his tweets and reckless antics have simply exhausted them.
For instance, Tom Nichols is a Republican dropout who teaches at the U.S. Naval War College. He’s begging for any reason to vote Democratic in 2020. He wrote last Thursday: “I don’t care if Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a mendacious Massachusetts liberal. She could tell me that she’s going to make me wear waffles as underpants and I’ll vote for her … I don’t care if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is a muddle-headed socialist from a rural class-warfare state … He could tell me he’s going to tax used kitty litter and I’ll vote for him.”
Why? Because Nichols is fed up with Trump’s “compulsive lying, fantastic and easily refuted claims, base insults, and bizarre public meltdowns … This is why policy doesn’t matter. I have only two requirements from the Democratic nominee. First, he or she must not be obviously mentally unstable. Second, the nominee must not be in any way sympathetic — or worse, potentially beholden — to a hostile foreign power … It is a sign of how low we have fallen as a nation that ‘rational’ and ‘not compromised by an enemy’ are now my only two requirements for the office of the president of the United States.”
And Max Boot, an ex-foreign policy adviser to John McCain and Mitt Romney, is rooting for a blue victory. Earlier this month, he pleaded: “Don’t mess this up, Democrats. To preserve American democracy, we need to get rid of Trump. Then we can return to debating our normal policy differences.”
But because these people have toiled for the red team — George Conway (who calls Trump “a sociopath”) helped investigate Bill Clinton’s sex history during the ’90s, and Bill Kristol was a cheerleader for George W. Bush’s Iraq war — they’re deemed to be unacceptable allies in 2019. As one liberal magazine, The Nation, contended recently, “They’ve had their day. Democrats don’t need their votes.”
Really? If I’ve learned anything while covering national politics for the last 30 years, it’s the axiom that a campaign or a party needs all the votes it can possibly get. That’s not exactly rocket science. And fortunately, during that Twitter spat the other day, some Democrats seemed to get it.
Neera Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton advisor who now runs the Center for American Progress: “Our democracy is under siege. Make allies wherever you can. We can disagree again when Trump is gone.” John Ferrera, a video game designer: “We can’t ask, ‘Where are the Republicans who are willing to speak out?’ while also asserting ‘These Republicans who are speaking out are no good.’ Let’s focus on the really important things that we agree on.” Elizabeth Bennett, a former congressional staffer: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, at least while our mutual enemy is still a threat. Maybe we should just graciously accept the help b/c they can speak to people who won’t listen to us.”
Or as the old saying goes, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” That’s still true — unless purist Democrats spurn the Republican migrants by building a wall.