The strategy of triage in any industry is to ascertain the greatest threat and deploy resources in that direction.
For many, today’s remembrance of the events of January 6, 2021 hardened their conviction that the greatest threat to our republic is a return of Donald Trump. Joe Biden made that very case in his address to the nation, essentially declaring Trump an enemy of American democracy.
A year ago, American citizens deployed violence to prevent the certification of a free and fair Presidential election. It was a failed insurrection rooted in violence — and it occurred because of the actions of one man, then-President Donald Trump. The events would not have happened had he not set the predicate with the big lie, issued the invitation to supporters to gather in Washington D.C. on January 6, and rallied the crowd to “show strength” and “be strong”. “We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated,” Trump declared.
The return of Donald Trump and his anti-democratic authoritarian politics is the greatest threat the nation faces today. That is the cause to which we must rush our political resources.
And if the return of Donald Trump is the most important threat we face today, then the coalition of voters who stopped Donald Trump in November 2020 is fundamentally the most important political coalition in the United States today.
The coalition that stopped Donald Trump in 2020 was an alliance of near universally performing Democrats buoyed by a statistically consequential coalition of independents and never-Trump Republicans.
A Pew Research study affirms this coalition performance. Of those voters who did not vote in 2016 but were moved to exercise their franchise in 2018 and again 2020, they chose Biden over Trump by an incredible margin of 62% — 36%. This performance surely did not reflect a modern renaissance of today’s Democratic party; it was an activation of voters across the country worried about Donald Trump.
That coalition — the one that stopped Donald Trump — Democrats, independents, and Republicans — is the most important political coalition in the United States, and it simply must be sustained.
So how do we do that? The hard truth is one very few of us may like. It requires independents and country-first Republicans to recognize that today’s Democratic Party is the only organization and infrastructure currently able to muster the resources to do so. And it requires today’s Democrats to recognize that the calling of patriotism requires keeping this coalition in place, and not necessarily on traditional partisan terms.
I know, I know. My Democratic friends will reflexively challenge this premise. I understand in a traditional era it is not the Democratic Party’s job to accommodate former Republicans or even Republican performing independents. But it is now. Because our shared job is to stop Donald Trump. He is our greatest threat — not Republican policies, not even Republican appointed judges, but instead the authoritarian behavior of a man willing to convene violence to topple our Republic. Donald Trump is the threat. Our shared calling among Democrats, independents, and Republicans is to stop him.
Importantly for Democrats, leading a never-Trump coalition does not require abandoning your progressive ideology. We certainly have never asked Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger to abandon their hard-right compass, nor should we. So too should it be for patriotic progressives. Celebrate and advance your ideology, but consider the nation’s greatest need.
I get the political strategy of using political power when you have it. I’ve personally made the case in the past year that if Democrats do not use their leverage now to advance progressive priorities, they may not have this opportunity for another decade. “Go Big!” “Eliminate the filibuster!” “BBB!” I get it. It’s all justifiable. And if the threat of Donald Trump’s return is not considered a serious threat to your view of politics, then go get ’em. Approach politics and policy as we have for generations. But if the return of Donald Trump is indeed the greatest threat to the nation, it is the duty of all Americans to direct their strategies, their resources, and their power to stopping him.
So, for example, if Virginia taught us that voters in that moment cared about gas prices, inflation, school curriculum, and masks, then meet them there. If Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have to be accommodated to bring their home state constituencies under the coalition that defeats Trump in 2024, then do it. Recognize that millions of Americans who voted for Donald Trump love their country deeply, but they elevated a man who does not. The lessons and opportunities of stopping Trump are all around us, and the midterms will likely provide even more. But those lessons only matter if we actually act on them.
“Country over party” is a mantra professed by many former and current Republicans today. It reflects an expectation of patriotism. That expectation today must be on all of us. It must go both ways, not out of principles of equity, but out of necessity. If the return of Donald Trump is the greatest threat we face, then that threat requires independent and never-Trump Republican voters to remain committed to a coalition with the left, and it requires Washington Democrats to recognize that holding this coalition may represent one of the greatest moments in the party’s rich history.