Biden reaches out to Republicans not in Trump’s camp

It’s obvious: Every night of the Democratic convention featured prominent Republican speakers. Read story here.

Among them: John Kasich, former Ohio governor and erstwhile GOP presidential candidate; Jeff Flake, former U.S. Senator from Arizona; Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey governor and EPA administrator; and Meg Whitman, a former GOP gubernatorial nominee from California.

It’s part of a deliberate “safe harbor” strategy: If you’re a Republican, but don’t like Trump, it’s safe to vote for Biden.

That doesn’t sit well with everyone in the Democratic coalition. “Some progressives say this outreach across the aisle is naive — and argue that even if it does work it could rob Biden of electoral mandate to advance liberal causes.”

So what?

If it’s naive, it won’t win over Republicans. If it doesn’t work, what has Biden lost? Nothing more than votes he wouldn’t get anyway. The risk-reward ratio is clear: Possible reward, zero risk of loss.

There isn’t an investor on the planet who wouldn’t go for a deal like that.

And if the strategy weakens Biden’s ability to “advance liberal causes,” what of it? Presumably this refers to things like public option health care, raising taxes on the rich and corporations, and the like. But that overlooks the biggest “liberal” cause of all: Saving our democratic institutions from the wrecking ball being wielded by an aspiring authoritarian.

For Biden, job #1 is protecting our democracy and strengthening its guardrails. Progressives should focus on that, not a partisan legislative agenda whose relative importance pales by comparison.

Many people believe Biden will be a “transitional” president, i.e. a bridge from now to where America will go next under younger leaders. In any event, his chief tasks will be to get us through Covid-19 and revive the economy, and it’s unrealistic to expect much more from any post-Trump administration. In a democracy, things move slowly, and it takes time to accomplish big political goals. You don’t want him to spread his efforts too thin, by trying to do much, and end up doing nothing.

Also, the Democratic Party is bigger than its progressive wing. It includes centrists like me, who support parts of the progressive agenda, but not all of them. Progressives have twice failed, in two presidential election cycles, to nominate their preferred candidates. They don’t represent a majority view in this country, and scare off some voters that Democratic candidates need to win. This must be taken into account when Biden decides what his governing priorities are.

Biden can’t be all things to all people, and won’t try to be. By appealing to Republicans who won’t become Democrats, but want to rescue their party from Trump’s clutches, he’s simply trying to save a competitive two-party system. It’s not a bad offer.

Meanwhile, after Trumpism has burnt itself out, it’ll be interesting to see how the GOP rebuilds itself, and who does the rebuilding.

Photo: John Kasich, a former GOP governor, likely burned bridges by supporting Trump’s impeachment and speaking to the 2020 Democratic convention, but he cares more about his country and party than personal ambition

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