Discover more from Welcome Stack
How The Platypus Can Save Democracy
Anti-Trump Republicans are debating an impossible future. They should listen to Mayor Pete instead.
Check out our latest piece in The Bulwark, calling on both Democrats and disaffected conservatives to answer Pete Buttigieg’s call to create “future former Republicans”.
During the 2020 primary, Democrats had a robust debate on how to grow the party - exemplified by outreach across the proverbial aisle by Mayor Pete as well as Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Joe Biden.
Pro-democracy former Republicans have continued their own strategic deliberations, namely whether to start a third party or ‘retake’ the GOP. In the anti-Trump outlet The Bulwark, Bill Kristol articulated the infeasibility of those options, which do not present “a viable short-term path at a moment when the short term is deeply important, because our democracy faces an internal crisis.”
We added our perspective on that debate in The Bulwark last week. Proposals by anti-Trumpers to form a third party or “retake the GOP” are like unicorns: easy to describe, but impossible to create.
Could anti-Trump Republicans form a third party or win primaries with pro-democracy canddates? It is easy to picture in your head - centrist platform, Americana branding, maybe some Bush grandkids as candidates. But just like a unicorn (a colorful flying horse with a horn), the ease of visualizing belies an impossibility in bringing to reality.
Democracy needs Platypi, not Unicorns
The only realistic solutions look more like a platypus: small, weird, and difficult to describe (a tiny seal with a duck beak, webbed feet, and a bushy tail). But real.
There are ~100 Republican members of congress in districts Trump won with 55%-66% of the vote. Like Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, the impeachment-voting former NFL wideout profiled in our piece, they overwhelmingly represent “Safe Republican” districts that Democrats have mostly not seriously challenged.
The math for anti-Trump conservatives in these districts is straightforward: you have to win 50% of Trump voters in a primary election, or become Democrats and win about 15% of Trump voters.
You may have read about the 5 Republican Factions in the New York Times over the weekend. Recent analysis shows that roughly 15% of Republicans who are “Never Trump” are joined by a faction of about 20% looking for a “Post-Trump GOP.”
Last week, we talked about how Now-Secretary Pete had set a tone of outreach during his primary bid, which took him from being the mayor of a mid-size city to the winner of the Iowa caucuses and a major voice in the future trajectory of the party. A core part of his message is that these voters should be “future former Republicans” that should find a welcoming home in a Big Tent Democratic Party.
Peeling off these voters can win a general election for a pro-democracy faction, expanding the map and driving a stake into Trumpism. The math works, but it requires work for Democrats, too.
And up until now, the only member of Congress to switch parties went from Democrat to Authoritarian, and was rewarded for it:
In Year Six of the Trump Era, the party-switching scoreboard reads Trump 1, Democracy 0.
And there seems to be little concerted effort to change that.
“A political party is for maximizing votes and getting things done”
Last week, political scientist & Democratic guru at the Center for American Progress Ruy Teixeira had a reminder of what a political party is and is not:
Over in The Atlantic, Shadi Hamid took Texeira’s comparisons up a level and noted the ways in which politics has become our religion. But, as Matt Yglesias notes, if the threat to democracy is real, then we should act like it with the clarity required to make the difficult decisions required to gain a majority.
Finally, there’s this from Steven Teles and Robert Saldin at The Niskanen Center, which argues that while moderates in both parties have found the last decade “deeply depressing,” there is hope for building partisan factions that fight for those in the middle, and that this is the best “investment of time, energy, and money for those who want a more deliberative, entrepreneurial, and productive political system.”
In essence, there is a whole slew of people taking the time to think about what’s next for the Democratic Party and our democracy. Please share our Bulwark piece with friends, family, political frenemies, people you agree with and people with whom you don’t. And let us know what you think.