Former Congressional staffer and Breitbart hack may have jumped the GOP ship, but don’t be fooled – his real affiliations and goals haven’t changed.
You may have seen this going around, a piece by a former GOP Congressional and Breitbart staffer Kurt Bardella, who has seen the light. Sorta.
I can imagine that it’s infuriating for some Democrats to read this. They’re thinking: You created all the conditions for Trump, but now you want to disown him? It’s the reaction I saw when Julius Krein wrote his op-ed admitting that his support from Trump was a mistake. And I understand — I wasn’t a Trump guy, but that’s the pushback I got after quitting Breitbart. Oh, so now you don’t want anything to do with it.
But resetting your political compass isn’t easy. My advice — my ask — for liberals, progressives and Democrats in general is that you help encourage that type of self-examination by not reflexively putting it down. Rather than asking why it took someone so long to arrive at a specific conclusion in the first place, maybe the thing to do is welcome them.
Don’t assume that everyone who voted for this president is a dupe or a racist. I’m sure a lot of people who voted for Trump have buyers’ remorse, but that doesn’t discount the root of why they voted for him in the first place. There was something lacking in the vision and message that the Democratic Party presented.
It would be easy to dismiss the Trump movement as a bunch of uninformed, “alt-right,” gun-toting rednecks who think the wrong side won the Civil War, but I promise you if that’s the Democrats’ takeaway from this election, they’ll never win another one again.
Well, he’s certainly right about the last part. Trump wouldn’t have won without all the “‘alt-right,’ gun-toting rednecks who think the wrong side won the Civil War,” but that’s hardly what you’d call a winning vision for the Dems.
I’ll say up front that I’m glad Bardella has realized the truth of the Trump movement. I’m glad he’s honest in acknowledging how the GOP created the conditions necessary for its own hijacking. I’m glad he’s clear about things like the scientific foundations of climate science. I suspect he’s right that a lot of Trump voters are experiencing serious buyer’s remorse. These are good things. They are steps in the right direction, and if enough Republicans share his views then Trump is done in 2020 (and the Dems may stand a chance in next year’s midterms).
But. You knew there was a “but” coming. Bardella concludes thusly:
Right now, the Republican Party has been hijacked by its extreme base — leaving a number of people, just like me, with no place to go. This is a unique opportunity for the Democratic Party to fill that void, but it can only happen if Democrats make an honest effort. Politics is about ideas and policies, yes. But to win on those ideas, you have to win elections, and you do that by addition, not subtraction.
In other words, Democrats should reach out to disaffected Republicans and invite them and their more responsible ideas into the tent.
From a certain perspective – that is, win at all costs – this may well be a shrewd strategy by the DNC. If they can siphon off enough of the GOP’s more “moderate” wing they should easily be able to win the White House, both houses of Congress, plus a lot of statehouses and state legislatures.
Thing is, moving to the right isn’t the solution to the Democratic Party’s problem. It is the Democratic Party’s problem. A huge driver of the Republicans’ success in recent years has been the Dems’ abject repudiation of, well, Democratic values. Commencing with Bill Clinton, the Dems have been Republican-lite, and their repeated capitulation to the me-too, Vichy wing of the party has ushered us to the present moment, where the Democrats stand, in every observable way, to the right of Richard Nixon.
As I wrote back in 2011, there’s a good argument to be made that the US political landscape comprises no fewer than 10 political parties, with the structural realities of the two-party system shoehorning them into a couple uneasy coalitions.
And things do fall apart. The 2016 election saw the progressive and Republican wings of the Democratic party fracturing in ways Hillary Clinton still doesn’t understand (and will not, under any circumstances, shut up about). At the same time Trump was rounding up the American chapter of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei and the establishment crowd was too stunned, too possessed by terror-stricken denial, to actually get its act together in time to do anything about it.
What Bardella hasn’t quite managed to articulate is that is a cynical coalition of convenience more than it is a real party – parties are motivated by shared principles, values and goals. The same holds for the Dems. Trust me, once you get past a revulsion of Trump, Team Clinton/Schumer/Wasserman Schultz has pretty much nothing in common with your average Sanders supporter.
What Bardella means to be saying, then, isn’t that the Dems need to move right to onboard the slightly-less-batshit wing of his party. What he ought to be bright enough to realize is that his cohort needs to break away from the GOP and form a new party with the like-minded Democratic mainline. Jeb and Hillary, Marco and Debbie, Paul and Chuck. These folks have a lot more in common with each other than they do Sanders and Trump, respectively.
This wouldn’t be good for America by any stretch. Yeah, it would kneecap the Trumpers, but it would also cut adrift any hope for meaningful policies aimed at promoting social justice. It would get all the 1%ers on the same page and, if nothing else, might prove quite stable. For a while.
In the end, Bardella may have abandoned the current iteration of the Republican Party, but only a moron would think that means he’s changed. his agenda has never been about the best interests of the people. It is now, as he admits it was in the beginning, about tribalism. It’s about the team he’s on winning.
Bardella hasn’t changed teams. He doesn’t care what name is on the front of the jersey. All he cares about is that the Democrats join him.