If President Trump’s survival tactics depend upon dividing the country into warring camps, does this mean his opponents have an interest in bringing the country together around shared purposes?
If the answer is “yes,” then those seeking to replace Trumpism with something better have to discover ways of engaging with voters whose choices in the last election differed from their own. Is there still a place in our politics for dialogue, persuasion and conversion?
There is a case that these are naive questions. The most important political fight this year is about flipping control of at least one house of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats, and in lower-turnout mid-term elections, the emphasis is more on getting your core supporters to the polls than on altering anyone’s thinking.
Standing firm, rallying the faithful and putting persuasion on hold seems a far more effective way to stop the GOP from holding its majorities and continuing to enable a corrupt and dangerous president.
A “reach out to your adversaries” approach also seems soft and squishy in a confrontation involving a president who violates every rule, tells every lie and stoops as low as necessary to maintain his hold on power. And Trump’s weaponization of veiled and overt racism and nativism can raise understandable suspicions, especially among African-Americans and Latinos, that outreach to Trump voters risks compromising with bigotry.
But even taking all of these objections into account, there are still tough-minded as well as moral reasons for combining unrelenting opposition to patent abuses with efforts to reunite the country.
The most practical consideration is that key Senate races and at least some competitive House contests are being fought in Trump territory. In states such as West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Missouri, losing the votes of all who voted for Trump in 2016 is not an option for Democrats who want to win.