The New York Times had a story today on why Republicans in the House and Senate are afraid to stand up to Trump. They fear an exile delivered by Tweet and followed by a 2018 primary challenge. This fear, and the midterm primaries, provide a perfect opportunity to defeat these extremist lawmakers in 2018 elections, even in dark red congressional districts.
The strategy I’m proposing will sow chaos in the Republican primaries and obscure all of the polling and demographic data on which Republican incumbents will base their craven calculations. That’s just a perk. The strategy will also upset some Republicans incumbents with Republican moderates, give Democratic candidates in red districts a fighting chance, and produce significant counter-pressure on Trumpists hoping to hold their seats, such that a few will rediscover their spines. The strategy would work, but it requires big sacrifices by Democrats and Independents, and it will strongly benefit moderate Republicans, to the detriment of Trumpists. I’ll outline all of the ins and outs.
First, Democrats (of which I am not one), Independents, and moderate Republicans need to be agreed that Trump and those kowtowing to him represent an existential threat to the United States, the Constitution, and the rule of law. George W Bush was never an existential threat to the nation, the Constitution, and the rule of law, and neither were McCain nor Romney. Trump is an existential threat all three. Preserving those three things must be the highest priority, above all other policy and pet issues in the short term.
This strategy is designed toward that end, preserving the nation, the Constitution, and the rule of law, conceding the short term stalling of issues important to many of the left. Read through before you dismiss. Some of this will be hard to stomach for those on the left, but I am convinced that it is the only and best shot, akin to flying the Millenium Falcon into the Death Star, all or nothing.
Second, understand the midterm and primary processes. Midterm elections have lower turnout than general elections. And midterm primaries have really low turnouts. Moreover, there can be some (relative) complacency among those who feel their preferred candidate is in power and will hold onto it. This provides an opportunity to jolt even deep red districts. My strategy depends on extremely vigorous grassroots organizing. Read on.
This strategy needs to be applied in every race in your district, from dog-catcher to sheriff to House of Representatives to Senate candidates. Obviously the House and Senate races are where it is most necessary, but it needs to be applied to candidates lower on the ballot so that every Republican incumbent is scrambling to save his own hide during the primary process. Split their attention so that they cannot support the one in the toughest race.
For every seat with a Republican incumbent, a challenger needs to be nominated. There are only three qualifications for these candidates: 1) they must be actual Republicans from the community/district, and not Democrats posing as Republicans, and who are capable of speaking the (non-dog-whistle) language of the base; 2) they must be more centrist than the incumbent, even if only slightly so; 3) they must in principle be able to commit to impeaching Trump if certain red lines are crossed. The red line almost doesn’t matter, so long as they are willing to entertain the possibility.
States with Closed Primaries
If you are a Democrat living in a state with closed primaries you, and a huge percentage of your fellow Democrats need to switch your political affiliation on your voter registration to Republican. The sooner the better. Not to Independent (which usually can vote in either primary), but to Republican. This means you won’t be able to vote in your Democratic Primary. That’s OK. The Democrats can field a candidate as they always do. That’s not your concern yet.
By switching your affiliation to Republican, as opposed to Independent, and doing so now, you begin to cloud the data Republican pollsters will rely on. During the primary, you will need to support a candidate, probably through a signature drive to challenge your Republican incumbent. Then, during the primary, every one of the Democrats who switched affiliation, every Independent, and the moderate Republicans need to turn out and support the moderate challenger.
States with Open Primaries
Don’t switch your affiliation on your registration. Support the moderate Republican candidate in signature drives as above. Show up en masse on primary day and vote for the moderate Republican. Your incumbent will be soundly defeated and taken totally by surprise. He literally has no way to see you coming, even if he knows this is your strategy. Savor it.
The General Election
If you live in a red district and your challenger lost in the primary, you are not any worse off than you were before you tried this strategy. The extremist won, just as he always was likely to, and there’s not much reason to hope your Democratic candidate will win now. But you aren’t worse off than you were.
If your moderate challenger won the primary, then you have already won. Either vote for that moderate in the general or your conscience, but in either case a more moderate Republican, more likely to challenge Trumpists has been put into office. You have made amazing progress, even if the Democrat still loses. The moderate’s win also puts Trumpists in other districts on notice, and complicates the math of their calculations considerably. Maybe the Trumpist base is so unenthusiastic about the moderate who won the primary that they don’t turn out and you even flip the district. Even better. But if you lose, you are no worse off than before.
This strategy leverages Democratic voters during the primary whose votes are otherwise burned up during the general in their gerrymandered districts.
There is the added benefit of the election winners having no freaking idea of where they stand for 2020.
This strategy requires huge numbers of Democratic voters in red districts to cooperate with one another.
It requires Democrats to swallow their pride, ignore important policy differences, and vote for moderate Republicans in order to preserve the nation in the short term. But, it has the added benefit of putting in power more moderate, reasonable actors in districts where incumbents already run roughshod over your interests.
This will require a ton of grassroots organizing and explanation. If not executed by a huge percentage of Democratic voters in red districts, it will fail (but, again, your interests there were going to fail anyway).
It will be labor intensive.
I am calling this the raccoon strategy because raccoons are cute but can eviscerate much larger enemies, because they are found throughout the nation, and because they are abundant in the rural red congressional districts where this strategy is designed to flip incumbent Republicans out on their asses.