The Problem With Grand Anti-Trump Coalitions: All Give And No Take

Jeet Heer describes a supposed centrist anti-Trump coalition (boldface mine):

To some centrists and liberals, Kristol’s ideological crisis presents a political opportunity. If many erstwhile conservatives are opposed to Trump, why not form a broad anti-Trump coalition that crosses old party lines? Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the Brookings Institute with impeccable centrist credentials, on Sunday tweeted a manifesto calling for exactly that…

At least a few liberals are on board. “Ben, where do I sign?” wrote The Daily Beast’s estimable liberal columnist, Michael Tomasky. He argued on Tuesday that an anti-Trump Popular Front “could be a powerful and influential thing if Wittes can get 20 or 30 or 50 prominent people on both sides to sign a statement of principles, and thousands or maybe tens of thousands of regular citizens to co-sign on Facebook.”

The basic principles of this coalition, as outlined by Tomasky, are hard to argue with: “Commitments to the First Amendment; to transparent government; to getting to the bottom of Russia; to science and evidence; to no Muslim-bashing, ‘full stop’; to fighting presidential abuse of power.” Such noble goals could only be opposed by the hopelessly sectarian, he suggests…

Wittes and Tomasky are half right. Opposing Trump’s authoritarianism and corruption shouldn’t be a partisan issue. The distaste that conservative pundits like Kristol and Rubin have for Trump does present a chance for Democrats to reach at least some voters and lawmakers on the right, helping to fray the Trump coalition. And articulating a politics in defense of democratic norms is a necessary response not just to Trump himself, but to extremism broadly.

But an anti-Trump Popular Front could only work in an ad hoc fashion on specific issues, like those outlined by Tomasky and Wittes. It can’t supersede partisan politics even on a temporary basis because success for the two major parties depends on energizing their respective bases, and nationwide elections are never more than two years away. To run on a depoliticized program of centrist anti-Trumpism would demoralize and demobilize Democratic voters, a lethal move for the left since Trump has been successful at mobilizing hardcore Republicans.

Heer then goes on to describe some of the other political problems that would interfere with the creation of such a coalition. But Heer misses a key point: once again, the left (construed somewhat broadly) is expected to give up everything, while gaining nothing.

I agree with Wittes: we should compromise. So I’ll settle for a $12/hour minimum wage, a meaningful public option in healthcare, some modest increases on the top tax brackets, backing off the CPFB, better NRLB members (but we won’t push for card check–compromise!), and removing many of the recent restrictions on abortion in the U.S. (I’ll spot conservatives the Hyde Amendment in the spirit of comity).

Obviously, this isn’t on the table. Nor is it what they mean by compromise.

If we assume that conservatives will get some policy goals enacted while Trump remains in office (e.g., gutting the EPA, weakening labor, considerable tax cuts, etc.), then this is yet another instance where the left gets nothing except for ‘not completely awful’ while the right accomplishes significant politial goals.

If they were serious about compromising to stop Trump, they would be offering serious concessions. They’re not. After riding the movement conservative/Palinist tiger all the way to the top, they’ve decided it’s time to stop now that the Orange Skinned Beast is golf-carting towards Bethlehem–and threatens their gains. Well, they are going to have to give up some things, because this is our fight. They’re welcome to join, but they sure as hell haven’t earned the right to issue demands, especially when they collaborated with Palinism for so long.

Because what they’re calling for really isn’t a compromise at all, but death by a thousand cuts.

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2 Responses to The Problem With Grand Anti-Trump Coalitions: All Give And No Take

  1. Mr. Grumpy-puss says:

    This is the kind of dumb-ass idea only a rich dude who’s clueless to the class war going on around us could love. Fucking moron indeed.

  2. jonolan says:


    I’ll listen to your desires and return with: $8.00/hour federalminimum wage (talk to your state & local govts for locality-based increases); No public option in healthcare at the federal level (Again, talk to your state govt. Insurance, after all is ALL at the state level anyway); some modest increases on the top personal income tax brackets; backing off the CPFB; and the removal of the NRLB.

    Your problems with abortion laws are largely meaningless at the federal level and we’re not, obviously, going to agree to defund PP until and ONLY until they stop performing abortion or completely spin that service off into a separate business. I will, however, give you better access to chemical birth control for anyone on public assistance and/or Medicaid.

    I’m not going to turn on my POTUS though. Those are just compromises that I, one of those knuckle-dragging Trumpers, would entertain.

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