by Bob Cesca
I’m not entirely sure how to set about writing this piece given how the ideas I plan to criticize came from people I otherwise consider to be otherwise brilliant and insightful online friends. But what I discovered through a Twitter spat last weekend was that some of the best progressives — some of the leftists who are normally pragmatic and sensible on most things from issues and political strategy, simply aren’t interested in forming bipartisan coalitions to repair the institutional vandalism caused by the era of Donald Trump.
Consequently, and unless you do your own snooping, I won’t use the names of the friends who vocally yet respectfully disagreed with me. Besides, their identities are irrelevant to what I’d like to discuss today. For the sake of argument and anonymity, let’s call my friends “Marcia,” “Greg,” “Peter” and “Bobby.” What we disagreed about was my ongoing and often-repeated concept of forming an alliance with Never Trump Republicans to repair the catastrophic damage to the system.
The names I don’t mind mentioning are the Never Trumpers you’ve likely heard about many times before. These are conservatives and some moderates who are loudly opposed to Trump and everything he represents. We’re talking about names like John Kasich, David Frum, Rick Wilson, Malcolm Nance, Charlie Sykes, John Schindler, Tom Nichols, Benjamin Wittes, Nicolle Wallace, Steve Schmidt and, more recently, George Will and Bill Kristol, to name a handful.
While I’ve said some nasty things about a few of these analysts and officials, the rise of Trump and the eternally flaming paper-bag of crapola he continues to drop daily at our virtual front doors has changed many things about the status quo of the American political debate. The emergency is so urgent and so potentially cataclysmic, we have no choice but to sound the alarm summoning all-hands-on-deck, and, as far as I’m concerned, no one should be turned away. In these times and with this president, the enemy of my enemy is absolutely my ally.
Greg, Marcia, Peter and Bobby didn’t seem to think so. When Greg tweeted a link to me of an article from Forward.com about how our “favorite” Never Trumpers were responsible for helping to create Trump in the first place, I replied back with a friendly but serious encapsulation of what I’m writing now for Banter M: “While possibly true, there’s too much value in having conservative allies in the fight against Trump. We can sort out the how/why later.” Meanwhile, Peter replied with a “sigh” while Bobby seemed to think the Never Trumpers were up to something untoward and deceptive. As for Marcia, her reaction was in effect to burn them all down — a “no quarter” mantra suggesting we confront all Republicans as enemies, regardless of their Trump posture.
Friends are certainly allowed to disagree, and this was a big one.
At the risk of being categorically labeled by my friends and readers as a traitor to the liberal cause, forming an alliance with anti-Trump Republicans is, in a word, mandatory.
It’s touching that some of us think the left is capable of unilaterally fixing the ever-growing roster of horrors. One thing we know with extreme certainty is that few if any Republican voters and officials will take seriously the left’s demands, even for reforms at the electoral and executive branch levels in order to prevent another Trump. We’ve learned more than a few horrible lessons so far that the broader Republican Party is only interested in the left insofar as trolling is concerned. My friends, Greg, Marcia and the others, are solid examples of stubbornness on the left.
So, who better than to speak to Republicans about fixing the Trump disaster than actual Republicans and conservatives. I assure you, Marcia, Greg and Bobby — hell, include me in that list — won’t be taken seriously by much of anyone outside the surface-tension of the liberal bubble. And considering how most of the aforementioned cons are friendly with left-leaning media outlets like The New York Times, MSNBC and, yes, even the Stephanie Miller Show (Malcolm Nance is a Wednesday regular on Steph’s show), and given how Nance, Schindler, Wilson and others have developed followings among the left surrounding the Trump-Russia story, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to extend an olive branch. Further burnishing the possibility of an alliance is the self-evident fact that we have one huge mutual interest: ousting Trump and fixing everything he ruined.
It’s this Venn diagram overlap that needs to be parlayed into a working “coalition of Normals” on the left and right to set about the process of getting Trump out of the White House as quickly as possible, then to promote a series of laws establishing or reinforcing as many of the rules of the presidency as possible, both written and unwritten. Many of these rules have to do with the quality of being presidential and maintaining civil decorum; others include requiring the divestiture of business interests; regulations on usage of social media and presidential record preservation regarding tweets and the like; a ban on promoting specific media outlets; bans on nepotism; new financial disclosure rules including the mandatory release of tax returns; a hard ban on the abuse of presidential resources like the Secret Service and Air Force One; rules banning presidential rhetoric that could incite unrest, including sympathizing with hate groups or slandering the free press; and so forth.
Beyond these specifics, there will need to be a national campaign to rebuild the reputation of our national institutions, including the federal government and the press. This can’t necessarily be done solely through legislation, but if this coalition of Normals conducted a social media campaign along those lines, it’d be taken more seriously than if one side or the other pursued it alone. The left can talk to the left and the right can talk to the right in language that’s familiar to each political faction, but the message should be the same: America can’t endure in perpetuity if ignorant poseurs and disruptors like Trump continue to be elevated. Furthermore, the message has to get out that electoral politics isn’t a reality show. It’s not a game. It’s not something to be taken lightly. And when it comes to our leaders, be they candidates or sitting legislators, trolling the opposition as a policy agenda can not be tolerated. Trump’s loyalists don’t get it, but the rest of us do. Trolling isn’t policymaking. Paraphrasing something Bill Maher said recently, being a dick isn’t a platform.
Due to a wide variety of developments, especially the bottomless well of information provided by the internet, Americans have decided that everyone’s an expert. And if everyone’s an expert, then no one is. As a result, facts and reality have become skewed into being matters of opinion and bias. More than anything else, we can use this new left-right anti-Trump coalition to rebuild the notion of factual, objective reality, given how too many years of Fox News fiction and a president who appears to set policy by watching Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade have effectively decimated the basic touchstones of human existence. American society will not continue without both sides reconnecting with this very simple ideal. But I can’t successfully pitch this to Republicans, and Bill Kristol won’t be able to pitch it to Democrats.
Some of my friends on the left don’t think this is necessary. They think it’s better to punish everyone, regardless of whether the Never Trumpers put their own reputations on the line in order to tenaciously criticize the president. My friends are wrong about this. Very wrong. This is a time for grownups to step up and act accordingly to fix this wasteland of national grabassery. Everyone else can feel free to masturbate in the dark corners of the discourse, vindictively ogling their “Rethuglican” memes and “liberal tears” merch (respectively). The rest of us will be working together as Americans to repair the gaping chasm through which Trump emerged.
This effort starts now. Who’s with me?