There once was a friendly debate among those who used the NeverTrump moniker about whether the GOP could be “saved” or was worth “saving.” Early in the Trump presidency (if not before), I answered no; many who once spoke of reforming or reviving the party now have come around to the view it is hopeless.
I cannot speak for others, but the reason the Republican Party is not worth saving is that with few exceptions (e.g. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker), its members have fully embraced Trump and Trumpism — a noxious brew of nationalism, contempt for truth, xenophobia and an “America First” agenda. Any of these would have sent me fleeing from the party; collectively, they make it impossible to return. Sadly, my feelings toward the spineless Republicans who blindly supported Trump, opposed impeachment, enabled his lies and attacks on institutions, and have not found the nerve — even in a pandemic — to take issue with his lies, impulsive reactions and dangerous preferences can be summed up in a single word: contempt.
The Democrats, to the relief of many NeverTrumpers, made it easy for us in this presidential election. Former vice president Joe Biden is a decent, qualified man who is respectful of objective reality, understands separation of powers and embraces America as a nation founded on a creed (“All men are created equal ...”), not on blood and soil. He is no socialist. We can happily embrace him. I would have been prepared to crawl over broken glass to vote for anyone but Trump — yes, even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — because of my conviction that Trump is a menace to democracy and now a danger to our very lives. It would not have been a pleasant choice, and many NeverTrumpers would not have joined me. Thankfully, we were spared the Sanders-vs.-Trump match-up.
But what does this mean going forward, in (God willing) a Biden presidency?
First and foremost, in the battles against Trump’s lawlessness and assault on democracy, for which we have common cause with Democrats, we made clear our determination to shore up our democracy and reinforce institutions that Trump broke. We must make good on that promise, urging protections against politicization of the Justice Department, putting an end to not-even-thinly disguised efforts to suppress the vote, opposing government by acting secretaries and repopulating government with qualified, ethical people.
Second, Biden will need all the help he can get in developing a short-term response to the pandemic, overseeing development of a vaccine and its fair distribution and managing a sane restoration of the “new normal.” I concur wholeheartedly with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who argues that the pandemic has highlighted gross inequities in our society (manifesting in higher death rates and unemployment for nonwhites) that span many issues (e.g. health care, broadband access). That, too, demands our attention. The necessity to target resources where they are desperately needed should not be a partisan issue. No decent person, let alone someone who considers himself a small-"d" democrat, should tolerate such inequities that literally result in the deaths of our fellow Americans.
Third, Biden is fortunately an internationalist at heart who supports an active U.S. presence in the world and still believes U.S. leadership is essential. Most NeverTrumpers have enthusiastically embraced that mind-set for decades, but we must now do some serious thinking about how the United States leads, which international institutions need to be reformed and how we meet the challenge of autocratic states and their undermining of democracy. The isolationist temptation is never fully suppressed, but we must do our best to bolster those who share our worldview.
Finally, many people ask: Are you all big-"D" Democrats now? My answer is “it depends.” I am a Pat Moynihan Democrat, a Scoop Jackson Democrat, an Andrew Cuomo Democrat. I’m not a Bernie Sanders Democrat. So where does that leave me? Where I have been for just about four years: a center-right member of the “Resistance,” an advocate for good governance and internationalism (including free trade and robust legal immigration) and a passionate believer in the American creed. The best answer perhaps to the partisan affiliation question is that it is a time for creative policy and civility, so we will focus on that.
One final point: NeverTrumpers, now NeverRepublicans, should keep their eye on the extraordinary class of female freshmen House centrists (Reps. Abigail Spanberger, Mikie Sherrill, Elaine Luria and others). A lot of those ex-Republicans might decide they are Abigail Spanberger Democrats.