Progressives should not break out in hives at the prospect of the Red Dogs becoming a permanent feature of the party. That, in large part, is because what most motivates these traditionally Republican voters — and infuriates them about their former party — is the MAGA Republicans’ war on truth and democracy.
Democrat David R. Eichenthal, former chief of staff to New York City Public Advocate Mark Green and former city finance officer in Chattanooga, Tenn., who recently explored a run in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, writes for the New Republic: “While an overwhelming majority of Republicans and conservatives in the district are on the wrong side of democracy, as much as one-third are pro-democracy Republicans for whom the insurrection and the vote against certification were the last straw.” He adds, “That’s not enough to win a Republican primary, but it is enough to create an interesting electoral dynamic in the general election.”
As a preliminary matter, this is a great advertisement for ranked-choice voting. If the top four or five candidates (regardless of party) made it to the general election, a conservative Democrat or pro-democracy Republican might have a shot at winning. The ability to draw other candidates’ second or third choices gives the advantage to candidates closer to the political center and penalizes radicals at either end of the spectrum.
Both Miller and Eichenthal touch on a critical point: More about any policy issue foreign or domestic, these Republicans are deeply concerned about the GOP’s descent into a cult that poses a danger both to its own followers (via vaccine denial) and to democracy. The gap between their concern for democracy and the next issue of importance is vast. Indeed, these are essentially one issue voters — the issue being democracy.
These voters are highly receptive to the need for voting reform (including safeguarding the presidential race by changing the Electoral Count Act), for a definitive and accurate account of the Jan. 6 insurrection and for the prosecution of wrongdoers from the Trump administration (including former president Donald Trump himself). Many have sworn off ever voting for someone who tried to overthrow the election. (You’d think that would be the bottom line for all Americans, huh?)
These former Republicans or Republicans in exile may not be thrilled with the amount of federal spending under Biden. They might be worried about the Afghanistan pullout. But they are very pleased Trump is gone and that the House is not in his supplicants’ hands. They are quite certain that Trump and congressional Republicans who would do his bidding are an ongoing threat to democracy.
This suggests Democrats should not neglect Jan. 6 or the “big lie” in their 2022 campaigns. They must remind Red Dogs that congressional Republicans are abetting a scheme to suppress voting and rig the results of future elections. Highlighting how close the country came to a meltdown of our democracy will be critical to keeping these voters on board. Even if they like a particular Republican in the House, a vote for a Republican in 2022 is essentially a vote to invest power in the disgraced former president.
Besides, it would not hurt to remind Democrats that whatever their quibbles with Biden and the current Congress, the country cannot risk a GOP Senate or House, which would likely seek to overturn the 2024 electoral count (as they did in 2020) if the vote does not go their way.