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Opinion 3 ways to build a pro-democracy coalition

Cherelle Parker, a city council member in Philadelphia, speaks in support of Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, on June 29. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)
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In the wake of the Jan. 6 hearings, the Supreme Court’s reactionary overreach and the GOP’s nomination of election deniers in the midterms, democracy’s defenders must prioritize forming a coalition to defeat the antidemocratic MAGA movement. The good news is that creative politicians have been experimenting with three different strategies to keep the MAGA right wing out of power.

The first strategy involves conscientious, non-MAGA Republicans putting country over party and refusing to back crackpots nominated for the midterms. We can see this in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, in which Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro is up against MAGA favorite state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who joined the mob at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The GOP establishment tried but failed to defeat him. So on Wednesday, nine well-known state Republicans — including retired state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman and former Pennsylvania Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Greenwood — endorsed Shapiro.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Greenwood said he wouldn’t support Mastriano for a number of reasons, including his “attendance at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, his use of campaign funds to bus supporters to that event, his repeated claims of debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, his vow to ban all abortion in the state with no exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person, his opposition to same-sex marriage, and his comparison of gun-control measures to Nazism.” (Mastriano also held a hearing in Gettysburg, Penn., to spread lies of voter fraud in the state shortly after the election. The hearing featured Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and a call from Trump.)

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Similar to the more than two dozen Republicans that Greenwood helped round up to endorse President Biden in 2020, other Republicans can join in endorsing Shapiro and other Democrats up against the worst of election deniers and MAGA extremists.

Likewise, in Ohio, former Republican governor John Kasich could endorse moderate Democrat Tim Ryan in his Senate race against Trump favorite J.D. Vance. And in Arizona, sober Republicans such as former senator Jon Kyl can come out against MAGA Reps. Paul A. Gosar and Andy Biggs. They can also back Democratic opponents to election denier Kari Lake in the state’s gubernatorial race and Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, who recently blamed gun violence on Black people.

The second strategy involves Democrats doing their part in races where a Democratic nominee would have no chance of winning. In Utah, for example, Democrats are lining up behind independent conservative Evan McMullin in his bid against Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who tried to help Trump with his phony elector scheme in early January 2021. Democrats have forgone nominating their own candidate. Shockingly, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has so far not endorsed his fellow Utah senator. Other Republicans from the state, including former Rep. Mia Love and former governor Jon Huntsman, could do the same. (In recent polling McMullin was within a few points of Lee.)

Similarly, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is up against a menagerie of deniers, cranks and conspiracy theorists in her GOP primary, as demonstrated in her recent debate. Democrats can cross over in the primary to vote for her and keep one of the few sane and patriotic Republicans in office.

Finally, democracy defenders can experiment with new parties to pull voters away from the GOP. For example, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who is in a tough reelection fight in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District, recently received the endorsement of the new Moderate Party. If the party prevails in its lawsuit against the state’s ban on “fusion” parties, Malinowski would appear on the ballot under both the Democratic and Moderate banners.

As Malinowski writes in an op-ed for the New York Times, “The Moderate Party is an experiment: an alliance between Democrats of all stripes, independents and moderate Republicans hoping to win an election while pursuing a reform to the election laws that could empower swing voters to save our democracy from toxic polarization.” Malinowski believes it could help attract Republicans “disgusted with their national party’s embrace of election lies, vaccine denial and QAnon conspiracy theories but who are turned off by the left wing of the Democratic Party and remain reluctant to pull its lever.”

Malinowski offers a thought experiment: “Imagine if my Republican House colleagues Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger could form a party of moderate voters and offer the validation that comes with its line on the ballot to the next Democratic presidential nominee — as long as that nominee promised to respect the Constitution and to govern from the center.” Those moderate swing voters could be the difference between winning and losing, making them an important constituency.

These aren’t the only ways to defeat right-wing extremists. Ranked-choice voting gives an advantage in primaries to candidates with wider appeal, helping to push candidates to the center. Putting independent commissions in charge of redistricting could also reduce the number of deep-red — or deep-blue — districts and increase the number of competitive seats.

There is no one strategy that fits all situations. Whatever the methodology, Democrats and non-MAGA Republicans should work on innovative ways to put country over party and diminish the influence of the narrow strata of right-wing extremists. Our democracy might depend on it.

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