The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Democracy defenders can’t be picky about their political allies

Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor in Arizona, speaks at a roundtable event in Phoenix on Sept. 19. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

If one believes the United States faces an existential threat to democracy posed by a violent, anti-democratic movement, then one cannot be picky about political allies. Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor in Arizona, understands this.

After Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said she’d be happy to campaign against election deniers such as Hobbs’s opponent, MAGA extremist and election denier Kari Lake, Hobbs responded during a recent TV interview, “We welcome support of a broad coalition of folks to make sure that Arizona stays in the hands of a leader who’s gonna bring sanity instead of chaos.” She added, “If Liz Cheney wants to come to Arizona, I welcome her — as well as the broad coalition of sane Republicans who want a sane leader in the governor’s office, who have joined our campaign.”

Hobbs did not say, “No thanks, she voted for Trump twice.” She did not say, “Forget it. She and her father vouched for the Iraq War.” Nor did Hobbs say, “I’m pro-choice, so Cheney’s anti-abortion views are offensive.”

Yes, Cheney did vote for Trump twice, did support the Iraq War and applauded the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. She doesn’t agree with Hobbs on many things. And that is the point. When democracy is at issue, defenders of the Constitution have to put aside those real and critical policy differences. Without democracy, no one gets to make their case for any of those issues in the marketplace of ideas.

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The GOP succeeds in retaining voter loyalty in large part by portraying Democrats as condescending toward conservatives and dogmatically leftist. Telling a devoted pro-democracy Republican to scram only reinforces that impression and conveys to Republicans that their support is unwanted, for it will pollute their pristine ideological focus.

On a more practical level, Cheney is better situated than most Democrats to convince Arizona Republicans or independents who have supported Republicans such as the late Arizona Sen. John McCain or President George W. Bush to vote for Hobbs now.

And Cheney’s support for the Democratic candidate is not going to “cost” Democrats anything. There aren’t Democrats out there saying, “Gosh, I was going to vote for Hobbs, but now that Cheney is supporting her, forget it!”

Another Democrat, Rep. Tom Malinowski (N.J.), has taken a similar approach in his competitive race against Republican Tom Kean Jr., who is now trying to erase his pandering to the MAGA base during the GOP primary election. Malinowski didn’t tell people who might disagree with him on some spending issues to get lost. Instead, he has sought the endorsement of the new Moderate Party, launched by moderate Republicans, and told them they would have considerable influence with him.

“If I were to win my congressional race by, say, two points and five or 10 of those points came from supporters of the Moderate Party, I would work hard to keep their support,” Malinowski wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “After all, if I didn’t, they could endorse someone else — possibly a Republican — in the next election.”

That’s exactly right. Pro-democracy forces need every single Republican or Republican-leaning independent they can get. It would be churlish and politically dumb to turn help away. The smarter Democrats — not only Malinowski and Hobbs, but also Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro — are welcoming Republicans with open arms, not chasing them off with a litmus test. That’s the only hope America has to build a pro-democracy, anti-MAGA coalition that is going to keep election deniers, radicals and outright racists from gaining power.