But I’m happy to urge my fellow Republicans to back Joe Biden for president. If you’re a Republican living in an open-primary state, help him get the Democratic nomination. Once he has it, vote for him in November.
Plenty of Republicans see President Trump’s moral and political failures clearly. About 10 percent of Republican voters believe Trump should be removed from office. Those voters will be up for grabs in the 2020 election. They should be relieved that Biden is the Democratic front-runner right now.
For one thing, Biden surely would score high on the “have a beer with the guy” electability test. Biden doesn’t even drink beer, or any alcohol, but he’s still able to inspire a sense of collegial good feeling. I saw as much at the November 2006 Return Day ceremony, a post-election tradition in Sussex County, Del., when politicians from both sides gather and literally bury a hatchet to symbolize goodwill. Lots of beer is consumed on Return Day, but one of the most convivial participants I saw was the teetotal Biden. Washington could use a few more old-school politicians who understand that spirit of bipartisanship.
For some Democrats, the idea of wooing dissatisfied Republicans is nauseating. Yet the best outcome for the country may require the left-of-center to find common ground with the right-of-center, especially on trade, immigration and foreign policy. The surest way for that to happen is for Biden to win the Democratic nomination and the White House.
Trump has bludgeoned free-trade Republicans into temporary submission, but it’s far from clear that they’ve forgotten basic economics. They may have lost some enthusiasm for trade deals, but the GOP wasn’t the party of tariffs before Trump, and it won’t be after Trump, when business interests can be expected to reassert their party influence.
But Republicans weren’t alone in adjusting to Trumpian trade politics: Free trade has achieved record popularity among Democrats. It’s possible that the end of the Trump era will see Democrats revert to their usual trade-wariness; most of the Democratic presidential contenders don’t seem to match their constituents’ enthusiasm for free trade. But the beginning of a Biden presidency could present a brief, shining opportunity for trade liberalization. He’s certainly no fan of Trump’s tariffs.
Immigration policy presents another opening. The ugliness of the Trump administration’s immigration policies might appeal to some parts of the GOP, but the president appears to be losing some Republicans on the issue. Between December 2018 and July 2019, for example, Republican support for accepting refugees from Central America climbed 10 points, to 24 percent, according to Gallup. Trump’s anti-immigrant message works with his base but cuts against overall trends: Since 1999, Gallup says, Americans’ support for keeping the immigration level the same or increasing it has climbed from 51 percent to 64 percent, with the biggest jump — from 10 percent to 27 percent — in support for raising the immigration numbers.
On immigration, as on trade, big business will push the Republican Party toward compromise. Biden, who released a detailed plan for immigration reform in December, would no doubt be ready to make a deal to finally modernize a dysfunctional system.
Foreign policy, too, could be a strong point for Biden among disaffected Republicans. In the fall, Trump’s foreign policy was finally losing Republican support. That may rebound, temporarily, in the wake of the U.S. drone strike on Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, but the past several days have made clearer than ever that there is no Trump foreign policy doctrine. There is, as ever, merely the cult of Trump.
Meanwhile, Biden has been measured and thoughtful in his response to developments in the Middle East. If he continues to show strength — real moral strength, not performative macho aggression — on foreign policy, that, too, would appeal to Republicans.
Countless Americans today are desperate for reconciliation and a semblance of normalcy. I’ve never voted for a Democrat, but Biden offers the possibility of just such a political recovery from the nightmare of the past few years. I invite my fellow restless Republicans to join me. After Nov. 3, the country could have a national Return Day to bury the hatchet and maybe raise a beer to toast the arrival of the post-Trump era.