The Enemy One Cannot Negotiate With

Back in November, I noted that former Secretary of State John Kerry has been promoted as a potential candidate to challenge Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker, and that Setti Warren, a former aide to Kerry who is now the mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, is also contemplating a challenge to Baker. Warren is regarded as having solid progressive credentials, but a recent op-ed about the Democratic Party’s alleged need to reach out to Trump voters displays a critical flaw in Warren’s thinking:

A couple of weeks after Election Day last November, I received an email from a fellow veteran and self-described “deplorable” supporter of President-elect Trump. Some days later we sat down to talk, not debate or argue or yell, just talk. It was an eye opening experience and I wanted more.

Along with that Trump-backer, I decided to do a little experiment. I invited three folks who voted for Trump, and three who supported Hillary Clinton to dinner at a popular local restaurant. Every one of them was a little apprehensive, and I’ll admit that I was a little worried about how things would go. But once we started talking and listening to each other, the evening exceeded my highest expectations.

We sat together and talked about where we came from, our backgrounds, and what led us to vote the way we did. Most people in the group did not know one another. As President Obama would suggest hours later, these were strangers who came together in real life to talk…

The decorated Vietnam veteran who likes Trump and the High School principal who was alarmed by the President-elect’s rhetoric both agree that America is a country where opportunity should be open for all. The pro-life nursery school teacher and the devoted Democrat who regretted not having more time to volunteer to help elect the first woman agree on the importance of national security, and keeping every citizen safe, both at home and abroad.

We have a lot of work to do to get our nation back on track, but our first priority as engaged citizens should be to start breaking the bubble too many of us have created around ourselves by listening only to those with whom we agree. It’s an important project, but it does not have to be a complicated one.

Give me a damn break.

Warren is sadly mistaken if he thinks the folks who voted for the bigoted billionaire seek common ground with anyone even slightly to the political left, their manners in restaurants notwithstanding. As I read this bizarre piece, I thought back to the compelling ad Warren ran during his aborted challenge to then-Sen. Scott Brown in 2011, an ad mentioning his late sister’s struggle with severe asthma. Frankly, I cannot understand why Warren thinks Democrats can reason with folks who willfully and deliberately voted for a man who seeks to deprive millions of Americans of the health care they need to fight asthma and other life-threatening diseases.

It’s disturbing that Warren embraces this sort of adolescent reasoning. Harsh as it might sound to some, the folks who voted for Trump–the folks who actually think White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is honest–did so with malice aforethought, specifically intending to use government power to bring suffering to those they regard as members of a lesser order. Warren is fooling himself if he thinks folks who have been propagandized into viewing the Democratic Party as America’s home for welfare dependency, inner-city crime, racial quotas and political correctness will ever give the party a second look. Future Democratic victories can only come from turning out as much of the party’s base as possible on a consistent basis, not by bending over backwards to attract those sympathetic to wingnuts.

The Trump voters Warren spoke to voted for a man whose nominee for Attorney General, if confirmed, will ignore police brutality committed against those who share Warren’s background. Does Warren seriously believe these voters can be reasoned with? To rework a Biblical phrase, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for someone who embraced Trump to ever again consider a vote for a Democrat.

Those who voted for Trump are Warren’s enemies, whether he knows it or not. Those who voted for Trump are the enemies of Democrats, whether Democrats know it or not. Trumpism cannot be negotiated with, and it damn sure can’t be reasoned with. It can only be conquered via a massive turnout of Democratic troops on the battlefield of ideas–and if that doesn’t happen, Trumpism will continue to prevail politically.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.