How Democrats Can Peel Off Newly Disenchanted Republican Voters

A guide to the latest issue of the Washington Monthly.

By provoking an insurrection on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump may have accomplished what none of his previous authoritarian and outrageous actions could: splitting the Republican Party. Sizable minorities of GOP voters believe the siege was incited by Trump—28 percent according to YouGov, 41 percent according to Morning Consultant. And an astonishing 25 percent of those who voted for Trump in November want him removed from office immediately, according to an Avalanche Insights poll.

For Democrats, this creates a major opportunity. In order to expand their very narrow majorities and keep authoritarians out of power, the party will need to permanently capture at least a small share of these disaffected Republicans. But to do so, Democrats will need ideas that can help these voters feel permanently welcome. Their current platform, a logical progression of platforms past, was not enough to win decisively in 2020 and probably won’t be enough to protect their congressional majority in 2022.

In this issue of the Washington Monthly, we outline ideas that can help Democrats convert erstwhile Republicans without abandoning progressive principles. Daniel Block argues that Joe Biden should prioritize liberating local governments from a variety of state and federal restrictions imposed on them by Trump and the GOP. Doing so will have policy advantages, like helping progressive cities carry out climate plans that Republican state governments have stonewalled. But it will also have political advantages. Poll after poll shows that most Americans trust local governments far more than the federal government, including an overwhelming majority of Republicans. By becoming the party of local power, Democrats can attract disillusioned members of the GOP.

Elsewhere, Barry Lynn explains how the president-elect can remake U.S. politics and economics through antitrust enforcement. Antitrust may not seem like something Republicans would endorse, but there are plenty of conservatives who share liberals’ concerns about the power of major corporations like Facebook. Also in this issue, Colin Woodard shows how Democrats can craft a civic national narrative for America that displaces Trump’s ethno-nationalist one. After seeing rioters march a Confederate flag through the halls of Congress, plenty of center-right Americans may be willing to embrace the party that finally ends the Lost Cause.

Winning more voters is an urgent task for Democrats, and the party must act fast. Trump may be on his way out of office, but his ideology will survive. Republican politicians are already at work absolving themselves of responsibility for the riot and instead blaming it on the left. Our battle lines will again harden, and the trench warfare will resume. Democrats have an opening in which to lock in their new-found political power and make genuine progress for the country. They must take it.

The January / February / March 2021 Issue: 

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