By the time most of you read this, I’ll be on a plane heading to Stockholm. I probably won’t write until I get back later in the month, so I want to give you some summer reading advice. Don’t read people who agree with you. Or at least don’t only read people who agree with you.
Right now, the great debate in our country is not between left and right, though too many people still believe that it is. The existential fight in the country today is between those who are pro-democracy and those who aren’t. While an illiberal, authoritarian mob has largely taken control of the Republican Party, there are still plenty of pro-democracy conservatives. While the Democrats are still ruled by pro-democracy forces, there’s a growing autocratic faction on the left. I want to see the pro-democracy factions become dominant again in both parties.
Some of the best political analysis I’ve read recently has come from the never-Trump conservatives. The Dispatch, founded by Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, and The Bulwark, founded by Charlie Sykes and Bill Kristol, have become go-to reading for me. I disagree with most of their positions on issues, but find their political commentary often spot on. They offer a clear-eyed look at politics, unmarred by an allegiance to either party. The writers have largely rejected the tribalism that dominates so much of our world today.
This past weekend, I stumbled on a podcast called The Focus Group hosted by Bulwark publisher Sarah Longwell. Her guest was Rachel Vindman, wife of Alexander Vindman who testified against Trump in his first impeachment. They discussed how the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade could affect the midterm elections. The focus groups were made up of women who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. While most were pro-life, their views were far more nuanced and their emotions around the issue far more complex than the two sides protesting would have you believe. Longwell and Vindman concluded that abortion could have a major impact on the elections but that Democrats probably lacked the political skills to use it effectively. It was smart commentary. I’ll continue to listen.
Last night, Stephen Hayes of the Dispatch, tweeted about the Jan. 6 Committee hearing, defending their work even as other conservatives were dismissing it. Jonah Goldberg wrote about the unfortunate need for the committee and the continued threat to our democracy. Dispatch editor David French provides an alternative to evangelical group think while never giving up on his religion. All three believe democracy matters, even if I believe they are wrong on issues like guns, abortion, and taxes.
As we move forward in this country, the battle is not going to be between Democrat and Republican. It’s going to be pro-democracy verses anti-democracy. The hope is that the pro-democracy conservatives can build a party or coalition strong enough to defeat the authoritarians who largely control the post-Trump GOP.
Democrats who believe there’s some silent leftist majority that will suddenly emerge when somebody offers a progressive enough platform are delusional. Democrats have largely alienated the least ideological people in the country, those in the middle. Republicans are winning right now because of the failure of Democrats, not the success of Trump. The key to defeating the Trumpists is building strong pro-democracy factions controlling both parties, or maybe multiple parties.
I’m not asking you to agree with Hayes or Goldberg or Longwell, but I am asking you to get familiar with them. Support them in their efforts to push back on anti-democratic forces on their side of the political spectrum. And don’t dismiss their criticism of the Democratic Party. You will have a better understanding of the fight that’s brewing in this country and you’ll know who your allies are in the fight for democracy.
See you in a couple of weeks.