Charles Blow and Nicholas Kristof parry and thrust on the matter of Democratic outreach to Trumpeteers.
I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no … compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia…. Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise…. No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute.
[I]t’s shortsighted to direct liberal fury at the entire mass of Trump voters…. [S]tereotyping a huge slice of America as misogynist bigots is unfair and impairs understanding…; demonizing Trump voters feeds the dysfunction of our political system … [which] risks making our country ungovernable…. Tolerance is a liberal value; name-calling isn’t…. [And tactically], It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.
While sympathetic to Blow's impatience, I'm disappointed with what, quite vividly, is the straw man argument he deploys in support. By whom on the left, and in what manner, has "compromise" with Trump voters been proposed — compromise, that is, on Trumpism's bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia? It's true that a handful of congressional Democratic leaders, from Charles Schumer to Bernie Sanders, has suggested (erringly, in my view) compromise with the Trump administration on, for example, infrastructure funding. But that — legislative deal-cutting — is not the sort of compromise that Blow raises. To him (and I find this dismaying in a writer of ordinarily impeccable intellectual integrity), Democratic compromise with Trumpism somehow entails compromising with sublime human ethics; some partial Democratic embrace or tentative tolerance of many Trumpeteers' squalid notions of social propriety. In this, Blow is arguing against a self-created phantom. If indeed he doesn't know better, he should.
As for Kristof's opposite stance — that of condemning Blow & Co.'s "shortsightedness" in refusing to reach out to Trump voters — one detects, or at least I detect, a related but once- or twice-removed breed of disingenuity as well, which I'll historically frame. Millions of Nationalsozialistische voters differed with the party's programmatic anti-Semitism. They simply wanted jobs and a cessation of Germany's hellish economic turmoil; the sentiment behind their pro-Nazi votes began and ended just there. Bigotry played little to no part in massive swaths of early Hitlerism. Are we ethically justified, then, in refusing to condemn those voters — even though many understood (or intuited) that along with their improved socioeconomic standing might come the oppression of others?
To me, and in general, though, the Blow-Kristof debate — a microcosm of the much larger Democratic debate on the wisdom of outreach — seems overblown in importance. The most effective Democratic overture to Trump voters is being divinely accomplished by Trump and the GOP themselves. They are making a muck of things in ways that, merely a month or two ago, were unimaginable — even for these clowns. Their utter unsuitability for national governance is becoming undeniable to nearly any Trump voter who voted for Trump for reasons short of unmitigated bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia.
Hence leave these voters alone, I say. Let them absorb for a few months longer the staggering ineptitude of Trumpism. In time they'll splinter off and come around, back to some semblance of sanity. As for the Democratic Party? It had best be preparing a coherent political program. "Outreach" itself, for now, can wait.