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Can A Coalition Of The Principled Center Fight Trumpism?

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Can A Coalition Of The Principled Center Fight Trumpism?


Here’s a little story from the bad old days of the New York subway: On seeing a well-dressed man drop a wrapper on a subway platform, a well-dressed woman urged him to pick it up.

“What’s the use?” the man said, gesturing at the filthy surroundings.

“If people like us don’t maintain standards,” the woman replied, “then all is lost.”

Donald Trump’s authoritarian trashing of American norms has created a political pigsty. Principled conservatives are bravely standing up to the seedy populism unleashed by the sloppy and crude attacks on American institutions. Kudos to John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Evan McMullin, and other conservatives for calling out the vandals and their weasel excuses.

Centrist liberals should offer them backup. That would mean giving Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, a fair and civil hearing. Gorsuch is an “originalist” — one who tries to interpret the U.S. Constitution as its writers intended. That would require reading the minds of people who died before there were typewriters, a seemingly impossible task. But if Gorsuch is as principled as he is said to be, his decisions would not necessarily reflect the politics of the moment.

Gorsuch would also bring a needed Western perspective to the court. He is a Coloradan and an outdoorsman who might show some of the independence exhibited by former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a conservative from Arizona. Education-wise, his credentials are tops.

This is not an endorsement. Senate Democrats can grill him with gusto. One can expect them to ask sharp questions regarding the Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a right to an abortion — and also expect him to avoid making his feelings known. That’s how these sessions go.

But vows to oppose Gorsuch before hearing him out further degrade a shabby landscape. Yes, Democrats would be doing to Trump’s nominee some of what Republicans did to Barack Obama’s sterling choice of Merrick Garland. And they have every right to remain incensed at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to even consider Garland in the 10 remaining months of the Obama administration.

But given the current crisis, payback should take a back seat to the good of an American system under assault by Trump and associated barbarians. Put in milder terms, do Democrats want to add to the growing pile of litter being thrown onto our political norms?

There does appear to be a blossoming coalition of the center-right and center-left. In years past, they made war over various issues. There’s now a growing recognition that occasionally losing battles is preferable to losing the republic.

Many on the right, especially, are expressing regrets at their past willingness to collaborate with the on-air demagogues who have so coarsened the political conversation. Liberals could do their bit by giving a courteous hearing to a Supreme Court nominee whom their conservative brothers and sisters in the anti-Trump bloc greatly respect — and who is also deserving of respect.

Gorsuch has a reputation for decency. He’s worked well with colleagues of many political persuasions. Decent people don’t have to agree. They just have to keep the world safe for decency.

Readers of history know that authoritarian movements fueled by lies eventually land in the dumpster. The reasonable center needs to be prepared for the cleanup.

The far left has become politically inert, preferring fiery speeches over voting for less-than-perfect Democrats. The far right is bonkers. A centrist coalition is the greatest hope for saving the country from Trump. And to maintain it, the members must keep their politics neat and tidy.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.

IMAGE: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Dominick Vila February 2, 2017

    At a time when 49% of Americans support policies and rhetoric that are both un-American, and very likely unconstitutional, the chances of moderate Republicans standing man to the man that is deliberately destroying the values we purportedly hold are slim to none. There are many principled Republicans in Congress, and serving as Governor throughout the country, but most are either intimidated by the distinct probability of a popular backlash, attacks by a vindictive man in a position of power, or obliged to the man that is finally delivering on their dream to turn the Supreme Court into a fascist institution.

    1. dbtheonly February 2, 2017

      GM Dom,

      Do the 49% support un-American policies? Calling you on that one.

      Next we’ve got to ask if there are indeed any “Moderate Republicans”? I maintain my position that the labels are meaningless. “Lindsey Graham Moderate” sticks in my craw writing it. Moderate as compared to whom?

      Then I’ll assert that those I’d consider Moderate Republicans, Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist, & such, left the Republican Party already.

      I am not for mindless obstruction for the sake of obstruction. I do believe we need to look at each Trump appointment with the understanding that Trump is making the appointment. We’re not going to like any of them. But is this the best we’re going to get? On the other hand I see no need to help Trump chop off parts of my body.

      Finally I’ll repeat Lyndon Johnson’s advice, “When dealing with people you don’t trust, keep your guard up and your hand out.”

      1. Dominick Vila February 2, 2017

        Good advice by LBJ. According to recent polls Trump enjoys a 49% approval rating. If true, that is a terrifying fact that augur four years of misery for most of us. I cannot believe so many fellow Americans accept the lies being articulated by Trump and his team, ignore his xenophobia, condone his misogyny, accept his vulgarity, and support the destruction of everything this country has stood for since we became a nation. Why worry about terrorism, Putin, the Chinese, North Korea, or anyone else when the greatest danger to our society is sitting in the Oval Office?

        1. dbtheonly February 2, 2017

          Don’t get too hung on the approval ratings. Any poll is a snapshot of a moving river. But the last I’d seen it was 36/49 disapproval.

          I want Trump to be a successful President. A failure here would mean the extermination of humanity in a nuclear cloud. I even hope that he will solve those problems he’s been complaining about. I can hope. I’m betting the Republican Policies will be the same car wreck they’ve always been.

          Republicans have spent years emasculating the Public School System. They’ve spent billions controlling the flow of information and creating their own alternate reality. Why are you surprised they’ve been successful?

          Flagged the spam for you.

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  2. Jerry February 2, 2017

    I’ve said for some time now that what we truly need these days is a third party that is more centered and toward the middle than the two far right and far left ones we have now that only further divide us as a country with their extreme agendas over more sensible and reasonable solutions to our nation’s problems. It would take bringing in some current Republicans and Democrats to form one that would be successful, but it could also help unite our country once again instead of seeing all the hateful rhetoric of today’s politicians and news media. While there may be 49% of the country who support Trump or 51% who support Obama a good percentage of both of those would rather support someone less controversial and see a Congress who is much more willing to work together to solve problems as opposed to creating more problems by being so divided now by party lines. It’s time for us all to stand up and demand both parties start working together to solve things instead of promoting only their most extreme agendas knowing full well that a huge part of the country opposes such and that the other side will oppose every thing they propose. While Republicans were very wrong in opposing all Obama proposed or the Democrats did, Democrats will be also if they do the same thing against Trump and Republicans. Instead, we need to see some cooperation between both sides to accomplish good results but for now that is unlikely to happen. It may take a third party that more Americans will support to make both current ones see the light and start to be Americans first instead of either a Democrat or Republican that could care less for our nation as long as they can be re-elected.

    1. I Am Helpy February 2, 2017

      So you … want the Democrats to exist?

      1. I Am Helpy February 2, 2017

        I mean, you’d have to be a lunatic to think the Democrats and/or their base were “far left”.

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