“The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally; not a 20 percent traitor,” President Ronald Reagan.
Loyalty to one’s political party is a constant debate. Currently, intellectuals at both ends of the political spectrum are offering conflicting advice.
Michael Kinnucan authored a piece in Current Affairs entitled “Party Unity is for Rubes.” He urged the Democratic Party to be reshaped in a more progressive mold, arguing that only those beliefs can defeat Trump. At the other end of the spectrum, Fred Barnes, executive editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, urged Republicans to not hold out for the perfect, and pled for Republican Senators to, “hold their nose” to pass legislation. Who’s right? How dear should you hold your political principles when pursuing electoral success? Which principles should be compromised for the greater good?
My advice—play to win. In these fractured times of hardened political views, the party with the biggest tent prevails. Political victories are more likely when parties coalesce around principles, but allow for differences and unite. Politics is a team sport, and a united team beats the principled individuals.
My novel Roll the Dice is set for publication in November. The novel explores; a rock star’s campaign for the United States Senate, an estranged father-son relationship, intrigue, corruption and sexual tensions. The novel’s chief protagonist, rocker turned Senate candidate Tyler Sloan, repeats aloud his father Mike’s advice, “Losers don’t legislate.” Mike Sloan was a former California Governor. Both Sloans understand that in politics, only the winner feasts on the spoils.
History is replete with voters from both parties holding onto principles which led to unintended consequences. In 1968, the fractured Democratic Party’s failure to unite around Hubert Humphrey led to the Nixon presidency. In 2012, many evangelical voters stayed home rather than support the moderate Republican Mitt Romney. Progressives who voted with their “heart rather than their head” punched a ballot for Ralph Nader and tilted Florida and the nation from Al Gore to George W. Bush.
Many Democrats today are seeking candidates based on issue-litmus tests. Yet there are many swing or purple congressional districts that are ripe to support a moderate Democrat, but may deny an candidate who tilts too far to the left.
Elizabeth Warren has offered conflicting strategies. At the Net Roots Nation convention of progressives, the Massachusetts Senator did not name names, but criticized many of Bill Clinton’s centrist policies. Yet she also urged the crowd not to decide who in their alliance should be, “voted off the island.” Reagan would advise Warren to follow the latter course.
Will Republicans line up in circular firing squads in 2018? Nevada’s Senator Dean Heller, who has whipsawed between supporting and opposing President Trump, is facing a substantial challenger in the Republican primary. Will Heller survive, but be weakened against the Dem in November?
Reagan’s advice was centered on winning elections and governing. Elections matter. Only the President nominates Supreme Court judges. Only the majority party in Congress controls the Committees and its chairs. In 2018 will it be Speaker Ryan or Speaker Pelosi? Elections have consequences.
The battleground states will remain the same—Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. It is unlikely for Trump to sweep all of those swing states again. However our two-party system produces a binary choice. The winning prescription for Democrats has not yet been formulated, but a nominee who steers the ship too far to the left will lose the middle. Winning precincts in Seattle, West Los Angeles and Manhattan do not equal 270 electoral votes—the middle still matters.