With the official nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton has the opponent of her dreams – someone whose character, preparation and views are so defective as to make the roll call a devastating moment in the lives of many Republicans.
The GOP has had magnificent nominees (Abraham Lincoln) and likable nominees (Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower). It’s had admirable nominees who lost (Mitt Romney) and flawed nominees who won (Richard Nixon). It has never – and we certainly include Barry Goldwater – had a nominee who embarrasses and disgusts a significant number of people in his own party. How does Clinton, without endangering support in her own ranks, reach out to Republicans to secure her win? Here are five steps she can take:
1. Resist the urge to defame the entire party. A majority of the GOP primary electorate did not vote for Trump, and many who did not participate in the primaries will not vote for him. It is to these Republicans that Clinton should appeal.
2. Paint the picture. As horrifying as it might seem, Clinton should be spelling out the potential ramifications of a Trump presidency. One day he writes off the Baltic States in a fit of pique, prompting Vladimir Putin to strike while the iron is hot. Trump does not believe the United States can default on the debt so he does just that in refusing to accept a reasonable budget (or continuing resolution) crafted by members of both parties. He digs in his heels and decides he need not abide by a Supreme Court ruling invalidating parts of his wacky immigration plan. These are not fantastical scenarios; they are entirely predictable.
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3. Commit herself to bipartisanship in foreign policy. We have argued that without President Obama, there is a great deal more bipartisan agreement on Russia, the Islamic State, Iran, China, NATO and other topics. Clinton can pledge to include in significant policy positions some of the center-right voices with whom she sees eye to eye on any number of topics. She can say it is time to stop relitigating the Iraq War and work on eradicating the Islamic State and ensuring a stable Middle East. She can be gracious toward respected Republicans (e.g. Sen. John McCain).
4. She can defend George W. Bush now and then – against Trump. Bush’s anti-AIDS campaign has saved millions of lives in Africa. He championed No Child Left Behind. He forcefully derided anti-Muslim bias. It’s actually an old trick to praise past Republicans as a means of criticizing active ones, but the tactic here is especially effective given how depressed Republicans are about the nominee this time around.
5. Elevate the qualities Trump lacks; support the values he derides. Trump lacks empathy, intellectual curiosity, patience and tolerance – some of the critical traits of successful presidents. He disdains “losers,” reveres power and feigns religiosity. These deficiencies go far beyond politics. Most ordinary Americans do not share these glaring defects and feel queasy about a president who does. Simply said, Americans are better than this. (We hope.)
Clinton will no doubt do some small things well. She’ll have a long list of Republican supporters. She’ll run a real campaign in 50 states, refusing to write off states Democrats haven’t won recently (as she hopes Trump wastes time and money in New York and California). But what she really needs to do is demonstrate a largeness of spirit, something Trump is incapable of doing.
The Washington Post