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A Message to Democrats from Your New Ally

Victory is near.
October 22, 2020
A Message to Democrats from Your New Ally
The Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415, 1783. From a private collection. Artist Burke, Thomas (1749-1815). (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

I’ve spent a lot of my life—far too much in retrospect—waging war on the Democratic party. It was my job and I was good at it but in all those battles, even in the toughest of races, I never hated the other side. I wanted to win each race with the heat of a thousand suns and when I did lose, I found it sickening in a way that hung with me longer than any victory. But I never feared for the country if the Democrats won.

This year, for the first time in my life, I’m helping out the other side, because I very much do fear for the country under an even more unrestrained Donald Trump. There are many good men and women in the Republican party, but they have proven themselves to be smaller than the moment demanded. They stink of fear and desperation and it breaks my heart to watch them flail around trying to convince the world, and themselves, that they are not who they have proven to be. I feel sadness. I feel pity. But not remorse.

Today’s Republicans are not worthy of the great legacy they inherited. When grown men and women refuse to denounce a man who boasts he did not rape a woman because “she was not my type,” any semblance of public good has been lost. I can’t direct the Republican party to the lost and found where it might reclaim its soul, but I do know that defeat, while not sufficient, is necessary in order for it to embark on that journey.

It’s a strange feeling to be working on the side of those whom you fought for so long. Often in winning campaigns—and the Democrats are winning this campaign—there comes a giddy sense of satisfaction when you near the end. I feel none of that. For me there’s no joy in working against my former tribe. I think the experience must be a little like having been a member of the First Alabama Cavalry, the soldiers from the deep South who remained loyal to the Union. General Sherman relied on them as his personal escort. I suspect it was because he knew they had made a bitter choice that pitted them against friends and family—and once that line was crossed, they would not flinch seeing the task to completion. So it is with those of us who are, or once were, Republicans now fighting against Trump and Trumpism.

Having spent decades attacking the Democratic party, I don’t approach your party with any illusions about it being perfect. But I am convinced that the Democratic party has remained far truer to aspirational American values than the compromised, moral disgrace that is the party which endorsed Roy Moore and welcomes the dangerous lunacy of QAnon.

I am proud to be helping a good and decent man like Joe Biden and I welcome the future that is represented by Senator Harris.

The Biden operation is running a superb campaign: disciplined and mature. To launch as a frontrunner and stumble as badly as the Biden campaign did in the primary, there is tremendous pressure to change the candidacy in some dramatic and almost inevitably unsuccessful way. The vice president and his campaign didn’t go down that path. They decided to win or lose with who Joe Biden is. And damn if they didn’t win.

The most vulnerable moment for any challenger facing an incumbent president is the period immediately after securing the nomination, when you are broke and trying to build a national organization out of a series of state races you were fighting just a few weeks earlier. In all of modern politics, the Biden campaign is the only campaign that actually jumped out to a lead against an incumbent during this tenuous time.

Even given all of this success in a race where Biden has held a steady and sizable lead, I sense a strange lack of confidence with Democrats, as if they have been juggling eggs for most of a marathon and can’t believe they actually might cross the finish in first place.

In these last two weeks, I would plead with Democrats to change that mindset and banish the timidity. If I ran the Democratic party, here’s what I’d be telling my troops:

We are going to crush Donald Trump and the sickness he represents. There are more of us than there are of them. We are right. They are wrong. This is our moment. This is our destiny. Walk with confidence. Do not falter. Victory will be ours.

That sounds terribly overconfident and a lot of Democrats can’t shake the nagging sense that overconfidence was one of the horsemen of the Trump 2016 apocalypse. But this is actually a misreading of history.

It wasn’t overconfidence that hurt Hillary Clinton. It was lack of urgency. The inability to imagine Donald Trump has always been one of his great advantages. Republican primary opponents couldn’t imagine that a bankrupt casino owner who talked in public about having sex with his daughter could win the Republican nomination. Many general election voters considered it an impossibility that America would elect Donald Trump and so didn’t bother voting, or voted for third-party candidates in what they thought was a safe protest.

But we don’t need to imagine Donald Trump anymore. We’ve seen the elephant. We can’t stop seeing it, no matter how much we want to. Trump has dominated our public life and intruded in our lives. One of the great virtues of a civil society with a functioning democracy is the ability to not think about politics. Trump has robbed us of that right because he has brought our democracy to the brink.

So to my Democratic friends: Let us go forward in this final stretch with the confidence that our mission is vital and our opponent is weak.

Do not hesitate to swagger. These last two weeks belong to you. Years from now you will look back on these last days as some of the best in your lives. An evil was unleashed in the country you love and you rose to smite it. You will slay this dragon.

Trump is collapsing and his allies of convenience are panicked.

Now is when you turn a victory into a rout. We are all tired, but the other side isn’t just tired. They are frightened and confused. As they should be. Because they are losing the fight for the soul of this country. And they know it.

Victory is near.

Stuart Stevens

Stuart Stevens is a Republican consultant and writer and currently a senior advisor to the Lincoln Project. His most recent book is It Was All A Lie: How The Republican Party Became Donald Trump.