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What About Joe?

Why can’t anti-Trump become work-with-Biden?
February 22, 2021
What About Joe?
(Art Hannah Yoest, photo Getty Images)

There’s an interesting piece in Politico today which raises interesting questions. Its headline: “Anti-Trumpers are done with the GOP. Where do they go now?” The subhed: “Scores of Republicans are bolting the party in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. But they’re discovering there’s really no place to go.” The piece tracks with a bunch of private and not-so-private conversations I’ve been involved in, and reveals a real set of questions and conundrums facing anti-Trumpers.

But the piece is also revealing in another way: Joe Biden is barely mentioned—his name appears twice, in passing. Similarly, Biden’s name is absent from lots of the “Whither Never Trump” conversations I’ve been privy to.

Yes, Joe Biden. Remember him? The current president of the United States; the man who defeated Donald Trump; the man many anti-Trumpers supported; the man whose political future and fate might be thought an important factor in this whole discussion. In discussions of the Never Trump future, President Biden is the invisible man.

But why? I suppose that if you’re committed to staying in the Republican party and fighting the forces of Trump for control, Joe Biden is kind of irrelevant to your challenges. And if you’re committed to founding a third party or some kind of trans-party alliance, Biden might not matter much.

But isn’t there another pretty obvious alternative? Mightn’t one consider allying oneself with the Biden wing of the Democratic party? Aren’t the Red Dogs worth at least a thought?

That wing of the party isn’t insignificant. Biden did win the Democratic nomination. That wing isn’t powerless. Biden is the president. That wing isn’t lacking in other powerful patrons—the speaker of the House and the majority leader of the Senate are at least qualified supporters. And it’s not lacking in up-and-coming younger officials—consider the representatives elected for the first time in 2018, most of whom are pretty centrist, some of whom are very impressive.

So why not Biden? Why not Bidenism? That may not turn out to be the end solution. But surely it’s too real a possibility to be ignored. Why shouldn’t anti-Trump Republicans at least consider becoming a kind-of-Old-Republican wing of Joe Biden’s Democratic party?

Moderate Democrats, historically speaking, get no respect. Sure, they win elections. And they govern pretty successfully. But they get ignored by the media, by their side’s intellectuals, by donors, even by Democratic political pros. And now they’re getting ignored by Never Trumpers.

Maybe it’s time they get attention and respect. Perhaps anti-Trump can morph into work-with-Biden.

Or perhaps not. But it’s worth a look, and even a try.

William Kristol

William Kristol is editor-at-large of The Bulwark.