It has not gone unnoticed that Hillary Clinton is reaching out to independents and any “thoughtful Republican.” How could the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee enhance her chances?
First, she should empathize with them. These are people in the party of Lincoln who’ve seen their party hijacked by a policy ignoramus who is also a xenophobe, nativist, protectionist and isolationist. She should commend such voters on their refusal to succumb to pure partisanship and ask them to do what they may never have done before, namely vote for a Democrat for president. She can recognize that many Republicans do not want Trump to be the face of their party.
Second, she should draw a contrast with Trump by explicitly saying she wants to unify the country, work together where the parties agree and treat adversaries with respect. She can point to her Senate career as evidence that she won the respect of Republicans. She can acknowledge that President Barack Obama’s relationship with Congress (both Democrats and Republicans, truthfully) was poor. And as President Obama has done, she can commend President George W. Bush’s work in trying to eradicate AIDS.
Third, she can assure Republicans what she will not do. She won’t start a trade war with China, pull back from NATO, give Japan and South Korea nukes, offend Sunni Arab allies, or order the military to commit war crimes. She knows enough not to suggest we try to get a “discount” on our debt. She could even be more explicit: She’s not going to blunder into a nuclear war.
Fourth, there is plenty to agree upon in the area of national security. She can remind them that she believes in U.S. leadership in the world, wants to bolster alliances, knows we need to get the relationship with Israel back on track and favors a policy to check Iranian aggression. She needn’t overdo it (since there are real differences with some Republicans on, for example, military spending), but once Sen. Bernie Sanders is out of the way, she surely can let the cat out of the bag: She’s much more of a hawk than President Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Fifth, she can pick a domestic issue or two — Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty agenda would be ideal — where she thinks there is some common ground with Republicans.
Sixth, she should not be shy about identifying Republicans or former military figures respected by conservatives whom she would put in high-level positions. Instead of promising gender equality in her cabinet she might want to promise to put one or more Republicans (or former Republicans) in top positions.
In sum, there are many P.J. O’Rourkes who think: “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”
There are even Republicans who think she is wrong merely about most things. It should not be that hard to convince some #NeverTrump voters that they have a mutual goal in preventing the worst of what Trump brings (isolationism, xenophobia, threats of violence, pathological conspiracy mongering) from sullying the presidency.
Clinton, of course, is not going to get a majority or even a quarter of GOP votes. However, she might get more Republican voters than Trump gets African American or Hispanic voters. Even if she convinces a slightly larger group of Republicans to leave the top of the ticket blank she’ll have accomplished a great deal. If she wins, there will be fights galore on policy issues and raucous elections in 2018 and 2020. But it will all be within normal parameters and without the dark, ugly cloud of Trumpism hanging over both sides.
Jennifer Rubin writes The Right Turn blog for The Washington Post.