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 for many Republicans. The GOP has had magnificent nominees (Abraham Lincoln) and likable nominees (Ronald Reagan). It’s had admirable nominees who lost (Mitt Romney) and flawed nominees who won (Richard Nixon). It has never – including Barry Goldwater – had a nominee who embarrasses and disgusts a significant number of people in his own party. How does Clinton, without endangering Democratic support, reach out to Republicans to secure her win? Here are five steps:
1. Don’t defame the entire party. A majority of GOP primary voters did not vote for Trump, and many who did not participate in the primaries will not vote for him. Clinton should appeal to them.
2. Paint the picture. Clinton should be spelling out a Trump presidency’s potential ramifications. One day he writes off the Baltic States in a fit of pique, prompting Vladimir Putin to strike while the iron is hot. He decides he need not abide by a Supreme Court ruling invalidating parts of his wacky immigration plan. These are entirely predictable scenarios.
3. Commit herself to bipartisanship in foreign policy. Without President Obama, there is much more bipartisan agreement on foreign policy. Clinton can pledge to include in significant policy positions center-right voices with whom she sees eye to eye on any number of topics. She can say we must 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).
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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 an old trick to praise past Republicans to criticize active ones, but the tactic here is especially effective given how depressed Republicans are about this nominee.
5. Elevate qualities Trump lacks; support values he derides. Trump lacks empathy, intellectual curiosity, patience and tolerance – critical traits of successful presidents. He disdains “losers,” reveres power and feigns religiosity. These deficiencies go beyond politics. 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.
Jennifer Rubin writes the Post’s conservative Right Turn blog.