by Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman
After Donald Trump’s defeat, there was a measure of hope among Republicans who opposed him that control of the G.O.P. would be up for grabs, and that conservative pragmatists could take back the party. But it’s become obvious that political extremists maintain a viselike grip on the national G.O.P., the state parties and the process for fielding and championing House and Senate candidates in next year’s elections.
Rational Republicans are losing the G.O.P. civil war. And the only near-term way to battle pro-Trump extremists is for all of us to team up on key races and overarching political goals with our longtime political opponents: the Democratic Party.
Earlier this year we joined more than 150 conservatives — including former governors, senators, congressmen, cabinet secretaries, and party leaders — in calling for the Republican Party to divorce itself from Trumpism or else lose our support, perhaps by forming a new political party. Rather than return to founding ideals, G.O.P. leaders in the House and in many states have now turned belief in conspiracy theories and lies about stolen elections into a litmus test for membership and running for office.
Breaking away from the G.O.P. and starting a new center-right party may prove in time to be the last resort if Trump-backed candidates continue to win Republican primaries. We and our allies have debated the option of starting a new party for months and will continue to explore its viability in the long run. Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of failed attempts at breaking the two-party system, and in most states today the laws do not lend themselves easily to the creation and success of third parties.
So for now, the best hope for the rational remnants of the G.O.P. is for us to form an alliance with Democrats to defend American institutions, defeat far-right candidates, and elect honorable representatives next year — including a strong contingent of moderate Democrats.
It’s a strategy that has worked. Mr. Trump lost re-election in large part because Republicans nationwide defected, with 7 percent who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 flipping to support Joe Biden, a margin big enough to have made some difference in key swing states.
Even still, we don’t take this position lightly. Many of us have spent years battling the left over government’s role in society, and we will continue to have disagreements on fundamental issues like infrastructure spending, taxes and national security. Similarly, some Democrats will be wary of any pact with the political right.
But we agree on something more foundational — democracy. We cannot tolerate the continued hijacking of a major U.S. political party by those who seek to tear down our Republic’s guardrails or who are willing to put one man’s interests ahead of the country. We cannot tolerate the leaders of the G.O.P. — in 2022 or in the presidential election in 2024 — refusing to accept the results of elections or undermining the certification of those results should they lose.
To that end, concerned conservatives must join forces with Democrats on the most essential near-term imperative: blocking Republican leaders from regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Some of us have worked in the past with the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, but as long as he embraces Mr. Trump’s lies, he cannot be trusted to lead the chamber, especially in the run-up to the next presidential election.
And while many of us support and respect the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, it is far from clear that he can keep Mr. Trump’s allies at bay, which is why the Senate may be safer remaining as a divided body rather than under Republican control.
For these reasons, we will endorse and support bipartisan-oriented moderate Democrats in difficult races, like Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona, where they will undoubtedly be challenged by Trump-backed candidates. And we will defend a small nucleus of courageous Republicans, such as Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Peter Meijer and others who are unafraid to speak the truth.
In addition to these leaders, this week we are coming together around a political idea — the Renew America Movement — and will release a slate of nearly two dozen Democratic, independent and Republican candidates we will support in 2022.
These “renewers” must be protected and elected if we want to restore a common-sense coalition in Washington. But merely holding the line will be insufficient. To defeat the extremist insurgency in our political system and pressure the Republican Party to reform, voters and candidates must be willing to form nontraditional alliances.
For disaffected Republicans, this means an openness to backing centrist Democrats. It will be difficult for lifelong G.O.P. members to do this — akin to rooting for the other team out of fear that your own is ruining the sport entirely — but democracy is not a game, which is why when push comes to shove, patriotic conservatives should put country over party.
One of those races is in Pennsylvania, where a bevy of pro-Trump candidates are vying to replace the outgoing Republican senator, Pat Toomey. The only prominent moderate in the G.O.P. primary, Craig Snyder, recently bowed out, and if no one takes his place, it will increase the urgency for Republican voters to stand behind a Democrat, such as centrist Representative Conor Lamb, who is running for the seat.
For Democrats, this similarly means being open to conceding that there are certain races where progressives simply cannot win and acknowledging that it makes more sense to throw their lot in with a center-right candidate who can take out a more radical conservative.
Utah is a prime example, where the best hope of defeating Senator Mike Lee, a Republican who defended Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election, is not a Democrat but an independent and former Republican, Evan McMullin, a member of our group, who announced last week that he was entering the race.
We need more candidates like him prepared to challenge politicians who have sought to subvert our Constitution from the comfort of their “safe seats” in Congress, and we are encouraged to note that additional independent-minded leaders are considering entering the fray in places like Texas, Arizona, and North Carolina, targeting seats that Trumpist Republicans think are secure.
More broadly, this experiment in “coalition campaigning” — uniting concerned conservatives and patriotic progressives — could remake American politics and serve as an antidote to hyper-partisanship and federal gridlock.
To work, it will require trust-building between both camps, especially while fighting side-by-side in the toughest races around the country by learning to collaborate on voter outreach, sharing sensitive polling data, and synchronizing campaign messaging.
A compact between the center-right and the left may seem like an unnatural fit, but in the battle for the soul of America’s political system, we cannot retreat to our ideological corners.
A great deal depends on our willingness to consider new paths of political reform. From the halls of Congress to our own communities, the fate of our Republic might well rest on forming alliances with those we least expected.
Miles Taylor (@MilesTaylorUSA) served at the Department of Homeland Security from 2017 to 2019, including as chief of staff, and was the anonymous author of a 2018 guest essay for The Times criticizing President Donald Trump’s leadership. Christine Todd Whitman (@GovCTW) was the Republican governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001 and served as E.P.A. administrator under President George W. Bush.