John Bolton’s book is being released this week, despite the best efforts of the Trump administration to stop it. In it, he makes clear that President Trump is unfit for office.
He is being attacked by many for his failure to testify before the House during the impeachment hearings. This is entirely understandable. There are cases to be made both for and against his testimony at that point. There are also cases to be made both for and against his joining the Trump administration in the first place.
I don’t want to make any of them. I want to simply thank John Bolton and tell him that I appreciate his book. There is a reason for this. My desire to see Trump lose in November greatly outweighs any desire I have for petty vengeance.
There are two factors at play here, and both should be seriously considered.
First is the fact that Bolton’s position, that the Democrats remain a clear threat to this country but that Trump is an even greater threat, has the chance to resonate with many people. It is a case no Democrat can make, and which would be difficult to make for most independents. Bolton, for all of his flaws, is an example of a man who has been a loyal Republican, even to the point of sacrificing a level of his personal integrity at the behest of the party leadership.
Most independents who have abandoned the Republicans don’t find much value in that stance, but there are tens of thousands of Republicans who do. They are the ones who can be reached by Bolton, and he stands prepared to attempt to persuade them. He gives them a Republican stalwart who will validate their uneasiness with Trump without demanding they abandon the party they adore.
Bolton is going to be attacked by the Trumpists for exactly that reason. He’s also going to be attacked by Democrats because they’ve hated his position on American power for decades. He’s a firm believer of “peace through strength” and has advocated for removing military threats of antagonists before they can build into becoming serious dangers. For that reason he has been consistently cast as a warmonger by the hard left.
His views are no less reasonable than those of Madeleine Albright, who preferred to negotiate and capitulate. The fact is that both philosophies have been known to produce positive results. Bolton’s strong stance has led to him becoming a favorite figure among some older Republicans. He’s now attacking Trump and calling him more dangerous than Democrats. I have no desire to join in with forces attacking him when he’s presenting that message.
At a time when people are trying to convince a handful of others to shift their votes, Bolton presents the opportunity to shift thousands. That should be welcomed, appreciated, and supported.
The second factor is, if anything, more important. That is forgiveness, or at least the perception of it.
As people complain that the Trumpists never break away from the cult, a simple question must be asked: why would they? Many of those who remain steadfast with the Republicans do so because they wish to be part of a group while retaining their core beliefs. There must be an incentive for them to change, and that has to be a group where they feel they can belong.
That will never be achieved if people aren’t accepted and praised for simply rejecting Trump and nativism. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past, and it doesn’t matter whether they agree on other important issues (with rare exceptions like actively promoting bigotry).
If the goal is to win in November, we need to accept our allies where we find them and not focus on their past deeds or even their rationale for shifting their allegiances. We don’t have to trust or follow them, but we should be encouraging every person who is contemplating not pulling the lever for another four years of Donald Trump.