The Republican party wants my liberal vote. This was the most shocking wave to wash over my brain last week as I sat in the convention center in Cleveland. It was more startling in its way than the storm of hate that I saw descend on former GOP hero Ted Cruz, stranger than the absence of almost all the party’s recent standard-bearers, weirder than the police-state atmosphere that hovered over the streets of the city.
The Republicans were trying to win the support of people like me! Not tactfully or convincingly or successfully, of course: they don’t know the language of liberalism and wouldn’t speak it if they did; and most of the liberals I know will never be swayed anyway. But they were trying nevertheless.
Donald Trump’s many overtures to supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders were just the beginning. He also deliberately echoed the language of Franklin Roosevelt, he denounced “big business” (not once but several times), and certain of his less bloodthirsty foreign policy proposals almost remind one of George McGovern’s campaign theme: “Come home, America.”
Ivanka Trump promised something that sounded like universal day care. Peter Thiel denounced the culture wars as a fraud and a distraction. The Republican platform was altered to include a plank calling for the breakup of big banks via the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. I didn’t hear anyone talk about the need to bring “entitlements” under control. And most crucially, the party’s maximum leader has adopted the left critique of “free trade” almost in its entirety, a critique that I have spent much of my adult life making.
It boggles my simple liberal mind. The party of free trade and free markets now says it wants to break up Wall Street banks and toss NAFTA to the winds.