Guest commentary: The New Alignment can defeat Trump’s anti-American fascism

Christopher Arndt and James Light/Guest commentary

The core principle of American democratic liberty is freedom from arbitrary authority and violence.

We are sympathetic to the plight of Ukrainians because their basic liberty has been destroyed by Vladimir Putin and the Russian army, who have unjustly and violently invaded their country and upended their lives. Under the shadow of this unlawful power and random brutality, no one in Ukraine is free.

Here at home, the threat to democratic liberty is also a “clear and present danger.” As the Jan. 6 hearings have made abundantly clear, Donald Trump knowingly promoted falsehoods about the 2020 election and methodically plotted to overturn it. He also condoned violence to achieve this unlawful end.

In recent Republican primaries, Trump has made backing (or at least ignoring) his attempted insurrection as the price for his support. Dismayingly, most Republicans politicians are falling in line. In a grim historical first, one of our two major political parties, the Republican Party, now stands squarely against the American ideal of democratic freedom in the most fundamental sense. To hide their disloyalty to our Constitution, far-right provocateurs such as Lauren Boebert, Majorie Taylor Greene, Dinesh D’Souza and Tucker Carlson stoke fear and division however they can — all the while touting a “pretended patriotism.” In the name of America, they seek power, money and fame for themselves at the expense of true political freedom, just as George Washington warned us in his farewell address.

The good news is that independents, former Republicans and mainstream Democrats together outnumber the far right, perhaps by as much as 2-1. The challenge is the awkwardness and fragility of this potential coalition. And yet, the contours of this New Alignment are indeed taking shape. A growing group of current and former Republicans such as Liz Cheney, Judge Michael Luttig, Evan McMullen, Max Boot, Adam Kinzinger, Stuart Stevens, Jennifer Rubin, William Kristol, Joe Walsh, Charlie Sykes and James Mattes are vigorously rejecting the anti-American fascism of today’s right, and joining with mainstream independents and Democrats to uphold the rule of law. As they look beyond past loyalties and narrow interests, they set a noble example.

Mainstream Democrats and independents must reciprocate for this New Alignment with former Republicans to hold. In the first instance, this requires dispensing with the small fraction of the left with tendencies against political freedom. College students must be challenged with free speech, not coddled against it. Local officials should be laser focused on streamlining laws so they are clear, practical and not arbitrary. The money directed toward criminal justice and policing should be effectively and justly spent, not eliminated!

These are priorities that the vast majority of Democratic voters support. Today’s right loves to distract from their own constitutional infidelity by greatly exaggerating the power of the illiberal left. The reality is that the threat to democratic liberty from the left pales in comparison to the clear and present danger of the extremist right. And yet, there’s no excuse for tolerating illiberal tendencies, and no reason to make it easy for the right to fearmonger their way to authoritarian power.

Second, the New Alignment must adopt fresh flexibility around issues that may have been a source of bitter division in the past. For example, at what rate should we tax the highest income earners? It’s an important question, but since the middle of the last century the top marginal tax rate has been as high as 91% (1960) and as low as 28% (1988). It currently stands at 37%. If the top marginal rate moves a couple of percentage points in one direction or another, we will keep our democratic freedom. But if the New Alignment is divided on this question, we may well lose it.

Of course, it would be easier for us to fall back on the muscle memory past labels, narrow interests or pet policy priorities. But we live in a new political reality. Here on Colorado’s Western Slope, we are as enthusiastic about the candidacy of Don Coram, a Republican who is bucking the party establishment and running against Trump lackey Lauren Boebert, as we are about our Democratic governor, Jared Polis. Rejecting the far right threat to democratic liberty must be our common North Star.

Christopher Arndt is an author and entrepreneur based in Telluride, Colorado. James Light is the chairman of Chaffin Light Management Co. based in Basalt.