Concerned by Trump, Some Republicans Quietly Align With Democrats

Jerry Taylor, a Republican, said Republicans and Democrats should work together if they are “concerned about the health of the liberal order and alarmed over the destruction of the norms of American democracy.”PhotoCreditGreg Kahn

By Kenneth P. Vogel, nytimes.com, May 24, 2018

WASHINGTON — Since Donald J. Trump began dominating American politics more than two years ago, Democrats concerned about his policies and behavior have taken solace in a group of influential Republicans who have consistently assailed the president as anathema to the values of their party, and the country more broadly.

In the past year, however, influential liberal donors and operatives have gone from cheering these so-called Never Trump Republicans to quietly working with — and even funding — them. Through invitation-only emails and private, off-the-record meetings, they have formed a loose network of cross-partisan alliances aimed at helping neutralize President Trump, and preventing others from capitalizing on weaknesses in the political system that they say he has exploited.

While this network has mostly eschewed electoral politics, some involved see the potential for it to help form an ideological — and possibly financial — platform to back candidates, including a centrist challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020, possibly from within the G.O.P. or even a third party.

The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance trying to pull the Democratic Party left.

If you’re a Republican who is concerned about the health of the liberal order and alarmed over the destruction of the norms of American democracy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be willing to work with a Democrat who is equally concerned about those same matters,”said Jerry Taylor, a Republican who is president of the Niskanen Center, a moderate think tank that grew out of the libertarian Cato Institute.

While a slew of initiatives raised big money for cross-partisan bridge-building and even presidential campaigns in 2012, the current effort is different. It involves more players who are more actively involved in politics from across the spectrum, many of whom bring their own constituencies, making it less centralized and, in some ways, less organized.

Yet they are arguably more united than past efforts by their concern over threats to democracy they contend are embodied by a single politician: Mr. Trump.

It’s an amorphous, somewhat secretive effort, partly because some participants fear Mr. Trump and his allies would brand Never Trump Republicans as pawns of Democrats. Meeting locations, agendas and attendees are mostly kept quiet, while political intelligence is privately shared between participants on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

But some of the collaboration is becoming more overt.

Over the last couple of months, network members filed amicus briefs accusing Mr. Trump of overstepping his authority on matters ranging from immigration to his administration’s efforts to block a merger between AT&T and Time Warner. And last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to protect the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, for which network members had lobbied.