In 2011 my beloved Denver Nuggets traded Anthony may to the New York Knicks for Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, three draft picks, $3 million in cash, and 4 coupons to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Fans from the organizations were mixed around the trade. In Denver, we experienced the full panoply human emotion:
- Anger at Melo for forcing the trade.
- Jealousy that the bigger city can draw star players.
- Worry that the return package wouldn't have anywhere near the same ceiling for success.
Meanwhile the perpetually grumpy Knicks fans were fretting that they had given away too much and could be shackled with a star who couldn't carry these to the next level.
But no matter what the coaches and fans and general managers and commentators wanted to occur, everyone had to embrace the trade and proceed with the guys that they got.
And that is the prism through which I view the situation when analyzing the current realignment in American politics.
Over the last four years, some people who have traditionally been with the Republicans are finding that they were traded to a new team. And vice versa. Everyone intuitively knows that has happened, but for various reasons, many in the Washington political class don't appear willing to accept the reality of it.
I have it. Changing political identities isn't always easy. You don't have to tell me.
But if you would like your team to be successful, you need to understand who is on it.
So let's go to the political Trade Machine to try to figure out what just happened.
The Democrats Receive: The Red Dogs
In the 1990s, following the GOP won control of both houses of Congress, moderate Democrats who believed their party had moved too much to the left started calling themselves the \”Blue Dogs.\” Today, it is the \”Red Dogs\” who are looking for a home in the Democratic party: college-educated, largely white suburbanites in main metropolitan areas who used to be Republicans or swing voters.
These are individuals who voted for Mitt Romney and/or George W. Bush but who pulled the lever for Democratic House candidates during the 2021 mini-wave; voted for Joe Biden/Mike Bloomberg/Mayor Pete/Amy K, powering an enormous suburban turnout surge in the 2021 Democratic primaries; after which pushed Biden over the top in the general election.
They reside in the suburban sprawl of major metropolitan areas, like my hometown of Denver. The congressional district which i grew up in, which forms a suburban horseshoe around the city, has gone from R +10 to D +18 in just six years! In Atlanta, Red Dogs helped create a Democratic ring around the city, electing Lucy McBath towards the House in 2021 and carrying Joe Biden to some surprise win in 2021.
The Red Dogs might still vote for a Republican in a local race, maybe even enthusiastically if they live in a blue state or a swing district where the Republican candidate is more pragmatic. But in the nationalized races they're now aligned with the Democrats.
The Republicans Receive: The Diners + The Contrarians
The Republicans have added culturally conservative white voters in the exurbs, rural America, and small towns, specially those without a college degree. These are the people whose diners were frequented by New York Times profile writers for the past four years. They don't much look after the globalist GOP establishment or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's policy priorities.
As area of the deal the Republicans also are picking up:
- Some culturally conservative Latinos, particularly men.
- A smattering of very online contrarians that do not like \”wokeness\” and think the most crucial issue facing the country is whether they can call people faggots on Facebook without being shadowbanned. Also mostly men .
- Cash considerations.
As a demographic matter, Republicans also face something similar to having to give up a future pick in the 2028 draft. While cottagecore might be all the rage on TikTok during the pandemic, the growing areas of the population are going to continue to shift for the Red Dogs' dynamic metros, not rural America or the industrial Midwest. You don't see too many people moving to Erie, Pennsylvania nowadays.
Despite this, Republican strategists are happy with the trade and not fretting about this longer-term trend, since they're built to win now.
It might be more precise to say they are built to \”win\” now.
What you have to understand is that the GOP is a solid minority party-they have no real plan to win most the vote in a national election in the foreseeable future-but because of the Electoral College, the Senate, and state-level gerrymandering, their coalition has a key advantage.
This is because all those diner folks bring together a big geographic benefit-having the right land mass carries influence in our system. And since Republicans have no aspirations to become a majority party, they are quite happy with a trade that solidifies this geographic advantage.
As is always the case, not everybody is happy using the trade.
The populist wing of the Democratic party, which carries disproportionate weight on Twitter dot com, loathes the Red Dogs. It has a weird obsession with extirpating from the party everyone who has ever attended a brunch. Many Red Dogs prefer to go to brunch. So there's some tension in the ranks there.
Some of the identitarian Democrats wish their coalition could succeed just with people of color and don't want to invite new white women to the party. Many Red Dogs are white women, so there's some tension there, too.
Conversely, some of the Red Dogs don't sense at home yet with their new team and still keeping the elephant brooches that they bought for the 2004 Republican National Convention, just in case.
The remaining Chamber of Commerce Republican types don't really like their new teammates and are wishing they could get back to their \”normal\” Ryanomics ways after Trump magically disappears.
Many from the diner types and contrarians who're newly minted MAGAt Republicans are pissed the old GOP men are just quietly going along with Trump's clown coup rather than actively supporting martial law and wish they would get out of the way.
The issues with all of these groups' concerns about the trade are when a rustic as big and diverse as ours only has two political parties there are always going to be internal conflicts; and how people feel concerning the trade doesn't really matter-it already happened.
When the Nuggets traded their once-in-a-generation star for a stone-footed Russian center, I wasn't happy either. However it was a fait accompli. Certainly the team couldn't pretend it hadn't happened: You do not run the same offensive sets with Timofey Mozgov as with Melo. So Denver's coaching staff adapted, tried to leverage their strengths, and make the best of it.
As a wildly irresponsible SecDef once type of said, You go to war with the team you have, not they you wish you had.
And the same principle holds for the Democrats and the Red Dogs, who, as Politico reported last week, are trying to figure out their future options.
Here's an example of how not embracing the reality of the trade could backfire: Red Dog former Rep. David Jolly continues to be floated as an independent candidate for Marco Rubio's Senate seat in Florida.
Now I like David Jolly. I think he'd be a great senator. I'd love to donate to his campaign against wee, widdle whataboutist Marco. There's a problem though. Jolly's voters are mostly Red Dogs and MSNBC-viewing Democratic regulars-not Republicans.
Meaning that if Jolly ran as an independent, he'd mostly simply take votes away from the Democrat. Sure he'd get a few votes from marginal Republicans too, however when push comes to shove, the majority of those folks are fine with Rubio.
When you think about it, this shouldn't be surprising: Despite as being a former Republican, David Jolly agrees with the Democrats and disagrees with Nationalist New Coke Marco on basically all the animating issues of our time.
This is evidenced with a recent New York Times op-ed from 2021 independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin about the potential need to replace the GOP with a \”new conservative alternative.\” This is how McMullin describes what that vacation would stand for:
It should begin with unyielding commitment to the equality and liberty of all, and then to facts, reason and knowledge. It should champion democracy and its improvement and cherish life in most its phases. It should promote personal responsibility, limited government and government's vital role for the common good. It should advance justice for all, and uphold the personal and religious freedom of a diverse people.
It should expand economic opportunity, rejecting cronyism and protectionism, while defending innovators and workers from theft and predatory practices abroad. It should recognize immigration as a vital national asset and universal access to quality health care, public and private, a national obligation. It should imagine new methods of learning and work. It should be decent, ethical and loyal to the Constitution.
I agree with all of that!
But here's the thing: With the exception of the words \”limited government,\” Joe Biden will follow everything this third party would stand for too. And he is the president-elect and standard bearer of the party that already exists and just got over 50 percent from the vote in a national election.
I don't want to minimize the differences over scope of presidency between the Red Dogs and the mainline Democrats. They are real and genuine and deeply held.
But are the passions around limited government so widespread to make a new party centered around it viable? Would be the disagreements between the Red Dogs and the Democrats over the size of government so vast they merit blowing up this new coalition and potentially helping a populist, nationalist, anti-democratic Republican party?
It appears to me the answer to these questions is a huge fat No.
This scope-of-government debate between the Red Dogs and also the establishment Democrats seems much more akin to the genuine disagreements that Blue Dog Democrats or Rockefeller Republicans had with their parties in the past than it does the kind of fundamental fissure that requires a new party.
Now, there might be specific campaigns or areas where the calculus is different.
Maybe two candidates nearer to the fringes-a DSA socialist and a member of the GOP Q-Squad, say-win primaries for the similar Senate seat, making room for any \”conservative independent\” who can put together a plurality from the vote.
Some version of this has happened within the near past, with Ak senate and Joe Lieberman winning Senate races as independents by holding the center. Red Dogs supporting this type of candidate would make a ton of sense.
In certain GOP districts maybe the entire ballgame is a Republican primary between a Trumper and a more old-line Republican that the Red Dogs would rather. And in places with ranked-choice voting or a top-two nonpartisan primary the calculus may get funky.
But those types of races are going to be the exception, not the norm. At least for a while. At some point in the future this will change-political coalitions are always in motion. But that motion is slow and also the truth is, the realignment that happened with Mr . trump had been under way for about 25-30 years.
So maybe things could be more or less like they are for any generation. Or maybe not. It is possible that Biden could lose your hands on the center and the Democrats split up their new coalition, leaving the Red Dogs homeless .
If that happened, there would be another realignment. Maybe it would open up a more realistic avenue for a third party. Or maybe it would create a snap-back of some of the illiberal strains within the GOP. I don't have a crystal ball.
But the future will take care of itself. All that we are able to do is look at the present and assess the teams that are on the floor.
The existence of these new teams is, I recognize, frustrating for many involved. As well as the liberals who are cranky about the trade, allow me to give you a scouting report on your brand-new teammates.
You can keep the Reds in the tent without doing any of the dog-whistle pandering to white grievance culture that will be required to win back the Obama-Trump voters.
- Black Lives Matter? Got the t-shirt.
- Kneeling for the anthem? You do you, Kaep!
- Gay and Trans rights: Hell yes!
- Mask wearing: The Red Dogs triple bag it!
You will find substantial progressive policy priorities that Red Dog voters either actively support or won't create a stink about. Here are just a few of those items:
- Pro-democracy reforms
- Marijuana legalization
- Raising the minimum wage
- Infrastructure spending
- Universal pre-K
- Cracking down on predatory lenders
- Environmental conservation
- They'd rather the COVID relief bill include assistance for that working class and regulations for families than a three-martini-lunch tax credit.
There's another batch of policies where the Red Dogs will go along with liberals either part, or most, of how.
- Climate regulations, re-entering the Paris Agreement, and investing in green energy-yes!
- Major criminal justice and police reform-awesome!
- Dream Act, refugee resettlement, pathway to citizenship-sweet. Republicans was once for this!
- Reasonable gun-control legislation. Think of it by doing this: Anything that has a prayer of getting through Joe Manchin and Jon Tester, the Red Dogs will support enthusiastically.
- Taxing the rich.
- Health care public option.
- A new Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Not every Red Dog will agree with everything on the above list. There will be areas of disagreement within the coalition not covered above. Abortion rights, education reform, and so on.
But for the most part, this new team can unite behind a broadly popular center-left agenda that is-let's just be honest here-already beyond what is realistically achievable in our current political environment.
With both values and substance aligning, not less than the next two cycles, these are the teams and this is the battlefield that they'll have to build their coalitions on. That is, if they want to maximize their opportunity for victory.
As Midge Decter-the Democrat turned neocon Republican-famously put it, \”There comes a time to join the side you're on.\”
So here we are.
Correction, December 21, 2021 9:54 a.m.: The article originally stated that Carmelo Anthony was traded in 2021. He was traded this year. The text has been changed accordingly.