July 1st, 2020

Friends and Enemies

It’s become almost reflexive for many people these days, that if a person on one political team says one thing then you must oppose it if you’re on the other. But not just oppose them; demonize them.

It is, of course, a godawful strategy for many reasons, two of which I address here. One political and the other with the law.

As some know, there is a conservative group known as the Lincoln Project that has been skewering Donald Trump up, down and sideways for being ignorant, narcissistic, dishonest, sociopathic and, basically, not having a shred of human decency. They churn out new 60 second commercials on a daily basis.

Notice that I wrote conservative. They appreciate that Trump doesn’t support their conservative views of government, but rather, that he only cares for himself.

Thus, a traditional “enemy” of the left has an ally: The conservatives of the Lincoln Project. They are supporting Biden because the safety of the nation is more important to them than any particular political issue.

Once upon a time, it’s worth noting, many conservatives that support limited government used to support a woman’s right to choose. Because it was consistent with less restrictive government. That only changed during the Nixon years when it was identified as a wedge issue to appeal to cultural conservatives. You could drive a fleet of very large trucks through that divide between the two branches of the Republican party.

That same divide exist(ed) with marriage equality. The limited-government types were not always aligned with the conservative, religious right, “family” voters.

Things change.

When you see demonization in politics it’s for a reason; Those folks are trying to raise money to get (re)elected and generating anger and hatred is a great way to do it. And it turns out the vote.

But that doesn’t mean you should engage that way. Because it might be counterproductive to far greater goals. For the conservative of the Lincoln Project, it’s the very safety of our democracy and respect for the constitution.

If you’ve spent time demonizing one side, it may be difficult to wrap your arms around the fact that sometimes they are your allies. Or that they might change.

(And we see this often in foreign affairs, where hawks and doves don’t necessarily align with political left/right.)

Now we turn to a parallel in the law.

Keeping personal issues at arm’s length with legal issues serves the lawyer well, particularly in litigation. Because at some point you may find yourself on the same side of an issue. And you will need to talk.

The issue might be something big, like the parties both wanting to settle, or something small like needing an adjournment of a conference so that you can go see your child in her 4th grade play.

Demonization of the other folks doesn’t help your ultimate cause. Your ultimate cause is helping your client, because lawerying is about service, not scoring stupid points.

The Lincoln Project is a model of this. They are looking at the bigger picture.

And if Trump is sent to his political demise, as most of the country now desperately hopes, it is likely that many in the GOP that have been riding along with Trump will go with him.

There’s little doubt that many who now cheer on the Lincoln Project will, if Biden wins, likely oppose many of their positions later on. And that’s OK.

Perhaps, if that happens, a more mature political scene will emerge from the ashes. We will have a greater appreciation for the concept that if we disagree with each other 75% of the time, it means we agree and need each other 25% of the time. So demonizing isn’t helpful.

Hey, one can dream.

One of many commercials from the Lincoln Project: Watch it.