Steve Schmidt is a Democrat Now. So What?

Former Republican strategist and Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt made a shocking announcement Wednesday morning—he’s registering as a Democrat.

Schmidt’s reasoning is fairly straightforward—he believes the Republican Party is anti-democratic because, well, it is. He calls himself a “single issue voter” and that issue is “democracy.” Schmidt has spent the last several months lambasting Donald Trump as part of the Lincoln Project’s effort to get the president out of office. He’s been toeing the party borderline for some time, all the while receiving heaps of praise from the likes of MSNBC. In reality, it was only a matter of time before Schmidt made his party switch official. Roughly a month before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, the real question is: so what?

Democrats fancy themselves the big tent party, capable of handling a variety of viewpoints and ideas. The party says it’s interested in courting new voters and winning elections. But it always seems like they wind up targeting or siding with the Schmidt type of Republican—one who claims to hold the sanctity of his country higher than party loyalty. That’s why the media fawned over the Lincoln Project (which made virtually no impact, by the way) but scoffed when then-frontrunner Bernie Sanders promoted a tacit endorsement from Joe Rogan. Democrats want Republicans, but they want the right kind of Republicans—ones who basically share their ideals about pre-Trump status quo American imperialism and domestic governance. It’s also precisely why Biden is actively considering Republicans for key cabinet posts and seems stupidly eager to wait 6-8 months until Senate GOPers work with him. The biggest difference between Schmidt’s and Biden’s politics is that Biden has actually been a Democrat for almost five decades longer.

In fairness, this is surely a big deal for Schmidt, who has spent a good chunk of his adult life as a Republican. It was something integral to his identity, so much so that you could reasonably credit him as one of the architects of the very Republican Party we see today. His most infamous move was elevating Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, an act he so immediately regretted he wound up selling the story’s film rights to HBO. Palin’s populist brand wound up captivating the party until Trump took up the mantle and consumed it entirely. You don’t get Trump without strategists like Schmidt—people willing to play to the party’s basest xenophobic and racist instincts without any thought about how those things might play out a decade down the line. Now that he’s a officially a Democrat, though, we can forget about all that. It’s time to move forward and let former Republicans help reshape the future of the party in their image.