Concerned by Trump, Some Republicans Quietly Align With Democrats


Ms. Pritzker was a founding board member of the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of major liberal donors that has steered more than $600 million to the groups that comprise the institutional left since 2005. In 2010, though, she dropped out of the alliance and began redirecting her larger donations to efforts designed to break through partisan polarization, primarily on climate change and energy production.

The discussions at Patriots and Pragmatists meetings are intended to focus on big picture topics related to democracy, rather than elections or political funding. Nonetheless, some see the coalition as having the potential to bring the same kind of financial firepower to an anti-Trump centrist movement as the Democracy Alliance brought to the left. Its efforts were described by a dozen people familiar with the group, who spoke anonymously to describe private discussions.

The group has held three two-day gatherings outside San Francisco, New York and Washington, to which Ms. Pritzker and her political adviser invited 20 to 40 people per meeting. Gatherings have drawn influential Democratic operatives like Mr. Bassin and the Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein. They have also attracted big-name Republican and conservative thinkers, writers and operatives including Mr. Taylor, the legal analyst Benjamin Wittes and the foreign policy hawks Mona Charen, David Frum, Robert Kagan, Mr. Kristol and Jennifer Rubin. Also attending were Mr. McMullin, who ran a long-shot independent conservative presidential campaign against Mr. Trump in 2016, and his running mate, Ms. Finn.

Perhaps most significantly, Patriots and Pragmatists gatherings have drawn major donors like William D. Budinger, a former Democracy Alliance board member, and representatives of deep-pocketed grant-writing foundations like Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative.

For the last few years, those foundations have been donating millions of dollars a year to bipartisan and nonpartisan groups advocating political reforms. But they redoubled their efforts after the 2016 election.

Stand Up Republic and Stand Up Ideas — founded by Mr. McMullin and Ms. Finn — have received a total of as much as $1.3 million from the Democracy Fund groups and the Madison Initiative. And Protect Democracy and the Protect Democracy Project — founded by Mr. Bassin — have received as much as $500,000 from those grant-writing foundations, according to financial information on their websites.

Mr. Bassin’s group teamed with Mr. McMullin and Ms. Finn’s to host a two-day conference in Washington in February called the National Summit for Democracy, which was funded partly by Ms. Pritzker and also by a foundation funded by a Republican donor, Jerry Hirsch. It brought together groups and leaders from the Never Trump right with the liberal resistance, centrist Democrats and government watchdog groups to discuss phenomena that have garnered increased concern in the Trump era — from foreign meddling in elections to attacks on the press and the special counsel, and federal law enforcement, more generally.

It’s too early to predict the outcome of the spike in cross-partisan organizing, Mr. Stein said. But he added that there was a “sense of urgency and intellectual vitality animating these efforts” that could “challenge conventional political wisdoms, 20th century political alliances and the two major, internally fractious, parties.”


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