(CNN)If Republicans still need reasons to unite behind President-elect Donald Trump, the next few days should provide plenty. This week, Democrats are busy slandering Sen. Jeff Sessions — their friend and colleague of 20 years — as a racist and a bigot, essentially re-enacting Hillary Clinton’s “irredeemable deplorables” attack, albeit on a smaller, more personal scale.
The poster child for this approach is Sen. Cory Booker who, in a dramatic breach with tradition, will testify against Sessions’ confirmation because of the latter’s “deeply troubling views.” Which is weird, given that just last year Booker worked with Sessions to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Selma civil rights marchers, gushing that he felt “blessed and honored to have partnered with Sen. Sessions” on the project. What a difference an election makes.
It’s true that Trump did just fine without that kind of support during the campaign. But that success was based on the sheer power of his personality. Governing is different than campaigning. If Trump wants to accomplish his goals, he’ll need to convince a skittish and often skeptical Congress to go along with him. That job will be much more difficult if he is constantly fending off attacks from his own political base — or if that same base is silent in the face of the Democratic political machine.
The Cabinet fights that are ramping up are simply a preview of things to come. Democrats aren’t attacking Sessions because they actually believe he is a racist. If that were true, Booker wouldn’t have been cozying up to him only a year ago. Rather, Democrats don’t like Sessions because he’s conservative. He’ll do things such as enforce our laws on immigration and illegal drugs, a dramatic change from Obama’s Department of Justice. But the left recognizes that the American people are actually pretty fond of the rule of law: Enter the race card.
Republicans must reply to these charges in kind. We need more moments like when William Smith — the first African-American Republican chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee — took to CNN to defend Sessions. If the American people only hear one side of the story, that’s the side they are likely to believe.
Never Trump Republicans need not abandon their principles to do their part. There will be debates to come — on trade, on spending, on national defense. But conservatives are also presented with an opportunity to reform the government, to implement good policies, and, yes, to make America great again. But it will only happen if conservatives are willing to swallow their pride and support a president they don’t always like and with whom they haven’t always agreed.
Because I can promise you this: The Democrats are ready for a fight.