Sometime around mid-day, December 11, 2018, the Oval Office. Under national news coverage, Donald Trump decided the second year of his presidency wouldn’t be complete without another high-stakes temper-tantrum. It’s the same old baboon lurching at the edge of his seat: Same boxy ill-fitting suit, same obligatory flag pin and tangerine combover, same too-long blue tie dangling below his beltline, same pouty duckface pushing up against his rumpled jowls, with his arms crossed in front of his chest like an indignant sorority girl who waited 35 seconds too long to receive her nitro-brewed latte.
The president hosted a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and after minutes of finger-pointing and squabbling, it unraveled into another unscripted ape-rant. This time Trump declared he would be proud to engage in some grand national brinkmanship to fulfill his blood oath of securing funding for the long-awaited Mexican-stopping defense shield.
Chin-stroking pundits and their sorrowful Beltway counterparts were baffled and dismayed at Trump’s latest brain belch. Really though, when’s the last time a Democrat fought this hard for anything?
Say what you want about Ferret-Top and his cavalcade of glad-handers, but at least they genuinely understand their base. Their brand is an open con. They hoover Middle America votes by trotting out xenophobic Bible-thumpers who heap on silent-majority racial paranoia wedded to redundant flag-waving and family values, as they pretend to love Bud Light and shooting brown people while mostly just deregulating the economy in service of one-percenters.
Meanwhile, under the shepherding of cocktail vets like Pelosi, the Democrats have demonstrated the strategic acumen of Elmer Fudd. Their Potemkin progressive pitch revolves around social issues, cynical identity politics, and poo-pooing policies supported by most of its base for “pragmatic” reasons.
The American left is expected to extend courtesy, civility, nuance, and compassion to a political establishment that has demonstrated time and time again that they have zero interest in reciprocating any of those virtues. If the right-wing fever swamp genuinely cared about respectability, they’d stop shouting VENEZUELA and CULTURAL MARXISM like they possess the Pavlovian conditioning of a coke fiend riddled with Tourette’s.
Since Newt Gingrich poisoned Washington and plunged it into permanent dysfunction, his successors have embraced gutter tactics dirtier than a prostate exam at a Del Taco parking lot. In the last decade, Republicans have demonstrated their goodwill when they:
- Propagated a birther conspiracy to delegitimize Obama’s presidency.
- Nearly brought the U.S. to the brink of default.
- Weaponized a government shutdown in hopes it would defund Obamacare.
- Attempted to repeal said Obamacare over 70 times.
- Rebranded themselves as the “Party of NO” by obstructing nearly all of Obama’s agenda.
- Blocked Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for almost an entire year.
- Chiseled away at the Voting Rights Act, purged voter rolls, and implemented racial gerrymandering across various states (RE: Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia).
- Tried to force-feed Americans a shoddy health care bill that was projected to destabilize an industry that accounts for one-sixth of the national GDP.
- Bequeathed a government handout to the mega-rich in the form of a $1.5 trillion deficit-inducing tax cut after spending the Obama years fetishizing fiscal responsibility.
- Undermined and interfered with the Muller investigation.
- Neglected to provide any ethical oversight over Trump’s potential emolument clause violations or other shady misdeeds.
- Accepted Trump’s pardoning of a demented desert fascist.
- Confirmed highly probable sex criminal, a.k.a. Dry-Humpty Dumpty, to the Supreme Court after an embarrassing boof bonanza.
- Pursued a Willie Horton-style midterm strategy (RE: John Faso, Brian Kemp, Ron DeSantis, Duncan Hunter, the weeks-long caravan hysteria).
- Used post-election lame-duck sessions for power grabs in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
This Mr. Hyde iteration of the GOP is a collection of decaffeinated madmen and bloodthirsty shitposters who subsist on burning poor people as fossil fuel, led by an insane golf blob who probably uses a child’s femur as a toothpick.
The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start. www.theatlantic.com
But in response to the midterms, the high mullahs of conventional wisdom snobbishly spat the same ol’ campaign clichés into the void in between sips of unicorn tears or whatever they drink while they rain lukewarm takes. The big “liberal” media takeaway is the same post-mortem that’s dominated every post-election news cycle since 19-something-something.
Trump was decimated in the suburbs, where he lost the confidence of “moderates.” Especially women. So Democrats need to capture these districts by moving to the center and embracing a less-policy-specific, more personal-profile approach. “Candidate recruitment” is doublespeak for pushing sanitized ex-vets in hopes that right-leaning voters will project their retrograde views onto these walking blank canvases.
For all their fixation on the mythical moderate, the press only conjures up some generic description of the great American suburb. A creepy mixture of Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons, it’s a mindless purgatory where people drive boring cars, love football and the military, and dislike bold ideas. Apparently, their political beliefs approximate support for ICE tossing Mexican children into cages, but an allergic reaction to @realDonaldTrump’s VERY MEAN tweets. Implicitly, this voter is white.
The notion that Democrats need to look and act more like Republicans to appease these swing districts is a religious tenet in the Church of the Blue Establishment. The archetypal Democratic politician is a focus-group-tested, triangulating mannequin who is so nondescript, they couldn’t even leave an impression if they slept on a memory foam mattress. They would bring a calculator to a gun fight.
The modern Democratic Party is already hardwired to abide by ritualistic decency and procedural norms, even as Trump and his cronies blowtorch them with their grotesque and Machiavellian pursuit of power.
Bill Clinton is the sui generis of mealymouthed centrism. He emerged out of a primordial swap of polling data and aww-shucks pablum and perfectly executed the Democratic Leadership Council’s plan of courting the bomb-humping, deregulatory right. Since then, the blue team has embraced NAFTA, welfare reform, triangulation, repealing Glass-Steagall, the PATRIOT Act, and the Iraq War. Ideological advancement was the necessary electoral price to pay for soul-sucking party expansion. And from Dubya to the Tea Party to Trump, Republicans keep running their revanchism up a flagpole and voters keep on saluting.
But the Beltway thinkfluencers can’t seem to cobble together their C-minus brains to solve the jigsaw mystery of what most Democratic voters want: Sensible gun control, stronger unions, campaign finance reform, reduced defense spending, ending pointless wars, Wall Street crackdowns, environmental protections, Medicare-for-All, minimum wage hike, paid paternity leave, free public college, and a host of other obvious demands.
However, these aren’t mega-donor positions, which means the Democrats are built on a business model of disaster capitalism. Leaders like Schumer and Pelosi are content with piloting Malaysian Flight 370 as long as they maintain power and corporate funding. It’s a sad state of affairs when a shoe company with third-world labor abuses has caught on to changing cultural values before our ostensibly “liberal” party.
Republicans generally win because they super-serve their base. When they want an economically dubious tax cut, they get it. When they’re convinced every Taco Bell employee is secretly a member of MS-13, Mexicans are thrown into tent cities.
In contrast, the Democrats deliver breadcrumbs that’s some version of what their base wanted. It just happens to be 95 percent watered down by concessions to a ruthless corporate insurgency disguised as a rogue party. These boobs are too politically flaccid to deliver the goods because they’re all strategy and no heart. Their disconnect has been willed into perpetuity.
Their kind of think-tank strategery is what reduced Hillary Clinton to the Bill Buckner of presidential candidates. She lost to a crypto-fascist game-show host with near-record negatives in part because, on the campaign trail, she walked and talked like a robot that was trying to learn empathy by observing humans. The Democrats went on a six-year run of bleeding seats at every level of government under this ideology.
While not all progressives won during the midterms, notable candidates like Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar emerged victoriously. Most Democratic winners advocated for expanded Medicare and Social Security, better minimum wage protection, and more control of prescription drug pricing.
The most high-profile bipartisan legislation of the Trump era turned out to be electoral poison.theintercept.com
At the beginning of 2017, eight Democrats in Congress had pledged to refuse corporate-PAC money, but come January, that number will be 50. The midterms sent a record 117 women to Congress, and it delivered a historic night for the LGBTQ and people of color. Ballot initiatives, including Medicaid expansion, anti-gerrymandering measures, and the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people succeeded in red states.
Detractors highlight Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and Beto O’Rourke as high-profile losses. But it’s clear that progressive energy enabled them to mount serious challenges to Republicans in traditionally red strongholds, driving turnout that helped Democrats claim scalps in down-ballot elections.
Young voters showed up to the polls at 31 percent — the highest midterm turnout in a quarter century — and posted a 188 percent surge in early voting compared to 2014. In the 2016 primaries, Bernie Sanders accumulated more youth votes than Trump and Clinton combined. Millennials present the largest, most diverse, and most socially and economically liberal generation in U.S. history, and are already the largest generation in the workforce.
The American electorate is primed for a leftward shift.
American democracy is unwell; on this much, President Trump's detractors can agree. nymag.com
Still, the Democratic Establishment has a band of loyalists who fashion themselves as the #Resistance, who are really just a group of norm-core goobers convinced that civility policing is way back to power. Their snark is like an Aaron Sorkin monologue that isn’t nearly as cool or original as they think it is. They’re stuck in a Daily Show mental loop built on this fantasy of fact-checking The Orange One to death.
Trump is a fount of dishonesty. Most of it so transcendently dumb, that it has morphed into a form of culture jamming, as if his grammatically abhorrent tweets were sandwiched between scare quotes and midnight bowel movements. The mad king has lied over 7,500 times in the past 700 days. He wields bull shit as a litmus test to detect which rats will scamper back onto the Titanic at all costs.
Trump embarked on a Sherman’s March of sociopathic nonsense that propelled him to the ranks of other Nietzschean supermen like Hitler and Jesus before barreling down the gates of the White House. This truthless used-car salesman doesn’t have much use for facts, or decorum, or empathy, or any other indicator commonly used to gauge if someone can barely slither over the lowest bar of basic human decency.
And when these concern trolls aren’t obsessing over Trump’s mannerisms, they keep blind faith in the Mueller investigation eventually vanquishing this administration, resulting in some climactic Götterdämmerung where Trump is frogmarched out of the White House in unanimous disgrace. The only problem is the Republicans are using Trump’s popularity with their base to railroad a plutocratic agenda through Congress. These six-faced wheeler-dealers will gladly follow him into the muck so long as it’s politically expedient.
For the first two years of the Trumpenreich, Democratic leaders struggled to mount an effective counteroffensive. They never asserted themselves with the same forcefulness and cunning that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan displayed during their rambunctious days under Obama. After November’s blue wave, freshly re-minted Speaker Pelosi predictably vowed to find “bipartisanship” and “common ground where we can.”
The sweeping proposal, crafted by a band of lawmakers ready for just this moment, targets voting rights, campaign finance, and ethics.www.huffingtonpost.com
At his cheeseburger-clogged heart, Trump is a Reddit troll. The only way to send him back to his gold-plated toilet is to throw his babbling non-sequiturs back in his face. E.g., as commentator Kyle Kulinski suggests, re-title Elizabeth Warren’s anti-corruption reforms as the Drain the Swap Act. If being anti-Trump is all it takes to win, why not make the Republicans say “NO” to Medicare-for-All, to paid leave, to policies that people want? Give the voters a preview of what a new, bold Democratic vision looks like.
It’s critical that the House Democrats set the tone for 2020 and to nominate the right presidential candidate. It would be terrible to relive another fatal electoral loop where a placid suit hits all the right progressive notes only to flake on the base once they win. If a do-nothing Democrat rides a sham pageant into office and presides over calamity, the prospects of building a lasting progressive coalition may be irreparably damaged.
Steve Pearlstein, author of Can American Capitalism Be Saved? and Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of the socialist journal Jacobin, debate.www.vox.com
America’s society-altering legislation — women’s suffrage, New Deal, Civil Rights, marriage equality, etc. — was borne out of sustained progressive activism pressuring the federal government to act on its behalf. This folksy view of compromise has and always will be a West Wing wet dream. If special interests are to be meaningfully challenged, if fundamental economic and democratic changes are to be made, then it will be the result of progressives out-messaging, out-mobilizing, and out-voting the Frankenstein mob of Koch disciples and Christian dingbats.
So this evangelical insistence on pushing centrism and compromise is a lame attempt at using horseshoe theory to pass off false equivalences as enlightenment. Centrism is what politics looks like with a lobotomy and no principles. Centrism is a sinister refashioning of half-measures and diminished expectations. Centrism presides over the funeral of baseline standards. Centrism concedes and never fights. Centrism feigns outrage over the Swampness Monster transforming the White House into an immolated sewage dump, but is too indecisive to find the fire extinguisher. Centrism is a garbage virtue that will destroy our entire democracy. Fuck centrism.