If there is one thing on which Democrats can agree it’s that on January 20, 2021, President Trump hand over the White House key to a Democrat, make his way across the South Lawn with his brood in tow, board Marine One, and never be seen again except on visiting days.
All that is left to decide, of course, is which Democrat will have the opportunity to defeat the man who promised to “drain the swamp” but turned out to be the creature from the black lagoon.
Jeff Flake, the former GOP senator from Arizona, said that if a Senate vote on impeachment were done by secret ballot, Trump would be removed from office. That implies that a significant number of GOP members recognize that Donald Trump is a pathological narcissist with early stage dementia—a habitual liar with little contact with reality. Yet they stand arm-in-arm, defiant in their support of him. The party has allowed him to retain command of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet because it would be politically inconvenient to do otherwise.
The President’s actions are possible only with the cowardly acquiescence of congressional Republicans.
Depending on which pundit or commentator one reads or hears, any or none of the Democrat candidates will be able to unseat Trump on November 3. In an ideal world, the ideas and policies presented by a candidate should be what matters. But, in words spoken about issues I once raised, Brian Schweitzer, at the time a candidate for the Montana governorship, said, “The important thing is to win.”
There is little doubt about the importance of winning. After all, it is a contest. But at what cost? And to whom? I wish such cynicism weren’t part of the equation. I would far prefer to hear what a candidate actually believes than hear what he or she thinks the majority of the electorate wants to hear.
(I would also like to see an end to political advertising on television. To put that in perspective, I hear that the people in hell would like some ice water.)
At this point in the game, it is too early to predict who might be the Democrat candidate, but it certainly is not too early to speed up the winnowing process. Each of the candidates has admirable qualities, from Andrew Yang wanting to give everybody a thousand dollars a month to Joe Biden’s lifetime of political experience. Elizabeth Warren is a sharp-as-a-tack policy wonk with a plan for everything, while Amy Klobuchar seems the pragmatist with a beguiling sense of humor. Pete Buttigieg is clearly the intellectual in the lineup, and both Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are capable businessmen who could write a check to cover whatever deficit the country might have on inauguration day. There are others who drift in and out of the discussion as well.
And then there’s Bernie.
During the 2016 election cycle, a friend of mine suggested that if we ever decided to colonize Mars, Bernie would be the ideal man to run it. I’ve used that line before, and it still makes me laugh.
When Mike Royko placed the moniker “Governor Moonbeam” on Jerry Brown in 1976, everybody laughed, including lots of California Democrats. And then Royko—a hard-nosed, gruff-and-tumble columnist if ever there was one—apologized to Gov. Brown, calling the sobriquet an “idiotic, damn-fool, meaningless, throw-away line.”
In 1980, at the Democratic National Convention, Royko noted that the best speech had come from Governor Moonbeam.
“I have to admit I gave him that unhappy label,” Royko wrote. “Because the more I see of Brown, the more I am convinced that he has been the only Democrat in this year’s politics who understands what this country will be up against.”
Somewhere in the mix came the word “visionary.”
Brown wore his vision on his sleeve, campaigning twice for the Presidency, in 1976, and again in 1980, when his slogan was “protect the earth, serve the people and explore the universe.”
The “moonbeam vote” belonged to the young, idealistic and non-traditional.
Before seeing the light, as it were, Royko found endless amusement in California’s oddities. “If it babbles and its eyeballs are glazed,” he wrote in 1979, “it probably comes from California.”
Bernie Sanders clearly has captured the “moonbeam” vote of the young, idealistic and non-traditional, and in that vote might lie the future of America.
Some of Sanders’s rhetoric might sound like so much babble to some ears. But his eyes are not glazed; they are clear and focused sharply on reshaping our society into one whose governing agencies will provide both aid and opportunity, will honor and protect our rights, and won’t play into the hands of the very wealthiest of Americans.
He has been fighting the same fight for his entire political career. He is stubborn and he knows the battlefield. And he understands fairness.
Albert Einstein noted that there is a moral belief that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”
I embody the very definition of a bleeding-heart liberal. I was raised that way. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents had framed portraits of FDR and JFK in their living rooms. I was also raised to question authority, and to try to approach issues or problems with an open mind, which remains a liberal attribute.
But I was also raised in a time when Democrats and Republicans reached across the aisle to meld their differences into solutions that served a common good. Philosophy and ideology often took a back seat to the practical aspects of governance.
To paraphrase President Obama, there’s a lot of paperwork.
I’d like to believe that Everett Dirksen, the erudite Republican senator from Illinois, would have stood against the incarceration of children at the border, the stripping the needy of benefits, the attempts at voter suppression, the gifting the wealthy of tax breaks at the expense of education, health and social benefits. He’d have been joined by other Republicans of that by-gone era who would not recognize, or acknowledge, the GOP of today.
How, I wonder, can one get a good night’s sleep knowing that Meals on Wheels has become less of a burden to Wall Street? When one looks in the mirror each morning, is there some sadistic satisfaction knowing that children aren’t being fed lunch because their parents can’t afford it? What does a member of Congress think about getting pay raise after pay raise after pay raise while keeping the minimum wage stagnating at 1979 levels?
Trump’s trade war with China was disastrous to the American farmer from the get-go, but checks totaling $28 billion were written to farmers over the past two years. The funds came from other social programs the USDA raided (at Trump’s prompting and without any Congressional debate). The biggest recipients, by the way, were “farmers” who wouldn’t know one end of a pitchfork from the other but who run multi-billion-dollar agri-business empires from executive suites.
In 2016 Trump led a vigorous campaign that ennobled the under- or un- educated white male to hang on to a social standing built on racism and xenophobia. He gave license to those who feared they might become the disenfranchised and the marginalized. His campaign was a giant scare tactic that fed upon the basest instincts of the electorate. There was once a time when his behavior alone would have been his downfall.
A lot of the pundits are suggesting that the only way to beat Trump is to oppose him with a centrist. Well, that might do the trick, but I’m not convinced. The chameleonic Trump can play-act a centrist, but he can’t play left of center without alienating his Tea Party base.
Sanders and Warren, who have both worked across the aisle, are the polar opposites of Trump. They both have Wall Street, Big Pharm, and the insurance and banking industries shaking in their Berluti Oxfords. Those groups are genetically pre-disposed to fear any kind of regulation that would hinder their chances of stuffing a few more bucks in their pockets. Trump has been more than pleased to help his billionaire friends by conducting a three-year fire sale of Nixon-era environmental protections that will no doubt continue apace.
The young, idealistic and non-traditional—as well as many older, more conforming centrists—envision a future that offers a clean environment, equal opportunity, health care for all, public education and a transparent government, values once held sacrosanct by Americans of every stripe. They are not looking for handouts; they are looking to redraw the pie chart that favors military spending and tax cuts for the rich. They want their taxes used to buy social value.
They believe that people whose financial well-being is compromised by unforeseen health issues should not have to look to bake sales and Go Fund Me campaigns for economic salvation.
The future, after all, belongs to the next generations, and they should be encouraged in their participation and admired for their ardor to make a world in which they want to live.
Although I’m not putting any bumper stickers on my truck quite yet, I believe that the sooner the Democrats get on the same page and whittle the ticket down, the better they’ll fare in November. The “he-said, she-said” pissing match between Warren and Sanders this past week was a distraction the Democrats can ill afford.
New Hampshire and Iowa are just around the corner, and if we’ve not settled on a candidate by the end of Super Tuesday (March 3), Trump probably won’t have to hand over the White House key.
Photo illustration by Courtney A. Liska