Vaguely Left Dems and Moderate Republicans – the Only Remaining Hope?

Photograph Source: Bart Everson – CC BY 2.0

Who isn’t sick of corporate, corrupt, war-mongering, Wall Street Dems like Joe “Fight to the Last Ukrainian” Biden and Nancy “Stock Profits from Legislation” Pelosi? Who doesn’t want to see the back of even more crooked neofascists like Donald “Scrap the Constitution” Trump and other rightwing GOP maniacs with the best chance of beating him? Who isn’t horrified at the prospect of John “Bomb Everybody” Bolton in the white house? Never have moderates, for example, former Maryland Republican governor Larry Hogan or Washington’s Dem governor and climate hawk Jay Inslee, looked so good.  One may quarrel with some of their policies, but as politicos and human beings, they are, at least, normal. Their chances may be negligible – who knows if Inslee will even run for president again – but there’s gotta be some alternative to the sickening status quo. As they say of second marriages, so with the next presidential election: it’s the triumph of hope over experience.

What would a moderate GOP presidency modeled on, say, that of Gerald Ford, look like? Well, here’s what it wouldn’t look like: It wouldn’t look like anti-vax psychosis or a parade of raving lunatics who believe pedophile lizard people, aka the Illuminati, rule the planet. There would be no mass temper tantrum and riot at the capitol to overthrow the government if the election were lost, nor batty assaults on government agencies like the EPA that help keep air breathable and water potable, nor tedious, prehistoric rhetoric about tepid corporate centrist Dems, owned by Wall Street, in fact being Marxist communists fanatically sworn to brainwash your children in the public schools. It would also skip constant provocations of Beijing over Taiwan in the psychotic hope of starting a “limited,” “winnable” nuclear war. There would be no cultivation of neo-Nazis, nor stunts, dangerous to life and limb, like shipping penniless migrants to northern cities in a cold snap and dumping them on freezing street corners. But that GOP of human decency is long gone, you say? Not entirely. Here and there such republicans dot the political landscape. They are scanty, but they exist. Some even may try for the presidency.

As for decent Dems, if anything, they’re harder to locate. That’s because they’re all, even so-called progressives, on board with crushing unions at the Wall Street oligarchy’s behest and unconcerned that their bellicose lunacy could lead to World War III with Moscow. Even supposedly socialist (though how you remain a socialist while greenlighting utterly unnecessary, gratuitous, Washington-concocted wars that kill thousands, I don’t know) Bernie Sanders, who voted for the criminal 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia and supports the Ukraine proxy war on Russia to the exclusion of peace negotiations, is bizarrely belligerent and supine before constant corporate media war propaganda. Maybe the few apparently normal Dem governors who may make a run at the white house are too, but they’ve had to good sense, so far, to keep quiet about it.

Speaking of which, there’s Illinois Dem governor Jay Pritzker, who’s pretty good on issues like housing and skyrocketing rents, with a $75 million dollar fund for that last June, and Medicaid expansion. He also made a preliminary stab at coping with educational debt – in other words, he has attempted to tackle the three most egregious causes of contemporary serfdom: housing, medical and educational debt. Serfdom leads to destitution, an absolute evil. Yoke the social murder of destitution to the tyranny of monopoly capitalism, and you have a recipe, for some, for the fury that finds outlet in fascism, also an absolute evil. So Pritzker’s partly on the right track. Is he ideal? Far from it. But he’s head and shoulders above GOP neofascists. True he’s a billionaire, but we live in the Age of the Oligarch, here in the Exceptional Empire, and they’re hard to avoid. They pretty much own our supposed democracy. Those who are unyielding on never supporting a billionaire have my respect. It’s certainly a worthy principle. But desperate times, yadda, yadda, yadda. The simple fact is that in many ways Pritzker is decent and thus acceptable, in a crowd of otherwise wildly ambitious climbers, charlatans and liars, who have no intention – see for example, Biden, Joe, president – of helping anybody other than their donors.

Jay Inslee’s signature issue in the last campaign was climate change. Since this is one of the three mammoth threats of our time – the other being nuclear war with either Beijing or Moscow and the third being fascism – that puts him head and shoulders above most other Dem candidates, even those to his so-called left. But he, like Hogan, has a marketing problem, to wit, he’s not insane. Because the media and the public they drive into a frenzy prefer kooks or overt fascists. Corporate news loved Trump, gave him unlimited coverage, and he’s about as unbalanced an individual as ever popped up in public life. Who knows what mentally ill soul or swastika-tattooed nutjob our news outfits will settle on next, but average candidates like Hogan or Inslee are at a disadvantage: they’re pretty good at their jobs, namely governance, and so commit the unpardonable media sin of being boring.

The GOP lineup runs the gamut from bad to stupendously awful, from Rick “Where Are the Cameras?” Scott to Mike “Forgive me, Donald” Pence to Ron “Prosecute Vaccine Makers” DeSantis to Ted “Cancun” Cruz to Mike “War with China” Pompeo. And those are just the anointed hogging the media limelight; who knows what horrors lurk deeper in the GOP ranks? Maybe the ripe lunacy of congressman Andy “the Bolsheviks Are Coming” Biggs or the unabashed psychopathology of fellow legislator Steve “I’m David Duke Without the Baggage” Scalise or a horrific sighting of totally armored Missouri senatorial candidate Eric “Hunting RINOs” Greitens. And the Nightmare on GOP Street doesn’t end there. Maybe even Mike “Very Strange Pillow Guy” Lindell or Steve “Fascist Coups International” Bannon, will get into the act – just pause to contemplate that for a moment. The possibilities, where Republican cukoo-birds are concerned, are enough to have you scanning the real estate listings in foreign cities.

Meanwhile where frontrunners are concerned, the Dems compete hotly. With talk of Pete “Give Southwest a Break” Buttigieg charging at the presidency, the only proper response is to find a cave and sleep for one hundred years. The prospect of a Petebot presidency is beyond unsettling, it’s enough to drive you to despair; a Biden rerun isn’t any better, nor is a Kamala “Clueless” Harris one, while an Amy “Berate the Staffers” Klobuchar challenge could mean extending the misery of her underlings to the country at large. The Weimar Dems are almost as rotten as the post-Weimar GOP. But who in their right mind wouldn’t prefer Weimar to what came after? And corporate media, of course, play it like that’s our only choice.

It isn’t. There are a few decent moderates in both parties – and I don’t mean hypocrites who flaunt their supposedly left credentials, then vote to block a railroad strike and send billions of dollars to the Ukraine proxy war, to undermine any negotiated peace. Those phonies deserve nothing but scorn. That includes the spineless cowards in the so-called progressive caucus, who timidly advanced a call, a couple of months back, for peace negotiations with Moscow, then at the first whiff of trouble, publicly, cravenly recanted. These hypocrites and milquetoasts destroyed the idea of the left for millions of ordinary, working people, who now equate left with hypocrisy, Wall Street and war. Actually, that association dates from Bill “Ship the Jobs to Mexico” Clinton’s disastrous presidency, but Biden has done zilch to improve the image and in many ways made it worse. What ways? Try, for starters, the billions in profits for weapons-makers while the president breaks every public welfare campaign promise he can. Also on the menu – blowing up Russian pipelines, a massive climate crime and worse, what kind of lousy precedent is that?

But why, you ask, even discuss this, when Trump and Biden have it in the bag? The latest Data for Progress and Morning Consult polls don’t even mention anybody else, besides a quick gloss on Harris and DeSantis. Well, conventional wisdom has been wrong before. Besides, in mid-December news was that Trump’s support with GOP voters had cratered, that they wanted Trumpism without Trump, whatever that is, though I’m sure it’s bad. As for Biden, common sense may yet prevail, or perhaps someone in his family, arguing that he should spend his sunset years in retirement, not leading the charge against Beijing and Moscow, because that’s gone so wonderfully this far and bodes so well for the future…amirite?

In a few months presidential campaigns will gear up. Biden’ already trying to crowd out a challenge from his left by switching the first primary from Iowa to South Carolina. Trump simply screeches that he should be reinstated in the white house NOW. A responsible press would focus not only on these two zombies who garner the most clicks and views, but also on the less likely candidates. Because among them there are a precious few who might actually be good for the country and not further damage the rest of the world. (There’s a sweet dream for you: Washington actually stops staggering from one foreign slaughter to another, under a president who…doesn’t like to kill people!) But longing for a responsible press is, again, the triumph of hope over experience. So batten down the hatches against more hullaballoo about supposedly unbeatable, spectacular candidates, who in fact are merely ruthlessly fixated on their own advancement, perks and power, period. If one wins, the Exceptional Empire will continue to swirl down the drain and will drag its European vassals and possibly other nations along with it. And that’s the optimistic scenario.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.