Country Over Party

To the leaders of political parties, and to the faithful rank and file, the national interest and the party’s interest ordinarily seem identical. If the country would come to its senses and adopt the party’s platform, all would be as fine as anything can be east of Eden.

As a lifelong Democrat and the son of Democrats — my dad from Manhattan and my mom from the coal country of West Virginia — I’ve longed for the day when the country finally would embrace fully the ideals of justice and equality championed by the modern Democratic Party and articulated so eloquently by Dr. King in his “I Have a Dream.”

Faith in the righteousness of a party’s commitments generally carries with it skepticism about the motives or the capacity of those on the other side of the aisle.

How can anyone who knows anything about the way the world works believe that “the market,” left almost entirely ungoverned by political majorities, will get us closest to heaven on earth?

Does anyone who understands even the most basic biological science actually think that the union of a sperm cell and an egg cell produces at that moment a “human being” with the right to govern the course of a woman’s life for the next twenty years or so?

And guns everywhere? Please.

The power of political conviction is such that I can concede “for the sake of argument” that there are Americans who authentically disagree with me and with the Democratic Party on these matters, but I can’t quite fit into those other moccasins and be for a moment a true believer in the things so many modern Republicans embrace with such evident passion.

In this period of extreme partisanship, most of us have tolerated and many of us have contributed to the stir-the-pot hurly burly, either because we’ve become loyal fans of the propaganda “entertainments” that Roger Ailes wrought or because we’ve felt compelled to throw the rightwing media stars’ molotov cocktails back over the wall at them, meeting the vehemence with vehemence.

And now, of course, we have Trump, an avatar from Ailes World, who somehow has become the 45th President of the United States, and who behaves as if he were a Breitbart-infused troll, tweeting vitriol that comes to him in the wee hours as if that were his first duty as Chief Executive, with everything else left to the generals and to a West Wing staff with a chronic gravitas deficiency.

Party politics won’t save us at this point. Oh, we might see, and I hope we see, a sound repudiation on election day next year of the Republican strategy of ignoring the abomination that is the Trump Presidency and trying desperately to pass legislation that benefits the zillionaire GOP donor class but not the folks who work for a living and have to choose sometimes between the meds and the rent.

But what the country needs most, I think, is a respite from the unbridled partisanship. Let’s find some way to send to the political sidelines for awhile the ideologues and single-issue true believers who have their place in our democracy, constantly asking us to think again about what we’re doing, but who really should not be put in charge of such a diverse country except when we’re so far off course that a radical corrective is required to save the republic itself.

I’m prepared to vote next time for candidates, Democrat or Republican, who present themselves authentically as center-left or center-right moderates, ready to talk to folks on the other side of the aisle and to reach accommodations that might give the purists only half a loaf, but that move the country forward.

Barack Obama was a center-left moderate, but Mitch McConnell and his cronies froze Obama out. Hillary Clinton was a center-left moderate, but she was defeated by decades of demonization and by her flaws as a candidate. The Republican leadership — principally McConnell, but others as well — chose hyper-partisanship and base-stirring over responsible leadership during the past decade. (I’m sure my friends on the other side of the aisle have examples from the Left to nominate.)

What I hope is different now is a recognition by a critical mass of voters that the time has come for folks like John Kasich, who seems to me the clearest example, to have a go at governing. Governor Kasich is a center-right moderate who could help heal the country.

How to Vote in 2018

As a lifelong Democrat and the son and grandson of Democrats, I would vote ordinarily in the Democratic primary for the candidate I thought closest to me politically. And I think it’s almost always a terrible idea to vote in the opposing party’s primary for a “weak” candidate you think your candidate can beat.

But in 2018, if the opportunity presents itself, I stand ready to vote in the Republican primary to boost the fortunes of any moderate candidates who come out squarely against the inevitable Trump-Bannon candidates. And I would encourage any Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary for candidates who can attract the votes of moderate Republicans and independents against these Trump-Bannon Republicans in the general election.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

How to Preserve the American Experiment

Here’s my sense of the American zeitgeist at the moment.

There is no fervor to embrace the neoliberalism that drives the GOP donor class. Nor is there a tsunami of support for the social democracy that Bernie champions.

Folks by and large are not gun fetishists, but they understand that guns have a place in some lives, especially in rural areas.

A majority of Americans think abortion neither should be banned nor should be unregulated, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

The DACA Dreamers should be made welcome, but the country can’t afford a completely open door.

Free trade is good, but its downsides should be addressed. The Democrats are right to insist on a society free of prejudice, but in their condemnations they paint with too broad a brush.

And so on.

What the country needs is a leader or set of leaders able to rally the folks with these views, getting them to the polls and forcing to the sidelines the single-issue ideologues and all-or-nothing crowd who, it sometimes seems, would rather have a dictator who agrees with them right down the line than a messy democracy in which the constantly must settle for half a loaf.

A Real Hunger

I can’t believe there isn’t a real hunger in the country at this point for mature, bipartisan, moderate leadership. Somehow, we need to find a way to wrest power from the neoliberal ideologues and white identity fear-and-anger crowd and provide strong support for the folks like Collins, Kasich, McCain, and Murkowski. The radicals who put Trump in power and have allowed him to run amok are poison to the Republic.