The Center Must Not Hold

The fulcrum is way over there

The political right has taken more than its share of the platform upon which our democratic society rests. The balance has shifted, the winds long ago changed, and figuring in neoliberalism as part of the right, the center has moved way far over to the right. Of course people don’t notice, because the fulcrum is always assumed to be visually in the center, so people cling to the center, to centrism, to centrists. It’s what leads, in this election year, to the issue of “electability,” at least among those of the Democratic persuasion. The worst thing that could happen is that Donald Trump could be elected again (hard to argue with that, although I believe arguments could be made), so what we need to do is throw overboard any sort of ballast that might make the Democratic candidate less than “electable.” Toss critical thinking, toss honesty, toss morality, toss empathy, and seize on some rich white person (man) who can beat Donald Trump by the obvious standard: net worth. Because money is what it’s all about, isn’t it? And the status quo (there’s that thing again, what the late Dan Fogelberg called “the fulcrum in the void,” and brother was he right about its location).

So we battle against the idealists and in favor of the monied, well-connected, centrist, compromising and compromised, because, well, we have to have someone who can match up against Donald J. Trump, who is nothing if not compromised, and we are told we can take one of these centrist candidates and use him (or perhaps her, but don’t hold your breath) to “reach across the aisle,” Capitol Hillspeak for laying down with dogs, compromising at every turn, giving up in order to have won, and above all, maintaining the status quo. Above is a picture of the current status quo.

“But the scale is made wrong! It’s defective! The illustration is rigged!” Yeah, and so is the reality. In order to maintain this balance we must make allowance for the right; the far right, at least so long as we insist on using this scale, which is visibly devised to allow the lighter weight right remain at least even with the larger left. True equilibrium can only be achieved by replacing (or repairing) the lever upon which the balance rests, because it has been tampered with and anyone can see that. In fact, here’s a picture of what equilibrium actually looks like, Pythagoras’ theorem, Euclid’s 47th problem, for real and not neat and tidy at all:

“What the hell is he talking about?” I’m talking about the fact that we are by nature a left-leaning society, one which wants to live well, to feel secure, to be able to make ends meet, to not have to be forced into bankruptcy by medical bills (including copays) when our bodies betray us, to live i n relative peace and be allowed to mind our own business. I believe this is true of the vast majority of US Citizens, at least the sane ones, many of whom feel they can only get this by means of a President who “tells it like it is,” even when those citizens don’t know what “it” is.

Now comes the New Left, led by people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (hereafter referred to as “AOC,” as has become the custom), Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, etc., the “kids” (and Sanders is, I guess, their grandpa) who have been shaking the foundations of the neoliberal status quo for a while now, with crazy ideas like being able to go to the doctor or be hospitalized and not have to be afraid of financial ruin, or to go to college without having to incur absurd amounts of debt, not to mention being able to lose some of the baggage that comes with not being white, as we all move closer to that point where we realize race isn’t even a thing. And let us not forget the very planet where we all live being in critical condition.

Speaking of grandpa and critical condition, didn’t Sanders recently have a heart attack? Do you know what “heart attack” means, medically? It’s a catch-all phrase not much used in medical circles anymore for that very reason. What he had was an episode of acute coronary syndrome (ACS, not to be confused with AOC), which means no lasting damage was done. Hell, my partner had one last July that required a stent, and she’s a youthful 47. I myself had a frank myocardial infarction (a “real” heart attack) at the age of 49. That was 26 years ago. Not a peep out of it since. Joe Biden was closer to death than any of the candidates back in 1988, when he suffered a burst cerebral aneurysm and had to have the top of his skull removed to stop the bleeding. He had a second one (that didn’t burst only because it was clamped off in time) a couple years later. Joe Biden is a rather large medical risk, if any of that really means anything to anyone.

But onward. The center huggers will argue that we’ve already achieved a great deal toward racial parity (“a great deal” is a great deal short of being there), and of course that “Medicare for All” (sort of a misnomer, since it would be more like Medicaid For All), and government-subsidized college tuition would be a) too freaking expensive or b ) impossible to achieve because of GOP obstruction of anything good and decent, or maybe c ) too much too soon, so baby steps, please.

The “baby steps” bullshit is especially onerous when it comes to saving the planet, and the other stuff even pales in comparison, but by god it would take too long and above all cost too much, so can we please just find some nice, avuncular white guy who will make us all feel like we don’t have to pay attention to what’s going on during one of the more critical times in our history?

Jesus.

There’s one more argument, and it is a good one, as far as it goes: The President of the United States can’t enact policy anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much who the candidate is, so why not just go with safe mediocrity instead of insisting on some sort of “saint.”

Yes, mediocrity looks so much finer than rank incompetence, doesn’t it? And the incompetent President we now have is more than just incompetent, and he has also just been told by the US Senate that he can do anything he wants so long as he first adjudges it to be in “the best interests of the nation.” Kinda makes the brain reel, doesn’t it? But it happened, and we’ll be dealing with that for at least the next eight or nine months, and maybe if we can dump him come election time we could actually take advantage of that miscarriage of justice and let our own candidate run wild.

Oh, but there’s still that one thing, the “S” word, the thing Bernie Sanders brought with him because he’s old enough to remember what life was like when Democrats were champions of the people instead of champions of the wealthy (who, after all, made their own way, and if we aren’t rich like them, we should at least take a lesson from them and try harder, never mind what hand life might have dealt us). Yeah, get ready to see more of the hammer-and-sickle because they’re trotskying that out now to scare you away from the left and herd you back toward the safe center. Which, need I repeat, will not and must not hold. Not the center we imagine, anyway.

And of course there is the never-ending funeral service for Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, which according to Ms. Clinton is all the fault of Bernie Sanders, who didn’t throw himself under the wheels of some passing juggernaut but did just about everything else he could reasonably do to support her run for the presidency once she had secured the candidacy. Of course he couldn’t actually debate Trump for her, or run her campaign, so why didn’t he do those things? Cheap bastard. So we’ll be hearing about that right up till the end as well, it seems, because Ms. Clinton does not lose twice and then go out and try to help unite us while talking about uniting us, because how can we be united when Bernie Sanders still lives and breathes? We must also dispense with all the other suspects in the Clinton loss of 2016, such as Russia, clumsy email server use, a lackluster campaign, and a lot of presumptions about whose turn it was to win. Nope, none of that, and certainly not the weak Clinton campaign. Just Bernie Sanders. He’s “What Happened.”

So what I’m gathering from all this is we must hire someone who won’t rock the boat. Now it’s true the President can’t do a hell of a lot, at least without the help of Congress. But what if we should take back the Senate along with the White House? And, of course, keep the House. What then? My God, why anything might be possible! And we can’t be having that. Oh lord, no.

Did I mention Sanders isn’t even a Democrat? He’s from Vermont, where one can’t register as a partisan. That’s the main reason he’s an Independent. Not the only reason, but the main one, and of course he caucuses with Democrats because he has far more in common with them than he does with Republicans. And maybe an independent-minded person wouldn’t be a bad idea anyway, instead of one who always follows the herd, does what’s expected of him, toes the party line, regurgitates the same old bromides year in and year out, and handles the status quo like a vial of nitroglycerine.

Because that, I understand, is what we need. Pass it along to Elizabeth Warren, too, because she’s a leftist as well, at least compared with the center, which is way over on the right, and don’t forget that.

In conclusion, then, either the President can’t really do anything, so it may as well be someone who can pass as our crazy uncle, or he can in fact do anything, in which case we may just wind up with Donald J. Trump for another four years while Democrats fiddle and the whole damn planet burns.

PS: To all you avid supporters of Bernie Sanders: For the love of God, keep it in your pants. Settle down. Put down the rocks and do the work.

Writer, activist, novelist, sixth generation DC, local historian-storyteller, and 1:1 patient care technician five days a week.

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