What’s Left ?

Knowing your left from your right is more critical than ever.

Now we are five weeks into the unthinkable, an administration with Donald Trump as president; a self-professed demonic advisor who looks like a homeless person (no offense to the homeless intended, but White House staff usually have the means to clean up better than Steve Bannon) now appointed to the National Security Council (perfect for a guy who has expressed a desire to bring about the End Times); Sean Spicer, a former communications director for the Republican National Committee now functioning as both Press Secretary and Communications Director for the White House — and who has all the primal traits of a rabid badger at press conferences (when he will even allow them); a Counselor to the President (her initials are K. C.) who has expressed an affinity for “alternative facts;” and a White House Chief of Staff who also is a former Chairman of the RNC, ‘nuf said.

Rounding out this group is a collection of perverts and mountebanks which would frighten anyone with the possible exception of Richard Nixon, who was mentally ill but a whole lot smarter (most of the time) than Trump. Well, at least he was not a functional illiterate.

Which brings us to the president of the moment, Donald Trump, billionaire (perhaps) wheeler dealer known for, among other things, his marital infidelities, failures to pay debts owed, having described his pickup strategy as a handful of Tic-Tacs and “grab ’em by the pussy,” a former reality show host who was, during that TV period, successful largely because he treated his chosen competitors for the position of “Apprentice” like they were human waste. Characterwise and asshole (see “Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump” by UCI professor of philosophy Aaron James for answers to any objections).

Trump was elected president via one of the most dysfunctional electoral processes this young Republic has ever seen, and that covers some pretty unenviable ground. He won despite losing the popular vote by roughly three million, but thanks to the magic of gerrymandering managed to take enough electoral votes to beat one of the two most unpopular candidates ever to be pitted against one another.

Speaking of that other unpopular candidate, she managed to slouch her way to the Democratic nomination with the help of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who skillfully manipulated the primaries so that the phenomenally successful, popular and original thinker, Bernie Sanders, was somehow left short at the finish line.

Wasserman Schultz subsequently was driven from her seat as chairman of the DNC, but not before she had managed to damage, perhaps irreparably, the reputation of that august institution, not to mention the future of the nation. She couldn’t even get her candidate, who championed “baby steps” incrementalism and protection of the status quo at all costs, into the White House, which was not a lot of folks’ wish anyway, but rather their second or third choice, handed to them.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz has now, finally, been replaced by Tom Perez, who inherits a Democratic Party in profound disarray and with (especially younger) voters leaving in droves.

The good news? Clintonism is dead. The bad news? The Democratic Party is on life support. The party of populism, labor, social justice, FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, of social democracy…I am tempted to say even the party of Lincoln, except that technically Lincoln was a Republican…or at any rate that Republicans of Lincoln’s time more resembled Democrats of the Depression era, not the over-polite, after-you, no after-you saps we have come to know and tolerate as they began to look and smell more and more like Republicans (who were evolving into well-dressed Satanists) but with a vague vestige of social conscience (though any party that rubs up against Wall Street actually has no more social conscience than that badger I compared unfavorably to Sean Spicer when one comes right down to it).

And while all this was happening, while Donald Trump was planning to ban Muslims and other funny looking people whose religions he couldn’t pronounce and geographical origins he could not pinpoint, while the electoral process was being thrown under a bus and backed up over; while the White House was being packed with Nazis and white nationalists so that the mansion itself was on the verge of being marked as H.Q. for some enormous hate group, during all this horror and confusion and outrage and all these slings and arrows landing right in the eyeball of the Republic, something magical began to happen:

People started to act up.

Not just any people, either. No, it has been WE the people. Ordinary men and women, first Trump detractors but now also a number of people who voted for Trump not imagining where that might lead, and now afraid they had thrown the “Destruct” switch on the space scow Nostromo. Town hall meetings during the past week have seen their sponsors assailed by all sorts of detractors, and many of those have been former Trump supporters asking “just what the hell is going on?” As well they might.

Meanwhile, the nearly decapitated Democratic Party and the suddenly uneasy Republican Party are both looking around for ways to gain (or maintain) seats in Congress come the day the bill is delivered for all this insane bullshit.

Trump, meanwhile, may not still be with us, or at least leading us, by that day. No, don’t get too excited. The wheels of justice turn very slowly if they ever turn at all, and the founders made the processes by which we rid ourselves of things we couldn’t have imagined very slow, awkward and…thoughtful. But still — it took two years to force the then-recently (re)elected Richard Nixon to flee the Swamp, leaving an okay Republican Veep behind to hold shit together till the next general election. I believe Mike Pence would be competent in the job. No, I would not have voted for him, because I do not admire his agenda, but sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. With Pence it would be as though we had lost instead of having been plunged into darkness as is the case.

And, you will notice, we survived Nixon, just as we survived a horrendous four year Civil War and a few other things like eight years (at least four of them stolen) of George W. Bush, who, next to Trump, looks like an Oxford Scholar.

So, you might ask, where does that leave us?

Depends on what you mean by “us,” white man.

If you mean the Democratic Party, could be nowhere. More about that in a moment.

If you mean the nation we like to think of as that “shining city on a hill,” that country that whipped the Krauts and the Japs, the one that brings democracy to all those benighted parts of the world and makes everything good and right and…wait. How about just us? Sounds kind of like “justice,” doesn’t it? (Apologies to the late Richard Pryor, who did that word play in reverse). Okay, where does it leave all us good and decent people (you know, all us who are “not racist” and all that other happy horse shit, but who do, in fact, mean well)?

There are three possibilities (and some sub-possibilities) as I see it: One, we bumble along as we have, doing it all wrong, the Republicans retain both houses and probably the White House, Trump gets to pick a few SCOTUS members, and a) either he lasts four years or b) he is removed (bet on the latter); Two, there is an uncharacteristic heave-ho back to the Democratic ticket whatever it looks like, and things just shift like some guy’s junk in a pair of tight fitting jeans; or Three, all these disaffected, angry, confused, disappointed, dislocated people milling around right now find each other, realize they all have more in common than not, that they all really want the same basic stuff and are willing to tolerate each others’ company long enough to talk about how to get said basic stuff, restore some sort of order and calm and sanity, and in the process discover that there is something else they — we — all have in common, which is a left as well as a right, and collectively learn to the left because that’s all that is left, once they take a minute to look at what the right (including the right half of the center, aka: the gasping-for-air Democratic Party), and set their silly differences aside for a moment in order to look sharp again (and by “silly differences” I mean things like Martin Luther’s 95 theses, “I am not a racist,” “What exactly IS a Muslim anyway,” and whether or not we should all be allowed to keep F-35 fighter jets in our garages). There are more important issues at stake at the moment, and one of them is us not being sold to Russia or devolving into a second (real, with guns and shit) Civil War.

None of us really wants those things.

Okay, Steve Bannon and a few leftover Nazis do what those things, but that’s why it’s okay to just punch those people in the face.

Seriously. Be willing to hit back when it’s appropriate, and it’s always appropriate to hit a Nazi. Or Wayne LaPierre. We have to remember, though, that not everyone who voted for Trump voted for LaPierre, Bannon, Spicer, and Conway. Many of them cast protest votes not dreaming Trump would actually win. Others voted believing it was the better choice. They know now, a lot of them, and berating them will only force them to dig in deeper. That’s human nature. Get used to it, and don’t people who voted for Trump to do penance for their sin. They’re already going to be doing that without you rubbing it in their faces. Besides, we are not without blame in this fiasco. Resist, hell yes, but get over the desire for revenge on every person who cast a vote for Trump. The rest either voted for Clinton, Stein, or nobody. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Not that race (which is not scientifically even a thing for god’s sake) or gun regulation, or a lot of other hot-button items are not important, but that we cannot hope to get those resolved while we are choking each other over shit like how many Kardashians can dance on the head of a pin.

Save Our Ship, then Sort Out Shit.

Which leaves us with this single decision to make: Under what banner, what party’s banner, do we gather to do this? The Republican one? Too easy. They’re already here! (Think Kevin McCarthy at the end of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”). The Democratic one? Too hard. We can’t even locate the pulse.

What’s left?

Oh! See? See what I did there? The Party of What’s Left. (And it by necessity must be to the left of most of what we have been playing with for the past 30 years.

Yes, it could be a gutted and remodeled Democratic Party. That’s even an ideal solution, because it already has an organization, funds, a structure, a clubhouse, all that. But…if the Old Guard neoliberals stack all the folding chairs and shit against the door and won’t let us in, then…

What’s Left? Us. Either a third party inside the Democratic Party, as Bernie Sanders would have had it (and still might, and speaking of Bernie, when he speaks, pay attention. He could have avoided this whole fiasco for us) or a third party that grows spontaneously from the ground up, from What’s Left.

There is a lot left, by the way. We simply have to hang together, to borrow from Ben Franklin, to avoid hanging separately.

And we’re starting to indicate we can do that. It will require a little grace on both sides, but once that grace has been put on display, there won’t have to be any sides anymore, because What’s Left will be the new left, and the critical mass will leave the lunatic right and neoliberalism out in the rain, wandering in the wilderness, maybe even dying off like the bacteria in the nations clogged sinuses because the ACA was scuttled and no one could afford to go to a doctor for some cheap antibiotics.

When does this happen? I propose a simple agreement — and I am dead serious about this; it happens when everybody who’s left is willing to acknowledge the simple, logical reality that Black Lives Matter. Oh, and that the word “Muslim” is not a synonym for “terrorist.” If you’re too stupid to past that test you won’t be left anyway, except maybe Left Behind.

We have to be able to get past those and we’re home free.

What’s Left? We are.



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AJ Calhoun

AJ Calhoun

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