Never mind what you've heard. The leader of the Democratic Party in 2018 is not Hillary Clinton or Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi. It is an enormous green face with Veltrex eyes the size of cocktail shakers, a salacious red tongue leaping out of a cavernous mouth, and clasped faux-velvet arms holding a knapsack over his groin. His name is Mitch McTurtle.
This creature is ostensibly the official mascot of the Nevada Democrats, announced earlier this week at a groan-inducing press conference. But Mitch is more than that. He is the barely beating foam heart of the party of FDR and LBJ. He is Pajama Boy, "Pokémon Go to the polls," "7 Ways Hillary Clinton is Just Like Your Abuela," and the "About Me" page of the carpet-bagging moderate who ran against Randy Bryce during the Democratic primary for the Wisconsin seat held by House Speaker Paul Ryan. He is Chuck Schumer making Game of Thrones references in between inventing bad reasons for opposing single-payer health care.
Centrist Democrats in 2018 have two easily reconcilable priorities: provision of a supposed medical procedure that half of the population regards as murder and shoring up Wall Street. In the course of marketing both of these positions they are known to have recourse to painful pop-culture references and résumé English.
Marie Newman — one of the two Democrats running against that put-upon but, alas, shamefully not pro-choice champion of the working class, Rep. Dan Lipinksi (Ill.) — says on her official website that she is "results-driven and progressive" and "has spent her life embracing challenges and working with others on solutions." In her long career as a consultant, Newman has done work on behalf of Discover Card, "start-ups," and something called Humana. She is also an anti-bullying activist. According to Newman, her Democratic opponent who opposes free trade and has sponsored legislation that would ensure that every product sold as "Made in the USA" would be manufactured by well-remunerated union-protected laborers is "far-right" because he opposes "women's health" (i.e. abortion) and supports "'right-to-discriminate' legislation" (i.e. is against same-sex marriage).
How many layers of "I loved whispering 'ssssh' to my classmates during library hour in elementary school" do you have to be on to find the prospect of supporting this party even remotely appealing? Never mind substantive questions about the economy, medical care, and foreign policy on which the Democrats are indistinguishable from the GOP. Which side do you think is, if not cool, slightly less lame? It ultimately comes down to whether greedy people pretending to be hip strikes you as less embarrassing than greedy people who could not be hip even if they tried their absolute hardest.
All of which is to say that the most significant thing to be said on behalf of Republicans is that they are unashamed about their venality. They are unabashedly anti-poor people, proudly in favor of making the world a better place for the 1 percent. Their response to President Trump's sociopathic hatred of the world's marginalized is wistful rather than condemnatory. If only, they seem to say, he could be the tough-minded pragmatic wonk of the golf course rather than the "shithole"-denouncing villain of the last week or so, we could reduce the number of refugees while maximizing the amount of communist Chinese capital that we allow into this country.
There is every reason to believe that the 2018 midterms will be a contest between frat boys marketing their tax cuts as racism and Wall Street toadies dressing up their assaults on the working class as a crusade for "women's health," and that the presidential election that already looms over us like a shadow will pit the founder of O magazine against the former president of Trump University.
Which team are you rooting for?