The Rise of the Middle

By Bill Mefford

Perhaps the worst thing about donald trump (and yes there is so much to choose from I had to preface it with "perhaps") is that he is so awful a leader, he is so racist, so misogynistic, and so narcissistic that we will be happy with the next leader, whoever they are, if only they are not as awful a leader, or as racist, or as misogynistic, or as narcissistic. In other words, trump has so lowered the bar that we'd be happy with a trained seal. That is the power of bad leadership. 

I remember when I worked for the church, I once worked with a person in an executive position who was literally so dense that my colleagues and I would celebrate when this person would send an email that contained no grammatical errors or misspelled words. Needless to say, nothing was accomplished with this person in leadership. Bad leadership is everywhere. 

The sad fact is that whether it is in politics, the workplace, or the church, poor leadership does not make us hungry for excellent leadership. Sadly, it makes us all too easily satisfied with just a little less poor leadership. Case in point, trump's presidency has made George W. Bush's numbers go up! 

Let's look at what happened most recently. Conor Lamb, a conservative Democrat, beat a rabid trump supporter, Rick Saccone, who, in the spirit of his party's leader, told reporters on the day of the election that "Democrats hate this country. Democrats hate God." Nice.  

I must admit that seeing trump campaign for Saccone and then lose is a good feeling. When trump loses we all win. But, before we start celebrating too much, let's realize who was just elected. Lamb seems amiable enough, but the week of the Parkland shooting he insisted that no new gun laws were needed. Really Conor? You honestly think our gun laws are adequate? Further, he favors a "secure-the-border-first" approach to immigration, he is pro-fracking, and there isn't a single issue for which he does not opt for bipartisanship. 

Conor Lamb stands for the middle. 

Now, I know compromise is crucial to getting anything done. I have a great deal of respect for pragmatists. I really do. But to get to compromise you first have to stand for something. Lamb represents something that is dangerous to progressives especially; being so eager to get to agreement that we forget we have to start with what we believe in and that usually entails beginning with disagreement. We have to have a vision of what we want the world to look like. 

The truth is that Lamb's election has strengthened the hand of the middle of the Democratic Party: a group called the Blue Dogs. Blue Dog Democrats were decimated in recent elections due to gerrymandering and the Republicans' refusal to be compromising at all. But Blue Dogs are the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. They pride themselves on being fiscal conservatives, but they also tend to be pro-gun, anti-immigrant, and anti-poor. And they believe that Lamb's approach is the best one to take: say nothing about trump (good or bad), focus on the economy and bipartisanship, be pro-gun, be enforcement-first on immigration, and by all means stay to the middle. 

Some will say that this is what must be done to win back Congress from the inept, trump-run Republicans. But let's think back: we actually had a Democratic-run Congress under President Obama and they never touched immigration or gun violence prevention (among many other issues). They spent two years passing Obamacare and even that was a watered down version of what is truly needed, which is universal health care. 

That Congress' obsession to stay in the middle and not veer too far to the left is the very reason why we are facing a Republican-run Congress. 

I understand that races have to be run first and foremost with the district in mind, which is the reason I did not come out and blast Lamb from the start. But using his race as the model for all future races everywhere is as dumb as running in the Pennsylvania 18th as if you are Nancy Pelosi (whom Lamb has already come out against). 

Leadership is crucial and as usual the Democratic Party is in need of some. Now is no time to swerve to the middle. 

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