The words of a popular song refer to “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” and ends with the refrain “stuck in the middle with you”. Such is our political climate as the 2020 elections approach. There are polarized views in both parties, with many rejecting a centrist view.
But what does it all mean?
When President Obama was elected, it gave rise to the Tea Party movement, which sought to oppose every measure the administration proposed. They opposed healthcare, government regulations and virtually anything Democrats supported. This approach led them to victory in the midterms of President Obama’s first term, and thus began an era of obstructionist politics.
The Tea Party movement failed largely due to the successes of the Obama administration in bringing the country back from the brink of catastrophe during the Great Recession. Nonetheless, there were still enough members of the Republican Party left to impede the progress gained during his first term.
Many in his own party publicly criticized President Obama for his centrist approach and his willingness to reach across the aisle to seek the advice of Republicans, particularly House Speaker John Boehner. Tales of their late night conversations spread throughout the Washington establishment, despite the openly hostile opposition of Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans.
Is this the approach we need right now? Many, on both sides, would strongly disagree.
On the right, there is the Freedom Caucus. This group, which includes current White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney among its founders, rose from the ashes of the failed Tea Party. Despite the exorbitant spending of the Trump administration, they support fiscal conservatism and limited government involvement in both industry and Wall St., despite the fact these were the very factors that led to the Great Recession.
Their diametric opposite is the far left movement of Democratic Socialists. Led by some time Democrat Bernie Sanders, this movement supports free college for all and universal, government-sponsored, healthcare. The meteoric rise of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez mirrors the rise of Tea Party Republicans during the Obama administration. Their primary purpose is the defeat of Donald Trump.
The one rare area of agreement between these groups is voter fraud. The right, led by Trump, have resurrected these claims to explain their losses in the 2018 midterms, and will undoubtedly keep these falsehoods alive if they lose the 2020 election.
On the left, many Bernie Backers are still stinging from reports the Democratic Party refused to support him. They claim he out polled Trump and should be in the White House. They remind their followers to remain vigilant as the 2020 elections approach.
So what are our choices? Do we pick the “clowns to the left”, the “jokers to the right”, or are we “stuck in the middle”? The upcoming elections will tell the tale.
CJ Waldron is a retired English teacher from upstate New York. An adjunct instructor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, he lives in Conway, SC with his wife, Donna.