McSweeney's, April 17, 2019
As the 2020 presidential election draws closer, it’s more important than ever for Democrats to put aside their differences to unite around my feckless centrist candidate. We must remember that this is simply not the time to discuss and debate the merits of each candidate to arrive at a popular consensus pick. That sort of “primarying” isn’t helpful in a primary election, as it will only result in the most popular candidate winning the nomination, which isn’t my feckless centrist.
You might think that the candidate voters select is self-evidently the best candidate to win the general, as they have already proven they have some sort of popular support. But what really wins elections is “electability.” Electability is a perfect metric I invented that rejects flawed models like polling data and past election results and favors the views of myself and other wealthy, white op-ed columnists. Yes, Bernie Sanders consistently polls as the most popular running Democrat, but that’s because most voters don’t understand that he’s not who most voters want. If you want to win elections, you have to listen to me. I know my stuff — you don’t get to where I am without graduating from Rich Kid Legacy Admissions University, interning at the Koch Brothers Institute for Promoting the Agenda of the Koch Brothers, and consulting for several prominent losing candidates.
Sure, it’d be nice to have a leftist in the Oval Office, but in the real world, an extremist wouldn’t stand a chance at becoming president. The American people like moderates. Just ask Jeb Bush, who cruised his way to an easy victory in the 2016 election. It’s what decades of behavioral science has told us — people are perfectly rational animals driven by an innate desire for compromise. It’s why sports fans cheer for good, clean play and games that end in ties. It’s why cereal commercials always have nutritional data front and center, while a voiceover calmly explains the cereal’s pros and cons. Voters don’t want someone championing radical policies that would directly improve their lives. They want a feckless centrist who’s only willing to sputter out vague platitudes for fear of alienating oil executives and white supremacists. That’s the feckless centrism that contributes to the proud American tradition of having one of the lowest voter turnouts among developed democracies!
You need to accept that we both want progress. I want Medicare For All (in a very limited form that will still let me sell prescription drugs at five hundred times the cost) and a Green New Deal (hopefully long after I’m dead and my children have secured their place in their hermetically-sealed bunker). The fact is, you can’t have progress too quickly. Progress doesn’t work like a nuclear bomb that goes off suddenly and changes the world overnight, like when we bombed Hiroshima and eighty thousand people died instantaneously. Real change, lasting change, happens in incremental steps over time. You know how when we bombed Hiroshima, thousands of civilians didn’t die outright, but rather, they were poisoned by radiation, causing constant and severe nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting over the course of a few agonizing, painful weeks, until all of their blood cells deteriorated and their bodies emaciated and died? That’s what progress looks like!
We’re fighting Donald Trump, people! Do you think a steady moral compass and ideological purity is going to beat back the rising tides of American fascism? No! It’s feckless centrism and incremental changes! Think back to how we stopped the Nazis — the Allies compromised with Hitler and allowed him to just do less of the Holocaust, incrementally scaling back on the genocide. And by 2002, all the concentration camps were closed and repurposed as Web 1.0 startups!
I understand that committing to this feckless centrism isn’t going to be easy. You’re going to hear a lot of purity political talking points this election cycle, like “we must do everything we can to fight climate change,” or “the electoral college doesn’t represent the will of the people and is inherently undemocratic,” or even, “it is morally wrong to put human children in cages.” You might even start to believe these things and imagine that a better world is possible. But just remember the lessons taught to us from all our favorite stories. The hero, when faced with incredible odds, looks deep within herself, musters all her remaining strength, and compromises.