AN AMERICAN FAIRY TALE
WE'RE IN THE MIDST of a perilous fairy tale, and the worst part is that it’s the Democrats who are falling for it.
It goes this way:
Once upon a time in the Kingdom there was a terrific president.
This president - we'll call him Joey - was everything you could ask for in a Main Guy. Joey was kind and capable, and he accomplished a great many wonderful things that improved the lives of the citizens of the Kingdom, although the citizens seemed hardly to notice.
In 2020, he drove out an Evil Prince from the White House, and that was a particularly big deal, because the Prince was not only a clownish nitwit, but was, at his core, a racist and cruel fiend.
Joey appointed capable, smart people to his cabinet, and got the Kingdom running on an even keel, approaching the kind of government that the citizens of the Kingdom long had taken for granted, therefore gave Joey little credit for this stunning achievement.
Joey made good on his pledges to address climate change, improve the economy, and champion long-held values like being absolutely opposed to the use of of military-grade rifles to murder children for going to school.
Joey came to the rescue of Ukraine after it was invaded by a Russian bully, who was a great pal, if not the actual puppet master, of the Evil Prince, and he got a lot of Western countries to supply weapons, training and advice that helped Ukrainians resist the bully.
BUT LIKE ALL FAIRY TALES, this one has a dark side.
While unquestionably advanced politically, Joey also was quite advanced in his years, having reached category of what commonly known as being an "old fella," an "elderly guy," a "geezer," and an "80-years-young codger."
Joey continued to get older and older and older, day after day after day. This worried a great many people, including Joey’s stanchest supporters, who were some of the Kingdom’s most kindly, compassionate and caring citizens, often referred to as Democrats.
Like everyone in the Kingdom, these Democrats were quite familiar with people who were 80 or more in their years, in fact, they had witnessed what actually happens with advancing years, a story that always ends the same disappointing way. And in lots of cases, prior to death, oldsters became mentally and physically disabled as their bodies and brains wore out, like a '67 Corvettes that's been around too many blocks, too many times.
But Joey ignored all of this and for both patriotic and egotistical reasons, he decided to seek another four-year term.
The Democrats took immediate steps: they worried, fretted and agonized endlessly about Joey’s advancing age. And did nothing about it.
THERE IS A GOOD FAIRY in this tale.
She/he also was a worrier, but like all Good Fairies, preferred action to fretting and agonizing, and thus dispatched a case-in-point to Democrats, an actual a member of the United State's Senate, a body which the Kingdom inaccurately referred to as “The Upper Chamber.”
We’ll call this emissary “Diane.” She was 89 in her years and had had an inspiring history as a political reformer and progressive, serving many terms in the Upper Chamber. But recently, she had not been at the Senate for months, because of a painful affliction called shingles and its effects.
Suffice it to say when Diane finally got back to the Kingdom’s capital, her condition was even worse than feared. Her appearance was described by one of the nation’s leading heralds of unwelcome news, the New York Times, and it was upsetting just to read:
Using a wheelchair, with the left side of her face frozen and one eye nearly shut, she seemed disoriented as an aide steered her through the marble corridors of the Senate, complaining audibly that something was stuck in her eye.
It gets worse, Jim Newell, another herald of bad tidings, in this case for Slate, told of a "conversation" that he and another reporter had with Diane; Newell asked how she was feeling, and she said:
“Oh, I’m feeling fine. I have a problem with the leg.”
A fellow reporter staking out the (Capitol) elevator asked what was wrong with the leg.
“Well, nothing that’s anyone concern but mine,” she said.
When the fellow reporter asked her what the response from her colleagues had been like since her return, though, the conversation took an odd turn.
“No, I haven’t been gone,” she said.
“You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”
When asked whether she meant that she’d been working from home, she turned feisty.
“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she said. “Please. You either know or don’t know.”
Plainly, and avoiding evasions and euphemisms favored in both fairy tales and the Upper Chamber, Diane didn’t know whether she was coming or going.
Not Diane’s fault. We all get there sooner or later. A least the Good Fairy tried to alert the Democrats to the folly of magical thinking that pretended that that age doesn’t matter and presidents live happily ever after.
FAIRY TALES ARE SUPPOSED TO END with a moral, such not letting the wolf in through the front door, or avoiding the temptation of eating someone else's porridge, although it’s apparently okay lose one or more shoes after the dance or to kiss a frog.
The moral of this story is that it's going to end badly unless Democrats stop pretending that it’s okay to have a president who's 80 and more, and that just because nothing has gone wrong for him so far, that things will continue to do so for the next five years.
It won't. Wishful thinking is ridiculous thinking. Sooner or later – and I’m betting on sooner, because I'm Joey's age and every couple of months I've been writing remembrances about more and more of my contemporaries – a crisis will develop, and the Kingdom’s kind, compassionate and caring Democrats are going to have to find a replacement for Joey.
Anticipating this before it actually happens is a two-step process:
Competent, realistic and tough-minded Democrats need to step forward and present themselves as alternatives to Joey. And persuade the country that there are plenty of other potential Main Guys and Main Gals throughout the Kingdom.
If you want some names - everybody keeps asking me for names, since I've written this sort of essay many times - I've attached a list of people, many of whom are still a mystery to most of us, but who, when you start to think about it, are credible.
The fact that most of us know little or nothing about Joey alternatives is my best argument for Joey getting out of the way so people can become familiar with his possible replacements.
Frightening forces, known as Republicans, are afoot in the Kingdom.
Sadly, we've reached a point in our history where every election is a crisis.
As the Evil Prince has demonstrated, the Constitution has flaws, half the electorate feels some kinship to the Evil Prince, and that's why we are only one election away from catastrophe.
Consider what's at stake: climate catastrophe; an American dictatorship committed to discrimination by race, religion, gender and national origin; economic inequality; censorship; biased courts; and the rest of the Republican agenda.
The sad fact is that this story is never going to have a happy ending unless Democrats get serious about fairy tales, stop pretending Joe is going to live forever, offer their sincere thanks for his exemplary service, and then gently guide him out of the Oval Office and in this way, save the Kingdom.
* * *
DEMOCRATS WHO COULD BE PRESIDENT
Ranked by age, which isn't a factor for any of them - they are all youngsters in Democratic standards - and any of them might do a credible job.
I've supplied a similar list in previous writings, which have been pretty much based on the same theme. This one is plucked from a recent Washington Post roundup:
Feel free to add some of names of your own. Time's a-wasting.
BRIAN C. JONES