It’s hard to imagine a left-wing version of Trump. And for Trump’s detractors, it’s even more difficult to imagine lefties ever compromising their values the way conservatives have to support Trump. But maybe it’s not as farfetched as you think, and the case of Rod Blagojevich in Illinois proves it.

Trump has diverged from the Paul Ryan-rhetoric of the Republican party when it comes to inclusivity, trade, immigration, and entitlement reform. At some point, it’s worth considering what Republicans are even supporting when they support Trump if not just “my team is better than your team” tribalism. The conventional wisdom is that Republicans put up with all of Trump’s incompetence, corruption, and vulgarity for “Gorsuch and tax cuts.” So, at the end of the day, they’ll look past all of Trump’s imperfections because he gave them a conservative – specifically a pro-life – Supreme Court pick and a tax cut that was promoted as being a prudent supply-side boost.

Maybe there is a model for this type of left-wing forgiveness too.¬†First elected in 2002, Rod Blagojevich was the Democratic Governor of Illinois until he was impeached in 2008. He won re-election in 2006 while publicly being under numerous Federal investigations and being exceptionally incompetent. He beat state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka by 11% with a 36% approval rating versus 56% disapproval rating (sound familiar?!). Through the re-election campaign and while he was later on trial for selling Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder, Illinois Democrats engaged in what they hopefully see now as embarrassing oversight of Blagojevich’s transgressions because he was able to deliver on some key progressive promises like death penalty reform and expanded healthcare for children.

b5-546

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in prison

In retrospect, Blago was unbelievably corrupt, incompetent, and divorced from reality. One story from his deputy Governor claims that he would hide in the bathroom when confronted with tough budgetary decisions, like an 8-year old thinking they can avoid a math test by just pretending it doesn’t exist. Even after being caught on tape selling the vacant Senate seat, Blagojevich allegedly still had plans for an eventual Presidential run. The only parallel to total shamelessness and ignorance of reality I can think of is the man who sits inside the Oval Office now.

So how could Illinoisans still vote for him, even with so much obvious idiocy and corruption as of the 2006 re-election campaign? Well if Trump supporters’ motto is “Gorsuch and Tax Cuts,” the Blago equivalent could be “Child Healthcare and Gun Control.” Anecdotally, I remember talking to people defending Blagojevich because of his increase in child healthcare coverage and engaging in different forms of “Well, he might not be perfect but Topinka…” Yes, the same justification for Trump voters doing anything to not vote for Hillary. In a Presidential nominee, Democrats’ justification would likely be “Pro-choice nominee and single-payer.” Voting for a Blago that would give liberals those two things is an entirely plausible alternative to voting for a Lindsey Graham-type Republican candidate that would scrap Obamacare and nominate a pro-life SCOTUS judge.

It’s hard to imagine who exactly would embody a left-wing version of Trump. Seth Stevenson wrote a while back at Slate about how Sean Penn could be this figure. His piece is worth reading in its entirety, but I’ll just summarize it by saying a left-wing personification of Trump and Democrats voting one in is not all that difficult to imagine.

Advertisements