Realist interpretation of QED
A realist interpretation of quantum electrodynamics may be loosely defined as a theory based on a model of the electron and the photon explaining (1) their intrinsic properties (e.g. radius or geometry, magnetic moment, angular momentum) and (2) the interactions between them (e.g. Thomson versus Compton scattering). The interest in electron models was boosted as a result of Hestenes' interpretation of the presumed Zitterbewegung of an electron and Wheeler's mass without mass concept. A realist theory should also explain the observed 360/720 degree symmetries of fermions and bosons respectively. The electron model should also explain phenomena such as the anomalous magnetic moment.
A realist interpretation also needs to explain electron orbitals and their energies, and explain Schrödinger's differential wave equation in terms of geometries. The electron model also needs to be complemented by a photon model. This model should explain quantum-mechanical phenomena such as one-photon Mach-Zehnder interference.
Advanced kinematic models include Alexander Burinskii's Kerr-Newman electron (2008, 2016) which combines gravity and quantum theory without modifications of the Einstein-Maxwell equations. Such advanced models allow for a conceptual bridge with mainstream quantum mechanics, grand unification theories and string theory.
Realist interpretation of QCD
The development of realist models of what happens inside the nucleus is hampered by our lack of understanding of the strong force and the (in)stability of particles. Dirac's last paragraph in the last edition of his Principles of Quantum Mechanics reads as follows:
“Now there are other kinds of interactions, which are revealed in high-energy physics and are important for the description of atomic nuclei. These interactions are not at present sufficiently well understood to be incorporated into a system of equations of motion. Theories of them have been set up and much developed and useful results obtained from them. But in the absence of equations of motion these theories cannot be presented as a logical development of the principles set up in this book. We are effectively in the pre-Bohr era with regard to these other interactions. It is to be hoped that with increasing knowledge a way will eventually be found for adapting the high-energy theories into a scheme based on equations of motion, and so unifying them with those of low-energy physics.” (Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 4th edition, p. 312)
He wrote this in 1958 but kept repeating his dissatisfaction with the mainstream approach till the end of his life. In 1975, for example, Dirac wrote the following about the perturbation theory he himself had contributed to:
“I must say that I am very dissatisfied with the situation because this so-called ‘good theory’ involves neglecting infinities. […] This is just not sensible mathematics. Sensible mathematics involves neglecting a quantity when it is small – not neglecting it just because it is infinitely great and you do not want it!”
The Wikipedia article on Dirac, from which the quote above was taken, notes that “his refusal to accept renormalization resulted in his work on the subject moving increasingly out of the mainstream.” It also quotes his final judgment on quantum field theory which, significantly, is entitled "The Inadequacies of Quantum Field Theory" (1984):
"These rules of renormalisation give surprisingly, excessively good agreement with experiments. Most physicists say that these working rules are, therefore, correct. I feel that is not an adequate reason. Just because the results happen to be in agreement with observation does not prove that one's theory is correct."
The paper ends with these words: "I have spent many years searching for a Hamiltonian to bring into the theory and have not yet found it. I shall continue to work on it as long as I can and other people, I hope, will follow along such lines."
It’s not just Dirac (and Einstein, of course): the whole first generation of quantum physicists – including Schrödinger, Pauli and Heisenberg himself - became increasingly skeptical about the theory they had created. Even John Stewart Bell did not believe his own No-Go Theorem and hoped that some “radical conceptual renewal”  would demonstrate its irrelevance.
While there is no alternative yet, 'radical conceptual renewal' will likely not involve the assumption of virtual or other ghost particles mediating a force. It will probably require a better understanding of why only a very limited number of particles are stable (all others must be thought of as transients or resonances) and electron-positron pair creation.
- Alexander Burinskii, The Dirac–Kerr–Newman electron, 19 March 2008, https://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0507109
- Burinskii, Alexander (2017-10-14). "Weakness of gravity as illusion which hides true path to unification of gravity with particle physics". doi:10.1142/S0218271817430222.
- John Stewart Bell, Speakable and unspeakable in quantum mechanics, pp. 169–172, Cambridge University Press, 1987, quoted from Wikipedia