Monday, August 1, 2011

That Vision Thing

In the Sunday Review of the Times, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg made the counter-intuitive point that when the country needs government intervention most -- when there is high unemployment and a widening disparity between rich and poor -- voters gravitate away from the Democrats who champion policies that will solve these ills.  As Greenberg puts its, "many voters prefer the policies of Democrats to the policies of Republicans. They just don’t trust the Democrats to carry out those promises."  The problem is that "voters feel ever more estranged from government — and that they associate Democrats with government."  Therefore, "if Democrats are going to be encumbered by that link, they need to change voters’ feelings about government. They can recite their good plans as a mantra and raise their voices as if they had not been heard, but voters will not listen to them if government is disreputable."

Jared Bernstein sums it up well:
If too many Americans don’t believe in or understand what government does to help them, to offset recessions, to protect their security in retirement and in hard times, to maintain the infrastructure, to provide educational opportunities and health care decent enough to offset the disadvantages so many are born with…if those functions are unknown, underfunded, and/or carried out poorly, why should they care about how much this deal or the next one cuts?
Those of us who do care about the above will not defeat those who strive to get rid of it all by becoming better tacticians.  We will only find success when a majority of Americans agrees with us that government is something worth fighting for.
And that is why the debt ceiling deal makes this job so much harder, as Joan McCarter points out:
How you convince a majority of Americans that government is worth fighting for is, first and foremost, making government worth fighting for, making it work for all of the regular people. That won't happen without revenue. That won't happen with indiscriminate slashing and burning of domestic programs. It won't happen by following the tea party's lead of starving the beast.
It's that fight—the fight over the key, foundational ethos of the Democratic party being the party of good government, of the common good—that's been ceded in this deal. It was ceded when President Obama and congressional Democrats bought into the narrative that what the nation needed was a good dose of austerity, austerity that will hamstring all the good that government could do.
The response to this debacle is not forming a third party as Thomas Friedman foolishly contends, for which he was appropriately ridiculed by Tom Tomorrow.   Progressives in Washington, but also, as Kevin Drum argues, "wonks, hacks, activists, all of us" have to persuade "the public to support our vision of government," and "until we do, the tea party tendency will always be more powerful than we are."


Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen said...

I'm going to leave it Lovechilde to divine and then flesh out my thinking, but I was pondering the notion that progressives promote and champion reinstating the draft. The draft could be more widely interpreted as an obligation to national service, not military service exclusively.

Why? The nation is polarized and this is reflected by those who self-select to serve in the military. This is a burden and responsibility that should be borne by all Americans. The military -- soon to be the post-DADT military -- is the most integrated and socialistic segment of society. While not perfect, the VA’s delivery of health services operates more efficiently than the for-profit insurance-based system continues to strangle our economy. Moreover, a public that grows and matures through a modern and more enlightened military would also grow to appreciate the universal payer approach to health care offered by the VA and might elect to see it emulated in the public square.

Dan Senor's book "Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle" describes the maturity and leadership skills that blossom at a very young age among Israelis as a result of their required military service and the awesome responsibilities it entails. As the world continues to flatten and competes for jobs that America once dominated, we will need to rejuvenate our own sense of ingenuity.

A pursuit of military service may be counter-intuitive as a progressive cause (but work with me), and yes it would have to look different than your grandfather’s army. But it already does. Required national service fosters unity, is goal directed, honors shared sacrifice and generates opportunity. It would promote leadership skills that are currently sorely lacking. It would help to bind our increasingly fragmented country

I'd volunteer myself but I'm asthmatic and have chronic halitosis.

So, draft or daft?

Write it up, LC.

Lovechilde said...

I generally don't take requests, but for you Stevie . . . I don't have a problem with required national service, although I feel strongly that it should not be limited to military. Working in poor neighborhoods or performing other social justice work should be in the mix.

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