Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Howard Beale line is not enough.

Senator Elizabeth Warren at the Re/code conference was asked a question about getting voters to participate and tying that to requisite investment in America.  She responded first with the sort of investment the questioner was talking about, then by blaming the plutocrats, and then saying the only way for things to change is for voters to get mad as hell - the Howard Beale line.  She is right that these things are needed but she is wrong in seeming to imply that this can somehow happen on its own.  It can't.

First, even if the Democrats retain the White House, if Republicans maintain control of Congress, even just one branch of Congress, little can be accomplished.  This possibility looks likely from here.  Understanding that, the response of the typical voter is more inclined to be "Woe is me" than it is "I'm madder than hell."  Something needs to be done to break this realistic and dismayed apathy.

Second, if one were to do a serious post mortem on the initial stimulus package in Winter 2009 after President Obama took office, while it may be concluded that it was the best that could be done at the time, given the rush job that was necessary to get the bill passed, it generated a lot of criticism and disgust from the other side that there was no discipline about what got into the bill.  Were the Democrats to actually sweep Congress in the 2016 election, would something similar happen again?  Voters likely wouldn't want that.  They'd want what the country needs but not in addition the private agenda of each Democratic member of Congress.  If voters are expected to participate in great numbers, they should demand, in return, some assurance of disciplined legislation to rebuild the country.

Third, Rome wasn't built in a day and one should not expect America to be rebuilt via one election cycle, even if the 2016 elections are very important.  The requisite sort of investment needs to be sustained.  The idea that there is a negative reaction to the in party so the following cycle flip flops who is in control, needs to be squarely addressed.  Otherwise this looks like a lot of talk but not a real commitment to action.

My regular readers know that I wrote a document last December called How to Save the Economy and the Democratic Party - A Proposal, that attempted to address these issues.  I didn't really expect it to get much traction, but I was hoping to see something similar from party leaders, like Elizabeth Warren.

Our media fascination with the Presidential election fails us here, given that divided government produces gridlock.  We need voters to be aware of Congressional races much more than they have in the past to understand whether the candidates for House Membership and the Senate share the same views about the appropriate policy with the Presidential candidate.  Voters really want to approve a shared policy agenda that makes sense to them.  The process as it is now leaves much of that agenda to be negotiated once the candidates have assumed office.  It is that process which must change if voters are to turn out in high numbers.

Is it possible for that message to get through to the party leadership?

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