I Support the Middle-Class is Not a Principle

Divisions are evident here in the United States. Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama lagged in appealing to white middle- and working-class voters who supported Hillary — and former President Bill — Clinton. Now, these voters, according to recent polls, are increasingly alienated from the Obama administration. Reasons include slow economic growth, high unemployment among blue- and white-collar workers and a persistent credit crunch for small businesses. These factors could cause serious losses for Democrats this fall — and beyond. - Politico

As an instructor for a male character building class one of the sessions we cover is how important specificity is in goal setting. One of the common goals I get from my students is I want to make a lot of money. The problem with this goal is that it lacks an actual completion point or destination. How do you know when you have accomplished it or if you need to reevaluate it? I mention this because this is where the Dems find themselves today. They have no specific principles to guide their goals. What they have are a lot of warmed over “Great Society” rhetoric such as we support the middle-class. What does that even mean? To me it is similar to the “We support the troops” argument of the last administration as if anyone would say, “we don’t support the troops”.

The time has come for Dems to develop their 21st century manifesto, a pledge to America, or whatever you want to call it. This would include not only the principles for the party but also the overall vision of where they want to lead this country. The people in America are looking for answers but what they are getting is bumper stickers and disillusionment. The new direction of politics is whatever you do don’t offer any specific plans or ideas-stay flexible. This may serve the short-term campaign but it does nothing for long-term governance. Over and over the American people are saying we don’t want flexible we want solutions. What the mid-term election stated loud and clear is that this was not a ringing endorsement of the Republicans, but a frustration vote against the Democrats. The reason the teabaggers made so much noise was because they were the “none of the above” selection. The problem with having only two parties is that people keep going back and forth when they get frustrated and feel like they are not being heard.

The teabaggers presented themselves as an alternative for that frustration, but the truth is that they were not what they claimed to be. Many of them were recycled and repackaged wing-nut cultural warriors. Does anyone believe that the American public in two short years has forgotten the mess the Republicans created? If that were in fact the case their approval rating might be a little higher than 30%. When you only have two choices and you feel like neither is listening to you then you can keep going back and forth like most people or you just give up.

The Republicans govern like it is a dictatorship and the Democrats like it’s a social democracy. The Republicans demand and get party unity to their core set of principles; they do it through their party system. You do not get to represent the Republican flag if you don’t hold to those principles. The Dems on the other hand have a different philosophy. They are a loose coalition that shares some common elements (we are not Republicans) but for the most part have no overarching principles. It is because of this that Republicans can so easily undermine those coalitions and stagnate any Democratic majority. The Democratic leadership knows this (but the rank and file doesn’t seem to get it) and so they are constantly afraid of the breakdown of this fragile coalition by wing-nut scare tactics. Because of this loose coalition we are not offering the American public an alternative governing philosophy. Instead of progressive versus conservative we are offering them conservative versus conservative lite.

A perfect example would be the healthcare process and subsequent bill. How this should have been handled was in the following manner. Candidate Obama should have met with Democratic Congressional leaders and said if we win we plan to tackle healthcare. What we have to decide is if we believe that healthcare in America is a right of all Americans. Is this one of our principles? If it is then we have to present this to the American people and tell them how we plan to accomplish this goal. First, we will pass comprehensive healthcare reform so that all Americans can have affordable health-care without the restrictions on pre-existing conditions, caps or limits on coverage, or the fear that the insurance company will drop them when they get sick. In subsequent sessions we will continue to refine and improve this bill as we have done in the past with social security, Medicare, and etc.

By following this simple formula for not just healthcare but any “Democratic principle” you do two important things. The first is that you provide the public and your members with a cohesive and comprehensive message. You are not debating with yourself publicly. Here is our program and here is our message. The second thing you do is define the wing-nuts so when they start talking about “death panels” and socialism you can state that this is one of our principles and we have outlined our plan. The wing-nuts have no plan to address this issue and so this is about a choice between our plan and their rhetoric. It is a choice between those who want to provide healthcare and those who don’t. A choice between those who believe it is a right and those who don’t. In order to maintain control of the message you have to keep it simple. It is always a choice between right and wrong or good and evil. The wing-nuts have mastered this strategy. Remember in the run up to the war in Iraq, it wasn’t about agreeing or disagree with policy; it was about loyalty or treason.

Americans are simple people for the most part, they don’t want complex or nuanced explanations. What the American people are looking for is simplicity: black or white, cake or pie, friend or foe. If our goal is to provide the majority of Americans with a better life then we had better learn how to govern and that begins before you become the majority. You have to craft what you stand for and what you are willing to fight for. President Obama needs to call in all of the Democratic leaders from all over the country into a weekend retreat lock the doors and let them know there is a new sheriff in town and we are going to start standing for something. We are not leaving here until we come up with some core principles and issues we all agree to support and fight for. And anyone who wants to run as a Democrat must be willing to sign on to these principles. You see it does you no good to have a majority if you can’t accomplish what you believe in or have nothing you believe in. There is no majority if you are too weak or too afraid to govern.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson

The Disputed Truth

Tags: President Obama, Democrats, Principles, Republicans, Wing-nuts, Marianne Williamson, middle-class, teabaggers (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

the challenge

A perfect example would be the healthcare process and subsequent bill. How this should have been handled was in the following manner. Candidate Obama should have met with Democratic Congressional leaders and said if we win we plan to tackle healthcare. What we have to decide is if we believe that healthcare in America is a right of all Americans. Is this one of our principles? If it is then we have to present this to the American people and tell them how we plan to accomplish this goal. First, we will pass comprehensive healthcare reform so that all Americans can have affordable health-care without the restrictions on pre-existing conditions, caps or limits on coverage, or the fear that the insurance company will drop them when they get sick. In subsequent sessions we will continue to refine and improve this bill as we have done in the past with social security, Medicare, and etc.

This, I think, underscores why what you describe is well intentioned, but problematic. A number of reasonable, pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Congressional Leadership types of people wouod tell you "that's what they did." A number of others would say, "that wouldn't have worked." And most conservatives would say "this is a government takeover of healthcare."

My own take is that this thoughtful suggestton amounts to doing the same thging in a slightly different timeframe. The problem with this approach to healthcare reform - which, I'd argue, too, is basically what the bill as passed attempts to do - is that you start out talking about "healthcare" and wind up talking about "health insurance". They are not the same thing, and one problem we've had, all along, when it comes to healthcare crisis discussions is arguments which make these goals equivalent, when they're not. People need care. They may not need insurance.

And this confusion, I think, does go to your broader point about Democrats figuring out what they stand for, and creating policies to accomplish thoughtful goals. Health reform has not succeeded because so few people understand, fully, the various problems in our healthcare systems, how they interconnect, and how complex they are to untangle. Take an obvious example: "preexisting conditions." The problem with simply ordering insurers not to deny cobverage over "preexisting conditions" is that they don't; what insurers do is price coverage for people with preexisting conditions so high as to make it impossible for them to pay for it. To make it affordable, you need, as many experts point out, to require everyone to be insured. This spreads risk widely, and allows overall prices to become more reaosnable for more poeple. However, the next layer of complication is that the true cost of healthcare is constantly in flux. And almost no one, really, can manage to link the amounts people pay to the costs of providing services. This is why Docs and hospitals continue to complain about reimbursement rates by insurers, and why "cost control" is ultimately so key to solving many of our problems getting affordable care.

I bring all this up because I think the healthcare debates are a good example of why the Democrats failed: you can't start legislating massive change until you've got voters and the general public in line with your description of a problem. On Healthcare, on the environment, even on budget and fiscal matters, the current Denocratic leadership - and much of the liberal elite - seem unconcerned with the idea that you need to develop a consensus and explain why your "great ideas" are so right and good. The healthcare bill, really, was a conglomeration of a variety of existing bills, chock full of ideas driven by economic theories and health expertise most people don't have. And on one, really, ever laid out, in a clear, thoughtful way why these ideaswere important or how these conclusions were reached. They are explicable, even resonable ideas. But few poeple understand that. And there are other good ideas no one even discussed. Like why ending the employer based system of health insurance itsellf might be the real roadmap to better care for all.

And finally, this is why I've been beating the unpopular, dead horse of an idea that replacing Nancy Pelosi would be a good first step to a new Democratic approach to policy: the worst combination, it seems to me, is Barack Obama's airy, Policy theory approach to issues combined iwth Nancy Pelosi's pul out the stops, ram it through at all costs approach to passing legislation. Both, really, involve not telling the people you need to support you why a thing matters. And without having that discussion, and getting a group consensus, the rersulting legislation is ugly, brutal manhandling of ideas that people don't understand. That's how we got here. And it won't change unless we change something.

by nycweboy1 2010-11-15 01:42PM | 0 recs
The principal is results vs koolaid

We support the middle class because the best outcome for everyone is the middle class being large healthy and politically powerful.

 

They are the engine where the growth comes from.

 

The principal is doing things that work rather than doing things that sound like they would work but actually don't work.

 

You can either

1)  You want to help the poor?  Give smart kids (who often are not poor) a subsidy to go into technical majors in school.  Those kids will make economic growth.  When the country is rich its willingness to pay for others health care is higher.

 

2)  Give the poor guy free health care to make their life better and tax those who went into technical majors in school to pay for it.  Fewer kids will take hard classes because their upside isn't nearly so good as it used to be.  Result some of them become art history majors and end up poor but have free health care.

 

The reality is often things that look like helping are actually hurting with a happy face painted on.

 

Its a principal to be pragmatic.  Its not sexy.  It doesn't give instant feel good I helped the less fortunate today by giving them a fish feeling.  But helping someone learn to fish so they can get their own fish is far more beneficial to the world.

by donkeykong 2010-11-15 01:44PM | 0 recs
RE: The principal is results vs koolaid

And Obama and friends were not pragmatic.  They felt powerful.  They were too stupid to see the results of their actions.  They would not temper their actions to the senate who knew what would happen.

 

Universal health care is popular even in the GOP.  There are ways to have universal health care that are less expensive than status quo.  The way is to make cheap efficient universal health care that makes free all the health care that makes the government money.  We all pay taxes.  When we die we stop paying taxes.  The government if run like a business does have a self interest in you not dying or missing work.  Most basic health care is not expensive at all.  Even fiscal conservatives want workers to have that level of health care.

 

What Obama was trying to do though was not to make efficient our current system where poor people don't get any health care until its time to go to the emergency room and use up the most expensive kind.  Obama was trying to give all American's access to the expensive health care.  He choose creating a system that will tax the rich to pay for the poor to get expensive health care.  And he lost all his political capital on it.

 

Having a basic health care system where everyone can get the preventative health care that is cheap and generic drugs for their ailments is a smart way to manage our existing health care.  It would actually save money.  If everyone can have the cheap plan you don't need anyone filling out paper work to see if you qualify, that saves money.  Better sharing of data so tests don't need to be redone, that saves money too.  If he had stuck to that he would have MORE political capital now than before.

 

That Obama and friends took the koolaid path and had sane opposition in their own party is a function of Obama and who he runs with not where reality lies.  Reality isn't going to move for you.  Reality isn't the problem here.

 

 

by donkeykong 2010-11-15 01:59PM | 0 recs
A noun a verb and koolaid

Don't you ever tire of resting your entire political outlook on this cliche?  It seems so boring and limiting.

by Strummerson 2010-11-15 03:51PM | 0 recs
a cliche ?

what is cliche about this diary ?  from your comment, i am guessing that you did not like it, but why is it cliche ?

 

or is it so obviously cliche that i am an idiot for even asking ??

by Ravi Verma 2010-11-15 04:19PM | 0 recs
RE: a cliche ?

Nope.  You're fine.  I like the diary.  My comment was supposed to be a reply to "koolaid" obsessive dkong and I hit the wrong button.  My bad.  Dkong sees koolaid here, there, and everywhere.  Just wondering if he gets bored of seeing all that koolaid.

Sorry for the confusion.

by Strummerson 2010-11-15 04:23PM | 1 recs

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