Wednesday, March 02, 2011
How Dems Can Become Relevant Again, IF THEY DARE!
Economist Robert Reich has been turning out some phenomenal columns that delineate exactly what's wrong with the approach, framing and positions on economic issues of Dem "leaders," officeholders and President Obama himself. He's been expertly and clearly explaining our current economic problems, their cause and what we need to do to fix the deeply entrenched financial disparities.
Ordinary Dems out here in the real world are positively clamoring for the Dem establishment to wake up and smell the injustice -- and demand an end to the plutocratic and oligarchic scams that got us to where we are and that are still at work to make things even harder for working people generally, as well as government employees, teachers, seniors and children. We've seen hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens protesting in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and in state capitols and major cities across the nation, including right here in Santa Fe.
The most-heard demands? Tax the rich! Tax the corporations! Stop cutting government funding for essentials because we're not forcing our financial elites to pay their fair share. Raise revenues! Meanwhile most Dem lawmakers in New Mexico and Washington DC just can't bring themselves to say the words "raise taxes on our highest brackets" lest some right-wing nut bag or media pundit call them names. Almost all we hear is the cop-out that "we all have to tighten our belts." Sorry, the working people in this country have already done that, in spades. Unfortunately, even those who agree we need to raise revenues appear mostly to be paying only lip service -- nothing changes in terms of budgets or legislation.
Reich's latest column tells it like it is on this disturbing and damaging situation. Again. Using FACTS. Definitely worth a read in its entirety, but here's a nugget:
Here's what Democrats should be saying:
Hike taxes on the super-rich. Reform the tax code to create more brackets at the top with higher rates for millionaires and billionaires. Absurdly, the top bracket is now set at $375,000 with a tax rate of 35 percent; the second-highest bracket, at 33 percent, starts at $172,000 for individuals. But the big money is way higher.
The source of income shouldn't matter - salary, wages, capital gains, other unearned income - all should be treated the same. There's no reason to reward speculators. (Don't penalize true entrepreneurs, though. If they're owners who have held their assets for at least twenty years, keep their capital gains low.)
And while you're at it, raise the ceiling on income subject to Social Security taxes. And bring back the estate tax.
Do this and we can afford to do what we need to do as a nation. Do this and you prevent Republicans from setting the working middle class against itself. Do this and you restore some balance to a distribution of income and wealth that's now dangerously out of whack.
Do this, Democrats, and you have a chance of being relevant again
Democrats in positions of power seem to be clinging to the illusion that we'll win in 2012 by standing mute whenever the huge and growing economic disparities in this country are mentioned. Or by siding with the supply-side, anti-government, anti-tax, anti-working class forces bought and paid for by the Koch brothers in some misguided attempt to appear "bipartisan" or "centrist." Or by "compromising" in a way that gives away the entire store to the opposition, even before negotiations begin.
They couldn't be more wrong. There's a growing and passionate people's movement in this country that won't take no for an answer anymore, that won't take the eternal nibbling away (if not gouging) of resources and services for the people while the plutocrats at the top are allowed to keep grabbing more, more, more. We need jobs. We need to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, schools, public buildings, senior centers, affordable housing assets and more. But to do so, we need Democrats to go all out for a return to economic and financial sanity. No more mewling, please. This is a homeland security emergency and the politicos better start seeing it as such, or they'll be out of a job wondering what hit them come 2012. Count on it.
Photos by M.E. Broderick.
What he said!
Posted by: Proud Democrat | Mar 2, 2011 3:05:27 PM
What Barb said too!
Posted by: Sean | Mar 2, 2011 4:23:10 PM
Wake up calls are everywhere. Time to choose sides.
Posted by: Old Dem | Mar 2, 2011 8:49:01 PM
WED MAR 02, 2011 AT 05:14 PM EST
NAILED IT! This is what Democrats SHOULD be saying
Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 3, 2011 2:06:23 AM
A good stand that we keep saying to ourselves. Now how do we get this message out to our neighbors or can we, the choir, win the next election by ourselves?
Posted by: suz | Mar 3, 2011 6:34:25 AM
It is difficult when we have the corporate owned media and corporate owned politicians going against the working class majority. The few that are speaking up are not professional propagandists with large corporate backed paychecks. So, our message gets muddled, apologetic and mealy mouthed. Liberals are not speaking up in the churches either such that "religious" people are voting against their own economic interests in the name of the corporate contrived culture war. Liberals don't want to be offensive at church while the radical right become more and more noxious.
I am afraid that the LEFT is going to have to hang up their principles to become better propagandists. We are dealing with a genuinely ignorant, poorly educated, self indulgent and willfully ignorant population. Our message must be made to appeal to the most base reptilian brain. How do we do that? Can we embed our message of equal opportunity and social justice into violent video games and movies? Can we make the concentration of wealth and wealth stripping unsexy? Can we make environmentalism and regulations sexy. Propaganda with brain chemistry at the foremost consideration accomplished without the benefit of massive corporate funding is what I am talking about.
Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 3, 2011 9:11:47 AM
In the above link to DKOS, there is an Areosmith UTUBE that plays Eat the Rich. The left does have good music and comedy on it's side. John Stewart and our entertainment industry are the only thing the Left has going. Humor and music and the arts are powerful for influencing human thought and behaviors. We need more. It's "cool" to be a Liberal and we have to make it "the bomb". Keith Olberman is coming to Current TV.
Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 3, 2011 9:19:46 AM
I don't think it's up to us to craft an effective message. If Democratic candidates want to win, it is up to them. We have a massive army of Dem "consultants" and "strategists" and ad agencies and campaign managers and "communication managers" who earn very high salaries for the most part. They have been acting like it's still the 1990s as far as messaging, strategy and tactics are concerned.
Their main thrust is still to buy as many negative ads about the opponents as they can afford and run them so often that voters want to puke when they see another one. The ads are usually poorly done, produced by niche advertising agencies that allegedly specialize in political ads but really are mostly cronies inside the Dem machine who don't have to be good. They convince the decisionmakers that only they can produce effective ads, despite all evidence to the contrary, and successfully keep campaigns away from top-notch generalist ad agencies that produce WAY better ads.
The absurdities come in when polling is considered. Just last night, Rachel Maddow featured a segment on the most recent NBC-WSJ poll on responses to Wisconsin and populist measures like taxing the rich what they should be paying. OVERWHELMINGLY, the public supports the populist positions that Dems should be taking -- positions that most Dems used to take before corporate money came on the scene. So, Dems have winning issues there, especially at this point in time with Wisconsin and Ohio happening, but they are refusing to take populist stands. Why? Because they figure they'll get less from their big donors.
Watch Maddow segment:
81% support taxing millionaires to help close the budget gap
68% support eliminating the Bush tax cuts
74% support cutting oil and gas tax breaks
77% unions should be able to continue having collective bargaining
Article on poll:
Plus, a new poll from Rasmussen is bad news for Scott Walker. It finds strong opposition in Wisconsin to rolling back bargaining rights, 52-39, and Wisconsinites support Dems over the Governor, 52-44.
In other words, if our president and Dem politicos would push the populist message we're discussing here -- they would win huge support! Imagine how much higher that support could be if they jawboned those positions using effective persuasive messaging that rallied the people behind them!
Posted by: barb | Mar 3, 2011 10:35:11 AM
"corporate owned politicians going against the working class majority"
" but they are refusing to take populist stands. Why? Because they figure they'll get less from their big donors"
That is why I distinguish Liberals from Democrats. Obama has ignored the majority's will falsely claiming the CENTRIST Orwellian corporatist position as being the will of the people. I woke up to this horrid fact when single payer was taken off the table from the get go. Then I watched in amazement as the Democrats and Obama kept moving to the right on every issue since.
Posted by: qofdisks | Mar 3, 2011 12:25:23 PM
I have been promoting the use of blogs and the internet as a means of inventing new avenues for organizing and have been told that it is either "a waste of time" or that there isn't a need for it.
There is a reason that there seems to be a disparity between what people feel the Party's leadership ought to be out there saying and what actually gets quoted.
The system is geared around a set of what are called GOTV strategies that are driven at the center by the relationship that consultants have with the media.
This won't change without people at the grassroots level developing a hair-on-fire urgency about using new media in new ways to break the logjam that the current system sets up.
What drives the consultants and the poll takers is a focus on the voters who create wins or losses in any given election, the swing voter.
More focus ought to be put on developing dialogues with swing voters, who are primarily going to be newcomers who come into voting as they begin to develop connections with the people in the communities they now live in. Many of these people are inclined to be progressive in a general sense, because they have seen mistakes made where they came from that they wouldn't like to see repeated.
GOTV as an entire focus for all resources generally means only focusing on those who have well defined voter histories and when it comes to saving money, only those who are easily defined as Democratic voters. There is little left over for focusing on new voter development in this system.
However, Republicans are doing just that.
Posted by: Stuart Heady | Mar 3, 2011 2:02:06 PM
gofdisks: Are there any truly liberal Dems in office? Maybe a handful, whether at the state or national level.
Stuart: You make some good points but I disagree on the conventional wisdom that "swing voters" determine elections. Certainly they have significant impact, although I call them uninformed voters who have a tendency to "vote for the person not the party." In other words, they vote according to gut level considerations, not on issues or policy. Mostly they tend to support candidates who talk tough or at least are not seen as spineless spinners. Contrast George Bush to John Kerry on this.
I think the really ignored bunch is progressives -- young and boomer -- who believe politics are useless and that the Dems are as bad as the Rs. If Dems would take strong, populist economic and environmental stands, I think tons of these kinds of voters could be lured to the polls. In fact, many were in 2008. I predict they won't be this time, no matter how expert (or not) the OFA and candidate GOTV efforts are.
Posted by: barb | Mar 3, 2011 3:23:07 PM
Also, while I agree that online blogs and social media can be great tools for grassroots organizing and pressure, we are at a distinct disadvantage here because so many New Mexicans are not on the net, let alone with fast connections. I swear, a significant number of people who read this blog (or try to), for instance, have told me they have trouble loading it and can't watch videos.
There is no way to get to those not on computer except via radio, TV, direct mail or personal encounters. This old fashioned kind of retail politicking isn't a favorite of the "consultant class" except for TV ads.
Posted by: barb | Mar 3, 2011 3:28:36 PM
This is a useful dialogue. There ought to be more public discussion and debate on the practical mechanics that define the issues.
Having worked on the consulting side, I see that there are two basic reasons that the landscape is the way it is.
One is that few people ever go to any meetings where these issues are discussed at the level where candidates or leaders meet behind closed doors with paid professionals. Few people have any idea of the significance of this. It actually trumps every other participation.
Another key concept is the history. The reason that this system arose is the ability of a few well trained people to utilize investments to create the most efficient use of television as the central hub around which everything revolves.
TV is expensive, but creates the broadest reach for the effort. It is far easier to raise money for TV than to create a mobilization that continues between elections.
The reason that the expert system is centered on the swing voter is that these people can be easily identified through a statistical approach to studying demographics. That is basically it.
Progressives are not demographically identifiable, or geographically isolated in suburban enclaves as much as swing voters are.
So, while a lot of people believe the argument is about values, it really is about utterly pragmatic systemics.
The argument won't change until the strategic focus changes. That won't change until a more widespread realistic analysis is understood.
The current system is intractable because it is all about money and the efficient use of it. This has been pretty true since the 1970s.
What the Republicans have been doing since the '70s is utilizing corporate PR skills that have been developing since the 1940s. THis system is funded by special interests who are willing to spend millions to develop a bewildering variety of organizations whose purpose is to address the cultural environment between elections.
Democrats have tended to only focus on what can be done at the beginning of campaigns. The GOTV tactic is about harvesting the vote that is there, not about cultivating what could be.
The future looks pretty Republican if the need for strategic thinking about the fundamentals is not addressed.
The issue of messaging isn't completely about the message. It is also about educating a culture to be interactive and proactive about innovating new uses for internet related media as well as more conventional media. It is the participation element that is the missing vital ingredient.
This has been discouraged by the availability of the professionalized package theory of how to do things. We look to experts instead of to ourselves.
Posted by: Stuart Heady | Mar 4, 2011 9:00:02 AM