Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Glimpse at the Early Talking Points...and my Reactions

I found this graphic fascinating. It only takes about 30 seconds to look at and digest.

It brings an interesting perspective on the contrast between Democratic and Republican campaign tactics and priorities. I’m not sure how much is says about the candidates’ actual worldviews, so I wont speculate on that here.

I encourage all of you to take a look and draw your own conclusions, but here are my initial reactions after my first glance. (**Please take a look at it before you read further – otherwise this will seem like a totally random rant).

1. I am increasingly annoyed by the Republicans focus on taxes. We have structural deficits that absolutely cannot be addressed purely by economic growth. We are also fighting two wars that Republicans want to continue into the foreseeable future. To continuously champion tax cuts (or categorically swear off any form of tax increase) in the face of this reality is either a disgusting political move to (literally) buy votes, or it reveals an extreme level of incompetence with respect to both basic fiscal management and the 10 to 15 year financial context the United States is facing.

2. “Change” is (not surprisingly) a big theme for the Democratic candidates. I recommend that they work to couple the notion of change with a more specific vision as time goes on. I say this for two reasons. First, the state of this country – at least beyond the war – is going to be increasingly associated with their party as we get closer to the election. They control Congress now and have to be ready to assume the responsibility that goes with it. A blanket call for change will not be as compelling if the voters don’t think it actually means anything. I'm not saying that voters will have forgotten that 12 of the last 14 years have had Republicans controlling Congress, just that they will have to have something to show for themselves by the next election in order to make any vision credible. Second, and more importantly, once the general election begins, I think the Republicans are going to embrace the same theme. No Republican is going to trumpet the philosophies of a President with 30% approval ratings – certainly not candidates (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) that don’t really have that much in common with him anyway. (I know some of you think McCain has morphed into a Bush successor. I still don't buy it.)

3. The Republicans better start talking about health care more. This is no longer just a moral discussion about everyone deserving health insurance and 47 million Americans lacking it. The real issue is the exploding cost of care that is making the price of insurance a substantial financial strain for every middle class family. It is now a day to day concern for a large fraction of voters. If the Republicans fail to realize this, they will pay dearly.

4. Similarly, the Democrats need to start talking more about immigration. They are talking a lot about “security” already but for many Americans, these two issues are inextricably linked. There is so much at stake on this issue with respect not only to security, but also to our economy, basic human rights and our international image. If we are going to end up with a meaningful policy here, both parties must be fully engaged as I think both of them have very useful ideas to contribute (this discussion could be a series of posts so I will stop here).

5. Nothing at all on education. Nothing.

Anyway - these are my immediate reactions. Thoughts, anyone?


Unknown said...

Thanks for a great link, Jared! I agree with most of your analysis. Remember when we had a fiscally conservative party? Those were good times.

As for McCain, get a load of this. Like so much that has happened in the last six years, it would be funny if it weren't infuriating and depressing. Basic idea: McCain simultaneously admits that (1) he has absolutely no idea that condoms can prevent the spread of HIV, (2a) he blindly falls into step behind the President since (2b) he believes in the fantasy of abstinence-only sex education, (3a) he sometimes forgets his own political views because (3b) they don't arise from his actual personal convictions but from (3bi) carefully calculated acts of pandering and (3bii) unthinkingly latching onto the opinions of others.
The McCain that you once knew and loved is dead. In his place and using his name is a crazy and possibly stupid person who bears a close physical resemblance to the original McCain. It is natural to mourn the loss, but resist the urge to deny that it has taken place...

Tim said...

Jared, I noticed your assessment of #5 also.

I think I remember education being mentioned once in both of the debates, and it was only mentioned at the end of a laundry list of needed changes. (I forgot who said it, but it definitely wasn't a "Tier 1" candidate.)

I also don't remember Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, or an online voter asking an education question.

Too much airtime is given to discussions on haircuts, gay employees, and constrained verbosity.

And to Steve, your link saddened me greatly. What scares me is that McCain is deferring to someone like Coburn, the same guy that said lesbianism is "so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom."

Jared said...

"Too much airtime is given to discussions on haircuts, gay employees, and constrained verbosity."

You said it there. I don't see how guys like Matthews and Williams can honestly feel like they are doing anything but harming the political debate in this country when they reduce it to such trivialities. Matthews should know better given his history in government. Really shameful.

By the way, glad to have you contributing, Tim. Thanks for the comment on the immigration article.

Unknown said...

It's easy to blame the media for the triviality of the things that get discussed, and I won't contend that the media is blameless, but I think it would be unfair to discount entirely the idea that they are giving us what we want. Jared is an optimist and a nice person, so he will disagree with me on this (since I am a cynic and a jerk), but the average American is an idiot. In a country where Paris Hilton-related minutiae continue to captivate us, does it surprise you that we are hung up on John Edwards's haircut? Is it unthinkable that we just don't have the intelligence or the attention span to be interested in a lot of things that matter?

Jared said...

I wish I could deny that these trivial items have large mass appeal, but I can't. There is a reason that Anna Nicole and Paris Hilton get so much airtime and I can't wish it away, as much as I would like to.

On the other hand though, I haven't lost quite a much faith in American citizen as you have Steve. I don't attribute the consumption of this stuff to idiocy - though I admit I personally don't understand the appeal at all.

Instead, I just think it is a statement about the need everyone has for leadership. Granted, some people need it more than others and granted, some people cannot be influenced by it at all - regardless of whether they are listening to a George W. Bush or an Abraham Lincoln.

People may not have the natural tendency to make themselves aware of and address their community's or nation's problems. They may rather watch E! than the evening news or CSPAN but that doesnt mean they can't be motivated to act given effective leadership...

The problem is our government and our society (e.g. the media) is not designed to provide or convey real leadership...

Power is too decentralized in the government for real leadership to happen(except in a crisis) and the media is increasingly beholden to capitalist influences that corrupt it's mission as a educator and a medium of government to governed communication (and vice versa). There is also a tremendous gap in the way we educate people in this country. We teach people to memorize and do what they are told - not to think critically and contribute (to whatever they choose to do) according to their abilities.

I really don't know at this point what the answer to this problem is...perhaps there isnt one. But I believe that our institutions, in theory, could be adapted to the fundamental weaknessness in human nature that you are referring to when you speak of people being idiots. But then again, as you said, I am an optimist - perhaps to a naive extent at times...

Unknown said...

I'm not sure that it's about decentralization as it is about attracting the wrong people. Virtually everyone agrees that politicians from both parties are mostly dirtbags, but we shrug our shoulders and say "Whaddaya gonna do?" and go back to watching American Idol. Convincing people who are both competent and non-evil to go into politics is an uphill battle.

I'd also like to see term limits on members of Congress and senators. The current system is a cesspool of self-interested congressional lifers who get too comfortable, make too much money, reap too many perks, and do too little good. I'd like to see us flush Washington out every few years and see what the new blood can do for us.

As for you, future Nobel Peace Prize winner Jared, rather than attribute your optimism to a flaw like naivete, I would credit it to a virtue like patience. I could never be in politics; I get frustrated in the blink of an eye with other people. But you have the even temper to work with people, to find common ground, to compromise, and to make progress.

If you're ever the President of the United States, though, I'll be mad if you don't at least make me science advisor...

Jared said...

After studying our government the last three years, I feel that question of decentralization vs. attracting the wrong people is one of the key quesitons our generation needs to answer and resolve if we are going to make our government effective for the new global world we are living in.

As for term limits - I've been going a LOT of thinking on this for the last year and a half or so. I actually think it could be a big step in the direction of making things better. I've been working on an essay on this for quite a while (as part of a broader idea that address why our government doesnt work well). One of these days, I'll post it. Maybe by the end of the summer.

And finally, if I ever have the power to appoint you to a major position in government, science advisor would be pretty good - on two conditions. 1. You have to stop publically calling the American people "idiots" and 2. You have to humor me with an aggressive Nuclear Fusion R&D campaign. :)

Unknown said...

1. You have to stop publically calling the American people "idiots"

Can I still do it privately?

2. You have to humor me with an aggressive Nuclear Fusion R&D campaign. :)

As you wish, Mr. President. But only if you'll back an educational initiative to get Southerners to pronounce "nuclear" correctly.