Saturday, November 19, 2005

Armchair Political Consultant

Otto raises a valid concern on voter rights & access as well as the GOP's proclivity to screw the poor. Let us remember what we have seen in recent major elections - the Democrats get cornered on an issue (e.g. gay marriage) which requires more than a 30 second sound bite to explain their position. As a result people either don't understand their position or they alienate/scare the suburban masses who are the critical "soccer mom" swing vote.

For example, here in GA - access to voting machines, gay marriage, and limiting lawsuit settlements was the call to arms for the Democrats in 2004 - and they got slaughtered.

Meanwhile, Hartsfield / Jackson Airport and the Savannah seaport are drastically under staffed for national security support; the state's "at least we're not South Carolina / Mississippi / Louisiana " education policy backfired are we are now falling behind them; and finally, we have the second longest average commute time (after LA) allowing more time for our kids to be alone at home, gas to be wasted, and overall quality of life to plummet.

Nationally, Bush has taken the Murtha comments as an excuse to frame the Iraq question as (a) "all in without right to question" or (b) "pull out immediately, end the military, egg the soldiers, and send the Statue of Liberty back to France begging for an apology."

Without coming forward now with clear and simple domestic platform, the Democrats run the risk of an "all in" versus "cowards" debate in 2006.

So here goes -the three legs of my domestic platform.

(1) Investment in trade school scholarships versus 4 year colleges and universities. Not everyone needs a BA in Romantic Poetry, but core skills in security, nursing and elderly healthcare for example, are in desperate need.

(2) Energy policy focused on secure nuclear power generation. I would make plant building as critical as any other national security issue. I know, I don't love nuclear byproducts, but we have spent 30 years trying to change consumption habits and this isn't going to change overnight. Dependency on the Middle East with the rise of China scares me to the core.

(3) Make the Peace Corp heavily part of foreign policy /diplomacy. I would be clear to foreign parties of my intent. We are offering this as an act of goodwill, with the hope that American back home begin to better understand the world around them and fear it less.

Feel free and tell me I'm an idiot or let me know yours. None of these require huge financial investments and focus on improving people's lives.


Otto Man said...

Studiodave, you ignorant slut.

While I agree that the Democrats have to get out front with a clearly-defined domestic agenda, I'm not sure the planks you've outlined do the trick.

(1) Education: This is vitally important, but your approach sounds a lot like Judge Smells' "Well, the world needs ditch diggers too." The current Dem strategy of expanding college and university access is a smart one, I think, not just because it meets the average voter's ideal of upward mobility, but also because it would have broader economic impact too -- the G.I. Bill helped fuel the postwar economic boom because it crafted a new middle-class, new businesses, etc. Plus, this is a plan that already has a great soundbite: "Wanting to make college education as common in the 21st century as high school was in the 20th."

(2) Energy: I just can't get behind the idea of more nuclear power. These things are unsafe on their own -- and give us the added headache of disposing of the waste -- but we don't have security for the ones in place now, and I don't want to add more targets for terrorists.

Instead, we need to advocate something like an Apollo Mission for energy independence. Invest scientific and industry resources towards making a hydrogen cell, expanding hybrid engines, investing in wind and solar power, etc. etc.

(3) Peace Corps: Not a bad idea, but this is the icing on a foreign policy. We need to make a case for protecting America through real homeland security (port security, rail, subways, etc.) and aggressive international cooperation.

Two other ideas:

(4) Affirmative Action: Affirmative action was intended as a stopgap measure and the problem is that it's been institutionalized as precisely that. Instead of playing catch up at the level of college admissions and job hiring, we need to level the playing field from the very start by equalizing school expenditures and giving all kids the same quality education, not just the ones in rich suburban enclaves.

The Republicans have long made headway steering into the storm -- that's the Karl Rove playbook in a nutshell. Democrats should do the same. Instead of running away from AA, they should confront it by proposing a deal in Congress: We'll do away with all forms of affirmative action in 25 years, starting from the point at which there's real educational equality at the pre, elementary, and high school levels across the board.

It's smart politics -- everyone says they want quality education, everyone claims to be for fairness, and it robs conservatives of one of their favorite rallying cries. Poor whites aren't going to get outraged by this stuff anymore since their own opportunities will increase along with those of poor minorities. (And this links up with point 1 above.)

(5) Right to Privacy: A way to win over increasingly nervous libertarian voters from the GOP block would be to push a simple constitutional amendment on a right that many Americans assume they already have. It would provide constitutional support for standing against the Patriot Act, and also undergird reproductive rights just as they're coming under fire. Plus, it flips the script on the GOP making them the party of intrusive government, and making Dems the ones keeping Big Brother out of your life.

Studiodave said...

(1) I ardly think nursing resembles ditch digging. Plus, you would spin it that someone needs to take care of the baby boomers (aka the 29th greatest generation).

(2) Im not a Burns' drone; but everything I have ever read about fuel alternatives either (1) is political fodder (for corn growing protection) or (2) just pushes the consumption of fossil feuls later in the value chain.

(4) good point

(5) Exactly, I love this one. Paint yourself as Libertarian (aka the political party which can't think through an issue part "not my problem".

Mr Furious said...

S'Dave, I'm with you on the nuclear energy. Yeah, there are obvious drawbacks and risks, but the current course is going nowhere and I'm not sure what alternative will come from an Apollo Mission.

Choose a standard template for plants, start phasing them in to areas where plants already exist, taking older, more dangerous and less efficient reactors off line, and then start expanding. We need the power generation from a clean source (aside from the waste, there is no real pollution) and it is the only way fuel cell technology will actually be a benefit. If they had a fuel cell car ready for the road tomorrow, we'd still have to burn coal or something dirty to get the hydrogen. We need a better source for that. And that source is nuclear. Solar and wind will work for basic electric grid stuff in some areas, but not every place will work.

It's a tough issue to run on, no one wants a nuclear plant in their town, but something has to give. I'm not sure you want it to be part of the platform, but it needs to be part of the energy plan.

Mr Furious said...

More here and here.

I have to run, and I didn't re-read these links, but I remember them being pretty good. (Even though Greg is just a punk with a blog like the rest of us, not an expert..

Otto Man said...

I just don't think nuclear energy on its own does much. You still need to advance alternative energy sources for cars, unless you're planning on introducing the Chevrolet Chernobyl.

And Democrats have long had an edge on environmental issues. Wrapping ourselves up in nuclear energy negates that for anyone with a memory of Three Mile Island and the like.

S.W. Anderson said...

Otto Man writes "we need to level the playing field from the very start by equalizing school expenditures and giving all kids the same quality education, not just the ones in rich suburban enclaves."

Amen. All school revenues should go to the state, which divvies and distributes the take. Schools within a state should all be funded on a so-much-per-student basis, period.

We don't have rich town, poor town highway systems. We shouldn't have rich neighborhood/poor neighborhood schools, either.

Note that if the wealthy want to gift their neighborhood school with something additional, they should be free to do so.

S.W. Anderson said...

Nuclear as the centerpiece of energy policy? Omigod, no. We may have to accept some more, but let's keep it to a minimum.

Here this country is, the 800-pound gorilla of agricultural nations, and we're not getting a big percentage of our fuel needs met using biofuels. We can and we should. Plus wind and more hydro, including new technologies that tap the inexhaustible energy of tidal flows.

As for Democrats' agenda: A single-payer, universal health care insurance system is a must. That's not just for humanitarian reasons, important as those are.

A big reason the jobs situation has failed to improve substantially during our alleged recovery is that employers would rather have the family jewels ripped out of them than hire additional people — especially if the new hire even might be over 45, overweight and/or accustomed to making decent money.

We can't continue with the current system indefinitely; it's doing all kinds of damage.

An easy sell? Undoubtedly not. The same business types who have plenty of brave things to say about the importance of innovation and risk taking get white knuckles and damp boxer shorts when it's time to put up or shut up.

Even so, Dems must find a way to get these people on board and put a plan forward.

BTW, because she's linked with the '90s scheme that backfired so badly, among other things, I don't think Hillary Clinton would be Democrats' best bet in '08.

Thrillhous said...

1) I certainly think we should keep the strategy of expanding access to colleges and universities, but I also think Dave's right on the money about community colleges. Enrollment at vocational schools and/or community colleges has been rising dramatically the past decade; frankly, I think you can get a more economically productive education at your local community college than you can at your local university. The classes are cheaper, and you emerge with skills that will earn you money.

2) I am totally pro-nuclear power. Let me revise that: I am totally pro-electricity. Corn, hydrogen, biodiesel, they're all ludicrous to me; why should we be trying to manufacture energy from a bunch of different sources when electricity is so great? We've got the infrastructure to deliver it, it's extremely safe, and we can already produce it relatively cheaply and with little environmental damage.

I don't really care what the source of the electricity is, but it seems to me that at least for the short term (the next generation or so) nothing's going to beat nuclear. Especially if the proposal includes a redoubling of efforts to keep nuke plants safe, both from meltdown and terrorist attacks.

I think Otto's probably right that it might be an uphill battle to convince environmental types that we need more nuke plants, but we can definitely put forth the platform of energy independence, and if I was making the case I'd go for all electrical all the time.

3) Clinton expanded the Peace Corps dramatically in the late 90s. I think he had a goal of increasing the volunteers by about 10,000, which is a Nell Carter buttload. It was a great idea that has worked wonderfully but has received almost no press. The last few years have, of course, been bad for the Peace Corps, as the bushies think they can run it like a wal-mart.

But I do agree with Otto that it's more of a feather in our foreign policy cap than anything else. Still, a strong endorsement of the Peace Corps is the kind of thing that I think most people would warm to, and it wouldn't really "cost" us anything politically to do so.

Otto's 4 and 5 are great, especially 5. I've been seeing talk about privacy on teh blogs alot lately (especially at political animal and dailykos), and it really does seem to be a win-win proposition. No one's going to want to be seen as anti-privacy.

Now my fingers are cold. Damned natural gas heat!

Mr Furious said...

You still need to advance alternative energy sources for cars, unless you're planning on introducing the Chevrolet Chernobyl.

That's where the nuclear energy comes in. Use that power to make the hydrogen for fuel cell cars. Bush's bullshit plan for FC cars is worthless if we have to burn coal, oil and gas to make the hydrogen. Not only is not a net energy gain, it's not clean.

If nuclear reactors can be a clean source of power for electricity AND hyrdogen for FC cars, that would be huge.

Mr Furious said...

My fingers are cold too. And I do not look forward to heating my creaky old house with NG this winter at all.

Tokyo Joe said...

I agree that nuclear is the best thing we have and we need to increase our efforts to make it safe and better (anybody remember fussion? let's not give up on that yet).

As for the Peace Corps, if i were king I would do something even more radical. I would make it mandatory for all 18 year olds not going to college and all 22 year olds who graduated from college. Of course i would change the structure, but the basic gist would be that everyone would give 1-2 years in making this country and other countries better. In exchange, they would get training and eductational bennifits. They would have the choice in what area they want to work (teaching farming techniques in Africa, working in hospitals on Indian reservations, or even working in soup kitchens in inner cities). many other countries have mandatory military service (and there would be the option to join the military if they desired). Yes, this is a very drastic step, but it's a win/win for everyone involved. The only people who should truly complain are the off spring of the rich who feel that just be rich is enough of a burden to handle. That's why there should be no deferments - period. Unless you are severly mentally handicapped, then you got to serve. Is this too draconian?

Studiodave said...

I think that is a really good idea actually. Making "guarenteed health care" part of the concept - health care with the understanding that you are earning it. Hippies go to Peace Corp (i.e. me), people who want to build and defend, go military.

I doubt it could get legs with everyone worrying their OWN kids would have to actually do something.

Maybe this could be a tax opportunity - hire someone to take your kid's place. Kidding, of course.

Good to hear from you Joe. Don't be a stranger.

Tokyo Joe said...

The health care is a great idea. Another thing i would add is a type of educational bennifit like the montgomery GI bill where people could put some of their pay check away and have it be matched for educational purposes. On top of that, i think the option for training and certification should also be a big part.

But i think you are right that a program like this would get no support. and this is the type of program that needs complete participation (like communism).

Along what you mentioned earlier, i would also cut our dependance on foreign oil. I would tax the hell out of gas and make it extremely expensive. This would make other types of fuel more relatively cost effective. After all, no one really even looked at solar power until the gas prices soared in the '70's. And the whole point of getting away from fossile fuels has two main points. First it would put us on the road to a stable energy source that we could depend on for centuries. And second (most imporatantly) we could stop dealing with the Middle East all together. Until that part of the world get's its act to gether and learns to treat everyone like equals (or even like people), then we shouldn't even acknowldge them (sort of like how we treat Africa these days).

Otto Man said...

I think Otto's probably right that it might be an uphill battle to convince environmental types that we need more nuke plants, but we can definitely put forth the platform of energy independence, and if I was making the case I'd go for all electrical all the time.

I think electricity is the way to go, too, since it answers both the problems of alternatives to the combustion engine and pollution control. But I still think nuclear energy is the worst way to get it. Instead of nuke plants, we could set up wind-powered generators all across the Midwest and hydroelectric turbines at every dam and waterfall.

Remember the TVA? Enormously popular New Deal program that spread electricity all across the South. There were plans to repeat the program on the Columbia, Missouri, Colorado, and Ohio rivers but Congress scrapped the plan because the energy companies lobbied hard against it. We should push for a revival of that approach and in so doing invoke the legacy of the New Deal (message: Democrats, unlike Republicans, are competent at government).

Also, when I talk about environmental worries, I'm not talking about offending the Sierra Club. I'm talking about regular old suburbanites who aren't going to look kindly on a nuclear plant down the road. Trust me, this is a political loser across the board.

InanimateCarbonRod said...

Nuclear power: Environmentalists are against it? Since when did someone start listening to those guys?

Education: draw attention to the Repugs cutting college aid money & forcing students to pay inflated interest rates. Watch out, though: everyone SAYS they're for quality education, but if that is the case, why do sales tax increases keep getting voted down so much that schools are forced to turn to lotteries, junk food dispensers, etc. for funding? What people say they are for does not necessarily correspond to what they will pay for. I'm all for world peace, but I wouldn't advocate dismantling the US Army. (Not a perfect analogy, I know...)

Science: This is where the Dems can become the champions of the world. They need to become the "pro-science" party. The anti-intelligence Republicans are fighting progress that has real-world implications. This can all be tied in with the aforementioned Apollo Mission energy independence thing. Make it a national mission to make America the go-to place for scientists and scientific discovery (again). Be sure to point out that the dems want to save you from Alzheimers, while the Repubs think that drooling on yourself and pooping your pants is God's will. Science, science, science. There is some famous quote that I'll now mangle: "Man is capable of great things when he stops looking to God to better his life and starts looking toward himself."

Privacy: I'm all for putting a privacy amendment on the constitution. But this will be difficult to do so that all those terrorists won't be able to exploit it. (Or at least be attacked for such ability.)

Otto Man said...

There is some famous quote that I'll now mangle: "Man is capable of great things when he stops looking to God to better his life and starts looking toward himself."

I'm partial to "God gave us brains for a reason."

ORF said...

I'm not sure the Dems need to work all that hard to create new platforms to run on, but rather they need to focus on brining more people under the tent. There is no better time than now to start cultivating that. They just secured NJ and VA in the gubernatorial elections and being linked too closely to the Bush administration is a bit of a plague in the Republican line up at the moment. I think people are beginning to realize that they voted against themselves in the last election, but the "crazy liberalism" of the Democrats just freaks people into being self-destructive when they get into the voting booth.

If the Dems can find a way to tone down the screechy eschatological ramblings of their current uncohesive manner, and appeal to people's sentiments on one or two key issues, then they'll be quite successful next year.

The New Yorker ran a great article last week about Bobby Casey, who's father was the former governor of Pennsylvania. Casey is a Dem who's been tapped to challenge Santorum in next year's Senatorial election. Lots of people think he can win because he's pro-life and by taking the wind out of Santorum's biggest sail, they can shift focus to more important issues in the state like union protection, health care, etc. As one woman in the article who is pro-choice put it: well, I'd much rather have HIM than Santorum!