Thanks. I've thought about blogging ...
As Chris Matthews said last week (he's a blowhard, but an entertaining blowhard), the Clinton mantra has always been to win first and deal with the problems later. But I think the way one wins can lock you into a position where it's hard to get anything done.
I thought her holiday ad
was, as one pundit said, "cringe-worthy." She puts cards on wrapped gifts labeled "Universal Health Care," "Alternative Energy," "Middle Class Tax Breaks," and "Universal Pre-K," as if these programs come from the munificence of the government without any input or involvement on our part.
I think that's precisely the wrong message. We need to realize that government is not this abstract, alien entity. Government isn't "them," it's us, the sum of our desires and our willingness to act on them. Those programs don't come to us out of the void; they will come to us if we're willing to do something to help make them happen. They're not given by the government; they're given by us to ourselves through a collective effort.
And both sides play on the alienation fantasy. Conservatives believe tax cuts pay for themselves, so there's no corresponding budget cuts that might turn people off. They talk about supporting the troops, but don't ask any of us to do anything that will provide real help to those serving in the field. And I've been similarly critical regarding Democrats on the recent children's health care proposal: what does it say about us that we believe in this program so strongly that we want smokers to pay for it? I made this point at a fundraiser with a Senator; someone at the table asked what would happen if the public were asked to pay and most of them said no. I replied that then we shouldn't have the program. And that wouldn't be the Senator's fault; that would be my fault for not trying to convince more people that the program was worth paying for.
I think that if we're going to address the serious issues facing our nation, we have to ask politicians to change the political question from asking us "what do you want?" to "what are you willing to do?" Really supporting the troops is opening up your wallet and saying here, buy some body armor. Really supporting alternative energy is saying that I'll support an increase in the gas tax so that people will buy more fuel-efficient vehicles (if the price of gas goes up 40%, no one pays a penny more to drive if their cars are 40% more fuel-efficient, and there are ways of diverting the revenue so that such a tax would not be regressive). Really supporting getting big money out of Congress means being willing to pony up a small amount (probably less than $10 per person) to free our candidates and representatives from private money, because they can't run on nobody's money.
In the political realm, talk really is cheap and actions really do speak louder than words. I'm tired of every presidential candidate talking about how she or he is the real change agent, when the real change agents are the people walking around on the streets. If we aren't willing to do anything about the issues they say they care about, then that's what's going to get done: nothing. And if we think change will happen just because they voted someone into office, we'll be disappointed again. But if someone has the courage to say that we need to be willing to act together to create change, and if enough of us are willing to match our rhetoric with action (something the present administration has consistently failed to do), then we can achieve some great things together.
But who has the courage to ask? The only glimmers I see are from Edwards and Obama. Everyone else seems to want to continue the fantasy that everything is free and the public won't have to lift a finger. Perhaps people aren't really willing to give anything in money or in action to change things, but I think that would be tragic, because what we really can't afford is more of the same.