Former Senator, New York Knick basketball player, and Olympic athlete Bill Bradley offers his substantial insights into the workings of government and how, by focusing on cooperation and the good of the country instead of party, we can all do better. And by “we” he means all of us – the politicians, the media, and the American people. We are all in this together and only by working together can we find resolutions to all of the challenges that face us here in America.
But accomplishing this won’t be easy. Bradley begins by reminding us that even though politicians all love this country, it is easy for the “members of the club” to become absorbed into the cynicism that dominates Washington DC today. The “duopoly” of the two parties cater to the extremes and the media play along because it is easier – and more profitable – to turn gossip into news than to report honest policy discussions. And the people – you and me – force politicians into playing the game at either end of the spectrum where compromise is seen as treachery, and then turn around and voice our perpetual dissatisfaction because politicians are dancing in the corners in which we have painted them.
Still, Bradley notes that “the sad irony is that many members of the club may be idealists underneath,” and like most Americans living their daily lives, continue to believe in the country’s fundamental health and promise for the future. In the chapter, “Breaking the Logjam,” Bradley offers some concrete proposals to encourage economic growth and job creation in the immediate, the proximate, and the long-term. He dispels some of the common myths (e.g., that the wealthy are “job creators”) and offers solutions that will improve the employment picture now while positioning us to lead the world in the future. His ideas are too numerous to list here, but well worth the time spent reading the book. One quote, though perhaps oversimplified, summarizes his philosophy:
“I cannot emphasize enough the requirement of balance: asking something from everyone. Democrats want the rich to bear the burden; Republicans want primarily the poor to sacrifice. Both political parties champion the middle class and neither asks anything significant of it in this crisis. A true solution cannot give the middle class a pass.”
In short, politicians need to put country ahead of re-election. They need to be honest with us as citizens. And we need to be honest with them – and with ourselves.
In “Celebrating Selflessness,” Bradley provides the most emotionally inspirational chapter of the book. In it he relates stories that contradict the assumption by both parties that human beings are basically selfish. Instead, he says, most people may actually prefer to be unselfish if given the chance by politicians and the media. In “Raising All Boats,” Bradley discusses the major source of disheartenment – that the system is rigged to give all the benefits to the very wealthy while the middle class bears the brunt of the burden. “The elevator is no longer working,” he quotes, meaning that the middle class and the working poor can no longer count on getting ahead by working hard and being honest. This dissatisfaction becomes fertile ground for demagoguery from both parties.
In the remaining chapters Bradley cites such disparate leaders as Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, and Eisenhower as recognizing the critical role of government and how “free markets” dominated during times of robber-barons, monopolies, and “too big to fail.” Further, he addresses our long-standing ambivalence about our role in foreign affairs and how our forthcoming challenges with China stem not from military prowess but from economic domination. In short, while America bickers amongst itself and accomplishes little, China moves its own future forward, which more and more intertwines with the future of the world.
Bradley argues that we need both “collective caring” and “personal responsibility” to move forward. In his final chapter, “The Path to Renewal,” he proposes that solutions should include taxing labor less and things more, adoption of a massive infrastructure program, investments in research, embracing talented immigrants while educating our own citizens for a lifetime in a world of constant change, reduction of our structural budget deficit, and leading the world “by example.”
There is so much more in this relatively short book and I strongly encourage anyone interested in the future of America to read it.
For a full discussion of the book please review the comments and links here.
First there was the 9-9-9 fiasco at the Republican debate where we all realized that Citizen Cain had no clue what his 9-9-9 plan really was all about. For him it was a cute bumper sticker phrase and nothing else. I mean, no one really cares about these meaningless campaign popperies, do they? It’s not like anyone actually believed 9-9-9 was a real plan that could even be proposed to Congress for passage. It’s just a joke, right. Surely you can’t hold that against Herman Cain. Sure, it raises taxes on the poor and virtually eliminates taxes on the super-rich, but hey, we’ll just change the plan on the fly…yeah, that’s it, we’ll call it the 9-0-9 plan just for poor people…yeah, and marry Morgan Fairchild. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Then there was the revelation that Herman Cain did what the tea party so enjoys – he laid off thousands of Godfather Pizza workers and closed hundreds of stores, just so he could make more profit. Yep, that’s the tea party ideal.
And how about electrifying the border fence between the US and Mexico so that those illegal aliens will fry themselves and save us the trouble of having to not actually secretly be hiring illegal aliens. Oh, that’s just a joke folks. You all have to get a sense of humor, I mean, if a potential future President of the United States can’t make a simple joke about murdering people, what else is there?
Oh, but then he decided that he would pull a Palin and say one thing while contradicting himself in the same breath. Then blame everyone else for being confused. Yep. Only this time instead of screwing the poor he says he is Pro-Choice on abortion. Or Pro-Life. Or both. Who knows what he said. But the tea party sure didn’t like it. Now they know that he isn’t on their side in the fight to ensure the rights of the individual to tell all women that they cannot do what they legally can choose to do, i.e., make a choice. Hey, they’re women. They need to listen to the men-folk, right? Can’t have them getting all educated and making their own decisions and such.
Next up is Cain saying he would trade al Qaeda detainees from Gitmo for US soldiers, a la the recent release of hundreds of Palestinians for one Israeli soldier held for the last 5 years. But then no, he wouldn’t ever do such a thing. Or maybe. What was the question again? It seems things get moving a tad too quickly for Cain to keep up. I mean, it’s difficult when you’re making stuff up as you go along, you know.
Then today Cain “The Self-Hermenator” shows that he has absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of basic civics. Yep, old Herman will sure sign that Constitutional Amendment banning abortions. Huh? Did he really say that? Let’s go to the video tape – “”I feel that strongly about it. If we can get the necessary support and it comes to my desk I’ll sign it. That’s all I can do. I will sign it.” Yep, he said it. He actually said that as President he would “sign a Constitutional amendment.” He “will sign it.” It’s all he can do. WRONG. This isn’t just a man who wants to run for President, this is a man that the tea party is head over heels in love with and thinks would be a fantastic President. A man that has no clue that Constitutional Amendments don’t get signed by the President.
This is tea party America. Sarah “Grizzly Momma” Palin. Christine “I Am Not a Witch” O’Donnell.” Sharron “Second Amendment Solutions” Angle. Donald “It’s Not a Wig” Trump. Michele “I Raised 23 Kids” (oh, plus 5 of my own) Bachmann. “Secession Rick” (but give me federal drought aid) Perry. And now Herman “I’d Sign a Constitutional Amendment and am Pro/Anti-Choice and Raising Taxes on the Poor While Getting Rid of Taxes on the Rich” Cain.
Oh, and don’t forget Herman Cain is an anti-Muslim bigot whose only experience is to close businesses and lay off workers.
Thank you tea party. Can I have my country back now?
Not long ago Michele Bachmann was riding high on her win in the Iowa straw polls. The straw poll, which actually hasn’t been a very good predictor of who wins the Iowa caucuses or the nomination, was for some reason seen as a watershed moment. Bachmann wins! Bachmann rises to the top of the field! Bachmann got less votes than she had paid for in tickets! Oh. Since then Bachmann’s fortunes have run down like an unsuspecting sucker at a curbside craps game. In fact, “since then” was immediate, as in when Rick Perry declared his candidacy the very same day as the Iowa straw poll. And since then her campaign manager has dumped her (and trashed her), her campaign is racking up debt, and now her New Hampshire campaign team has resigned en masse (or not, depending on who you ask). Other campaign staffers haven’t been paid in at least a month. So the tea party backing of Bachmann is back to back-stabbing and backward glances as Bachmann struggles desperately to keep her head above water.
Then there is Rick Perry himself. He flashed onto the scene and immediately was elevated by the tea party crowd as their newest savior (claiming that he was their first choice all along, well, after all the others who said no). Then Perry did something he regretted. He showed up at a Republican debate. Big mistake. Perry’s performance was at best uneven. And it was all downhill from there. Half the time he seemed to barely there in ensuing debates. And when he did say something it usually made him sound like he didn’t have the foggiest what he was saying. Not the kind of performances that inspire the passion of the zealots on whom his candidacy must rely. And so he sank from the top to somewhere in that middle where former top people go before they disappear into the ooze with the rest of the bottom feeders. His most recent performance woke up the zealots, but showed that he could counter his lack of knowledge and debating adroitness with arrogance and pettiness. Good one.
The latest to implode is Herman Cain. What’s surprising is not that he is imploding but that the tea party had chosen him to inflate beyond all proportion in the first place. Cain made a name for himself early in the debates by declaring that he is an anti-Muslim bigot. Since then he has stolen a ridiculous catch-phrase (9-9-9) from a video game and even more ridiculously suggested that it was a serious attempt to fix the tax system. Which he would do by raising taxes on the working poor and the middle class while virtually eliminating taxes on the very wealthiest. That is exactly in line with what the tea party has pushed with nearly all of its hostage-taking tactics, so there is no surprise they love it. [It’s also in line with how he made Pizza Hut profitable – by closing half of its stores and laying off thousands of workers.] Clearly a serious contender for the Presidency can’t have such a complete lack of awareness of his own silliness, but there it is every day. And now he’s devolved into Palinesque incoherency where, as one conservative commentator and former Republican congressman put it, Cain is just making stuff up as he goes along. Cain isn’t very able.
Which leaves who? Mitt Romney, of course, who other than this last debate came off as being one of the few adults in the room (not counting the journalist moderators). In the “adult” category you can add Jon Huntsman, but he seems way too reasonable for the tea party (not to mention his comedic timing is really really bad). There is Newt Gingrich, who sort of sounds like an adult because he uses bigger words than the others, but also has a tendency to sound petulant. There is Rick Santorum…oh, never mind. There’s those two or three guys who are running that no one knows because they can’t garner enough support to even qualify for the debates (which is pretty sad given that Herman Cain is there and so is Jon Huntsman, who can’t seem to get much more than his immediate family to notice him). And let’s not forget Ron Paul, who has a loyal following amongst the more libertarian folks who think the American government is some communist plot to steal all of our freedoms.
So we have the tea party running the Republican show these days and latching onto every incompetent nutjob they can find to be – in succession, – “The One.” And each and every “The One” sprints to the front of the pack only to be run over by the pack as they flame out and drop into the mud of their own creation. Then there are the also-rans that run also, but nowhere fast. And then there are the serious candidates. Right now the closest thing to a serious candidate the Republican party can muster is “the next guy in line,” Mitt Romney. And the tea party (rightly) hates him. Romney epitomizes everything the tea party says they hate about government – the slick establishment politician, the “say anything to get elected” candidate, the “compromiser,” and OMG, he’s not the “right kind” of Christian.
So will the tea party prove themselves to be hypocrites and vote for Romney knowing that Romney would actually not do any of the things the tea party wants him to do? Or would they “stick to their principles” and make sure Romney doesn’t get the Republican nomination. After all, Romney is “one of them establishment” politicians and “not one of us.”
The biggest corporate lobby right now is the tea party. It is the brainchild of corporate lobbyist Dick Armey at FreedomWorks, which financially supports and controls the activities of the Tea Party Patriots and other front groups. The tea party is also financially supported and controlled by the Koch Industries front group called Americans for Prosperity. In fact, both AFP and FreedomWorks were split off from another free market lobbying group controlled by the Koch brothers.
In short, the billionaire Koch brothers that run the tea party are the biggest corporate profit lobbyists in the country right now.
Which is why everything the tea party does (outside of its bigoted interests) is geared toward protecting the interests of the billionaires and the corporations.
Which is why the tea party is gleefully trying to push the country into default just to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% (i.e., the Koch brothers) and the biggest, most profitable corporations (i.e., Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, etc.).
Which is why the tea party insists that Republican politicians must deny climate science, to protect the CO2 emitting Koch Industries and ExxonMobil’s coal and oil fossil fuel interests.
The tea party turned down $4 trillion in spending cuts in this debt ceiling debate (even though the debt ceiling has zero to do with future spending). So since the tea party lobby doesn’t seem to actually care about reducing spending, why has the tea party lobby taken America hostage yet again?
Solely to protect the interests of the richest 1% and the most profitable corporations. After all, the tea party is the biggest corporate lobbying organization in the nation.
In a move that somehow avoided the pre-announcement leaking of the announcement to make an announcement, the White House today released President Obama’s “long form” birth certificate. Yep, the “long form” because the “short form” that everyone else gets when they request their own birth certificate from the State of Hawai’i isn’t good enough for a not quite small proportion of the tea party that are tenderly referred to as “birthers” (or not so tenderly referred to as nut jobs, bigots, and a few other things that I wish not to print on Political Gum Hockey). Because the law in Hawai’i forbade even the person from obtaining their own long form birth certificate, the President had to request that an exception be made, which the Hawai’i Department of Health granted in part because of the constant harassment they have received from birthers.
Of course, Obama supplied the normal birth certificate way back in 2008 when the birthers/nut jobs/bigots kept insisting that he was born in pretty much any place but the place he was born (all while somehow not thinking it important that Obama’s competitor, John McCain, was in fact born outside the USA). As it says in the press release of this long form, the original birth certificate is the birth certificate and “This is not and should not be an open question.” But that isn’t good enough for people looking for any excuse to attack the man who would become the first black President (of likely many future minority Presidents) .
So will this satisfy the birthers? Before you answer, I’ll admit that this is a trick question. The superficial answer is of course it won’t. While some will shut up, others will find some other contrivance to attack Obama’s citizenship. Why? Because this isn’t really about Obama’s citizenship. It’s about fear.
When one looks at the constant drumbeat of the tea party, or at least the most extremist portions of the extremist wing of the Republican party that identifies itself as tea party, there is a pattern. “Obama wasn’t born in the USA.” “Obama is half white.” “Obama is a socialist.” Yada yada yada. All translate to “Obama isn’t one of us.” “Obama is foreign.” “Obama is un-American.” Newt Gingrich, in one of his most illustrative diatribes, said (and I paraphrase) that “Obama doesn’t think like us.” All of these things are code for fear of foreign-ness, bigotry, xenophobia. They have deeper meaning than what they appear on the surface.
Keep in mind that the accusations of birthers and related contrived outrages were directed at Obama before he even was elected President, that is, long before he had any opportunity to implement any actual policies. Just like there were contrivances by the South against Abraham Lincoln even before he was elected President.
Which is one of the reasons why there are parallels between the “tea party” movement and the onset of the Civil War, and why it could be just as dangerous.
But that will have to wait for a future PGH post. For now, we’ll see how marginalized the birthers and their cohorts become now that one of their contrivances is no longer available to them.
Much ado has been making the airwaves recently about Donald Trump, best known for weird hair and pompous self-promotion, and his maybe, sort of, possibly, thinking about consideration of potentially running for President. Yes, President of the United States of America.
I’ll wait until you stop laughing…or crying. Whichever seems most appropriate.
In these periodic posts of potential presidential ponderers and prospects, PGH will look at the serious, the not so serious, and the simply silly. Three guesses as to which category Donald Trump fits into. The Donald (one of the pet names he invented for himself) has suggested that he may be a candidate for the presidency on the Republican ticket. Never mind the tricky little disconnect with his previous non-candidacies as a Democrat, an Independent/Reform, or whatever political pseudoparty he makes up for that day. He’s played this game before, so transparent in its “playing the media/public for fools to promote whatever project he has going at the time” that everyone was prepared to smile and nod and move on to actual real potential candidates and their own political game playing.
But then something absolutely bizarre happened. Some people actually took Trump seriously. “Some people” meaning “the tea party.” The media, of course, played the whole charade up, but we know they are doing it merely for ratings and ad sales. That and sheer boredom because none of the legitimate potential Republican contenders seemed to be in a hurry to actually officially announce their candidacies (like it’s some sort of secret). So the media does what the media does. No shocker there. What is more incredible, in fact down right scary, is that a significant portion of the tea party actually seemed to not understand Trump’s game. They actually started tossing their support to Trump in not one but several straw polls. He actually comes out ahead of the pack in one or two. Donald Trump!! Seriously. I’m not making this up.
Which gets me to the point of this post. The tea party is not to be trusted with intelligent, adult decisions regarding our country. They have proven it over and over again, with this Trump thing being just one of many examples. They are so divorced from reality and logic that they have in turn bounced from Sarah Palin to Michele Bachmann to Donald Trump as people they consider to be legitimate prospects for the most important political position in the entire
country world. And they are serious.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some legitimate differences of opinion about the role of government in society, the amount of spending versus income, and whether some issues are best dealt with at the federal versus state level. But those legitimate issues are not being honestly presented or debated by those who self-identify as tea party. It is those who self-identify as Independents that are having, or at least trying to have, honest discussions with the goal of finding solutions. The tea party, on the other hand, is prone to hypocrisy, distortion, bigotry, and xenophobia.
Not everyone in the tea party, obviously. Which is why those who currently find themselves associating with the tea party because they thought the tea party was a mechanism for getting their voices heard should be running away from said tea party at great speed. The tea party are the crazy guy on the park bench yelling that Elvis is alive. For a while the guy garners a lot of publicity and news coverage (controversy sells ad space!!), but after a while you start to realize that he isn’t making any sense and might actually be a danger to himself and others. Then you start to pity him. [Or more preferably, find him professional help] In short, the tea party is destroying any credibility any honest Americans concerned with real issues might have expected could undergo discussion. Not gonna happen. If the tea party pushes it, it instantly has zero credibility, even if it isn’t one of the vast percentage of tea partiers who are birthers or bigots. [Aside – If you want to have an honest discussion of real issues, check out the Coffee Party]
Which gets us back to Donald Trump. The man epitomizes the fact that even vulgar buffoonery can’t stop you from becoming filthy rich (or in Trump’s case, building on the riches he father handed to him). That’s fine. Trump is one of those curiosities that we all get a kick out of, in part because we are glad we still have normal looking hair and wish we had his wealth and lifestyle. But while we might envy his wife-model of the month, we wouldn’t take him seriously as a presidential candidate.
The fact that the tea party seems willing to take him (and similar caricatures) seriously when they have some actual qualified candidates available demonstrates that they cannot be trusted to vote like adults.
I want to take a few moments in my opening statement of this first (and hopefully only) Republican primary debate to eliminate one of my competitors, Sarah Palin. Frankly, I’m shocked that I’m standing up here next to my old new friends Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, that old white guy over there that I don’t recognize but really kind of fits in with the rest of us. Not shocked that I’m here or that they are here, but that Sarah Palin is also here. I mean seriously.
Uh, hmm. I mean, I welcome all my valiant competitors, including the esteemed former Governor of Alaska who served the party so well as our Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008….ahem, er, hack, er… Sorry, something in my throat.
Well, actually, I’ve been through this before and I’m not letting anyone get in my way this time, most certainly not a half-term Governor. So I’ll make this quick.
Former Governor Palin quit her job. In fact, a bunch of them. A quick recap. So, after quitting 4 colleges before finally (apparently) getting a journalism degree in the 5th one, then doing some sports radio and TV, my esteemed Republican colleague got elected to a series of positions.
1) City Council: Okay, she didn’t quit this one, but come on people, Wasilla has less people in it then my mansion on New Year’s eve. She won with a grand total of 530 votes (and got less the next time). [To be clear, she didn’t win by 530 votes, she received 530 votes total. Her opponent received all of 310 votes.]
2) Mayor of Wasilla: Still less people than even one of the little islands I own. And yet she hired some guy to administrate the city so she could focus on practicing her 3rd place runner-up Alaska pageant skills on the populace. But I do give her credit for bringing in those big box stores, you know, the ones that put local merchants out of business and buy all their stuff from China. And she definitely should take credit for hiring those big city consultants to lobby for millions of dollars. No wonder she got all of 909 votes to win a second term.
3) Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: Given that Alaska has a long history of political corruption, Sarah won a prize gem with her appointment to the Commission that gets to decide how all that oil money gets spent. Okay, so she didn’t know anything about oil when she was handed the chairmanship (by the corrupt Governor she was later to charge with corruption), but it gave her a prime spot to get people fired before she suddenly resigned.
4) Governor: Okay, unlike the real states of Utah and Massachusetts, my honorable colleague became Governor of Alaska, a huge state in area that is 75% national and state parks, has a population only a touch more than Washington DC, and has a surplus budget because of all the oil revenues. Which she quit half way into her term. But luckily she lobbied former Senator Ted Stevens and ongoing Representative Don Young to get federal pork barrel funds for the “bridge to nowhere” before denying that she ever lobbied for federal pork barrel funds for the “bridge to nowhere.” [Stage direction: Nowhere Man by the Beatles plays softly in the background.]
So seriously, my indomitable fellow Republican/Tea Party/Alaska Independence Party colleague clearly would be like rolling the dice in Vegas on a tilted craps table in the dark should you choose to unbelievably give her the nomination. All I can say is, make sure John McCain does not pick her running mate if you go down that road.
But since I want to get all those energized Tea Party people to vote for me, you know, all the goods ones and even those who are biased against Mormons or any other religion or sexual preference but their own, I want to end my opening remarks by falling over backwards saying all sorts of nice things about Sarah Palin so that the tea partiers will forget everything I’ve said up to this point.
[With emphasis!] I love Sarah Palin! She has done all of America proud (well, all of “real” America). I look forward to putting her in my cabinet when I get elected. [Perhaps the one in the summer house where my servants can keep her locked up.]
Thank you Mr. Beck for allowing me to run over my time in my opening remarks. And thank you for moderating this first (and only) Republican primary debate. God bless you, and God bless America!
[Stage directions: Mr. Romney turns to face the center camera. The camera on his right side, his best side, zooms in to capture his perfect smile. Cut to Mr. Beck who introduces the next candidate, the old white guy no one recognizes but fits in with the rest of them. Cue camera 2.]
* In case anyone is seriously confused, I’m not really Mitt Romney. This is clearly satire. Sorry Mitt. 🙂
[Editors Note: PGH will do a (mostly) serious look at Mitt Romney’s candidacy in a forthcoming Political Gum Hockey post.]
Love her or hate her -and those do seem to be the two choices; no middle ground for her – Sarah Palin has certainly caused a stir in the almost three years since her surprise pick as John McCain’s 2008 running mate. The tea party, the Democrats, the mainstream (and slightly out of mainstream) Republicans, and of course the pundits, have debated whether she will throw her hat into the ring for the 2012 Presidential campaign. Here is why that isn’t going to happen.
1) She might win. Okay, that seems about as likely as winning the lottery. But hey, for the sake of argument, let’s say it could happen. Why would that keep her from running? It’s rather simple, really. In the unlikely event that Sarah Palin wins the 2012 Presidential election, Sarah Palin would have to govern. Yep, she would actually have to take responsibility for the still greatest country on the planet. Keep in mind that this is a person who needed help to run a town smaller than my city apartment building, quit her plum job on the Alaska Oil & Gas Commission (which decides how to spend all those royalty checks), and then quit halfway through her job as Governor of a state with a population about the size of Washington DC. No, Sarah Palin does not want to to have to actually take on the toughest job on earth.
2) She might lose. This scenario is more likely. Again, why is that a problem? Last time there were about two dozen people who ran for President and all, except one, lost. Presidential elections offer two chances to lose – the primaries and the general election. Recent polling has shown a dramatic drop in her favorability ratings. That’s a problem (see Item 4). If she won the Republican primary it would have to be with tea party support, which would pretty much scare the living daylights out of Independents and probably result in the biggest voter turnout in two centuries for the Democratic party. I just don’t think she will take a chance that she might lose.
3) The debates. As the Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008 she had one debate, against “Say it ain’t so, Joe” Biden, whose entire goal was to not turn off the disgruntled Hillary Clinton women voters by coming on too strong to Palin. Not so much a piece of cake for the Republican primary debates. There will be several, perhaps even many. With likely a dozen fellow Republicans all wanting the job. A certain Mitt Romney, who will rightly see 2012 as “his year” (as in, “he makes it now or he goes back to the day job), isn’t likely to let her get away with snarky one-liners. Romney, and all the rest, will ensure that her inability to formulate a coherent and informed thought on any issue will get center stage. I don’t see her putting herself through that experience.
4) Celebrity. Let’s face it, Sarah Palin likes being a celebrity. She did the whole Miss Alaska pageant thing and pretty much has been playing to the audience since that time. Since her sudden emergence into the national spotlight as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Palin has done two book tours, had a “reality series,” and tweeted and Facebooked her way into the news cycle virtually every night. Her Q Score is through the roof. She certainly can rile the base, but also rile the opposition. The ability to do both is why the MSM (which she lovingly calls Lame Stream Media) loves talking about her – love her or hate her it’s good for ratings. But running a serious campaign for the highest office in the land would require her to be, well, serious. And that would impact her celebrity. A while back everyone loved to talk about Paris Hilton, but not too many people would consider her for a position of responsibility. Sarah likes being a celebrity.
5) She hasn’t been to New Hampshire. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all wonky on you. But let’s just say that Palin has done nothing to develop the ground game for the caucuses and primaries. She did make stops in Iowa and South Carolina on her book tours, but she isn’t putting together a campaign. She just isn’t going to run.
6) Power. This is a corollary to the Item 4, Celebrity. At least up until the last month or two, Sarah Palin has been one of the most powerful women in politics. Her ability to rile the base while playing the martyr was enough to push some of the tea partier types into seats in the House, the importance of which just played out in the 2011 budget sideshow we just experienced. Of course, her influence helped propel a few “I am not a witch” and “2nd Amendment solutions” candidates past sane Republicans in the primaries, thus costing the Republicans control of the Senate in 2010. So the whole power thing goes both ways. Like celebrity, Palin likes the idea of being a king or queen maker.
So Sarah Palin won’t run for President in 2012 or any other time. Polls show that even the tea party, while they might like her, wouldn’t trust her in a position of power. And most certainly the rest of the country won’t vote for her. So what she will do is continue to play the martyr as needed, go to town on Twitter and Facebook as the election gets closer, and work as many paid speaking gigs as her publicist can arrange for desperate candidates. Maybe she’ll put out another ghost-written book to pad the purse. She’ll do what she has been doing.
Or maybe not. Her video response after the Giffords shooting seems to have turned off a lot of people and her reputation is tanking like the economy did in the summer of 2008. Maybe she’ll just lay low (she has been a bit out of the news cycle the last few weeks) and enjoy her new found wealth and her family.
So look for her to finally make some sort of announcement long after it’s become obvious that she isn’t running. She’ll make the requisite deference to her family, which she isn’t running so she can focus on, and how she doesn’t want them to have to go through the scrutiny of another campaign.
By the way, that sound you hear is the rest of the Republican candidates all breathing a huge sigh of relief, as they all try to figure out how to capture those people who had lined up to vote for Palin (without turning away any Independents still on the fence).
Today I spoke with a man who attended the Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party rally near the capitol in Washington DC. He was an honest man. With honest concerns. Most of which were based on faulty information. He told me his thoughts, and I listened.
He had traveled to Washington DC from Tennessee, along with his mother and 86 year old father (which he proudly told to everyone in sight). They had come to DC the day before and had taken in the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial (his Dad’s favorite), and of course, the Bachmann Rally today. He was proud of the service his Dad gave in the second world war, and his own 17 years of service in the Tennessee National Guard. He was proud of his life of labor as a wood cutter. He was proud to be an American. He told me there were “100,000 people at the rally” (best estimates were less than 3 or 4,000).
He said he was in DC to “stop healthcare.” His basis of opposition – that “he didn’t believe anyone else should have to pay for his health care.” That’s it. That’s how he saw the entire health care debate. [I didn’t mention that we already pay for the health care of others through increased insurance premiums.]
On Afghanistan, he called it “Obama’s Vietnam.” He felt that when General McChrystal came asking for 40,000 more troops Obama’s only response should have been, “I’ll give you 100,000, now go get them.” He felt that “it’s been two months” [since McChrystal’s initial report] and Obama needed to do something now. Again, that’s it. He saw the entire decision-making process about Afghanistan to be simply a matter of saturating the area with hundreds of thousands of troops because the general wanted them. He did understand that bin Laden and al qaeda are in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Pakistan wasn’t doing its job (and he even understood why it was so difficult for Pakistan to do so). But to him it all came down to some variation of “fish or cut bait,” with his preferred action to be “fish…and do it with lots of poles.”
So why am I telling this story? Mainly to draw out the following take-home points.
1) There are real people with real concerns out there.
2) Much of that concern is based on misinformation.
3) Details aren’t that relevant, what matters is the big picture message.
4) These are the people that the White House and the Congress need to reach.
So, how does the WH and Congress reach out to average, every day, honest Americans who base their feelings on their gut and the simple messages (even if the messages are often based on incorrect details)?
First, politicians need to stop talking only to themselves. They need to start listening better to the people. And by people I mean to real people like the guy I spoke with today, not the professional instigators with lobbyist talking points. Not other Congressman who come armed with nothing but their party’s political talking points. And not the pundits, who mostly don’t know diddly but play like they are informed on TV. And when I say listen, I mean listen. Not stand quietly while someone talks and then respond with their own prepackaged talking points. Listen. Ask questions. Learn. Think about what really matters to the people, even if they mess up a few details or mime some talking points they heard on their favorite cable propaganda station.
Second, ensure that the misinformation is corrected in people’s minds. Put the facts online so people can fact check for themselves, but remember that many people rely more on word of mouth at church and in their neighborhoods and just don’t trust anything politicians say. So find a way to get the facts out there.
Third, speak to the people. Tell them why health care reform 1) will not do what they most fear it will do, and 2) will benefit them and their families and their children. Tell them why it isn’t wise to “just send 100,000 troops when the general asks for 40,000,” for example, because 100,000 troops (or a million) won’t help us reach our goals because x, y and z also need to be fixed. Oh, and tell them what are goal(s) actually are in Afghanistan. Tell them why dealing with climate change is important to them and to their grandchildren. And if you aren’t ready to make a decision, tell them why it will take a little longer.
Fourth, keep the minority party honest. Not surprisingly, the minority party tends to think that their best route to winning back seats is to keep the majority party from getting anything accomplished. They often lie. Don’t let them. Call them out for lies. There is plenty of room for honest ideological differences, but our elected officials are elected to represent our interests, not their own reelection interests. And lying serves no one’s interests but the liars.
Fifth, “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” The state of the economy, real or perceived, is the driving force behind much of the angst right now. It matters not that the economy tanked last year, well before Obama was elected, the perception is that he needs to fix it…and he needs to fix it fast. Fiscal responsibility is the common thread for everyone no matter to which party they belong. Health care, climate change, finance reform, and other major legislative pursuits actually should improve the economy in the long run, but people tend to have a very short time horizon, and even shorter memories of how we got here. So make the tough decisions, and follow rule 3 above.
I learned a lot from my conversation today with an honest man. We should listen to each other more often.