hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Monday, August 12, 2002
rough notes:

besides my (ongoing work) on the Democratic and Republican platforms (it's taking a long time because they are so damned boring, its tempting to ditch them and read normal political stuff). here is a list of people who've written articles about the Democratic party, what its doing wrong, and what it should be doing.

michael tomasky
ruy texeira & john judis
william saletan
robert borosage
joe conason
paul glastris
robert kuttner
TNR editors
mickey kaus
joshua micah marshall
micah sifry

Most of them are pretty good, but I believe the pick of the lot is written by Michael Tomasky, in the American Prospect.

Forget the obsession with the President's poll numbers! One of the most pathetic developments in the Democratic-leaning journals has been painfully hopeful spins of the President's poll numbers. (for example, the Presidents poll numbers have been dropping (from 91%!) at *4%* a month, rather than the more sedate *2%* of last year. And do not compare the current President's poll numbers to Bush I. The reason Bush I's numbers sank was 1) the government was almost insanely in deficit, and had been for the last ten years, leaving the administration unable to argue that the deficit problem was a short-term blip due to unforseen catastrophes 2) the economy was in the toilet. The number of private sector jobs actually *decreased* during the four years of the Bush administration. Median family income growth during the Reagan-Bush years was something like 4%. Homeownership rates had declined. A majority of Americans thought that the next generation would do worse than the previous one. Given the natural optimism of the American people, this is an astounding poll result, but the Age of Diminished Expectations had crept so slowly upon us that it was thought of as a curious quirk, not as a sign that something was seriously wrong. Bush II's approval numbers will *not* drop like Bush I's.

the main point is that Bush's approval ratings do not have to be low for the Democrats to do well. Voter's don't have to disapprove of Bush to vote Democratic, they just have to approve more of the Democrats than they do Bush (and Republicans in general) More to the point, they have to be persuaded that their and the country's lot will be better if the vote Democratic.

to an extent, populism, or resentment in general, runs against the American belief that you can and should be able to write the script to your own life, that your happiness does not depend on the actions of some big-shot executive or government bureaucrat somewhere, it depends on your own actions.

thoughts on political salesmanship/buzzwords:

the Feynman formulation for social decison making:

first part is a scientific/factual question: If I do this, what will happen?
second part is a philosophical/religious qestion: Do I want this to happen?

how will this policy improve the lives of Americans?
how can I make the case that this policy will improve the lives of Americans?
how can I make the case that America will be better off with the Democrats in charge?

choices/ consequences / values
you have to thinkg up the various choices that face the American people, evaluate the consequences of each choice, argue that your judgment is the correct one, use your values to evaluate the various outcomes, and then argue that your values are the correct ones.

you need *imagination* to think up the range of choices that lie before the American people
you need *judgment* to predict what will be the likely conseqences of the various choices
you need *values* to decide which of the possible outcomes are best, and thus which are the right choices for the American people to make.

boy, I seem to have buzzwords on my mind. In any case, here is my preferred list of buzzwords as it now stands:

policy platform for America: "middle class, common sense, golden rule"

preferred character attributes for (Democratic) cadidates: "clean, smart, tough, kind" That is, the ideal (Democratic) politician will be thought of by the voters as (morally) clean, smart, tough and kind.
BTW Republicans are welcome to these buzzwords too. . .if they adopt my preferred policies!

abilities needed to be a good policy maker: "imagination, judgement, values"

Al Gore was though of by the voters as smart, and was probably adequate in the toughness department, but he was not thought of as clean or kind. That is a real shame, because I believe that Gore is actually very clean and very kind (send derisive/abusive/hate mail to roublen@yahoo.com) If I have a problem with Gore, it is, funnily enough, in the smarts department. He seems to have some very wrong-headed notions, especially on how to campaign and how to persuade people, which greatly reduce his effectiveness as a politician