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.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004
Jeffrey Sachs is touting a "Simple Plan To Save the
World" As a first estimate, it would cost $75 billion
a year, around $35 billion of which would come from
the US. George Bush had the guts to ask the American
people to fork over 200 billion dollars for his pet
foreign aid project. Do we have the guts to ask $35
billion dollars for ours?






Now, the rest of this post is yet more Whither
Democrats? thoughts, which you don't particularly have
to read:

I didn't vote for Dean, but Howard Dean's quote: "We
Democrats have been so desperate to win that we'll say
anything. But as soon as you do that, you lose.
Because the American people can see right through
that" has never been more relevant amidst the orgy of
Democratic self-abasement this past week.

In all these arguments "what the Democrats *must* do
in order to win", a lot of people seem to be
forgetting that there's many different ways that the
Democrats could win. They could win by going right,
going left, emphasising national security, emphasising
economics, or emphasising moral values. The only thing
the Democrats *must* do in order to win is to give a
majority of voters sufficiently convincing moral
and material reasons to pull the Democratic lever.

Another point being overlooked is that the same
underlying policy platform can be sold in different
ways to different constituencies. Even if the
Democrats "move towards to the center", they can still
be successfully attacked as anti-God&Country
socialists. Does anybody doubt this? And even "far
left" policies by today's standards can be
successfully defended as moderate or even
conservative. After all, on domestic issues Nixon or
Eisenhower were farther to the left than anybody in
today's political climate.

Rather than arguing what the Democrats *must* in order
to win, it seems to me the first step is figuring out
what we *want* to do. That's the first step. The
second step is figuring out how to sell it, along with
how much to compromise in the interests of political

For example, reforming the War on Drugs (not
necessarily legalizing) could be a good issue for us,
even in the Red States. But if all we argue over is
"how do we win?", politically risky (but promising)
issues like the War on Drugs or changing Cuba policy
will never get a hearing. And that pathological
unwillingness to take risks *does* communicate itself
to the American people as weakness and wimpiness. How
could it not?

Lastly, from a marketing or "vision" standpoint, two
small ideas:

1) "Middle Class, Common Sense, Golden Rule". In other
words there are "Middle Class"
issues (taxes, health care, social security,
private-sector unions, jobs), "Common Sense" issues
(defense, education, civil rights, environment,
immigration, campaign reform, abortion, etc.), and
"Golden Rule" issues (foreign aid, anti-poverty &
homeless programs, humanitarian military missions).

2) "(Let's Make America) The Best Across the Board"
This comes from a very interesting Ted Halstead
article, where he asserted an "American Paradox":
Among the advanced industrial countries, we are either
the very best or among the very worst. We have the
best military, GDP, productivity, business start-ups,
R&D, breadth of stock ownership, volunteerism,
charitable giving. At the same we are among the worst
in poverty, life expectancy, infant mortality,
homicide, health-care coverage, teen pregnancy,
personal savings & obesity. So the slogan would mean
(working toward) making America the best in all these
categories, best in infant mortality as well as GDP.

"Middle Class, Common Sense, Golden Rule" & "The Best
Across the Board" are two marketing slogans that seem
to me to have the advantage of not offending anybody
despite being fairly meaningful, and at the same time
being simple enough to be shouted at political rallies
or on TV screens. "The Best Across the Board" also
might have the advantage of appealing to the
patriotism of Americans, even jingoistic patriotism.
Really, there are a million good approaches in terms
of marketing. Nevertheless, here are two.

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