What’s the Big Idea?

I started this blog shortly after George Bush was reelected, and though many people assume that it was the presence of Republicans in power that was the primary motivation, that isn’t the whole story. That was part of the motivation, no doubt, but there were two other factors that were more important. The first was how economic issues such as Social Security and tax cuts were being portrayed in the media, for example the false perceptions being generated about Social Security’s long-run stability and the silly idea that tax cuts would pay for themselves that I heard so often. 

But the biggest factor was that I felt Democrats were being misrepresented in the media. CNN in particular comes to mind. In the run-up to the election, it was the same people day after day representing Democrats in the media, and I did not feel they were doing a good job — at all — of representing the Party’s views on economics or anything else. The voices I heard most often were far, far to the left of me, and, I thought, far too easy to dismiss. I wasn’t persuaded by their arguments — often wanting to tear my hair out when they didn’t make the obvious rebuttal to crazy claims from the other side, and instead often sounded a bit crazy themselves — so how could people on the fence be convinced that Democrats had better ideas? It was as though the TV shows would pick the most clueless, outlandish, easiest people to dismiss whenever they interviewed Democrats or pitted Democrats against Republicans. If only people knew who we really are, I would think, and what we actually stand for, certainly they would be persuaded. I never thought it would go anywhere, but starting the blog was part of the reaction to the feeling that Democrats in the silent majority needed to start speaking up and making their voices heard.

Now I’m frustrated again. Though I didn’t always agree with it, prior to the Bush reelection at least there was a voice representing Democrats. Right now, there is no voice, at least not one I can hear. There are plenty of Democrats talking with loud voices, more than ever I’d guess, but there is no leadership to coordinate those voices and pull them into an harmonious whole with broad based appeal. We finally have control of the ship, and the captain is wandering aimlessly. What is Obama’s vision? Where are we trying to go? What is the grander goal that is being served by the polices and strategies he is pursuing? Yes, he gives good speeches, but what is the single theme that runs through them all to coordinate and steer the party toward this larger vision? What is the big idea behind it all that is supposed to unite us? Without effective leadership, the unified vision the party needs to be successful will not emerge from the many strong voices seeking to provide the direction the party seems to lack.

The problem, however, is that I don’t know if the centrist, bipartisan seeking, compromising Obama we have seen to date can actually embrace an encompassing vision. He seems afraid to be a Democrat, as though standing uncompromisingly for an idea will scare people away rather than attract them, and that needs to change.


Originally published at Economist’s View and reproduced here with the author’s permission.
 
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