Great, great piece from democracyjournal.org. Keep it Simple and Take Credit by Jack Meserve points out why recent very positive Democratic initiatives have been buried under a bushel of bad legislation. Obama and many recent Democrats have taken the moniker technocrat to lengths that were self-defeating even when they did deliver positive accomplishments for the American people.
Wonkishness is fine. Certainly Obama, Clinton and any number of Democrats in the House and Senate actually understand issues and can extemporize on policies as varied as healthcare and agriculture. Great for C-Span, terrible for cable news. Can they keep it simple and explain it in 25 words or less like a good movie pitch? Or even more importantly in crafting legislation, can you make it simple enough that anybody receiving the benefit knows 1. it’s a benefit! and 2. you gave it to them.
Obamacare is a good example of a truly complex piece of legislation that worked (and Republicans are just now finding out how incredibly hard it is to do that), but suffered politically because while the underlying mechanisms of providing healthcare coverage to millions of people have to be complex, even baroque – the public’s access to that needs to be SIMPLE.
The reason they held Congress for 40 years after enacting Social Security is because Social Security was right in your fucking face. They could say to you, “you didn’t used to have money when you were old, now you do. Thank Democrats.” And they fucking did. Now it’s, “you didn’t used to be able to log on to a website and negotiate between 15 different providers to pick a platinum or gold or zinc plan and apply a fucking formula for a subsidy that’s gonna change depending on your income so you might end up having to retroactively owe money or have a higher premium.” Holy shit, thank you so much.
Democrats in the past understood this, thus when Social Security was created FDR and company took credit and let people know.
Medicare was similarly, simple as pie. Simple as you’re 65 you get to see a doctor now, on the government. Done.
Democrats lost the healthcare debate in the early ’90s when the Clinton’s then didn’t choose a Medicare for all system to advocate and instead pushed a 1,000 pages of legislation into the chamber for the GOP to point at and say “nobody’s read all of this.”
It was all just repeated with Obamacare, but this time the need was so dire that the technocrats had just enough wind at their back to push it through. But the GOP was, again, able to demonize it for years, confuse the issues, falsely scream about jobs, increasing premiums, etc. Democrats gave millions of people access to healthcare who turned around and voted against them anyway.
This shouldn’t even be a liberal-socialist divide, although it seems to have become one in recent years. When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn’t provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples’ houses shouldn’t burn down, we didn’t provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.
Democrats – keep it simple stupid! Stop showing off how policy smart you are and proving how politics dumb you are.