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The Anti-Government Stance of BOTH Parties is Undercutting Idealism and Democracy

July 30, 2018

A post yesterday by Diane Ravitch based on a NY Daily News op ed piece by progressive politician Mark Green got me thinking about the unrolling similarities between the tow political parties. In his op ed, Mr. Green calls on the Democratic party to embrace the fiery emotional language used by President Trump to motivate it’s own voters to turn out and support the many positions have widespread support:

On most major issues — guns, choice, Dreamers, immigration, the tax code, climate, “privatization” of Social Security — polling indicates that the party in exile does represent a progressive majority, indeed at times a super-majority, which is why Trump is at a record low in modern polling for a President at this point — with his approval rating underwater by 20 points, according to Quinnipiac.

“Still, are Democrats properly exploiting his weaknesses and their advantages? Not nearly enough. Where, for example, are those voices that understand the power of metaphor and narrative to keep Trump in the hole he dug for himself?

“Words, images and concepts are what shape and win political debates: like William Jennings Bryan saying “Americans won’t be crucified on a cross of gold” (well, he lost on that one), Teddy Roosevelt’s “malefactors of great wealth,” Barack Obama’s “Yes we can,” Ronald Reagan’s (albeit composite) “welfare queen”; Occupy’s “We are the 99%.”

“The Democratic Party, however, continues to fight the war with deeply outmoded rhetorical weaponry.

After reading this section of the article, I came to the conclusion that Mark Green missed two major points in his analysis, and that compelled me to leave this comment:

Mark Green overlooked former President Reagan’s phrase that captured the hearts and minds of our country, a phrase he delivered derisively, and a phrase that resonates with politicians in both parties: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you”. THAT phrase, more than any other, captures the disdain voters have for taxes, the disdain for those of us who worked in the public sector, and the disdain for those of us who got an education with the hopes we could help others less fortunate. The neo-liberals who wanted to “Reinvent Government” believed that by introducing the profit motive of the marketplace into operating government agencies they could have it both ways: they could assume control the government without espousing the value of government employees and the value of the government itself.

As it stands now, neither party is trying to convince voters that those who work for the government ARE here to help them, that their taxes are not confiscatory, that their best interests are served when they help the less fortunate, that there are thousands of individuals who want to help make our country better and do not aspire to make a million dollars and– therefore– are not motivated by “merit pay”, and that government regulations are not “red tape” but ultimately serve their interest.

Since neither party is promoting the value of government or the idealism that lured millions to work to improve the lives of children and citizens through government service, it is not surprising that our voting rates are embarrassingly low and our sense of democracy is wavering.

It is clear that the GOP has embraced the social Darwinism of its libertarian wing. It is unclear what the DNC intends to offer as an antidote. Mr. Green IS right, though, that the pablum offered by the DNC is not going to motivate anyone to vote FOR them. Democrats will not “rhetorically rise to (the) historic challenge” posed by Mr. Trump until they offer a full-throated rebuttal to the notion that government is the problem.

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