Tuesday, June 19, 2012


It strikes me that this election cycle seems to be a good one to try to get a liberal message out in the ether, to effective re-frame the context of our arguments that have been so thoroughly deconstructed by people of evil intent.
The Dark Side, if you will.
After all, the past few years have seen a signal change in the electorate: it has gone from what seemed to be a unified body of sheeple into a fractured coalition of people looking for change, whether they be angry Teabaggers or calmer, more thoughtful Occupiers.
Both pictures are an inaccurate reflection of the American people, I ought to point out: we have neither been fully comfortable with a conservative agenda, nor has Occupy ushered in an new era of enlightenment.
But both sides have raised questions, good questions (yes, I just paid the Teabaggers a compliment, such as it was); Questions about privacy, the role of government, the responsibilities of citizens to themselves and to other citizens.
Liberals need to frame answers. In particular, in light of the budget issues that are raised like bogeymen whenever conservatives feel the agenda is slipping away. The temptation has been to ignore them, ignore the fears they try to raise, and it's gotten us precious little progress in America. We're stalemated at best, and stalemates in society lead to backslides.
We have to rebut these criticisms our positions get and then take our case to a higher level. The question is, how? How do we ask taxpayers to let us pass tax hikes on the richest one percent to pay for services we deem vital, like healthcare, like education, like infrastructure repair, like science and the arts?
One thing that occured to me this morning was to appeal to something even more primal than greed.
Common sense. Particularly when it comes to families.
Here's the thing: people will be cheap when it comes to themselves. They believe they can either do without something or pay less than someone else (this is why stores put things on sale, even though they know they won't lose all that much money.) People are really good at sussing out the price of something. They suck at sussing out the value of something.
Our job is to point out that, not only are they missing the bigger picture of value, but the price they're paying is high, as well.
Take education: a parent will think nothing of complaining about how high school taxes are, or the school budget is, but ask them to pay for educating their child and let them go out and actually price what a quality education costs, and suddenly they start to realize they had a bargain.
So here's my thought: pose these budget items as a legacy. Is it worth a couple hundred bucks a year to ensure your kid gets a better job and make more money? Is it worth a couple hundred bucks a year to make sure your kid can live a longer life with better health, keeping the environment clean so he or she can breathe clean air and have clean drinking water? Or have health insurance when you're too old to work and pay for his insurance? You'd leave him the money in your will, obviously, but this is an instance where you could put that money to work now and leave him a better and bigger legacy.
Is it worth a few hundred bucks for him to have a good infrastructure? You'd buy him a bike because it's fun, but what if you took that money and put it towards a better rail system or safer streets? You'd give him a body guard if he needed one, but why not pay that money towards your police and ambulance services? You'd put out a fire at his house, so why not pony up the money to hire a professional who'll answer the call?
Aren't these things-- your child's mind, his income, his safety-- worth just about anything?