Policies to Expand Our Electoral Base

Political success in the 2020s requires a real improvement in both present conditions and future prospects for our citizens. It also means that we must pass the test of basic adequacy on issues where part way isn't good enough, like avoiding nuclear war or stopping climate change.

To achieve success, we must restore functionality to our democracy and to our institutions generally. This requires specifically the ability to distinguish facts from falsehoods, the ability to focus our attention on the most important problems and the most promising opportunities, and vitally, the ability to sustain a coherent agenda over the decades that will be required to address our most important challenges. Tacking back and forth with every shift in political party control takes us ever deeper into failure.

To achieve success, we must overcome the pervasive cynicism and lack of trust that surrounds us today and that disables so many of our institutions. Because there is so little trust, and because there is so much hostility, our programs must be designed to produce immediate and visible improvements in the day-to-day lives of everyone. A call to sacrifice now to benefit later is unlikely to be a winning battle cry.

There are many ways to describe a winning agenda. I'll describe elements of that agenda under four headings below. These suggestions at first reading may sound like pablum, or like aspirations lacking a way to get there from here. Practical paths to achieve these aspirations must be developed, and if we can make balanced progress in the four areas described below, it could pave the way for our electoral success.

Promote & Guide National Reconciliation

Little of lasting importance is likely to be possible as long as we remain so bitterly divided, unable to even talk reasonably about many things. Reducing polarization, and particularly reducing the hostility, vilification, and attribution of evil that poisons our self-government, is essential to the rest of our agenda. We don't need, or at least shouldn't expect, some sort of national kumbaya moment. Modest initial expectations are important because this will be hard. But without some progress on this front, we'll fall short everywhere else.

Renovate & Strengthen Democracy

In addition to national reconciliation, there must be a top-to-bottom renovation of our democracy. True equality of voting rights is still far away, and many red states seem intent on obstructing voting as part of an effort to block majority rule. We have underinvested in our democracy for decades. We don't make registration and voting easy and universal, when we could easily do so. The actual mechanisms, the voting places, voting machines, and election security systems are too often antiquated or broken down. And even when the equipment works, the entire process is often managed to make voting more difficult in the areas most likely to vote for Democrats. Civics and history education have withered and are today grossly inadequate, and we are constantly barraged with bad faith propaganda that makes politics feel dirty and makes people feel that participation requires diving into a revolting cesspool of dishonesty and corruption. We don't do many things in our democratic system very well. The agenda of needed changes is long and complex, but at root, it amounts to investing far more of our time, energy, and attention to making the political system work much more like we all know it should.

Zero Unemployment: A Job for Everyone

There is simply no good reason that we cannot create a reality in which everyone can get a job that pays a living wage with decent benefits. We have a ton of work that needs doing, and millions of people are eager for good jobs. The fact that we cannot find a way to combine the two to make us all better off is symptomatic of a gross failure of imagination. Nothing would do more to reduce anger and help heal our political wounds than a good job with benefits for everyone who needs one. Consider this today's version of "a chicken in every pot."

Better Protect Our Safety & Health

Most seem to agree that protecting public safety and health is a core mission of government. And yet, everywhere we look, threats are mounting. Climate chaos, exploding debt, growing military budgets and war risks, financial system instability, policing our own communities as if they were foreign war zones, gun violence and mass shootings, people without basic health care, the list goes on and on. Resetting priorities to focus our resources on the biggest threats is essential to keeping all of us safe and healthy.

Published: August 2019
Revised: July 2023

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