Fight for the future by @BloggersRUs

Fight for the future

by Tom Sullivan

Believe it or not, there are other issues on the table besides the traveling reality show now golfing in Scotland. Serious questions of what this country does to recover from the debacle of the current administration need addressing and will likely start at home.

After years of slow economic recovery, wages remain flat even as employers struggle to fill jobs. Working people know in their guts they work for the economy, not the other way around. Wage stagnation, manufacturing losses, offshoring and other and restructuring of the economy have left their American Dreams sitting on blocks rusting away in their front yards. In 2012 and 2016, Democrats tried to convince them things had improved under Barack Obama. The recovery was slow, but it was there. Numbers might have conveyed that, but a lot of Americans didn't feel it.

Enter Donald Trump with an alternative (actually alt-right) explanation, writes Martin Longman at Washington Monthly:

Average Americans were suffering from long-term downward mobility because elites and Washington had abandoned them to the depredations of immigrants and China, and he would put things right. The particulars were wrong, and dishonest, but the overall portrait of generational decline hit home for much of the country.
What Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump enablers in Congress, and GOP-controlled legislatures across the country have demonstrated is, as Longman asserts, there is "only one party committed to small-d democracy" in this country and it is not theirs:
It’s no longer acceptable for Democrats to look at politics as a way to win the next election so as to jam through a bunch of their preferred policies before the Republicans inevitably take back power. They must instead see the purpose of politics as building sustained power for Democrats, period—but, unlike the other side, they must do this in part by strengthening the democratic process, not by undermining it. If passing this or that liberal policy helps in that effort, fine, pass it. If not, don’t. The overriding aim has to be getting and holding power—not for its own sake, but to keep the flame of democratic self-government alive unless and until the Republican Party abandons its authoritarian ways or is replaced by a new, small-d democratic party.
Democrats will not be defending the status quo in 2018 and 2020. What they must do, if they can, is tell a deeper story of how we have gotten here and how they expect to change it:
The most important part of that story is the concentration of corporate power. With more and more industries controlled by fewer and fewer big firms, corporate managers face little pressure to raise wages, since many workers, especially in rural America, have nowhere else to go. Combine that with the continuing decline of unions, the erosion of the real value of the minimum wage, and the spread of employment contracts with anti-worker provisions—like mandatory arbitration and noncompete clauses—and you have an economy in which workers have little or no bargaining power. A growing chorus of economists now thinks that this phenomenon—more than trade, and certainly more than immigration—is the best explanation for why real wages aren’t rising even after nine years of economic expansion, near-record-low unemployment, and record corporate profits.
Democrats bear some responsibility for some of that trajectory away from an economy that produced gains not just for the top 10 percent of Americans, but for the rest as well. They should admit it and commit to changing it. It is a story few besides Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have told with any force. Their political adversaries scapegoat others for failures or blame impersonal economic forces for results that for most of us are very personal. Someone noted recently that when billionaires lay off employees, they blame the market. When they hire more employees, they take credit themselves. Voters need to know these outcomes are not simply unchangeable facts of nature or personal failures, but the results of policy choices.

Aided by nearly two dozen experts, Longman offers a set of actions that should Democrats regain one house of Congress, they should use as a bully pulpit to advance.

Health care is obvious. Democrats are running on it anyway. I cannot speak to the merits of the “all-payer rate setting” he recommends. Medicare for all is what people know, and it ranks favorably, but the term has become synonymous with a single-payer system. It is not, Ed Kilgore argues. Ironing out the details while not watering down the goal might require expanding access without a complete overhaul and disruption that makes consumers nervous. It is a complex issue on which I'm open to options.

Given Democrats' mid-term losses in 1994 and 2010, pushing universal health care in a low-government-trust environment (see below) is risky, Longman believes, "unless you don’t mind losing power." Promoting instead some form of “universal public option” or Medicare buy-in that builds on what consumers already know has merit. Addressing the emergency in private insurance price rises may yield benefits felt more immediately by voters.

A new voting rights act. The GOP has worked assiduously to maintain power with a shrinking demographic base by enacting antidemocratic vote-suppression measures too numerous to detail here. Start with enacting vote-by-mail, Longman suggests. "The system is almost impossible to hack, leaves a paper trail, and neutralizes suppression techniques like voter ID." Plus where it has been tried, participation has increased. Automatic voter registration and same-day registration, if passed immediately under a Democratic president in 2021, will help ensure they retain control to further America's comeback after 2022.

Reforming government itself will demonstrate to voters trained to distrust it that Democrats really mean to drain the swamp Trump promised to and expanded. Start with eliminating private contracting, Longman suggests. Contracting out to for-profit firms what civil servants do in a non-profit environment is a sucker's idea of cost-efficiency. Contractors make "nearly twice as much as civil servants, with typically no improvement in outcomes." Another idea for restoring trust does an end-run around Citizens United. Rather than trying to reform that or fight an uphill battle for public funding, Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes advocates giving voters a tax credit to spend on whichever federal candidates they choose:

If that candidate agrees to certain limits (no money from PACs and a $1,000 cap on any donation), the federal government will match the voter’s contribution six to one. The point is to make it possible for candidates to raise all the money they need by reaching out to average voters rather than lobbyists and wealthy donors. That, in turn, would make them far more likely to do the bidding of the former than the latter.
One stumbling block Longman leaves unaddressed is the structure of the U.S. Senate. Norm Ornstein tweeted in response to a Paul Waldman essay on our age of minority rule: By 2040, Philip Bump responds, "30 percent of the population of the country will control 68 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate. Or, more starkly, half the population of the country will control 84 percent of those seats."

That anti-democratic reality is an untenable artifact of the original constitution. Trends suggest the future House and the Senate "will be weighted to two largely different Americas," writes Bump. Fixing that, given the current balance of power and constitutional construction, will be perhaps a greater challenge to democracy than mere policy differences. Demographic trends may favor Democrats in terms of voting majorities, but Republicans have no incentive to fix democracy. All they have to do is stonewall until they can rule indefinitely via the Senate.

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