from the carpetbagger report 1/10/08
What a Bloomberg/Unity agenda might look like
According to several news outlets, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a “research effort” to determine whether he’d be a viable third-party presidential candidate in November. The mayor has reportedly been eyeing “early March as a timetable for making a decision.” All of this, of course, comes just a few days after Bloomberg gathered with a group of bipartisan former officials in Oklahoma, where they apparently talked about how nice it would be if everyone in Washington was nicer to one another. Bloomberg’s perspective at the event, in particular, seemed unusually foolish: “Government is dysfunctional. There is no collaboration and congeniality. There is no working together and ‘Let’s do what’s right for the country.’” This is pretty tiresome. Democrats have an agenda; Republicans have a different one. Both want to do what’s right for the country — but they disagree about how to do that. Do Bloomberg and his cohorts have anything specific in mind? Sort of. Former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn read a statement issued by the group — it said the nation is “headed in the wrong direction” — with a lengthy list of areas of concern. I won’t bother with the whole list, but the highlights include:
* The United States is now unpopular around the world and our credibility is low;
* We’re not leading on counter-terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and climate change;
* The deficit is out of control and the middle-class is struggling;
* Our military is “stretched thin”;
* We lack a coherent energy policy;
* Our schools aren’t good enough;
* Nearly 50 million Americans are without health insurance;
* We’ve neglected infrastructure needs.
I think I’m noticing a pattern here.
All of these concerns are identical to those of most Democrats. Listen to any of the Democratic presidential candidates and you’ll hear largely the same things. All of these problems were created (or exacerbated) by Republican incompetence and/or neglect, and all of them have been met with Democratic policy proposals that have faced GOP obstructionism. It gets to why the Bloomberg initiative is simply inane. Dems and Bloomberg see the same problems. Dems believe the way to address those problems is to implement a progressive policy agenda, while Bloomberg believes we need more “congeniality.” It’s as if we can just split the difference and fix the problems. That may occasionally be sufficient, but not with any of the challenges Bloomberg’s group identified. What’s the split-the-difference solution to global warming? Or Iraq? Or taxes? Or healthcare?
All we get from this silly endeavor are process arguments. They say we need:
* Clear descriptions of how they would establish a government of national unity
* specific strategies for reducing polarization and reaching bipartisan consensus
* plans to go beyond tokenism to appoint a truly bipartisan cabinet with critical posts held by the most qualified people available regardless of political affiliation
* proposals for bipartisan executive and legislative policy groups in critical areas such as national security.
These guys don’t want to offer policy solutions; they want to offer suggestions on how to talk about policy solutions. They don’t care what people say at the negotiating table; they care what the table looks like.
To really tackle climate change, for example, what you need is not “a truly bipartisan cabinet” but rather elected officials who put the national interest over the interests of oil and gas companies. Most of the problem actors here are Republicans, but some are Democrats like Mary Landrieux. Back when he was a right-wing Democratic Senator, David Boren worked slavishly to advance the interests of polluting energy firms. Now he wants us to have more bipartisanship? It’s absurd.
Second is that the egomaniacs like Bloomberg, Perot, Ventura, Boren, Nunn, etc. always want to be visible leaders in this movement at the highest levels and no one wants to do the real work, the invisible party building. You dont create a real, lasting, “good government” solution by simply having a billionaire buy the White House once. You form a credible, third governing alternative by electing quality third/non/post party to the most local, smallest turnout offices and working your way up the ballot so that when the day comes you have a third/non/post party President, you also have a handful (or more) of similarly situated people in the House and Senate to help out.