Friday, October 4, 2019

Honoring Conservative Values in a Progressive Agenda

The impeachment express is full ahead, and not without justification.  Combine it with Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop blustering about other peoples’ corruption, and we’re all distracted from important issues that must be addressed by the next administration. 

Democrats will nominate a liberal candidate who will be quickly labeled as a radical left wing socialist, in spite of the fact the he or she will be about as mainstream as can be.  We’ve already seen how Trump’s mastery at slapping the socialist label on primary candidates resonates with those who think of themselves as conservatives, even if they dislike Trump.  Consider these talking points currently used by the GOP:
  • Pelosi & Co. are holding hostage Trump’s agenda and the good of the country
  • Democrats will raise taxes (on you), squander resources on free health care and college tuition, open borders to all immigrants, let inmates vote, allow dangerous abortions, and abolish the electoral college.
  • They promote a big government socialist agenda.
  • Big and social media are in their pocket.

They’re points engineered to raise emotional angst to a high level, and they work very well, partly because they can cite something some Democrat once said that, out of context, lends them credence.  To be sure, Democrats have their own emotional trigger pulling talking points, but right wing Republicans have honed theirs with more skill to better effect. 

On the other hand, the GOP is also raising issues that show concern for:
  • Stagnant wages
  • Soaring deficits
  • Rebuilding infrastructure
  • Fixing health care
  • Adequate funding for Social Security and Medicare
  • Veterans health care
  • Global instability
  • Cyber security

Each of these issues is addressed as a priority in various campaign messages.  They’re also issues of concern to progressives because they’re important to the future of the nation.  In an age of polarization, they cross the divide.  It means a key to wining the election will be how well the candidate and party can truthfully present a progressive agenda appealing to the values of voters who have voted Republican, or who tend to not vote at all.  They will never win over libertarians for whom the federal government is a malevolent creature in need of dismantling.  But they can win over those whose conservative values can be honored by a progressive agenda.

What would such and agenda look like?  Here are a few thoughts that might be worth considering.  Advance warning: there is nothing here about climate change as such, and no grand scheme for health care.

  1. Modest changes to the IRS code to encourage higher rates of wage growth for low and middle income earners.  Use corporate tax credits to create incentives for higher wages at lower levels.  Apply tax penalties for overuse of stock buybacks and excessive executive compensation.
  2. An infrastructure plan focussed on the Interstate, bridges, water & sewer systems, and regional airport improvements.
  3. Demonstration of ability to restore respect for American leadership on the world stage.
  4. Free but fair trade through reengagement with multilateral negotiations emphasizing worker rights, and protection for intellectual property.  Make agriculture a public priority.
  5. Revise the tax code to make it more fair to all, with a significantly higher marginal rate at the top end.
  6. A health care plan expanding the ACA and allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for all.
  7. An affordable housing program that restores special advantages for tax credit financing to build low and moderate income housing through Housing Authorities and NGOs.  Expand and fully fund the voucher program.  Strengthen HUD enforcement of rules for safe, clean housing financed under its authority.
  8. Offer planning assistance to encourage economic diversification in distressed areas.
  9. Restore regulations protecting health and the environment, but streamline processes, and require federal agencies to adopt customer service practices replacing impersonal bureaucratic enforcement.
  10. Reconfigure FEMA to accommodate greater frequency of severe weather events.  Restrict rebuilding grants to reasonably safe areas.
  11. Restore the integrity of government, particularly in the: FEC, SEC, Inspectors General, CFPB, Consumer Protection Bureau, and federal R&D agencies.
  12. Immigration of course, but keep it simple.  Make it clear, no open borders; simplify and speed up processing asylum seekers; allow higher numbers of legal immigrants; reform CBP; guarantee dreamer protection.
  13. Restore Federal budget integrity: eliminate debt ceiling; commit to getting budgets and appropriations out on time; improve the sequester system to once again initiate deficit reduction without jeopardizing core social programs.  
  14. Celebrate low unemployment numbers as long as they last.
  15. Celebrate military preparedness, but avoid promises of new weapons systems.  Restore funding highjacked for the wall.
  16. Celebrate House passed legislation stopped in the Senate without further consideration.
It’s not a perfect agenda, not even a beautiful one.  The intent is to appeal to conservative minded voters who represent significant numbers of electoral votes, as well as urban voters in traditionally Republican neighborhoods, because we need them. 



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