Friday, July 1, 2016

Hillary should "go big" on democracy reform -- Robert Reich

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, wrote an article urging Hillary Clinton to "go big" on policies to reform our democracy.   Here are some excerpts:
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". . . . So far, [Clinton has] put forth a bunch of respectable policy ideasBut they’re small relative to the economic problems most Americans face and to Americans’ overwhelming sense the nation is off track. 

"She needs a big idea that gives her candidacy a purpose and rationale — and, if she’s elected president, a mandate to get something hugely important done.  What could that big idea be?   I can think of several big economic proposals. The problem is they couldn’t get through Congress - even if, as now seems possible, Democrats retake the Senate. Nor, for that matter, could Hillary’s smaller ideas get through.

"Which suggests a really big idea — an idea that’s the prerequisite for every other one, an idea that directly addresses what’s disturbing so many Americans today — an idea that, if she truly commits herself to it, would even reassure voters about Hillary Clinton herself.

"The big idea I’m talking about is democracy.

"Everyone knows our democracy is drowning under big money. . . .  almost 80 percent of Americans think . . . big money’s political influence has rigged the economic system in favor of those at the top. . . .  Which has fueled this year’s anti-establishment rebellions . . . .  A study . . . took a close look at 1,799 policy issues, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, and average citizens.

"Their conclusion: 'The preferences of average Americans appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and big business. . . . 

"Clinton should focus her campaign on reversing all of this.   For a start, she should commit to nominating Supreme Court justices who will strike down 'Citizen’s United,'. . .   fight for public financing of general elections for president and for congress . . . . demand full disclosure of all sources of campaign funding, [and] . . . . slow the revolving door . . . between high-level government service and lobbying or corporate jobs, and a similar interval between serving as a top executive or director of a major Wall Street bank and serving at a top level position in the executive branch.

"Will Hillary Clinton make restoring democracy her big idea?  When she announced her candidacy she said 'the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top' and that she wants to be the 'champion' of 'everyday Americans.'  The best way to ensure everyday Americans get a fair deal is to make our democracy work again."

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Bernie Sanders would have tried to do all this.  The problem with Reich's suggestion is this:   If, as he says, Clinton's "small ideas" couldn't get through congress, how does he think she will get this "big idea" passed?    I'm all for it.   I think Clinton might be too.  In fact, she has said some of this.  But can she actually get it done?   And is it worth the try, even if she can't?  It's the old conundrum of idealism vs pragmatism.

The answer, of course, lies in electing Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.  I think, along with Sanders, that her best chance of doing that is to go for this Big Idea.   I believe the voters will respond.    It would certainly bring in more Sanders voters;  but, to do that, she needs to make a stronger commitment and convince us that she will really buck all those big donors and Wall Street interests who have backed her.  I hope she means it.


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