Saturday, March 12, 2005

Greg Anrig: Democrats, Social Security, and Framing

Greg Anrig, in the American Journal, advocates for just the sort of framing of the Democrats and Republicans that I am arguing for here. While I usually focus on the military side, Anrig proposes using the Social Security debate for the same purpose.
the much more lasting and important opportunity that the privatization push offers to liberals, should they choose to recognize it, is the chance to use this debate as a springboard for defining a coherent, compelling, and fresh progressive vision. To take full advantage of the presidentÂ’s gift, liberals defending Social Security against privatization should emphasize at every turn four principles that draw a sharp distinction between the progressive and conservative worldview: 1) making the public feel more, not less, secure; 2) producing successful results in the real world, rather than fixating on unproven ideology; 3) serving everyone, not just the upper crust, special interests, or particular demographic groups; and 4) restoring public trust in government, instead of actively undermining it.
(emphasis added)
Actually, the last one that he uses is one that I have yet to emphasize, but it is an extremely important one. The partisan attacks by the Bush Administration and its proxies against against current and former government staff, including Zinni, Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, and many others, seriously undermines the ability of our Government to recruit people to work within the government for the good of our nation, and this fact needs to be heavily emphasized by Democrats.

Anrig points to to the various ways that poor and middle-class Americans are feeling less secure. (It's also important to note that the vast majority of our soldiers find themselves amongst this group):
Elizabeth Warren, Amelia Warren Tyagi, and Jacob Hacker have demonstrated in recent books that American families across all but the highest rungs of the income ladder today confront a wide array of intensified financial pressures imposed by the market forces that conservatives extol. The list includes rising health-care costs, decreased job security, less stable family incomes, unprecedented levels of household debt combined with negligible personal savings, less reliable pensions, and escalating child-care expenses. Because economic globalization and other free-market dynamics are the very source of those strains, the conservative response -- let the market take care of it -- is worthy of ridicule.

One further advantage of focusing on "security" is the word's applicability to the public's other main source of fear: terrorism. Support for the president's response to 9/11 may have been the single most important factor in his victory, and polls show that liberals get relatively poor ratings on both "national security" and "homeland security." Revitalizing progressivism will be an uphill battle without narrowing the gap on those issues. While there are any number of substantive strategies for liberals on those fronts that hold great promise-- see, for example, The Century Foundation's Defeating the Jihadists: A Blueprint for Action by Richard A. Clarke et al -- simply gaining ownership of the word "security"; has the potential to pay enormous dividends with the public on both domestic and international issues.

Progressives should no longer be undecided about what should come between "It's" and "stupid." Security, security, security.
I think that I just found the new motto for this site!

The piece ends with this:
The two-sentence story that the Social Security debate reinforces is this: Liberals can be trusted to make all Americans feel more secure. Conservatives are dividers, not uniters; they cannot be trusted to run the government; they care more about ideology than results; and they value the unpredictability of markets over your personal security.

Progressives, it's high time for a comeback.
Amen! Now if only we could find candidates who could embody these facts...