A controversial blurb in Rolling Stone shows what a post-Obama liberal agenda could look like.
Jesse A. Myerson of Rolling Stone probably didn’t intend to create a political firestorm when he wrote a short piece outlying five possible liberal agenda items for the future. But he did. It’s a pretty basic platform really. Myerson calls for guaranteed work for everyone that wants it, a universal basic income for all Americans, a land-value tax that taxes wealth instead of an income tax that taxes labor, a national sovereign wealth fund Alaska style, and publicly owned banks North Dakota style.
The fallout was what you might expect from such a plan: conservatives were enraged by Myerson’s basic five point plan, and if you don’t believe me just read the comments. But the platform struck me as a reasonable strategy for liberals in the post-Obama era.
This is especially helpful since it seems that being bitter about Obama is something of a cottage industry among liberals since 2008. Indeed Jonathan Chait pointed out in 2011 that liberals being bitter about the Obama presidency actually predates the Obama presidency.
These sorts of complaints have always struck me as being both silly and misguided. Silly because they all assume what political scientist Brendan Nyhan once called “the Green Lantern theory of the presidency.” That is the president is a sort of elected king who can do whatever he wishes by, like the Green Lantern, showing enough force of will. They also struck me as misguided because like it or not Obama is the President until January of 2017, if you’re a disappointed liberal you should be working to elect a more liberal president to replace him, something that few liberals seem to be doing these days.
Furthermore Myerson’s piece shows something that seems to be lacking with liberals in the Obama Age. Rather than complain about past defeats and the personal failings of the powerful, Myerson swings for the fences with big bold ideas about how he thinks we could make a better, more liberal society. Conservatives do this all the time, with plans to privatize Social Security, or turn Medicaid into a state program.
Selling yourself as a moderate sensible politician who can control those people out on the fringe of your political party ultimately only really works if there are people actually out there on the fringe. Rather than complain about the moderates, liberals would do themselves a favor by advocating new policies that make the moderates actually look moderate. Who knows, maybe they might make employment a right rather than a privilege.
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