A lot of it comes down to how we phrase things.

We have so much common ground.

Instead of “defund the police,” how about “improve the police”? 

Is there anyone who doesn’t think, after seeing all we’ve seen, improvement is needed?

I’d be first to agree that “improve the police” is a pathetic battle cry when marching in the streets; but our leaders, when asked about it, need to say — as most have — that they’re NOT for defunding the police.  That they’re saddened and outraged — as all Americans are — at what they’ve seen.  That they demand taxpayer funds be used more effectively — with better training, zero tolerance for racism, a national registry of fired cops (so they don’t merely move on to some other jurisdiction) . . . perhaps even more funding if it’s required for universal body cams, or to hire mental-health professionals to ride along on certain kinds of calls.

There absolutely ways to do better and we must.  But handing Limbaugh, Trump, Fox News and Q-Anon “defund the police” will only set us back.

Instead of “pro-abortion,” how about “pro-choice”?

Oh, wait — we did that one.  And see?  Much of the country is willing to find common ground within that framework.  No one likes abortion or hopes to need one.  The Clinton mantra should be repeated at every opportunity: abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”  Even if Roe were overturned, abortion would remain legal for anyone who can afford to travel.  In a less polarized world, 90% of even strong pro-lifers might embrace Plan B to help make abortion rare . . . and might take into account more than this sole issue when casting their vote.

Instead of “reparati0ns,” how about “affirmative opportunity”?

You’ll likely come up with something better, I’m no Frank Luntz.*  But to my Trump friends who focus on their never having enslaved anyone, “reparations” just presses all the wrong buttons.  It conjures big tax bills to give free money to anyone who can prove some connection to slavery eight generations back.  Their ancestors arrived penniless from Ireland, or wherever, and did just fine.

But should we not make an extra effort — as to a large but insufficient extent we already have — to give everyone a decent shot?  We already have educational assistance of all kinds and publicly funded after-school programs, and opportunity zones, and . . . the only thing is, if you look at the statistics or read Caste, we’ve clearly not done enough.

Whatever more we do do should apply broadly — to white kids in Appalachia and Latinx kids in Texas, e.g. — much as Social Security gained broad support by providing benefits to everyone.  Granted, struggling white and Latinx kids’ ancestors weren’t forced to lay our economic foundation (and build the White House) without pay; or whipped or lynched or denied the right to vote (or effectively denied it again thanks to Chief Justice Roberts).  But if in seeking progress for our African-American fellow citizens we also boost others who are struggling, where’s the harm?  Let’s promote opportunity for everyone.

Instead of “pack the Court,” how about “depoliticize the Court”?

Few Americans think the Court should be political.  In an ideal world, it would be a diverse group of fair-minded, incorruptible, brilliant legal minds striving to make sense of what the Constitution calls upon them to do — they will disagree on what that is — and then doing their best to do it.

Right now, 6 of the 9 are Catholic and 6 of the 9 were appointed by Republican presidents even though only 1 time in the last 8 — 2004 — did the Republican get as many votes as the Democrat.  Not in 1992 or 1996 or 2000 or 2008 or 2012 or 2016 or 2020.

That can’t strike anyone as anything but weird.  Let’s take Pete Buttigieg’s suggestion and depoliticize the court.  Ask President Biden to appoint three justices, so it’s 6 and 6, and have those 12 select either one or three more . . . who would of necessity be moderates . . . to be the tie-breaker/s.  A lot of the country is moderate.  Skewing the Court toward more moderation would not be a bad thing.

Yes, eventually it could go further and further out of whack.  But for a decade or two at least, this would go a long way toward de-polarizing the country, and uniting us — within reason — once again.

Instead of “democratic socialism,” how about “capitalism plus”?

Same thing, better words.

Public schools and streets and roads and bridges are socialist, government-run and paid for with tax dollars.  Yet few Republicans, Independents, or Democrats would privatize them.

Why not just call this, “capitalism plus”?

Few Republicans, Independents, or Democrats would abolish Social Security.  Or unemployment insurance.  Or federal disaster assistance.  All paid for with tax dollars and administered by the government.

Capitalism plus!

Few would vote to privatize police and fire services, marketing them to families one by one such that only those who paid directly got protection.

Or vote to sell the VA hospitals to a private hospital chain that provided care only to veterans with money.

All this is socialistic, very much like the rest of the First World, but I see no harm in calling it “capitalism plus” if that helps us recognize our common ground.

On health care, most agree Medicare is a good thing — “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!” — and it, too, is run by the government, paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Every one of us — Democrats included — favors “great health care for everybody at a tiny fraction of the price.”  Trump just never told us how it would magically appear once he and his party repealed Obamacare.

Republican politicians are adamant about not accepting Medicaid expansion funds or regulating insurance company pay-outs (the Affordable Care Act requires no more than 15%-20% of premiums be retained for administrative costs and profit) .

But how does that make us healthier or more secure?

I do think Republicans are right on this much:

As a practical matter, America can’t just flip a switch and adopt some version of the quality universal health care enjoyed by every other other First World country on the planet.

So at least for now, a lot of Democrats think we should improve on the Affordable Care Act by adding a “public option” to our list of competing health insurance choices.  And maybe gradually lowering the Medicare eligibility age.  Maybe gradually expanding the populations VA hospitals can serve. (Spouses?)  And certainly allowing for negotiated prescription drug prices.

There’s room for lots of disagreement over how best to do all this — but also lots of room for compromise, without demonizing anyone engaged in the discussions.

So even though I totally favor Bernie’s goal of free universal health care, and applaud all those, like AOC and others, fighting for it — and recognize that “democratic socialism” is a fair synonym — why not call it “capitalism plus'” instead?

The goal is to help people who genuinely fear “socialism” to accept policies that would improve their lives.

It’s not entirely the way Obamacare polled terribly among Republicans, but “the Affordable Care Act” polled pretty well.

Same thing.  Different words.

Capitalism plus.

(Not a phrase original with me, by the way.  I thought it was Howard Dean but he says no.  If you can let me know, I’d like to give credit where it’s due.)



So Georgia.

In addition to all the tremendous efforts we will make to turn out “our” voters, I would love to see some kind of national appeal . . . from everyone from Jimmy Carter and former Senator Sam Nunn to any of these rock stars and anyone else who might resonate with a broader Georgia audience . . . saying, basically:


This is Georgia’s moment.  Georgia has within its power to break the terrible gridlock that’s held us back for so, so long now, as our infrastructure steadily crumbles and our people become more divided and we can’t even pass legislation that 70% and 80% and sometimes even 90% of Americans agree we want.

We know there’s the fear that if Mitch McConnell can’t block everything, something awful will happen.  But in the first place, Joe Biden and Jon Ossoff and Jamie Harrison are no different from you — they want only good things to happen.

And while we obviously don’t always agree on just how best to make good things happen, they are people who believe in compromise.  Mitch McConnell has proven he does not.

If you make the effort vote for Ossoff and Warnock, you’ll be taking the risk that — freed up from gridlock by the narrowest of hair-thin margins — compromise and progress will once again be possible in America.  You will be voting for a brighter future not just for Georgia, but for all of America, red, blue, and purple.

And look: if you decide you DON’T like the result, know this: Republicans can declare it a failed experiment and reestablish gridlock just a very short time from now, in 2022.

Save America, Georgia.  History will love you for it.


Something like that?



*Many years ago I had dinner with Frank Luntz, the genius behind calling the “estate tax” the “death tax” and so much other effective Republican wordsmithing.  It quickly became apparent to me that he was a fine fellow who shared most of my own values and views, so I finally blurted out, “Frank!  You’re not a Republican!  You’re a Democrat!  Why are you doing this for them instead of us?!”  To which he laughed and replied, “You pay me $5 million a year and I will.”  In hindsight, it might have been money well spent.

 

 

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