Great article by Stanley B. Greenberg. Some excerpts:
In analyzing these polls in the United States, I see clearly that voters feel ever more estranged from government — and that they associate Democrats with government. If Democrats are going to be encumbered by that link, they need to change voters’ feelings about government. They can recite their good plans as a mantra and raise their voices as if they had not been heard, but voters will not listen to them if government is disreputable.
But a crisis of government legitimacy is a crisis of liberalism. It doesn’t hurt Republicans. If government is seen as useless, what is the point of electing Democrats who aim to use government to advance some public end?
Government rushes to help the irresponsible and does little for the responsible. Wall Street lobbyists govern, not Main Street voters. Vexingly, this promotes both national and middle-class decline yet cannot be moved by conventional democratic politics. Lost jobs, soaring spending and crippling debt make America ever weaker, unable to meet its basic obligations to educate and protect its citizens. Yet politicians take care of themselves and party interests, while government grows remote and unresponsive, leaving people feeling powerless.
The Democrats have to start detoxifying politics by proposing to severely limit or bar individual and corporate campaign contributions, which would mean a fight with the Supreme Court. They must make the case for public financing of campaigns and force the broadcast and cable networks to provide free time for candidate ads. And they must become the strongest advocates for transparency in campaign donations and in the lobbying of elected officials.
If they want to win the trust of the public, Democrats should propose taxing lobbyist expenses and excessive chief executive bonuses and put a small fee on the sale of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. By radically simplifying the tax code to allow only a few deductions, the Democrats would generate new revenue and remove the loopholes that allow special interests to win favorable treatment. The ordinary citizen, according to our surveys and focus groups, feels there is no way to play that game and views simplifying the tax code as an important reform.
To show that government can protect the nation’s interests, Democrats should advocate policies that would control the borders and address problems of undocumented workers.
Rather than treating deficit reduction as an “eat your peas moment,” progressives should embrace the liberal think tanks’ bold deficit plans, which would raise taxes more and defend progressive priorities.
Recently, it has been the conservatives, the Tea Party members and the anti-immigrant groups who understand the anger with government, and rush in to exploit it. Perhaps now, with the debacle in Washington, liberals will become instinctively angry with this illegitimate government and build their politics from there.