Monday, July 25, 2016

The Roads Past Obama

Jonathan Martin of the NY Times asks where do the Democrats go should they win in 2017, and the best he can come up with is "maybe we'll have roads."

It is hardly the stuff of the Great Society, a moonshot or even “a chicken in every pot.” But there is a view among Democrats that rebuilding the country’s roads, bridges, airports and railways represents an opportunity to use government in a way that can create jobs, appeal to both wings of their own party and win over some Republicans, who may have a difficult time saying no to an infusion of money for their states and districts.

“Who’s against infrastructure?” Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia said.

Mr. McAuliffe, a close friend and ally of the Clintons, said that in his new capacity as chairman of the National Governors Association he would convene an infrastructure summit meeting with the nation’s governors immediately after the election to build momentum for a bill and exert pressure on congressional Republicans.

Yet beyond this short-term objective, there are clashing views about how to further the cause of economic equality at a moment of technological transformation. Centrist Democrats are focused largely on changes to the tax code, work-force development and other incremental steps to help people adjust to a shifting workplace.

“We all believe in economic opportunity for everybody,” Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware said. “The difference between myself and Senator Sanders and Senator Warren,” he added, referring to Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, “is they think that’s not happening because the system is rigged, and I think it’s not happening because the system is changing.”

The strength of Mr. Sanders’s campaign, however, has emboldened liberals and made them unwilling to settle for small-bore changes to the political system.

“Many working people were inspired by his message of aiming higher, not for continuity,” said Larry Cohen, the former president of the communications workers’ union and a prominent backer of Mr. Sanders. Echoing the former candidate, Mr. Cohen said major changes were needed to the country’s campaign finance laws, banks and trade laws.

“The way we put food on the table and higher education within reach is to create a democracy where working people count as much as wealthy people,” he said.

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the service workers’ union, said the party’s liberal platform reflected Democrats’ “choice to meet the moment” and the pressure that progressive activists have applied to the party elite.

“We think that government now has to play a role in backing the collective action happening all across the progressive movement,” Ms. Henry said, pointing to efforts to organize fast-food workers as one example.

Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of the progressive, said it would be incumbent on Mrs. Clinton to fight for the parts of Mr. Sanders’s populist agenda she has embraced. “If she runs on those ideas, forces Republicans to take tough votes, then ultimately the voters will reward the party that speaks to their economic concerns,” he said.

But for Democrats facing re-election in two years, especially in more competitive parts of the country, there is more of an appetite for conciliation than for confrontation.

“It’s important to show the American people that Washington can work,” said Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. “I personally feel urgency about getting some things done.”

The problem is as long as Republicans control either or both chambers in Congress, or God help us the White House, government will not work.  Really, all the heavy lifting President Obama did came in 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats were in charge.

I'm much more worried about a post-meltdown GOP than I am a post-Obama Democratic Party. As i keep saying, the 60 million or so people who will vote for Trump aren't magically going to vanish on November 9th.

Keeping bridges from collapsing may be too much to hope for.

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