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November 01, 2010


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I think this is a great post. One correction and one question:

Dems retook Congress only 4 years ago, in 2006; when Katrina struck in 2005, the GOP controlled the WH, House and Senate.

I totally hear you on the Dem elite/expert/technocrat thing...but I'm a little fuzzy on your juxtaposition b/w "ideas" and getting down to work. Surely there still need to be ideas and policy interventions guiding the work that needs to be done? I don't think the problem is just about ideas - it's the wrong ideas and less than we'd like to see on execution. Measly stimulus, no jobs bill, weakened financial re-regulation, etc. etc.

Anyway, I just am curious if you think "doers" are pp whose m.o. is to throw stuff up at the wall and see what sticks. That's not exactly reassuring...

I knew you would manage to poke at this piece's weakest links...

"Six years ago"? What was I thinking?... I think I was subtracting 2011 from 2005, or something; didn't we win back the Senate in 2004? Just Kidding (JK, as they say). :) Total slip of the typing fingers... and a good catch.

In terms of what I mean by "concrete" or "practical" "doers"... I mean, there's the whole problem in a nutshell, right? I mean you could argue,as some do (notably, I'd guess, say, a Howard Dean or Tom Daschle), that healthcare "reform" is just chock full of practical and concrete... and yet that new law is example one of the problem, rather than solution...

I suppose what I mean is I wish that Administration officials would stop using using terms like "ambitious" and "agenda" when describing the work of governing; everything is too big, too much... sending in the big guns when we need flyswatters, or something similar. What I mean is... why not call Janet Napolitano in and have her team at ICE sit down and come up with, say, 6 or 7 procedural improvements to the green card process? Starting there - and subsequently identifying problems in the actual, legal process to become a citizen - would then reframe the "immigration debate" into a process improvement discussion. I could think of similar ways to approach education policy, or housing... or having Kathleen Sibelius marshall a task force to streamline Medicare in 5 different ways. It's a small scale approach that takes advantage of their relative strengths - the wonky, analytical, educated expertise - and aims it at what really makes a difference to people and eases fears about government. It can work, it can help... and here's how.

I think the problem when "educated" and "elite" meet is that there's an instinctive sense that things have be that much better, that much more, that much bigger; I think the Obama Administration is too easily swayed by its press - not that they're the second coming, but that they were put there to make big accomplishments, to see "hope" and "change" as bigger than they actually are. Change things at a more basic, more fundamental level... and then see what builds. We're married, as Democrats to wanting Roosevelt or Kennedy (or perhaps, more prosaically, Johnson) - size accomplishments and great people striding the big stage. And I've argued all along that Obama is bigger, really, when he starts from being average size. Experience, I think, would have been a good teacher for him on that. But he didn't get that... and now, here we are.

You are an incrementalist, it sounds like...


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