February 6th, 2012

In the GOP, there is, or was, a horse-race for the Presidential nomination: strike that as unfair to horses, and the race has been won by the Vulcan ahead of the circus barker and the various escapees from their carers. We know the platform already: soak the poor and the middle class.

On the Democratic side, we know the candidate – the sitting President, barring acts of God or the Queen’s Republic’s enemies. But what’s the platform? Time to get a discussion going. Don’t let the Broderist insiders write it unconstrained.

The aim and working hypothesis has to be a Democratic congressional majority as well as the White House. Without that, all a re-elected President Obama can do is veto attempts to dismantle his legacy, as well as FDR’s and LBJ’s. So the platform has to be a congressional one too. Progressives have real influence here in differential support. They should use their contributions intelligently, funding like-minded PACS and candidates, and not generic party funds. (I declare a non-interest here: as a foreigner I’m not allowed to make political donations).

A few suggestions.
1. The Bush tax cuts
Above all, no pre-emptive cave-in. The cuts must expire in December, and the Republicans don’t have the votes to stop it. Democrats should campaign on the reintroduction of the middle-class component only.
If the platform is honest about long-term fiscal sustainability the reintroduction should be either temporary (2 or 4 years), offset or both. Which brings us to:

2. Climate change
Make a commitment to a 450 ppm cap on the global CO2-eq concentration as a core national interest, to be kept whatever it takes in domestic and foreign policy. The cap should be defined as a step towards a safer long-term 350 ppm (lower than the present). There is no point compromising with denialists on targets – they won’t – so you might as well have the science on your side.
The clever domestic policy here isn’t to reintroduce cap-and-trade, but to copy the Australian model of a carbon tax refunded as tax cuts. So the new carbon tax would finance the middle-class component of the Bush-Obama tax cut.

3. Campaign finance
The GOP strategy for his year’s election, with a weak candidate, is to buy it. In self-defence, the Democrats must put a lid on plutocrat vote-buying after this election, which will be ruinous. So the platform should include:
- legislation imposing the strongest possible limitations compatible with Citizens United;
- a commitment to reverse the decision as wrongly decided, and as a litmus test for future SCOTUS nominations;
- free air time for party political broadcasts, as in Europe.

4. The War on Terror
Declare success (not victory) in the war with the incapacitation of Al Qaeda. Terrorism should revert to being an ordinary crime and chronic, low-level national security problem. Close GITMO, finally.
Obama won’t buy this, so it’s an issue for selective pressure on Congressional candidates.

5. Appointments
Obama’s failure to appoint staff for his administration has been one of his worst failings. He has dithered on nominations out of misplaced perfectionism, and he has weakly let the GOP Senators turn selective scrutiny into systematic sabotage. So Candidate Obama should declare that on January 1, 2013, he will publish a list of nominations to every single vacancy in his Administration requiring Senate confirmation; set a short deadline for up-or-down votes; and declare his intention to appoint anybody not previously voted down at the first recess of Congress. The only exception will be SCOTUS judges.

6. ACA
Defend it to the death.

7. Debt limit
Declare it to be unconstitutional.

8. Rupert Murdoch
Strip him of his citizenship as a criminal phone tapper and polluter of the airwaves, then break up his empire on antitrust grounds. (Allow me one fantasy.)
* * * * *

Any other ideas, or different ones on these topics?