Friday, January 22, 2016

Policy and Presidential Candidates

Vox has a symposium up on whether policy proposals matter for presidential candidates.  Lots of back and forth but not a whole lot of answering the question.  I think Ezra's comments toward the end were the best part I read:
Ezra Klein So to offer one overarching thought here: For all kinds of reasons, I think a giant percentage of campaign coverage is useless at best, counterproductive at worst. There's demand for much more coverage than there is actually important news during the campaign, the coverage squeezes out important non-campaign stories, and the coverage often turns out to have been a really poor guide to what officials do once elected.
I think policy coverage is relatively better than most forms of campaign coverage, but the whole enterprise has some real problems that I don't think anyone actually knows how to solve.
While it was hinted at elsewhere I think that policy proposals are seen as a window into what the candidate values.  I think this is one of the reasons that Bernie Sanders resonates so well in the primary.  His policy proposals are much more in line with Democratic values and Democratic voters.  Hillary Clinton's proposals, in being "pragmatic" don't line up as well with the values of the Democratic primary voters (or, really, the general election voters).  They reflect a lack of solid values.  Dealmaking is not a value.  It is a good thing to be capable of for a president, but for a primary voter you really want to know that those deals are being made with your values in mind and with every attempt to get as much as possible in that direction.

I don't mind "pragmatic" policy proposals, but the candidates should, along with those, make it clear to voters what their ideals are, and unrealistic fantasy proposals do that.  I remember reading (and writing) quite a few complaints about Obama compromising with himself before sending bills to the floor then having to move a compromised position further to the right to get it passed.  I don't know whether it would have changed the legislation that did get passed, but it would have been nice if he had staked out a solid Democratic bill/position to start with so that the country knew where that position was, and so that the Republicans would have a harder time pushing the Overton window even further right (remember: the ACA was and is the right wing answer to universal coverage but now most people consider it a liberal bill).

Hillary Clinton's policy proposals are a continuance of this part of the Obama presidency that many [liberal] Democrats did not like.  Add that to her Iraq war vote (which is still an issue to lots of people...including me) and you get a candidate that many Democratic primary voters are not going to like.  Bernie may not be as effective, but lots of primary voters trust that he will fight for them more than they do Hillary.

No comments: