Investing in Education – Our 21st Century Challenge

By Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, Chair of the Assembly Education CommitteeBrownley_Official_Photo_Color _July 07.jpg
Businesses know that smart investments are the key to future growth. Governments also make smart investments such as the one California made in higher education after adopting a master plan in 1960. Many today credit California universities for its ranking as the eighth largest economy in the world and as an incubator for high technology, biotechnology and agricultural advances.
California’s leadership in education and the economy, however, is in danger of slipping. State education spending fell by $17 billion over the last three years, forcing schools to shorten the school year, increase class size, close school libraries and eliminate summer school among other actions.
In higher education, the loss of funding has pushed up fees at community colleges, California State Universities and the University of California, while the state is offering 15,000 fewer Cal Grants this year for students in need. Not as many students are getting into the colleges as more of them save seats for higher-paying, out-of-state students. Meanwhile, those who can afford the higher fees are struggling to get the courses they need to graduate as classes are cut. Students trying to transfer from community colleges into CSUs and UCs are hitting a wall. All of this is causing a bottleneck, delaying students’ entry into the work force.
The spending cuts also hurt industry. Economists estimate education’s contribution to labor productivity growth ranges between 13 percent and 30 percent. California employers are worried they won’t find employees with the education and skills they need.
Our state has set some of the nation’s highest academic standards for its youth, yet it is failing to provide sufficient resources for them to succeed. Only a few Californians know our per-pupil spending ranks far below the national average – near the bottom when compared with other states. California now faces two lawsuits, Robles-Wong v. California and Campaign for Quality Education v. California, over the lack of adequate funding for public education. In 2009, the Legislature adopted a resolution I carried stating its intention to bring per-pupil spending up to or beyond the national average and to cover the costs of educating California’s diverse student population. This is imperative and we must immediately start figuring out how we are going to fulfill this promise.
One way we can tackle our deficient education funding is by overhauling our overly complex, irrational and inequitable school finance system. Plenty of studies have concluded financial reforms are necessary before we can make significant improvements to our schools, including the Getting Down to Facts studies at Stanford University, the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence and the Public Policy Institute of California. In our current system, an English Learner in one school gets a different level of resources than a similar English Learner in another school. If we create a new school finance structure that is simple, transparent and allocates funds in a more effective way, Californians will be willing to invest more in education.
With this goal in mind, I have introduced several bills over the last five years to develop a new structure. While the measures have received bipartisan support, they were either blocked by a fiscal committee or vetoed by a governor unwilling to commit to accomplishing such a challenging task. This year, I introduced Assembly Bill 18, which sets forth a detailed plan for a simplified school funding system based on the aforementioned studies. It passed the Assembly last month and is now pending in the Senate. Major reforms like these require thoughtful analysis and collaboration. I recently amended my bill based on suggestions I have received from stakeholders and anticipate more amendments as I move forward in the coming year.
AB 18 narrows hundreds of funding streams to three tributaries, leaving just a couple dozen in their existing form. The bill would first establish a base level of funding for all students and would ensure no school loses funds in the base year. Another stream would be devoted and weighted to English Learners and low-income students who need more resources to be successful, while the last would be devoted to quality classroom instruction giving local school districts several options to meet the varied needs of its students.
It doesn’t make sense to distribute more money through a broken system, but it makes perfect sense to fix our school funding “engine” now, while the tank is unfortunately empty, so when we are able to fill it in the future, we will get better mileage out of it.
Making a smart investment in education now will bring substantial returns in the future by fueling our industries with the skilled workers they need to maintain the state’s competitive edge in a global market, and by assuring every Californian has the opportunity to make a sustainable living wage. Everyone benefits.

False Conventional Wisdom In The UK, Too

In England people “know” many of the same false things that people here “know.” Except in England the false things work against English working people instead of against American working people.
I am in England this week and next and am enjoying some pub conversations while here. (Several pubs, actually. Heh.) Here are some of the things that at least some British working people “know.” I think you will find them to be familiar:

  • The reason so many people are unemployed is because the government spends too much money.
  • Public employees get lavish pensions, which is part of why working people are falling behind.
  • The government spends a lot of its money helping countries in Africa and other places.
  • People are living much longer than they used to, so the retirement age should be raised.
  • The government gives a lot of money to people who come here from other countries and then get handouts that the rest of us (British) pay for.
  • Also, there are too many lawsuits.

Sound Familiar?
Does this sound familiar? It looks like the same false propaganda is being served up here in the UK — but with a UK twist. For example, the retirement system here isn’t “going broke,” it just isn’t affordable. (How come no one says our military is “going broke” or unaffordable?) People are coming here from Eastern Europe, not Mexico. The differences stand out for the similarities of the rest of it. Things that work to create anti-government tension and panic get reformatted and used elsewhere. Hey, if it works, why reinvent the wheel?
I did not hear that the problems come from companies not paying taxes, from bailing out the big banks, from the cost of wars, etc. I haven’t probed or argued, just asked what people think to see what is on people’s minds.
I have to emphasize this is just from some conversations and not with all that many people at all. I’m only writing because of the similarities of the justifications for cutting back on things working people get from their government. Again, this is just a few people. It’s like the old newspaper-pundit cab-driver test of conventional wisdom. But I heard echoes of the same stuff that is being dished out in the US.
Things We Know
Everyone reading this has read or is familiar with the premise of The Shock Doctrine (I hope) and maybe Winner-Take-All-Politics and The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy and some of the other key books. Anyway, we all see clearly what is going on behind these things that people “know.” We understand how it works, what the public is hearing and why, who they are hearing this from, and how people are being set against each other and distracted from what is really happening. Working people are being tricked into giving up their share of the common wealth, etc. We get it.
What To Do
But what do we do about it? I think our task, as always, is to get more info out to the public. As more people understand how shock-doctrine attacks work they are more able to resist them. But how do we get more info out to the public? And how do we do that without it sounding like WE are the nutcases? I mean, if you try to tell regular people the crazy things the right is planning for them you sound like an extremist for even saying such things. People are really tuned out these days and don’t see what is happening.
I think sites like, AlterNet, Daily Kos, FDL, Crooks and Liars, etc. have developed a progressive information ecosystem where things are being explained a dozen ways, and understood, and reinforced, over and over, and a lot of people spend time there they are getting it. Here in California we have Speak Out California, The California Progress Report, Calitics and others. So how do we drive more people to those sites? How do we loop more people into the information ecosystem we have going on?
ONE thing I think we can do is ask our labor friends to start bringing their membership in to this loop. I think we have gotten the blogosphere tuned into labor issues, and it’s time for the labor community to start joining back with us now. Join the conversation, help us understand your viewpoint, while we all help; each other understand what is happening to us.
Maybe we can make the blogs and site more accessible to new people who show up to check it out, and explain more about how the comments work, about how to write a diary, etc… Maybe we all need “what this site is about” videos… I think this is a good next step.
What do you think? I think we have to start reaching more and more of the public. We owe it to them. How can we accomplish this?
This post first appeared at Campaign for America’s Future where I am a Fellow.

Absolute MUST-WATCH For All Progressives!!!

Here is the video of last night’s launch of Rebuild the Dream campaign, with Van Jones. ((If you want to skip the music parts, start at 9:15.)
The three big lies:
1) America is broke.
2) Asking the super rich to pay taxes hurts the economy.
3) Hating America’s government and wrecking America’s infrastructure is patriotic.

Watch live streaming video from rebuildthedream at

Alternet has a great write-up of the event and its meaning, in Van Jones Kicks off American Dream Movement with Energetic Rally and Speech at NYC’s Town Hall
And then you can watch this:

Treating our Farm Workers Fairly– Senate Bill 104

 Dylan Anderson is a member of United Farm Workers Internet Communications team. The UFW has been fighting to bring dignity, respect and decent working conditions to our state’s hard-working agricultural workers. Below is his request for Californians to stand-up for these workers. If you are willing to help assure this measure becomes law by signing the petition linked at the bottom of this piece, the long and hard fought battle to achieve these important goals will be closer to reality.

Recently, both the California Senate and Assembly passed SB 104, “The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act.” Introduced by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 104 would give the state’s more than 400,000 farm workers an alternative to on-the-job polling place elections to decide whether to join a union. The new option would allow them to fill out state-issued representation ballots in their homes, away from bosses’ threats and other interference.  If a simple majority – more than 50 percent — of workers sign the ballots, their jobs would be unionized. 


Now the bill is going to Governor Jerry Brown. If he does not sign SB 104 into law, farm workers will continue to face unbearable conditions and pressure. Many workers don’t have access to basic things like shade, water, heat training or even breaks during the hot summer days. And nothing will change. Wage and hour violations will continue. Overexposure to pesticides will go unchallenged. Sexual harassment will remain rampant and the health crises caused by a lack of sanitation and lax safety standards will continue to plague farm workers.

 In an effort to put pressure on Governor Brown to protect farm workers, UFW has created an online petition to gain support. 

 You can find more information on SB 104 here:


This video segment does a good job explaining why SB 104 is so important:


                            To sign the petition, go to:


As always, we at Speak Out California would be interested in your thoughts and comments.

Businesses Hire When Customers Are Coming In The Door

Another bad jobless claims report… and this time Washington seems to have finally noticed that there are some unemployed people out here in the sticks. But instead of jobs programs the geniuses are proposing … what else? … even more tax cuts. (And after a few hours they’ll go back to complaining about deficits but blame “spending.”) And of course, they are once again trying to “appeal to Republican lawmakers” without getting it that Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to slow job growth so they can win the next election.
Bloomberg: Payroll-Tax Break Said to Be Discussed by Obama Aides Amid Slowing Economy,

President Barack Obama’s advisers have discussed seeking a temporary cut in the payroll taxes businesses pay on wages as they debate ways to spur hiring amid signs that the recovery is slowing, according to people familiar with the matter.
. . . The talks reflect the political constraints the White House is operating under with the Republican majority in the U.S. House pushing to cut federal spending. A hiring stimulus based on a tax break for employers may appeal to Republican lawmakers, many of whom have called for measures to help businesses.

Companies Only Hire When Customers Are Coming In The Door
Here is something the geniuses haven’t noticed, in all their geniosity: It doesn’t matter how much more money you give to business owners, businesses are not going to hire any more employees until they have a REASON to – and that reason is customers coming in the door.
Businesses are not going to hire people just to sit around and listen to iPods or read the paper, waiting for a customer.
Terrance Heath, in America’s Unhappy Anniversary: Ten Years Of The Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy,

Republicans claim that preserving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is in the interest of small businesses, but small business owners are starting to demand a repeal of the Bush tax cuts.

We are fed by our consumers, not by our tax breaks,” says Rick Poore, owner of Designwear, Inc., a screen-printing business based in Lincoln, Neb. “If you drive more people to my business, I will hire more people. It’s as simple as that. If you give me a tax break, I’ll just take the wife to the Bahamas.

Businesses are fed by their customers, not by tax cuts. Tax cuts only feed deficits. Customers coming in the door is what causes businesses to hire. In case you missed that: Customers coming in the door is what causes businesses to hire.
Direct Job Creation Is Needed
Until there are more customers businesses are not going to hire. Why should they? So it is up to us (government: We, the People…) to create some customers. The way to do that is to hire people to do some of the things that it is government’s job to do anyway, but government has been putting off because of so many tax cuts.
Fix the infrastructure: Our infrastructure is crumbling. In Obama Should Call Chamber’s Infrastructure Bluff I linked to an Urban Land Institute report on the country’s infrastructure, showing how we are falling behind countries like Brazil, China and India, and to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card, that says a $2.2 trillion investment is needed just to bring the country’s infrastructure back up to current standards.
This infrastructure work has to be done no matter what. The longer we delay it the more our country falls behind. It is millions of jobs that need doing at a time when millions need jobs! (And by the way the government can borrow at nearly zero interest rates right now — one more reason to do it now.)
Green jobs: And then there are the green jobs you should be creating. You should be hiring people to retrofit every home and building in the country to be more energy efficient. This pays for itself because we stop sending so much money to the oil-producing countries, stop putting so much carbon in the air, and our economy becomes more efficient. And put more money into alternative energy, too. I mean, jeeze, geniuses, what part of this is hard to get?
Jobs fix deficits: Hiring people to fix up the infrastructure takes them off the unemployment rolls and off the other assistance programs, lowering government spending on those programs. Having those jobs means they are paying taxes again, raising government revenue. And fixing up the infrastructure makes our businesses more competitive again, growing the economy. It’s a no-brainer which should mean even the DC geniuses can figure it out.
Fix Trade
Because of bad trade deals, much of any revival of our economy just means that we send more money out of the country. The trade deficits, especially with China, are also economy deficits. We are not just sending jobs and money out of the country, we are sending our chances of coming out of this economic slump out of the country as well.
And these trade deals pit exploited, underpaid workers in non- or weak democracies against our workers who had been benefiting from the good wages, workers protections and other non-“business friendly” things that democracy brings along with it.
Our trade deals have made our democracy and the resulting high standard of living into a disadvantage. Who were the geniuses that let that happen?
Restore Long-Term Incentives
Tax cuts have cut the incentive for long-term business models. It used to take time to build a fortune, so businesses had to place themselves within healthy communities with good schools, well-maintained infrastructure and solid, well-funded public structures like the court system. Cutting top tax rates changed business models to make more sense “harvesting” those things in a hurry and moving on to the next community with resources to plunder. Low top tax rates encourage quick-buck schemes.
Propose The Right Thing
Propose the right thing and do it publicly, instead of trying to appease a political ideology bent on destroying government. Doing the right thing is also the right thing politically. If the job situation doesn’t get better you’re going to be thrown out of office. So come one, geniuses, get smart and start hiring people to fix up the infrastructure and make the economy more energy efficient.
10 years of Bush tax cuts is enough! Click here to demand your representative supports the Fairness in Taxation Act so the rich contribute their fair share.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am also a Fellow with CAF.

See WHY Just Cutting Budgets Won’t Reduce Deficits

Austerity — cutting government benefits and services — is not the path to fixing deficits. In fact, economists warn that trying to fix a sluggish economy by cutting government spending will just make things worse. Worse yet, this approach can have damaging effects that last into the future. This can be easily shown with simple calculations.
Economist Brad DeLong talks about Simple Deficit Reduction Arithmetic: A Comment on Kash Mansouri, commenting on Kash Mansouri’s post Some Simple Deficit Reduction Arithmetic.
Start with Kash who sets it up with an easy-to-picture $100 economy.:

Suppose we are in a country that is running a large budget deficit but, for whatever reason, decides that it needs to dramatically reduce it. Take your pick of examples, because there are plenty to choose from: Greece, the UK, the US…
Suppose that the country – let’s call it Austerityland – has a GDP of $100/year, and a budget deficit of $10/yr, or 10% of GDP. And suppose that the government decides it wants to get the deficit down to 5% of GDP. How can it get there?
No, the answer is not “cut spending by $5/yr”.

OK, so we have a $100 GDP with $10 deficits and we want to cut that to $5. Kash explains that a $5 spending cut means (by definition) that GDP immediately drops $5, and this (by definition) $5 drop in consumer income makes tax revenue drop as well (as well as a further drop in GDP). After some calculations (go to the post) Kash shows that a $5 cut makes deficits drop to 7.4%, not 5%, but GDP also drops quite a bit – maybe 7 or 8%. Seriously, go see the calculations, they are not difficult.
So much of our current deficit is because of the Great Recession. Obviously we don’t want to force the economy back into recession with budget cuts causing a big drop in GDP!
(Note, if this spending cut happens at a time when interest rates are high, then the rates might fall as spending cuts reduce demand, which might help spur investment, but in the US interest rates are zero so this won’t happen. The only thing that will happen is demand is reduced and the economy slows.)
Kash concludes,

Why do people keep getting surprised that austerity doesn’t work as well as hoped to reach budget deficit targets? …
But when basic Macro 101 both makes good theoretical sense and also fits what we actually observe, it’s really time to start looking for your handy Occam’s Razor.

In the UK we observe that this effect is now proven as their austerity has forced a big drop in GDP. And the same is happening with Greece as their austerity forces their economy to slow.
But Wait, It Gets Worse
After linking to this post DeLong takes the warning a bit further, pointing out that if some of the “austerity-induced output decline turns into a permanent reduction in potential output” then the “spending cuts this year lowers future annual tax collections…” which means it hurts your ability to pay off debt. Or, in other words, “that austerity today worsens the debt burden.” Click through to see DeLong’s calculations.
Got that? Harming the economy on purpose with spending cuts harms the economy in the future, too.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

How important are the Arts?

I am fortunate to be traveling through portions of Europe that were not too long ago lifted from the veil of the Soviet Union’s gray and dull veneer. The experience is not only illuminating for the normal reasons that travel is mind-expanding, but because I am in a place with a thousand year tradition and commitment to the arts—music is everywhere and consistently good.Last night I marveled at a musician who plays music on glasses that are filled to different levels of water and thus, when touched in such a way can play beautiful melodies and create amazing sounds. Arts, the theatre, and architecture simply soar from place to place and one extraordinary edifice to another. This is the legacy of Prague—a place that has bounced back-and-forth through history under control of one conqueror or another. In just the past hundred years or so there was the overthrow of the Hapsburg Empire, the uniting of geographies to create an unnatural country; Nazi occupation during World War ll; the Soviet occupation for over 40 years and then independence a mere twenty years ago and a poet named Havel becoming its President.  

And all the while, these people have maintained a commitment to the arts–through war and repression they have persisted. Even the dreary and weary vagaries of Soviet domination have been unable to extinguish the love of song and the joy of creating that is clearly a hallmark of this country.

There is clearly a lesson here for us in California that we cannot and should not sacrifice the arts for austerity. We have all but removed them from our schools and have made it difficult for our children to experience music and theater and art because they are the first things to be sacrificed when budgets get tight. Without exposure to creativity, the mind does not develop to its full potential. And how sad, short-sighted and reckless it is to remove these opportunities from our youth—many of whom will never know their potential to play an instrument, write a symphony, build a building or paint a masterpiece and yet who might very well be the next Yo Yo Ma, Mozart, Frank Lloyd Wright or Picasso.
While there is no doubt we need to teach the basic skills to our children, we need to remind ourselves that exposing our children to the arts, music, literature are as basic and fundamental to their education as anything else we put before them. It is through the arts that we appreciate the spiritual (consider the amazing churches and temples of religions throughout the world), the up-lifting quality of Beethoven’s 9th, etc. etc. Without giving our children the chance and choice to pursue these life experiences, we deny them what others know so well as the glue that holds a society and its culture together. Let’s hold tight to what others have known for thousands of years: that we must encourage and pass strong traditions of music and the arts to our children and their children that reflect our nation’s vibrancy and limitless spirit.

Let’s give the ‘People’s Budget’ a chance

When I participated in my first budget battle as a new member of the California Assembly back in the late 1990s, I was admonished that the budget isn’t just a collection of numbers. It is a moral statement of our values as a people and a community. The budgets proposed by the Republicans — both in California and in Washington, D.C. — clearly show that today’s Republican Party values millionaires over working families and Big Oil over seniors.
In California, we have not been able to extract a single Republican vote to extend the current tax rates necessary to protect our schools and create infrastructure to generate jobs. In Congress, the Republicans have gone so far as to adopt a budget that would end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher or coupon program.
This the wrong direction for medical care because it would force seniors to fend for themselves on the private insurance market and continually pay more for their health care costs. The Republicans have yet to explain how they plan to force insurance companies to cover seniors, an age group that is not profitable to insure. How will they insure these people? Will insurance companies continue to increase premiums across the board, as they are doing now? Of course they will. That’s why the Medicare system was created in the first place — because seniors were the most likely to be uninsured, only 14 percent having medical coverage when the program started. While the Medicare system needs reforms to control costs, the answer is not to force our seniors to navigate a private insurance market that will do everything it can to withhold coverage and services. Reducing access and affordability during life’s most difficult moments is morally wrong and not the American way of caring for its vulnerable and deserving citizens.
The same Republican budget would extend tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and continue unnecessary subsidies for Big Oil, at a time of record profits and high prices at the pump. So here we are: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican plan would have your grandparents pay an additional $6,000 out of pocket every year to cover their medical bills so that the Warren Buffets of the world can receive an additional $200,000 tax break and, at the same time, give Big Oil nearly $8 billion a year in subsidies while they continue to make record profits. It begs the question: What exactly do these Republicans value?
Not only is this plan bad for the American people, Americans do not want it. The Republicans in our legislatures are turning a deaf ear to the fact that 84 percent of Americans oppose their plan to privatize Medicare and reduce benefits and 74 percent support eliminating tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. A majority of Americans support eliminating tax breaks for the wealthy. Even close to 60 percent of Independents support eliminating tax cuts for Americans making over $250,000 a year.
There is a better plan, one that will eliminate the deficit and create a surplus by 2021, contrary to the Republican plan that continues to blow holes in the current deficit. The “People’s Budget” advanced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus doesn’t attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, children and seniors, the most vulnerable among us. It would get our fiscal house in order by eliminating tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and make sure they pay their fair share. It would close tax loopholes so that well-paid accountants can’t reduce the tax obligations of the wealthy and big corporations to zero. It would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, finally bringing our troops home and stop the expenditures of billions of dollars a day in other countries when we need to invest right here at home. It would enact a comprehensive jobs program to put America back to work so there are more taxpayers paying into the Treasury and fewer Americans dependent on the social safety net. It would enact a public health insurance option that will create more competition with private insurance companies and reduce premiums for all Americans. That is the direction we should be taking — giving more to the people and less to billionaires and Big Oil. It is a responsible approach that will bring hope, opportunity, dignity and fairness back to our public policy. We can do this and we must if we want to ensure that we really are committed to the future and the American Dream.
This appeared in the Santa Barbara News-Press, May 8, 2011

Appealing To The “Center” Drives Away Voters

Is there a “block” of “centrist” voters who “move” one way or the other, to Democrats or Republicans, depending on whether a candidate takes positions that are “between” the positions of those on the “left” and “right?” This is the standard model followed by many Democratic pollsters, who advise their clients to take wishy-washy positions and avoid clear progressive positions. There is reason to believe this view is fundamentally wrong, and that the metaphor of the existence of a “centrist” is affecting and constraining our ability to understand what actually happens in the voting population.
Washington Post’s The Fix looks at a Pew poll of independent voters in The misunderstood independent,

In politics, it’s often tempting to put independents somewhere in the middle of Republicans and Democrats, politically. They identify somewhere in between the two, so they must be moderates, right?
A new study from the Pew Research Center suggests that’s not so true anymore. Independents, in fact, are a fast-growing and increasingly diverse group that both parties are going to need to study and understand in the years ahead.
. . . Pew identifies three different kinds of independents. Libertarians and Disaffecteds are 21 percent of registered voters and lean towards Republicans; Post-Moderns are 14 percent and lean towards Democrats.
A look at their views on issues shows those three groups can often be among the most extreme on a given topic.
Disaffecteds, for example, believe in helping the needy more than most Democrats. Libertarians side with business more than even the solidly Republican Staunch Conservatives. And Post-Moderns accept homosexuality more than most Democrats. The three independents groups are also less religious, on the whole, than either Republicans or most Democrats.

In the post I wrote here last year, The Elusive “Swing” Vote, I wrote about this idea of a “swing” voter, (note I should have written “few” voters switch instead of flatly saying none),

Have you heard of the “Moveable Middle?” This is the idea that there are voters on the left who will always vote on the left, and voters on the right, who will always vote on the right, and then there are voters between them who switch back and forth. They are called “swing voters.”
So the idea in politics is that in order to win elections you have to take positions that appeal to these voters, and they will “switch” and vote for you instead of for the other side. This is a fundamental mistake.
Here is what is very important to understand about the “swing” vote: No voters “switch.” That is the wrong lesson. There are not voters who “swing” there are left voters and right voters in this middle segment who either show up and vote or do not show up and vote, and this causes this “swing” segment to swing.
The lesson to learn: You have to deliver for YOUR part of that swing segment or they don’t show up and vote for you. That is what makes the segment “swing.”

That post looked at polling by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that reached conclusions similar to this more recent Pew polling.
So I’ve been saying that Dem pollsters are using the wrong model of what an independent voter is, telling the politicians that there is a “block” of independents who will vote one way or the other depending on what they hear. With this model they have to “move to the center” always staying in “between” the position of liberals and the far right, hoping to “attract” these voters away from the other side. They describe a single “center” or “independent voter” who will vote one way or another depending on whether they thing a candidate is “in between” the two poles, even when those poles have been moved very far to the right.
The problem here is the effect the metaphor of a “center” has on our thinking. Thinking about independent voters as being a “block” that is “between” the parties is the problem. It forces the brain into a constraint because of the visual image that it evokes. What I mean is that the actual language of “centrist” changes how we think. The metaphor makes us think they are “between” something called left and right. And as a result it forces certain conclusions.
The PCCC and now the Pew poll show us that these “independent” voters are NOT some group that sits between the positions of the parties. They are not a block and they are not between. Democrats and especially their pollsters think of them as a block that is between, and this is why the do what they do.
Karl Rove believed that there were independents who were not registered Republican because the party was not far enough to the right for them, who would only turn out if the party gave them something to vote for. I think Karl Rove’s model is more accurate, that the independent voters are a number of groups, and very large numbers of them are MORE to the left or right than the parties, and don’t vote unless the parties appeal enough to them.
Rove decided this means the Republicans need to move ever more to the right, and this will cause those “independent” voters who had changed their affiliation out of disgust with the centrism of their party to now turn out and vote.
I think Rove nailed it. the PCCC had a poll a while back that showed this, and now see below. Dems have it exactly wrong, what they are doing turns off those independents who might have turned out to vote for them.
The way to grow your voting base is NOT to try to “appeal” to some group that is not left or right, but is “between” something called left and right. To get more voters — especially the “independent” ones who won’t identify with a party — is to take stands, be more committed to progressive positions, and to articulate them more clearly.