Some of the best minds of our generation’s left-liberal thinkers and political agitators are busy these days composing and publishing “to-do” lists for Hillary Clinton. Their sincere suggestions are worthy ideas for economic and social reforms, nothing very radical but smart measures that will make life better for lots of people. Raise the minimum wage, pay equity for women, reform college loans, abolish usurious lending, paid vacations for all workers and many more similar proposals.
It’s not that these policy advocates are necessarily for Clinton. But if she is to be the Democratic nominee in 2016, they want her to embrace a more ambitious program that might be characterized as a “post-New Democrat” agenda. That is, the stuff her husband dodged when he was the president because these people-friendly propositions were too liberal.
This time, I have a hunch many of these proposals will become part of her program. Hillary Clinton will run on them, reactionary Republicans will denounce her as a big-government liberal and the media will say this Clinton is “running to the left” of the last Clinton. It sounds plausible. If Republicans cooperate by nominating a right-wing nut-bag for president, who knows, she might win.
But here’s the real problem: incremental changes may be worthy, but they have no possibility of curing what are the country’s deeper maladies (or the world’s). The US governing system is experiencing an end-of-era systemic breakdown. Pax America’s far-flung military adventures are mired in a bloody denouement. The onward-and-upward economy that sustained broad prosperity for so many years is over. The political system is dysfunctional.
People at large seem to know this. At least many people understand it better than the political elites who run things. The governing classes are in deep denial, still claiming that the right policy strokes can somehow bring back the good times (sort of) without disturbing the status quo and why it broke down.
The problem is that systemic breakdown is still a taboo subject in American politics. Nobody in the mainstream will talk about it, not just Hillary Clinton and possible GOP nominees for 2016 but both the Democratic and Republican parties as well as the deep ranks of powerful movers and shakers and billionaires who manipulate both politicians and government. When the authority figures and influence peddlers are clinging to the lost past, who will step up and speak for the future?
Gar Alperovitz, an historian and democracy advocate on the left, and Gus Speth, a pioneering environmental leader of long standing, are trying to create a new voice—actually many voices—for the future. Activists and thinkers will be drawn from both the academy and the grassroots where communities are dealing directly with the pain and loss people are experiencing in these new circumstances. The core objective is to encourage people to think anew about deeper structural change but also how to make themselves heard amid the dreary evasions of established power.