Thursday, February 03, 2005

The New "Vision Thing" Gap

Time for an Eason Jordan break. There is also the matter of a State of the Union speech last night to talk about.

What did you take away from the speech? What are you thinking about it now that you've had some time to reflect?

I found an interesting answer to those questions from Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice today:

In reading the texts of President George Bush's State of the Union Address and the Democrats' response one characteristic screams out at you: now it's the Democrats who lack "the vision thing." ...

President George Bush, Sr. used to have a problem with "the vision thing," but now the situation is reversed where Bush - whether one agrees with his specifics or not -- seems to have a long-term vision while the Democrats too often seem like seasick passengers on a cruise ship trying awfully hard to find their sea legs.

Joe continues on to speak about "vision" regarding the crucial example of Social Security. This is the issue where I observed the strongest dividing line between the two parties last night. How does an independent like Joe assess the two sides?

For instance, on Social Security reform (and this writer isn't convinced by either side on this yet so this is NOT an endorsement) his argument is Vision Thing galore -- even if specifics are argued and considered by some to be inaccurate or flat out misstatements. Bush is doing a better job of presenting a vision, even if in the end his plans fail to be enacted, while Democrats increasingly tend to sound more like stern lecturers rather than folks offering different specific options

and he adds...

...what is most notable here was the way Bush went on to make a hard sell case for privatization (which White House marketers now call "personal accounts.")

Indeed, Bush made his case so persistently, doggedly and directly that he almost sounded like infomercial maven Ron Popeil. At any moment you expected him to take a roast leg of lamb out of the Ronco Showtime Rotissierie...

It's this issue of communication of a larger vision -- more than questions of whether the GOP agenda is out to disembowel pillars of the Democratic party such as trial lawyers and the pros and cons of gay marriage -- that's going to determine what happens in the next four years.

I find this heartening, for admittedly selfish reasons. One of my great fears is that the Democratic strategy of obstructionism applied to Social Security reform is going to work. For people of my age group (mid 30's) and under, that road leads to economic catastrophe. If the Democrats can successfully convince the Baby Boomers that they'll be long gone before there is a serious problem, those of us younger than them are likely powerless to prevent eventual devastation.

But Bush is a Baby Boomer himself. And the vision he's selling speaks strongly about the future and leaving things better for their children.

That vision is increasingly laying out the hard facts for open discussion. And even if Bush's specific plan doesn't do the job, penetrating the traditional "third-rail" thinking about Social Security with a vision that serious reform is needed offers exciting prospects of cross-generational agreement on the fundamentals that will eventually lead to real reform.


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