Failure is not an option.
That is, unless you’re the GOP.
Just 24 hours after passing a worthless bill that became a worthless exercise in showing just how little control the House leadership has on its newest members, GOP congressional leadership is meeting with the White House to find out how to avert a complete financial meltdown.
“Over what?” The millions of laid-off workers ask as they struggle to find a way to make ends meet. “Well, over a self-generated crisis, of course” Congress answers.
And so it is.
And while the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for the .0001 per cent of the population that actually care about what is going on in Washington, the consequences of congressional action/inaction are remarkable.
And for the 98 per cent of the population that will truly feel the impacts of a debt ceiling impasse, or even a half-baked debt ceiling compromise, the last few weeks should add an exclamation point to what is wrong with political dogmatism.
While it’s striking that many in Congress have taken a cavalier attitude about the potential downgrading of the country’s bond rating or the first-ever default on our debt payments, it is just as striking (with the presidential election season in full-swing) to see the failures at capturing the political narrative during this manufactured-by-Congress crisis.
Setting aside the triviality that is the GOP’s presidential field for a second (and by the way, they’ve been audibly silent on this crisis – minus Michelle Bachman’s “I’ll vote against anything that is good for the country” approach), the GOP leadership has been unable to seize on any effective narrative since this whole manufactured crisis began.
In fact, the GOP approach, a slash and burn, cuts-only vision that continues tax breaks for CEOs flying in private jets and even the oil companies that fill their jets up, is rejected by a majority of Americans. But this narrative has not taken hold.
And the balanced approach favoured by the Democratic Party (and a majority of Americans) is in no meaningful way breaking through the media clutter. In fact, the compromise solution being floated today still leans much more toward Republican proposals than Democratic ideas. This speaks volumes to the failure to successfully create a political narrative even though the Democrats are clearly correct on the policy side.
The political narrative has been available to either party for seizing and both have swung and missed. The irony is that the debate has become nearly 100 per cent political; but both seemed to have forgotten how to leverage a political narrative to pass good policy.
Remember the .0001 per cent that actually care about what is going on in Washington? The way you turn that number into the 98 per cent that are impacted is through an effective narrative. The Democratic Party needs to align behind their reasoned approach and sell it to the American public better than they have.
How do they do this?
Well, the GOP is wrong on the policy on this one. And time after time the GOP leadership (including Congressman Cantor and Speaker Boehner) have walked away from meaningful discussions about this issue over the last few weeks.
The president, and the Democratic leadership, are the adults in this debate. They need to seize on that. They need to own the narrative of their policy and unify behind an emotionally-compelling narrative that shows not just why failure isn’t an option, but why they are in control. Why they are the adults – the ones in control of reason.
The president has effectively done this during some of his recent press conferences. But overall, the congressional leadership and supposed Democratic media surrogates seem to be having trouble uniting behind a winning narrative.
Someone needs to be the adult in the room. It should be a lot easier when you are right on policy and have polls that show the public agrees with you. If you can sell it to the American people you can pass it through Congress.
The country’s economic welfare should not hinge on a fringe in the GOP caucus (approximately 15 per cent of the legislative branch) that conveniently forgets this is a divided government.
The stakes are too high. And the reality of what failure would mean in this endeavour is too great. So it’s time to be the adult in the room so that the country doesn’t have to double-down on the GOP’s trillion-dollar gamble.
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