Monday, October 15, 2012

That Vision Thing

Watching the Obama-Romney and Biden-Ryan debates I hear the latter selling a vision of America where all are free of government intrusion and fully self-reliant under the watchful eye of their Creator (with the occasional assist from a millionaire from your local congregation).  Romney and Ryan are telling America that compared to their truly American vision, Obama offers nothing but limited choice and opportunity if not actual enslavement to government minders.  In contrast to all that, Obama did not offer a vision.  He offered facts and policies, but Romney ran circles around Obama, articulating American renaissance under a Romney administration.  He was the businessman-salesman-promoter making a strong pitch and caught Obama flat-footed.  Biden did not repeat Obama's mistake.  He pushed back on the Romney-Ryan lies and spoke of social commitment--Americans helping Americans, his mom, dad and working class neighbors.  He also came across at times as the politician making promises.  Dimmed the vision message a bit I thought but good enough for damage control.

If Obama is smart, we will hear more about vision in these closing weeks of the campaign.  Four years ago, the vision was hope.  After eight years of CheneyBush, that was enough.  Not in 2012.  Obama still needs to offer hope but he also needs to tell us where he will lead America, not just talk about the policies. Most important, he needs to convince us that he can actually make that vision happen.

My own vision of America is rooted in its small town ethos.  People helping people.  It's the same small town America that Republicans extol but I include public institutions and involvement in the mix.  I think of it as people organizing to achieve common goals, of figuring ways to solve problems and create social capital (you know, roads, hospitals, parks, fire protection) together.  For some needs, local and community solutions as well as individual solutions are best.  Matters that transcend individual communities are addressed at the state and national levels.  And where those matters are of critical public consequence, the public must have a strong voice in defining the issues and identifying how to address them.  People will trust a political-economic system to the extent they can believe that it's not rigged against them.

Policy wonk that I am, I could spiral my vision into a host of policy issues and alternatives but would obscure the point.  Vision is not detail.  Vision is direction and trajectory, that promised land.

Barack Obama and I could both learn a lot from Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 

(h/t for the video to Lawyers, Guns & Money)

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