One of the questions I’ve been struggling with is, who do I want to talk to? When I’m putting together my framework, who’s the audience I want to imagine?
It’s tempting to spend my time banging heads with Professional Right – Raging Republicans and Democratic “deficit hawks” who only seem to get excited about actually doing something about deficits when Democrats get into office. It’d be easy to get sucked into their game. Like Krugman, De Long, and Sons, I could spend my time pointing out the bizarreness of their arguing “we can’t do anything about jobs because if the deficit gets bigger, bond traders will stomp us by pushing borrowing rates through the rooff” when long term bonds rates are almost as low as they can get. Or any number of other brazen hypocracies. It’s a target rich environment right now; take your pick.
Somebody’s got to take them on. That’s what Krugman, De Long, Dean Baker, Ezra Klein, Daily Kos, etc. are for — God bless ‘em for doing it, and doing it well. But in the long term, if our side spends most of our time just stomping out Professional Right bullshit, we’ll lose.
In part we’ll lose because in the process we’ll lose the ability to really talk with the folks we care most about changing how they think about the economy. Because we’ll lose the ability to talk to them with respect.
Right now the Professional Right is playing street ball, and if you don’t give elbow shot for elbow shot, you’ll lose. But the people we need to reach the most aren’t playing street ball. They don’t deserve elbows or body slams. They genuinely mean what they’re saying. The folks who say, I don’t want the government to try to run the economy, I don’t want government telling me what to do. But who two minutes later say we’ve got to make sure lead doesn’t get into our kids’ toys. Or who say, I want less government — and make sure nobody cuts cut Medicare (ok, some of these folks are just old selfish fuckers, but plenty aren’t). Like the rest of us, they’ve got complicated, often contradictory feelings. When they say, “I want smaller government” what they mean isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
(If you’re feeling superior to folks who have this complicated, contradictory mess of feelings and thoughts, just ask a Professional Leftie who says all corporations are evil what they think about their iPhone).
So for now, I’m going to try to step back from the fray a little more. I’ll still take gratuitous shots at the Professional Right on Wednesdays if there’s a particularly juicy example. But when I’m doing my more serious work on Mondays, I’m going to try to spend more time experimenting/stumbling towards a way of bridging the gap between folks who are simultaneously against & for “government” and how I see the world.