Friday, August 22, 2008

A New Campaign Approach

I don't think Barack Obama is running a very good campaign. The slogans and policy positions have not moved me. Ralph Nader's campaign, on the other hand, is full of policy and principle that I identify with, but I also do not think he is running the campaign he could be running. Ralph Nader, many times, seems to me to be preaching to the choir.
The problem is that both campaigns are not politicking as they should. They aren't finding something they really believe in and then selling that forcefully to the American public. They aren't putting the other side on the defensive, and when they are, they are not doing it in a constructive way that will chip away the opposition’s support.
Ralph Nader, to be sure, supports mostly majoritarian issues that Americans care about and support. The problem seems to be that he has adopted all of the left to center's dream list of policy, and is running on each piece equally. The one issue that he has pushed to the fore, in an attempt to justify his third-party run, is that of electoral reform. He wants to fix the way we run our democracy, an admirable and extremely important issue that needs far greater attention. The problem though is that in our current economic and geopolitical situation, there are other issues that, while in the long run less important than democracy promotion at home, for now are pressing to the majority of Americans.
Mr. Nader's continued focus on electoral reform is evidence of his focus on his core group of supporters, who, I would guess, care more about principles than political practicality. True, Nader's support in the general public is at a considerably high 6%, as shown by a CNN poll. But to get over 10% he will have to employ a technique other than what I would call Ron Paul politicking.
Ron Paul politicking is where a candidate, such as Ron Paul, has immense support with a core group of enthusiastic supporters galvanized by their candidates "perfect" policy platform. To many others, however, this messiah like candidates perfect ideology seems to be too good to be true, which in all likelihood is the case. Even if many of Ron Paul's positions could work wonders, his over the top cosmology and lack of focus makes everything seem a pipe dream and unattainable.
So what should Nader focus on if he wants to really push Democrats to act in the interest of this country? The good news is that he won't have to reach far to grasp the topic that could put both Democrats and Republicans on the defensive. One quite contrarian position that would throw those trying to pigeonhole Nader as a liberal extremist for a loop would be that of corporate reform. But Nader's corporate reform policy shouldn't be just the usual corporate bashing (which is deserved but off-putting to many voters due to the Ron Paul effect). No, Nader need only turn the issue on the Demo-Republicans by calling for greater support of owners, those who have stock in corporations and thus, in a capitalist economy, ought to be at the top of the command line.
The respected founder of The Vanguard Group, John Bogle, has written extensively about the creeping disenfranchisement of owners in our country. The management of companies - CEO's, CFO's, the board of directors - have waged war on the rights of owners to have a say in the companies they own, and owners have largely acquiesced when promised greater returns on their investments. The signs of management bamboozling those who they owe their jobs to are abundant - Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, the whole financial industry. Things like bad accounting are hostile actions against the owners of companies. The problem, as Bogle and also Nader has pointed out time and time again, is that absentee ownership has led not only to problems for owners but also severe problems in our economy. A system where no one is accountable until things really go bad and crimes are committed is very unstable. We have seen the effects of this in the latest financial industry bust.
As I have said before, Ralph Nader has talked often about corporate reform, specifically giving more responsibility and power to the owners of companies. But Ralph Nader could weaponize the issue, potentially driving a wedge in the business community, shocking the public out of their slumber by making them aware of how un-capitalist our country truly is, and proving that he is not an ideologue, just someone who knows what ails our country.
Now if Ralph Nader focused on this sort of corporate reform, and then coupled it with a promise to overhaul healthcare, while reminding the public that while he may be focusing on two issues, he has identified a lot of other problems that need fixing, I think we would see a whole new dynamic arise in the presidential race. Barack Obama could quickly adopt Ralph's positions once it is shown that the public is receptive, while McCain's policy would look almost as old as he looks. Instead of the usual situation of Democrats on the defensive (who started the debate on off-shore oil drilling? Republicans once again) they would be on the offensive, pushing the Republicans into the same corner they have been wallowing in for the last 28 years. The country would be immediately re-aligned to the left since in reality a capitalist economy cannot work without a healthy, strong, democratic government. Call me a dreamer, but I think that by focusing on two post-partisan but clearly leftwing issues we could see a dramatic shift in this election.

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