Liberal Netroots Policy Platform

In response to the repeated lament of Kevin Drum that the lefty blogosphere is more anti-Bush an advocate for an alternative policy platfrom, Duncan “Atrios” Black offers a list that he believes most liberal bloggers and blog readers would agree on.

Leaving aside obvious jokes, let’s take a look at them in terms of their likely appeal to the American voter.

  • Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration
  • An odd one to lead with, since it is currently generating zero buzz. Otherwise, way too early to say how this one would play out. Most Americans simultaneously hate the idea of people getting away with irresponsible spending and hate the credit card companies.

  • Repeal the estate tax repeal
  • Bush campaigned on this one pretty heavily to wide acclaim. The fact that small businesses and farms were included in the old system was decisive.

  • Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
  • Theoretically appealing but not really. The fact of the matter is that swing voters are making substantially more than the minimum wage and have at least a vague understanding of simple economics.

  • Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
  • If sold properly, this could be the key to a Democratic realignment. More likely, though, both sides will agree on this within a decade. With companies like Wal-Mart and General Motors arguing that they can’t compete while simultaneously funding health care and pensions, people will start listening soon.

  • Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation
  • At the level of vague generality, this is a winner. As with health care, though, the devil is in the details. Once told that higher fuel standards means a trade-off in safety and/or comfort and/or performance, people get less excited. Ditto cleaner air vice jobs. Further, the great environmental battles have already been fought and won.

  • Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there’s probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.
  • This is a complicated set of issues that Republicans have generally been winning politically and losing practically since Roe. I can’t imagine a groundswell for federalizing sex education. Abstinence-only is the preferred curriculum at the local school board level in most of the country.

  • Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code
  • Pick one.

  • Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
  • Most Americans are religious and think organizations like the Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts are among our finest institutions. This is a loser.

  • Reduce corporate giveaways
  • A big winner in the abstract. The problem is that corporate subsidies also indirectly subsidize the employees.

  • Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
  • I’m not really up on this debate. As a general rule, though, people like states in charge.

  • Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
  • This is a 1950s issue. Corporate pensions have been giving away to IRAs, 401(k)s, and other private investment vehicles for a generation. They’re not coming back because few people spend their careers in one industry, let alone one company.

  • Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards “more decriminalization” of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
  • I’m in agreement on this one but that’s not where the country is.

  • Paper ballots
  • My preference as well, although hardly an issue likely to generate a groundswell. Plus, the 2000 Florida fiasco showed that paper is not infallible.

  • Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.
  • Yes, they do.

  • Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
  • Force us to put more money into a failing system that none of us have confidence in?

  • Marriage rights for all, which includes “gay marriage” and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
  • State legislatures are falling all over themselves putting anti-gay marriage referenda up for vote, even amending state constitutions to that end. They’re passing every time out. Not sure there’s a big problem with married non-citizens getting processed; surely, there’s not a groundswell on this issue.

    Update: Interestingly, Drum saw the Atrios list, dismissed preciously the same non-serious proposals as I did, and finds it quite mainstream: “[I]f there’s any radicalism here, or even a tendency to drift in that direction, I sure don’t see it.”

    While much of this is meanstream Democratic policy circa 1968, I’m not sure it’s in touch with the current party’s center, much less the former Yellow Dogs. And gay marriage and drug legalization are still radical ideas, methinks, to most voters.

    Update: Dan Drezner takes his turn at the list and discovers that, his opposition to the Bush administration notwithstanding, he is not a liberal.

    Update: Ditto Megan McArdle and Steve Bainbridge.

    FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Blogosphere, Environment, LGBTQ Issues, US Constitution, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. Dave Schuler says:

      For some reason I’ve been having problems reaching blogspot all day. Is that the lot?

      If so, he’s living in the past. The real hot button issues aren’t on the list at all. Is this list a consensus-of-the-left only list?

      I recognize that most of the Left Blogosphere believes that the American electorate is operationally more “progressive” than recent election results, polling results, and the opinion of anybody who isn’t part of the Left Blogosphere would seem to suggest, but this is a nostalgia trip. “Return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.”


    2. ICallMasICM says:

      Insert you liberals being willing to give the shirt off someone elses back jokes here. Well it’s netroots so whaddaya expect?

    3. Bithead says:


      No, Blogspot is sputtering pretty badly. Has been for most of the day.

      As for Black living in the past… yeah, and this just in; the sun will set in the west tonight.

      Forgive me, but what they’re offering, here is simply more of what lost them the last several elections, including the last two presidential elections.

      That said, these ARE hot-button issues…. that play well for the leftists and badly for everyone else.

      Gee… big shock, huh?

    4. McGehee says:

      # Paper ballots

      My preference as well, although hardly an issue likely to generate a groundswell. Plus, the 2000 Florida fiasco showed that paper is not infallible.

      My cynical side thinks that’s the point of this one.

    5. Tano says:

      Is it really necessary to point out to the bithead that the democrats actually won the 2000 election, in terms of raw popular support? Even if you want to take the position that Bush somehow won the FL popular vote (i.e. ignore the lil ol’ ladies who are counted for Buchannon when they meant to vote for Gore), the point remains – these policies are NOT in any way proven to be losers with the American people. Kerry, I would contend, did not lose the election because of his support for any of the items listed above, nor did Bush win that election because of his opposition to any.

      “Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code ”
      “Pick one.”

      Why pick one? Package the two as one – like Forbes did with his “flat tax” plan. In fact you could simply accept most of his plan – the simplificaiton part, but instead of having one flat rate (actually it was two rates, 0 and 17), you could have 7 or 8 categories. Same simplification effects, same “fill out your return on the back of a postcard” – just look up your tax owed in a table instead of a simple multiplication.

      Cafe standards is a good one, since many in the GOP already are beginning to cave on this.

      FICA cap is a good one too. “Most” of us are quite content with social security and want to see whatever problem it might encounter fixed in as simple a manner possible. Have y’all not learned anything over the past year?

      Gay (and immigrant) marriage is not a big winner at all, but it may be important to take a stand. As in – people respect you more for holding a prinicpled unpopular position than for running away from it or getting all squishy. And in the long term you have a greater chance to persuade if you demonstrate committment when it is unpopular to do so. So it may be an important position to articulate even if not helpful right now.

      On pensions. Its true that this is a disappearing issue, but for the many millions that still get traditional pensions, it is a cause of ultimate existential concern. Working people in these industries – thats a shaky part of the dem base that is the real key. When they vote GOP, dems lose. When they vote dem, dems win. In that sense, this may be the most important issue of all.

    6. Tano says:

      Oh, and paper ballots is a very good one – but we should specificy what that means. The optical scan systems seem to be the clear winner in terms of gaining the advantages of computerized counting and having the paper trail backup.

    7. Stormy70 says:

      I guess foreign policy won’t be on the Netroots agenda this year? Ever? Or is it too hard to come up with more than words to defeat the world’s worst ideologies?

    8. erg says:

      Lifting the FICA cap amounts to a huge increase in taxes (an extra 12% or so — so the marginal rate would go from 35 – 47%). I would strongly oppose this, and not just for the selfish reason that I would lose heavily under this approach.

    9. LJD says:

      Democrats won in 2000 and 2004… LOL

      MMMMM…. Kool-aid.

    10. ICallMasICM says:

      Paper ballots are like a return to the stone age. Nothing should be considered rpogress or reform until I can log in with a userID and PIN and vote from home, work or wherever else I’m at and when I want.

    11. Tano says:

      Why do you bother wasting everyones time with inanities? No one said that dems won in 2004, simply that they did not lose because of the types of issues raised here. Is that controversial?

      And is it not a simple fact that Gore won the popular vote? If the question on the table is whether these types of policies are popular with the American people, then looking to the popular vote as an expression of American public opinion seems like a sensible thing to do.

    12. LJD says:

      First, you have to be a Democrat, or Al Gore himself to think things like ‘We didn’t win, but we didn’t lose’. In an election, there is one winner, one loser. Unfortunately in history, somtimes the loser (Democrat) also wins.

      Second, elections are not decided on popular vote, nor should they be. SO who gives an F? If this country’s direction is EVER decided upon popular vote alone, then God help us.

    13. McGehee says:

      Why do you bother wasting everyones time with inanities?

      This from the guy who claimed the Democrats won the 2000 election.

    14. McGehee says:

      Second, elections are not decided on popular vote…

      I believe LJD inadvertantly left the word “presidential” out of this clause.

    15. I think you are wrong when you say that “I�m in agreement on this one but that�s not where the country is” with regards to marijuana decriminalization. I am pretty sure that the majority of Americans are against the War on Drugs in general and are definitely for medical marijuana in particular. When even red states pass statewide referenda allowing medical marijuana, that should tell you something.