Fixing Our Broken Politics
I was chatting this week with the smartest person I ever met.
It's not you, or anyone you know -- it's someone too smart to spend time reading this blog, and WAY to smart to spend time writing it.
He doesn't even pay that much attention to politics, but politics caught his eye this week.
He was outraged that the Trump administration, instead of sending emergency COVID-19 equipment and supplies directly to hospitals, handed those emergency supplies to commercial distributors, who then made a killing auctioning off the supplies to whichever states bid the most. The result not only massively increased the COVID-19 costs that we will all have to pay through state and federal taxes, but it didn't even allocate the supplies to where they were needed most.
This was particularly outrageous, said the smartest person, because the US military is an unbelievable logistical powerhouse that can deliver anything to any place in the world very efficiently. So there was probably no need to use private distributors at all -- and certainly no need to pay them extortionate rates for mere distribution services.
"That's obvious enough to you," I told the smartest person, "But your average American doesn't know anything about distribution of goods and once again can't see that they are getting scammed by the Trump administration. So what would it take to educate the public enough to fix all this?"
Here is what he said:
"I think a huge portion of the population can only consume 7-10 second sound bites, and another huge portion of the population is so entrenched in their beliefs that even if they could understand the explanation of the DEEP incompetence of the current administration and the DEEP fleecing the average citizen is suffering under the current administration, they would be ready to believe Trump, his cronies, and the Fox News machine when they all scream "Fake News! We're doing better than any administration has ever done, and anyone can see that. We have the best people, and we're working hard everyday to protect this great country of ours against those who seek to destroy it or sell it to China!"
"So, mostly the explanations would fall on deaf ears or on those who are already convinced that the current administration sucks.
"That doesn't mean it shouldn't be tried.
"Bernie should take what war chest he has left and hire the best investigative journalists and the best storytellers and create a series of 5-min videos that explain the following extraordinarily clearly:
This is how corrupt and incompetent the Trump administration is.
This is how corrupt and incompetent Biden is.
This is how, if you make $1M per year or less, your life and the life of your kids will be far better with my plans.
This is how I will actually get these programs implemented - how it's totally, totally doable.
This is what you need to do right now and in the next few months if you want any hope of this disastrous situation getting better.
This is how your life and the life of your kids gets way worse if we don't succeed.
"As he builds these, he should enlist as many celebrities and other influencers as he can to spread the word - way more than he has now, and way more influential. "As it is now, I'm just regularly exposed to Sanders and Friends tweets and videos that simply say, "We need Medicare for All." And "We need to raise the minimum wage." "That won't work. "I'm not sure the compelling videos and big push would work, either, given the reasons I mentioned at the start, but (a) it's his only hope, and (b) at the very least, it would provide fodder for future efforts (and at the very very least, useful information for historians)."
I'm not the smartest person ever, but I agree with him that his own plan probably wouldn't work. And also that it's worth trying anyway.
After all, even if Trump were removed and the Democrats took control of all three branches of government, we would still have the problem that the general U.S. population is wildly susceptible to propaganda, and lacks the sophistication necessary to detect corruption in our political institutions.
And worse, the Democrats would to a significant extent simply drag into power their own entourage of lobbyists and corporate donors, engaging in many of the same compromised behaviors as Republicans, just less ostentatiously, less brazenly, and less egregiously than the Republicans -- but similar in the sense that the trend toward concentration of wealth, corporate power, and oligarchy would continue unabated.
So even though it probably won't work, and it mostly won't work, we have to keep trying. It's not something we can surrender to without sacrificing some of the people and values we hold most dear. As he says, if we don't succeed, our lives and our kids' lives get way worse.
And if there is a hopeful thought, it's that we don't have to convince everyone in the country that they are being lied to and cheated by the Trump administration. Our democracy can handle maybe 1%, or 5%, or perhaps even 10% of the population that is confused and complicit in corruption. We just can't handle 30%-40%.
So if you can help drive that number down by a little, please pitch in.
And if you are the Bernie Sanders campaign, and you have a smarter idea than what my really smart friend suggested, can you please show us the idea? ASAP?