Sunday, May 7, 2017

Decentralize your decision-making and focus on the big issues

Following up on yesterday's speculative post, The Labour Party of Britain and the Democrats of the US. I said:
But from the 1970s into the 2000s, just as with the Labour Party in Britain, the thought leadership of the Democratic Party became more and more hostage to the fancies of intellectuals in universities and decision-making become more concentrated in Washington, D.C. The fancies were slightly different and slightly differently ordered, but ideological fancies they were. In Britain it was Multiculturalism, Critical Race Theory/Post-Colonial Theory, and Postmodernism. In the US it was probably more ordered like Critical Race Theory, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism. Regardless of the order, the predicates and assumptions behind these pernicious coercive theories were as untenable with the population at large as in Britain.
I wonder if the issue is NOT the repugnantly coercive ideas at the center of Critical Race Theory, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism but rather that Critical Race Theory, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism forces a shift in attention away from some groups and towards others.

If you are a working class person in the Midwest and your political party spends 70% of their time focusing on race issues that aren't relevant to you, transgender issues that aren't relevant to any but a fraction of a percent of the population, and emigrant issues that aren't relevant to you except as a possible threat to your job and community; then perhaps the incentive to vote for that party is sharply reduced. It is not necessarily that you have racial animus, are homophobic, or dislike immigrants per se, it's that they are irrelevant to the real world concerns you have to deal with - loss of job opportunity, increase in inflation, increase in healthcare cost, increase in education costs, etc.

Under this reading, Critical Race Theory, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism are not in themselves the issue. It is that Critical Race Theory, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism cause the political party hostage to their intellectual embrace to focus on things that are irrelevant to most voters. And if you are focusing on things that are irrelevant to most voters, then you are necessarily not focusing on things that are important to most voters.

That would be consistent with the results in the most recent American election. Sure, the Democrats ran an unlikeable candidate with a track record of incompetence and malfeasance. But what would cause former middle class and working class Democrats who previously voted for a black Democrat to vote for a white plutocrat from New York? What would cause more than half of white women to vote for a trash-talking white male? It certainly isn't racism or misogyny. Could it be that the Democratic candidate was holed-up in DC (and Brooklyn) with talking points on marginal issues while the Republican candidate was out in the wild with people at mass rallies talking about opportunity and real-life concerns?

My guess is that the explanation for the fall of the Democrats (and Labour in Britain) nationally and locally is that 1) policy making is now driven by intellectuals centralized in Washington D.C. (and London), and 2) the intellectual fads of those intellectuals (Critical Race Theory, Postmodernism, and Multiculturalism) necessitate a focus on issues that are pertinent to, at best, some 20-30% of the population. This is similar to what has happened with Labour in Britain. It is not that the voting public (and particularly those who voted Democrat and Labour in the past) is now suddenly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, Islamophobic, bible-thumping, gun-toting, etc. It is that, hostage to those fringe ideologies, the Democrats and Labour are not focusing on the issues that are most relevant to the greatest part of the voting public.

The take-away from this speculative ramble is the entirely mundane observation that political parties should focus on the issues that are most germane to the largest number of people. The Democrats in the past twenty years got caught in a vice of two things happening simultaneously - their fixation on fringe ideologies came into place at the same time as they centralized all policy making in Washington. The solution is to refocus on the public at large and to devolve policy setting back into the country at large.

I suspect that the Republicans have somewhat escaped some of this because they are such a broad tent party. They are just as subject to ideological obsessions (Second Amendment enthusiasts, Free Market extremists, Isolationists and Neo-cons, Pro-Lifers, etc.) but their big tent (Religious Conservatives; Social Conservatives; Classical Liberal Free Speechers; Business Conservatives; Burkeans; Hayekians; Financial Conservatives; Libertarians; etc.) constrains those fads. In addition, while intellectuals in Washington have increased their influence (consider all those think-tanks), the power of the party is much more decentralized than the Democrats.

How to make things better, whichever party, whether Republican or Democrat, whether Tory or Labour? Speak to the broad issues affecting most people and make sure your decision-making is decentralized rather than centralized. That should be easy. Heh.

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