Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Solving Gridlock Through Outrage (And Beyond)?

Solving gridlock may be easier than we thought—all we need is a little a bit of old fashioned outrage, mobilization, organization, and participation...

...or at least Robert Reich thinks so. I stumbled upon this video synopsis of Reich's new ebook, "Beyond Outrage" and thought that it would be relevant to our class (in fact, his recently-released e-book would likely fit in well on next year's reading list). In light of the impending general election, Reich argues that voters should re-elect President Obama and, more importantly, "fuel a movement to take back our economy and our democracy."

Reich's concept is simple: the election season is causing Americans to lose touch with the nation's big issues, and this election season is doing so more than previous elections have. According to Reich, who states that he has never been so concerned about America's future as he is now, "we are perilously close to losing an economy and a democracy that work for everyone, and replacing them with an economy and government that exist mainly for a few wealthy and powerful people." To address this concern, Reich, a leading expert on work and the economy, argues that the average American needs to demand more from government, hold politicians accountable, and focus on the country's long-term future. We need to organize, mobilize, and participate.

Reich's overarching point seems to pale in comparison to our class's more complex strategies to reducing gridlock. But that's not necessarily a bad thing—maybe keeping it simple should have been our strategy from the start. Yet haven't we already seen the (somewhat minimal) effects of this kind of approach in recent months? Many "99 percenters" have certainly been outraged, and have arguably moved beyond such outrage to push for change from the top. Such outrage may indeed produce long-term change, but one could also argue that these movements merely increase fragmentation of the electorate.

Whatever the impact that this kind of movement may (or may not) have, I certainly think it's ironic that Reich's argument is essentially a reworking of the principles that our country was founded on, such as individual autonomy, mobilization, and democracy. What does it say about our country if we really need an expert to remind us of these principles?

1 comment:

  1. Though such movements may be accused of polarizing even more the electorate, they remain models of citizen activism. I am not really convinced by Reich's arguement: I don't think citizen mobilization would be enough to break gridlock. There are indeed too many actors in the decision-process (senators, parties, lobbysists...). What they can do however is to raise people's and politicians ' awareness of the issue.