Friday, April 08, 2016

Bernie: The Progressive Ronald Reagan?

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...
Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del Cielo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't seem to like anyone on the Republican side, and it is not because I am a Democrat, I am not. But I have been neutral on the Democratic side. I guess I like them both. I like the idea of a first female president, I also like the idea of someone who is a policy wonk with executive experience, who has been to all parts of the world. But then Bernie is Jewish and that is a plus. He would also be the first Jewish president. Dean 2004 was grassroots 1.0. Obama 2008 was grassroots 2.0. If Bernie 2016 is grassroots 3.0, what are the structures? Bernie should be able to build something 10 times better than what Obama built, because now we have technology Obama did not have. I have not been following the campaign too closely, so I don't know. But if he had built that, it would have made news. And it is not for lack of money. The guy seems to be breaking his own record every month for several months now.

It just hit me that Bernie Sanders could be the progressive Ronald Reagan. Bernie does have executive experience. He was not Governor, but he was Mayor. And just like Reagan, he has been saying the same things for decades, until finally the dog seems to have caught up with the car. Any of the two Democrats would win. So it is not about November worries. And, no, Bernie would not have governing problems. If you think he will, you don't understand the powers of the presidency.

Reagan's thing was primarily messaging. He distilled it all into a few neat phrases, and that is the primary thing he did. For example, phrases like strong on defense, or small government, or tax cuts, or personal responsibility, freedom. Bernie does not have quite the short phrases yet, but he also seems to have been moving towards the five clear ideas. He wants money out of politics. He wants to break the big banks. He wants to build on Obamacare to give more to the needy, as in get closer and closer to the Canadian model until he does have the Canadian model. If the people want it badly enough to bother to get organized, of course it is possible. He has similar thoughts on education. He is so strong on health and education, you have to think this guy "gets" the knowledge economy. America's sorry state of investments in health and education is why America keeps taking faltering steps towards a knowledge economy, a knowledge economy that works not just for the Silicon Valley elite, but for all.

But Bernie is not concretely building the grassroots structure. And he has not yet distilled his key ideas into a few short, neat phrases. As for execution, Reagan appointed the key people to that end, and went to sleep. Hard work never killed anybody, but I figured why take a chance, he said. Bernie seems too sprightly to go to sleep. He might actually put in the hours. Bernie's physical vigor should make you want to run marathons. That is how he did it.

My advice to Bernie: hire Alanna Krause, the thought leader in the space, and put about 10-20 million into it, and build something to last. As in, the grassroots is integral to your governance. It is about building a one person, one vote, one voice structure. People should gather, people should speak, and people should be heard.
Just as early waves of technological innovation in education and health care simply attempted to digitize old practices — putting an analog class into a MOOC or a patient’s file into the cloud — early forays into governmental technology involved bringing civil services online and enabling citizens to follow government protocols on websites instead of in buildings. .....

new governance technologies preparing to reroute lines of authority and change what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century.

....... Others are helping teams to build consensus and budget together, dynamically and elegantly. Still others are creating operating systems for political parties that are already winning seats in government. .....

Whether we're facing climate apocalypse on Earth or colonizing Mars, the deciding factor between human civilization being extractive and oppressive, or cooperative and generative, will be how much we as a species have practiced the skills of equitable collaboration on a day-to-day basis — hearing diverse viewpoints and synthesizing them, consciously understanding the flows of power dynamics, and designing in the key factors of human wellness.

......... Human beings have been sitting in circles listening to one another for millennia, but software and the internet allow us to scale up these practices in a way we never have before. ....... Cobudget for funding and Loomio for decision-making. ........ Many of the worst aspects of command-and-control, mechanistic, hierarchical governance are consequences of limited communications technologies. If we can make distributed cooperation just as efficient, the need for those old governance forms — which cause a lot of human suffering in the name of efficiency — could be obviated. ..... The key difference is: are you privatizing everything, or are you building the commons? The real distinguishing factor isn't the governing practices, which may be similar to a point, but the governing purpose. Are we building in service of the people and the community, deeply rooted in social values and human rights, or are we in service of private interests, which only answer to their own internal logic of profit and power? ....... Already, in our network, Enspiral, where we run businesses in service of positive social outcomes, we constantly have to 'hack' company structures to make them reflect how we actually want to work. We're sticking to the law, of course, but there's some legal gymnastics involved and we're constantly having to blaze a trail. Are we a community? A company? A charity? None of the current forms actually quite fit, and the distinctions seem contrived. ........ One of the protections against government corruption in democracies is that the moment of the vote is hidden and blind. ......

the very idea that our key moment of agency as a citizen is ticking a box every three or four years is the insane part

..... Our 'democratic' system is another example of something developed a couple hundred years ago because of very limited communications technology — election dates in the US are still determined by how long it took people to go on horseback between cities. ..... What's actually incredible is when you create a society where people not only feel safe being open about their political opinions, but they genuinely discuss them with different people, and their opinion can evolve through that interaction — they can change their minds.

When citizen deliberation is possible, that's when truly amazing solutions can emerge, from synthesizing different views.

......... What can users of SMS-enabled mobile banking in Africa teach us about how our apps could work? People in war zones and disaster areas know a ton about decentralized networks, because centralised infrastructure fails them. Activists threatened by oppressive governments have heaps to teach us about privacy, identity, and leveraging online communications tools for effective action and resistance. ....... most people in this space are running completely analog processes using technologies like neighborhood meetings and science-fair like exhibitions of citizen-generated ideas. They are willing to pound the pavement.
If Bernie is the Democratic nominee, he is the next president. And if he is, he is going to govern just fine. Right now I don't know if he is, but he does seem to be running neck and neck. He seems to have momentum.

I am neutral because Barack Obama is neutral.

America can be taken to a 5% growth rate, absolutely. It is just that when you destroy 13 trillion dollars, the resultant wage depressions will take some time to recover.
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. ....... There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.
What might be some Bernie catch phrases that progressives might repeat for 20 years?

  • Take money out of politics
  • Strong on education, strong on health
  • Too big too fail it too big to exist 
  • One person, one vote, one voice 24/7, local to global 
Maybe I am not that neutral. Both on message and the organizational structure, Bernie seems to get me. I was a Deaniac in 2004, in Indiana, of all places, and I was Barack Obama's first full time volunteer in New York City in 2007. 

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