Second session of the day: Blogging the Economic Battles. It was a great session with panelists from OurFuture.org. The panelists broadly dealt with three issues: the current healthcare debate, the bogeyman of deficits and negative trigger words. There were a couple of really interesting observations that I took from the panel.
1. one of the msot negative aspects of the current polarized nature of the debate is that it shifts perceptions such that the centrist or just-left-of-center positions get cast as the far-left when the rhetoric of the far-right is so “wingnut”-y as some panelists and audience members noted.
2. as progressives, we have to reframe the debate from its currently defensive position. In reference to the bogeyman of budget deficits, one of the panelists, Digby, noted that when asked how deficits personally affect them, most people have no answer. Now ask them how healthcare affects them, they have a ready answer. We need to remind people that government does great things for them. Don’t believe it? Get off the interstate! We need to stop just fighting this notion that things like deficits are poison, we need to start from a place where people have to acknowledge that the government does certain things really well and we shouldn’t have to act like that isn’t a patent truth. Getting government out of one’s Medicaid would be hard, wouldn’t it?
3. Not reframing the debate and getting out of our defensive position keeps us back as a country from truly speaking and fighting for every person, especially those who are most disempowered by the current system’s inequities. We can’t figure out how to address Rust Belt workers in Pennsylvania when we’re trapped in a black-and-white paradigm where “trade” is good no matter what and “protectionism” is bad no matter what it actually refers to.
4. The ability to balance the debate is in our hands. The stories of how, say, the healthcare system is failing people is in our backyards. If we want to counter over-heated rhetoric that loses sight of the actual stakes, show them the real stories you know. I found a great example of exactly this in a story from the Christian Science Monitor from a professor in the town where I went to college (from the rival school, no less). Now its a mainstream media outlet, but technological advances have made it possible for us to get our voices out there in ways I couldn’t have imagined years ago, no one’s going to do it but us!
Anyways, just some thoughts, but I took away a real mandate to take up our own roles to counter the negativity we find in the discourse. Stay tuned for more sessions!