Good Governance Is Good Politics

Matt Yglesias writes:

[O]ne of the big problems we have in American government is that politicians vastly overrate the importance of “positioning” and basically meaningless gambits. What the truth about the close linkages between economic performance and political outcomes reveal is that smart politicians should try harder to govern effectively by enacting policies that lead to broadly shares prosperity. The belief that you can just kind of much around for years and then turn things around with a clever speech or single well-honed micro-initiative is what leads to a pernicious level of passivity.


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    there is say in the ad biz (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by esmense on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 11:39:22 AM EST
    That the worst thing that can happen to a bad product is good advertising. The point is that good advertising can entice a huge number of people to try the product -- and that means that negative reaction, when the product turns out to not be as advertised, will also be huge.

    The Republican have been not only good at marketing, but good at doing the things that mask the negative consequences, for those people most likely to vote, of their bad policies. But the financial bubble and debt machine that kept the middle class from seeing the real product that was being peddled is broken.

    Obama sold the hope that he could fix it. But he can't.

    I really fear the reaction when people finally see what they've really been buying all these years.

    The truth is that a large number of (5.00 / 6) (#5)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 12:46:51 PM EST
    our elected officials in this era are thoroughlly unprepared to deal with the enormous challenges that the United States faces now.

    It is no accident that great political figures emerged during the Great Depression.  If our political system is not too broken and corrupt at this point to draw out that kind of talent now, it is likely that we will see the same thing happen again in this era.

    People like Evan Bayh are a perfect example of the lightweights that the 80's and 90's bred in our political elite class.  He had to quit because he hasn't a freakin' clue about how to deal with a real and complex crisis.  He is what we always called around our house a "blow dry guy".  Perfectly coiffed, perfectly well-spoken, but there's no there there; and this "centerism" he and others like him hold so dearly is proving to be totally inadequate in this time of real need.

    In the 80s and 90s when most people were largely doing "fine" and not particularly reliant on government working for them, the lightweights were popular.  They debated things like school prayer - an issue that effectively meant nothing one way or another to most Americans in real terms - but now tasked with figuring out how to respond to economic destruction, global political and social instablity, healthcare, an energy crisis and other similarly large and complex problems many of these people are just out of their element.

    What's interesting to me is that the (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Anne on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 02:46:45 PM EST
    Obama insiders still have not grasped this very basic concept, and are still of the mindset that making things happen is a matter of fine-tuning the message; they've essentially called in the advertising team to draw up a new campaign to encourage people to buy the message, even if the product still leaves a lot to be desired.

    Too bad Billy Mays isn't available, huh?

    Well, now it is apparently leaking slowly into the conventional wisdom that there isn't much more to Obama than talk - and neither he nor the Democratic legislative caucus have Clue One how to transform talk into action.  Even when they try to act, at the first sign that the going might be a little tough, they retreat.

    Glenn had a post up on The Joys of Pragmatism, that I think described what is at the heart of the problem:

    This is the behavior of politicians who are completely unmoored from any fixed beliefs or convictions.  They flail wildly from one position to its polar opposite, all within a matter of months or even weeks, and even on matters of core, fundamental principle.  There's no conviction to any of it, and thus no coherent way to justify it and persuade others of its merit.  "Pragmatism" is the birdseed fed to their most hardened supporters to allow them a way to justify this radically inconsistent conduct, but to many outside that circle of loyalists, it simply appears weak, confused, and frightened.  As always, that's why Republicans appear "strong" and Democrats appear "weak":  not because of any specific policy positions, but because Democrats scamper from their own claimed "principles" at the first sign of difficulty or criticism.

    It is impossible to hone a message that can accommodate this political cha-cha and also be the impetus for action that translates to good governance.

    Hi All.... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kc on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 10:23:46 PM EST
    Have been lurking for a long time now-used to comment back in the 'primary days.' But, I really like this topic and could it be more obviously true?

    Rather than neaten up around the edges of Obama's admin. communications, imo-we need a sustained, clear campaign to explain to people that govern. is not the enemy and can be part of the solution. I used to teach and had to spend alot of time listing things that we rely on government for. somehow, people just gloam onto the 'government-bad' buzz and don't connect to all the many and important things that government does. Well, essentially, we are the government.

    Unresponsive elected officials.... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kc on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 10:29:54 PM EST
    they are too worried about the next election and the money they will need to win.l

    My opinion-cutting to the chase-only taking money out of politics will return them to their real job. But, public campaign financing seems a pipe dream at this point.


    there is a saying in the ad biz (none / 0) (#2)
    by esmense on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 11:40:14 AM EST
    should have been the headline to my post. sorry -- worst typist in the world, despite the fact that I've been doing it for 50 years.

    If you're commenting on a post ... (none / 0) (#9)
    by cymro on Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 01:06:43 AM EST
    ... please reply to the post. Now you have two posts with confusing titles.

    WP: White House revamps communications strategy (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dan the Man on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 11:49:04 AM EST
    Washington Post Link

    "White House officials are retooling the administration's communications strategy to produce faster responses to political adversaries, a more disciplined focus on President Obama's call for "change" in Washington and an increasingly selective use of the president's time."

    "The messaging adjustments are the result of an end-of-the-year analysis in which White House advisers said the president's communications team had not taken the initiative often enough and had allowed drawn-out debates in Congress, and relentless criticism by Republicans, to drown out his message."

    And the sun rises in the east, too (none / 0) (#4)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 12:30:06 PM EST
    Did you realize that, Matt?