Saturday, March 02, 2013

Another American Solution?

Days after Newtown massacre, in a year end party I was discussing with my friends what would stop 'gun violence' in this country. I remember talking about how we would need a campaign like 'pink ribbon' started by Susan Komen to make the shift. A friend instantly responded, did I mean "we need marketing and branding" for the 'gun control' campaign? Yes, that is what I was thinking.

Joe Nocera compares 'Mothers Against Drunk Driving' in his article; but the basis is same - we need national marketing and branding campaign to make the 'cultural shift' in this country. Now, that is something I can 'believe in and most Americans' can believe in. This is because the talent and proven competence for Marketing and Branding in this country is second to none in the world. Americans have been always good at marketing and branding; if American Society brings that strength to cure its own ills (in addition to another of its strength - lawsuits); nothing better like that. Coupled with 'political muscle flexing by Bloomberg' on the Gun Control issue; we can indeed see some movement on this problem. And this does not come too late, given where we are heading:

"Politics in Washington has become far worse than the traditional partisan to-and-fro inherent in any democracy. It now presents a danger to orderly day-to-day governance of the country. Politics is no longer the art of the possible; it is bad theater. We are lurching perilously close to becoming Italy, where citizens appear to have given up on being self-governing citizens and instead have cynically chosen reality TV. Criminally implicated tycoons and comedians vie for the presidency; these candidates appeal to many Italians because they provide a diversion from a government in perpetual crisis.

We laugh at the Italians, but give us another four years of fiscal cliffs, government shutdowns and debt limits, and the famously optimistic and forward-looking American people may surprise us with their cynical response to Washington’s refusal to govern rationally."

Are we experiencing the end of 'primacy of Congress and American Political System' in making change in lives of Americans? (The only change it makes is it makes our life harder.) If that is the case, real forces of change in American Society will opt for more and more 'cultural changes' and then Congress will be only formality, turning itself into some kind of decorative and celebration place. Definitely, that it is what Bloomberg backed Kelley win looks like. 

Update - Moises Naim elaborates in his Op-Ed what I wanted to elude in the above post: sense of power loss for traditional political institutions. Here are few money quotes:

"Nor is the decay of power related to the supposed decline of America and rise of China — one of the most useless and distracting debates of our time. When the Taliban is able to deny the world’s mightiest military a victory, when Somali pirates with rickety boats and AK-47s thumb their noses at the most modern multinational fleet ever assembled, when European leaders fail to stem the economic crisis that started in Greece’s minuscule economy and when the world is incapable of agreeing on how to curb carbon emissions, it becomes clear that something is happening to global power that transcends any zero-sum, Sino-American rivalry.
But the decay of power also poses dangers to our wallets, families and lives. It explains why the U.S. economy is at the mercy of self-inflicted crises in Washington. It explains why European nations struggle to act together in the face of crippling economic problems, despite spending decades developing institutions geared toward collective action. It explains why fragile states that have difficulty delivering basic services are proliferating. It explains why the world is paralyzed in the effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Given the end of power as we know it, our traditional checks and balances — originally meant to constrain excessive power — are now threatening to choke what little power is left."

All this means successful politicians are able to realize these limits and the context of power loss. Part of it is what might have prompted Barack Obama to say he cannot force Republicans in Congress to change their minds. But such realization is only the first step. What needs to follow after that is a specific plan to involve Public in unprecedented ways to force obstructing elements to move aside. Though Obama's Organization For Action may invite critical evaluation and Romney may berate Obama for 'permanent campaign style politics'; but who knows precisely these may be the responses we would need to combat the erosion in traditional political power structure? Those ways may be the only ways possible to augment weakening political power by People's Force to achieve something tangible here and now.

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