The reason I’ve wanted an independent candidacy has nothing to do with faulting Democrats and Republicans equally. It has to do with changing the boundaries of debate. That desire comes from holding the following five convictions:
1) The president and the Democrats’ agenda today is much better for the country than the Republicans’.
2) At the same time, the outer limits of Democratic ambition are not nearly equal to the challenges we face.
3) The renewal agenda we need partly involves reallocating public resources from outsized projected spending on programs serving seniors to big investments in the future — a reallocation Democrats won’t pursue, or won’t pursue on anything like the scale required, because they’re afraid of how elderly voters will react (and because they are reluctant to give up the political club that protecting current arrangements affords them).
4) The renewal agenda also requires tax reforms that most Democrats don’t support – such as permanently slashing corporate income and payroll tax rates even as we introduce some version of a national consumption tax and higher dirty-energy taxes, as well as a new higher marginal rate on personal incomes above, say, $5 million.
5) The pace of change in the global economy today is so fast — and the toll it is taking on middle- and lower-income Americans’ prospects so severe — that the normal incremental nature of politics assures that current threats to upward mobility and economic security will worsen.
I draw two conclusions from the premises above. First, vanquishing Republicans and electing Democrats won’t suffice to solve the country’s problems. It will lead instead to a “kinder, gentler” form of American decline.
Now, don’t get me wrong — given the choice, I’ll take kinder, gentler decline over meaner, grimmer decline any day. But who wants to settle for that?
My second conclusion is that it will take some force outside the current system to inject into the debate a bolder agenda to renew America.
I’m assuming the False Equivalency Police don’t welcome “kinder, gentler decline” as our future. If that’s the case, the vital question, on which the False Equivalency Police spends little time, is this: How do we expand the boundaries of debate so that they include policies more equal to our challenges? And how do we develop a constituency for bolder answers that (in my view, at least) tend to combine ideas that are to the “left” and to the “right” of the current debate?