rfmemo Vol 2; The Success Narrative
To: Candidates Running in 2020
From: Roger Fisk — newdaystrategy.com
Date: January 2019
RE: The Success Narrative
The purpose of this memo is to impress upon the Democratic candidates that there is a desperate need for a new progressive vocabulary around entrepreneurs and job creators.
We need a new Success Narrative.
Let me present two dots for the connecting; the Sanders campaign (and others since) in 2016 and the recent Howard Schultz flirtation with running. That Schultz is a lifelong and active Democrat should cause some to ask why he is not thinking about running as one, and part of the answer may lie in the absence of a cohesive appreciation within a large swath of the Democratic Party about economic success.
In the last few electoral cycles we have allowed a whiff of moral compromise to enshroud our views of economic success. The modern metallic tang of that whiff can partly be explained by the moral recoil that came from the economic crisis of 2008, but Democrats cannot continue to veer off in a direction where so much more energy is put into how tax dollars should be spent instead of talking about how those tax dollars are created. There is now a whole wing of the party that seems unburdened by any knowledge of or appreciation for the activity that creates the dollars for their designs.
That is wrong and it needs to stop.
Democrats need to update, or perhaps even visit anew, the virtues of the free market system and develop a way of talking about economic opportunity so it is integrated with their social goals, i.e.; here’s where I want to go and here’s how we pay for the gas to get there.
The significant mile marker for me was the Sanders campaign and how it referenced economic success in a remote and impersonal way, as if jobs were the product of the next village over; distant people we don’t really see or know but whose production is the foundation for all our plans. This remoteness gave the strong impression that tax dollars and the public treasury are just a faucet to be turned on and off as needs arise without thinking about how the water that comes out of that faucet is being collected, stored, ambulated and used. As the saying goes, sooner or later you run out of other people’s money. Sanders went further by basing much of his candidacy on the silent implication that wealth is bad, that the wealthy are bad, and that the best we can do as a society is to use the proceeds of that wealth to offset its impact. I don’t think this was conscious but you can learn a lot from noticing what is not said. I did not hear a lot of championing of entrepreneurs from the stages of his rallies. The word billionaires became a pejorative applause line. Not all the way to Lock Them Up, but not too far from it.
Democrats in 2020 need to talk about kitchen table economics but frame it as a discussion about economic success with all the work and rewards that entails. It will not be easy; a sleeper achievement of the two Obama Administrations was doubling our exports which lifted businesses big, medium and small, but the right way to drive that home as a ripe political message remained elusive.
Add to this that the current Administration has an inherently nostalgic view of success, as if all we need is to look across our great landscapes and see busy chimneys belching away to know that people are working, and one is left with a wide lane for progressive championing of 21st century business success.
Part of the answer can come just from expressing more enthusiasm for the vibrancy and creativity of our market place. We cheer sports, we root for our college or city, so why not apply some of that same enthusiasm for our young entrepreneurs and how their ideas can lift lives here and all over the world.
Part of the answer can come from closing the skills gap and reinvigorating our community colleges and trade schools.
Part of the answer can also come from shrugging off, or at least expanding, the societal lens we apply to the virtues and potential of a college education. Social myopia has created false buckets of people and the economic viability thereof, which then gets extrapolated to communities and regions. We have allowed ourselves to relax into a binary snapshot analysis of our youth, as if college or no college is some fundamental crossroads.
Ultimately, we lose the capacity to appreciate real knowledge when we assume there is only one way to obtain it.
The Party should also commission an audit of the US tax code, permitting and compliance processes on the federal level and in each state to find a handful of ways to streamline, simplify and support rather than hinder. I bet we could find 10 rules or regulations that could be adjusted or removed that would not harm one stream, child, worker or forest.
The candidate that can shrug off decades of this damp baggage and celebrate the American entrepreneurial spirit with a coherent Success Narrative may well obviate the need for an Independent to do that. The reciprocal question is will certain factions attack anyone who speaks glowingly of the free market, and could the vociferousness of those attacks cripple their recipient in the fall of 2020.
Progressives cannot limit our Success Narrative to simply focusing on how tax dollars are used. They need to present a thoughtful, substantive plan for economic growth that celebrates entrepreneurs, welcomes them and encourages them, and in the process actively champions the free market system for the indispensable pillar of our free society that it is.
Anything less surrenders the Success Narrative which over time will surrender success itself.