Monday, August 4, 2014

#217 / Small-Bore Versus Big-Bore

Some people like "big ideas." Others are more skeptical. I am using an image I found as I reviewed a couple of dueling blog entries that were part of a debate about education that took place in 2007. Sara Mead, an education guru on the staff of Bellwether Education Partners, was on the side of "small-bore ideas." Alexander Russo, a freelance education writer, took the opposite position

I just liked the illustration, which is why I found out about the Mead-Russo debate. I got introduced to the "small-bore" versus "big-bore" controversy in another context entirely, as William Galston opined in The Wall Street Journal that Hillary Clinton had better beware of "small-bore ideas."

According to Galston, who holds the Ezra K. Zilkha Chair in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, Clinton's prospective presidential campaign faces a difficult question. Should she, or should she not, repudiate the approach taken by the Obama Administration? Whatever she does, according to Galston, she had better "avoid the laundry-list trap," which means avoiding "small-bore ideas [that] may placate specific constituencies, but [that] will never add up to a serious plan."

For those who increasingly find national politics "boring," though that doesn't mean inconsequential, the "big-bore" versus "small-bore" differentiation may not really be pertinent. Whether the ideas are big or small, our politics is "boring" in a completely different sense. However you characterize the size of the ideas, it seems that it doesn't really matter who wins elections because national policies are, in fact, not established by the electoral process, but are proceeding from some dark, subterranean region where what ordinary citizens think, big-bore or small-bore, really has no impact.

Like the United States government spying on every citizen and resident in the United States, without any warrant or judicial process. 
Like the President of the United States announcing as a national policy his right to kill selected United States citizens whom he has decided pose a terrorist threat (with no obligation to let anyone know on what basis he made that determination).  
Like our involvement in perpetual wars, carried out wherever in this conflict-ridden world a conflict arises that our national "leaders" decide demands the application of American violence (without any particular need to debate that issue in Congress or otherwise).

That's just a start, not even bringing in the issues of income inequality, the destruction of our planetary environment by the continued use of hydrocarbon fuels, and the failure of our society to provide educational opportunities for all its young people. Or immigration. Or gun control. Or equal treatment for women. Or the corporate dominance of every aspect of our politics and our lives.

If Hillary Clinton has got any "big ideas" on how to deal with our current situation. I have yet to hear them. 

And I don't think I will.

And until the American people begin hearing how a Presidential candidate expects to return power to the people of this country, rather than using it for whatever "big-bore" or "small-bore" programs that the candidate chooses to articulate, I am going to continue to be "bored" with a politics that is totally contrary to what politics is actually supposed to be all about. 

Both big ideas and "small-bore" ideas are perfectly appropriate, if there is a mechanism for turning those ideas into reality by the direct involvement of ordinary people.

That's a "big idea," I guess. It used to be called "democracy," or "freedom," or "self-government."

If we could recover that, it really would be more consequential than what's happening to us now.

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