April 6, 2007


Welcome to a new era: the politics of 'but': The public is savvier now. Politicians aren't (Daniel Finkelstein, 4/04/07, Times of London)

We are in a new political age. Voters have stopped believing altogether. They don't believe manifestos, they don't believe speeches, they don't believe statistics, they don't believe policy initiatives, they don't believe Budgets. Yet politicians continue to behave as if voters do.

I recall in the 2001 election, using focus groups to assess the popularity or otherwise of Conservative policy on asylum. We never got past the fact that no one thought that any politician would do anything. When I listen to Tories who believe that a tax-cut promise would help them to win next time, I realise that they don't understand that such an offer would be entirely disbelieved.

The great innovation of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton was to replace the Thatcher-Reagan politics of "or" with the Third Way politics of "and" -- uniting political ideas that were previously kept separate. Posing as the advocates of both tough crime policy and an antipoverty strategy, for instance. It has been incredibly successful at the ballot box. But now a new tack is needed.

The politics of "but" needs a champion. In an era where politicians lack credibility, why not try something unthinkable? Why not try the whole truth? Why not try saying that a new policy has a cost, that a fresh law may not work, that a reform has some risks? Why not share all the advice, the upside and the downside?

Hard-bitten pols may think me naive. But if they think it works carrying on as they are, then it's not me that is the naive one.

Properly presented the And policies are But policies. For instance, we can have privatized SS but will have to fund the accounts when folks can't contribute.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 6, 2007 11:06 AM

Great piece, and I think the time is ripe for a person/perty that is more (if not totally truthful)

Imagine if Bush had given a post 911 speech that asked for "support for the invasion of Iraq for the purposes of destabilizing the Middle East, fomenting democracy for the express purpose of triggering a reformation of Islam from the point of a gun."

It would be sophisticated populace indeed that could swallow that one. They would have even figured out the short term strategy of "Iraq as flypaper" for the newly radicalized Muslims.

Alas, it had to be WMD.

Further, this article reminds me of Laura Ingraham's hilarious "But Monkey" bit.

Posted by: bruno at April 6, 2007 12:03 PM