I read Brad's post on how politicians mess things up and yours wondering how to explain to the middle class that it has been given a very raw deal one after the other, and I thought that there is a populist campaign which could lead to a reasonable policy campaign. I have no hope that the Democratic party will campaign in this, but if I were the Democratic party I would propose a simple simple increase in the progressivity of the tax code.
This is a key issue where policy which I sincerely support would be in the direct personal interests of 99 % of American families. Say give every taxpayer $ 1,000 (technospeak a refundable credit of 1,000 for every individual 1040 and 2,000 for married couples filing jointly) and balance it by increasing taxes on people who make more than $200,000. Can it be done without marginal rates so high as to cause a huge increase in tax avoidance related activities ? Sure.
The political point of this is that by specifically promising a dollar sum, the Democrats will get people's attention. Another is that the hows of rage from pundits who make over $200,000 and denounce "class war" will spread the message for free.
Now I think a better policy would be to balance the budget by giving each $1000 and raising taxes on people who make over $150,000, but that's just me.
The reason I think such a one plank platform helps address Brad's concern is that, in policy, a reform bill brief enough to put on a bumper sticker has no rooms for loopholes, earmarks or special breaks for special interests.
In this case the miserable junk which passes for public debate on policy, by which I mean slogans and campaign commercials is a less aweful policy development process than the almost open bribery which passes for legislative deliberation.
Now this won't happen, since it would require Democrats to agree on one big populist policy reform. I say taxes, some would say universal health care (better policy but not such political dynamite). Checklist liberalism TM (rights belong to Mark Schmitt I think) implies laundry list platforms which are bad policy and bad politices.
Still I think that both the bad policy and the bad campaign problems can, in principle, be solved by making a very simple precise policy proposal which also serves as a campaign slogan. The crudeness of debate to which the public is invited is an advantage, since sophisticated policy development really means favors for concentrated interests in exchange for cash.
Hmmm what do you call this bold new idea that involving ordinary people in the actual development of policy leads to better policy