Friday, April 06, 2007

The Overton Window of Public Opinion

My respect for Dennis Kucinich is growing. I rarely disagree with what he says but I'm usually thinking, "Yeah. Good idea, but it won't work." Not to say that the idea won't work, but there won't be legislative support to give it a try. So I'm inclined to relegate Kucinich to the group of people who's voices are more radical than mine. I don't expect them to be effective but I'm silently grateful to them for giving my slightly liberal notions a respectable patina.

CSPAN re-aired Kucinich's recent New Hampshire speech. Someone asked about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intent to destroy Israel. Kucinich said he'd read several translations and he doesn't believe that's what Ahmadinejad meant. So, if he could, he'd call Ahmadinejad up directly and ask him, "Is this what you mean? ‘Cause if it is we have to do everything we can to help you see the need for a new direction." Okay, people are going to say that's crazy, but, hey, isn't it a good idea?

Peace. Who decided that peace is a lunatic fringe idea? Wouldn't you think "Let's go kill all the people who don't seem to agree with us and a lot of innocent bystanders, too," would be the lunatic idea?

Rebecca quotes Making Light who quotes Pandagon who quotes... well, you get the idea. Everyone's talking about the Overton Window. Nathan Russell writes:

[Politicians] will almost always constrain themselves to taking actions within the "window" of ideas approved of by the electorate. Actions outside of this window, while theoretically possible, and maybe more optimal in terms of sound policy, are politically unsuccessful.

So, if a think tank’s research and the principles of sound policy suggest a particular idea that lies outside the Overton window, what is to be done? Shift the window. Since commonly held ideas, attitudes and presumptions frame what is politically possible and create the "window," a change in the opinions held by politicians and the people in general will shift it. Move the window of what is politically possible and those policies previously impractical can become the next great popular and legislative rage.

While I may be a radical at heart, in public I'm pretty damned moderate. I'm not proud of it but I remember March 2003 and how thoroughly intimidated I was about saying, "No, I don't support the war." I remember being proud of Congressman Hinchey for immediately speaking out against the war. I remember looking in vain for a hint on Senator Clinton's website that she opposed the war. So, my thanks go out to the people who help keep the window centered over an area I can live with.

No comments: