Thursday, January 5, 2012

Consensus... imagine that.

Comments on President Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by one very likely candidate for the U.S. Senate for Massachusetts in 2012:

"I support President Obama's appointment today of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB. I believe he is the right person to lead the agency and help protect consumers from fraud and scams. While I would have strongly preferred that it go through the normal confirmation process, unfortunately the system is completely broken. If we're going to make progress as a nation, both parties in Washington need to work together to end the procedural gridlock and hyper-partisanship."

Comments on the same subject from the other very likely candidate for the U.S. Senate for Massachusetts in 2012:

"The President made every effort to present a candidate for a Senate vote, but he was right not to let Senate Republicans block full implementation of the consumer agency. Senate Republicans will surely complain about the recess appointment, but their refusal to allow an up or down vote on Cordray's nomination is just another example of the political games in Washington that must end."

Notice anything?

I think what's being described here is a... c-c-c-consensus.

Of course around the blogosphere and in the hothouse climate of current day political opinion we're hearing those who take a somewhat different tack on The President's recess appointment of Mr. Cordray. Maybe this citing of these remarks —this consensus— is meant as something of a rebuttal to the howls of indignation and calls for impeachment, but I think it is also interesting on another angle.

Imagine a political campaign, in this day and age, where the rival candidates from opposing political parties actually might have the audacity to agree with one another.

I was having a conversation just this past evening with some politically active friends of mine. Democrats. A couple of us had seen Elizabeth Warren speak in Franklin Monday night and were very excited about the prospect her candidacy. I've seen the candidate's stump speech a couple times now, myself and I still found her compelling. But I don't mean to recount Ms. Warrens's speech with this particular post. What I want to note is that what I most appreciate about Professor Warren's candidacy is the fact that her campaign appears to be about something, about substantive ideas and practical ideals that she seeks to advocate and advance. It is not simply a contest for her I don't think. It is not a campaign about how to defeat Scott Brown.

Warren describes her own career as something made possible by a vision of this country as a place of opportunity. She notes that this was a shared vision that was actually actively enabled and advanced by deliberate public policy through much of the last century. She also has a sense of when and where we started walking back from that notion of expanding opportunity for working people and middle class families. She wants to reverse that trend. She proudly points to the work she did to help found the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a part of that activism. I take heart when I hear Senator Brown giving that work its due respect as well.

Make no mistake, we aren't likely to have an election contest for "the people's seat" in the U.S. Senate that doesn't involve politics in its uglier aspects. We've already seen the PAC funded political ads that paint Professor Warren as a freakish radical anarchist bent on the destruction of free market capitalism —and— we've seen the ads that paint Senator Brown as the darling of crony bankers who intend to rape the environment and smother our children, all the while feathering their fetid nests. But with little scenes like this one here I am trying to applaud, there might be the possibility of another kind of contest, a better debate where at least certain of the tasks and goals of government are agreed upon and we manage a candid constructive conversation about how best to get there.

Imagine that.

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