In seeking transformational changes, the Senate candidate may squander the chance to marginally better America
In a New York Times Magazine profile of Elizabeth Warren, the progressive hero and Senate hopeful is quoted as follows: "I don't want to go to Washington to be a co-sponsor of some bland, little bill nobody cares about. I don't want to go to Washington to get my name on something that makes small change at the margin." She isn't alone. Everyone who gets elected to the Senate or the presidency seems to share her attitude. Why settle for being a faithful steward of the public trust when there's a chance you could be a transformative agent of change?
Here's one reason. Our system is designed for small, marginal improvements. Our institutions tend to thwart more ambitious attempts, and our politics is all about denying major victories to ideological adversaries, regardless of the merits. The moment something is touted as vital or transformational it is less likely to pass. We need leaders who care more about reform than taking credit for it.
Consider the track record of grand legislative efforts.
Bill Clinton's failure to pass health-care reform ensured that the issue wouldn't be touched for more than a decade, whereupon President Obama's success necessitated lots of huge industry giveaways; it also stoked a backlash that may bring about its undoing. Was it worth it? Some say yes. In any case, health care is the only success story the "sweeping change" camp can claim, and it required a brief legislative window after a historic Republican electoral defeat.