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State Innovation Exchange (SiX): Another "progressive" roach motel?

I saw this at Eschaton. Presumably it's part of the great "Whither Democrats?" conversation after the mid-terms debacle:

A dirty hippie reply to ALEC launches this  week.

and so naturally I rushed over to "State Innovation Exchange" and found this, which I've helpfully annotated:

If you think you're looking at Democrat trade dress -- the blue, blue, blue, the round logo, the red, white, and blue (so much more tasteful to crop the flag in the logo, rather than crudely waving it), the sans serif font -- you'd be right (though we'll get to how exactly we can be 100% sure of that in a minute).

Of course, we also know it's a typical Democrat project not just from the trade dress, but because it's all carefully tuned to "the very best Democrat in America": The "Donate to SiX" button, the "Get Updates and Give Feedback"[1] pitch to help the Democrats build their (profitable and eminently re-sellable) list: It's all there! (To be fair, donations start at $25, so the bottom-feeding $3 and $5 donors are out of the picture.)

Oddly, though, there's one thing missing: The About page. Apparently, the trade dress and pitch should be enough to make people cough up the ol' shekels without knowing who's actually behind the thing. I mean, for all I know, this is Mary Landrieu trying to get her snout back in the trough. Fortunately, I poked around the Conference site[2] -- the Conference that SiX is launching with --- and the conference has an About SiX page, even though SiX itself does not:

About Executive Director Nick Rathod

Nick Rathod currently serves as the Executive Director of SiX. Prior to joining SiX, Mr. Rathod served at the White House as a Special Assistant to the President of the United States and Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs. In this role he was primarily responsible for President Obama’s policy and political work in the states and US territories.

Mr. Rathod has also served as Assistant Director for Intergovernmental and International Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Senior Advisor to former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer; and as Senior Manager of State and Regional Affairs at the Center for American Progress.

Fine, except the premise here seems to be that a 2008 Obama organizer, plus the same people who got the Democrats into the hole in 2014 (and 2010) are going to get them out of it. "Dirty hippies" my sweet Aunt Fanny. True, if I had to pick Democratic loyalists that I didn't react to with horror and loathing, as opposed to mere disappointment, anger, and utter amazement at how much they need to get out more, it would be Spitzer and, presumably, Warren (through the CFPB). But supporting Democrats must depend on policy, which I'll get to in a moment, as opposed to vaguely positive feelings, or pom-pom waving.

First, however, there's something else missing on the About page that one would normally expect to find: The Funders. Think Progress:

Rathod is planning on the group raising $3 to $5 million in the first year, then increase the budget to $8 to $10 million. SiX doesn’t have to disclose its donors, but Rathod plans on doing so anyway in the name of transparency.

So where's the disclosure, already? Is SiX going to be the most transparent roach motel ever, or what?

Onward to policy. I'll get to the mush on SiX's front and only page in a moment, but for now, let's take their "tentative" (I'll say) draft conference agenda as an indicator of what they want to push:

So that's it, on policy? I mean, that's it? Seriously? This is what's going to turn Democrats around? After back-to-back mid-term Clusterfucks? (Assuming, for the moment, that the Democrats aren't just as happy losing as winning, certainly a plausible position to take.)

  • Climate and Energy: Responding to EPA’s Executive Room Clean Power Plan and Other Key State Energy Issues
  • Sentencing Reform/Justice Reinvestment
  • Tipped Minimum Wage, Wages, and Enforcement

Now, I know we're talking the states here, so we can't end war 'n' stuff, and we're not dealing with currency issuers. But how about we throw a little red meat to the base? And go for muscular, in policy, and not flaccid? Before rewriting the above three points, we might add these, all state level:

  • Model Single Payer Legislation and Establishing a Single Payer Interstate Compact
  • Model Food Sovereignty Legislation and Support for Local Farmers
  • Model Fracking Disclosure Agreement and Support for Local Activists
  • Model State Bank Legislation: North Dakota's Lessons Learned
  • Follow the Money: A Geographical Information System for Tracking the Local Impacts of Trade Deals
  • Theory of the Case: How State Attorney's General Can Prosecute Bank CEOs for Accounting Control Fraud
  • The Way Out of the Water Wars: Treating Watersheds as Common Pool Resources
  • Dealing with Drought: California's Water Allocation Policies

I could go on; but you get the idea. None of these ideas are in any way new; all of them have communities of support that would be very willing to brief the experts in the Beltway about what's really going on out in the flyover states heartland. Now let's revise their three bullet points:

  • Climate and Energy: Responding to EPA’s Executive Room Clean Power Plan and Other Key State Energy Issues Model Legislation for a Carbon Negative State
  • Sentencing Reform/Justice Reinvestment Taming the Prison-Industrial Complex with Marijuana Reform
  • Tipped Minimum Wage, Wages, and Enforcement Is a $15/Hour MInimum Wage Nearly Enough?

I think the bottom line here is that if these Democrats think they're going to go on the offense against the feral and extremely well-funded ALEC with a pissant program like that -- going for the capillaries, as Krugman said -- they're even more pathetically delusional than I imagined.

And finally, I'll put on my rubber waders from a moment and look at what SiX actually proposes to do, because there are several versions of it, even on their front (single) page. The promised mush:

The State Innovation Exchange, SiX, is a new state focused “action tank” .... The ultimate goal of SiX is to construct an institution that will help to change the frame through which Americans see and discuss progressive issues.

Fine, except warmed-over Lakoff ("frame") has nothing to do with action as normally conceived. What are the actions? Frames? Conferences? Papers? Jobs for the boys?

The midterm elections only underscored the power deficit that progressives have at the state level. ... SiX plans to aggressively change this power dynamic and move a progressive agenda in the states that works for people, not corporations.

Fine, except agenda isn't a frame, so we see already that SiX can't even describe what it wants to be or do. Second, constructing "institutions" that help "Americans" (which American?) "see and discuss" "progressive issues" will in no way "aggressively change[s]" "this power dynamic." "I welcome their hatred" -- that's aggressive. Third, compare the timid populist boilerplate -- "works for people, not corporations" -- with the actual agenda proposed. Is there any correspondence between the rhetoric and the agenda? Maybe if one stumps up the money for the conference to see what the secret sauce is, but it's sure not in the titles of the talks. Fourth, compare my bullet items to SiX's. Which do you think works harder for people, not corporations?

SiX aims to encourage cross-pollination among states, providing a platform for the best ideas to spread and grow. Join us at our inaugural conference of state legislators this December (for legislators only).

Fine, except with "cross-pollination" and "change the frame" and "aggressively change this power dynamic" we now have three mutually incompatible descriptions of what SiX is, and three reasons to believe that SiX can't describe what it wants to be or do. Why should anybody give these people money?

Oh, and the neo-liberal language in the header? "Innovation" might almost have been chosen with an eye toward shaking down some Silicon Value squillionaires. I mean, everything is always about innovation, right? (Even when simple, rugged, proven solutions like single payer already exist). And "exchange" -- let's hope that the launch goes better than the launch of the ObamaCare exchange -- plays to the "marketplace of ideas" concept (also known among Democrats as "conversation") that if we all "sit down at the table" and "share ideas" that somehow good things will happen, especially when the "exchange" is explicitly transactional and all the ideas are "market-based solutions" that leave the squillionaires with even more money and power than before.

NOTE [1] There is, unfortunately, no way to give feedback now. Perhaps that will come when the site has more than one page.

NOTE [2] The link is almost invisible, but hover around in the last paragraph, and you'll find it.

NOTE Because I don't follow the machinations of the Democratic nomenklatura that closely, I missed it when SiX started up.

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jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

I'm not to sure but isn't the blues dress in Amerikas history? The demodogs once again on the attack but sadly it only affects Main Street.

Submitted by lambert on

Oh, that really fucks up that branding...