The Overton Window And Changing In An Age of Decay

One of the biggest factors that President Obama and the US now face with regard to financial, healthcare and climate issues is the Overton Window:

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The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.

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Specifically, the rabid Reich- Right-wing lunacy over 8 of the preceding 9 years, increasingly shrill now that they've lost both the White House and majority control of Congress, has painted a very uninformed, intellectually dishonest picture of the causes, effects and cures for all the major issues we now face. In order to make lasting change, the President must first plug the major damages, then shift public & policy perspectives via the Overton Window in order to set the stage for making lasting changes.

Moving the Overton Window, named after the originator of the term, is essentially a method of changing the public's perception of acceptability:

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Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous "outer fringe" ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. The idea is that priming the public with fringe ideas intended to be and remain unacceptable, will make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison.

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It takes a lot of time and effort to make major policy shifts even when not addressing the possible effects of public perception. Changing national policies has often been described as driving a very large bus or delivery truck, or attempting to turn a huge ship at sea: it starts changing direction slowly and is a bit unwieldy to steer. President Obama's words at the world climate talks at Copenhagen reminded me of this:

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The president said he met with leaders from India, China, Brazil and South Africa, and "that's where we agreed ... to set a mitigation target to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius."

It's a nonbinding goal, and the emissions targets "will not be by themselves sufficient to get to where we need to get by 2050," Obama said. However, he added that it is a first step, and that for many countries "this is going to be the first time in which even voluntary they offered up mitigation targets."

"I think that it was important to essentially get that shift in orientation moving," Obama said.

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That shift in perception -- the reorientation referred to -- applies to nearly anything where policy must have a predominant acceptance in order for those responsible for implementing it to actually act in the best interest of their constituencies.

__________The president said he believes it's necessary that the countries get to a legally binding treaty, but said, "If we just waited for that, we would not make any progress."

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This applies to the healthcare debate as well as to financial reform. The unfortunate aspect of all situations, however, is that they all require more direct involvement by the President now, as the GOP has made it clear that they will not permit anything that could actually succeed or serve the nation to be passed.

The healthcare bill continues to be gutted of anything good by the hour; if left intact and not further destroyed, it could still ultimately help reduce our deficit, so the GOP has to continue whittling away at it until any fiduciary benefit is destroyed, thus gutting the bill's direct and indirect benefits to the nation. The same principle applies to financial reform, energy policy, jobs and the environment. Each area has the potential of affecting all the others. Each area can, if untainted by the GOP's self-serving agenda, work together to create real change and initiate a synergetic benefit that would make this nation stronger and healthier in the long run...a far cry from the preceding GOP-dominated "governance" provided.

Keep the pressure up on Obama to engage directly -- if a bill must be passed, let's ensure it's not a useless hindrance or worse. If we must get something, let's stop the bleeding and evisceration and get the thing passed, so that we can move on to other items -- and let's also ensure that this bill comes up for review and improvement after 2010, when -- hopefully -- the herds of obstructionists and special interests are culled by a re-energized and angered constituency who want the real change that was mandated by the 2008 elections to start taking place.

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