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April 15, 2005

Folding Narrow Issues Into An Overall Progressive Context

-- by Dave Johnson

The must-read article of the month is Making Connections: Why is the news so bad? What can progressives do to fix it?

Also, this post, A Gaggle of Losers, by eRipost over at Left Coaster, and this post by Kos, Half-baked observations of a VLWC conference.

The subject is the Right's effective message machine, and the development of a Progressive counter-machine. The first article above has some great download charts that describe how the Right's machine works. This has been my message since I started Seeing the Forest. We need to study and understand how the Right has managed to persuade so many Americans to accept their extreme ideology, and strengthen our own Progressive-oriented organizations so they can counter the propaganda and bring our message to mainstream America.

The problem is that Progressive organizations are mostly issue-oriented, reaching their own issue-oriented audience. It's preaching to the converted. Meanwhile the Right preaches to everyone.

For example, when environmental groups speak only to environmentalists and only about narrower environmental issues, they sacrifice the possibility of converting so many regular people to their side. This is the subject of the widely-discussed Death of Environmentalism essay. I was in the audience this week when co-author Michael Shellenberger talked about this at Stanford. He said the title means he is advocating the death of environmentalism, hoping for it to be folded into a larger overall Progressive structure that takes into account the needs of people, the environment, a sustainable economy, and other issues.

If Progressives all worked to "sell" the underlying Progressive values to the broad, general American public, then each of the narrower issues would be supported to a greater extent than now. For example, a Progressive voter is an environmental voter. A Progressive voter supports consumer protections. A Progressive voter wants national health insurance. A Progressive voter demands a strong Social Security system.

And, most important, a Progressive voter elects candidates who will vote to support each of these interests.

The Right knows these things. ALL of the Right's organizations talk about "free markets" and reach out to the general public-at-large, and only talk about their own narrower issues in the context of the larger overall framework that all of the Right's organizations share.

So Progressive organizations would do better to combine their efforts into a single, unified voice, reaching out to ALL of America, explaining why Progressive values of democracy and community and sustainability are superior values -- and explaining to people how Progressive values and ideas benefit them more than selfish right-wing values.

How to help? Where to donate? These are some of the new Progressive "infrastructure" organizations and they need your help:

Commonweal Institute - donate and subscribe to their newsletter.

The America! Coalition

Center for American Progress

Media Matters

Breakthrough Institute

Rockridge Institute

Roosevelt Institution (student think tank)

Help them out. This is how we take back America!

Posted by Dave Johnson at April 15, 2005 10:44 AM

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» A Gaggle of Losers from The Left Coaster
Sometime ago I wrote a diary at Dailykos titled 'Al From : "Becoming Losers" for Dummies'. It was a response to DLC CEO Al From's fake tirade against the MoveOn "crowd" (and for that matter Michael Moore) - a tirade... [Read More]

Tracked on April 16, 2005 7:48 AM


Comments

Dave,
Robert Parry has written some excellent pieces about the effectiveness of the right-wing message machine and the failure of the left to establish a similar message machine for themselves - go visit www.consortiumnews.com

Posted by: Helga Fremlin at April 15, 2005 4:33 PM

This is very hard to read due to the dark background, so the links were invisible.

Posted by: VJ at April 16, 2005 3:57 AM

Thanks Dave ... this is one of my big issues too. And it's a much bigger issue than one of mere "framing" a la Lakoff. Shellenberger et al have taken a lot of heat for their positions -- not the least because they require, to be truly effective, the possibility that we'll be abandoning some of our more extreme allies, i.e., if anti-hunting or anti-gun folks can't see their way to welcoming hunters who don't want to see the environment destroyed into our camp, they'll have to go. Hunters are environmental voters, plain and simple -- even before they are pro-gun voters.

In addition to the "Death of Environmentalism" essay, I'd also suggest Adam Werbach's "Is Environmentalism Dead?"

Thanks again for all the links, Dave. The maps alone connected to the "In These Times" article are eye-opening to say the least.

Posted by: newswriter at April 16, 2005 6:56 AM

Great links! This is heartening to see such an excellent blog dedicated to this message. It's one of the most important political issues of the day for sure, and one I try to keep central. We are a growing phenomena - you might want to check out Progressive Blogger Union - we're into the same message, multiplying daily!

The question I keep coming up against is, do we stay behind the Dems, or will that just siphon off our effectiveness again? And if not them, who? That's another advantage the right has, they are solid with the Republicans and have a solid home there, at least most of them do. The progressive movement seems split over whether to go third party or not...

Posted by: John F. Eden at April 17, 2005 8:56 AM

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