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June 10, 2005

Explaining the Progressive Vision

-- by Dave Johnson

E. J. Dionne today, in Kerried Away,

That raises the larger question. The Republicans and their allies spent millions taking Kerry apart. They would have done the same to John Edwards, Wesley Clark or Dean. Would those three have handled the attacks better? Who knows? Would they have looked a lot worse for the wear? You bet.

[...] Were John Kerry to quit politics and spend the rest of his life windsurfing off Nantucket, Democrats would still have to figure out how to deal with national security, social issues and economic stress. That's hard work. Making fun of Kerry is easy, fashionable and, ultimately, useless.

Same for criticizing Dean.

Where do we go from here? Over the last few years I have written about the Republican Party's "infrastructure." This is the network of organizations that comes up with The Party's ideas, develops and spreads the message, recruits and trains the troops and candidates, and everything else needed to make The Party dominant in American politics. The actual Republican Party organization itself is a small part of - and not in control of - this operation.

So now people are "getting it" and starting to talk about developing "Progressive Infrastructure." At the recent Take Back America conference lots of people were talking about this, but it seemed to me that the focus was largely on development of political infrastructure - the tactical field operations for getting out the vote. This is, of course, necessary. But that effort is one of trying to get to the polls a larger and larger share of a shrinking base.

I think another part of the Republican machine needs to be understood and countered. This is the "idea development" part of the infrastructure. I'm talking about longer-term intellectual policy and strategy development. These are the ideological advocacy organizations that persuade people to become conservatives. IN ADDITION to a comprehensive tactical infrastructure we need to build several think tanks focused entirely on articulating the Progressive vision, and on explaining to Americans why Progressive values and ideas are better for them than conservative values and ideas. Over time this will result in more Progressive voters, and greater support for Progressive programs and candidates. I haven't heard this talked about much, and I'm not sure that enough people really understand that the success of the Republican machine comes out of these organizations, not the other way around.

David Sirota recently wrote,

The right understands that creating and fostering a conservative conviction/ideology naturally leads to political support for the Republican Party - and that political support is far stronger and more fervent than a blind ideologically-deprived loyalty to a partisan label. That investment in "conviction infrastructure" (aka. ideological/issue organizations) as opposed to investment exclusively in a partisan infrastructure (aka. the RNC, the Young Republicans, etc.) is one of the reasons why Republican politicians always seem to know where they stand - even on bills/issues they don't know much about. It is because they have an ideology (however disgusting) that reflexively guides them. It's unfortunately also why Democrats - who have too often invested in partisan and not conviction infrastructure - regularly fracture off into disunity.
It costs money. It should be an underlying Progressive value to take care of each other -- to donate at least $100 per year to Progressive organizations -- this is in addition to donations to candidates.

Posted by Dave Johnson at June 10, 2005 2:20 PM

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Comments

How about taking that $100/year and putting it where your mouth is by, oh I don't know, helping out the "underpriveleged"? Oh, wait, that would then negate the leftist need to turn the government into a moralistic police force, using the threat and force of government to steal the resources of the productive and give them to the unproductive.

And why do you need more think-tanks? You already have most universities (including public universities which receive tens of billions of public state and Federal dollars a year) the MSM etc

Posted by: Pericles at June 10, 2005 4:14 PM

Pericles -

How come you're not fighting in Iraq?

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 10, 2005 4:42 PM

Wow Dave, what a witty comeback! Of course, your comeback only makes sense if one assumes I supported the war. Being a right-libertarian concerned with free-markets (yes "free"), limited government, and trade I did not give my support to the war. But what is reality and facts when you have your almost-religious, marxist-based, leftist ideology to use as an intellectual crutch?

Posted by: Pericles at June 10, 2005 4:49 PM

Wonderful weblog! I think your ideas for an infrastructure are a step in the right direction, and I see the battle over ideology happening on multiple fronts -- media control comes to the forefront when creating the ideological framework for such an infrastructure, but I worry that there are far too many conservative voices out there. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of conservative think tanks out there, and I think this vastly outnumbers the progressive ones; I'm not sure how to completely alleviate this problem, but monies towards progressive think tanks constitutes a step in the right direction.

I'm not sure where you live, but I live in New Jersey, and campaigned here and in Pennsylvania in the last presidential cycle. I say this because Democrats need to take a stance on defending their own territory, so to speak: work on winning the local battles agains the Republicans first and foremost, the national battle secondly. This ties into your point on creating an infrastructure for promoting progressive views, because ACT and other groups should have their offices here at all times, working on getting Dems elected on even the smallest level (Dean has said we should even fight for progressive voices in school boards).

We're going to win this thing in the long run because we have a little thing called truth on our side.

Posted by: Michael at June 10, 2005 5:41 PM

Actually Pericles, Dave has a point.

Why is it that it's perfectly fine for conservatives to blather on about their causes..give money to them...but when liberals want to give money to their causes..all of a sudden we're not putting our money in the right place?

I'm for Constitutional, not limited, government. That's why I don't support economic Libertarianism. But what is reality and facts when you have your almost religious zealotry to ideas antithetical to our Constitution?


Posted by: carla at June 10, 2005 8:44 PM

I have given more money to Oxfam than I have to any political party or canditate, combined, in the past year. That being said, Dave giving money to Progressive institutions _is_ putting his money where his mouth is. The infrastructure, institutions, policies, programs, and everything else that results from Dave's idea flows from putting his money where he said he'd put it.

The methodology is what you, in your libertarian zealousness, don't like.

Posted by: Bribes at June 10, 2005 9:00 PM

I'm for Constitutional, not limited, government. That's why I don't support economic Libertarianism. But what is reality and facts when you have your almost religious zealotry to ideas antithetical to our Constitution?

Huh? Where is socialism written into the Constitution? And don't give me that "general Welfare" crap argument you leftists have been using for years. Welfare was a term applied to economic reditribution by Orwellian-leftists (I know, redundant) to try to twist logic and fact upon itself. What it means is: common defense, roads, etc. not Socialized medicine. If you were devoted to the constitution you would call for the end of the Democratic (i.e. National Socialist Workers Party) party and there more wacked lessers (i.e. the openly fascist Greens).

Posted by: Pericles at June 10, 2005 10:12 PM

Dave's idea is especially important since power flows with money. If the left were to develop Progressive institutions dependent mainly on the rich and powerful for funds with minimal input from the people, then that will always be an underlying crutch. Making sure a large percentage of money flowing to these institutions (I'm not fool enough to expect all or even a decent majority of funds) flows from the grassroots will help to keep these institutions sensitive to ordinary citizens' concerns.
---


As for Pericles, perhaps your fear of "socialists" has left you blind to the problems in your own ideology and the problems inherent in the current right-wing of American politics. I notice, despite your professed dislike of the Iraq invasion, despite the loss of civil rights (which limit government power) since 9/11, despite the lies coming out of the Whitehouse and other right-wing organs, despite the invasive views on religion, privacy, and police powers championed by the Republican party, that you did not spare any invective for the Republican party or any other right-wing organs. It makes me question your libertarian credentials, since I would expect you to rage against such expansions of government powers, especially the religious part, since it has little or nothing to do with any semblance of "common defense."

Posted by: Bribes at June 11, 2005 8:17 AM

Huh? Where is socialism written into the Constitution?

Who said anything about Socialism? As a believer in Constitutional government, I'm firmly behind the Constitution as a whole. Libertarians pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they like and discard the rest. They are especially guilty of leaving out Article One, Section Eight.

And don't give me that "general Welfare" crap argument you leftists have been using for years. Welfare was a term applied to economic reditribution by Orwellian-leftists (I know, redundant) to try to twist logic and fact upon itself.

Why do you hate the Constitution so much? From where does your loathing of our founding laws stem? Are you unaware of the meaning of "general welfare" or are you obfuscating it on purpose because you know you'll lose this if we keep going?

If you were devoted to the constitution you would call for the end of the Democratic (i.e. National Socialist Workers Party) party and there more wacked lessers (i.e. the openly fascist Greens).

On the contrary, it is conservatives and specifically conservative Libertarians who undermine our basic laws through advocation of violations of civil liberties. Further, the deregulation of corporations also erodes individual liberties..specifically "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.." for those individuals who haven't the massive financial resources of others.

While you cling to your tired and antiquated notions of conservative idealism...liberalism will triumph. It's the spirit of liberty and common good which moves America forward rather than the excuse making for personal gain of conservatives and Libertarians.


Posted by: carla at June 11, 2005 12:02 PM

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