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April 22, 2008

Rockridge Closing -- Why Building Progressive Infrastructure Matters So Much

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California

On the same day that Barack Obama raised one million dollars in one minute for his campaign George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute announced that they will be closing their doors.

In the comments at the OpenLeft blog post, The Rockridge Era Ends, Paul Rosenberg wrote,

As If We Needed Any More Proof That Democrats STILL Don't Get It!
This is really terrible news--not just because of the loss of Rockridge, as if that wasn't bad enough, but because it shows so clearly that there is NO recognition of the need to build progressive infrastructure.

Just look at how many millions have been raised by the Presidential campaigns this cycle. And just a tiny fraction of it could have not just kept Rockridge afloat, but DOUBLED it in size. ...

I want to say this about that:

Donating a dollar to a progressive infrastructure organization like Speak Out California and Commonweal Institute today is like giving ten dollars to EACH progressive candidate in every local, state and nation race this November, two years later, and every election following.

Let me explain what I mean. Progressive infrastructure organizations like Speak Out California and Commonweal Institute are working to help the public understand and appreciate what progressives are about. By explaining the benefits of a progressive approach they help build public acceptance of and demand for progressive policies and candidates -- across the board. As more people understand why progressive solutions benefit them more than conservative proposals, they develop a lasting positive identification with the progressive "brand." Then later, during the election cycle, they vote for progressive candidates -- across the board.

This is how the conservatives have been so successful. They work year-round to convince people to identify as conservatives. (You've probably complained or heard people complain that that have managed to turn "liberal" into a bad word in people's minds.) When election time comes around it's as though all that their candidates have to do is point at the opponent and shout "liberal" to win. They ride a wave of nationally-advanced propaganda convincing people to support "tort reform" or "tax relief." This has been going on for years, so at election time everything is laid out for them on a silver platter, with the public prepared and primed.

Progressive candidates, on the other hand, are generally on their own, starting from scratch for each election. Their general campaign begins in the late summer or fall, they have to decide what "issues" to run on, they have to develop a message from scratch, by themselves, and then they have to reach their voters from scratch. And they have to do all of this on their own in just a few months. No wonder conservatives, even with their awful "you're on your own" philosophy, have managed to do so well and gain so much traction.

This is why building up a national progressive advocacy infrastructure would leverage all of those campaign donations and help us build a sustainable progressive majority. A few dollars to progressive advocacy organizations on any given TODAY builds long-term support for every progressive candidate on any given TOMORROW. It provides leverage -- lowering the need for massive election-cycle funding.

The demise of Rockridge Institute demonstrates that the Democratic Party donor base hasn't yet gotten that message. Instead, masses of money have to be raised for candidates at the very last minute -- for example a million dollars in one minute, the day before the big Pennsylvania primary. And almost all of that money will just literally go up in the air to pay for TV ads that leave nothing behind to show for the money. They don't build the brand, they don't tell people about the benefits of progressive ideas, they don't help other candidates... But almost nothing for the Rockridges and Speak Out California's and Commonweal Institutes.

Please think about donating to help build a solid progressive infrastructure of organizations that will work year-round to help the public understand why progressive policies and candidate are better for them than the conservative solutions. This will help build a sustainable progressive majority in America. Please help these organizations grow. It's about building a progressive ecosystem that benefits all of us.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at April 22, 2008 11:32 AM

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Comments

Well, one thing that would be even more helpful to building a STRONG LIBERAL (not merely "progressive") infrastructure would be an avoidance of this asinine tendency of so many to deem anyone not in absolute lockstep with the alleged "progressive manifesto" as being "Republican lite" or a "divider".
How many allegedly progressive bloggers and individuals have spent time slamming Hillary Clinton with terms like those (among others) in this campaign (especially when many of those same people were actively wishing and hoping she'd make a run for the White House in 2004)?
The conservatives (or, more accurately, the neoconservatives) have been successful largely because the bulk of their ascendancy came during the Reagan era. Following his inauguration, the Republicans (and conservatives across the board) adopted the so-called 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican." In 1984, Reagan had no opposition from within his party, and, even in 1988, the Republican primaries were amazingly free from PERSONAL bickering. They tended to stick to the issues that they felt mattered, and even in 1992, it was the ISSUES that took precedent in the GOP races (Perot, who drew off far more GOP votes than Democratic ones, used the economy and Bush I's flip-flop on the "no new taxes" pledge as his major ammunition; the Religious Right also largely sat out the 1992 election because they weren't as satisfied with Bush I's social policies, believing that he'd abandoned them).
When the Republicans took back both the House and Senate in 1994, they did it by offering that "Contract With America" (and no matter how you slice it, it was a pretty potent symbolic action that offered the image of SOLUTIONS, not just the usual political promises). There was also some Democratic dissatisfaction with Bill Clinton, especially over his handling of the gays in the military, but that was only the TIP of the iceberg. Many Democrats in the House and the Senate opposed Clinton because he wanted a centrist way of governing; the odd thing that many people tend to forget is that Southern Democrats had been switching to the GOP for the better part of a decade and the Southern Dems who were still in Congress were far more conservative than the Dems from other parts of the country (look at Alabama's Bud Cramer--he's fairly liberal by Southern standards, especially for a white politician, but by Northeastern or Pacific Coast standards, he may as well be Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond; Southern Black Democrats--which is almost the only way to bring "Southern" and "Democrat" in the same breath--are probably the most liberal Democrats in the South but that probably puts them on a political par with Maine's Republican Senators when looking at ALL issues) and Clinton was well aware of the fact that he wasn't going to be able to satisfy such a divergent party.
Will Rogers is quoted as saying "I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat." If he were alive today, he wouldn't be making any changes to that statement.

Posted by: JosephW [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 24, 2008 1:05 PM

OK, but the Reagan Commandment worked because the GOP were all on the same political platform.

Since 1980, the Democratic leadership has refused to challenge the GOP as an opposition party. Since 1990, the Democratic Party has increasingly adopted the GOP platform while abandoning the core values of the Democratic Party.

By historic reckoning, the Democratic Party of President Clinton in 1992 were barely left of center, and I would say that they were clearly to the right of what had been the Center in America for the previous 75 years.

The GOP responded to the Democratic Party's race to the center was to issue the Contract On America and push the nation to the extreme right starting in the 1994 Congressional elections.

The response of the Democrats at that time was to stampede across the Center and camp solidly in the Moderate Republican camp. Since then the GOP has staked out more and more territory in the shadows of right-wing fascism, while the Democratic Leadership has gleefully started attacking anyone to the left of Center.

I clearly see that the Democratic Leadership is complicit in the plans of the GOP, and has been since Reagan's first term. This all culminates in the 'Democratic' Party putting up two candidates that are solid Republicans and both virulently attack anything to the left of the Moderate Republican position they are no win.

So there are NO Democrats running anymore. We have ONLY Republican candidates. There is NO Democratic candidate for President. Both candidates are to the right of former VT Governor, Republican George Aiken (who said about Viet-Nam, "Declare victory and get out!") and almost more right-wing than Barry Goldwater. My uncle, a VietNam veteran Democrat, calls himself a Goldwater Republican, since the US has been dragged so far to the right.

If we want to build a LIBERAL Democratic infrastructure we all need to support LIBERAL Democrats, like Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, and not right-wingers like Clinton and Obama and the rest of the GOP-controlled "Democrats" in Congress.

Basically my point is this: If WE are to support Democrats, then THEY need to ACT like Democrats, and not vote lockstep with Republicans. Since they act like Republicans, I call them what they are: Republicans!

Posted by: Comrade Rutherford at April 28, 2008 10:21 AM

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