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August 2, 2008

Why Conservative Policies Dominate

-- by Dave Johnson

Why does the public flock to conservative / corporate policies that generally run against their own interests? Take tax cuts for the rich, or the current offshore-drilling campaign as examples.

Here is my opinion of the reason: Conservatives have a huge outside-the-party infrastructure devoted to persuading the public to support their policies and progressives do not.

Conservatives recognize the value of movement-building and work steadily to create popular demand, which then gets their candidates elected. This is why so many terrible Republicans are able to get elected just by pointing their finger at their opponent and shouting, "Liberal, Liberal!"

Progressives instead for decades have believed that a candidate will come along who will be so popular that he or she will lead them out of the wilderness, and convince the publi of the rightness of all of their ideas. Therefore almost all of their money and effort goes into short-term election efforts, candidates and the party instead of to ongoing outside-the-party organizations that work over the long term to build lasting demand for their ideas.

Discuss.

Posted by Dave Johnson at August 2, 2008 1:10 PM

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Comments

These so called progressives refuse to build the infrastructure to fight the far-right.

My wife and I have tried on many occasions to exort various leftist organizations into doing SOMETHING to fight the far-right and we were rebuffed at every turn.

Just one example:
When we lived in NYC, one left organization took 90% of branch members renewal fees, leaving the branches with almost zero funding. The national could not understand why the branches were dying, while the national had 10 full-time staffers, and they refused to even discuss changing the policy on member's fees - they refused to believe that member's fees had anything to do at all with the problem and blamed it on the branch directors (who were the only paid staffers and did 60 hours a week on 20 hours pay).

We went to that same organization and presented a Major Donor Campaign. We had it all laid out how there would be bi-annual black-tie fundraisers, with guests like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. How the organization would pull in millions of dollars and how it would re-energize the branches and provide a vital recruitment tool. There simply was no downside. After we made the presentation National ridiculed us and they told us to get out. There was no discussion and zero interest in even keeping the organization afloat. All that national cared about was their salaries, they couldn't care less about the organization itself, or the work it could have been doing against the far-right power structure.

Finally, my wife and I presented a comprehensive media project. For a low cost, we would provide video content, train volunteers at branches how to make their own media, combine youtube and MySpace video content to create interest and get more members to sign up. We had several documentaries outlined, broadcast quality video ready for air on national TV. Again a no-brainer for any organization. We were shot down.

The executive director said "We don't do Media!"

No wonder the left fails.

Posted by: Comrade Rutherford at August 2, 2008 4:35 PM

The Assault on Reason
Al Gore (2007)

***************************
Chapter 3
The Politics of Wealth

(p. 91)Whereas the printing press allowed the public to participate in the national conversation -- through letters, pamphlets, and newspapers -- radio [which debuted in 1922] was something new. . . .

Radio was distinct not only that it was a one-way medium, but also because it allowed political leaders and those who could afford to broadcast to enter the homes of listeners from thousands of miles away. It was this second characteristic that enabled radio to create a "mass audience." Radio allowed the broadcaster to bypass traditional institutions such as political parties, labor unions, and associations to communicate directly with the listener. . . .

The societal impact of this revolutionary technology was very different in the United States from those in the rest of the world. In the United States, the defenders of democracy insisted that constraints be placed on the new medium. The "equal time rule" . . . the Fairness Doctrine . . . the "public interest standard" required all those in the small group granted licenses to keep the public interest always in mind -- under penalty of losing the license to someone else if they did not.

(p. 97) [T]he legal restraints placed on the radio medium in the United States prevented its use for the type of cynical manipulation that occurred in many other countries -- in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

These constraints were removed during the Reagan administration, in the name of "free speech," and the results have been horrendous. Our Founders could never have imagined the marketplace of ideas would change so profoundly that the "consent of the governed" -- the very source of legitimate power in a democracy -- could become a commodity.

And radio, of course, was the precursor of an infinitely more powerful medium, television.

(p. 99) Thus, one of the most obvious and dangerous consolidations of power has formed in the media, where powerful conglomerates have used their wealth to gain more power and consequently more wealth. Physical and economic constraints on access to television in particular made this outcome largely inevitable. . . . [C]onglomerates [are entities] whose obligations involve meeting Wall Street's expectations rather than the Founders' expectations of the requisite for a well-informed citizenry.

Now that the conglomerates can dominate the expressions of opinion that flood the minds of the citizenry and selectively choose the ideas that are amplified so loudly as to drown out others that, whatever their validity, do not have wealthy patrons, the result is a de facto coup d'etat overthrowing the rule of reason. Greed and wealth now allocate power in our society, and that power is used in turn to further increase and concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few. If this sounds overly strident, please read on, as I get down to cases.
***************************

Posted by: CMike at August 3, 2008 1:33 AM

Some years ago, Dean Norman K. Wessells of the Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences at a Phi Beta Kappa convocation declared: "Our Constitution and Constitutional law quite rightfully protect religions from governmental or societal interference but, I fear, do not equally protect society and the political process when religions turn to lobbying and political pressure.

"Our republic faces one of its very gravest crises...in these next two decades because of the wedding of very rich, ultra-conservative theological groups with politics.

"The unholy merger of theological groups with politics has the potential to infringe upon our freedoms, upon the precious rights each of us has inherited from our ancestors--especially those learned men of the 18th century who expressly separated church and state in America.

"Always remember that the majority has no particular penchant for the truth or acting in its own long-term best interest. And remember that there is no crime against man, however hideous, that has not been morally justifiable to some perpetrators, including theologians..."

Posted by: Betty at August 3, 2008 5:13 AM

I wish you would come and join the discussions we're having on PB 2.0. The business model question is huge.

Posted by: lambert strether at August 4, 2008 11:42 AM

I wish you would come and join the discussions we're having on PB 2.0. The business model question is huge.

Posted by: lambert strether at August 4, 2008 11:42 AM

Well, the first problem is "progressives", as opposed to "liberals". Hell, you are doing it yourself. What the heck is a progressive? I knew the democrats had a very real mental problem when Hillary Clinton came out and said, "they want is to be ashamed to be called liberals". Well, I'll tell you what, we are progressives, and we won't back down. That's a total paraphrase, because I couldn't remember her direct quote, but that is the jist of what she said. If it wasn't for all those dirty brown people, the democratic party would be hell when they are well, but they stay sick all the time.

Posted by: Darellbee at August 4, 2008 12:31 PM

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