January 10, 2013
How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?
Real And Serious Problems
Start with climate change, clearly the most serious problem facing the world. If you think this is something that won't do serious damage until way off in the future, consider what could happen this year if our country's terrible drought continues, and then other climate-related disasters hit other agricultural regions around the world. Oh, right, mass starvation. Never mind the storms and storm surges, huge wildfires, heat waves, etc. that we are already experiencing.
Jobs. We have an absolute and continuing jobs emergency and people are suffering. And it is the reason we have a big budget deficit. Is there an economic problem that is more serious than jobs? Imagine if we had full employment, and companies had to actually pay well to get the employees they need, and provide training, etc. Imagine how LOW the budget deficit would be. The high budget deficit is a flip side of all the benefits businesses are getting from the low wages, long hours, etc. that come from high unemployment. The budget deficit is literally the government subsidizing WalMart's low wages.
Our huge, huge trade deficit - the actual deficit that is actually draining our economy and killing jobs and factories and industries and our ability to make a living in the future. The budget deficit is money spent on each other, things that make our lives better. The trade deficit is money that just bleeds out, making us all poorer and less able to take care of each other.
Infrastructure - our country's infrastructure is seriously in disrepair. Never mind that we don't have modern things that could be seriously boosting our economy, like high-speed rail and fiber-internet to every business and home -- things are falling apart.
Education, the cost of universities and resulting student-loan debt, the need for more community colleges, etc. They are pretending to talk about this but all the solutions being discussed take money away from our schools and universities and only benefit the Wall Street types...
You can name dozens of other serious, major national problems that are not even on the DC-elite agenda!
OK, they appear to be talking about guns. That's good. But not if they are talking about even more guns.
Many Problems Have Obvious Solutions
We can start attacking the climate problem with a big carbon tax. People will start using alternatives, which will cost less than using carbon-based energy sources. (PS the revenue also helps fix the budget problem.) Refund some of the money collected to those who are hit hardest by the tax, like low-income people who have to drive to work.
Infrastructure and jobs are two of our most serious problems. But obviously if we start fixing the infrastructure problem we are also fixing a lot of the jobs problem. (Especially if we have strict "Buy American" requirements for the materials, steel,etc.) (PS this also helps fix the budget problem because people with jobs are paying taxes, not using the safety net, and the economy becomes more competitive in the long run.)
Etc, with the obvious solutions. I don't have to put them here, they're obvious.
So why do they ignore the real problems and the obvious solutions that help We, the People?
Why Do They Ignore The Real Problems?
So WHY do our DC-elite geniuses ignore our real problems? We all know the answer: the influence of big money. Big money dominates. Big money steers the discussion. Big money buys the politicians. Big money lobbies the rule-makers. Big money uses the "revolving door" to reward the officeholders and staffers and regulators with high-paying jobs after they leave government -- if they play ball while in government.
And big money rigs the game so only the really big money -- those who already have it -- can win.
But the problem extends so far past the direct bribery, especially in the way it dominates the country's information channels. This means the major media (all of it dominated by only 6 companies), and all of the ways that our national discussion gets shaped.
Using the climate problem as an example, we all understand that big money from the fossil-fuel industry is being used to keep us from attacking this problem. But how?
Looking at how the information channels are influenced illustrates how far big money reaches. They don't just bribe politicians, and hire them and staffers later, etc. They also use their big money to influence how we talk and even think about this. Aside from the huge money spent on lobbyists, there are the dozens and dozens of so-called "think tanks" and "institutes" and other organizations that get money from these companies to pay people to go on TV and radio and write articles and op-eds, etc, to influence the nation's discussion of this. They also have their "studies" and "reports" etc. that get in the news. If you want a major-media career you had best not get on the wrong side of these companies. They totally dominate and intimidate and do what it takes to get their way.
(A few - just a few - resources on this: Frontline: Climate of Doubt, Meet The Climate Denial Machine, Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine, Climate Skeptic's Debunked Report Exposes How the Denial Industry Works, How climate change denial lets the fuel industry run politics, in one handy chart)
The information sources of our democracy are controlled by the big money. Another example (of so many) of how the corporate money machine influences what we as a country talk and even what we think about: How often do you see a labor leader on your TV talking about the benefits of unions?
Then there are the other information channels. Did you hear about FreedomWorks paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh huge money to promote the Tea Party? Or the other stories about how they get and use their money? (FreedomWorks is one of the organizations that bused in thugs to disrupt Congressional town hall meetings a few years back.) This is just one of the dozens and dozens of well-funded outfits that is getting huge money to influence our national political climate.
How about that huge fight over taxes on billionaires? Do you know about the huge influence of Grover Norquist and his organization? Look at this: Grover Norquist's Budget Is Largely Financed by Just Two Billionaire-Backed Nonprofits.
This flood of corporate and billionaire money goes well beyond just paying politicians. And it is the reason it seems like we are helpless to do anything about the real and serious problems our country faces.
What You Can And MUST Do
We have to counter this money, and that takes money. We have to get money to use to fight back. We can't just all be doing what we can in our spare times, and signing online petitions, or quitting our jobs and living in poverty so we can work on these problems.
There are millions of us and if we all give even a small amount of money to help out, we can get things done!
The most important and effective thing you can do, even before you get active online and then on the streets is to contribute money to progressive organizations, and make it a habit. Seriously, they have corporate funding and all We, the People have is We, the People. There are a lot of us and if everyone who agrees with progressive values started to actually put some money where our values are, we could make up for that corporate money.
If you have to start small, that is fine. 20 million people starting small can make a huge difference.
Try it, click here and give $3 to the organization I work for, Campaign for America's Future.
You can also give a donation to Center for American Progress here, or to the National Council of La Raza here, or to Demos here, or to the Economic Policy Institute here, to the Center for Community Change here, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights here, to People For the American Way here, and there are so many other organizations that are working in their own way to help. (I'll add them as they read this and write to yell at me for leaving them out.)
Go through the ActBlue directory, and give $3 here and $3 there.
We really need for progressives to understand this need, and the difference between this and election campaign contributions. Think about it, and help spread the word. Help fund it, and help others understand this need. We can beat back the conservative machine by building a machine of our own that is strong enough to do the job. This takes money.
And to keep that machine answerable to US, we have to fund it democratically, with each of us stepping up and contributing what we can. It has to be lots of people giving small and medium amounts, not depending on a few large donors. ANY organization or candidate is going to dance with the ones that brung ‘em, so WE have to bring them to the dance together. Go give $3 or $10 or $100 to any of those organizations now, and keep doing it, and get others to do it.
If you want to help be part of the SOLUTION this is a great way to start. This is the most important thing you can do. AND you should be online and on the streets. But the most important thing is to give some money to help counter the huge flood of corporate money.
August 27, 2012
Since forever, the Republican message is STILL "Dems take your money and give it to black people." Doesn't change. Doesn't have to. It's OUR fault.
I am not young. I remember when Nixon campaigned with his racially divisive "Southern Strategy." Nixon campaigned on "crime" - fear of black people - and on the claim that Dmeocrats take "your" money and give it to black people. It worked.
It worked for Reagan, too, when he talked about "welfare queens" and "welfare Cadillacs." Here is part of a Reagan campaign stump speech,
"She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."
(Please read what Terrance Heath has to say about welfare queens in, Romney And Ryan: The Right Kind Of "Welfare Queens".)
HW Bush used the infamous Willie Horton ad. Watch it with the sound off.
Bush II beat back John McCain in the primaries by circulating stories that he had "fathered a black child" and "terrorists." (But correct me if I'm wrong, Bush II didn't appear to use race against Gore, instead preempting potential attacks on his own character and honesty by hammering Gore's "character" and making him out to be a liar - both with the help of the media. His later use of "terrorists" (brown people) is another story entirely...)
So I'm going to go way out on a limb here. I predict that Republicans will use race and other terribly divisive tactics to distract us from the real situation -- the draining of the wealth of 99% of us and the country for the benefit of an already-wealthy few -- in the 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 and every campaign after that. They will say that "Democrats take your money and give it to black people." They will campaign against "union thugs" and "union bosses" and say paying fair wages "hurts business" and we need to be more "business friendly." They will say "government takes money out of the economy" and helping each other "makes people dependent." They will say "cutting taxes increases government revenue." They will say a lot of nonsense, and their policies when enacted will always, always benefit an already-wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us, our economy, our country and our planet.
They will say all kinds of stuff to keep We, the People from seeing what is in front of our faces.
That is who they are and that is what they do.
Unless we do something about it.
Look Where We Are & At What Romney Is Doing
Look where we are: Deregulation pretty much destroyed the economy. Tax cuts have partially defunded the government's ability to empower and protect We, the People. The 1% and their giant corporations get so much of the benefits of our economy now. The climate is obviously getting worse and worse, already risking crop failures, incredible heat waves and terribly destructive storms. And with all of this going on one party blocks efforts to improve things, so they can campaign saying nothing is getting done. Yet with all that going on, the election so far is all coming down to billionaires spending hundreds of millions to run ads that say Obama is taking your money and giving it to black people.
Look what Romney is doing! He is running ads that come pretty close to the "welfare queen" messaging, pretty much saying that Democrats take your money and give it to black people. He is running ads about Medicare that pretty much say the same thing. And now he is even going "birther." Thomas Edsall explains today in the NY Times, in Making The Election About Race,
The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.
... The racial overtones of Romney’s welfare ads are relatively explicit. Romney’s Medicare ads are a bit more subtle. ... Obamacare, described in the Romney ad as a “massive new government program that is not for you,” would provide health coverage to a population of over 30 million that is not currently insured: 16.3 percent of this population is black; 30.7 percent is Hispanic; 5.2 percent is Asian-American; and 46.3 percent (less than half) is made up of non-Hispanic whites.
... The Romney campaign is willing to disregard criticism concerning accuracy and veracity in favor of “blowing the dog whistle of racism” – resorting to a campaign appealing to racial symbols, images and issues in its bid to break the frustratingly persistent Obama lead in the polls, which has lasted for the past 10 months.
Once again, Republicans are saying, "Democrats take your money and give it to black people."
And just like they do every time it works they take our money and give it to rich people instead.
It's Our Fault
Here's the thing. This is our fault. Fool me once, shame on you. We were fooled once, when Nixon did it. Shame on Nixon. But ... We were fooled twice, when Reagan did it. We were fooled again and again, and apparently never caught on that this is what they do.
And if this is what they do, we should have taken steps after, maybe, the fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth time? This is our fault.
WHY are Republicans still able to use race in their campaigns to deflect attention from their ongoing campaign to turn the wealth and management of our country over to the 1%? Because we have not organized ourselves to reach out to regular people around the country and help them to understand what is happening to them. Instead we (progressives) have largely focused our on changing things through elections. But we have not done the hard work between elections to set the stage for elections. We have not been very good at reaching out to tens and tens of millions of regular people and helping them to understand and appreciate the benefits to them of a progressive approach to solving our problems.
I mean, a lot of us do get this and try. This is a big part of what Campaign for America's Future does - or tries to do with the very limited resources it has. But a real national, between-elections, ongoing -- decades-long -- campaign takes real resources, facilities, coordination, supplies, management, researchers, writers, talkers, technologists, and the rest. And that takes real money. The kind of money conservatives have been willing to put into such and effort, and progressives have not.
Let's Finally Do Something About It
When are we going to recognize that this is what they do, and do something about it? They use race. They divide us. They make shit up, and spend millions and millions on blasting their made-up shit into people's brains. Then they enrich the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and use part of that to do it more. This is what they do. And very little is done to counter it. (Some say the problem is, "democracy does not have an advertising budget.")
What if we had started 4 years ago to get ready for this campaign of lies and division, knowing full well that they are going to use race and lies and the rest against We, the People? What if we had started then to reach and educate millions and millions of working people, bring them together, help them see the bigger picture? What if we had reached out to millions of disaffected white voters and explained directly to them, in language that reaches them, with stories that resonate with them, so they would be ready for it when they are told "Democrats take your money and give it to black people," and why believing it hurts them.
What if we did this between elections, and kept doing it after elections, and explained and reinforced the concepts of democracy so that people's understanding and appreciation of democracy and what it really means increased year after year after year?
What if we had started doing this 8 years ago? 12 years ago? After Nixon's election? What if we had started to dedicate a percentage of progressive-aligned funding and organizing toward a centrally organized, well-funded campaign of reaching regular people and explaining the harm conservatives are doing, and the benefits to them of democracy and a We, the People approach to our mutual problems?
How well would their campaign of racism and lies and division work, if we had done that? How well will it work if we do it.
What would it have done for the goals of environmentalists if we had put serious money into a coordinated, values-based approach that helped people understand and appreciate the meaning and benefits to them of truly honoring We, the People "we are in this together" democracy over the prevailing corporate/conservative, Randian, "you should be on your own"?
What would it have done for the goals of labor unions if we had used this approach?
What would it have done for the goals of consumer attorneys if we had used this approach?
What would it have done for the goals of Medicare-For-All advocates if we had used this approach?
And what could it do for all of these if we started today?
A Fight Back Strategy
Research & Development, and Action: What we need is a major, coordinated, funded, national project dedicated to researching the ways the 1% manipulates us, and developing strategics for overcoming them. This project also needs a national action arm that takes the research and strategies out to the country and continues this work for as long as it takes.
Just think about this, think about changing your orientation from election cycle to outside of the election cycle, ongoing, as-long-as-it-takes strategies. And mostly, please help and continue to help fund organizations that work outside of elections to help make these changes, so that progressive candidates and policy initiatives have fertile ground in which to do well!
Of course, this kind of work is a big part of what Campaign for America's Future does - or tries to do with the very limited resources it has. You can and should help us with this, and you can do that right now by visiting this page. If you can give $3 right now, that helps. Seriously, if everyone reading this just gave $3 (or more) it would help.
And this is not a selfish appeal so I can get a raise (although it can't hurt). There are a number of other organizations that are seriously working on this kind of approach. You can also give a donation to Center for American Progress here, or to the National Council of La Raza here, or to the Economic Policy Institute here, Media Matters here, to the Center for Community Change here, to Progressive Congress here, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights here, to People For the American Way here, and there are so many other organizations that are working in their own way to help. (I'll add them as they read this and write to yell at me for leaving them out.)
There is a (somewhat out of date) page on funding progressive infrastructure here and a (somewhat out of date) list of progressive infrastructure organizations here.
We really need for progressives to understand this need, and the difference between this and election campaign contributions. Think about it, and help spread the word. Help fund it, and help others understand this need. We can beat back the conservative machine by building a machine of our own that is strong enough to do the job. This takes money.
And to keep that machine answerable to US, we have to fund it democratically, with each of us stepping up and contributing what we can. It has to be lots of people giving small and medium amounts, not depending on a few large donors. ANY organization or candidate is going to dance with the ones that brung 'em, so WE have to bring them to the dance together. Go give $3 or $10 or $100 to any of those organizations now, and keep doing it, and get others to do it.
A dollar donated to an effort like this now is like a dollar donated again and again to each and every progressive issue campaign and candidate from now on, except that the dollar is amplified. This is because doing the work now makes elections and policy battles so much easier and less expensive.
Conservatives have developed a "brand" and their candidates and policy initiatives ride that brand like a surfer surfs a wave. They just hop on the wave and attach themselves or their issue. So much of the things we have to spend so much money on are already covered by their infrastructure of like-minded organizations, so for each candidate and policy initiative they have to spend so much less! ALL of their candidates are helped by the central branding effort.
Progressive-oriented candidates and policy initiatives start almost from scratch, and so it is tremendously expensive to get them elected or passed. We have to raise tremendous sums to do the things that conservatives have ready-to-go. And each of our candidates have to each raise that money, on their own, just to overcome the things conservatives already have in place - for all of them. One dollar spent on a core branding effort could have the same effect for all of our candidates and policy initiatives as the more-than-one-dollar spent for EACH candidate or policy initiative at election time to overcome it.
So help out, OK?
P.S. Here is a talk I gave on this subject in 2004, titled "On Our Own?" that talked about how the corporate right works between elections to market their ideology, and suggesting that we should try a similar outside-the-election-cycle approach.
Here is a talk I gave to an education organization in 2007 titled, "We're All In This Together" that described how the right uses the Overton Window to move public attitudes,
What can we, as supporters of public education, do about this?
The supporters of public education must join with their natural allies -- the trial lawyers and the environmentalists and reproductive rights organizations and others and begin to talk to the public with a COMMON message that says WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER because we are a COMMUNITY. Only after people come to understand and appreciate this philosophy of community again, will they begin to understand and appreciate the value of public schools.
... The Right pushes an ugly message that we are each on our own, out for ourselves to get what we can, in a dog-eat-dog world. But in truth, we are really ARE all in this together, not only as being on the receiving end of similar attacks, but also because we can work together to help each other. We can work to counter the Right’s message by restoring the public’s understanding and appreciation of COMMUNITY and the value of responsible government.
How can we do this?
As I’m sure you know, frame and message development and testing are complex and require skilled professionals. Messaging efforts on behalf of public education will have the greatest effect if linked to broad frames that are developed across sectors, frames that support the value of community and government. And the messaging that supports these values will be most effective if it is delivered by multiple voices, third-party voices that are not strongly identified with public education and other interest groups. It must be coordinated with a long-term strategy.
March 31, 2011
What did people expect would happen when they voted for Reagan, Bush and other conservatives, or supported their policies? In the Holland (Michigan) Sentinel community columnist Ray Buursma writes, American workers got what they deserved. Some of the things he says might resonate with many of us,
Remember the Reagan standard? Are you better off today than you were a decade ago? Two decades? Three? Unless you make more than $380,000 a year, the answer is no. In fact, your standard of living over the last quarter century has actually decreased while millionaires have added 30 percent to their net wealth. Why? Two reasons.
First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs went overseas while the politicians you elected did nothing to stop them. Yet you continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts, as if that would stem the flow of disappearing jobs.
Did you demand your leaders address America’s trade imbalance or continuous outsourcing of jobs? Did you demand your leaders require foreign countries to buy a dollar’s worth of American goods for every dollar of goods they sell here?
No and no. You didn’t bother.
Buursma writes that instead of resenting people who make more because they are in a union, people should join a union and fight for your job, wages and benefits. He continues,
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not a union worker, so this doesn’t affect me.”
Stop being stupid. Union benefits provide a standard other companies have to match, or at least come close to. When those benefits are cut, yours are, too. Or do you think you operate in your own little employment vacuum?
Agree or disagree, please click through and read his entire piece.
There is no question that things are not going the way they should be going. We see decline all around us -- all pointing back to the changes made after the election of Ronald Reagan. Tax cuts led to massive debt. Deregulation led to mine, oil and financial disasters that cost us more than deregulation ever saved. The infrastructure is crumbling. It seems like we are entering third-world status.
So is it the fault of American workers that their wages and benefits have declined as jobs are shipped overseas?
I don't blame working people. After all, they're working! So they're busy, and stressed, and focused on work. They can't be expected to keep up with the little details and facts and nuances -- especially when they are attacked daily with a barrage of well-funded and professionally crafted corporate/conservative propaganda!
This assault on information and truth has been going on for decades. Under Reagan there was a dramatic shift toward "market" -- one-dollar-one-vote -- sources of information and away from objective, citizen-oriented democratic -- one-person-one-vote -- sources. This market-sourced information necessarily reflects a conservative/corporate view because it is driven by money and profit instead of humanity and humanity's needs.
Information for Democracy!
How do we counter the corporate/conservative assault on truth? One answer to the problem of getting accurate, objective information is to use (and support) alternative sources that are not offered by the conservative/corporate machine. Here is a list of a few links to alternative news sources. Please send these to relatives, friends, and even post them to conservative forums.
- Campaign for America's Future -- and especially sign up for Progressive Breakfast as well as the afternoon emails.
- Talking Points Memo
- Daily Kos
- Womens eNews
- Reader Supported News
- Common Dreams
- Smirking Chimp
- Mother Jones
- The Nation
- Op-Ed News
- The Progressive
- Think Progress
- In These Times
- American Prospect
- Huffington Post
PLEASE suggest more progressive information and news sources in the comments! And forward this to others.
Added suggestions, not necessarily just news:
AFL-CIO Now Blog
Scholars & Rogues
Crooks And Liars
Black Agenda Report
The Raw Story
Republic of T
Jack and Jill Politics
March 29, 2011
New progressive site. Go see: Daily Agenda | An Agenda Project Initiative
February 16, 2011
It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.
There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy -- rule by the super-rich and big corporations -- with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”
This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.
Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way -- that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.
Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.
August 23, 2010
The things that people "know" are very different from the "reality-based" things those of us reading a blog like this know, and those things seem to always, always serve the corporate right.
I have been away on vacation. While away I have been talking to "regular" people who are outside of the circles many of us who follow progressive blogs and news closely live in. The particular group I spent time with might not fairly represent "regular" people but whenever I spend time talking to people who are outside of our highly-informed circles, whether it is talking to relatives, doing call-in radio shows or just talking to people I meet I come away very discouraged by the things that most people "know." The corporate right has been very effective at spreading an anti-government, anti-democracy narrative that, when believed, puts their interests on top.
Some of the things that people "know" that I heard in one form or another on my trip include:
1) Government caused the financial crisis. A lot of people know this, and a lot more have heard it repeated over and over. Government forced banks to give mortgages to poor people and minorities. Taxes and government spending "take money away" from and generally harm the economy.
2) Obama bailed out the banks. The most a lot of people know about the stimulus is that it was a lot of money and it went to bailing out the banks. Obama's massive spending increase (Democrats "tax and spend") is the cause of the deficit and the government is at risk of going bankrupt.
3) Corporations (plutocracy) are always more effective and efficient than government (democracy). Government messes up everything that it touches.
4) "Entitlements" are welfare and are destroying people's independence and work ethic. People think the government will solve their problems so they don't turn to themselves. Illegal immigrants immediately get welfare and have lots of babies on welfare and this is why states are going bankrupt.
5) Social Security is going broke and won't be there for younger people.
Of course all of these are just wrong, and of course acting on these beliefs leads the country to results that are terribly destructive to the economy and people's lives while a few at the top make out very very well for themselves. I'm not going to spend any time here getting into how much is wrong with each of these. I do want to get into why people believe these things.
So many of us -- by "us" I mean people likely to be reading this -- spend our time in somewhat insular information environments, where the blogs and other information sources we read and the people we talk to tend to follow news closely, and to be very highly informed with "reality-based" information. But "regular" people do not follow the news closely, and the "news" they get does not come from the same places as the news sources you and I carefully seek out.
Why The Right Controls The Narrative
It's simple. The corporate right controls the narrative because they make an effort to do so, and the forces of We, the People democracy, community and caring humanity do not. (Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness.)
Corporations and conservatives have invested a ton of money in a huge ideological message machine because they understand marketing. There is FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, Drudge Report, a vast, vast Astroturf operation and all the rest of the right's propaganda operation. It is very, very well funded. They have constructed an effective narrative and they repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it -- and then they repeat it.
But there is also the corporate-owned "mainstream" media that largely echoes and often directly transmits the right's narrative. First, they echo these anti-government themes. Then, as with the current anti-Muslim "ground-zero mosque" frenzy they carry the things that distract from the real issues. Why? Because it serves their interests, too. If people are focused on distractions instead of looking at the real causes of their economic woes it is all the better for the real causes of their economic woes: namely the big, monopolist corporations.
(Does the mainstream media reflect corporate interests against those of the rest of us? Without going into detail here is a simple test: When was the last time you saw, heard or read someone on TV, radio or in a newspaper explain the benefits of joining a union?)
Meanwhile progressives and the forces of democracy are barely reaching out to regular people at all. We seem to focus our efforts mostly on elections, and do very little between elections to persuade the public that there are benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues. (And never mind our political leaders who repeat and reinforce the right's frames and narratives.)
A big part of this is that it takes a lot of money to reach out past our circles. But we sure do seem able to come up with money for elections. In fact the return on investment of reaching people outside of the election cycle should be obvious. We wouldn't have to raise and spend so much money in the election cycle if we were making the case that progressives bring more benefits to regular people, because then regular people would be more inclined to vote that way in general.
I plan to write more about this.
I think I did an OK job going into more detail on the things people "know" and why in this video from the Netroots Nation panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter. Use the bar to slide this to the 40:00 minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes.
And, while I'm showing videos, here is Love, Peace & Happiness by the Chambers Brothers. (I can't get it out of my head since writing "Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness" above...)
January 6, 2010
It isn't the job of a political party to create change, it is the job of a movement.
Campaign ads just literally go up in the air at the last minute and are very expensive. But donating to progressive organizations creates lasting demand for progressive change. If you give $1000 to a progressive organization that reaches the public and explains why progressive policies are better for them, then those people will vote for EVERY progressive candidate and support EVERY progressive initiative. That way your $1000 goes much, much further and you don't have to give $1000 to each candidate...
December 28, 2009
(Bumping this up to the top, adding a bit)
Are you disappointed in the results of the health care reform fight? Do you feel swamped by all the conservative/corporate "talking heads" on the right? I think progressives should work to reach the public and create demand for progressive policies. But to do this we need to build "progressive infrastructure" institutions that employ people to blog, write op-eds, appear on TV and radio, write books, and generally push for progressive solutions to our problems.
How do we build a movement that brings about change, instead of relying on politicians to make it happen?
Go read this and donate some money to help make it happen. How much did you give to Obama's campaign? Well that money just went up into the air for TV ads. Campaign ads do not change the public's long-term thinking.
We have to change people's minds. We have to reach out to the public and explain to them the benefits to them of a progressive approach. We have to create demand for progressive policies and candidates.
THAT will change the things that are happening in Washington.
November 19, 2009
I have an op-ed in today's San Jose Mercury News: Opinion: Why America needs to go back to taxing the wealthy. Here is a bit of it:
While America has always been a place where a person could get rich, it used to be that you got rich a bit more slowly, and everyone benefited in the process. This is because we used to have very high tax rates at the top.The whole thing is on their site. Please go read it.
A person could do very well, but income that came in above a certain level was highly taxed and used to pay for the teachers, police, courts and roads that enabled businesses to thrive. Just how high were taxes? During America's "golden years" of 1951-1963, tax rates were over 90 percent on income over $400,000. Then through the 1960s and 70s, they were 70 percent on income above $200,000.
. . . Back when it took time to make a fortune, business people had to rely on the health of the greater community to nurture their own enterprises. They had to think and act long-term. They had to carefully build solid businesses that satisfied their customers. They had to hold on to workers because their experience was valuable.
November 2, 2009
Over at Commonweal Institute, Brad Reed has a great post: Glenn Beck Peddles Populism for Rich Guys,
The irony is that Beck is only really opposed to big government when Republicans aren’t controlling it. For instance, he has no issues with allowing the government to torture prisoners and is supportive of police brutality. And those big government bailouts of the financial industry that Beck rails against on a regular basis? Back when George W. Bush was president, Beck actually chided Congress for not giving more money to rescue the banks.Go read, ans see what he says about Ayn Rand.
So Beck isn’t against big government. Rather, he’s opposed to government action that helps the poor at the expense of the rich. For instance, have you ever seen a conservative oppose tax cuts in any form? Well, Glenn Beck does, but only if they’re being given to poor people. Indeed, when economist Jeff Frankel appeared on Beck’s show to advocate giving tax cuts “to low-income, working Americans,” Beck compared him to Josef Stalin and accused him of trying to “redistribute the wealth.”
October 19, 2009
Take a look at the Campaign for America's Future blog, Blog for Our Future. There is a LOT there. Bookmark it.
Also, there is great thought-provoking stuff at the Commonweal Institute blog, Uncommon Denominator. Bookmark that, too.
And take a look at the names of the poeople posting at both of these sites - you'll be surprised.
Finally, if you are in California you will want to check out the Speak Out California site!
September 6, 2009
Please go read Jane Hamsher's Van Jones: A Moment of Truth For Liberal Institutions in the Veal Pen. She is asking the liberal organizations to stand up for Van Jones. Read the whole post, this is a key post at a key moment.
Glenn Beck calls someone a communist and they have to resign? Any one of us can be thrown under the bus at any moment if we don't fight this.
September 2, 2009
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Why are Republicans so successful, even though they only have a tiny minority representation in our state government? Read on.
An invitation was sent for the upcoming California Republican Party Convention, which will be September 25-27 at the Rennaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, outside of Palm Springs.
Nestled at the base of the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains in the exclusive community of Indian Wells, the luxurious Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa is the desert's finest oasis. Offering unparalleled service and all the amenities of a world-class resort, Esmeralda invites you to indulge your every whim.Featuring,
[. . .] Spa Esmeralda is designed to nourish your soul. Marble floors, glass corridors and the sounds of a trickling stone fountain greet you. From that moment on, a transformation begins to take place.
Gaze at the alluring desert landscape from the tranquil Spa Garden and soothe away the day's stress under a therapeutic waterfall spa. This is Spa Esmeralda. This is Paradise.
Nice! Where do they park their yachts in the desert, though?
- Spa with lush garden
- Golf Club House
- Lounge with live entertainment
- Room Service
- 36-Holes of Championship Golf
- 3 swimming pools & Pool Bar
- Fitness Center
- In-room movies
- Complimentary in-room coffee
- Complimentary newspaper
I noted on the web page, "Special Thanks to San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for their generous support of the California Republican Party and the fall convention." Sponsorship is solicited on the following terms:
$100,000 Official Convention Title SponsorshipThere are also $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 opportunities.
For organizations seeking maximum exposure and opportunities to network with Republican candidates for Governor, Congress and State Legislature, this Title Sponsorship opportunity is ideal, providing exclusive benefits. Title sponsorship of the California Republican Party's fall Convention is limited to one partner with a speaking opportunity during the convention and a customized sponsorship marketing plan tailored to your needs which will include ... Private meeting with all top state party leaders during convention.
I especially was interested in The Workshops At The '09 CRP Fall Convention, which are put on by various people including:
- David Kralik, Silicon Valley Representative for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions
- David Avella, Executive Director of GOPAC
- Philip R Hinderberger: Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel, NORCAL Mutual Insurance Company
- Larry Greenfield, The Reagan Legacy Foundation
- Mackenzie Eaglen, Research Fellow for National Security Studies, Heritage Foundation
- If you don't know, a Senior V-P & Govt. Affairs Counsel is a LOBBYIST.
- The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project was formed in 1997 as a project of Americans for Tax Reform - Grover Norquist's organization. According to SourceWatch: "Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is ostensibly a group that pushes for lower taxes. It has close ties to the Republican Party and has frequently allied itself with the tobacco industry."
- Heritage Foundation is the premier right-wing, anti-government "think tank" located in Washington, DC.
These third-party groups lay the groundwork for elections by bombarding the public with corporate-funded messaging that is almost always anti-government and anti-tax, advocating the corporations replace government in our national and state decisionmaking. Grover Norquist is famous for saying he wants to make the government "small enough that it can be drowned in a bathtub" and this is why his organization has demanded that office-seekers sign a pledge to oppose taxes in all forms. They believe in "defunding" government, so that it cannot effectively regulate corporations.
After enough of this drumbeat of anti-government propaganda, with no response from people who believe in demcoracy and community, the public doesn't have much choice but to believe the only voices they hear, and turn against government and the taxes that support democracy.
This third-party infrastructure is why conservatives have been so effective at strangling government in California. It is funded by corporations and every Republican has take "the pledge." The corporations pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into our elections to put just enough of them over the top to keep the state from functioning.
What we need is a progressive infrastructure of organizations that reach the public and explain progressive policies, creating acceptance of progressive values and demand for progressive solutions that help everyone, not just a select, wealthy few.
Click through to Speak Out California
July 21, 2009
Take a look at The Commonweal Institute Blog: Uncommon Denominator, and scroll down.
LOTS of good stuff there from the Progressive Op-Ed Program. You might recognize some of the names because you mightalready read their blogs: Brad Friedman, Jill Richardson, Brad Reed, Nezua Limon, Allison Arieff, Michelle Mustonen, Joanna Guldi, Chris Bowers, Kyle Gillette, Mary Ratcliff... Go see them all.
This is progressive infrastructure being built before your eyes.
May 28, 2009
Open Left is having a findraiser. If we are going to have a progressive infrastructure at all we all need to pitch in and help fund organizations like Open Left. Even if you only give a dollar, please go show that you support building up an infrastructure of progressive organizations that are:
* OUTSIDE of political parties, and that
* Put pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing, and
* Articulate progressive ideas.
Seriously, if 1000 people only give a dollar that is a thousand dollars. There are millions of progressives. Think about it.
April 13, 2009
We're all laughing at the right's nuttiness, especially the teabagging campaign. They say Obama isn't an American, that he is a communist, that in ten weeks he is responsible for the bush deficit, that he is planning to put everyone in concentration camps, that he is going to replace the dollar with a world currency, that he is gutting the military... And he has only been in office ten weeks.
In fact they're back to being as crazy and paranoid as they were when Clinton was President. Remember the accusations that Clinton and Hillary were murderers, that Hillary personally killed Vince Foster, that Clinton ran a drug-smuggling operation out of an airstrip, that he was looking through FBI files, that he fired the travel office to put a cousin in, that he "sold" plots in Arlington cemetery, that he held up runway traffic to get a $500 haircut, that he used cocaine in the White House, that he hung obscene ornaments on the White House Christmas tree and the other fabrications that came daily?
We laughed then, too, and how did that work out? They took over the Presidency, the House and the Senate. Then they started wars. They tortured people. They appointed corporate lobbyists to run every agency. They filled the courts with Federalist Society judges that rule for the corporations and religious right every time. They stole billions -- in one documented case actually having the Fed ship truckloads of pallets of hundred dollar bills directly to Iraq to be distributed to Bush cronies. They destroyed the economy of the world. And they worked hard to destroy the world itself -- the arctic is melting, the fisheries are depleted, the resources are plundered... And they get away with it -- who is being held accountable for any of that?
When Joe McCarthy was spreading his poison we dismissed him as a nutcase. We laughed at the John Birch Society's paranoia, when they called Eisenhower a communist, and they ended up getting Bolton appointed to the UN. We thought the "Impeach Earl Warren" campaign was a joke and now they have the Supreme Court majority. We laughed at Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's campaign and the religious right ended up staffing the administration with their followers. ... And now we mock them for being insane over Obama.
So I want to say, please take the right seriously. They may appear to be crazy - and they are - but this doesn't mean it isn't going to work. Let me explain.
In another life I was involved in direct mail. I learned a lot.
Direct mail lets you measure the effect of every smallest thing. You can change the color of the paper the letter is written on and then measure the effect this has -- and by the way, the color actually makes a measurable difference. Changing the price from $9.99 to $9.95 can have a significant effect on the number of people who choose to buy what you are selling.
So what I am getting at is that the most important lesson I learned was there is a reason that direct mail is worded the way it is, and looks the way it looks. That reason is that it works. "Buy now" is a call to action, and if you put "buy now" at the right place in your offer, people ... buy now. Every single word, the color, the font, the thickness of the ink, the headline, even the placement of periods and commas have all been tested and they are there because putting them there that way increases the number of people who make the decision to buy.
Repeat: they do it because it works.
What the right did in the Clinton years worked. They know how to do this stuff. That is why people across the country are reporting that a mass robo-call effort is underway to invite people to these tea parties. This is a funded strategic operation. They are reaching out to the general public with their message that Obama and "liberals" are to blame for the economy. They are setting the stage to own the issue when the economy gets worse.
Going out and talking to the general public with their message is effective, and that is what they are doing. Everything with them is about shaping public opinion. Everything is propaganda, saying whatever they need to say and refining what they say until it is having an effect, and then repeating and repeating that message. It's just standard marketing and advertising. And they get away with it because they are the only ones doing that. They have an entire TV channel dedicated to telling the public that conservatives and their ideology are good, and that everything that is bad in their lives is the fault of the liberals. They still have dozens - hundreds - of radio shows repeating that message 24 hours a day across the country. They still have hundreds of paid operatives writing op-eds, books, speaking to groups, appearing on their TV and radio shows, always always always repeating a coordinated strategic message.
It works. They're doing it and they are funded and strategic. We aren't. We're right and they are wrong, progressive policies and candidates are better for people than conservatives ones, but we aren't telling the public. We have no coordinated marketing effort to explain to the general public how and why progressives and progressive ideas and policies are better for them than the conservative approach. Until we do the right remains just as dangerous as ever.
Watch your backs.
April 2, 2009
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Here is something that you and I know to be true: progressive values and policies are better for people than conservative values and policies.
Progressives believe that we're all in this together and the community taking care of each other ends up working out better for everyone. History also shows that this is how it turns out, every time. Conservatives believe people should be on their own, in constant dog-eat-dog competition, with everyone looking out for themselves and only themselves. History shows that this approach leads to disaster, every time.
You and I know this. But the pubic-at-large doesn't know our side of this argument, because we aren't telling them. While conservatives market their philosophy through every conceivable information channel there is very little outreach explaining the progressive side. When you turn on the radio or the TV or read the newspapers you just don't see or hear about the benefits of a progressive approach. So the public-at-large is only hearing one side of the story -- the conservative side -- and they are hearing that side loudly and often.
It so happens that marketing works, and polls show that the conservative marketing campaign brings results. A 2007 Rasmussen poll, for example found that "41% of the voters think of themselves as conservative when it comes to the issues of taxes, government spending and the regulation of private business while 41% consider themselves to be moderates and 12% say they are liberal." A 2008 Battleground poll found that 59% of Americans consider themselves to be somewhat or very conservative and 36% say they are somewhat or very liberal.
So how do we reach the public? We have to identify target audiences, build the channels that reach them, and talking the cultural language of each target group. Yes, this is marketing talk. And to accomplish this we need to build organizations that do this work. Marketing works, and marketing science has evolved to become very effective. Companies understand this and do it. Conservatives understand this and do it. Progressives need to understand this and do it.
Here is a key, key point and I want to stress it: This is not about election-oriented organizations. This is about a long-term effort to change underlying public understanding and appreciation of progressive values. This requires a different kind of approach and a different kind of organizational structure than winning each next election. Election outcomes will certainly result from such an effort. In fact, with a public that is pre-disposed to be want progressive candidates and policies instead of conservative ones, elections will be dramatically and lastingly affected. This is why conservatives have built up a network of think tanks and advocacy organizations -- hundreds of them -- designed to change underlying public attitudes. And this is why those polls I cites show they have had such great success.
At my personal blog I wrote a July, 2007 post titled, While Progressives Talk To Each Other, Conservatives Talk To The Public. That post ended with,
Progressives need to start reaching the general public with the truth as well as each other. We need to start working together to fund and build the organizational infrastructure to develop and test messaging, then coordinate the use of messaging, train speakers, employ pundits, develop media channels, etc.
Now, two years later we're still largely talking to each other, especially here in California. But there are some improvements nationally. An organizational "progressive infrastructure" is growing up a bit, with the Center for American Progress, Media Matters and other organizations starting to show some strength.
But in California very little is getting done along these lines. The Courage Campaign (go sign up) is one great organization and is gaining strength, boasting an email list of 400-700,000. But even this is only about 2% of our population, and their netroots audience is predisposed to support progressive policies. What they are doing is hugely important and a huge start. But it is one organization when we need dozens, all funded and operating as different components of a cohesive progressive infrastructure. We need think tanks employing scores of experts to conduct the necessary research and come up with and test and refine the policies, wording and strategies to take the progressive message to the rest of the state. We need to develop communication channels that reach into every single geographic and cultural community. We need to train hundreds of public speakers that talk to every single group. We need to develop relationships with interest organizations including hunting, sporting, creative arts, technology, and other kinds of clubs. We need to get the writers reaching out of the blogs and into the newspapers and magazines and on television and radio.
California Progress Report is a site that rounds up California political news, from a progressive perspective. Frank Russo left to take a staff position in the Assembly, and the site is now operated by the Consumer Federation of California Foundation. This is an important component of infrastructure, but CFC is looking for funding to maintain and expand it.
Calitics is California's premier progressive community blog -- and you should get an account there, join the community and add your two cents. And you should take note of that "Donate" button in its right column.
And, speaking of donating, please sign up for Speak Out California's e-mail list. And click here to donate and help us stay online. It is your donations that keep us and all of these organizations in operation to help reach out and work to bring progressive policies to California!
Leave a comment and let me know which organizations, etc. I missed.
California is a big, big state and changing public attitudes is a big, big job. Conservatives launched their persuasion effort almost 40 years ago. Isn't it time we got started?
Click through to Speak Out California
March 13, 2009
Have you been to Commonweal Institute's website lately? More and more things are happening. In fact it's a good idea to sign up for email updates.
For example, Commonweal Institute is the home and fiscal sponsor of The Progressive Ideas Network which has released a book, Thinking Big: Progressive Ideas for a New Era. See At Dawn of New Era, Ideas Network Releases "Thinking Big".
Also, see Commonweal Institute is On the Air, with podcasts of recent radio interviews with commonweal-associated people.
March 1, 2009
If you have a minute please read Letter from the Executive Director: Operating in Obama's Washington | Commonweal Institute.
Barry Kendall spent a week in DC meeting with progressive groups and others, and writes a very interesting report on the new Obama administration, strategies, the state of progressive organizations and other interesting topics.
January 28, 2009
I would like to tell you about a new book, Thinking Big: Progressive Ideas for a New Era
From the publisher's description:
At this critical juncture progressives have a unique opportunity to reassert themselves as agents of bold ideas and catalysts of political and social transformation. This volume presents new and innovative solutions to some of the most difficult problems we're facing: the financial crisis, healthcare reform, greening the economy, expanding the middle class, improving America's standing in the world, and many more.
This book comes from the Progressive Ideas Network - an alliance of progressive think tanks. The job of these organizations is to think through today's problems and propose solutions according to our progressive values.
For example, the first essay in this book is titled, "Building Shared Prosperity." This is about building an economy that works for all of us rather than just making us all work to death to make a few already-wealthy people richer.
Progressive values: Do we want to live in a dog-eat-dog world where everyone is in it for themselves and only themselves? This is the conservative vision. OR do we want to live in a world where we take care of each other, watch out for each other, and lift each other up? This is the progressive vision.
The website for the book is here.
January 21, 2009
I am hearing that the post-Dean DNC under Obama has killed off the 50-state strategy and that 200 organizers have been fired. The word is they are going to go back to the old 50%-plus-one strategy that sacrificed the idea of making gains in areas that have voted Republican.
If this is true it is time to stop giving money or otherwise helping the DNC, and start thinking about ways to build progressive infrastructure.
December 14, 2008firedoglake.
You may have heard the term “progressive infrastructure.” We need it. Let me explain.
Bush and the Republicans are out, but we have to consolidate that victory, keep them out and implement progressive policies. We need to elect progressives to state office and we have to get “centrist” Democrats to do the right thing or run primary candidates who will.
“Progressive infrastructure” is the key to getting that done.
Look at how conservatives became so successful in elections and legislation battles. Starting in the 1970s they built well-funded organizations employing researchers, writers, pundits, speechmakers, marketers, talk-show guests, operatives etc. all using channels like talk radio, Fox News, the Washington Times and blogs to tell the public one or another form of a basic propaganda message: “liberals and their ideas are bad, while conservatives and their ideas are good.”
Movement operatives infiltrated churches, sports (NASCAR), interest groups (NRA) ... always working to convince people to identify as conservatives. After a few decades of this the public had a negative view of liberals. In surveys many people say they are conservative even though they line up with us on the facts and issues. Their candidates rode that wave into office and their policies rode it into law. In some races all a candidate had to do was point and shout “liberal!” to win!
Meanwhile progressive candidates start from scratch in the late summer, have to decide "issues" to run on, develop a message and then reach their voters – on their own from scratch.
Like the frog in heated water, progressives didn’t see what was happening. It took Clinton’s impeachment and the 2000 election theft to really shake and wake people up. Then came the blogosphere. People started to study and understand the right and began to see a model for responding. (The Commonweal Institute was a pioneer in this effort, and I have blogged and spoken about it through the years.)
Kerry’s 2004 loss was another shock. and now progressives are building organizations outside of the election process, working between elections, developing policy ideas and researching how to talk in ways that create demand for progressive policies and candidates. Media Matters, Center for American Progress, Air America and others are engaging in the national discussion.
Look at the difference this effort has already made! But the record is spotty and funding is minimal to nonexistent. For example, George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute had to shut down due to lack of funding.
That is why I am writing today. I am asking all of us to start donating to progressive infrastructure organizations (not issue organizations) because of the tremendous leverage it offers. Let me throw this down: donating a dollar to a progressive infrastructure today is like giving ten dollars to each progressive candidate in every local, state and national race two years from now, and every election following.
Look what we have been able to get done in this country with the smallest, minimally-funded hint at an infrastructure of organizations and media outlets. We fought back against the conservative machine and we got the Democrats to start fighting back themselves. Imagine what we could do if we actually started funding serious progressive infrastructure (not issue-based) organizations nationally and in every state, building an ecosystem where young people get training and jobs, writers and advocates actually make a living and activists receive speaking fees. Imagine progressive non-profits having the budgets to reach out past the blogosphere and talk to the general public.
By explaining the benefits of a progressive approach these organizations can help build greater public acceptance of and demand for progressive policies and candidates. As more people understand why progressive solutions benefit them more than conservative proposals, they develop a lasting positive identification with the progressive "brand." Then during the election cycle they vote for progressive candidates.
Donating to progressive advocacy organizations today builds long-term support for every progressive candidate and policy tomorrow -- lowering the need for massive last-minute election-cycle funding. By helping the public understand what progressive candidates are trying to achieve we all benefit.
December 12, 2008
I'll have a post up, and will be sticking around to talk in the comments about progressive infrastructure at 11am PDT (2pm EST) Saturday over at Firedoglake.
Update The post is up, and there is a lively discussion, come leave a comment.
November 28, 2008
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Markos, in a post today about the state of progressive infrastructure compared to the right's, Building machines,
[. . .] But that battle is no longer one-sided. Their machine may be bigger, but we have something. And that's all we ever needed -- a hint of a partisan progressive media machine, fed by research and investigative reporting from the likes of ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo, to begin delivering our message in the face of their vast media machine, as well as ineffective CW[conventional wisdom]-meisters like Maureen Dowd, Mark Halperin, and David Broder.Look what we have been able to get done in this country with only the smallest, minimally-funded hint at an infrastructure of organizations and media outlets working to counter the right that has been built up since we started this fight. We fought back against the conservative machine and got the Democrats to start fighting back themselves. We took the Presidency, increased our numbers in the House and maybe, just maybe took enough senate seats to stop the filibusters.
Now, imagine what we could do if we actually started funding serious progressive infrastructure organizations and building an ecosystem in which our writers and advocates could actually make a living, sell enough books to start receiving advances, get paid reasonably to write articles, receive speaking fees from organizations and some of the things right-wing advocates take for granted... Imagine tens of thousands of young activists being trained every year. Imagine progressive non-profits having the budgets to pay people more than minimum wage and provide benefits and get things done. Sheesh.
Imagine what we could get done in California if we put together solid organizations that could reach out to all of the public and explain the benefits of progressive values and policies. I mean progressive policies like good, well-funded public schools and low-cost universities, a health care system that works for the people, help with child care, a transportation infrastructure that gets people where they want to go in a timely manner, energy alternatives that cost less and do not pollute and employment rules that bring us reasonable wages and benefits in good jobs that also give us time to have fulfillment in our lives. These are all possibilities, in fact these are all things that we were within reach of obtaining in California not too long ago. These are things thaqt we can dream about again.
Barack Obama was able to raise millions of dollars in small donations, and this has helped the country to start to restore democracy. We can do this in California, by sending $10 or $100 or more to help organizations like Speak Out California and others, and doing this as often as you can.
It is time for us to begin to renew the California Dream.
Click through to Speak Out California
October 4, 2008
Please email the below message to your progressive friends and family.Go read the rest and sign the pledge! And tell others!
This week, Democrats helped George W. Bush and Republicans loot the federal treasury and hand billions over to Wall Street.
For some reason, we can never find money for kids' health care, clean energy, or other progressive priorities. But when it comes to right-wing priorities like war and giveaways to failed Wall Street executives, Republicans always find the money and Democrats go along.
There were progressive solutions to the financial crisis that would have truly held Wall Street accountable and helped the middle class. But instead of fighting for a bold progressive alternative, Democrats caved to the least popular president in history.
ENOUGH. Anyone with common sense will vote for Barack Obama and Democratic congressional candidates this November. But it's time for citizens to fight back and take this pledge -- will you join in signing it?
"In 2009 and beyond, I will be part of the movement that pushes Democrats to be bold progressives -- and that helps pass a bold progressive agenda into law."
September 15, 2008
What do we do if we win?
I'll be writing soon about New Progressive Voices - Values and Policies for the 21st Century,
The members of the Progressive Ideas Network have come together at this auspicious moment to lay out a course for genuine progress in the government and governance of this country and all its people.This is a book of nine essays by progressive leaders, laying out a progressive vision for governance. You can download their document (56 pages PDF).
Go to the site to see the list of Progressive Ideas Network organizations that are participating.
August 27, 2008
Question: If you are a progressive, should it be a responsibility to donate $20 a week to progressive organizations? Not candidates, organizations.
August 2, 2008
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.
July 29, 2008
Take a look at Commonweal Institute's new website. And get involved.
The Commonweal Institute is an alliance of independent thinkers leading the public in civic dialogue about our shared values as Americans and a progressive approach to problem-solving. We envision a society in which the advancement of human rights, civil liberties, participatory democracy, justice, strong and caring communities, and a more secure and sustainable future coexist with responsible global capitalism. Our goal is to engage all segments of society in the discovery and creation of a new harmony between private interests and the common good.
Also, the Commonweal Institute blog.
June 2, 2008
I am at the SEIU 2008 convention in Puerto Rico. Todd Beeton posted earlier today over at MyDD about the SEIU’s Accountability Project and I’d like to add to this discussion. This is a big, big deal for progressives! As Andy Stern said in his address to the convention today we are tired of, "Politicians who want your vote but after the election are at your throat."
In his post Todd explained,
. . . In a nutshell, after November, the SEIU intends to hold our Democratic representatives to their promises and let them know that there is the money, the organization and the will not only to fund primary challenges but to recruit and even train qualified candidates around the country if they don't do what they said they'd do.The primary race between Al Wynn and Donna Edwards was a very big victory for progressives. Prior to this race Democrats in Congress only saw one effective power bloc on the playing field which meant going against those big corporate interests could cost them their jobs. Whatever they might want to do, politics is about what you make them do. Wherever their hearts might have been, elected Democrats could see that only one side was able to rally the only real support or punishment that counted: enough votes. Yes, Ned Lamont caused some problems for Joe Lieberman but it's still Senator Lieberman.
What makes this threat real, of course, is that SEIU was instrumental in the defeat of Al Wynn by Donna Edwards in Maryland's February 12th primary. The SEIU spent $1 million on that race alone. Next year and all during the ensuing cycle, they're prepared to spend $10 million to target Democrats who don't follow through on their promises. Think about what the SEIU got for their money in MD-04: Congresswoman Donna Edwards who will champion progressive legislation on issue after issue affecting not only those in her district but impacting people's lives for the better all over the country, as every new and better Democrat added to congress by definition does.
So I don't actually blame Democratic elected officials for the "spineless" way they have been acting. I blame all the rest of us for not getting the public behind our ideas. Politicians are not leaders -- that is not their job in a representative democracy. Their job is to be followers and do what the people want them to do. I think it was LBJ who said about civil rights, "I'm completely with you on this, now go out and make me do it." That's how it has to work -- you have to make them do it or else why should they? Votes is how you measure that. If you like what they're doing you keep them in office and if you don't you boot them.
In my view it takes long-term movements to change the public's thinking and create the demand that politicians respond to. Movements persuade and educate the people and then they look for politicians who say they will do what the people want. The conservative movement has been engaged in traditional marketing demand creation activities for 30 years and our side has not. And so it got to the point where all a conservative politician had to do was point and shout "liberal!" to win an election.
As I see it American history is a series of movements working to persuade people that they have the best plan for the future. Over time, after the public absorbs and comes to agree with ideas, then they elect candidates who promise to follow through on those ideas. Lincoln came out of a long period of public wrangling over ideas, including slavery. FDR didn't just show up and tell people how it was going to be, his New Deal was the result of the earlier progressive movement that followed the Guilded Age.
My view here of movements creating demand says that a lot of the work of getting things done has to be outside of the election cycle and long-term year-round, because it is about building broad, popular support for ideas, not just for candidates. But here we are with the very progressive organizations needed to accomplish that dying on the vine for lack of funding. George Lakoff's Rockridge Institute just closed. The Center for Policy Alternatives just closed. These were two movement-building organizations. I know that many others are desperately struggling to keep their doors open, at a time when Obama and Clinton are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for short-term election activity. And, of course, progressive bloggers remain largely unfunded even though they are the primary channel for spreading progressive ideas and information.
So to sum that up, it takes a movement to change minds and create demand and make politicians do the right thing. SEIU is in a position to help all progressives make this happen. They are in a position to get some real things done here. They have people, funding and commitment. And they are working very hard to make this a bottom-up, diverse grassroots effort. As Todd wrote about the Accountability project,
The details of the program include:So SEIU will step up to the plate with serious resources that does two things. First, it finally gives politicians whose hearts are with us a reason to vote with us. Second, it tells politicians who don't agree with a progressive agenda (of reducing corporate power over our lives and restoring democracy to the people) that their time is past, that we will run candidates against them in the primaries and these candidates will have strong support.
- $10 million fund to take on elected officials who fail to live up to their promises.
- Calls for SEIU members to make at least 10 million phone calls to members of Congress after the election to hold them accountable.
- At least 50 percent of the union's organizing budget and 50 percent of its non-organizing staff at the national and local levels will be devoted to the effort
- A commitment to jump start a much broader, permanent grassroots movement of working people by actively involving at least one million SEIU members in the "justice for all" effort by 2012, and creating leadership roles for at least 200,000 (or about 10 percent of the union's membership).
While this is election activity, it begins to put an enforcement component onto our progressive movement's policy agenda. But SEIU is also beginning to engage in broader movement-building activite with the upcoming Justice For All campaign, Tim Tagaris writes about at Open Left, and which I will expand on in another post. As Todd writes, SEIU will focus on an agenda broader than the direct needs of only SEIU members:
The issues the SEIU is particularly interested in pursuing accountability on areI will write about the Justice For All campaign in a later post.
- Affordable, quality health care for all.
- The freedom for all workers to form a union without employer interference.
- Quality services in our communities with fair, reliable funding.
- An economy that rewards all workers, not just a few at the top.
- Citizenship for hard-working, taxpaying immigrants.
Disclaimer: Blogger hotel and airfare paid for by the SEIU
May 18, 2008
I'm a bit late in posting this, but if you are in New York City Tuesday you want to go to the DMI Benefit.
The Drum Major Institute's Annual Benefit will be held Tuesday, May 20 in New York at Cipriani on 23rd Street right across from Madison Square Park.. This year's honorees include City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, a founding member of Women of El Barrio, political organizer Steve Phillips, president and founder of PowerPAC.org, and David Simon, creator and producer of HBO's acclaimed series The Wire. Tom Watson has more details.
May 12, 2008
Progressives have their work cut out for them for November. And even if they win the Presidency there's nothing that tells me they'll be able to get anything implemented because there is little supporting infrastructure out there that gets the message out, creating demand for progressive candidates and policies. In fact, progressive organizations like Rockridge Institute (see story) and Center for Policy Alternatives are going under because they cannot find funding.
Meanwhile the right-wing drumbeat is still finding its way to every corner of the country.
Most people questioned said they mistrusted Mr Obama because of doubts about his patriotism and “values”, stemming from his cosmopolitan background, his exotic name and the controversy surrounding “anti-American” sermons by Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Several people said they believed he was a Muslim – an unfounded rumour that has circulated on the internet for months – despite the contradiction with his 20-year membership of Mr Wright’s church in Chicago. Others mentioned his refusal to wear a Stars and Stripes badge and controversial remarks by his wife, Michelle, who described America as “mean” and implied that she had never been proud of the US until her husband ran for president.Hundreds of millions for candidates to run TV ads that literally just go up in the air -- but nothing for the organizations that make long-term change possible.
Conservative commentators have questioned Mr Obama’s patriotism for months and the issue is expected to be one of the Republicans’ main lines of attack if he wins the nomination. “The American people want a president who loves their country as much as they do,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist. Obama supporters believe patriotism is being used as code to harness racist sentiment.
April 22, 2008
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.
As If We Needed Any More Proof That Democrats STILL Don't Get It!I want to say this about that:
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. ...
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
April 21, 2008
On a day when Barack Obama is raising $1 million in a single minute the Rockridge Institute announces it is closing its doors because it cannot find funding.
You can read their message here. Excerpt:
The progressive infrastructure built so far does not include a cognitive infrastructure. It has not tackled the Big Job--reversing the dominance of conservative Big Ideas in public life. Policy institutes do not address cognitive policy--the ideas and values that have to structure the public mind in order for nuts-and-bolts progressive policy to be accepted as just common sense.When my mood improves I'll try to have more to say on this.
When Rockridge started on its mission, we knew there were huge hurdles -- not just from the Right, but within the progressive community itself.
• The Progressive Funding Problem: The 1997 Covington Report [Sally Covington, Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations] observed that conservative foundations tend to give large, multi-year block grants to promote conservatism in general. By contrast, progressive foundations tend to give small grants for a short time over a short list of specific issue areas. This results in small nonprofits having to constantly spend a lot of time and effort raising money, and all too often failing to raise enough.
Update - In a post titled "Messiah Candidate Thinking" (no it wasn't about Obama, it was about Gore) I wrote,
I don't think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.Obama is great, but the groundwork has to be in place if he is going to be able to get anything done. We have to fund that, too, and it si ALL OF OUR responsibility to do that.
. . . This right-wing assault has eroded the public's understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of - and faith in - science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.
Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.
February 18, 2008
Before the California primary I was at a house party put on by supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton. (I have also attended Obama events - no hate mail, please). Clinton advisor Ann Lewis phoned in to talk about some of the issues. (Ambassador Joe Wilson also called.) At one point one of the guests asked Lewis whether progressive challenges in primaries is the best way get more progressives elected to the Congress.
Lewis gave a response that I feel should be repeated. It shows that the Clinton team has an understanding of the need to build a progressive movement outside of the electoral process if we want the country to make the changes that we progressives feel are necessary. (I am not saying that the Obama team does not have a similar understanding - no hate mail, please.)
Here is Ann Lewis’ statement about how Sen. Clinton thinks we can increase our chances of electing progressives into office in Congress.
"Hillary believes that the most effective way to elect progressive Democrats to office – and thus enact progressive policies – is by building and maintaining a progressive infrastructure, including institutions, organizations and blogs."At the YearlyKos Presidential Candidate Forum, Sen. Clinton gave an answer to a question that also showed an understanding of the need for non-party infrastructure, and that answer stuck with me. She said something to the effect of the reason things will be different under a Hillary Clinton presidency is that "This time, we'll have YOU," meaning that the Netroots will be there to watch her back, and to keep Democrats honest. (Obama also was at this forum, no hate mail please.)
If we really want long-term, structural changes in the way the public votes, the way to do this is to reach them outside of the electoral process. We need to help them understand what progressive values are - why democracy is important ad community benefits them, and conservative "you're on your own" policies do not. This effort leverages the electoral effort by "preparing the ground" and helping the public understand what progressive candidates are trying to achieve. This way ALL progressive candidates benefit from the SAME contribution. Each $1000 given to a progressive infrastructure organization accompishes more than $1000 given to EACH candidate at every level during the election.
If we can fund organizations like the Commonweal Institute and Speak Out California, which will then work to reach the public and help restore public understanding and appreciation of progressive values and ideas, then we will start to create demand for progressive candidates and policies.
January 17, 2008
So many are so sure that Democrats have the Presidential election in the bag. But progressives do not have an idea/communications infrastructure to tell the public how their ideas benefit them, which creates demand for progressive candidates and policies. Hundreds of millions of progressive/liberal dollars go into election-cycle spending, but none into creating an overall public attitude environment that is ready to accept those election-cycle messages. If a fraction of that election-cycle money went to organizations like the Commonweal Institute, Speak Out California, Netroots Nation, etc. these organizations could reach out to the public all year, every year and help to create demand for progressive policies and candidates. Sheesh, how many lost elections is it going to take before people get that?
In What I Expect In 2008 I wrote,
The election is a year away and the Republicans are working hard to set the stage and prime the public for their campaign themes.Later that month I wrote,
. . .
1) Iraq will not be in the news, and the Dems will be blamed for any failures. [...]
3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress [. . .]
5) Dems will face a hostile media that favors Republicans.
Conservatives and Republicans talk to the general public, and use a megaphone. Fox News is still there, just like they have been for a while. Rush Limbaugh is still there, spreading his lies, and his audience is still huge. Same for the rest of their machine - newspapers, other talk radio... And then there is their online effort, including the viral e-mails.And already we have a Republican polling ahead of all Dems,
If the general election were held right now, McCain would beat New York Sen. Hillary Clinton 47% to 42% and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 45% to 43%, the survey revealed.
December 21, 2007
Every Democrat should read this: Daily Kos: This is it. This is the way to change our party,
As we've learned this year, Democrats in DC are more afraid of David Broder, Joe Klein, and Mr. 24%, than they are of their constituents. They are more concerned with Beltway opinion than they are with the national consensus. They are happier dealing with lobbyists than they are dealing with real people. They are more concerned with avoiding criticism than they are of delivering campaign promises.There are two specific primaries that we - the progressive movement - have candidates running in right now. Go read the post and learn what you can do.
So what can we do about it?
[. . .] Well, we have one tool at our disposal, our only way to influence the behavior of our elected officials:
We can primary them.
November 9, 2007
The election is a year away and the Republicans are working hard to set the stage and prime the public for their campaign themes. Here are my predictions for the 2008 election environment the Republicans will try to set up.
1) Iraq will not be in the news, and the Dems will be blamed for any failures. If there is failure the "stabbed in the back" narrative will be perfected. If things are calm, the Democrats will be blamed for trying to get us out prematurely.
And, above all, even if nothing changes, never forget that on Oct. 26, just before the 1972 election, all the headlines read "Peace is at hand!"
2) Immigration: Republicans assuredly have polling and testing that show this as a strong issue. This week's elections saw them testing messages to find out what works. Don't think this was beaten back, it was only field-tested. They're going to use this to divide us and drive wedges between us and split groups apart -- it's what they do.
3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress -- Republicans are filibustering everything, and Bush is vetoing the rest. Every single bill. The media is already running with a "Dems won't compromise' and "Dems can't get anything done" narrative and Congress is at a record low approval. You bet we'll be hearing this - they are hard at work developing it. Unless the Democrats start making a lot of noise about this and sustain it -and get the media to report the facts - the Republicans will get away with it.
4) Pork and spending - This cost the Republicans in the last election and they learned from that. What did they learn? That the public votes against politicians who are accused of spending and pork. What are they doing about it? Accusing the Dems of spending and pork, of course! Do you remember how they started the first day of the new Congress accusing the Democrats of what they had just been doing - even though the Democrats were cleaning it up? Why do you think that is? And it has continued - until the public has largely forgotten that it was Republicans they were mad at. Republicans are priming the public now to believe that the Democrats are even worse than the Republicans were. and if you talk to anyone who gets regular news they already think the Democrats are even worse now than the Republicans were.
Meanwhile Bush is going to veto EVERY spending bill, no matter what, and say it spends too much of the people's money. Meanwhile the right's machine will be drumbeating on this and on how Dems will make taxes go up.
5) Dems will face a hostile media that favors Republicans. It will be nothing like previous elections. The large media corporations aren't even pretending anymore that their news organizations are about profits. It is entirely about persuading the public to support candidates who get elected and then hand them more money than any little news organization could ever make for them.
And finally, 6) I expect there will be hugely-publicized indictments of Democrats (innocent) for corruption by the Republican Justice Department. Realize that the Justice Department probe is largely over now, and the prosecutors who "played ball" are still there, the ones who wouldn't are gone, and no one faced any consequences. The Republicans have successfully stymied the corruption investigations we had been reading about before the last election -- and they are going to make sure the public is reading corruption headlines about Democrats, not Republicans for the next one. Also, see New polls expose a corruption time bomb for Democrats,
According to CBS News exit polls 74% of all voters identified corruption as either extremely important or very important as they went to the polls.
... In one year we have lost a +13 point advantage on the issue. 13 POINTS!
Karl Rove outlines here that many of these points will be the centerpieces of the Republican campaign strategy:
Failing to pass a budget, proposing a huge spike in federal spending and offering the biggest tax increase in history are not the only hallmarks of this Democratic Congress.So this is what I see coming, and the Republicans are laying the messaging groundwork today. Do you see Democrats understanding any of this, or doing anything to lay down a messaging foundation to counter it and prime voters for their own campaign?
. . . Beholden to MoveOn.org and other left-wing groups, Democratic leaders have ignored the progress made in Iraq by the surge, diminished the efforts of our military, and wasted precious time with failed attempts to force an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
. . . Democrats promised "civility and bipartisanship." Instead, they stiff-armed their Republican colleagues, refused to include them in budget negotiations between the two houses, and have launched more than 400 investigations and made more than 675 requests for documents, interviews or testimony.
. . . The list of Congress's failures grows each month. No energy bill. No action on health care. No action on the mortgage crisis. No immigration reform. No progress on renewing No Child Left Behind. Precious little action on judges and not enough on reducing trade barriers. Congress has not done its work. And these failures will have consequences.
I say "Democrats" here, even though that's not really a party's job. On the right there is a coordinated message machine, or echo chamber, consisting of dozens of well-funded advocacy and communications organizations like Heritage Foundation. These organizations pump out a core, coordinated ideological message, creating demand for conservative policies and candidates.
Progressives lack a coordinated, outside-the-party infrastructure to take care of this function. Organizations with a mission of reaching out to the general public to promote the benefits of progressive values, and create demand for progressive policies and candidates just aren't getting funding because the big political money on the left seems entirely focused on short-term election results. There is no view that we are in a long-term war, so we're always stuck fighting the next battle from scratch, during the election cycle. That is an expensive, inefficient and shortsighted way to fight a war.
November 8, 2007
This post is a must-read: "THANK GOD FOR TALK RADIO!"
So: Politics 101. Stake out an ultra-extreme position so that when the rest of your party endorses a merely extreme position it looks like it's a moderate compromise.Yes, progressives need to develop an infrastructure to get their message out to the public. The progressive movement needs infrastructure organizations to research and develop ideas and articulate these ideas in ways that resonate with the public- thereby creating demand for progressive policies and candidates.
Question: why don't liberals do this? The stock answer is that we're wimps, but I don't think that's it. At least, not always. I think the answer is talk radio. Our extremists don't succeed in redefining the playing field because there's no institutional infrastructure behind them that converts lunacy into political pressure.
October 17, 2007
Rockridge Institute is launching a campaign, Don't Think of a Sick Child.
This is a prototype ad:
About the campaign:
The national debate over the future of health care security is complex and confusing to many Americans. There is little doubt that the country is in the midst of a health care crisis as more than 100 million Americans find themselves underinsured, uninsured and without adequate health care. Advocates on multiple sides of the debate inundate voters with various plans, statistics, prescriptions, and political sloganeering. Yet, the confusion remains.
In launching this campaign, the Rockridge Institute is contributing to progressives as they consider and focus their health care message. We have written a thoughtful white paper, as well as talking points, prototype television advertisements, blog posts, op-eds, and other material designed to bring some consistency and honest framing to the cause of health care security. To the many groups and individuals engaged in this cause, it is our hope we will be of some help to your heroic efforts.
October 9, 2007
Here is an interesting post: The Triumph of Conservative Philanthropy: <em>Powerlineblog</em> and conservative philanthropy,
Every now and then you get a glimpse of where the true power is over at Powerlineblog. Today Scott Johnson has a post up titled "Coming attractions," that publicizes two upcoming conservative movement events.The post looks at how right-wing think tanks, celebrities and money work together, the whole while supporting their bloggers and getting their message out to their blogosphere.
In their own way the conservatives have setup an institutional supply-side structure for getting their message out. First they create and subsidize hundreds of institutions like Claremont and CAE; next they find reliable Republicans to staff them. These institutions then create content for media dissemination, which is taken care of by blogs like Powerline and columnists like Kersten.But on OUR "side" the House and Senate just voted to condemn MoveOn, with many so-called "Democrats" voting to do that. And there is no progressive infrastructure ecosystem to support our activists, thinkers, writers and organizers.
August 18, 2007
Why does it seem that so many Democrats are "spineless" and rarely have the courage to "do the right thing?" Why does it seem they always "cave" to the right?
When I hear people talking about "the Democrats" and "the Republicans" I think what they really are seeing is the political effect of a supporting movement-oriented infrastructure that the right has and we do not. The right has a well-funded infrastructure and ecosystem that sets up a supportive public environment, rewarding their politicians for staying in line with the right's agenda, and punishing the ones who do not. Progressives just don't have that.
Face it, it is very easy for Republicans to be wingnuts. It doesn't take brains or courage or commitment - they just ride a wave that their movement apparatus sets up. Their candidates ride that wave into office and their policies ride that wave into law.
But it is incredibly hard and courageous for Democrats to "do the right thing." And it can cost them dearly. Just look at the difference between what happens to Republican and Democratic officeholders when they take strong positions that line up with the core values of their "base."
Republicans who toe the right wing corporate line know they have the whole "conservative movement" infrastructure and political system watching their backs, sticking up for them and going after their opponents. Even if they get tossed out of office they can expect serious rewards. They get appointed to a nice agency position, or a think tank job, or a lobbying job - something will be there for them and they know it. The right takes care of their own. (And we all know this system extends through their whole infrastructure, right down to speaking fees and book advances for lowly RW bloggers.)
But it is not easy for Democrats to do the right thing. Not at all. It takes incredible courage and commitment, because they are on their own when going against the system and the right's apparatus. For politicians who might support progressive values and policies there just is not much of a system beyond the blogosphere to encourage and support them to do the right thing. So they can expect no support - only punishment and pain. Dem politicians largely still do not support and stick up for each other and there is very little organized support from . There isn't a reward/job/payment system at all - candidates and their staff in fact have to worry that they are harming their future political and business careers by sticking up for progressive values.
To add to this our few think tanks are very, very, very poorly funded so they won't be hiring elected officials or staff if they lose an election, and progressives across the board pretty much do not receive anything but minimal book advances or speaking fees. (The one or two examples you can think of like former President Clinton actually just show how it could be; it is the norm on the right.)
Why should we expect our politicians to do what's right when all that happens when they do is they get beat up (first by other Dems), lied about, smeared, humiliated, destroyed, go broke, etc...
WE here in the blogosphere are incredibly dedicated and we "do the right thing." But look at us - many of us work for free, many more don't have health insurance. Many of us have given up good jobs to try to help the country through this emergency. I could go on and on about how hard it is. And we certainly can't expect to be rewarded with good jobs for our efforts. My point is that we should not think that because we put up with this lack of support, therefore everyone who shares our values will. I mean, on our side it really is often a choice between helping the movement and having a car or a family or health insurance or even health.
WHY don't we have a movement infrastructure? First, we don't have an understanding of the need. People seem to think it is someone else's job to take care of things. It's still "the Democrats aren't..." instead of WE aren't making the Democrats do it. So we don't have widespread understanding that it takes a political movement to change a party.
And then there is the funding problem. We don't have the huge funding the right has because we don't have a movement-orientation among most of our individual and corporate/institutional/foundation donors, and most important we do not have the willingness of individual progressives to dig deep enough and donate to progressive infrastructure organizations. We should be getting millions from the grassroots and we are only getting hundreds.
Then there is a second side of politicians doing the right thing. They are politicians, and the job of a politician is to represent the public, not shape the public. They respond to demand. Good politicians have very good noses for demand. So let's look at the demand-creation capabilities of progressives vs those of the right. The right has developed communication channels like Rush, Fox, the Washington Times and continues massive, well-funded efforts to reach the public through every possible information channel to every possible group. They have infiltrated churches, sports (NASCAR), interest groups (NRA), organizations like the American Legion, and I could just go on and on.
We have the blogosphere and ... well, we do have the blogosphere.
In a YearlyKos blogger meeting with Senator Dodd he said something that has shaped my thoughts on impeachment. It distilled down to the public not understanding how impeaching Bush will make a difference in their lives - especially when the right will be pounding the message that the Dems are doing nothing that helps them in their lives.
Let's not get caught up in whether the Dems are working for regular people or are not - we know they are - or whether impeaching does or does not - we know it does. The significance is what the PUBLIC thinks.
And here is a huge difference between the right and us -- they are reaching the public-at-large with their message and we are not.
So, in summary:
1) The right has an infrastructure that rewards and punishes their politicians and progressives do not.
2) The right's infrastructure has developed communication channels that reach out to the general public with demand-creation efforts and progressives have not.
3) The right has a movement-oriented funding system that stretches from top to bottom and progressives do not.
August 15, 2007
Chris Bowers announces the first of the BlogPac grants for "grassroots progressive infrastructure projects."
I can not stress enough how important this is! Please go read the post and learn who the first grant-winners are.
But there is a problem -- BlogPac is very low on funds. There were over 100 applicants for these grants and barely funds for these first five to get even small grants. Chris writes,
... today I am asking you to become a stakeholder in the effort to help seed the progressive grassroots. Let's make this contest a regular event held at least every other month, and keep building progressive, grassroots infrastructure. By contributing to BlogPac, you ensure that the infrastructure all activists in the progressive movement need to be more effective is being built. By becoming a regular contributor of $10 a month or more to BlogPac, you guarantee yourself a regular vote on how we will distribute these grants in the future. In every subsequent contest, as netroots stakeholders regular BlogPac donors will have a vote to decide which projects receive half of the grant money in these contests.
Once again, if you want to build a new progressive movement that helps our candidates win and our ideas to become policy, please help this cause!
June 26, 2007
I attended the Take Back America conference last week, and it was great. I am inspired, and you should be, too.
Two years ago I was at this same conference and it was a very different experience. I felt it was attending a tired, demoralized gathering of people associated with the older, Washington-based, established, celebrity-driven issue-organizations. I left discouraged, wondering when the liberal establishment would start to catch up with the ideas circulating around the blogosphere – especially with the ideas about building “progressive infrastructure” organizations for reaching out to the public and promoting core progressive values and ideas, instead of the focus on issues.
After that conference I wrote,
At the recent Take Back America conference … 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.This conference was very different. At the opening plenary session, Bob Borosage, one of the two heads of Campaign for America’s Future, gave a visionary talk. I “live-blogged” it at the time, writing,
Bob Borosage is speaking, his theme: the conservative era is at an end and our task is to outline what comes next.This year's conference invited bloggers, had a “Blogger Boulevard,” gave a Maria Leavey activist award, and gave an award to the “progressive bloggers” at a Gala Dinner in front of a well-dressed Washington DC crowd. These are the people who had been hearing that bloggers are scary, uncivil, foul-mouthed and hairy. But we weren’t, and they saw that. Digby’s talk ( read a transcript here and see a video here) set just the right tone. This event built bridges between the progressive netroots and the Washington establishment, and the payoff for both will be huge. And I give credit and kudos to Bob Borosage and Roger Hickey and the Campaign for America’s Future for building this bridge!
Summary: They failed - Iraq, Katrina, economy not working for working people. So we have to make sure he public understands this. The conservative words sound good because they are meant to -- they have been tested to sound good. But the reality of what they did is different.
Katrina was a teachable movement, but you do have to teach it. Republicans aren't going to, they will say that things went wrong because they were not conservative enough. But they failed not simply because they were corrupt and incompetent - they failed because they get the world wrong, and we have to teach this lesson over and over again so Americans learn it.
… The progressive bloggers are here and they have taught us how to fight.
This is not the time for timidity - don't want to hear people talking about tracking to the elusive "center." This is our time to claim the future. We have to grab this opportunity and if we don't grab it somebody else will and they will take it in the wrong direction. [emphasis added]
Of course, the self-organized session Reaching the Public was the most important. But seriously, I attended one session, Winning Hearts and Minds: Why Rational Appeals are Irrational if Your Goal is Winning Elections put on by Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain (see my earlier post) that was important to our understanding of how people make political and voting decisions.
Also at this conference the Democratic Party candidates for President spoke. I "live-blogged" Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton's speeches. Obama was the winner. He gave a rousing, solidly progressive talk with a delivery that you have to experience in person. I hadn't been a big Obama fan before this, but now I am starting to understand the appeal. (I like all three of them and will be happy whoever gets the nomination.)
So things are changing. The netroots and the DC crowd are connecting. The activists are all talking infrastructure and core values instead of selfishly splintering into issue silos. And the energy level is high.
June 22, 2007
An interesting page covering my favorite topic: Funding Progressive Infrastructure
And a blog post: Will we learn to fund progressive infrastructure?
June 13, 2007
Progressives need to promote the benefits of progressive values and ideas to the general public. This creates demand for progressive candidates and policy solutions.
The idea is simple - right-wingers are out there all day, every day, and through every possible channel, repeating various forms of the simple marketing message "Conservatives are good and liberals are bad." The conservatives get it: persuasion, marketing, talking to the public WORKS. Over time this has an effect.
Liberals and progressives are not responding by also talking to the general public and promoting the benefits of PROGRESSIVE values and issues. So after a few decades of this, the public has a negative view of liberals & progressives, and in surveys they say they are conservative - even though they line up with us on the facts and issues. All a conservative candidate has to do is point a finger and shout "liberal liberal" and this gives them a tremendous head start in a campaign.
If you are at Take Back America, please come to this session, at 4pm on Monday June 18.
June 12, 2007
I love progressive think tanks. I think building strong think tanks is a hugely important component of a "progressive infrastructure" for fighting back against the right. Progressive think tanks are where many of our ideas could be developed and communicated to the public. They are where many of the op-ed writers, book authors, opinion columnists, radio and TV guests could be employed. And they are where major reports and studies can be researched and written.
The blogs, of course, are a virtual think tank, where ideas are generated, discussed, revised and communicated at a very rapid pace.
You know that I have been working for some time to get the Commonweal Institute started. I am also on the Netroots Advisory Council of the Drum Major Institute (DMI).
The Drum Major Institute writes that they are a "progressive public policy for social and economic fairness."
DMI's approach is unwavering: We do not issue reports to see our name in print or hold forums for the sake of mere talk. We seek to change policy by conducting research into overlooked, but important social and economic issues, by leveraging our strategic relationships to engage policymakers and opinion leaders in our work, and by offering platforms to amplify the ideas of those who are working for social and economic fairness.The Drum Major Institute is having a benefit on June 21. DMI's Elana Levin writes, DMI Annual Benefit: it's only the coolest fundraiser of the year,
DMI's Annual Benefit is just weeks away. On June 21st at Cipriani on 23rd street the Drum Major Institute and all of our supporters will be coming together for the big annual event that's key to keeping a leading edge think tank growing and going strong.Tom Watson writes,
How cool is the DMI benefit?Click through to these posts for details.
Professor Cornell West of Harvard - the Cornell West will be presenting honoree Tavis Smiley with the Drum Major for Justice Award for being an outstanding voice for social change in the news media and beyond. You probably know Mr. Smiley from his nightly talk show on PBS and the best selling progressive book "The Covenant with Black America." [click through for links]
June 4, 2007
I hear lots of people express the sentiment, "If only Gore would enter the race (or if only Obama took the lead, etc.), everything would be OK and progressives would win again." This is what I call "Messiah-Candidate Thinking." The example that got me thinking about this was a DailyKos diary today: An Inconvenient Truth: Mr. Gore You HAVE to run in 2008,
Mr. Gore, you are the person best suited to rescue us from the assaults on reason, our Constitution, our environment, our security, and our domestic infrastructure perpetrated on us by the Busheviks and their allies.I am not faulting the sentiment here. I love Gore and he would be a great President. I think most of the candidates would make great Presidents. But I don't think that one person or one election is going to lead us out of the wilderness. I think there is a lot of work required before progressives can win again and turn America in a progressive direction.
Do the conservatives run great candidates? Is that what has worked for them? Was Bush a great candidate? Or was it something else?
Here is what I think. Liberals and progressives used to win elections. They used to be a majority and everyone got used to it. So a lot of people think that all we need to do is find the right candidate who will articulate things well and get "the facts" out for them -- and the public will turn out in droves again. They look for another John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton, thinking that's all that is needed to turn things back around.
But times have changed. The "conservative movement" has spent more than thirty years bombarding the public with coordinated, professionally-crafted propaganda that has changed the thinking of the public. This propaganda has gone unanswered and we are seeing the effects all around us.
Think about this - most people's political thinking developed since Reagan was elected. Heck, a good portion of the population doesn't remember a time before George W. Bush! So most of them have never been exposed to information that positively explains what progressives stand for, or the benefits of unions -- or even peace. This has had a terrible effect on the politics of this country.
This right-wing assault has eroded the public's understanding of (and belief in) democracy and community. It has even eroded understanding of - and faith in - science and reason! So I think there is a lot of work that has to be done to bring things back. We have to spend the money and do the work and take the time to build the think tanks and communications organizations (like Commonweal Institute) that will reach the public and explain and promote the benefits of progressive values and a progressive approach to issues. Over time this effort will restore public demand for progressive candidates.
Messiah-Candidate Thinking is a way to avoid facing the changes that have occurred in America. It is a way to put off the work that needs to be done.
So yes, I am all for Gore running. But I don't think it is the be-all and end-all. There is a lot of work to do before America turns back to a progressive direction.
April 30, 2007
Who was Maria Leavey? Maria was an organizer with extraordinary skills and heart. A behind-the-scenes force who connected rising young talent with Washington leaders. A selfless advocate who often worked without credit, or even compensation.
Working out of her small apartment with an outdated computer, Maria was a tireless and path-breaking promoter of the bloggers, radio personalities, and journalists who've broadcast our progressive message to the world.
Sadly, after years of selfless service to our progressive movement, Maria passed away on December 31, 2006, at the all too young age of 52.
So they have started an award in honor of Maria Leavey.
To celebrate Maria's life and work and to honor those who follow in her footsteps, the Campaign for America's Future has created the annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award. Please take a moment to learn more about the award and nominate an unsung progressive hero that you know.Submit your nominations here
Nominations are due by May 6, 2007. A panel of Maria's family, friends and colleagues will select award finalists by mid-May, and everyone interested will be invited to vote to select the award winner.
March 30, 2007
In 2006 people voted against Republicans, not for Democrats. Never forget this.
The 2006 election taught Republicans that people vote against headlines about corruption and war. Republicans were being investigated and indicted for corruption so people voted against them.
So they are taking steps to change the playing field for 2008. This is what the Justice Department scandal is about. The prosecutors who did "play ball" -- drop investigations into Republican corruption and investigate "administration priorities" -- were allowed to stay and the ones who did their jobs were fired.
If the Republicans have their way with this -- and that means if ANY of the 93 current prosecutors stay in that job -- the public will be reading about dozens and dozens of Democrats being investigated and indicted for corruption even though they are completely innocent, while corrupt Republicans will be given a free ride to continue to raid the Treasury (while of course giving a "finders fee" to The Party.) And if this is what is happening in 2008 the public will vote against Democrats. It's as simple as that.
The only way to stop this is to replace all 93 Bush prosecutors with honest people, and clean out the entire Justice Department.
Meanwhile, the supporting infrastructure that surrounds the Democratic Party -- unfunded blogs and poorly-funded progressive organizations and very few poorly-funded think tanks -- is still failing to reach out to the general public with reasons to vote for Democrats.
March 11, 2007
Mary writes about this in Pacific Views: Commonweal Institute And Building The Progressive Infrastructure
March 1, 2007
By Dave Johnson and James Boyce
There's a tragic but true old expression that a lie can make it half way around the world before the truth can even get its pants on. Sadly, this has been proven true again this week with the $mear attack on Vice President Al Gore and his energy consumption.
Today, we noticed that the lie has made it to Germany. How did this happen and, more to the point, why does it continue to happen?
As Media Matters continues to speak out about every single day - and we all owe them thanks - the corporate media in America absolutely fails to serve the interest of the public. How could they spread this lie? How does a small, unknown organization with a $100,000 budget issue a press release containing a $mear on a respected former Vice President of the United States and have their lie echoed around the world within hours? Pathetic. (Just look at their IRS form! No officers, directors or trustees? Very little information? A P.O. box? Is it normal for an organization to spend that high a percentage of their funds on "meals?") One reporter asking one question about this group, or about the facts behind Gore's energy use, and the story is over. But they didn't.
Furthermore, it's our collective fault. As we noted in our post a few days ago, no one should have been surprised when Al Gore was attacked for the positive press he and his movie received last weekend. An Inconvenient Truth was sure to win an Oscar. Gore would then speak to a billion people about the problem of global warming. The well-funded global warming denial industry would respond, and $mearing people is their standard method of attack. They destroy our leaders.
And yet, there was surprise and a lack of preparation to fight back. How many times will one of our leaders be attacked and be marginalized before we get it through our thick heads that this is a pattern? How many times will this happen before we start to do something about it?
Al Gore was mocked as "ozone man". Max Cleland destroyed. Howard Dean screamed out of town. McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, and Bill Clinton $meared and $meared and even impeached. Then the lies about Al Gore during his campaign against Bush. Then John Kerry swiftboated. Now Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama and John Edwards attacked. They destroy our leaders.
And not only are the targets of the attacks often caught off guard, but the Democratic institutions and leaders are often nowhere to be found when it happens!
Where was the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday as these lies gained hold? Where was any Democratic-oriented Group? There were the progressive bloggers, Media Matters and CAP's Think Progess and very few others -- the usual suspects -- and this is all that Gore and our other leaders have watching their backs. They sure aren't watching each other's.
Last fall, we (James, Dave and Taylor Marsh) worked together on The Patriot Project. We struggled mightily to raise money to help veteran candidates like Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Charlie Brown, Jack Murtha and Chris Carney. We raised money online but traditional donors didn't help us. The progressive bloggers are also largely unfunded and are the targets of strategic marginalization attacks themselves. The progressive donor base continues to play it safe and avoid controversy, funding the large, stale, DC-based "traditional" organizations.
And the attacks continue.
When John Kerry was the focus of the machine when he botched his joke, the wingnuts misrepresented what he said and pretended outrage, the right's online sites echoed and amplified the smear, the Drudge Report spread it widely, Limbaugh blasted it out, and then the networks dutifully picked it up and spread the lie to the rest of the country. And not only did no Democrat come to his aid, some actually piled on.
When Nancy Pelosi was $meared with the lie that she "demanded a luxury jet" the wingnuts misrepresented what she said and pretended outrage, the right's online sites echoed and amplified the smear, the Drudge Report spread it widely, Limbaugh blasted it out, and then the networks dutifully picked it up and spread the lie to the rest of the country. But how many leading Democrats and organizations joined forces to protect her?
How many similar episodes have we seen in just the last few months? Where are the Democratic institutions? Where are the other Democratic leaders? Don't they understand that they're next?
And this week here was Al Gore getting blind-sided and the silence was deafening. One more sad but clear example of what ails our party and our leaders.
It is a tragedy.
First the wingnuts came for Bill Clinton,
I remained silent;
I am not Bill Clinton.
When they made up stuff about Gore,
I remained silent;
I am not Gore.
When they lied about John Kerry
I didn't speak up for him;
I complained about how he ran his campaign.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out;
I am a Democrat.
February 5, 2007
In Paying the New Politics, Stirling Newberry writes about how "the well oiled parts of the establishment are busy not funding the progressive space known as the blogosphere."
He's writing about how bloggers can survive to continue doing the work they do. But he is also talking about "Progressive Infrastructure" -- building up a power base outside of any political parties. The would consist of organizations that support the activities of progressives, that reach the pubic to inform them about issues and ideas, that provide the foot soldiers for campaigns and initiatives.
And he writes,
Many people will take this as a threat, in a sense, it is history's threat: when a new body of people emerge, either the established means fund them, and thus bring them in - or those new people establish new institutions, ones which are not beholden to the old world. Being a student of history, I could rattle off a dozen examples beyond the conservative movement. But realize that the liberal blogosphere is a couple of ticked off billionaires away from not needing the inside.
And there are a growing number of progressive billionaires or hectamillionaires, who are less than impressed with how the liberal establishment and Democratic Party have run things. One of them could be the Scaife of the progressive movement, and one of them will be.
January 19, 2007
Two years ago, Adam Werbach, former President of the Sierra Club, said in a speech that foundations need to stop funding environmental organizations (and issue organizations and programs generally) because that money is wasted, and should instead be used effectively to start talking to the public about the benefits of progressive values and policies. He said we need to:
"... Dismantle environmental programs in foundations: Easy money reinforces bad behavior. If our end goal is to change the way Americans think, we need to fund strategic initiatives that move the public's values. It's time for the rest of the philanthropic world to start funding long-term strategic initiatives that are measured by their effectiveness at changing the public's values, not by protecting a particular thing.So two years later, how are we doing? Are foundations and other funders supporting issues and programs, or efforts to reach the general public promoting the benefits of progressive values and policies? Are we taking over the Democratic Party?
... Take over the Democratic Party: We have been deluding ourselves into believing that "everyone" supports the environment. The Republican Party -- as an institution -- has declared war on us. The Democratic Party claims to be our ally, yet fails us. It's time for us to drop our veil of bi-partisanship and fight to fix the deeply broken Democratic Party."
I think no one the first, yes on the second.
January 12, 2007
The right has organizations and money that they use to reach the public and tell them over and over that conservatives and their ideas are good, and liberals and their ideas are bad. THEY CREATE DEMAND for their ideas and candidates. So many of their candidates can win by pointing and shout "liberal, liberal."
With this election we have had a small victory, that came out of an unfunded uprising of netroots progressives. Imagine where we would be today if there were funded "progressive infrastructure" organizations reaching the public and pushing back at the right's constant messaging. How long can we continue to find the energy to keep the fight going without that?
Imagine where we could be in '08, '10 and '12 if we can find funding to start employing people, training people, paying bloggers, paying people to go on TV and write op-eds and books, and reaching the public to tell them that liberals and their ideas are good and conservatives and their ideas are bad for people.
Imagine if OUR candidates could win just by pointing at a wingnut and saying, "conservative, conservative."
But it all takes money, applied the right way. Cracking the funding problem is the biggest need of the progressive movement. The lack of funding is our biggest weakness. Sure we won an election. But can we sustain it without a funded infrastructure of supporting organizations - like the Right has?
December 15, 2006
Every time you turn on the radio or a cable news show you hear one form or another of the same old message, “conservatives and their ideas are good and liberals and their ideas are bad.” Think about how often you hear one or another variation of that theme.
But how often do you hear that liberals and progressives are good? How often do you hear that liberal/progressive ideas are better for people than a conservative approach? And if you are reading this you're looking for progressive ideas. So how often do you think the general public is hearing that progressives and their values and ideas are good?
The public does not hear our side of the story very often – if ever.
Why is that? Maybe it’s because we aren’t telling people our side of the story!
There are literally hundreds of conservative organizations that primarily exist to persuade the public to support conservative ideas (and, therefore, conservative candidates.) The people you see on TV or hear on the radio or who write op-eds in newspapers are paid by, or at the very least draw upon resources provided by these organizations. You might or might not have heard of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute or Americans for Tax Reform or the This Institute or the That Foundation or the Government-and-Taxes-Are-Bad Association – but there really is a network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-and-democracy-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades.
Now, can you think of any organizations that exist to tell the public that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good? Do you know about any organized effort to persuade people to support progressive values and ideas?
People respond to marketing, and conservatives have been marketing their cause while progressives have not. This has been going on for decades, and as a result of this the public’s understanding and acceptance of progressive values - like democracy and community - has eroded. We can see the results of the conservative marketing campaign all around us: War. Debt. Crumbling infrastructure. Falling wages. Loss of pensions. Loss of health insurance. Declining union membership. Massive trade deficits. Distrust of government, courts, schools and other institutions of community. The list just goes on and on.
But really, after decades of conservatives pounding out their message and progressives keeping their message to themselves, what should we expect?
So it is time to change the game. It is time to start funding organizations that talk to the public about the benefits that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates bring to them. $1000 given today toward building public appreciation of progressive values could have greater impact than $100,000 spent in support of a candidate in the days before an election.
Helping the public understand and accept progressive values will help the efforts of "issue organizations" like environmental groups, pro-choice groups, and others. As the public comes to understand and accept the underlying progressive values they will naturally support organizations that promote particular issues that are based on those values. And as the public begins to demand progressive solutions to problems the candidates they support will also naturally support the efforts of these organizations.
Marketing creates demand. Let’s create a demand for progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates.
The Commonweal Institute wants to tell people that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good for them. (Commonweal means "the public good" or "the common good.")
December 12, 2006
You might have heard that progressive organizations are starved for funds, while the hundreds of right-wing organizations like The Heritage Foundation that pound us with the right-wing message every day are all flush with corporate and wealthy-donor money. You might have heard that people who work for right-wing organizations are well-paid, well-trained and have access to the latest technology and resources, while people who fight for OUR values have to work for a pittance and barely get by, use ancient technology, etc.
It's true. Progressive organizations ARE starved for funds, and as a result many of them primarily reach out to their membership lists - to appeal for funds - instead of reaching out to the public to broaden the progressive base. Meanwhile the conservative organizations are always out there making the case for conservative ideology and candidates. So the public - and resulting government policy - understandably leans right.
Because of this lack of funds many progressive organizations depend on a select few donors and have to be cautiously "centrist," moderating their message and mission rather than risk giving offense by reaching out with a message that would resonate with more people - and grow the base.
Here's a thought. If everyone who reads DailyKos, Huffington Post, Eschaton, Common Dreams, AlterNet, BuzzFlash, Smirking Chimp and all the other online progressive sites and blogs each gave at least $100 to a progressive organization - ANY progressive organization - it would end the dominance of the corporations and the conservative movement once and for all. There would be enough money for good jobs and internships for anyone interested in working to support progressive activities and candidates and policies.
If everyone who calls themselves a progressive gave $100 to a progressive organization there would be training programs for activists, resources for reaching the public, new pundits writing op-eds and appearing on TV, speakers for groups across the country... An infrastructure would develop to build a progressive movement that takes back our democracy. There would be outreach to the general public explaining what progressives are about and why progressive values and policies and candidates are better for them.
And then the second year there would be a flowering of new, focused, innovative organizations exploring new ways to benefit society and grow the progressive base.
IF every progressive gave $100... That is a big 'if.' Do you remember hearing about all the money raised online for the Paul Hackett campaign in Ohio? It sounded like a lot. Did you know that less than 1% of the blog readers contributed? Did you know that only a fraction of progressives gave to Dean? Imagine what could happen if we ALL gave at least $100 every year!
And another thing. The REASON that "big money dominates politics" is because often it is pretty much the ONLY money available. We could END the dominance of big money if each of us gave at least $100 to progressive organizations. In fact, by providing the resources to go up against the corporations we could create an environment where laws banning corporations from giving ANY money could be passed.
Give $100 to a progressive organization today, and tell every like-minded progressive you know to do the same. I, of course, suggest starting with the Commonweal Institute. Disclaimer: I am an unpaid Commonweal Institute Fellow. Let's change that.
December 3, 2006
Howard Dean says that Democrats may have won the election, but shouldn't think that means the public demands Democrats in power. I agree. Democrats have not explained to the public what they are about, and as a result I don't know very many people who voted in this last election FOR Democrats. I think most people voted AGAINST Republicans and their failed policies and corruption and authoritarianism and fear and war...
Now there is an opportunity to start reaching out to the general public-at-large and explaining what progressives and Democrats are FOR and what they are ABOUT. (Hint: Democracy and community.) Will they be smart enough to start building the kind of "progressive infrastructure" organizations that will do that -- that will reach the public to explain the benefits of democracy and community and progressive values and policies and candidates?
“The other party made mistakes in the past claiming that elections are mandates,” Mr. Dean said. “Elections are not mandates. The voters of this country loaned the Democrats the power of the country for two years. Now it’s our job to earn it back again.”
In a speech to the party’s executive committee here, Mr. Dean said “governing is more difficult than campaigning,” and declared that Democrats must not squander opportunities to keep building the party. The modest gains winning over evangelical voters, he said, should be strengthened by asserting that “moral values are an important part of foreign policy.”
“If George Bush made any single huge mistake,” Mr. Dean said, “it’s that he thought he could be president by being president for half of America and by treating the rest of us with contempt. That is not a mistake I ever want Democrats to make.”
November 22, 2006
In MyDD :: Pelosi's 100 Hours, kid oakland writes,
"If the GOP had a 100 Hours program they'd be selling it like it was going out of style."We hear this all the time, "the Republicans" are doing something and "the Democrats" are not. For example, here Republicans would be selling a "100 hours" plan, and Democrats aren't.
Yes, but... Let's examine the mechanism of that sell-job "the GOP" would be doing. First, it is not the Republican Party that does that sell-job. To me, this is a key point to understand if we're going to work on countering the conservatives and bringing the public back to understanding and accepting progressive values and ideas and candidates. It is not the Republican Party. And when you understand this point, you understand that it is not the Democratic Party that is falling down on selling progressive ideas.
It is not the Republican Party, it is the "conservative movement" infrastructure that does the selling. It is the Heritage Foundation and the (oh-so-many) other marketing/communications think tanks. It is the anti-tax and anti-government organizations. It is the Christian Right organizations. It is the corporate lobbying groups that would be selling it. It is the right-wing media that would be selling it. Rush Limbaugh and 100 other radio talk-show hosts would be selling it. Fox News would be selling it. The Drudge Report would have headlines about it. The think tanks would be dispatching 100 pundits to the TV news shows to be selling it. The Ann Coulters and the Cal Thomases and Jerry Falwells would be selling it. There would be professionally-crafted op-eds in every newspaper selling it. There would be an organized letter-to-the-editor campaign selling it. There would be e-mail chain letters selling it. There would be anonymous posts on internet sports forums selling it. There would be PR firm-produced-and-placed YouTube videos selling it. There would be strategically-placed MySpace friends selling it. They would ALL be selling it, in concert, using the same polled-and-focus-group-tested talking points, repeating the same message over and over and over... But they are not the Republican Party.
So don't blame the Democrats! That doesn't help you think about how progressives can counter this. When you think about how things like the first 100 hours (or the Contract for America) are sold and about how the public is persuaded to accept ideas and policies and candidates in general, stop blaming "the Democrats" for falling own on the job. Instead, look at how the conservatives do it and think about the infrastructure they have that progressive do not have. Conservatives have these marketing/communication organizations that reach out to the general public - progressive do not. They have the scores of media-trained pundits ready to go on TV or radio at a moment's notice - progressives do not. They have the op-ed writers and direct lines to the editors who accept them - progressives do not. They have an entire infrastructure designed around reaching the public and persuading them. And they fund it. THAT is how you persuade the public.
Progressives do not.
October 31, 2006
A CNN poll this week shows that, as CNN worded it,
"...most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, "government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem."From the CNN story:
"Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country's problems."Let me ask a different question: How many Americans do you think have been exposed to the other side of the story? We hear, over and over, that government is bad, that it is inefficient, that it sucks up our tax dollars and harms the economy, that it messes up everything it gets involved in, and negative point after negative point. And we hear, over and over, that regulation of business is bad and "private sector solutions" are good, efficient, and are exposed to a hundred other positive images and messages along those lines.
Marketing works. When you hear something repeated, it sinks into the brain. Americans have had the benefit of hearing the arguments for reducing taxes and reducing government repeated to them for decades now, and of course the CNN poll demonstrates that the message has sunk in.
But how many Americans have heard the case made that government is good for them, protects them, acts in their interests, etc.? How many Americans have ever even heard the positive case made for the underpinnings of our government -- democracy and community? When was the last time you heard that one-person-one-vote is better for people than one-dollar-one-vote, or that sticking together and standing up for each other is better for people than the conservative vision of everyone being on their own and in it only for themselves? And what do you think the country could be like if more Americans were exposed to those ideas?
CNN's poll doesn't demonstrate that the conservative anti-government message is right, only that it has been repeated without the other side being represented to the public. And that is what the Commonweal Institute is about -- reaching the public with the other side of the story.
October 19, 2006
Thom Hartmann writes over at Huffington Post on Why Air America Matters,
There are times when doing the profitable thing is also doing the right thing.Go read.
That's certainly what Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch thought when they lost an average of $90 million a year for about five years before the Fox News Channel became profitable. It's what Reverend Moon believes, as his Washington Times newspaper lost hundreds of millions of dollars and, according to some reports, even today continues to lose money.
October 13, 2006
My computer's working, and I've been collecting things to comment on. (But I did lose a lot of archived e-mail that I thought was backed up.)
The election. Remember, even with all the great polls we're still just hoping to squeak into a majority by a few seats. But the Republicans haven't really started spending their campaign money or executing their final campaign strategies yet. And they have a better get-out-the-vote machine-- especially don't count out the right-wing churches.
If the Dems get a majority, then what? Republicans can filibuster and veto bills. And if the Democrats actually DO investigate things, the Republicans have a massive propaganda machine. Remember what happened to Clinton and look at what is happening to Harry Reid today. There still is no "infrastructure" in pace to watch their backs, and to argue the progressive side to the public.
Harry Reid made a profit on real estate. Comment - in case you didn't know, we are in a huge housing bubble. It would not be possible for anyone NOT to make a $700,000 profit on a $400,000 investment made in 1998.
The Iraqi civilian death estimate. They took the death rate before the war and compared it to the rate after we invaded. This is not a direct casualty count, it is the increase in deaths attributable to our invasion. For example, someone who dies because he or she is unable to get medicine. Someone who dies from bad water because the water treatment olant was shut down because of no electricity.
October 1, 2006
From the article Big $$ for Progressive Politics in The Nation:
Between 1972 and 1999, conservatives created at least sixty new organizations with mission statements modeled after that of the Heritage Foundation, a radical think tank at the time of its founding: "free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." When pollster Celinda Lake asked a group of white Midwestern swing voters in 2004 what conservatives stood for, most of them repeated those catchphrases. When she asked the same question about liberals, half the voters responded, "I don't know."We have to start thinking past each election, and start thinking long term! We should be talking today about how we plan to win the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections, which groups we need to reach, what they need to understand and appreciate about the benefits to THEM of progressive values -- and how we're going to get them to vote.
August 22, 2006
Anyone thinking the Democrats are going to pick up the House or Senate this year had better read this from a year ago. For Democrats, a Troubling Culture Gap,
Democrats Karl Agne and Stan Greenberg, who conducted the focus group, said Democrats need a reform-oriented, anti-Washington agenda to overcome the culture gap. At this point, Democrats are in no position to capitalize if there is a clear backlash against Republicans. "No matter how disaffected they are over Republican failures in Iraq and here at home," they said, "a large chunk of white, non-college voters, particularly in rural areas, will remain unreachable for Democrats at the national level."I haven't seen a reform-oriented agenda to overcome the cultural gap from the Democrats. Have you? More importantly there still is not any kind of coordinated campaign from non-Party organizations ("progressive infrastructure" (also see skippy part I, part II and video), that reaches out across America to regular voters and promote the benefits of progressive/liberal values and a progressive/liberal approach to issues.
Without reaching out to the public, explaining WHY liberal and progressive values are better for them, nothing is going to be getting better. Why SHOULD the public think our values and ideas are worth considering when we aren't bothering to even TELL THEM what they ARE?? This is what the conservatives are doing -- you can't go anywhere without hearing, over and over, how conservatives are better than progressives or liberals, how their ideas are good and liberal ideas are bad, etc. The public is STILL not hearing anything to counter that.
If you want to help do something about this, send Commonweal Institute a healthy, healthy check.
August 6, 2006
Because right-wingers say so - that's why.
How often do you hear one or another variation of the message that liberals are bad and conservatives are good? And how often do you hear messages that counter that? Right. That is because one side is marketing a viewpoint, and the other is not.
At the right-wing Townhall.com, Why liberals love pedophiles
"Since modern liberalism's true goal is the actual eradication of God, moral values, and the ideas of absolute right vs. wrong, it should surprise no one that not a single leftist politician in America has denounced [pedohile no one has ever heard of]. Nor did they denounce [pedohile no one has ever heard of]. The truth is liberals seek sexual utopia where no rules apply. Restraint has in fact become a dirty word to them. Self control - a throughly foreign concept.The guy tells a story about some pedophile no one has ever heard of, and turns it into a lesson about liberals being immoral. So let's learn from this. Let's look at how movement conservatives do it. They "always add the because". They tie every small story to a larger ideological lesson - a strategic narrative.
... For liberals to denounce pedophiles, ultimately they would have to denounce, lesbianism, homsexuality, and their particular favorite - adultery. And that's just no going to happen.
At the end of the day there are such a thing as moral values, and liberals despise them - because as they see it - those moral values limit their sexual freedoms. And if this is "America" - isn't it all about the freedom to get your groove on?
Liberals love pedophiles.
Isn't it shameful?
And don't we all wish - that they loved the well being of children more?"
But here's the thing. They have that strategic narrative in place to tie their stories to, even if they have to fall back on the old basic one - conservatives are good and liberals are bad. So they have a ready-to-go angle to use with any story that comes along. And they understand the basic marketing reasons to do this. Progressives don't. (Is that because progressives are bad and conservatives are good?)
July 25, 2006
I'm not sure how many people are aware of the LinkTV network. (You might have seen their coverage of YearlyKos.) LinkTV is available if you have satellite, like DirecTV and Dish -- but you can also visit them online. Over at LinkTV there is a show called Mosaic, with some great Middle East news coverage offering perspectives you can not get from American corporate TV. You can watch the stream of last night's Mosaic, with translated clips from Lebanese, Israeli, UAE, Al Jazeera, Algeria, Iranian and Gaza news broadcasts covering the fighting going on. It is fascinating to get these viewpoints and coverage of events so important to all of us and to the entire world. You can always watch archives of Mosaic at this page.
Recently there have been two extended coverage specials, and another extended coverage special tomorrow. highlight clips from the specials are available here.
Mosaic Special Report: Insight into the Middle East. This live call-in special showcases Link TV’s team of journalists and Middle East experts answering your questions and e-mails about what’s really happening in the current crisis. Wednesday’s program will be aired at 7 to 7:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) and 10 to 10:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) on DIRECTV ch. 375 and DISH ch. 9410. The program will be followed by Link TV’s Peabody Award-winning original program Mosaic, which draws on reports from 28 Middle Eastern news broadcasts to provide context, analysis and a look at the stories you never see on American TV.There's also a new Mosaic blog.
To watch the first evening of our extended Middle Eastern coverage, Mosaic Special Report: Insight into the Middle East from July 20, 2006, click here.
Daily episodes of Mosaic are available at no cost online.
Link TV is also offering a special emphasis on the Mideast throughout our daily schedule, including a rotation of reports and documentaries such as Me and the Mosque, Occupied Minds and International Dateline: An Eye For An Eye, which features a report from Dateline’s Thom Cookes from the city of Haifa and his on-the-spot assessment of why things have gone the way they have.
(Disclosure - I am doing some unpaid consulting with LinkTV.)
July 5, 2006
One theme I like to drive home on this blog is "always add the because". Always drive home the point in a way that leads the listener to do what you want. We want people to realize that progressive values and a progressive approach to issues - democracy and community - benefits them more than a conservative "you're on your own" and "everyone out for themselves" approach.
After Katrina, I wrote in Always Add the "Because"
Yes, Bush appointed cronies. Yes, Bush's administration wasn't ready, etc. But -- and here is the important thing -- people added the word BECAUSE, and tied it all to something more fundamental. And this was effective. Bush wasn't ready to respond to Katrina BECAUSE Republicans don't believe in government. Bush appointed cronies BECAUSE Republicans don't believe in government. People suffered and died after Katrina BECAUSE we need government and that is the primary thing government DOES.And I haven't been doing that enough lately, have I? Have you?
See what I mean? When we are criticizing Republicans on narrow issues we should always tie our criticisms to make a point about how Progressive values are better than conservative values. We should learn to always drive the deeper point home. We should always be arguing that Progressive values are better for people than conservative values.
June 10, 2006
Following are my prepared remarks to the YearlyKos panel on Building Progressive Infrastructure. Also speaking were Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, Jerome Armstrong and David Sirota: (There's a snippet of video here. I'll post a link to a complete video if it becomes available.)
Thank you for inviting me to come to YearlyKos to talk Creating Progressive Infrastructure. I’m Dave Johnson. I blog at seeing the Forest and I’m a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute.
One of the things the bloggers have been pounding on for at least a couple of years is the idea of building Progressive Infrastructure.
For decades you haven’t been able to go anywhere without hearing – over and over – that conservatives are good and liberals and their ideas are bad and stupid and shameful and evil – and a hundred variations on that theme. Have any of you encountered that message?
Conservatives are marketing what President Bush would call “conservativityism,” and doing it very well. And the broad, general public hears hardly ANYTHING in response from our side to fight back against that basic underlying propaganda argument.
How did it get to be that way?
Back in the 50s and 60s, in the decades following FDR and World War II, it was a time when most Americans agreed that it was good to help each other, pay their taxes, to help the poor, to send kids to public schools, to protect the environment – all those llllliberal things. America had a PROGRESSIVE CONSENSUS. And in that environment Progressive organizations grew up designed around using limited resources to get the important things done in those areas where everyone agreed things needed doing. At the same time, in politics Democrats could rely on a solid majority so progressive political operations were designed around getting their voters to the polls.
Reorganizing after Goldwater’s 1964 defeat, the Right accepted that this Progressive consensus existed and started to build up organizations designed to change people’s minds, to reach out and PERSUADE THE PUBLIC that their way is better. They set up marketing-oriented organizations that touted the benefits of a conservative approach and promoted social values that are compatible with conservative thinking.
They worked to get their message into the media, hiring and training people to write columns and articles and books and appear on radio and TV shows and go out around the country and give talks. They started training and paying people to work on campaigns and work for the people who got elected and to run for office themselves. They set up a media “Echo chamber” with conservative movement authors and commentators citing conservative movement “scholars” and “Institutes,” and so on, until their “reports” and “studies” seemed to have great credibility and seemed to be coming from every media outlet. And they established their OWN magazines and newspapers and radio shows and TV shows and later networks. And they always talked selectively about American beliefs and values in ways that made them seem truly conservative—they worked on changing how Americans thought about themselves and their world.
For more about the history of this movement go to commonwealinstitute.org/information.html That’s Commonweal like commonwealth without the th dot org, with '– /information.html' or look for the RESOURCES button on the Commonweal site that takes you to that information.
Today, the right is so effective because after 30 years of constant marketing and sophisticated use of techniques like strategic narrative and social desirability bias – and repeating that a conservative approach is better, and liberals are bad and stupid and incompetent and unpatriotic and evil, with almost NO COUNTER ARGUMENTS reaching them from Progressives, the public FOR SOME REASON thinks that Progressives are bad and stupid and incompetent and unpatriotic and evil, and that conservatives offer a better way! Imagine that – a public that is trained to respond to marketing has responded to 30 years of ceaseless, unanswered marketing!
And it’s like the Progressives just didn’t notice what was happening.
Suppose you built a car and your competitors spent millions advertising that your car breaks down or is unsafe, and you never advertise what’s good about your car – do you think very many people would BUY the cars you make?
So on the one hand you have Conservative organizations designed to attack and change people’s minds away from progressive values. On the other you have Progressive ISSUE-oriented organizations, built in another time, when everyone agreed with progressive values so they didn’t NEED to market to the public promoting the benefits of a progressive approach.
And here we are -- even now most progressive issue organizations STILL aren’t designed to reach the broad, general public and make the underlying argument that liberal and progressive values and ideas are BETTER – they are not marketing the benefits and the values, only issues.
How many times have you heard it said that if we just get the facts out about our issues, the public will support us. Well, that is not how marketing works.
Times change and the understanding that provides support for our issues has eroded.
Two Yale students, Jennifer Krencicki and Dahvi,Wilson, gave me a great analogy to help understand the advantage of marketing values instead of issues. They remind us about the GOT MILK? campaign. The milk companies could have all advertised their respective brands against each other, but they saw that their problem was that the public was drinking less milk overall. So instead of marketing their individual brands, THEY MARKETed THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE SHOULD DRINK MORE MILK. The result was that … well, people drank more milk --- and ALL THE MILK BRANDS saw their sales rise!
So we need to stop looking to every next election, expecting some messiah candidate to show up and lead us out of the wilderness and back to a majority status – and instead start thinking long-term and big-picture. We have to stop emphasizing narrow issues that split us apart, and start talking about the underlying values that tie our issues together. We have to stop focusing on our narrow issue silos, and follow the original American motto—“e pluribus unum”—because even though we progressives are many, at heart we are all one.
To be specific, we have to fund and build the kinds of organizations that market to the public the idea that Progressive values and a Progressive approach to issues – democracy and community, we’re all in this together – benefit the public more than a conservative “you’re on your own -- everyone out for themselves” approach. We need to fund and build organizations that train writers, speakers, TV and radio commentators, activists, leaders and candidates -- and other organizations that HIRE people so they can have careers and make a living fighting for OUR values.
I have focused here on one area of progressive infrastructure – marketing – to give an idea of the kind of things we are missing. There are other pieces of this pie that are in similar cirsumstances – political operations, training and recruiting, and providing ways to make a living. We need to build in these areas as well.
And, more than anything, we need to pay bloggers and pay them A LOT!!
If we do these things, over time, the public will come back.
June 5, 2006
Today's MUST-READ is: How to Grow a Democratic Majority,
By developing an organizational structure now, Mr. Dean hopes that the Democrats will have something sturdy to rely on if, and when, they win back the White House.
It's uncertain whether Mr. Dean will succeed. After all, Mr. Emanuel makes a persuasive argument for his approach. Why should the Democrats trade a chance to win the House now for an uncertain future?
The answer? Because a victory now will most likely be short-term. As the Republicans have shown, creating a durable electoral majority requires a firm organizational foundation, something the Democrats don't have. But if Mr. Dean can hold fast to his plan, they just might be on the way to getting one.
May 27, 2006
Eulogy for Leonard Salle, delivered May 27:
“Progressive Infrastructure” – Leonard would have wanted me to start with that. That’s what he said – all the time.
Before the Commonweal Institute there was a smaller think tank, grinding away, doing the intellectual work developing a vision for a new approach to progressive politics. That was what I call the Kate and Leonard Institute.
Kate and Leonard saw something that for some reason so many on the progressive side of politics didn’t see – that the conservatives were doing something right. Excuse the pun – Leonard would.
They saw that conservatives were marketing what President Bush would call “conservativitiyism,” and doing it very well. In fact, everywhere you go, you hear the basic marketing message repeated that conservatives are good, and liberals are bad.
And they saw that progressives were marketing ... well, they weren’t marketing anything.In response to a comment, Commonweal Institute will go on. Its mission is important. If you want to find out ways to help, please visit this web page.
So Kate and Leonard founded the Commonweal Institute, to go out and market to the public the idea that Progressive values and a Progressive approach to issues – democracy and community – benefit the public more than a conservative “you’re on your own” approach.
For those who don’t know, the word “Commonweal” means “the common good.” And that’s why Leonard cared so much about this – not for himself, but for the common good.
Kate has described their efforts as being like the little dog that grabs your pantleg in its teeth and won’t let go until you pay attention – and that’s what happened. Over the last several years Kate and Leonard and the rest of us at Commonweal have pounded incessantly on this idea that progressives need to market core progressive values to the public, to start restoring people’s understanding and acceptance of progressives and our ideas.
We said we need to stop looking to every next election, expecting some messiah candidate to show up and lead us out of the wilderness, back to a majority status, and instead think long-term and big-picture. We said we have to stop talking about narrow issues that split us apart, and start talking about the underlying values that tie our issues together.
We said we have to build an infrastructure of progressive organizations to educate and activate the public and to support the efforts of progressive candidates and elected officials. This is what Leonard meant when he would repeat “Progressive Infrastructure” at every opportunity.
And first a few obscure blogs (like mine) picked up on this idea, and then more, and then some more widely read ones started talking about it, and then more. The idea grew. A few months ago a best-selling book came out, Crashing the Gate, reflecting these ideas and referencing the Commonweal Institute. One of the authors spoke at a national event called the Progressive Roundtable, put on by Commonweal Institute. This was a gathering of leaders of progressive organizations from around the country, here to talk about building progressive infrastructure.
Leonard was here to help make that happen and to be part of it.
The other day the Washington Post wrote about Leonard and Commonweal.
Leonard the punster was passionate about Commonweal. He would have died to see Commonweal in the Washington Post.
May 18, 2006
Prompted by the phrase used in the article below, "conservative family groups say parents should have a choice" and the apparent bias in sourced quotes, I executed the following searches on Google:
"liberal family group" 0
"conservative family group" results? ... 61
"liberal family values group" 0
"conservative family values group" results? ... 78
"liberal family values organization" 0
"conservative family values organization" results? ... 72
Hmm... bad, but not terribly significant. Then I tried the next combination:
"liberal family values" results? ... 327 cool?
"conservative family values" results? 26,200! ouch!
How the results for this one: "traditional family values" ... try 263,000!!! YIKES!!!
Talk about losing the meme war...
Anyone want to start a "liberal family values" organization?!? How about just using that phrase in your next blog posting? Yeesh!
May 16, 2006
Here is Leonard Salle's obituary at the Commonweal Institute.
Like I said, I will write about Leonard after a while, when I can. Before anything else, he would have wanted me to say, "Progressive Infrastructure."
A memorial service will be held on May 27, 2006 from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Taube Center on the campus of Notre Dame de Namur University, 1500 Ralston Avenue, Belmont, CA; 650-508-3500.
The family requests that donations be made to the Leonard M. Salle Memorial Education Fund at the Commonweal Institute, 325 Sharon Park Drive, Suite 332, Menlo Park, CA 94025; 650-854-9796. You can also click here to make a contribution.
May 6, 2006
I left a comment to this post at MyDD: Where's Our Fox News? and it makes a good blog post. So here it is: (edited to make me look good)
In response to this comment:
What I'd like to know is why every time there's any hint of an issue, the GOP has 17 people on every talk show all on point, making their points quickly, with good on-camera presence. Meanwhile, Dems have few on the talkshows, and the ones on are all over the place on message, and I and half the Blogosphere could make their arguments better. The GOP must be putting resources into media training and staffing a rapid response for cable news that we aren't. My question is why?
Let me nitpick on language a bit here, because it affects how we think about solving this.
It is not (necessarily) "the GOP" that has all those people on the shows. It's the "conservative movement" infrastructure -- the Heritage Foundation, and about 400 other similar organizations. They are called "think tanks" but they are really ideological advocacy/communications/marketing organizations. (A side note - They are "501c3" charitable organizations - which means taxpayer subsidized - but operate illegaly as partisan supportive arms of the Republican Party.)
This is such an important distinction. The problem is not that "the Democrats" aren't getting people onto the shows, etc, to match the right. As Jonathan wrote, the problem is that Progressives don't have the kinds of organizations in place that put those people on the shows. The reason this is such an important distinction is because it tells us that to fight back we need to build organizations that reach out to the general public promoting the BENEFITS of Progressive values - democracy, community - and a Progressive approach to issues - the common good - over and over, day after day, until the public understands and starts to support Progressive candidates and legislation. THIS is how the Right did it. This is how the Right took over the Republican Party and persuaded so many people to support them. (Of course, we do it legally, and our organizations must be honest and ethical. But then, ours CAN be - unlike the Right's organizations, they aren't trying to convince blue collar workers to give up pensions and health care so some rich fuck can buy a bigger private jet.)
It's just basic marketing. For 30 years we have been hearing that conservatives are good and liberals are bad and stupid and corrupt and "against God" and all the rest but we have not been hearing anything to counter that! After 30 years of this OF COURSE this is what a lot of people think! DUH!
This relates to the "issue group" argument. INSTEAD of organizations that tell the public that Progressive approaches are better, we have issue groups, and most Progressive money goes to these groups. But these groups do not reach out to the general public and do not tell them that Progressives are better and Progressive ideas are better. And the result is that the underpinnings - support for basic Progressive ideals - of these groups erodes. If environmental groups, for example, spent their money telling the public that Progressives are better, then the public would elect Progressives, and environment-friendly laws and regulations would be put in place to protect the environment...
April 25, 2006
The other day I wrote about a Magic Act Video -- How The Right-Wing Does It.
Now I have it up at YouTube: Never mind -- it was too long for YouTube. Use the same old location:
See the video (Note, this is an 'mp4" file which requires Apple's QuickTime. You can download QuickTime by clicking here.)
Return on Investments display (Small PDF document)
Return on Investments references (Small PDF document)
PS Al Mite TeDollar told me the performance was based on these two reports -- and there is a lot more information on this subject available here at Commonweal Institute's collection of articles, reports and resources for studying the right-wing ideological movement.
And, finally, if you want to do something about the Right's message machine, get involved.
April 20, 2006
There was a great magic act at the recent Progressive Roundtable convening. During the performance the magician, Al Mite TeDollar, describes the Right's infrastructure of organizations and how they operate to move America's politics to the right. (He told me the performance was based on these reports...) Now there's a video available showing the performance.
Here's Commonweal Institute's description of the video:
Al Mite TeDollar, the Billionaire Magician, mystified attendees with his Maximizing ROI (Return On Illusion) performance at the opening reception of the Commonweal Institute's Progressive Roundtable on March 2, 2006. Weaving magic, political satire, and economic allegories, Al demonstrated why billionaire investments in political infrastructure and legislation have yielded returns beyond the dreams of avarice. Magic was afoot, reminding the audience of the real-world misdirection and shell game operations going on all around us.Go watch.
See the video (Note, this is an 'mp4" file which requires Apple's QuickTime. You can download QuickTime by clicking here.)
Return on Investments display (Small PDF document)
Return on Investments references (Small PDF document)
PS You can contact Al Mite TeDollar for bookings here.
April 10, 2006
I'd like to tell you about an exciting and informative panel I will be on at the upcoming YearlyKos convention, June 8-11 in Las Vegas. This convention (details here) is for bloggers, blog readers, "netroots" people such as MoveOn members, progressive activists, and all of us who are upset over the direction the conservatives are taking the United States. Oh, and you party animals will also want to come.
The panel I want to tell you about is titled, Building Progressive Infrastructure. As Markos and Jerome's book Crashing the Gate discusses, one reason conservatives now dominate the American "marketplace of ideas" is because they have built an "infrastructure" of organizations that are designed to persuade the public to support conservative ideology and candidates. These organizations operate year-round, outside of the election cycle, pursuing a coordinated, long-term strategy. Over time this effort has moved the public ever rightward, creating a receptive environment for a conservative approach to issues, and for their candidates.
Progressives should also be looking to the long term rather than from election to election, thinking past narrow issues, and building "infrastructure" organizations that train and hire activists, speakers, writers, columnists, bloggers, researchers and future leaders, as well as reach out to the public promoting the benefits of Progressive values and a Progressive approach to issues.
For Immediate Release:
YearlyKos Panel to Discuss the Status of the New Progressive Infrastructure
From the Blogosphere: The progressive infrastructure - is it ready to take on the well-oiled and well-funded message machine of the right? The panel, which includes Jerome Armstrong, Dave Johnson, Markos Moulitsas, and David Sirota will discuss our goals, accomplishments and what still needs to be done to develop a cohesive progressive infrastructure.
"Poll after poll shows that the American people are with the Democrats on almost every issue, yet they lose election after election," said Moulitsas. "That's because we are not playing on an even political battleground. They have huge infrastructure advantages. And until they are neutralized, it'll be difficult for progressives to win a true battle of ideas."
Using our innate advantages, such as respect for civil liberties, concern for people and a much more diverse demographic base, we can meet the challenges to our democracy created by years of slow but continuous subduction by the right.
Jerome Armstrong says that "Through multi-issue groups, the blogosphere, 527's, and resurgent labor organizing, the progressive movement is emerging as a political force."
What exactly are the progressives up against? Rebuilding from scratch after their 1964 landslide defeat, the far right built a machine that eventually took over all branches of the government. The far right's relentless co-opting of control has resulted in massive debt, a war with no end in sight, outsourced jobs, eroded civil liberties, environmental destruction and a rampant culture of corruption.
But the conservative movement's track record of building power - regardless of its effect - has also been instructive. The panel will describe what progressives can learn from the right's tactical successes in building their movement and how we can use our skills, assets, and techniques to fuel our movement and rescue our democracy.
About the panel:
Markos Moulitsas, a U.S. Army veteran and holder of two bachelor's degrees and a law degree, started Daily Kos in May 2002 after moving to California to work in the tech industry. His blog has had a meteoric rise and currently receives more than a million unique visitors every day, making it one of the most popular blogs in the world. He is the co-author of "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots and the rise of People-Powered Politics." He now lives with his wife and toddler son in Berkeley, California.
Jerome Armstrong is a longtime blogger at MyDD.com who worked on Howard Dean's internet campaign. Now working for a 2006 U.S. Senate candidate and a potential Presidential candidate for '08, he founded the web firm Netroots.com. He is the co-author of "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots and the rise of People-Powered Politics."
David Sirota is the author of the book "Hostile Takeover," which looks at how corporate interests have joined forces with politicians to make sure public policy is sold off to the highest bidder. He is a senior editor at In These Times, a regular contributor to The Nation and the American Prospect, and the blogger for Working Assets. He was a senior strategist for Brian Schweitzer in his 2000 run for the U.S. Senate and his 2004 run for governor. Sirota was also the press secretary for Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders and the top spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, his 2000 run for the Senate and his 2004 run for governor. He was also the press secretary for Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders and the top spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.
Dave Johnson is a Fellow at the Commonweal Institute and blogs at Seeing the Forest. He has written reports detailing how the conservative movement coordinates strategy and messaging to attack strategic targets such as trial lawyers and teacher unions.
The YearlyKos Las Vegas convention "YearlyKos: Uniting the Netroots" lasts from June 8 - 11, 2006 and has attracted progressive bloggers and blog readers from around the country.
By the way, those reports the press release described as "detailing how the conservative movement coordinates strategy and messaging to attack strategic targets such as trial lawyers and teacher unions" are The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law (cited in Crashing the Gate), and Responding to the Attack on Public Education and Teacher Unions. As you read these, substitute YOUR issue or organization everywhere you see trial lawyers or teachers, and you'll realize that the same coordinated attack is targeting YOU. We are all in this together. If you are interested in learning more, there is a collection of articles, reports and resources for studying the right-wing ideological movement available here and a collection of articles, reports and resources focusing on development of Progressive Infrastructure organizations available here. Both are resources provided by the Commonweal Institute.
Please join us at YearlyKos! It will be a lot of fun, you will learn a lot, and you will meet a LOT of like-minded Progressives! To register to attend Yearly Kos, please click here.
Putting on a convention like this takes a lot of money! To donate to help cover the costs of putting on a major convention, please click here.
To volunteer please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Convention details are available at http://www.yearlykos.org/...
Selected Seeing the Forest posts on Progressive Infrastructure:
• What Does “The Democrats” Mean? February 28, 2006
• Getting the Right-Wing Message Out, February 9, 2006
• Funding A Counter-Attack Against The Right, January 19, 2006
• The Nose Points Toward the Paycheck, January 9, 2006
• We're Still Only Talking To Each Other, September 5, 2005
• Progressive Infrastructure, August 08, 2005
• How to Rebuild Support for Progressives, June 30, 2005
• The Money, May 14, 2005
• Folding Narrow Issues into an Overall Progressive Context, April 14, 2005
• Why Republicans Win, January 25, 2005
• The "Conventional Wisdom" Machine, January 1, 2005
• Win or Lose, May 1, 2004
• An Amplifier Of Our Own, April 1, 2003
• HOW TO FIGHT BACK, March 1, 2003
• Some History of the Conservative Movement, February 1, 2003
• Think Tanks, January 8, 2003
• Don’t Blame the Democrats, December, 2002
• The Commonweal Institute - "the Heritage Foundation of the Left", November 1, 2002
• Getting Rolled, September 22, 2002
• How They Do It 1, 2, 3, 4, September, 2002
• Funding Progressives and Moderates, August 4, 2002
April 7, 2006
"Democrats are certainly hypocrites, too."
"People are not shocked that there is leaking in Washington."
In other words: They all do it, so don't bother to vote at all.
March 22, 2006
At MyDD there is an excellent post on a right-wing corporatist organization called ALEC: Exposing The Machinery Of The Corporate Right,
Up in Wyoming, the local Casper Star-Tribune decided to take a look at the machinery that pushes conservative laws in the state's legislature. Many here at MyDD may be well aware of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded rightist law-writing factory that works behind the scenes to cram their agenda on the states. But I have a feeling it's a group that isn't discussed very often among readers of the Star-Tribune (or, for that matter, any local paper outside of Washington, DC). That's why their coverage of ALEC is so important.Please go read the post.
Well I left a comment, based on a line in the post. Readers here might be familiar with this, but repetition works, and this can't be said often enough:
"If you ever find yourself frustrated that the Republicans seem to be better tacticians than Democrats, you should know that ALEC is one of the reasons why."
Let me add something here. We all find ourselves criticizing "The Democrats" for one thing or another. And it's usually in contrast to the way "The Republicans" are doing something - messaging, jumping on an issue, strategerizing, etc.
But I think it's a key to understanding how to fix the problem, if we realize that ALEC isn't "The Republicans" at all. And it's almost always the ALECs -- Heritage Foundation or CATO or AEI one of those hundreds of non-Party organizations -- that we are talking about! ALEC is legally a non-partisan organization. Same with Heritage, etc. But these organizations, all part of the "conservative movement," all largely corporate-funded, have really taken over the Republican Party. It is THESE organizations, not the Repubican Party, that are out there talking to the general public, publishing books, paying pundits and geting them on TV and the radio, and all the other things that we credit "The Republicans" with doing so well.
The Democrats don't have an infrastructure of similar organizations employing an army of operatives. And this is why "The Democrats" are not responding to events as effectively as "The Repubicans" are able to do.
What this means to us is that we need to understand the need to build up an infrastructure of organizations designed to reach the public and persuade them that progresive values are better for them than conservative values, and that a progressive approach to issues and progressive candidates are better for them than conservatives. (If you have read Crashing the Gate, you'll recognize this idea.)
This means sending money - real money - to PLAN and other organizations that are trying to counter this Republican machines. (Commonweal Institute is another such organization.) Start donating money to these organizations and you'll start seeing a difference.
March 7, 2006
A lot of people want to know, who are the bloggers and what is it all about?
At places like The Washington Post lately they’re asking: “Who are these people?!”
I started my blog Seeing the Forest in 2002. Like many others I have been blogging every day since, usually several posts a day. I’m not paid to do it, and I don’t consider what I write a “product.” To me, blogging is about shouting “wake up!”
A remarkable thing about the progressive political blogs is that this phenomenon was all largely started by average citizens, men and women of all ages and ethnicities, all around the country, all fed up with what right-wing government is doing to the country and with the failure of the Democratic leadership to confront them.
And as traditional news media became increasingly concentrated in corporate hands with news analysis more and more reflecting corporate and right-wing “conventional wisdom,” the bloggers stepped in as “Citizen Journalists” filling the vacuum.
I have described blogs as a big, open-source think tank. One blogger posts an idea, people respond in the comments, other bloggers link in, and the original blogger responds. Ideas are generated, discussed, refined and – very important – widely disseminated at a very rapid pace.
Blogging is a true meritocracy in which the best thinkers and writers gain wide readership.
Which brings me to Markos, our speaker today.
Markos Moulitsas was raised in El Salvador, served in the US Army and earned a law degree from Boston University.
Markos started the website DailyKos in May, 2002, and it has emerged as the “top” politically-oriented blog. Currently averaging about 750,000 visitors per day, on a “big news” day the site can receive well over 2 million visitors.
But a progressive really knows you have arrived when the right-wingers call you nasty names. Markos is number 52 on Jonah Goldberg’s “100 people who are screwing up America.” The Republican Senatorial Committee calls him a “liberal extremist.” He has received the Daily Coward and the Weekly Jackass awards. And one site (ankle-biting pundits) writes that his postings are “an illogical, barely literate mess.”
We can laugh at that (I hope) because WE know that what right-wingers say is ALWAYS the OPPOSITE of the truth. Which makes that last insult a good segue to Markos’ IMPORTANT new book.
In the coming months you are going to be hearing a lot about the new book, Crashing the Gate, written with Jerome Armstrong of the blog MyDD. An information card about this book is included in your tote bag – I urge you to order a copy soon.
Crashing the Gate is about what we are doing here.
Crashing the Gate is about winning.
And I’ll let Markos talk about that. Please welcome Markos Moulitsas
February 28, 2006
Reading a great post at The Sideshow triggered something I have been brewing over. From the post,
"...afterwards we'll have hand-wringing about how the Democrats failed to do this and that and the other thing."Let's think about what is meant here by the term "The Democrats?"
"The Republicans" sure are good at jumping on things, taking advantage, making noise, persuading people, and getting their way. But when we say "The Republicans" who and what do we mean? Are we talking about the Republican Party? Republican elected officials?
When the Republicans "jump on" an event and do such a good job of getting their persuasion-message out to the public, what are the details of how this is accomplished? Who does what? Who formulates the message? Who conducts the polling and focus groups? Who pays the people who organize the writing of op-eds for newspapers? Who calls the editors to place the op-eds? Who arranges for all the Ann Coulters to appear on all the conservative media shows? How is it all organized and coordinated? How is it all funded? Who pays all the Ann Coulters and all the "little people" working behind the scenes?
In other words, what is the structure of the Republican advantage? Is it all really just "The Republicans?" Do "The Republicans" pay Ann Coulter?
Or are we talking about something else? How much of this work is done by outside organizations like the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute and The Washington Times and Fox News and outside operatives non employed by The Party? The question expands: What is the organizational infrastructure behind the conservative advantage?
So, with all this in mind, when we complain about "The Democrats" what do we mean? We usually mean just that - the Democratic Party and Democratic elected officials. But isn't this misplaced blame? When you look at how the infrastructure of the "conservative movement" -- the Republican advantage -- operates, shouldn't our real complaint be, why isn't there a "progressive movement" infrastructure that does the same things?
I have something I call "The First Rule Of Stop Losing. From my 2004 ATLA speech,
"There's a simple path out of this. It's a variation on the first rule of holes – (which is stop digging.) I call it the first rule of stop losing. It's a simple rule: DO WHAT WORKS. If you are doing A, and losing again and again, and you see your opponent doing B, and winning, then figure out what B is and starting doing that.So how do we do that? The first thing we do is to study how the "conservative movement" grew up and took over the Republican Party. Study how their organizations are designed and funded, how they operate and interact, and especially how they communicate with the public, what they say, how they structure their messages. Also, study how their organizations coordinate to help candidates get elected, pass legislation, protect each other and persuade the public to support them.
And, we study how organizations aligned with progressives operate. What is it about the network of conservative organizations that makes them so efficient, and what is it about our that makes them so inefficient. (More on this later.)
And soon, more about the Progressive Roundtable.
February 16, 2006
A good diary at Kos, and it runs along with something I've been thinking a lot about. Daily Kos: Cal Thomas: the republican call for Leninism and blasphemy. Go read and recommend (it's a diary, the recommend button is on the right).
The use of this language by Thomas is no coincidence - the neo-cons are a movement of Leninists. The essence of Leninism is Power. Lenin was happy to switch back and forth from capitalism (NEP) to communism, from elections to bullets, from a strong war policy to surrender as long as he retained and built power. The US leninists have the same flexibility. For them, political positions are simply valuable propaganda or not. Balanced budget/unbalanced budgets, gun control/gun banning, anti-choice/"moderation", gay marriage bans/hiring Cheney's daughter for gay/lesbian outreach and so on. The suckers who kept trying to find high minded socialism in Lenin were no more or less gullible than the "conservatives" who look for some "conservatism" in Bush/Cheney's policies. The only consistency is Power.
February 9, 2006
You have heard it here before, but we all need to say it over and over again, and the word needs to spread out past the blogosphere until everyone "gets" what is happening to us. The Democrats' Tiny Megaphone,
Indeed, the Right’s subsidizing of media may be the most under-reported money-in-politics story in modern American history. Many good-government organizations track the millions of dollars contributed to candidates, but much less attention is paid to the billions of unregulated dollars poured into media.
This imbalanced attention continues even though the conservative media is arguably the most important weapon in the Republican arsenal.
Political “propaganda themes” – often coordinated with GOP leaders – are distributed instantaneously across the country, reaching into both rural and urban America with a repetition that gives these messages a corroborative ring of truth.
The messages echo from talk radio to cable news to conservative columnists who appear in the mostly pro-Republican local newspapers. The themes then are reinforced in magazine articles and in books that dominate the shelves of many American bookstores.
But wait, there's more. The Right has buit an "eco-system" around their media control. For example, books:
The Right’s media infrastructure also offers important secondary benefits to the conservative political movement.But here is the key:
Though right-wing media operations often aren’t profitable themselves, they help create an environment in which conservative writers and commentators get the publicity needed so they can earn millions of dollars on books. That, in turn, guarantees that the Right’s personalities are sought after by publishers focusing on the bottom line.
donate moneyBy contrast, the Left’s neglect of a media infrastructure has made liberal books a relatively hard sell with publishers. Without the expectation of a buzz resonating through an ideologically friendly echo chamber, the major houses are less eager to take on left-leaning books or give liberal authors reasonable advances.
But what has been remarkable – considering the stakes involved for American democracy – is that wealthy progressives and major liberal foundations have mostly stayed on the sidelines, avoiding a significant investment in media infrastructure.Currently there is a roadblock to building an effective counter-movement. Currently large foundations and a few wealthy donors are the "gatekeepers" deciding where money goes and they really, really don't "get it" yet. We have not yet built up a culture of small-donor giving - and supporting tools - for "Dean-style" funding of efforts to build organizations and media outlets to take on the Right.
January 19, 2006
DailyKos currently gets between 550,000 and 600,000 unique "visitors" per day. This number grows into the millions during elections and breaking news events. This is not "page views" where people who hit refresh are counted more than once. This is unique "IPs" which means that none of these are counted twice, and in fact some of these are sites where a number of computers count as a single "visitor" for technical reasons, like NAT routers. And the are plenty of people who do not visit every day, so the total number of people who visit DailyKos is much greater than this number. Crooks & Liars is getting more than 135,000 a day. Atrios more than 120,000. Add Raw Story, Talking Points Memo, etc... and there are a lot of readers, some duplicates, but adding up to big numbers. Any way you count it there are millions of progressive blog readers And there are millions more dedicated progressives who are not blog readers.
What would happen to the Right's stranglehold on America's public discussion if each and every one of those blog readers were in the habit of donating generously to the blogs they read, and to the kind of "Progressive Infrastructure" organizations that are designed to study and fight back against the Right? (more here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here...)
I'm not talking about what we primarily do now, donating to candidates and running defensively from one election to the next. That doesn't work because there is no progressive organizational infrastructure to support those candidates with issue education and general outreach. The way it works now each progressive candidate is expected to prepare, from scratch, alone, DURING the campaign season a "message" and an approach to reaching out to the voters. The Republicans have a huge network of organizations - The Party even calls them "GOP Groups" - that does that for them, all year, every year, putting out a central message, reaching the general public with that message, and then come election time training and coordinating the efforts of their candidates. All the Republican candidates have to do is show up - these organizations do most of the rest for them. (Do you really think that George Bush is an exceptional candidate, so much sharper than Gore or Kerry - or do you think he had help?)
So I'm not talking about election funding at all. I'm talking about long-term efforts to reach out to the general public, all across the country, to explain the benefits of Progressive ideas, and to rebuild the widespread Progressive consensus that brought us things like laws to protect consumers, laws to protect the environment, minimum wages, health insurance programs like Medicare (which should be extended to everybody), public parks, public schools, public universities, FEMA, birth control education, programs to help bring people up out of poverty... (I want to cry just thinking about the destruction the far-right has brought on America...)
But for all our talk about community and helping each other, giving generously is obviously, obviously not a progressive value.
Am I wrong? Many Christians give 10% of their before-tax income to their church. THAT is a value. THAT is giving generously because they believe it is the right thing to do. A person making $50,000 a year and giving $5,000 a year is a generous donor.
But never mind about 10%. If every single blog reader gave at least $100 to progressive organizations (and blogs) - a whopping $8 per month - that would completely fund all of the new "Progressive Infrastructure" organizations AND would begin to build an alternative media capable of getting OUR word out. And it would do it democratically, rather than forcing organizations to depend on a few very large donors, which is how funding works today. And don't think the organizations are doing much other than what those donors want them doing. Let me say it again, if every blog reader gave at least $100 to the right organizations this national nightmare would end. And to be clear, I do not mean instead of money you might already be giving, I mean along with that money.
I'll be building on this, and you should be thinking about it, too. You should be planning now to be giving soon. I think if we can come up with a clear plan, outlining each organization, what it will do, how it will make a difference, and how much money it needs to get going, that we really can raise the needed money by asking millions of blog readers and other progressives to each give money.
We are in a national emergency, we are losing our democracy, please begin thinking about sacrificing a bit to help change things for the better. Please start talking about it, please leave some suggestions here in the comments on how to begin instilling giving as a general progressive value.
Here's that list again, who did I miss?
Commonweal Institute http://commonwealinstitute.org/
Rockridge Institute http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/
Media Matters http://mediamatters.org/
Center for American Progress http://www.americanprogress.org/
New Progressive Coalition http://www.newprogressivecoalition.com
Media Transparency http://mediatransparency.org/
Spin Project http://www.spinproject.org/
Progressive Communications Network http://www.spiritinaction.net/pcn/
New Politics Institute http://www.ndnpac.org/npi/
Campaign for Americas Future http://www.ourfuture.org/
Rockwood Leadership http://www.rockwoodfund.org/
Progressive Leadership Institute http://www.progressleaders.org/
January 9, 2006
Daily Kos: Crashing the Gate Excerpt: Psychic Income. Go read it.
You can make a living being a conservative. In fact, the pay is so good that they can compete with business for the best talent. There are plenty of talented conservatives who don't buy into the whole thing, and are there just to make a living. As I've said before, that doesn't say good things about the content of their character, but a lot of them do good work, and they are beating the pants off of us.
The first topic at any gathering of progressives (and bloggers) is where will the money come from and where will the participants find the time away from their day jobs to help the project. There are some well-funded progressive organizations but their entire schtick is about keeping their funding sources, not about how to be effective and help the overall progressive cause. And they all largely speak only to their own funding base, not to the public-at-large. So over time support from the public-at-large necessarily erodes. How much good do you think the big environmental organizations are doing for the environment these days? And to top it off, the funding shortage causes tremendous turf wars -- pretty much every progressive-oriented organization leadership acts as though they believe all money is either/or -- that any money going to any other progressive organization is money they should be getting instead.
Meanwhile right-wing funders "get it." They provide huge multi-year general operating grants to organizations that do nothing BUT ideological advocacy PR. So these organizations are out there every single day talking about how conservatives are good, conservative ideas are good, and progressives and their ideas are bad. The same message, repeated over and over again, 100 different ways, from hundreds of well-funded PR organizations, and the country is pushed ever more to the right.
Who is to blame? First, the big funders and the funding system. But there is a story behind how it got to be this way. Part of it is that has been a long-term ongoing strategic "defunding" campaign to intimidate the big philanthropic foundations away from giving money to organizations that might actually fight back against the "conservative movement." Go to anyone who works at one of the foundations and say the word "advocacy" and see how fast they run away. Or say "general operating expenses" and see the reaction (hint: duck). Just go to their websites and look at their grantmaking statements. It's the opposite of the situation on the Right.
But let me add that I think Progressives in general are also at fault. Giving to organizations is NOT a core Progressive value, but it certainly should be. Let me explain. Howard Dean demonstrated the power of lots of people giving money. He showed that this people-power can overcome the power of the moneyed interests. But actually, Dean raised around $50 million in average donations of about $80. ONLY 625,000 PEOPLE GAVE MONEY TO DEAN. And $80 is hardly "giving till it hurts." Progressives are cheap.
What do you think would happen to the direction America is taking if 6 million Progressives gave only $100 a year to build organizations designed to fight back against the Right? The Right's funding is about $400 million a year for this purpose, and THEY have the difficult task of persuading blue-collar workers to give up their pensions so some rich fuck can buy a bigger private jet! Imagine what would happen if we could convince Progressive to actually donate money!
December 27, 2005
I have to modify my responses to the List Of Fours meme. If you've ever been concerned about STF readers, check out these responses, and all of your darkest fears will be confirmed.
I rented Serenity from blockbusters last night. My movie choices are Serenity, Serenity, Serenity and Serenity. (This site takes a while to load, but has over 20 minutes of deleted scene, out takes and downloads that are worth the wait)
For all of our STF totally maxed out intellectual geeks (yes Richard, I'm talking about you) check out Paul Rosenberg's diary at MyDD, 'Serenity' And The Supreme Court. You can't really appreciate Paul's diary until you see the movie. At least I couldn't, but then I only understand about 40% of Rosenberg's diaries like We're Too Smart and his series on What Is Liberalism? anyway. I just pretend they make sense to humor him.
What was that they were talking about at Crooked Timber the other day? Wonkery vs. Wankery. Anyone who thinks there is a shortage of wonkery in the lefty blogosphere just hasn't been paying attention.
December 15, 2005
A quick comment on why the big foundations won't give money to Progressive organizations that might do some good. Take a look at this article circulating on right-wing websites: Corporate Foundations Bankroll Anti-Alito Coalition,
Wal-Mart, Ford Motor Co., AT&T, and Fannie Mae are among the major U.S. corporations whose foundations fund the liberal groups now waging war against Samuel Alito’s nomination.Read the whole thing. This is part of a strategic campaign of intimidation of the Boards of philanthropic foundations, letting them know the Right is watching - that they're in trouble if they fund even centrist organizations.
The left-wing Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary has launched a series of advertisements aimed at defeating Alito. The group describes itself as “a national coalition of public interest organizations,” and includes NARAL Pro-Choice America, the NAACP, the National Organization of Women, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State among others. The Alliance for Justice, People For the American Way, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights head the Coalition.
Many of these groups are very well-funded, getting most of their money from foundations. Among the foundations bankrolling them are the philanthropic arms of many of America’s largest corporations.
November 8, 2005
I didn't say this publicly before the election, but if Prop 75 passes -- the one restricting public employee unions from putting money into elections -- then the unions will finally have to start putting money into a different kind of approach. I'm talking about strategic communications organizations designed to reach out to the general public with a long-term strategic approach aimed at changing public attitudes. These organizations would do things like reach out to the general public with messaging about how Progressive values are good for people, and that the Progressive approach to issues benefits them mpore than a right-wing approach.
In other words, GROWING THE BASE instead of just trying to get more of a shrinking base to the polls.
So don't take it as a big loss if California's Prop 75 wins. It will mean unions have to start putting money into "Progressive Infrastructure." Try Googling "Progressive Infrastructure" to see what I mean.
In response to his pathetic plea for attention for his ragmuffin, dog earred web site, here are a few links to some of Bob Geiger's recent stories:
An excellent round-up and analysis of the 109th Congress
Bob's weekly think piece.
AEI is inviting Chalabi to speak tomorrow?
Democrats voting for Bloomberg? Say it ain't so!
November 7, 2005
Speak Out California has a piece by Jackie Goldberg entitled, Why progressive Californians must stand with organized labor on November 8.
I'm highlighting the following statement, for purposes of discussion:
Public employee unions are the only remaining force left to fight against the complete corporate privatization of public sector agencies and employment. Unions are the only voices loud enough to be heard demanding some sort of public health system for all. Unions are trying to prevent further tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. In fact, the only serious, organized, well-financed resistance to the privatization of schools, hospitals, prisons, water and electricity, and everything else not nailed down, is provided by dues-paying union members.
Emphasis mine. Why is this the case? Doesn't this imply that the larger progressive community is leaning a bit too heavily on our union brothers and sisters to keep up the fight, out of their own pockets and time? Why is everything being left up to them (barely 10% of the population)? Doesn't this imply that we need to collectively step up to the plate and establish alternative institutions of equal heft?
October 28, 2005
I wrote this on the 18th, and just found it still in "Draft" form. So here it is ten days late. I'll be posting more about this group soon.
The New Progressive Coalition is up and running.
From the article, Venturing into political donations:
Today [Deborah] Rappaport, 47, is launching the New Progressive Coalition, a fundraising initiative to support progressive political groups using venture capital methods. Donors are called "investors.'' Political activists are running "start-ups.'' The goal is to get the money to the brightest ideas. And, just like eBay and its well-honed feedback system, the members will rate ideas and organizations on the coalition's Web site. Top rating: five stars.
[. . .] NPC is trying to hook up progressive political groups with donors of small to mid-sized amounts "who aren't sure where to go,'' Rappaport said. Similar efforts have been tried in the valley in the non-profit arena, to link newly rich executives with charities. Often the executives get involved in the operations.
[. . .] Like a good VC shop, NPC plans to give seminars and provide advisers for donors evaluating who is worth funding. It hopes to foster relationships among activists seeking to build efficient organizations around a cause, providing consultants and advisers.
[ . . .] Republicans, who have backed grass-roots groups for years, say Rappaport is an idealist whose progressive notions are out of step with mainstream America.
"Supporting the grass roots is a very romantic notion and sometimes an effective idea,'' said Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant who has worked in Silicon Valley. ``But every dollar that people spend empowering the progressive Democrats is one more vote for Republicans. They are dragging their party to the left.''
September 5, 2005
I won't have my computer back until Friday, but every now and then I get both time and access to another computer...
Yesterday I was enjoying chai and conversation at Lulu Carpenter's in Santa Cruz when a well-informed (but not regular blog-reading) friend said she had heard that the people still in New Orleans had refused to get on buses that were provided for them before the hurricane struck. My friend said that she heard this from a friend. She watches the news and reads the papers daily - much more since the hurricane struck. She said that she had not heard this from any formal news source, but this snippet of "information" stuck in her head.
You and I are blog-readers. I wonder how many of us understand that our blog-reading means that our access to information makes us very different from most people? We are not only well-informed, but we are getting information that is only available to people who work hard to step past the Right's propaganda machine. You and I know that buses were NOT provided to help people evacuate New Orleans but most of the rest of the country thinks they were.
So many of us believe that if only the "facts" got out there to the public, things would be different. But you and I operate on -- and seek out -- facts and details, and most people do not. Most people are too busy or are otherwise not able (or interested) to learn the details of what is going on in the larger world around them. And they aren't going to change. Understanding and accepting this is the gateway to understanding why most people have the political opinions and preferences that they have. And it is the first step toward understanding how to reach them and how to start to change their thinking.
Most people get their information through channels that are very different from those that most blog-readers use. They hear snippets of pseudo-facts through word-of-mouth, from music-radio DJs, from glimpses of headlines, e-mail jokes, co-workers, etc. and only some of what they hear "sticks." The process of discovering what "sticks" is fascinating. (George Lakoff's work is just one small example of this process.) Rather than get into that, I just want to say that the Right's machine (and corporate marketing departments) have spent decades and hundreds of millions trying to understand this process. They understand it a lot better than we do, and they use it. Modern marketing methods are very effective.
Bloggers and Air America and MoveOn, etc. are working to get around the "right-wing noise machine" and make accurate information available, and this is a very important beginning. But we are still mostly only talking to each other. At least now we are finally starting to talk with a common and consistent voice. But we have a lot to learn about reaching out to the broader, general public-at-large.
I think the first step is to understand that we are still largely talking to each other. But the next step is to learn how the hairdresser in Topeka gets and retains her "news," and to start talking to her in ways she will hear and remember.
August 10, 2005
The post below, Right-Wing Think Tanks Really Adjuncts to the Republican Party, refers to a newspaper story that quotes Rob Levine of Cursor.org.
Cursor runs a research and information site, Cursor's Media Transparency, the money behind the conservative media. Media Transparency is one of the most valuable resources available to those of us who track the "conservative movement's" operations. They do the research to track who is funding the network of PR organizations that operates as an adjunct of The Party, and that cranks out the incessant propaganda promoting The Party and its candidates and issues.
Media Transparency is a key resource for learning what is happening to us and to our country. You should visit the site often. You should learn to use their search engine to look up organizations and individuals to see fi they are funded operatives of The Party.
What I am getting at here is that Cursor and Media Transparency deserve your support. Here is where you can contribute to their effort. Help keep them going.
August 8, 2005
From Sunday's Washington Post: Rich Liberals Vow to Fund Think Tanks - Aim Is to Compete With Conservatives,
At least 80 wealthy liberals have pledged to contribute $1 million or more apiece to fund a network of think tanks and advocacy groups to compete with the potent conservative infrastructure built up over the past three decades.
[. . .] The goal of the alliance, according to organizers, is to foster the growth of liberal or left-leaning institutions equipped to take on prominent think tanks on the right, including the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, as well as such training centers as the Leadership Institute and the Young America's Foundation.
[. . .] Liberal groups have been disproportionately dependent on one-year foundation grants for specific projects, Stein said, while the money flowing to conservative groups has often involved donors' long-term commitments with no strings attached. Stein noted that of 200 major conservative donors, about half sit on the boards of the think tanks they give to, increasing the strength of their commitment.
The Right spends between $400-500 million every year in just the think thank, training, and legal advocacy groups in its machine. That number doesn't even include their network of media outlets.Suburban Guerrilla:
$200 million over four years doesn't seem like a lot comparatively, and it technically isn't. But their machine was built for 20th century politics. Ours doesn't have to be as big and expensive as theirs. And we can craft ours to better suit the digital political warscape we face in the years ahead.
I wonder if any of this money trickles down to bloggers – after all, we provide a lot of bang for the buck.Democratic Veteran:
On a more positive note, it looks like some Democrats are finally going to get off their checkbooks and begin to fund some progressive advoacacy organizations. Gee, the New American Fascists have had a pretty exclusive playing field for quite a number of years funded by the Scaifes, Olins and others...it's nice to see that the money is going to be forthcoming for some non-lying advocacy...'bout time.John at AMERICAblog writes:
Now the "advocacy" groups just need to remember that the objective is not to save the spotted owl, but to retake the reins of government to help protect all the owls in the forest, sensibly and with a "plan". I think that any efforts need to start with drilling home the lying, cheating and shredding of the Constitution that the 1600 Crew and their allies has been doing and how that's about as un-American as you can get (especially the Shredding the Constitution part), and still retain citizenship in the US of A.
Good.Avedon at Sideshow:
Communication strategies, yes indeed, but "new ideas"? What new ideas could they mean?Lean Left:
And where's Liberal TV? (And no, it's not Al Gore's new thing, which is something else.) I think people need to see what an actual liberal media would really look like.
That is not much compared to the Right’s yearly expenditures, but it is a move in the right direction. The fact that the commitments extend for five years are also a good sign. it suggest the people involved understand the magnitude of the task. The right wing has a message machine the likes of which the Left cannot even approach, and countering that is not the work of a few lazy summer afternoons. These people seem to understand that.
Chris Bowers at MyDD:
I like this. I like this a lot. I feel like we are finally starting to get it. While the right will still massively out-fund us even when this gets off the ground, the truth and 21st century strategies will allow us to do more with less.Blogenlust:
The idea that Democrats could expect to win by throwing a lot of money into an election without an underlying infrastructure and strategy was probably a little naive. Afterall, it took the Right a generation to get to where they are today, and whether it will take the Left that long to get back on track, I'm not sure. I'm sure, though, that this is the type of long-term strategic thinking and planning that can only help the party and its policies.
[. . .] However, it's important to note that we can't afford to wait for a generation of progressive talking heads and strategists to grow up within the infrastructure and then be ready to contribute to this strategy. Ideally, we would need something in place that could be effective by 2008, which means that media strategy and training needs to be a primary focus of the Democracy Alliance and its future offspring. Fortunately, from what I'm reading, this seems to be understood.
June 1, 2005
Actually, one thing I do want to say before I try to sleep. I'm spending some of the time here hanging around with other bloggers at this conference, and one subject keeps coming up: money. Moolah. I was talking with Oliver Willis this morning (a really great guy -- read his blog) and one of the things that we discussed was the big problem with Progressives being the lack of funds. At about the same time Atrios linked to John Arivosis' post on the subject of money. Then I ran into both of them. And just now I came across this postat The Blogging of the President that reminded me of all this so here I am.
This is a big, big problem. The Right has money that is used effectively, and Progressives do not. You can generally assume that everyone on the Right is funded. This gives them time and space to think and formulate. The Right has money to train thousands of new operatives every year. And it is not just because of corporations and wealthy funders. Question: how much money have you donated to Progressive organizations, not candidates this year? (Or to bloggers?) Many on the Right give a lot of money, and the religious tithe 10% of their gross income. (I mention this because I think plenty of that is finding its way into right-wing politics.) Can you say that the person-on-the-street Progressive can match their dedication? How many Progressives are putting their money where their hearts are? (The "conservative movement" is funded to the tune of about $400 million per year, not counting commercial outfits like Fox, or election-related spending.)
This is a big subject among bloggers, worth discussing out there in the real world. But like I said before, it's late and I have to be up early.
May 30, 2005
ProgressiveSecretary.org sends progressive email letters to Congress, the President, and other officials on peace, ecology, civil rights and other issues. Letters come to your IN box. If you like them, you hit REPLY. It goes out with your name. Simple. This is a FREE service. It is volunteer-run. Since I've joined, over 1,000 letters on a wide variety of issues have gone out in my name - many of which have clearly been read, judging by the responses I've gotten.
May 28, 2005
Robert Kuttner at American Prospect has written a key article on the state of Progressive politics. He picks the title up from the widely-discussed Death of Environmentalism essay.
It's late. I'll write about it soon.
May 12, 2005
Here's a difference between national Democrats and the Republican "machine," (The Party and the network of funded organizations, think tanks, etc. that are the foundation of The Party.) Take a look at the picture at Daily Kos :: SD Dems in action. It shows a billboard put up by local grassroots Democrats. This is the kind of thing the Republican machine does across the country in hundreds of different ways. They provide pamphlets to hand out at churches, speakers for local and campus events, radio guests and hosts, TV pundits, columnists -- all professionally trained, all well-paid.
But this billboard shows our advantage: we're in the right. We aren't trying to convince some blue-collar worker to give up his or her pension so some rich fuck can get a bigger jet.
April 15, 2005
The must-read article of the month is Making Connections: Why is the news so bad? What can progressives do to fix it?
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:
Roosevelt Institution (student think tank)
Help them out. This is how we take back America!