Must Read For Progressives

Bill Curry has a must-read post up at Salon for progressives: Yes, we’re stuck with Hillary: But we don’t need an Elizabeth Warren-esque savior for a battle of ideas.

I’d lose something if I tried to synthesize Curry’s message, so I won’t try. But here are a few passages I found particularly insightful.

On why Democrats don’t debate policy among themselves, as Republicans do:

Democrats don’t debate policy because they can’t. They can’t because they tell their donors one thing and their base another. This divides policy from message. It’s a situation rich with irony: To pay for populist-themed ads they mortgage themselves to the status quo. Needless to say, when they divvy up the spoils, the donors get policy and the base gets message.

On political consultants:

The advice Democrats get from consultants is killing them but they don’t know it. America needs broad reform to solve problems that affect us all. Consultants micro-target niche constituencies. It turns out you can’t sell big changes with mere slogans. Real reformers must marshal facts and apply logic to sway opinion. Political consultants are in a different line of work.

Progressives waiting for Democrats to change are dangerously deluded. It hurts to admit that their leaders are addicted to money and to the sense of emotional security consultants provide in lieu of insight — and worse, they can’t see it or change.

And on what successful movements look like:

Much progressive work goes on outside elections yet is essential both to winning races and enacting reform. Consider two of the most inspiring movements of the 21st century, the campaign to raise the living standards of low-wage workers and the movement for marriage equality.

The working poor don’t have any money to give politicians or to lavish on consultants, but in November they steamrolled big business in four red states. They did it the way progressive movements do: setting a goal and then building consensus and trust in face-to-face meetings with as many people as would talk to them.

At first glance the gay marriage fight looks different. Wealthy advocates gave lots of money to politicians, mostly Democrats running for federal office. But those politicians did no more for gay marriage than they did for restaurant workers. Gay marriage was won in courts, legislatures and referenda. If anything, its success was even more dependent on personal engagement. Its best advocates were the millions of gays who bravely came out to family and friends. If you were so privileged as to be in one of those conversations you saw what progressive leadership is all about.

Take the time to read the whole piece.

10 thoughts on “Must Read For Progressives”

  1. There is some dissonance between the Democratic base and some of the party’s wealthiest donors. But on a lot of issues, I think we stand together. I’ve been really encouraged by the stellar work of Tom Streyer. He spent somewhere between $50 to $100 million in the 2014 election to promote candidates that are good on climate change.
    I am now personally committed to promoting groups that are effective, and are doing important work. So for me, that means contributing financial resources to the Sierra Club, the ACLU, to NARAL. We should not let the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson have all the fun. I’ve decided that moderates can support stuff like PBS, but that progressives should target our “tithing” to kick ass groups.

    • Jim, if you’ve not done so yet, you may want to read Naomi Klein’s book, “This Changes Everything.” It may change your view of groups like Sierra Club and the so-called “good billionaires.” It’s not always as it seems. And all billionaires have a stake of folks on the left seeing some of them as “good.” If you read David Cay Johnston’s “The Fine Print,” as another example, you’ll learn that Warren Buffett is not nearly as “good” a billionaire as the press portrays him.

      • I’m reading “This Changes Everything” right now. Naomi Klein actually is quite specific about environmental groups, and she is usually pretty complimentary towards the Sierra Club. She does take on, very effectively, other groups like the Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Resources Defense Fund, and their deep corporate ties.
        We have seen this dynamic play out here in Arizona around the EPA rules for the Navajo Generating Station. Several environmental groups signed on with the TWG alternative, but the Sierra Club opted out and has been strongly critical.
        I’m somewhat agnostic about Warren Buffet, but I do like his proposal that all CEO’s should pay at least a high a tax rate as their secretaries.
        By the way, Naomi Klein also mentions Tom Steyer in her new book, with a positive slant.

  2. Bob, you are trying hard to explain that serious change is needed, but your words are falling on deaf ears. I don’t think anyone understood your recent blog about attending the election of Arizona Democrat Party leaders. You try hard, but I think the concepts are so radical they are hard to grasp when the majority are still focused on the traditional bugaboos of dark money, Fox News and GOP shenanigans. Perhaps you are too subtle…

  3. what is killing the progressive movement is not dark money ;but gun control! the middle-class and poor who vote republican do so in fear that the democratic party will take away their assault guns. You want to ban assault guns I want to ban assault guns :but these voters don’t Talk show host tom hartmann agreed with me when I called him that gun control has cost the democratic party dearly. 1994 it was gun control not hilary care that wiped the democratic party out! We must say to the gun grabbers thanks but no thanks if we want to get a progressive agenda ask them who would the american people vote to get rid of guns or gun grabbers. I know what the polls say ;but that it not how people vote ask the re-called colorado legislature about that!

    • You may be missing Curry’s point. He’s not talking about winning elections. He’s talking about the actual advocacy and implementation of a progressive agenda once in office. And he’s really referring to economic issues, not social issues.

      As for your discussion of gun control, it’s beyond cynical. That’s not leadership, which is what we hopefully expect out of our elected officials, it’s pure cowardice. You should read Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage and compare it to your worldview.

      • A false sense of unity may be advantageous to Democrats in elections, but in terms of actual governance progressives will get lip service. The progressive message will get out in some quarters, but when it comes time to govern, you get the Corporatist Democrats or the Corporatist Republicans.

        In the meantime, the Republicans will beat each other to a bloody pulp and by the time one candidate emerges they’ll be too beat up to run effectively in the general election. Progressives may be getting lip service among Democrats, but they’ll get nothing at all from Republicans.

        Playing it safe and giving no more than occasional lip service to progressives is what the Democrats need to do. You think progressives are going to vote Republican? They may stay home but they’re not going to vote GOP.

        • So staying home on election day is not the same as voting GOP? I beg to differ, it gives the GOP one more vote that would have been canceled out by someone voting for the Democrat. Ask Ron Barber about people staying home on election day.

          • I think staying home in protest makes a resounding protest and should be practiced by Democrats at every possible opportunity. Granted, you may lose an election or two, but what lesson is taught by voting? A vote tells them that you are satisfied with the status quo. It’s called “tough love”…

    • Gun control IS an important policy issue, but the problems with the Democrat Party are not the fault of any particular policy issue. It goes much deeper than that. It is going to require a reformation of sorts in how Democrats approach the things for which they stand and not just continue to go after donations/contributions to fill their coffers. They need a housecleaning to focus their energy and marshal the manpower and resources needed to effect broad social change. Not, you understand, that I want to see any of that happen. I find the status quo quite satisfying.

      Oh, it was Hillary that killed you back in 1994. She was a very polarizing figure back then and she is still one today. Gun control didn’t help, though.

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