Stand Up Straight-51-Conclusion
Stand Up Straight
Creamer Dec 2009
Pretitle: Listen to
your Mother Subtitle: How Progressives Can Win
C. 51 The Challenges We Face: The Cultural and Political Ability of Our Society to Respond
We Can Decide
No other major
21st-century challenges to our success and survival involves outside
threats that are beyond human control. They do not involve an
inevitable degeneration of our environment that results from natural
processes, or climate changes brought on -- like the Ice Age -- by
changes in the Earth's orientation in space. While hostile human beings
may attack each other, we don't face an invading army from another
planet, á la "The War of the Worlds." No society on some other planet
will cut off trade relations and leave us stranded like Henderson or
Pitcairn Island. The sole exception may be the development and spread
of microbial pathogens that infect large populations before we learn
how to immunize yourselves, control their spread, or cure those who are
stricken. In our case, these challenges all involve human decisions and
human actions. We control our destiny. The real challenge
facing us in the 21st century is: are we up the challenge?
When it comes to the principal factors that have caused the collapse of
societies in the past, we've seen how fundamentalist conservative
values fail to meet these challenges. Traditional progressive values
result in priorities for action that allow us the best opportunity to
cope with the challenges.
Overriding Factors -- Political Special Interests, Short-Term Focus,
Failure to Adapt Analyzing why past societies fail
to make the right choices, Diamond's study identified several
overriding factors. One is the dominant decision making elite whose
short-term self-interest does not correspond with the long-term
interest of society. That is discussed in more detail in section 9. The
other is the failure to adapt societies values, its priorities for
action, and its resource allocation to new conditions.
Critical Thinking and Open Societies
It's necessary for world society to foster values and protect critical
thinking, curiosity, scientific inquiry, research and education,
diversity and tolerance, and free expression. Radical conservative
fundamentalist values fail to meet this test. All you need to do is
look at the debate over evolution and "intelligent design," or the
attempts to limit stem cell research, or see the massive
anti-scientific bias in fundamentalist conservative thought. Of course,
in fact, any value system that believes it is the sole possessor of
"revealed truth" or "moral law" discourages discovery and critical
debate. It discourages the constant critical re-examination of the
assumptions that lie at the core of scientific progress.
Tolerance for diversity -- in ideas, culture, race, and religion
-- underlies critical thinking and the ability to adapt our values and
priorities to meet our challenges. The concept of "integrity" has as
its foundation this progressive view of values and morality. Protecting
a tolerant diverse society -- protecting critical thinking and free
expression -- requires a progressive understanding of human rights.
That is why progressives are so committed to the concept of the right
It's Always Done in the Name of National Security
Historically, national security is always the rationale
used by governments to restrict these rights. The Germans used the
burning of the Reichstag as a premise to pass laws against the Jews,
leftists and other "enemies of National Socialism." Stalin use national
security as a rationale to send tens of thousands of Russians to
gulags. The same with military dictatorships in Latin America, the
Patriot Act in United States and many others. It is not only those
arrested who suffer. It is the entire society as creativity and vitality of
curiosity are suppressed by fear.
Clearing the Gauntlet
Planetary Scientist David Grinspoon's book, "Lonely Planets," that
explores the question of extraterrestrial life -- both the basic
biological life and intelligent sentient life. In this he speculates on
the chances of survival of intelligent life in the universe. He argues
that every civilization of intelligent creatures must pass through a
gauntlet that tests whether the values and political structures of the
society are capable of keeping pace with the exponentially increasing
power of the society's technology. If they can, the society may pass
into a phase of enormous freedom and possibilities, if not, the power
of its own technology will destroy it. This concept is also discussed
by the famous Drake Equation. The next several generations of humans
will decide how that race turns out. We will decide if we pass through
that gauntlet or -- like our cousins the Neanderthals -- become
evolutionary dead ends.
C. 52 The Progressive Vision -- the Kind of Society We Want to Create
The Foundation Is Progressive Values
The progressive vision of our future is about making it through that
gauntlet. It's about successfully meeting the 21st century challenges
to our success and survival. Explaining our vision is about reaffirming
our faith in progressive values as the standards we use to craft the
future. That faith can be expressible in symbols of our progressive
religious traditions, and in the language of our civic tradition -- the
Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the
progressive tradition of our political history. But
there is a competing frame embedded in the unconscious that denies this
and calls up another darker set of inclinations. It is our task as
progressives to activate and affirm these progressive frames and to
communicate them to all.
What Kind of Society Do We Reject
We want a society that avoids the potential catastrophes
implicit in the challenges we've just discussed.
The Future's Possibility
Our technology could allow
us to create a society where everyone can satisfy our physical needs,
control and find structure in their lives, nurtures respectful human
relationships, where everyone has creative work, is free to make their
own commitments, and can find their own path to meaning and fulfillment.
- We reject a future where environmental damage, over-taxation of
resources, or global climate change leads to violence, genocide, or a reduced standard of living.
- We reject the future of massive inequality that turns America into an armed camp.
- We reject the future of global conflict between religion
and ethnic groups that leads to more death and suffering.
- We reject the future where structurally violence inflicts
unnecessary suffering on people worldwide.
- We reject the future that requires us to sacrifice our liberty to our fear.
- We reject a future where we allow the institutions we have
created to take on lives of their own and prevent us from controlling
our technology and shape our history.
- Most importantly, failure is not an option. We reject the future
that ends in a mushroom cloud or the catastrophic collapse of our environment.
Escape from Economic Necessity -- A New World of Creative Work
our history, most human beings have been plagued by economic
necessity, this is still the case for many people, especially in the
developing world. This is no longer a necessity, it is only true by
human choice. There are three ways people experience their work lives.
For some, work is simply a job -- a way to generate income necessary
for life. The second is a career. Work contributes directly to the
status, power, and identity of the worker. The third is a calling. You
would do the work even if you were never paid, you would do it because
of its intrinsic value.
It would be possible for everyone to have the opportunity to do work
that is a calling. Such a world would be made possible by the wise use
of our technology and overcoming the challenges we have discussed;
overpopulation and over taxation of natural resources. The second
necessary ingredient is the elimination of structural inequality and
A Secure Future
Eliminating economic necessity would have monumental
consequences for our physical security. Economic necessity causes fear,
fear leads to hatred, division, and war. Eliminating economic necessity
is necessary for solution but is not sufficient, at least three more
elements are required:
Truly Democratic Society
For most of the time that humans existed on earth, their
societies were similar to that of their ape ancestors. They banded
together in small hunter-gatherer bands with egalitarian social
structures where all gathered their own food and shelter. With the
advent of agriculture this began to change so that more and more people
are freed from the daily grind of food collection. Now we are
approaching a condition where all will have sufficient food and shelter
without constant labor. Now the qualitative change of technology can
transform this gradual process into a truly quantitative change in the
structure of all society. To do this requires us to:
- The conscious creation and nurturance of institutions to
peacefully resolve disputes.
- The systematic inculcation in our children of the progressive
values of empathy, responsibility, competency, and mutual respect, and
also through political dialogue that diffuses "common sense."
- The fair distribution of the bounty of our economic and
Personal Freedom to Select and Achieve Goals and Structure Life
The end of economic necessity can do more than any other
single factor to broaden personal freedom to select goals and structure
one's life. Economic necessity is the foundation of structural
violence. It and would allow hundreds of millions of people to
massively broaden their personal freedom. However another element is
critical. Technology in the hands of despots can be used to bring the
opposite of freedom -- control and tyranny. To create freedom,
technology must exist in a democratic society with strong protections
for individual rights.
- Overcome challenges that could overtax our planet's resources.
- Imbue of the value of equality into our political dialogue and culture.
- Create structural change in the power relations of society to guarantee equality.
Unprecedented Levels of Intellectual Stimulation and Fulfillment
the internet now allow everyone to access and manipulate information to
a degree that would've been impossible to imagine 50 years ago. With
universal education and the removal of the necessity for physically
difficult, repetitive menial work, all people will have the ability to
advance as far as their own capabilities and interests lie.
A Society with New Possibilities for
Rich, Stimulating, Mutually Respectful Social Relationships
progressive democratic society with sufficient leisure time to devote
to it outside pursuits would allow us to empathize with each other and
strengthen the foundation for mutual respect and toleration of the
A Society Where Each Person Is
Empowered to Seek His Own Meaning in Life, To Make Commitments
of His Own Choosing, To Live Out His
Own Dreams and to Develop His Own Intellectual, Physical, and Spiritual
Capabilities to the Maximum Extent He Desires This
is the progressive concept of human freedom -- a society for each
person is empowered to create his own meeting, his own identity -- to
commitments of his own choosing. The end of economic necessity and the
creation of a democratic society are prerequisites to make such a
vision possible. Progressives believe that we are only capable of
achieving this goal together -- not separately. Progressive also
believe that working together we have the best chance of benefit -- not
only for the entire society -- but for each of us individually. Society
is not a zero-sum game -- rather, we believe that helping everyone to
be proud of who he is, to be more productive, better educated, and
healthy, gives us all the ability to live richer, smarter, healthier,
more secure, and more meaningful lives.
The Next Great Leap Forward
Twice before humans have faced major changes -- the first
to) 50,000 years ago when changes in the brain and voice box resulted
in modern humans, the second was about 13,000 years ago with the
invention of agricultural food production. Now we are facing a
qualitative change in technology. But first we have to make it
through Grinspoon's gauntlet.
Describing the Progressive Vision
and the Struggle to Make It Reality:
Vision is Critical to Victory
Our eloquence at describing the progressive vision is critical to our
ability to make it reality. The voters instinctively want to know where
leaders want to take them. More importantly, vision inspires. By
inspiring swing voters with our vision for the future we persuade them.
By inspiring mobilizable voters, we motivate them.
Vision inspires because it calls on the listener to commit himself to
bring that vision into being -- to make it reality. It addresses the
most critical human self-interest -- the need for meaning. The great
political leaders and movements of history have all called on their
followers to turn that vision into reality. More than anything else
people are searching for meaning. Political movements that hold out a
vision of the future and ask for commitment to help make it real
provide that sense of meaning.
What Describing the Progressive Vision Does Not Involve
Very often Progressives make the mistake of confusing a statement of progressive vision with two things that it definitely is not:
A list of policies and programs that we support.
Policies and programs are not a vision. We lost the 2004 presidential
election, in part, because our candidate talked about policy and
programs while the Republicans talked about right and wrong and their
vision for the world.
A slogan. The slogan is not a
statement of our vision either -- although a metaphoric slogan can
become a shorthand symbol for a vision that is painted in broader
strokes elsewhere. Some of the stand-in slogans are familiar to us all:
The New Deal, The New Frontier, The Great Society, The Blessed
Community, I Have a Dream, and The Bridge to the 21st Century. These
slogans have two things in common, they paint a picture in our minds
with inspirational language and they describe progressive values that
Progressives won. Regardless, slogans by themselves this do not
describe our vision, to be useful, they must refer back to a broader
understanding of that vision that is regularly repeated elsewhere.
Rules for Communication Our Vision of the Future
Rule #1 The vision must be placed in the progressive value frame and set up a contrast between progressive
and conservative values. We have to activate the unconscious
progressive value frame that is present in everyone. We must be self confident and assertive.
Rule #2 The vision must be
placed in an historic context. The vision must be seen to be important.
Rule #3 Like all political
communication we need to use symbols. Visions are about seeing things -- not thinking about them. These
symbols must make the voter feel and visualize our vision of the future.
Most important, the statement of our vision must inspire voters and call on them to make a commitment to the task of making the vision into reality.
Progressives need to rekindle hope that the next generation will live
better than our own.
- Its achievement must require that we overcome obstacles that we
must achieve at a new level of proficiency.
- Overcoming these obstacles requires courage. It must call on us to overcome fear.
- In doing so it must make us feel empowered.
- It must call on the voter to sacrifice to make the vision a
reality -- to make a commitment. Remember we are not talking about the
kind of sacrifice that involves lowered expectations. We are talking
about sacrifice for a better future.
- It must appeal to hope. It requires faith that we can overcome.
Rule #5 We must explain America's
leadership role in achieving our mission -- how America can be the
"city on the hill" -- an example of those values that define our vision
of the future.
Rule #6 The best possible symbol for
the progressive vision is a person -- a leader or candidate or role
model that defines our hope for the future; a transforming leader.
Examples -- Speeches That Described a Progressive Vision of the Future
Each of the five speeches mentioned below describes the speaker's
progressive vision. Each takes traditional American progressive values
and applies them to a particular historic moment. Each uses the
progressive value frame and an understanding of history to frame the
debate. Each chooses powerful, visual symbols that engages the listener's
emotions. Each enlists and inspires the listener to join the struggle
to make his vision a reality by asking commitment and sacrifice.
John Kennedy's Inaugural Address
Lyndon Johnson's Inaugural Address
Franklin Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address
Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech"
Barak Obama's Keynote Address to the 2004 Democratic Convention
Throughout our history, American leaders have proudly, clearly, and
self confidently invoked the progressive values that define America's
greatness. They called upon our state citizens to sacrifice -- not
because of their failure, but in order to create a better life for our
children. They called upon Americans to commit themselves to the common
good -- to each other and the next generation. We know how to inspire.
We know how to call on people to hope. We can awaken America to lead
the world to overcome the challenges of the 21st century and realize
the great promise of a truly democratic society.
BUILDING A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY
Structural Change A
democratic society is not just about voting, it is not just about due
process, protection of minority rights, etc. -- although those are
important. A democratic society is one in which power is widely
diffused to everyone.
What Is Power?
working definition is that power is the ability to select and achieve
goals. In the social context that often requires the ability to change
the behavior of others; power is getting other people to do things that
they would not otherwise do. Social power can be exercised in a variety
of ways -- persuasion, intimidation, coercion, physical force, or
incentives. However individual power can be exercised and enhanced
without any reference to others at all.
- The power to select elites and hold them accountable is
spread equally throughout the society.
- That society includes many different elites and centers of power
that can provide checks and balances on each other -- to assure
individual freedom, and the protection of minority rights, and to
Why a Democratic Society Is So Important in the Modern World
-- The Importance of Structural Change
Power and Struggle
theory that for me to have a more fulfilling life, you have to have a
less fulfilling life -- is just not true. There are places in life
where there is truly a zero-sum game, there can only be one president
at a time. However there doesn't have to be competition over who can
eat, this must not be considered a zero-sum game.
- Our fundamental goal as Progressives is the success and survival of all human beings, and it's more likely that people with more power can succeed and survive.
- The exponential explosion of technology infects the
distribution of power with the same autocatalytic quality that is
characteristic of technological innovation. Technology gives power to
- One of the chief reasons that past societies have failed to take the actions that would prevent their collapse is that
decision-making elites had individual interests that were not
compatible with the long-term interest of the society as a whole. The
principal line of defense against the incongruity of interest
decision-making elites and the entire society is to assure that the
power failed by decision-makers is accountable to a democratic society.
- How we change the structures of our economic and political systems today has a major impact on future prospects for
progressive political success. Change occurs when there is a problem
for a group of people in society who have adequate power to force a
change in the way society's resources are distributed or the way
decisions are made. Change does not occur simply because things get
"bad enough" for a large segment of the population. It requires that
the affected group have enough power to do something about it.
Long-lasting, fundamental change in society requires that we must focus
on structural change, these
have a fundamental effect on the power of our constituencies. We also
must prevent regressive structural change.
Frederick Douglass said "Power surrenders nothing without a struggle.
It never has, it never will." Progressives need to understand that that
building a democratic society -- at home and around the world -- is not
just about good ideas, or civil conversation. It's about political
C. 54 The Progressive Agenda for
The progressive agenda for action should
focus heavily on political struggle that affects the distribution of
power in society. We need to focus on structural change that
democratizes and diffuses power in society, and empowers everyday
people. It is a fine thing for people to devote time and energy on a
wide array of issues and interests, however the principal focus for
progressive energy should be the battles that directly affect the
distribution of power.
The Battle over the Distribution of Wealth and Income, and the Control of Wealth in The United States
than any other factor, the possession of wealth
and income impact your power -- your ability to select and achieve
goals -- in modern society. Over the last 50 years a smaller and
smaller percentage of the population has to come to control a larger
and larger percentage of America's income and wealth. In Congress this
drive for more wealth and income concentration is embodied in the
Republicans continued attempt to make their tax cuts permanent, repeal
the estate tax, destroy unions, and create trade policies that benefit
the wealthy. In section 7 several direct means to end income and wealth
inequality were discussed:
Several other factors that can indirectly affect the democratization of wealth and income are:
- Strong unions; Trade policies aimed at
maintaining higher wages, safe working conditions, and the protection
of the environment;
- Policies that shift the tax burden away from the poor and middle class to the wealthy;
- Living wages and a high-wage bottom up economy.
strong pensions for retirees
The US pension system is in serious
jeopardy, and fundamentalist conservatives are working hard to make the matters
worse. There was a serious effort under President Bush to privatize
Social Security which luckily failed. Over the last two decades, the
system of guaranteed private pensions provided by corporations has by
and large been jettisoned in favor of employee investment accounts (401
(k)'s and the like). There is a long story from Malcolm Gladwell that
appeared in the New Yorker. There is a real problem with industry
sponsored private retirement accounts. As companies become more
efficient the ratio between workers and retirees drops and if companies
go out of business both workers and retirees are in trouble
We must continue to defend Social Security and we
should also propose nationally managed investment programs for all
Americans and all companies that would allow employees to move between
jobs and spread the risk among many employers and employees.
The critical need for universal health care.
Health care is a national disgrace. The health-care
debate in late 2009 and early 2010 has been a disaster.
The Upcoming Health-Care Battle -- The Stage Is Set
A brief description of the health-care debate under President Clinton and his predictions of things to come.
Tasks that Must Be Done to Assure Victory in the Battle for Health Care
Mounting a successful campaign to
reshape the structure of one sixth of the American political economy is
a tall order. It is daunting, but it can be done, victory is possible
only if: A progressive Democrat is elected president.
Distribution Of Quality Educational Opportunity
A huge factor affecting long-term income
distribution is educational attainment. After WW II, a high school
education was the typical entry to a middle-class lifestyle. Today a
middle-class income requires at least a college degree.
College costs have gone up faster than any other portion of the economy. A
higher and higher percentage of all students at competitive colleges
come from the richest families. Much of this inequality results from
the differential level of preparation offered by the wealthy to its
children, another part results from "affirmative action" programs for
- Democrats increase their margin in the House and especially the Senate. We will need more than 60 votes to win in the Senate.
- We must create a national consensus that
healthcare is a right, not a commodity; and that government must
guarantee that right.
- We must create a national consensus that
the health care system is in crisis.
- Our messaging program should focus
heavily on reducing the credibility of the healthcare industry and
focusing on the failure of private health insurance.
- We need to systematically forge
relationships with large sectors of the business/employer community.
- We need to convince political leaders
that the older elections, at least in part, to the groundswell of
support for universal health care, and that they face political fair
peril if they fail to deliver.
- We need not agree in advance on the
components of the plan, we must foster a process that could ultimately
- We must design and organize a massive national field program.
- We must focus especially on the
mobilization of the labor movement and the faith community.
- We must systematically leveraged the
connections and resources of a massive array of institutions and
organizations of all types.
- To be successful, we must put
in place commitments for hundreds of millions of dollars to be used to finance
page communications and mobilization once the battle is joined.
Part of a progressive agenda to democratize society has to include
universal free preschool; free universal higher education; and equal
funding for secondary education.
Economic Development A final means of indirectly decreasing
income and wealth inequality is economic development in poor
neighborhoods, eliminating "redlining," mortgages, major capital, and
The Battle to Defend The Public Sector
-- The Public Sector must be Expanded to Provide Goods and Services
that are Not Provided Efficiently by the Private Market.
The Battle to Restrict the Power of Corporations to Damage the Environment and Discharge Greenhouse Gases that Cause Climate Change
Corporate managers are not necessarily
bad people. Corporate managers have been hired to maximize short-term
results, and that conflicts with what's best for our environment and
- Quality Health Care for All.
- Universal Higher Education and Preschool.
- The Battle to Defend Social Security and Restructure Pensions To Protect Average American Retirees.
- The Battle to Expand Public Revenues to Fully Fund Key Governmental
Functions -- Especially Critical Social Priorities and Public Infrastructure.
The Battle to Unionize the Workforce
Unionized workers make about 30% more
than their counterparts in comparable jobs. It's no accident that the
share of our national income going to the wages of working poor people
is at a 50 year low. White nonunion men typically vote 80% Republican,
while white labor union members vote two thirds Democratic. Union
members turn out to vote at rates far in excess of other voters. Union
membership has been targeted by Republicans for many years. Some of the
things did we need to do to revitalize the labor movement are:
The Battle to Prevent Consolidation of
America's Media in the Hands of a Few
For many years the FCC has been allowing
greater concentrations of media ownership. One proposal in 2003 was
canceled because of a bipartisan crusade of opposition. We need to keep
up the good work. This pertains to broadband access as well, "net
neutrality" must be maintained.
- Increasingly imaginative and intensive
organizing programs to recruit a higher percentage of the workforce.
- Action by progressive Democrats to
reform and enforce labor laws and prevent corporations from coercing
workers not to join unions.
- Reframe the public's understanding of
unions as a critical and necessary part of the world's economy.
- Promote the development of a strong
labor movement in other countries, and promote close cooperation of
unions worldwide -- especially in developing countries. Multinational
corporations need multinational unions.
The Battle for Immigration
Reform and Naturalization of Immigrants
There are three major issues involved
in this problem.
The Battle for Electoral
Public Financing of Elections
America will never have truly fair and
democratic elections if the wealthy have disproportionate influence
through large campaign contributions. Ever since the Civil War,
Southerners, then Democrats, and now Republicans, and other fundamentalist
conservatives have been promoting laws to decrease access to the polls.
- The first is a family and human rights
issue, undocumented aliens have few legal rights, they may be separated
from their children, and they are subject to wage slavery.
- The second is that there exists a
massive inequality in wages between Central and South America and the
United States. As long as this exists there is going to be pressure for
them to travel to America.
- The third is that undocumented aliens
have no voting rights. If Democrats continue to stand firmly for the
immigration rights the issue will define immigrants voting loyalties
for a generation.
The Battle to Control the World's Exploding Population -- And Each Person's Impact on Global Resources
No matter how advanced the technology nor how perfect a
democratic society is, if there are too many people and the earth does
not produce sufficient food or other resources, we cannot wipe out
starvation and hunger. There are at least four priority fronts in this
The Battle to Reduce Structural Violence -- Especially in Developing Countries
One of the tragedies of fundamentalist conservative philosophy and
especially the Bush presidency, is the immense amount of money spent
on war-making when a much smaller amount of money could have done so
much good if it was invested in public health, HIV treatments,
health-care clinics, fresh water, education for women, etc. Some of the
projects that could be accomplished with only a portion of this money
are the following:
- We need a huge increase in funds to support family planning in the developing world and in the United States.
- The world needs an emergency campaign to
provide education to women worldwide. The most effective form of birth
control is the education of women.
- Progressive should fight for an
emergency initiative to find sustainable alternatives to hydrocarbon
fuels and dramatically reduce the waste of the planet's resources.
- Governments around the world must ensure
that renewable resources are harvested by methods -- and at rates --
that allow them to renew themselves at sustainable levels.
The Battle to Empower Multinational Organizations -- Especially the United Nations -- To Bring Peaceful
Resolution to International Disputes, Promote Human Rights, and Foster
The Neocons do not share this goal.
Progressives are not about an American empire. We are about the world
community -- a stable, peaceful, prosperous, democratic world
community. Progressives do not support American domination, but rather
American leadership. Progressives reject unilateralist, preemptive
action. The author considers the example of Europe. After WW II,
America took the lead in promulgating the Marshall Plan to rebuild
Europe, which led to the European Common Market and the European Union.
Compare this to NAFTA.
- Large-scale investments in public infrastructure that
make economic development possible -- especially roads, water, sewer,
and communication system.
- Serious investment in education -- especially for women.
- Trade policies that allow for integration of the
world economy, while they protect the well-being of vast numbers of
developing world peasants. When developing world economies are open to
imports of agricultural products that have been produced by highly
mechanized and subsidized First World agriculture, prices of
peasant-produced commodities collapse.
The Battle for Muscular
Multilateralism -- The United States Needs to Maintain a Strong,
Military. U.S. Military Power Should be used to Promote a
Progressive Agenda, as Often as Possible in Multinational Context
In all societies, force or the threat of
force is used to guarantee peaceful resolution of disputes and enforce
the society's laws. The same is true in the international context. The
question is not whether the threat of force will be used. It is how it
will be controlled and to what ends. Progressives need to fight to
ensure that US military power is used to enforce a developing body of
international law, using processes of legitimate international
In large part the Clinton administration attempted to follow these
principles. The author devotes several pages to showing how the Clinton
approach to North Korea was working, if slowly. He contrasts this with
the Bush approach which immediately began failing.
Preventing the Proliferation Of Weapons of Mass Destruction in General and Nuclear Weapons in Particular
Currently the greatest danger to
international peace is weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons.
The world had been moving towards reducing this threat for a number of
years but when Bush and the Neocons came to power they seemed to be
planning to do just the opposite, to increase the danger.
The Battle to Defend
Human Rights --
At Home and Abroad
The author presents
several articles by
Garrison Keeler and by Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean American writer and
professor at Duke University. Both of these are very forceful in
defending the concept of human rights and showing how the current
fundamentalist conservative philosophy is endangering American
Continuing the Fight to End Discrimination
For the last
have fought with increasing success to eliminate discrimination based
on race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. This fight must be
continued and if we control the frame and the terms of the debate, will
win us additional supporters.
Appointments to the
Democrats must fight as hard as they can
to prevent a solid fundamentalist conservative majority on the Supreme
Court that might last for decades. There is just too much at stake.
Protection of the Civil Justice System
For the last two decades, Big Business
has continued a sustained assault to limit the ability of negligence
victims to recover damages in court. This so-called tort reform has
been a favorite target of fundamentalist conservatives for years. Their
favorite statement is it raises prices for all of us, but they have
never been able to successfully show any economic relationship. The
only direct relationships that have ever been published are the fact
that liability insurance premiums tend to increase when earnings on
insurance company investment stock portfolios fall.
Prison and Sentencing Reform
America locks up five times more of its
citizens than the average for the rest of the world. 25% of all the
world's prisoners are in US prisons and jails -- even though we have
only 5% of the worlds population. The US -- home of the free --
incarcerated more of its citizens than any other country. The
cost of the prison system is staggering, $90 billion a year and prisons
are bursting at the seams. In the end, 95% of inmates are released back
into our communities, and two thirds of them are released prisoners who
returned to jail. In other words, the American prison system is failing
at its key mission -- making our society safer. Here are some reasons
These are not just pro-prisoner issues.
Prisoners should return to the community equipped to make a
contribution to society and avoid further criminal activity. America's
approach to prisons today doesn't produce that result. How can
Progressives talk about an issue like prison reform and sentencing in a
way that will appeal to most ordinary Americans?
- The very long sentences destroy the
inmates connections with the outside world. Long sentences make it less
and less likely that an inmate can successfully reenter society.
- Inmates received little in the way of
education and training. Prisons in the United States are basically
warehouses. The corrections system does not view its mission as
preparing inmates to succeed without crime -- to prevent criminal
activity and to return to society.
- Study after study shows the likelihood
of recidivism is heavily related to the strength of an inmate's family.
Prisons make it tough to maintain families, they are located far from
major population centers, phone charges are much higher than any other
rate, and phone calls are limited to 300 minutes per month. They're
often no opportunities for social contact with spouses except in
crowded visiting rooms.
The Battle for Progressive Control of Government at All Levels in the United States
The outcome of the public policy battles
we've just described hinges on progressive control of government at the
local, state, and federal levels throughout the United States.
- The issue needs to be framed as a question of what works to prevent inmates from re-offending when they reenter society.
- When we talk about education programs,
we'll have a lot more success if we talk about "requiring" prisoners to
upgrade their skills so they can make a contribution to society than if
we talk about "giving" inmates educational opportunity. They should be
required to upgrade their education or get a trade, as though it were
part of their punishment.
- We should propose "earned good time" to
shorten total prison time. Inmates would earn additional time off their
sentences for activities that research shows that lower the odds of
recidivism. These would include postsecondary education, getting a
certified trade, drug rehabilitation programs, and activities aimed at
improving the success of other inmates like teaching Adult Education
- Progressives should insist that voting rights be reinstated immediately after the they finish their prison time.
Obviously control of the federal government is the most important,
since federal policy has the most impact in creating a democratic
society in the US and around the world. But state and local governments
have enormous impact also. The past practice of writing off huge
sections of America because they are unlikely to object elect Democrats
to Congress or are not swing presidential states, greatly weakens our
ability to achieve our goals. However it's also important to target
resources strategically around elections to win control of the Congress
and the presidency. It won't do much good to have a "strong" local
Democratic Party in an America dominated by the right. Too much is at
stake. Politics is not a drill. It's the real thing that affects
everyday people -- and the future of humanity -- every day. It's our
job to win.
The Battle for the Progressive Control
of Governments around the World The
encourage regimes to
promote institutions that protect workers rights, to control the power
of corporations that destroy the environment, to encourage free
universal education and health-care, stand for trade agreements that
create international standards for labor and environmental rights.
America should always be a leader of the struggle for freedom and
progressive governments -- not military dictatorships, or the world's
most powerful corporations and moguls.
Progressives Must Organize and Support Mass Movement That Empowers
the Powerless -- Both Here and Abroad
Frederick Douglass used to say, "You
can't have the rain without thunder and lightning." Apartheid did not
end in South Africa without a mass movement spearheaded by the African
National Congress -- and an international economic boycott. America did
not win its independence without the Revolutionary War.
African-Americans didn't get the right to vote without sit-ins, freedom
rides, and marches. Freedom and democracy do not just happen, they are
born of struggle.
The battle for a progressive future is not solely about policy choices,
or values, or vision. It's not just about nuts and bolts execution, or
effective messaging. It's about involving millions of everyday people
in the battle for the future -- the battle to create a democratic
Priorities for Action Most progressives care
about two things that impart meaning to an action:
The question of our priorities for our action is at once both strategic
and personal. As a movement, we need to decide on priorities that will
maximize our chances of creating a society built on progressive values.
In the near term, we need priorities that will give us the best chance
of turning this historic opportunity into a long-term progressive
realignment of American politics. And individually, each of us needs to
decide how we can personally contribute. The author presents a list of
18 particularly important priorities for Progressives in the months and
- Progressives want to be part of a movement that can really
make a historic difference.
- Progressives want to find a personal role that will allow
them to make a significant contribution.
Priority 1 Framing the Debate,
Progressives Need to Consistently Frame the Political Dialogue In Terms
of Progressive Values and the Progressive Vision for the Future
More Americans said that they share the moral values of Progressive
Democrats than those whose who share the values of fundamentalist
conservative Republicans. However in one poll 84% of Republican voters
surveyed said they knew what the Republican Party stands for while only
42% of Democratic voters knew what the Democratic party stood for. John
Halprin and Ruy Teixeira in their 2006 paper "The Politics of Definition"
covered this issue (See pdf file of the same name on the hard
drive). For several years now some Democrats in Congress have been
fighting this issue but policies by themselves won't do the trick.
An essential truth of human nature is that frames trump facts. When
presented with facts are consistent with the frame through which people
view the world, the frame will generally win, and inconsistent facts
will be discarded or discounted.
That's why our top priority has to be the relentless, proud,
self-confident repetition of our frame, our values, and our vision for
the future. We have to activate the progressive value frame that exists in
the minds of swing voters. We have to set the frame for political
debate in America. It's our job to shape the voters unconscious
understanding of what constitutes political "common sense."
Priority 2 Victory
Requires That We Give Equal Attention to Our Strategy, Values, and
Vision on the One Hand, And the Nuts and Bolts of Execution on the
Discussion of great political strategy, profession of deeply held
values, and clarity of vision are essentially irrelevant academic
exercises if they are not an integral part of effective political
action. Political success generally hinges much more on solid nuts and
bolts execution than a dozen great thinkers and political visionaries,
but getting elected alone will not succeed in creating long-term
progressive political realignment in America in the absence of clearly
articulated strategy, values, and vision. We need both.
Priority 3 Persuadables
and Mobilizables. The Two Decisive Groups Who Are the Primary Target
for a Communication are the Persuadable And Mobilizable Voters Who
Decide the Outcome of Elections.
Remember, persuadable voters are the relatively small group that
regularly votes, but switches back and forth between political parties.
Mobilizable voters are the group that would vote Democratic, but will
not go to the polls unless they are mobilized. They are the only two
groups whose behavior can be changed by a political campaign.
Priority 4 The
Base Voters Versus Swing Voters Conflict Is a Myth. While the Messages
That Persuade Swing Voters and Motivate Mobilizable Voters Are
Different, They Need Not Conflict.
Candidates who self confidently communicate a progressive vision,
demonstrate their commitment to progressive values, and inspire voters
with passion and commitment are the most effective at persuasion and
mobilization. Those who argue that to win, progressive candidates have
to hide their values, moderate their positions, or avoid battles are
Priority 5 We Need to Remember That People Vote for People -- Not Ideas, or Issues.
Persuadable voters are convinced by the personal qualities of a
candidate, and candidates can motivate and mobilize the voters if they
can inspire them -- if they can give them a sense of excitement and
Priority 6 Organizing
for Victory. We Need to Focus Our Resources on Building Lasting, Mass-based Organizations -- for Electoral And Issue Campaigns.
Some people think that TV, great PR, and the Internet have made
mass-based organizations obsolete. Wrong. Serious mass-based
organization is the future.
There's no reason why we should have to reinvent the wheel every
election. Democrats need to create nationwide, permanent,
precinct-based, door-to-door organizations that develop indigenous
local leaders to manage the precinct, new voter ID and GOTV operations,
and build support between elections. This emphasis runs contrary to the
priority placed on most campaigns on paid TV advertising -- a priority
that rests primarily on the economic incentives of many political
consultants who make more from TV than from field operations.
Priority 7 We Must Redefine "Common Sense" by Repeatedly Communicating Progressive Message Frames Day in and Day out.
Priority 8 Changing
the Relations of Power. We Need to Focus on Making Structural Change --
On Changing the Relations of Power in Order to Create a Truly
Democratic Society around the World.
- Battling to prevent media concentration that allows
corporate domination of major mass media and entertainment outlets.
- Building and supporting successful progressive media
outlets like Air America , Nova M Radio, The American Prospect, The Nation, and
other new national progressive outlets.
- Nurturing a robust progressive "blogsphere."
- Publishing a blizzard of books and articles with
progressive points of view -- in the popular, scholarly, and trade
- Producing fiction books, films, and TV shows that develop
progressive themes. The best metaphors are stories.
- Conducting high energy, campaign style press operations
year-round to frame the progressive message in the earned media using
the model of organizations like Americans United for Change.
- Tracking and responding to right wing media using
techniques pioneered by groups like Media Matters.
- Producing studies and position papers for major issue battles
from a progressive point of view using the approach used by many
right-wing think tanks and progressive organizations.
Priority 9 It's the Steak, Not Just the
Sizzle. Substance Matters to Political Outcomes.
- The battle over the distribution of income and wealth in the US.
- Expanding the power of Americans, acting through their
government, to provide goods and services that are not provided
efficiently through the private market.
- Restricting the power of companies to damage the
environment and discharge greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
- Supporting the unionization of the workforce.
- Controlling the world's growing population -- and the
per-person impact on global resources.
- Preventing the consolidation of America's media.
- Allocating resources to reduce structural violence --
especially in developing countries.
- Empowering multinational organizations -- especially the United
Nations -- to bring a peaceful resolution is to international disputes;
and ending the domination of neocon values and assumptions in American
- Maintaining a strong, flexible US military -- using military
power to promote self-determination and a progressive agenda -- as
often as possible in a multinational context.
- Defending human rights, and due process of law and
independent judiciary, in the US and around the world.
- Promoting progressive control of government at all levels
in the United States.
- Promoting progressive control of governments around the world.
- Organizing and supporting mass movements that empower the
powerless -- both here and abroad.
In the beginning Bush was going strong. His message and spin people
were experts and they were doing their job well. However his policies
were not going well. The Iraq policy was not working, the emergency
preparedness policy (Katrina) did not work, and his economic policies
were not working. You can only spin yourself out of a problem for a
while. Sooner or later people begin to compare words with reality --
and when they don't match up they're going to become mad.
Priority 10 Big Ideas. Reclaiming the American Dream.
We need to develop grassroots and message-based campaigns to support
passage of major congressional initiatives to deal boldly with the new
issues facing America. Some of these are:
Energy independence should have three meanings:
- A Plan for Quality Health Care for All.
- Universal Access to Higher Education and Preschool.
- Energy Independence and Global Warming. Progressives should
propose a comprehensive energy-independence initiative to develop
alternative fuels, lower fuel costs, cut carbon emissions, and address
the critical problem of global warming. This must not be incremental
energy legislation. We need to do with energy what Pres. Kennedy did
with the space program.
Each of these elements of the "Agenda to Reclaim the American Dream"
has broad, intense support in polling. What we need is the political
will to turn that support into the centerpiece of American political
- That we no longer are dependent on nonrenewable sources of energy such as oil;
- That America itself can produce enough energy to meet our core needs;
- That we are no longer dependent on energy sources that will
destroy our climate and environment.
Priority 11 We
Must Press Congress to Do Whatever Is Necessary To Force the
Redevelopment of American Troops Out Of Iraq -- and Abandoned the
Precepts of Neocon Foreign Policy.
This is a must. Democrats won the 2006 midterms largely because the
war in Iraq convinced many Americans that Republicans were no longer
fit to govern.
Priority 12 Agents
of Change. To Be Successful, Democrats and Progressives Must
Consistently Positioned Themselves As Populists -- As Agents of Change.
We see ourselves as agents of change. But that's not how many people
have historically seen us. Many conservatives believe that we represent
the "cultural" status quo --the Hollywood, professional,
bureaucratic, social engineering, lots a drinking, liberal who smugly
looks down on them and wants to control their lives. While many
conservatives will never be convinced to the contrary, there also many
persuadable voters who can be swayed when we demonstrate the we favor
change, challenge entrenched power and truly believe in democracy --
that we battle for average people because we are average people.
Whether or not we appear as populist agents of change on the one hand
or the defender of elites on the other depends on three factors:
In his book, Wealth and
Democracy: A Political History of the American
Rich,Kevin Phillips points out that the Democratic administrations
that have been successful historical watersheds have always presented
themselves in populist terms -- in opposition to entrenched elites.
- We must constantly assert our value frame and vision for
the future -- a vision that calls for change and hope.
- We need to focus heavily on questions that involve who has
the power --
especially economic power. Progressives want to democratize power --
to take power from elites and give it to the average people. Many, many
of the people attracted to the right's version of populism simply feel
- When we represent positions on cultural issues on which we
need to do it with respect, and appeal to the values of tolerance. If
we treat groups of average people with disdain and disrespect and
without regard for the tolerance we ourselves espouse, that disrespect
goes right to the heart of their need for meaning -- right to their
identity. Disrespect will never be forgiven, and more than anything
else, it will validate their views that we ourselves are the elite --
not elements of change.
Projecting a Winning Attitude.
People don't want to follow losers or whiners; they want to spend time
with winners. If we don't think we are winners, we will never win the
long-term battle for the hearts and minds of Americans. Progressives
and progressive values will define the future, and human progress. We
have to believe that -- and always act as if it is true. And that means
that Progressives need to stop spending half their time criticizing
Building a Progressive Movement.
His book, Being
Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn
from the Conservative Success, Paul Waldman quotes a 1971
memo by Lewis
Powell, who would later be nominated by Richard Nixon to the Supreme Court.
In what could stand as a
model for the conservative movement he helped
spawn, Powell wrote, "strength lies in organization, and careful
long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an
indefinite period of years, and the scale of financing available only
through joint effort, and in the political power of available only from
united action and national organizations."
The Right created a coherent political movement. There is also a
progressive movement in America, but it needs to be dramatically
strengthened to effectively compete with the conservative movement over
the long run. Several steps are necessary:
Progressives in America Need to Work Closely with Progressives around
- Founders should focus resources with conscious concern as
to how each
organization's efforts contribute to the Progressive Movement as a
whole -- not just to achieving some isolated single issue goal. The
Democracy Alliance, a consortium of major progressive donors, maybe a
step in this direction.
- Founders and large progressive institutional players need to invest in
multi-issue progressive organizations that have the single goal of
advancing the progressive agenda and defeating the right. These
organizations are not in the business simply to advance the interest of
a particular constituency, or to win a specific issue battle -- but to
organize for progressive ideas and and progressive political power.
- Progressives from every type of organization should build on the
working relationships forged through the coalitions that have been
formed to fight the Bush tax cuts, the privatization of Social
Security, right-wing Supreme Court nominations, Iraq war -- in the
fight for children's health insurance.
In an increasingly integrated world, Progressives must coordinate our
strategies, and provide mutual assistance to each other around the
globe. American progressives need to get to know progressive leaders
from around the world. We can build a worldwide vision for the future
of the planet that is rooted in internationally recognized
Priority 16 Hope Trumps Fear
Unvarnished fear is a destructive emotion. It doesn't lead to action,
but paralysis. It doesn't inspire sacrifice for the common good; it
either fosters a malaise of hopelessness or a "save yourself"
desperation. For years, Bush and the fundamentalist conservatives have
used fear as their chief weapon to maintain support and justify their
attempts to aggregate unconstrained power. Roosevelt was right: "The
only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Progressives must be
realistic about the many challenges that face America; but we must
offer hope for success. Human beings respond instinctively to a call to
sacrifice for hope and possibility. While they can be immobilized by
fear, hope makes them stand tall and fight.
Priority 17 Politics Is Not Just Another Game -- We Have To Fight Like the Future of Human Society Is at Stake -- Because It Is.
Human beings have never knowingly been forced to make decisions with
more consequences than we will be called upon to make in the 21st
century. The political decisions of this generation will determine if
humanity makes it through that gauntlet; whether our values and
political structures can keep pace with our expanding
technological capability; whether we can create a truly democratic
society, or become an evolutionary dead end.
Priority 18 Don't Stand on the Sidelines.
Meaning in life involves making commitments to something outside
yourself. The author believes that we can all contribute, there is no
more important work -- nothing more meaningful to which you can commit
your life. He offers a number of possibilities:
To paraphrase Margaret Mead: "Never think that a small group of
committed people can change the world. No one else ever has."
- A community organizer empowering people to stand for themselves;
- At the UN, working to create the architecture of a peaceful world;
- A congressional staffer, providing expertise and political savvy to
make the forces of justice victorious in everyday battles with the
thousands of special interest lobbyists and contributors;
- A leader of a nongovernmental organization battling to protect our environment;
- Organizing to end an unjust war;
- Working with refugees of war and terror in Colombia;
- Helping to reduce the spread of AIDS in Africa;
- Organizing minimum-wage workers to fight for economic justice and of better life on the west side of Chicago;
- A scientist;
- A doctor;
- A lawyer who takes on the wealthiest corporations, or defends the rights of the powerless;
- Campaigning for progressive candidates for public office;
- Running for office yourself so that you can provide the kind of committed leadership that can make all of this great.
On Wednesday, January 20, 2010 the Huffington Post published an article from Robert Creamer regarding the defeat of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts:
Robert Creamer: Lessons From the Massachusetts Defeat
Stand Up Straight Router