The Conservative Conversion Machine

Over at In These Times, in a thoughtful and expansive discussion on the current state of progressivism in America, How to Turn Your Red State Blue, Christopher Hayes synthesizes many of the ideas Democratic and liberal commentators have put forth since our defeat in November. Although it would be difficult to summarize an article of this magnitude in a short space, among other topic he discusses problems with two of the major lines of thought on revitalizing the Democratic party, either assuming that the electorate already contains a latent progressive majority or that in order to win Democrats need to reposition themselves within the existing ideological spectrum of the electorate. The main problem with either viewpoint, according to Hayes, is that no matter where Democrats assume the electorate currently is, conservatives have developed an extensive outreach program that gives them a huge advantage in transforming the electorate to become more open to their worldview. By contrast, liberals, progressives and Democrats have no such structure. In fact, what structures Democrats and progressives do have are openly under assault by conservatives: Consider a baby born in 2005 to a conservative family anywhere in America--that is anywhere outside of a major city where the very particles in the air are liberal. How might this child become a progressive? Her first possible exposure to a progressive worldview would be through children's media: books, videos and television shows. Conservatives patrol this border vigorously. Every several months or so, it seems James Dobson or Jerry Falwell is in high dudgeon railing against the perversions of some innocuous children's television character, from Bert and Ernie to SpongeBob SquarePants. Most recently, conservatives targeted Buster the cartoon rabbit, whose visit in one episode of his PBS show to a lesbian couple in Vermont prompted an angry rebuke from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Next, the child will likely attend public school, an institution conservatives have sought to control by taking over local school boards in order to introduce creationist textbooks, establish abstinence-only sex education and excise any lesson plans tolerant of homosexuality. And while activists seek to influence local curricula, right-wing think tanks advocate fully dismantling public education through vouchers and other ruses.

If our hypothetical student goes to college she will finally, for the first time, come face to face with a progressive worldview. Higher education stands as the only institution in American life today with a significant progressive presence. In classes, in clubs and in dorms, students are exposed to progressives and their views. Not surprisingly, Kerry won college-educated women by nine points, and all voters with post-graduate degrees by 11 points. And while he lost college-educated men, the trend lines are promising. He managed to do four points better than Gore.

Since college enrollment continues to climb, and the economy increasingly puts a premium on post-graduate degrees, this bodes well for Democrats. Conservatives realize this #### in their armor, which explains why their attacks on higher education are so ardent.(...)

Let's say, though, that our hypothetical youngster doesn't go to college, and instead enters the workforce. If her job is unionized, she will immediately be exposed to progressive ideas about fairness and workplace democracy, but the odds are overwhelmingly against her holding a union job. Over the last 30 years, unionization has fallen from more than 35 percent to less than 12 percent of the workforce due to, among other things, a sustained attack by Republicans on the right to organize. From the instant the National Labor Relations Act passed in 1935, the business class has recognized that unions are the most direct means by which working-class voters are brought into the left. Being in a union has an even more dramatic effect on voting behavior than college. Kerry won two-thirds of union members, and among working-class white voters, a group Kerry lost by 24 points, he won a majority of those in a union.

And these are only some examples. Toss in the Right Wing Noise Machine and the extensive evangelicizing of conservative churches, and it all adds up to a conservative movement heavily bent on reaching new converts, and a liberal movement that is comparatively ineffective at doing the same.

This situation is untenable for progressives, liberals and Democrats. I have repeatedly argued that our only way out of our current electoral problems, long-term, is for the number of self-identifying liberals to close the gap on the number of self-identifying progressives. Clearly, this is never going to happen if conservative mechanisms for persuasion and conversion remain so much more powerful and prevalent in almost all areas of everyday life: in the media, at your job, in your place of worship, even in school. No one solution, such as increasing union density, developing a Left Wing Noise Machine or organizing the religious left will be enough. Unless we counter and surpass the Conservative Conversion Machine on all fronts, we are pretty much doomed. Grow liberalism, or we will remain in the minority for two generations.

Tags: Activism (all tags)

Comments

52 Comments

Support for your thesis continues to pour in
That was an excellent article. I certainly agree with Christopher Hayes' analysis that repositioning to the center is self defeating. THe key sentence for me was What profit a party if it gain a majority and lose its soul? The problem the DLC refuses to acknowledge is that when you sell your soul to the corporate devil, he always comes back to up the ante.

The challenge is to reach out without selling out. Today, the Democratic Party is failing to do the former while succeeding in the latter. It's the worst of both worlds. Right on.

Growing The Flock and Taking On Creditors sound like an outstanding focus to me. The bankruptcy bill is going to be extremely unpopular in red states. There is a vibrant anti-corporate populism in the red states. We can and should exploit this tectonic tension in the Republican party.

The lessons of ACORN, ACT, SEIU and Paul Wellstone are our guideposts to electoral transformation and a liberal realignment. The pieces are in place. This is doable.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-25 08:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Support for your thesis continues to pour in
Corporate values are not widely popular (although they are wildly popular among the DC GOPers).  While Bush talks about the Ownership Society we need to talk more about empowering Main Street, not Wall Street.

There certainly was a vibrant populism in the red states 70 to 120 years ago.  I'm not sure if it is there today.  If not, it could be grown pretty quickly.

by David Kowalski 2005-03-25 05:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Support for your thesis continues to pour in
It's there today as well. Why do you think Alabama was the favorite forum for class action law suits? People in Alabama and the red states still hate corporate carpet baggers. I've never understood or examined the reason for the anti-union sentiment in the south, but there is a strong under-current of anti-corporate sentiment if Dems will just talk about it.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-25 07:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Support for your thesis continues to pour in
Part of the anti-union sentiment in the South is a mistrust of outsiders (most unions are Northern based) and part was due to shameless exploitation of racial fears by the ruling class during the period of union growth.

Also, keep in mind that until WWII, the South was almost a third world nation. By the time modern industry arrived in the South, the unions were already in decline.

by wayward 2005-03-26 04:53AM | 0 recs
How do we win over new Progressives?
You diary makes me regret  that I haven't moved to Canada
by KDMfromPhila 2005-03-25 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: How do we win over new Progressives?
Kitchen table economic populism is the key. The minimum wage, universal health care, trade barriers against globalization linked to labor protection for Chinese workers are some issues we should introduce. The real key is fighting back against theocon tyranny. We can't enlist new soldiers until someone on our side declares war. The GOPers did decades ago.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-25 08:24AM | 0 recs
You missed...
You missed his populist issue- consumer debt.
by Alex Urevick 2005-03-25 12:15PM | 0 recs
Community College progressivism
The Democratic Party should have 90-95% of community college students on the membership roles. That's dead center of the Democratic base. Future clerical workers. Trade school programs. First couple of years of state university-bound future low to middle-level management programs.

Who talks about what the Democratic Party is doing on community college campuses? NOBODY.

by afs 2005-03-25 10:23AM | 0 recs
Matter of fact... this is getting it's own thread
I'm getting it up right now.
by afs 2005-03-25 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Community College progressivism
You are absolutely correct.  In States like California and Washington, Community Colleges enroll more than half the students attending Colleges and Universities. California has around 105 Community Colleges and only perhaps 13 University of California branches that enroll undergraduates.

There are problems though.  Many States don't have a strong Community College network. Student enrollment is volatile. Most students have families and jobs which limit their campus activities. Also; most Community College classes are taught by part-time instructors who are even more transitory than the students they teach. Finally; many prospective CC students in a local community are not attending their local Community College, and these people wouldn't be reached by an on-campus effort.

All of this makes it very difficult for the Democratic Party to establish outreach programs on CC Campuses, but it is still a valuable goal.

sc

by scribble 2005-03-27 01:11PM | 0 recs
One way might be to encourage development...
...in urban areas.  Suburban and rural areas, by thier very nature, tend to attract conservatives and encourage conservative thought.  You live in your own little McMansion, you don't deal with government services (like public transportation) much, you don't deal with people who are not like yourself, etc.

Basically, NIMBY's are a large part of the problem.  If you protest that new ten story apartment complex in your urban neighborhood, chances are, in a free market, that housing need will eventually be met by a housing tract way on the edge of suburbia.

by Geotpf 2005-03-25 08:25AM | 0 recs
grow liberalism
Chris,

While I agree with much of what you posted, it may be that the Right implodes as a consequence of a lot of bad policy.  It is clear that they cannot govern competently.  They have buried the country in debt, have a bad situation in Iraq, messed up big time with Social Security, aren't winning many new friends with the Schiavo case, Delay is up to his ass in scandal, our long-time international allies have been alienated, environmental issues are not playing out to the their advantage....

The right has organized itself effectively, and has enjoyed a lot of success, true enough;  but their policy positions are on a collision course with reality.  No amount of fundamentalist preaching can obscure the fact that the country is on the road to ruin.

by global yokel 2005-03-25 08:34AM | 0 recs
The Road To Ruin
It appears that fundamentalist preaching/the MSM was indeed able to obscure that fact this last election cycle. Unfortunately, the fact is easily obscurable to the many Sequential Thinkers living in this country. Furthermore, Democrats have had a very difficult time convincing these and other people that they have the solutions to right the preverbial ship.  Maybe if the blatant GOP overreaching continues and the Dems in congress can grow a backbone, then those responsible for leading us to down the road to ruin will be held responsible for thier despicable actions.
by buckfush 2005-03-25 08:54AM | 0 recs
The right sucks at governing
However, they are great at winning elections.  Until, and if, the fact they suck at governing starts to make them suck at winning elections, the fact that they suck at governing helps us not one bit.
by Geotpf 2005-03-25 02:50PM | 0 recs
Filter
Conservatives realize this #### in their armor, which explains why their attacks on higher education are so ardent.(...)

Interesting - someone's hyper-sensitive e-mail filter obviously cut out the word "chink." Sorta reminds me of the kid web filters which block recipes that call for chicken breast.

by DavidNYC 2005-03-25 08:56AM | 0 recs
Suggested reading
Chris,

If you haven't already done so, highly recommend picking up a copy of Strauss and Howe's book "Generations". Both men are demographers. The version I have was written in about 1989 and accurately predicted exactly what's happening now based on the cycle of generations. It's a fascinating, if sometimes acedemic, read and really helps put today in perspective.

by phillydem 2005-03-25 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Suggested reading
I second that recommendation, and add "The Fourth Turning" by the same authors, which is more up to date.

I'm not sure about the political leanings of William Strauss and Neil Howe.  If anything they seem fiscally centrist (Concord Coalition, "radical centrist" reformer types) with slightly socially conservative leanings.  But whatever their own views, their tracking of generational trends is fascinating.

If I read them correctly they were predicting policies in the 1990s would swing in a libertarian direction (socially liberal/economically conservative), and the culture wars between evangelical Baby Boomers and countercultural Baby Boomers would escalate in the early 00s and come to a head.  After the start of a crisis sometime this decade, a new era of fiscal liberalism akin to the New Deal will result as a response to the crisis, although society will simultaneously swing socially more conservative.  Their generational tracking would suggest that the conservative movement as it exists today is headed for a breakup and fall from power sometime in the next decade, but also that the Democratic/liberal coalition of the 1980s and 1990s (read: DLC, New Democrats) is rapidly becoming obsolescent.

by ACSR 2005-03-25 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Thanks for the 2nd
Yes, pretty much that was the gist of "Generations" where it stopped in 1989. I went back and re-read the future predictions. You're right that Strauss and Howe predicted a titanic struggle between the the extremes of the "Boomers" and a subsequent crisis that will resolve things. It seems we are in the titanic struggle right now, but the generational cycle they lay out favors progress.

I believe the long arc of history always moves toward openess, tolerance, understanding and progress no matter how hard reactionaries fight against it. I suppose that makes me more sanguine
than most readers and contributors to this and
other like sites.

by phillydem 2005-03-25 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Thanks for the 2nd
Which explains why the biggest issue in the 2004 election was the War - in Vietnam.

More importantly, it explains why the sides lined up the way they did. Bush supported the war, even though he did not want to fight it himself, which was good enough for the evangelicals. Kerry was a decorated veteran who protested the war.

The Swift Boat Vets were the perfect attack against Kerry, as it destroyed his credibility as a veteran and put him solidly in the countercultural camp.

by wayward 2005-03-26 04:59AM | 0 recs
9/11
9/11 stopped this from occuring.  It gave them a boogieman to replace communism.

Basically, this won't happen until we stop fucking around in the Middle East.  Gee, maybe this is why they invaded Iraq.

by Geotpf 2005-03-25 02:53PM | 0 recs
Re: 9/11
Actually some of the followers of the Strauss and Howe theory believe that 9/11 was in fact the catalyst that ushered in the crisis and was supposed to end the culture wars (discussed heavily on the forums at www.fourthturning.com)  I disagree.  

The culture wars are going stronger than ever (witness the current ridiculousness in Florida) and the religious right's organizing was a major factor in the 2004 election.  I still think the Strauss and Howe theory has merit.  I don't take everything they wrote as gospel though.  If their theory is correct, the most important thing for progressives to be doing right now is to fight back - hard - against the religious right so they don't do too much damage in these final years of the culture wars, while preparing and building the base for a sweeping new New Deal type program (might include: single payer health care, major revitalization of union labor and unionizing big box stores etc.) so we're ready when the time comes that the public will overwhelmingly welcome these programs.

I don't entirely disagree that Iraq has been a big distraction, in fact I believe it was drummed up by the Bush regime in part to enforce the "you're either with us or against us" line.  That line is a rallying cry of the domestic culture warriors of the right.

by ACSR 2005-03-25 04:03PM | 0 recs
Big Picture
I've agreed with and promoted your analysis in the past, both here and at DKos, so I'll take this occassion to step back from specifics with this observation about what I think is driving the basic dynamic:

Liberals are interested in solving problems.  Therefore they orient toward studying and relating to the world at large.  They build insitutions and ethical practices that are inherently alternatives to intractable struggle.  This is why liberalism is historically associated with enunciating, developing and defending a framework of individual rights, separation of powers (between branches of government, between levels of gevernment, between church and state, press and state, etc.), promoting commerce as opposed to war, and ameliorating class differences by abolishing titles, promoting universal education, supporting progressive taxation, etc.

Conservatives are interested in fighting evil. Therefore they orient toward attacking liberals, who they see as morally neutral at best.  Theocracy and feudalism are their natural forms of governance, and they are hell-bent on reinstating them by any means necessary. They subordinate individual rights to the state strcucture in their hands, vigorously and selectively defending only those that directly serve their purposes. They favor separation of powers only when they are weak, as soon as they gain power, they readily demolish institutional checks on un-accountable power, they promote war as the ultimate justification of their being (see General Boykin on this), and do everything they can get away with to enhance class divisions, while making them seem natural, eternal and unquestionable.

Put these all together and the picture you have is that of a liberal culture trying to make the world a better place for all of us, barely cognizant of a conservative culture focused like a laser beam on destroying that liberal culture.

Bottom line: It's Neo-feudalism vs. the Enlightenment.  And the Enlightenment--despite it's name--still has realized what the game is.  This is the real global struggle that's going on right now. And it's no exaggeration or hyperbole to say that Bush and bin Laden are on the same side in this one.  They're both on the neo-feudal team, just different squads.

All the above applies to conscious political actors and the political traditions they've created. A lot of self-identified "conservatives" don't subscribe to that conservative agenda at all. So educating them about what it really is remains a very high priority for us, if we are to have any chance of winning this fight.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-25 09:04AM | 0 recs
Democrats don't talk to regular folk very well
In my opinion, the big picture is that emocrats don't talk to regular folks very well.

See my populism comment below

by afs 2005-03-25 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Big Picture
Seems to me that an important key to the education process is finding the right message for our barker to call out to the passersby to get them into the tent for the education lesson. Economic populism? Something else? Who knows for sure. The first step is understanding that some movement must be facilitated to get the unconverted to stop long enough to listen to the lesson.
by dicta 2005-03-25 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Big Picture
The current GOP isn't really conservative, it's reactionary with an increasingly authoritarian bent.  Robert Jay Lifton mentions the reactionary theology (theological fetish) of power: in this respect the leadership of the Bush and bin Laden share a belief that the have the moral justification and obligation to achieve their ends.

The liberals have failed to understand that the reactionaries have used coded langauge to appear far more moderate than they really are (Santorum is very good at this): this move fooled many Democrats into believing that they could work with conservatives.  Many Democrats accepted Bush's selection in 2000 in the belief that after the partisan wars of the 90s, they could work with a moderate Republican preisdent who would create a less heated climate.  Thanks again Dems..

 The Republican rhetoric also draw away voters with the result that the the GOP had no need to cooperate with the Demcrats once they had control of the 3 branches.

by KDMfromPhila 2005-03-25 11:40AM | 0 recs
Conservative = Reactionary
The problem is that words have multiple meanings (polysemy) and "conservative" is exemplary in this respect.

While most ordinary people who call themselves conservative (call them "moderate conservatives") are not reactionaries, the American conservative movement has been essentially reactionary since at least 1933, when FDR took office and started doing things to fight the Great Depression.  There are variations in how reactionary it has been, both among different elements, and at different times, but the reactionary themes are always there.  

In my post above, I was specifically referring to this later meaning of conservative, and I stand by it. The folks in the conservative movement may love to talk about Edmund Burke--though quite selectively, of course--they love to act like De Maistre, the other seminal figure in modern conservatism, a man deeply steeped in conspiricist ideas and always thirsting for a fight.

It's highly significant that the reactionary conservatives manipulate the moderate conservatives by demonizing liberals, and projecting their own reactionary/moderate, leadership/base split onto the left--particularly with their talk of a "liberal elite."  

Even here in this very thread we have people repeating this theme--that liberals and Democrats don't know how to talk to ordinary people, thus assuming somehow that liberals and Democrats aren't themselves ordinary people.  Well, I have news for you, folks. Even today, GOP support increases as you go up the income scale. Take away the vote from everyone making over $60,000 / year, and the Democrats would be in hog heaven.  

We do have communications problems, of course. But this is the wrong way to think about them. It accepts a conservative frame, and actually makes the problem more difficult--if not downright impossible--to solve.

It's the conservtives who have an elite/mass problem--one of nuclear proportions. The reactionary leadership wants to instate a neo-feudal order, akin to something in a cyberpunk novel, while the moderate base just wants life to be like it was on "Mayberry, RFD."  Huge difference. Huge problem. But it's only a potential problem unless we do something about it.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-25 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative = Reactionary
Your definition of conservatives was helpful.  I think you made a really crucial point with your observation "It's highly significant that the reactionary conservatives manipulate the moderate conservatives by demonizing liberals, and projecting their own reactionary/moderate, leadership/base split onto the left"

We have to consider ways of exploiting or exposing THEIR act of projection.

by KDMfromPhila 2005-03-25 03:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Picture
This reply is a great example of what's wrong with us:  It reads well, but it's beside the point.  

We have to stop sounding like bureaucrats and Lawyers and start being sales people.  We have to sell what we believe in to people who need to buy it.

Don't explain history.  Tell them that they are being lied to.

Don't explain Economics. Tell them that they are being robbed.

Don't explain the Constitution. Tell them that the cops can come in through their front door and arrest them at any time.

Don't ignore what GOP leaders say.  Use their stupid pronouncements as opportunities to sound intelligent in reply; and to point out that we are being robbed, lied to and invaded.  

Also:  Get rid of the REST of the Democratic party cabal in Washington DC that has inflicted this nonsense on us by their continued, assiduous silence in the face of the disasterous last sixteen years.  Like Terri Shiavo, they are politically brain-dead and beyond the point of saving.  

Where is Howard Dean?

Where is Howard Dean?

Where is Howard Dean?

sc

by scribble 2005-03-25 12:21PM | 0 recs
Context Is Everything
"We have to stop sounding like bureaucrats and Lawyers and start being sales people."

I didn't write my comment to reach the masses. I wrote it to stimulate discussion amongst ourselves. It's an entirely different purpose, as well as a different audience.  

You are, to be blunt, acting like a rightwing anti-intellectual yahoo, drawing a false dichotomy between two entirely different activities, both of which are equally necessary.

Or, perhaps you'd rather have me say, "Scribble, you ignorant slut..."

"I'll know my song well, before I start singing."
    -- Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall"

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-25 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Context Is Everything
I didn't write my comment to reach the heavy thinkers in the party.  I pretty much think that all three of them should resign.

And to be blunt, don't care what I am acting like, as long as I start hearing movers and shakers in the Democratic Party finally start talking with  real people in their own language instead of to each other.

I am furious with the way the Democratic Party has been led for the last sixteen years. At this point, I want to hear somebody important in the Party do or say something -- anything -- that would win points with people they need to win over.

Noting that the enemy has breached the battlements while the officers are still at Mess, is not an anti-intellectual position. If you think it is; then  I suggest you have had enough breakfast and need to join me outside where the fight is going on.

Where is Howard Dean?

sc

by scribble 2005-03-25 09:32PM | 0 recs
You're A Fucking Idiot!
You're screaming at me because you're angry at someone else. (Brilliant!) Someone else that I'm ALSO angry at. (Super brilliant!) Only I'm presenting an argument to counter their stupidity, and you're lashing out at someone who's ally--but you're too fucking stupid to realize it. (Super-duper brilliant!)

Good grief!  It's bad enough having to deal with fucking idiots I disagree with. But this is ten times worse.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-26 04:12AM | 0 recs
Re: You're A Fucking Idiot!
You know, you might be right. Maybe I am a "fucking idiot." Maybe you aren't the bad guy.... on the other hand, the political problems I see are every bit as real now as they were when I posted my first reply to you.  Since I see the problems, then I'm probably not as crazy as you think.

Everywhere I go, I have to demonstrate that I "get it" to other Liberals who are sick and tired of being sold out, and who are meeting me for the first time. They need to know that I "get it." This is a right of passage for Western Democrats and Liberals these days.  If I have to 'prove' myself; well then, maybe you do, too.

The last three National Elections have put this country into an historically grave political crisis. Given this crisis, we Liberals have only two important jobs to do now:  

  1. Speak plainly, clearly, loudly and repeatedly to people who need to know what we know.  The way we expected John Kerry to do, but didn't.

  2. Watch the ballot boxes that Bush's friends are handing to us, to collect our votes. ... the way John Kerry promised to, but didn't.

Everything else going on just offers us opportunities to do the first two successfully.  

Most Elected Democrats don't get this, even now. None of them -- even current heros like Boxer and Reid, are doing squat. We were angry three years ago, too:  I remember when Kerry was booed at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco for supporting the coming Iraq war three years ago. Today, we're angrier. Today, if Kerry were foolish enough to make a repeat appearance, he'd be dodging bricks before he opened his mouth.  I bring this up because I think John Kerry is a perfect example of everything that has gone wrong with the Democratic party in the last ten years.

Now I suppose you might "get all this..." but what I suspect you don't see, Paul; is that I am not alone. Nor am I a kid, or uneducated, or paranoid.

I am angrier than you might think and people who are like me am a lot more numerous than you might think. In fact, given my political opinions and my frustration with the Democratic Party, I think I'm in the majority.

This means that the folks trying to pull the Democratic Party back together again need to revisit their strategies. If they want our money and our time; they ALSO have to win us back, along with the moderates they thought they had, the last three times they lost. To get us back, they have to show us that they "get" it.  We're goin' fishin' otherwise, and taking our fifty dollar bills with us.

John Kerry was the very LAST mainstream politician I will ever trust to 'get' it. from now on, everybody takes the test, just like you do and like I do. So far (but with a nod toward Boxer and Dean), none of the Big Boys and Girls pass. This does not bode well for 2006. This is a big, big problem.

sc

by scribble 2005-03-27 02:03PM | 0 recs
We need to move to a more populist stance
Way too much of the progressive movement is based in the academic community. Way too little is based in the populist community. Democrats have moved so far away from it's populist roots, most Democrats when pressed to do so, can't even articulate a couple of minutes of talking points supporting the union movement anymore.

There's a reason you hear all these charges of elitism. It's not that progressives don't care about populist causes and issues, but they are so isolated from it that that they don't even know the language of populism anymore. Using 50 cent words to generate support for populism is almost pointless. Progressives from academia need to be re-integrated with the street roots of the party and relearn the language of the street. Progressives have to re-learn how to talk to the man on the street, before they can attract the man on the street to progresive causes.

by afs 2005-03-25 10:09AM | 0 recs
Labor unions are key
Our natural populist base is the labor movement. They talk to to the man on the street just fine. The problem is that conservatives have successfully excluded them from both the workplace and the national dialogue.

The anti-union media has been a tacit partner of the right wing noise machine in shutting out the voice of labor. Unfortunately, Dems have not been as militantly supportive of their union base as GOPers have been of the religious whacko base.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-25 10:49AM | 0 recs
Unions members are progressives.
I need to point out something in what you just said, JB.

"Our natural populist base is the labor movement. They talk to to the man on the street just fine."

The key word I want to point out was "they." The language you use about the labor movement excludes it as a seperate entity from the progressive movement. When did the labor movement and the progressive movement become seperate entities?

I want to make extra clear I'm not cricising you, JB. You didn't write the English language that used for these discussions. I'm just pointing out that there is a dividing line between progressives and labor in the minds of even our most progressive individuals.

That's part of what I think is the problem. We have somehow allowed ourselves to be convinced that progressives and labor are two different entities. If you think labor is a seperate entity, you don't react with the same intensity as if you are defending people in the group you identify yourself with when they get attacked.

by afs 2005-03-25 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Unions members are progressives.
Your point is well taken. I have no connection to the labor union, because labor has little connection to the Democratic party except at election time, when Dems rely on their footsoldiers.

Most Americans have little or no understanding or connection to labor unions. That is a serious problem that Dems need to address. It is time for a full bore labor platform from the Democratic party that is focused on kitchen table economic issues.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-03-25 12:17PM | 0 recs
Unions are a bit different from an average liberal
For example, ask a stereotypical liberal what car to buy.

He will say a Toyota Prius or a Honda Civic hybrid.

The union guy will scream at you for buying a foreign made car.

by Geotpf 2005-03-25 02:55PM | 0 recs
DNA also matters
I appreciate the extensive narrative on this topic.  Before I go on, I have to admit that I haven't yet read all the links presented in the narrative; I look forward to returning and reading more.  

But as I read it, I was reminded of the very conservative environment of my own family as I grew up yet I did not turn out to be conservative.  For example, I recall arguing when I was age 10 with my father in response to his jingoistic comments while watching nightly television news.

In my own large family, I've often pondered why some of my brother's families have produced children of widely-differing viewpoints.

One particular family is an example: The parents are pro-Bush and listen to Rush. Two of their adult children follow in their footsteps. Two other adult children are Democrats. It would seem that all four children had identical upbringing. Also there is a gender balance across viewpoints and and the entire age range across the four children is  minimal--six years. I asked them for their thoughts about the causal factors for the different viewpoints and they had no clue.

As I raise my own children and watch their personalities develop, I am struck by the profound role of "nature" in the "nature vs. nuture" balance. Of course I studied this topic academically but now that I can see it for myself, I better understand the profound role of genetics as a determinant of personality.

So my contribution to this discussion?  Even if Conservatives dominate the education system and the media, hope is not lost--after being exposed to such a Conservative environment, there will still be progressive-minded people.  I would associate this discussion with Paul Rosenberg's excellent narrative about how people process the information that is presented to them. I think the conversion that has to occur is not an attempt to change personal viewpoints, but rather an improvement of how to develop and deliver the progressive message.

by sawgrass727 2005-03-25 11:49AM | 0 recs
peer group is important
I too have friends who turned out progressive despite their conservative parents and siblings. I think that peer groups in school were important influences.

Unfortunately, a lot of today's conservatives are home-schooling their kids or sending them to parochial private schools (not Catholic) where they will not be exposed to any progressive views. Hard to know how these kids' peers would be any different.

by desmoinesdem 2005-03-25 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: peer group is important
Same here. We have a close family friend whose parents are both Doctors , wealthy & very big Bush/Republican supporters.

They have two children, both boys who both attended elite all boys catholic schools & are very intelligent young men. They both went on to earn their college degrees and are both successful in New York City's Financial district.

Amazingly, both sons turned out to be strong Democrats. Up to this day , they never see eye to eye with their parents when it comes to politics.

Other than politics, they are one close and happy family.

by fightingLadyinblue 2005-03-25 06:55PM | 0 recs
Eliminate farm subsidies
Which party do rural folk support?

Which party do urban folk support?

How can we get more urban folk and less rural folk?

Eliminate farm subsidies. Get these recalcitrant bastards into the economy that the rest of us have to deal with and see how long they continue to support the republican assault on the middle class.

Besides, if these rural folk are so hardworking, lets get them involved in genetics, robotics, AI, space exploration... anything! If we're going to pay them, lets at least get something out of it besides more and more corn that we don't need.

Alnog the same lines, if the rural folk are imbued with strong spiritual values, get them into the cites so they can be a progressive influence on people, rather than livestock.

by Paul Goodman 2005-03-25 12:00PM | 0 recs
This Is Incredibly Simplistic And Wrong-Headed
You can make good arguments against farm subsidies, since most of them go to people who shouldn't need them. But just because a program is badly implemented because of special interests is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and try to drive everyone off the land. There's already too few people living there, not too many.  

In fact, conservative policies have been ruinous for rural America, and a number of folks have been talking about developing a progressive rural agenda.

Over at Orcinus, David Neiwert wrote a long post about this just after the election, "Healing the heartland", which you really should read if you are serious about dealing with rural America, which is, historically, the foundation of the Democratic Party.  (Think Jefferson. Louisiana Purchase.)

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-25 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Eliminate farm subsidies
Rural folks are winnable if we can break the backlash narrative. Farm subsidies actually hurt most farmers more than they help them because they help big agribusiness even more, which puts the small farmer out of business.

The true GOP base is the suburbs, not rural areas. The suburbs is the largest concentration of people with more money than sense, and who don't really give a damn about anyone else - natural Republicans.

by wayward 2005-03-26 05:22PM | 0 recs
Meant for 2005
"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
- Pres. Abraham Lincoln,
by xcable 2005-03-25 07:15PM | 0 recs
conversion
On the conservative conversion machine, we need to pay attention to social pressure and community, to understand it and to counter it, as I wrote here:
http://dash.mydd.com/story/2005/3/25/54144/2177#readmore

Another important element: conservatives are much better at mentoring and including the most promising young people, and supporting their people with grants, scholarships, memberships, jobs and access.  They not only have all that corporate/rich guy money, they spend it on people.

As for the event that will change the political equation, it's going to be the effects of the climate crisis.  And we'd better get ahead of it right now.  The fact that nobody here even thinks of it is a significant indicator of the problem.

by dash 2005-03-25 10:14PM | 0 recs
one more thing
about the climate crisis: it's an amazing opportunity to get labor excited and involved, in developing new industries, i.e. The Apollo Project, and in supporting the kind of work that will need to be done to prevent flooding, supply water, transport, etc.

Labor plus environmentalists plus new technology equals the future of Democratic politics and governance.  Everything else--foreign policy, economics---follows.  Although part of the labor package is social justice, i.e. universal health care.  Labor supported that kind of thing before, and with a positive agenda and leadership, could again.

by dash 2005-03-25 10:20PM | 0 recs
Careful: Anti-corporate = Anti-Semitic
I agree this is a seminal article, and with Chris's assessment that things look very bleak indeed.  Some of the other responses here have pointed to anti-corporate sentiment in the South and the heartland as a way of winning folks to the progressive cause.  But there's a real danger there.  

If you rely on anti-corporate / anti-Wall Street sentiment, the Anschutzes and Scaifes and the Roves and Gillespies will think nothing of turning that screw so it hits the Jews.  The Jews will be blamed for:

  1. inflation
  2. debt - personal and national
  3. unemployment
  4. Arab anger, war in the Middle East
  5. Hollywood amorality
  6. cultural relativism
  7. pacifism (unpatriotic, you know)
  8. pick your problem

Any economic or cultural problem can be pinned on the Jews.  And the Right's theocratic base believes in the anti-Christ and the need to root out all non-white, non-Christian elements.

From the perspective of the Right, anti-Semitism is an easy strategy, and it doesn't take much for it to reappear in full force.  It's not the only thing I'm worried about, of course, but it should be a concern.

by pammo 2005-03-26 02:21AM | 0 recs
You've Got It Backwards!
Marx said that anti-semitism is the socialism of fools.  Anti-semitism is already out there. Presenting a rational alternative to explain economic distress undercuts anti-semitism and gives us a way to fight it, beyond just denouncing bigotry.  Your argument is just the same as saying "evolution=creationsim".
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-26 04:22AM | 0 recs
But the Jews aren't numerous or different enough..
to be an effective scapegoat in the US..

I think the new scapegoat of the 'elites' is already the poor, underemployed and unemployed.

'Kill the messenger' as it were...

Eventually, I suspect that they will make unemployment, lack of health insurance, living off the grid, etc. illegal, punishable by death through organ removal.. ('cashing out' as it were)..with any young, healthy organs going to 'deserving' rich people - to extend their lifespans.

Anything the powerless have of value, is taken away by the system, in the endgame of these decaying empire economies..

That's a lesson I've learned from reading history..

by ultraworld 2005-03-26 06:15AM | 0 recs
that might explain the no-cloning-humans policy
Perhaps by banning research in ways to 'grow' new organs, the right is secretly seeking to reduce the possibilities for future competition in the organ biz?

(which will probably become as much of a cash cow for the state here, as it has in China.)

See
http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa73452.000/hfa73452_0.HTM

http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/june2004/063004organssold.htm

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/rm/2001/3792.htm

and many others...

After people's labor is no longer needed (when machines do all noncreative work) - and their existing equity is spent - on food, medical care, etc. the only 'currency' people will have will be their own bodies..

by ultraworld 2005-03-26 08:23AM | 0 recs
Anti-Semitism Doesn't Need Jews (See Japan!) n/t
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-03-26 03:44PM | 0 recs
The propaganda matrix you describe only serves
to produce generations of rebels..

People have the exact opposite reaction as what their parents want if ideology is crammed down their throats..

I'm a perfect example.. My mother was a religious fanatic who tried to cram it down my throat..

It wasn't until after I was long away from her that I had an open attitude, instead of revulsion towards Christianity, and after her death that I would read the Bible with an eye towards understanding the actually quite inclusive messages therein..

Just like the denial of sex is what creates 'dirty minds' the forced indoctrination into {religion|politics} of any kind is apt to produce its opposite, whatever that is, in children, who represent a captive audience like no other.. one that is very subject to abuse from the GOP (the same psychological disorder, narcissism, that creates the 'stern father' GOP philosophy in people is also VERY prone to abuse of the powerless..etc.)

by ultraworld 2005-03-26 06:08AM | 0 recs

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