In the wake of World War II, large corporate interests in America began to get more organized in opposing the progressive policies that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his Democratic Party had laid in place over fourteen years. Using the tools of modern marketing and the political organizing tactics of Adolph Hitler, these powerful interests began to work quietly to put in place political figures who could be groomed over time into candidates for major national public offices. Richard Nixon was an early product of this initiative, which thrust him into the national spotlight with anti-communist hearings that forced him into a strong position to be Dwight Eisenhower's Vice President running mate in 1952. With the advent of television debates, Nixon's appeal was initially trumped by Jack Kennedy's sex appeal and cool speaking under fire in the 1960 election, but by 1968 the marketing genius of corporatism managed to package even Nixon into a palatable product that won out in the 1968 election thanks to television ads and sophisticated direct marketing campaigns.
The tactics used to elevate Nixon to the White House were honed and perfected over the years, until even an ignorant B-movie actor like Ronald Reagan could be packaged in a way that would guarantee electoral success - and a platform for a radical agenda to take capital and influence out of the hands of small and medium American businesses. This was done by creating a plan to speak to a broad majority of American voters on issues of personal interest that united them in ways that would separate them on issues that were in their common economic interest. Racial resentment, (lack of) education, cultural themes and fear were used to counter the ideas of fair play, equal opportunity, funding for new ideas and protection from economic bullies that formed the economic success of much of the latter 20th century.
In the wake of the 2010 elections, it is important to recognize that the global corporate interests that use the Republican Party as their instrument have a well-established strategy that has wooed generations of Americans into accepting certain messages as the reasons to go to the polls. The messages have been shuffled, refined and repackaged a bit through the years - yellow Gadsden flags have replaced Confederate flags, for example - but the cultural themes have remained the same. Fear equality. Fear government interfering with male reproductive rights. Fear compromising big businesses because to do so would compromise small and medium businesses. And so on. These themes have been carefully researched again and again to make sure that people vote on social issues that have little to do with the corporate agenda that uses these voters to retain political power.
The question is, where is the progressive strategy to counter this theme? Where is a tick list of social and economic issues that will unite American voters in remembering that progressive candidates are acting in their best interests? Where is the consistent messaging, theming and relentless media presence that can push this message into the minds of American voters with at least the relentless push that a Fox News manages to do every day? This can be a challenge, at times, because the people who benefit from progressive programs are not a small handful of corporate giants who understand how to fund and theme propaganda that will benefit them over decades. Instead, progressives are scattered across the nation, free-thinking individuals for the most part who cover a broad spectrum of political views.
The important thing to remember about the 2010 election is that while the core Democrats came home to progressive candidates, in states where "moderate" Democrats were running independent voters did not turn out strongly for these candidates. Independent voters do not come out for wishy-washy candidates strongly. They want to be wooed. They want to feel that there's a good reason to come to the polls that they can talk about with their friends down at the bar or in their houses of worship. In many instances it could be argued that a lack of a strong progressive agenda that united voters was a key factor in downplaying this independent voter turnout. But there is a strong fear among many Democratic Party organizers that pushing a progressive agenda will alienate independent voters.
I believe that this fear of a progressive agenda is due largely to the concept that progressivism must automatically secede to the typical liberal-left issues that help to motivate the base Democratic voters. While these may be important in their own right, there needs to be a cross-spectrum tick list of progressive issues and messaging that are the core of media communications and candidate selection that will appeal to the independent and moderate Republican voter consistently. These issues are not necessarily the Clintonesque "Republican lite" issues that fail to push a progressive agenda. Some of these issues that we message on consistently should include things like:
- Opportunity for funding new, small and medium sized businesses that keep innovation and jobs for the future growing in America
- Health benefits that are affordable and that can keep people secure when changing jobs
- Preventing large corporations from sending American wealth overseas without consequences
- Affordable high-quality education for all Americans
- Reducing the tax burden on average Americans while keeping ultra-rich Americans and banks from hoarding capital through corporate welfare and tax breaks
- Rebuilding our banking system to enable more capital to be generated and owned in local communities
- Freedom of speech and religion for all Americans without fear of persecution
- Cheaper clean energy that creates new jobs and growth opportunities
There may be better items to put on this list, but you get the idea. None of these are "progressive lite" issues - they are core to enabling a strong progressive agenda. But there's a way of framing these that will get people thinking about ways to move our country forward out of corporatist colonial status and back into the mainstream of a vibrant form of capitalism that benefits average Americans and supports the fundamental values of human liberty reflected in our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence. These values cannot be treated as general assumptions any more - they have to be re-taught to an American electorate who have been deprived of fundamental and basic education in how our government works and how our economy works. They must be ingrained in our textbooks the same way that the far right is trying to ingrain the misguided and distorted views of "know-nothing" politics into this generation's textbooks. They must be part of a long-term national communications plan which ensures that people are thinking clearly about what is in their best interests.
Again and again progressives have come to the threshold of making progress in Washington, only to face the sad reality that decades of careful planning have overwhelmed the media and the electorate with counter-programming that has made it nearly impossible to move constructive legislation through our government to benefit average Americans over global corporate interests. We can no longer move herky-jerky from one election to another if we are to enact a progressive agenda consistently in Washington. We need to fund, staff and implement a plan for a progressive majority with a decades-long objective of a solid majority of Americans backing it. Our opposition is at the threshold of wiping out the small steps in a progressive direction that have been mapped out in the past two years. Half-measures have availed us little. It is time to build a Coalition for a Progressive Majority that will bring America back into a leadership role in the global economy and in the realm of human rights for the decades to come. I am not one to lead this effort, in all likelihood, but I do know that we need leaders to make it happen. Let's find them - and support them. Soon.