Sunday, March 27, 2005

How to Turn Your Red State Blue

I read a great article on Alternet by Christopher Hayes. In it, he explains what the Democratic Party is doing wrong and outlines a plan to "How to Turn Your Red State Blue."

I've copied and pasted some portions of the article here, but I highly recommend that you read the whole thing on the site.

...Then there's the fact that both the government's policies and the electorate's voting behavior have shifted dramatically to the right in the last 30 years. Common sense would suggest that the best explanation for this is that most voters are conservative and the Republicans are the conservative party. If this is true, we cannot continue to imagine there exists a slumbering progressive majority waiting to be awakened with the right trumpet call. We cannot cling to the fiction that conservatives have somehow hypnotized the electorate, hoodwinking them into voting for Republicans and reactionaries while leaving untouched their internal worldviews, which somehow remain fundamentally progressive. It is important that we stare directly into the sun on this point. The right has fundamentally reconstituted the way Americans view government, politics, policy and the public sphere. We need to change it back.

...The lesson is that political parties are empty vessels. A party without a sufficiently militant base will end up standing for very little, and voters would rather vote for something than for nothing. At the same time, however, a party too tightly controlled by its base will likely pull the party toward electoral failure. Only by the productive interchange between activists and the party hierarchy can electoral success and long-term implementation of an ideological vision both be achieved. 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.

I hope my friend, Wendy, reads this next part:
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.

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 chink in their armor, which explains why their attacks on higher education are so ardent. David Horowitz's latest anti-university gimmick is Students for Academic Freedom, a web site where disgruntled conservative undergrads can post complaints, like this one, about unfair treatment from liberal faculty: On the last [paper], I wrote about how family values in the books weve [sic] read aren't good. I know the paper was pretty much great [sic] because I spell checked it and proofred [sic] it twice. I got an [sic] D- just because the professor hates families and thinks its [sic] okay to be gay.

...In fact, when you survey the trend lines in the Democratic coalition, you see an odd but altogether predictable trend. College-educated voters are increasingly moving to the left while working class voters are moving to the right. A host of ideas have been put forward to explain this, but the erosion of labor unions and the progressive character of the academy accounts for much of it.

Outside of school, work and friends, the only other real entry point for our hypothetical subject is the Internet and blogosphere. And while these are invaluable resources for people who have no other access to progressive ideas, they don't ring your doorbell or leaflet your local supermarket. High-profile groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Sierra Club and People for the American Way don't help much either. Though they fight tooth and nail for progressive causes, they are essentially self-contained, devoting little energy toward recruiting non-progressives. Organizations like MoveOn and Democracy For America have revived grassroots, meeting-based membership organizations, but they serve chiefly as a means of coordinating existing progressives rather than pulling new people into the fold. How would moderates, conservatives or those with little in the way of fixed politics ever find themselves interfacing with MoveOn other than a TV ad?

He goes on to give a plan...

In order to grow, progressives need to systematically expand the universe of access points to the progressive worldview and actively recruit people into the fold. There are three main ways this can be achieved: the development of a vibrant progressive mass media, a revived labor movement, and the organizing of large-scale grassroots social movements in regions and among constituencies that are currently estranged from progressivism. Many astute commentators have written extensively about the first two, so it seems wise to focus here on why the third part of this strategy is important, and what it might entail.

His idea isn't sexy, but it's great none-the-less. Click here.


Snave said...
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Snave said...

The idea of using credit reform has some merit. It should appeal to a lot of Americans. Helping average folks out with their "bottom line" is something the Bush administration doesn't seem to be doing particularly well. I think credit reform could be pushed successfully without being belligerent or overly-critical of the GOP. People should be able to see the wisdom of such an approach and make a choice based on their own realizations. Once voters began to compare and contrast, there would be no contest... they would choose the left.

I definitely agree with the point about strengthening unions and getting some kind of progressive media going... Air America is a good start for gaining a radio foothold, but we need something to actually counter FOX on TV. I think a progressive "news channel" would do well. Many progressive arguments would make sense to many more Americans if the ideas were thrown out there in a more widely-noticed way. Why hasn't a progressive "news channel" been started? The GOP has virtually taken over the media while we have been sitting and watching, and without any "fairness in broadcasting" rules (thanks, Reagan), their control of radio has approached monopoly status. We need to do something about television before it gets too late.

Snave said...
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Snave said...

And before anyone criticizes me for saying the Bush administration hasn't done much to help out peoples' bottom lines, I will say his "tax cuts" have done nothing for our household.

I would call our family "middle class". When combining my wife's and my income, we make about $100K a year. Last year we got a refund. This year we owe a total of roughly $1500 to state and federal. Our income didn't move into a higher bracket, either! Next year we won't get to count our kids as deductions... at the same time we'll be taking out loans for our older daughter's college education.

We will now need to put aside a couple of hundred dollars a month just so we can pay more taxes next year... or, my wife and I can have more taken out of our paychecks. Ugh.

So much for tax cuts. Thanks, Dubya.

Jim Marquis said...

I have to admit one of my biggest frustrations with the last election was I thought moderate Republicans and independents would see through the administration's lies. I guess I underestimated the gap between how I see things happening in the country and how they view those same things.

Lizzy said...

I'm in the same boat, Snave. Our family has always been considered upper-middle class & the Bush tax cuts have done nothing for us. In fact, even if it had, I would not have considered it a good thing. I would much rather have more police, firefighters, REAL homeland security, etc, than a tax cut. And even though I don't have kids, I would much rather have that money go to the schools. They are only our future, for g-d's sake.

I also wonder why there isn't a liberal cable TV news station yet. Hopefully with the success of Air America, that will come soon.

J, I know exactly what you mean & I think that's part of what draws us together.