Thursday, March 02, 2006

Inspiring a Vision for the Future

The liberal community is good at understanding the issues that face our country. They talk and write about them endlessly. They constantly reinforce their own views, while propping each other up, on what they consider to be, the moral high ground.

All this is good, of course, to some extent. Unfortunately, there are two very important missing elements. These missing elements are very well understood by the Corporate Right. I call these elements; the how and why of position presentations. Let’s start with the how part first.

How, a view or position is presented is almost more important than the actual content of the position. Liberals seem to always to be gearing their presentations toward other liberals. They have become the masters of preaching to their own choirs. One does not reach the everyday person on the street, with long-winded diatribes. You reach them with messages that are simple and clear, which include carefully weighted emotional appeals. You present to them, a direction and a choice, that is easy to understand.

The why part of the presentation equation, seems to be almost completely missing from most liberals thought processes. Unlike the Corporate Right, they never direct their thoughts or speeches toward clearly articulated goals. We saw in the last presidential election, speech after speech of carefully crafted presentations designed to move people to predetermined goals. They were able to create a vision (however false), and give people a reason, to buy their lies.

So, it is not enough to occupy the moral high ground or have the ability to be articulate about your possession of it. We liberals need a vision for the future. We need vision that stimulates our emotions as well as our brains. We need a vision that can inspire us to inspire the American people.


Anonymous Bulldog said...

A lot of it too is the repetition the Right uses. Staying on topic is also something progressives have trouble with simply because we are such a diverse group. A post I did awhile back (can't remember which one) said that basically we need a Democrat version of Tom DeLay. Somebody on our side to frame the message, stay on topic, and basically be an arm-twisting, head-busting kind of guy to those within our party that "get out of line" or stray off topic. It also boils down to sound bites. The Regressive Right is excellent about formulating their positions into sound bites. Look at some of the issues in the past Presidential election: "John Kerry is a traitor", "The terrorists hate us for our freedom", "Gay marriage will destroy the traditional marriage." Rarely do you hear the reasons why these things are so, even from the Right. We Progressives don't necessarily need to get into the whys or why nots that much either. If we can appeal to a larger political demographic than just our own by coming up with catchy sound bites and repeating them ad nauseum, we may get somewhere.

1:12 AM  
Blogger IseFire said...

Your post really got me thinking. I apologize in advance for the long post.

I think that progressives are also good at pointing out to each other what we are having pointed out to us by this post: that we lack the how's and why's of our values.

The endless train of "woe be unto the progressives" essays and books about failures to articulate visions--the most often cited example probably being Lackoff's, "Don't Think of an Elephant"--is itself becoming problematic, at least insofar as too often the accurate complaints don't offer solutions. (To be fair, Lackoff does, but I think he over-emphasizes the power of the solutions he's offering, which are ultimately based on academic and overly-complicated psychological concepts, and seem to ignore the LEADERSHIP and DISCIPLINE that are part of every successful partisan program or maneuver, the Democrats' defeat of Bush's Social Security plans being a prime example.)

I think a look back at the Contract with America could be valuable for inspiring a vision for the future.

Newt Gingrich's strategy with the Contract was pure political genius, and Justice E.R. touches on some of the effective mechanics (the how's and why's) that were also behind the Contract's success. (Contract here:

Nonetheless, it should be first pointed out that Contract's simply and evocatively worded, 10-point, message *wasn't created in a vacuum.* It was the result of much effort.

It was the result of HARD WORK done by think tanks, polling firms, and caucuses of Republicans formal and informal. It didn't happen overnight; it was years in the making.

Progressives' most effective and tangible systematic method for making a difference in electoral politics is through getting Democrats elected. Third-party stuff just doesn't fly. So, I suggest that specifically the Democrats in Congress need something like a progressive contract of their own, one that a whole slough (sp?) of new candidates and incumbents can run on, probably in 2008.

I say 2008, not 2006, because I think that Democrats have yet to invest the necessary amount of time and energy and coordination to craft a good contract and get it communicated to the electorate in time for this November. But, I could be wrong about that.

Unfortunately, Democratic leaders--H. R. Clinton, Kerry, Dean, Reid, and (weakly) Pelosi--aren't necessarily all that consistently progressive, not to the extent that Newt was consistently conservative. Thus, progressives will need to brace themselves for a Democratic contract not quite as inspirational to all candidates (or all of the party's base) as the Republican contract was their Republican candidates and base.

A Democratic contract will likely reflect the thinking of the above-named Democratic leaders--thus, it will be moderate, at least on social issues, in an attempt to make as many Democrats happy as possible.

That moderate quality is, however, *relative!" It may seem timid to progressive Democrats, but it might be the best that can be expected, given the party's diversity. The alternative is a truly progressive Democratic contract, one that including, say, gay marriage. But, the Democrats don't have it in their bones for something like that. A better first step, they will assume (perhaps correctly), is to run on economic and populist social issues and defense, and push other prizes after they've won.

Finally, it's important to remember that not all of the Contract With America actually became law--and none of it did, I think, in any *pure* form. The Contract was an end in and of itself; it was a brilliant political and rhetorical tool, essentially. Its power was in what it promised, and as you can see from the Republican Congressional tsunami that since Newt has just gotten stronger and stronger with each Congressional election, a failure to completely deliver on what the Contract promised wasn't really held against them. It was the PROMISES themselves—and the sense of promise in general—that make the Contract work. In fact, the Contract is hardly even remembered. But it worked at a critical moment, and Democrats need a similar mechanism.

I can only hope that for months Democrats and progressives have formally and informally thinking along these same lines, and talking and writing and asking "What if?" and testing, getting ever-closer to a coherent agreement with the American people for a better America for this generation and the next.

10:56 AM  
Blogger thepoetryman said...

Where’s the Beauty of Iraq

7:51 PM  

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