Blue America: Progressive Infrastructure
You may have heard the term “progressive infrastructure.” We need it. Let me explain.
Bush and the Republicans are out, but we have to consolidate that victory, keep them out and implement progressive policies. We need to elect progressives to state office and we have to get “centrist” Democrats to do the right thing or run primary candidates who will.
“Progressive infrastructure” is the key to getting that done.
Look at how conservatives became so successful in elections and legislation battles. Starting in the 1970s they built well-funded organizations employing researchers, writers, pundits, speechmakers, marketers, talk-show guests, operatives etc. all using channels like talk radio, Fox News, the Washington Times and blogs to tell the public one or another form of a basic propaganda message: “liberals and their ideas are bad, while conservatives and their ideas are good.”
Movement operatives infiltrated churches, sports (NASCAR), interest groups (NRA) … always working to convince people to identify as conservatives. After a few decades of this the public had a negative view of liberals. In surveys many people say they are conservative even though they line up with us on the facts and issues. Their candidates rode that wave into office and their policies rode it into law. In some races all a candidate had to do was point and shout “liberal!” to win!
Meanwhile progressive candidates start from scratch in the late summer, have to decide "issues" to run on, develop a message and then reach their voters – on their own from scratch.
Like the frog in heated water, progressives didn’t see what was happening. It took Clinton’s impeachment and the 2000 election theft to really shake and wake people up. Then came the blogosphere. People started to study and understand the right and began to see a model for responding. (The Commonweal Institute was a pioneer in this effort, and I have blogged and spoken about it through the years.)
Kerry’s 2004 loss was another shock. and now progressives are building organizations outside of the election process, working between elections, developing policy ideas and researching how to talk in ways that create demand for progressive policies and candidates. Media Matters, Center for American Progress, Air America and others are engaging in the national discussion.
Look at the difference this effort has already made! But the record is spotty and funding is minimal to nonexistent. For example, George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute had to shut down due to lack of funding.
That is why I am writing today. I am asking all of us to start donating to progressive infrastructure organizations (not issue organizations) because of the tremendous leverage it offers. Let me throw this down: donating a dollar to a progressive infrastructure today is like giving ten dollars to each progressive candidate in every local, state and national race two years from now, and every election following.
Look what we have been able to get done in this country with the smallest, minimally-funded hint at an infrastructure of organizations and media outlets. We fought back against the conservative machine and we got the Democrats to start fighting back themselves. Imagine what we could do if we actually started funding serious progressive infrastructure (not issue-based) organizations nationally and in every state, building an ecosystem where young people get training and jobs, writers and advocates actually make a living and activists receive speaking fees. Imagine progressive non-profits having the budgets to reach out past the blogosphere and talk to the general public.
By explaining the benefits of a progressive approach these organizations can help build greater public acceptance of and demand for progressive policies and candidates. As more people understand why progressive solutions benefit them more than conservative proposals, they develop a lasting positive identification with the progressive "brand." Then during the election cycle they vote for progressive candidates.
Donating to progressive advocacy organizations today builds long-term support for every progressive candidate and policy tomorrow — lowering the need for massive last-minute election-cycle funding. By helping the public understand what progressive candidates are trying to achieve we all benefit.