Some Basics For Amending The Progressive Narrative:
It’s About The Fair Distribution Of Opportunity — For The Good Of All
by Thomas Kerey
The working premise of this proposal is that conservatives have gained
the narrative upper hand in American discourse, taking political
advantage even of debacles their policies helped bring about.
     There is more to this swing of influence than the acquisition and
ideological shaping of mainstream media outlets by activist
conservative interests seeking to turn back the tide of reform of the
60s. Recent events across the world remind us that control of the
official media does not equal a lock on the hearts and minds of
discontented citizens.
     The sidelining of progressive ideals in the national
conversation is not just about lack of exposure.
      While the conservative movement has been continuously calibrating
its message, progressives have not been as vigilant about this. We
progressives need to reframe the underlying assumptions for our
political initiatives for the current political environment, renewing
the progressive vision in a way that promotes our values within the
always evolving political culture. Specifically, we need to find new
ways to reach independents, moderates, and the unconvinced.
     As a case in point, it is not preordained that the Congressional
Progressive Caucus be less of a force to be reckoned with than the Tea
Party.  Poll after poll suggests that the majority of Americans
continue to support progressive goals. Driving home how initiatives
like the People’s Budget and US UNCUT serve the common good can appeal
to this goodwill.
     What follows is an attempt to pull together a few basic,
commonplace themes that need to be in the scope of progressive
campaigns.  The inspiration for this comes from James Carville’s famous
 phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” used during the 1992 presidential
race. The progressive response to the renewed conservative assault on
social programs has been kaleidoscopic. What’s needed right now is a
Carville-like focus.
     Among the background points — plain enough, but often neglected
these days — that need to be reaffirmed (and repeated) are:
1.     The most successful and dynamic societies are those that enable
the maximum number of citizens to make a meaningful contribution, on all
 levels, to the social project. This infusion of talent and energy from
 across all demographics is what underpins ongoing societal growth.
     The real value and meaning of having a vibrant middle class is
finally not about widespread comfort — although obviously we all welcome
 that — but in securing the foundation for the sustained animation of
society as a whole.
2.     In order to enable this kind of broad, inclusive range of
contribution from its citizens, society must be committed to the fair
distribution of opportunity. Promoting social equity is not
fundamentally about the redistribution of wealth. Rather, it is about
the fair distribution of opportunity. Keeping the playing field level.
Not allowing having opportunity to be an accident of birth. Making sure
the doors are open to all — to enhance our nation’s future.
     This is necessary since, if confined within a closed,
self-perpetuating cycle, the distribution of opportunity increasingly
tilts in favor of the privileged.
     This should be understood as the baseline political rationale for
the whole range of progressive policies:  Investing in all levels of
education. Investing in our citizen’s health care and safety. Investing
in infrastructure. Protecting our environment and faithfully preserving
our resources. Maintaining responsible oversight of commerce and
financial markets to protect jobs as well as the assets of homeowners
and investors. Maintaining the social safety net and protecting the
most vulnerable among us. Investing in all of our citizens, from cradle
to grave, to safeguard our common promise and heritage
     FDR’s New Deal policies — now explicitly under attack by
conservatives — enabled America to rise to preeminence because they
protected, lifted up, and empowered ordinary citizens, and thus allowed
unprecedented numbers of Americans to contribute their gifts to our
democratic experiment. When this happens we then prosper and revenue
shortfall, along with other related concerns, isn’t a stifling problem.
3.     The prevailing conservative position, repeated like a mantra,
argues that cutting taxes, especially for the wealthiest interests and
citizens, along with a reduction in government programs and regulation,
is the path to job creation and prosperity. This is voodoo politics,
not backed up by the results of the past thirty years of social policy.
It is actually the path to a de facto oligarchy in the long term, and
amounts to a get-richer-quick scheme for the already advantaged in the
short term — to the larger society’s disadvantage.
     The policies that flow from these premises will lead to our
decline because their enactment results in opportunity being
concentrated among the privileged — choking back the contribution of
talent and energy from the many — which will ultimately bring about
stagnation. Polarization of wealth equals restriction of opportunity.
     Unless you believe that the privileged are naturally superior to
everyone else, it is plain that the policy application of the
 “government is the problem” narrative will undermine the ability of
society to realize the broad potential of its citizens, and to move
forward and thrive.
4.      Finally, the elephant in the room of American politics: the
military-industrial boondoggle — including an archipelago of close to a
1,000 U.S. military bases around the world, and a succession of
adventurous wars — burning up trillions of public dollars over the
years. Military spending by the U.S. nearly equals the military expenditures of
 the rest of the world combined. This runaway fiasco, stealing our
future and undermining out real security, must be brought under control.
     Eisenhower sounded the alarm about this a half-century ago. The
time we have to heed his warning is not unlimited. Disabusing ourselves of
this corruption of national purpose must be part of any discussion of
making the opportunity to contribute available to all.
Thomas Kerey

Thomas Kerey