You really should give some money to progressive organizations now, and candidates at election-time. But giving money to progressive organizations now is like giving that amount of money to each and every progressive candidate come election-time.
Seriously, give $10 or $100 today to an organization that helps reach the public to increase understanding and support of progressive ideas, and it is like giving $1,000 to each and every progressive candidate come election time. This is because these organizations work all the time to lay the groundwork for all of those candidates as well as all legislative initiatives.
How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?
Since forever, the Republican message is STILL “Dems take your money and give it to black people.” Doesn’t change. Doesn’t have to. It’s OUR fault.
I am not young. I remember when Nixon campaigned with his racially divisive “Southern Strategy.” Nixon campaigned on “crime” – fear of black people – and on the claim that Dmeocrats take “your” money and give it to black people. It worked.
It worked for Reagan, too, when he talked about “welfare queens” and “welfare Cadillacs.” Here is part of a Reagan campaign stump speech,
“She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”
Bush II beat back John McCain in the primaries by circulating stories that he had “fathered a black child” and “terrorists.” (But correct me if I’m wrong, Bush II didn’t appear to use race against Gore, instead preempting potential attacks on his own character and honesty by hammering Gore’s “character” and making him out to be a liar – both with the help of the media. His later use of “terrorists” (brown people) is another story entirely…)
So I’m going to go way out on a limb here. I predict that Republicans will use race and other terribly divisive tactics to distract us from the real situation — the draining of the wealth of 99% of us and the country for the benefit of an already-wealthy few — in the 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020 and every campaign after that. They will say that “Democrats take your money and give it to black people.” They will campaign against “union thugs” and “union bosses” and say paying fair wages “hurts business” and we need to be more “business friendly.” They will say “government takes money out of the economy” and helping each other “makes people dependent.” They will say “cutting taxes increases government revenue.” They will say a lot of nonsense, and their policies when enacted will always, always benefit an already-wealthy few at the expense of the rest of us, our economy, our country and our planet.
They will say all kinds of stuff to keep We, the People from seeing what is in front of our faces.
That is who they are and that is what they do. Unless we do something about it.
Look Where We Are & At What Romney Is Doing
Look where we are: Deregulation pretty much destroyed the economy. Tax cuts have partially defunded the government’s ability to empower and protect We, the People. The 1% and their giant corporations get so much of the benefits of our economy now. The climate is obviously getting worse and worse, already risking crop failures, incredible heat waves and terribly destructive storms. And with all of this going on one party blocks efforts to improve things, so they can campaign saying nothing is getting done. Yet with all that going on, the election so far is all coming down to billionaires spending hundreds of millions to run ads that say Obama is taking your money and giving it to black people.
Look what Romney is doing! He is running ads that come pretty close to the “welfare queen” messaging, pretty much saying that Democrats take your money and give it to black people. He is running ads about Medicare that pretty much say the same thing. And now he is even going “birther.” Thomas Edsall explains today in the NY Times, in Making The Election About Race,
The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor.
… The racial overtones of Romney’s welfare ads are relatively explicit. Romney’s Medicare ads are a bit more subtle. … Obamacare, described in the Romney ad as a “massive new government program that is not for you,” would provide health coverage to a population of over 30 million that is not currently insured: 16.3 percent of this population is black; 30.7 percent is Hispanic; 5.2 percent is Asian-American; and 46.3 percent (less than half) is made up of non-Hispanic whites.
… The Romney campaign is willing to disregard criticism concerning accuracy and veracity in favor of “blowing the dog whistle of racism” – resorting to a campaign appealing to racial symbols, images and issues in its bid to break the frustratingly persistent Obama lead in the polls, which has lasted for the past 10 months.
Once again, Republicans are saying, “Democrats take your money and give it to black people.”
And just like they do every time it works they take our money and give it to rich people instead.
It’s Our Fault
Here’s the thing. This is our fault. Fool me once, shame on you. We were fooled once, when Nixon did it. Shame on Nixon. But … We were fooled twice, when Reagan did it. We were fooled again and again, and apparently never caught on that this is what they do.
And if this is what they do, we should have taken steps after, maybe, the fifth or sixth or seventh or eighth time? This is our fault.
WHY are Republicans still able to use race in their campaigns to deflect attention from their ongoing campaign to turn the wealth and management of our country over to the 1%? Because we have not organized ourselves to reach out to regular people around the country and help them to understand what is happening to them. Instead we (progressives) have largely focused our on changing things through elections. But we have not done the hard work between elections to set the stage for elections. We have not been very good at reaching out to tens and tens of millions of regular people and helping them to understand and appreciate the benefits to them of a progressive approach to solving our problems.
I mean, a lot of us do get this and try. This is a big part of what Campaign for America’s Future does – or tries to do with the very limited resources it has. But a real national, between-elections, ongoing — decades-long — campaign takes real resources, facilities, coordination, supplies, management, researchers, writers, talkers, technologists, and the rest. And that takes real money. The kind of money conservatives have been willing to put into such and effort, and progressives have not.
Let’s Finally Do Something About It
When are we going to recognize that this is what they do, and do something about it? They use race. They divide us. They make shit up, and spend millions and millions on blasting their made-up shit into people’s brains. Then they enrich the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and use part of that to do it more. This is what they do. And very little is done to counter it. (Some say the problem is, “democracy does not have an advertising budget.”) What if we had started 4 years ago to get ready for this campaign of lies and division, knowing full well that they are going to use race and lies and the rest against We, the People? What if we had started then to reach and educate millions and millions of working people, bring them together, help them see the bigger picture? What if we had reached out to millions of disaffected white voters and explained directly to them, in language that reaches them, with stories that resonate with them, so they would be ready for it when they are told “Democrats take your money and give it to black people,” and why believing it hurts them.
What if we did this between elections, and kept doing it after elections, and explained and reinforced the concepts of democracy so that people’s understanding and appreciation of democracy and what it really means increased year after year after year?
What if we had started doing this 8 years ago? 12 years ago? After Nixon’s election? What if we had started to dedicate a percentage of progressive-aligned funding and organizing toward a centrally organized, well-funded campaign of reaching regular people and explaining the harm conservatives are doing, and the benefits to them of democracy and a We, the People approach to our mutual problems?
How well would their campaign of racism and lies and division work, if we had done that? How well will it work if we do it.
What would it have done for the goals of environmentalists if we had put serious money into a coordinated, values-based approach that helped people understand and appreciate the meaning and benefits to them of truly honoring We, the People “we are in this together” democracy over the prevailing corporate/conservative, Randian, “you should be on your own”?
What would it have done for the goals of labor unions if we had used this approach?
What would it have done for the goals of consumer attorneys if we had used this approach?
What would it have done for the goals of Medicare-For-All advocates if we had used this approach?
And what could it do for all of these if we started today?
A Fight Back Strategy
Research & Development, and Action: What we need is a major, coordinated, funded, national project dedicated to researching the ways the 1% manipulates us, and developing strategics for overcoming them. This project also needs a national action arm that takes the research and strategies out to the country and continues this work for as long as it takes.
Just think about this, think about changing your orientation from election cycle to outside of the election cycle, ongoing, as-long-as-it-takes strategies. And mostly, please help and continue to help fund organizations that work outside of elections to help make these changes, so that progressive candidates and policy initiatives have fertile ground in which to do well!
Of course, this kind of work is a big part of what Campaign for America’s Future does – or tries to do with the very limited resources it has. You can and should help us with this, and you can do that right now by visiting this page. If you can give $3 right now, that helps. Seriously, if everyone reading this just gave $3 (or more) it would help.
And this is not a selfish appeal so I can get a raise (although it can’t hurt). There are a number of other organizations that are seriously working on this kind of approach. You can also give a donation to Center for American Progress here, or to the National Council of La Raza here, or to the Economic Policy Institute here, Media Matters here, to the Center for Community Change here, to Progressive Congress here, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights here, to People For the American Way here, and there are so many other organizations that are working in their own way to help. (I’ll add them as they read this and write to yell at me for leaving them out.)
There is a (somewhat out of date) page on funding progressive infrastructure here and a (somewhat out of date) list of progressive infrastructure organizations here.
We really need for progressives to understand this need, and the difference between this and election campaign contributions. Think about it, and help spread the word. Help fund it, and help others understand this need. We can beat back the conservative machine by building a machine of our own that is strong enough to do the job. This takes money.
And to keep that machine answerable to US, we have to fund it democratically, with each of us stepping up and contributing what we can. It has to be lots of people giving small and medium amounts, not depending on a few large donors. ANY organization or candidate is going to dance with the ones that brung ‘em, so WE have to bring them to the dance together. Go give $3 or $10 or $100 to any of those organizations now, and keep doing it, and get others to do it.
A dollar donated to an effort like this now is like a dollar donated again and again to each and every progressive issue campaign and candidate from now on, except that the dollar is amplified. This is because doing the work now makes elections and policy battles so much easier and less expensive.
Conservatives have developed a “brand” and their candidates and policy initiatives ride that brand like a surfer surfs a wave. They just hop on the wave and attach themselves or their issue. So much of the things we have to spend so much money on are already covered by their infrastructure of like-minded organizations, so for each candidate and policy initiative they have to spend so much less! ALL of their candidates are helped by the central branding effort.
Progressive-oriented candidates and policy initiatives start almost from scratch, and so it is tremendously expensive to get them elected or passed. We have to raise tremendous sums to do the things that conservatives have ready-to-go. And each of our candidates have to each raise that money, on their own, just to overcome the things conservatives already have in place – for all of them. One dollar spent on a core branding effort could have the same effect for all of our candidates and policy initiatives as the more-than-one-dollar spent for EACH candidate or policy initiative at election time to overcome it.
So help out, OK?
P.S. Here is a talk I gave on this subject in 2004, titled “On Our Own?“ that talked about how the corporate right works between elections to market their ideology, and suggesting that we should try a similar outside-the-election-cycle approach. Here is a talk I gave to an education organization in 2007 titled, “We’re All In This Together” that described how the right uses the Overton Window to move public attitudes,
What can we, as supporters of public education, do about this?
The supporters of public education must join with their natural allies — the trial lawyers and the environmentalists and reproductive rights organizations and others and begin to talk to the public with a COMMON message that says WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER because we are a COMMUNITY. Only after people come to understand and appreciate this philosophy of community again, will they begin to understand and appreciate the value of public schools.
… The Right pushes an ugly message that we are each on our own, out for ourselves to get what we can, in a dog-eat-dog world. But in truth, we are really ARE all in this together, not only as being on the receiving end of similar attacks, but also because we can work together to help each other. We can work to counter the Right’s message by restoring the public’s understanding and appreciation of COMMUNITY and the value of responsible government.
How can we do this?
As I’m sure you know, frame and message development and testing are complex and require skilled professionals. Messaging efforts on behalf of public education will have the greatest effect if linked to broad frames that are developed across sectors, frames that support the value of community and government. And the messaging that supports these values will be most effective if it is delivered by multiple voices, third-party voices that are not strongly identified with public education and other interest groups. It must be coordinated with a long-term strategy.
Remember the Reagan standard? Are you better off today than you were a decade ago? Two decades? Three? Unless you make more than $380,000 a year, the answer is no. In fact, your standard of living over the last quarter century has actually decreased while millionaires have added 30 percent to their net wealth. Why? Two reasons.
First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs went overseas while the politicians you elected did nothing to stop them. Yet you continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts, as if that would stem the flow of disappearing jobs.
Did you demand your leaders address America’s trade imbalance or continuous outsourcing of jobs? Did you demand your leaders require foreign countries to buy a dollar’s worth of American goods for every dollar of goods they sell here?
No and no. You didn’t bother.
Buursma writes that instead of resenting people who make more because they are in a union, people should join a union and fight for your job, wages and benefits. He continues,
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not a union worker, so this doesn’t affect me.”
Stop being stupid. Union benefits provide a standard other companies have to match, or at least come close to. When those benefits are cut, yours are, too. Or do you think you operate in your own little employment vacuum?
Agree or disagree, please click through and read his entire piece. Whose Fault?
There is no question that things are not going the way they should be going. We see decline all around us — all pointing back to the changes made after the election of Ronald Reagan. Tax cuts led to massive debt. Deregulation led to mine, oil and financial disasters that cost us more than deregulation ever saved. The infrastructure is crumbling. It seems like we are entering third-world status. So is it the fault of American workers that their wages and benefits have declined as jobs are shipped overseas? I don’t blame working people. After all, they’re working! So they’re busy, and stressed, and focused on work. They can’t be expected to keep up with the little details and facts and nuances — especially when they are attacked daily with a barrage of well-funded and professionally crafted corporate/conservative propaganda!
This assault on information and truth has been going on for decades. Under Reagan there was a dramatic shift toward “market” — one-dollar-one-vote — sources of information and away from objective, citizen-oriented democratic — one-person-one-vote — sources. This market-sourced information necessarily reflects a conservative/corporate view because it is driven by money and profit instead of humanity and humanity’s needs. Information for Democracy!
How do we counter the corporate/conservative assault on truth? One answer to the problem of getting accurate, objective information is to use (and support) alternative sources that are not offered by the conservative/corporate machine. Here is a list of a few links to alternative news sources. Please send these to relatives, friends, and even post them to conservative forums.
It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.
There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy — rule by the super-rich and big corporations — with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”
This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda. Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way — that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.
Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The things that people “know” are very different from the “reality-based” things those of us reading a blog like this know, and those things seem to always, always serve the corporate right.
I have been away on vacation. While away I have been talking to “regular” people who are outside of the circles many of us who follow progressive blogs and news closely live in. The particular group I spent time with might not fairly represent “regular” people but whenever I spend time talking to people who are outside of our highly-informed circles, whether it is talking to relatives, doing call-in radio shows or just talking to people I meet I come away very discouraged by the things that most people “know.” The corporate right has been very effective at spreading an anti-government, anti-democracy narrative that, when believed, puts their interests on top.
Some of the things that people “know” that I heard in one form or another on my trip include:
1) Government caused the financial crisis. A lot of people know this, and a lot more have heard it repeated over and over. Government forced banks to give mortgages to poor people and minorities. Taxes and government spending “take money away” from and generally harm the economy.
2) Obama bailed out the banks. The most a lot of people know about the stimulus is that it was a lot of money and it went to bailing out the banks. Obama’s massive spending increase (Democrats “tax and spend”) is the cause of the deficit and the government is at risk of going bankrupt.
3) Corporations (plutocracy) are always more effective and efficient than government (democracy). Government messes up everything that it touches.
4) “Entitlements” are welfare and are destroying people’s independence and work ethic. People think the government will solve their problems so they don’t turn to themselves. Illegal immigrants immediately get welfare and have lots of babies on welfare and this is why states are going bankrupt.
5) Social Security is going broke and won’t be there for younger people.
Of course all of these are just wrong, and of course acting on these beliefs leads the country to results that are terribly destructive to the economy and people’s lives while a few at the top make out very very well for themselves. I’m not going to spend any time here getting into how much is wrong with each of these. I do want to get into why people believe these things.
So many of us — by “us” I mean people likely to be reading this — spend our time in somewhat insular information environments, where the blogs and other information sources we read and the people we talk to tend to follow news closely, and to be very highly informed with “reality-based” information. But “regular” people do not follow the news closely, and the “news” they get does not come from the same places as the news sources you and I carefully seek out. Why The Right Controls The Narrative
It’s simple. The corporate right controls the narrative because they make an effort to do so, and the forces of We, the People democracy, community and caring humanity do not. (Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness.)
Corporations and conservatives have invested a ton of money in a huge ideological message machine because they understand marketing. There is FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, Drudge Report, a vast, vast Astroturf operation and all the rest of the right’s propaganda operation. It is very, very well funded. They have constructed an effective narrative and they repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it — and then they repeat it.
But there is also the corporate-owned “mainstream” media that largely echoes and often directly transmits the right’s narrative. First, they echo these anti-government themes. Then, as with the current anti-Muslim “ground-zero mosque” frenzy they carry the things that distract from the real issues. Why? Because it serves their interests, too. If people are focused on distractions instead of looking at the real causes of their economic woes it is all the better for the real causes of their economic woes: namely the big, monopolist corporations.
(Does the mainstream media reflect corporate interests against those of the rest of us? Without going into detail here is a simple test: When was the last time you saw, heard or read someone on TV, radio or in a newspaper explain the benefits of joining a union?)
Meanwhile progressives and the forces of democracy are barely reaching out to regular people at all. We seem to focus our efforts mostly on elections, and do very little between elections to persuade the public that there are benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues. (And never mind our political leaders who repeat and reinforce the right’s frames and narratives.)
A big part of this is that it takes a lot of money to reach out past our circles. But we sure do seem able to come up with money for elections. In fact the return on investment of reaching people outside of the election cycle should be obvious. We wouldn’t have to raise and spend so much money in the election cycle if we were making the case that progressives bring more benefits to regular people, because then regular people would be more inclined to vote that way in general.
I plan to write more about this.
I think I did an OK job going into more detail on the things people “know” and why in this video from the Netroots Nation panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter. Use the bar to slide this to the 40:00 minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes.
And, while I’m showing videos, here is Love, Peace & Happiness by the Chambers Brothers. (I can’t get it out of my head since writing “Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness” above…)
Everyone go read Harold Meyerson – Without a movement, progressives can’t aid Obama’s agenda.
It isn’t the job of a political party to create change, it is the job of a movement.
Campaign ads just literally go up in the air at the last minute and are very expensive. But donating to progressive organizations creates lasting demand for progressive change. If you give $1000 to a progressive organization that reaches the public and explains why progressive policies are better for them, then those people will vote for EVERY progressive candidate and support EVERY progressive initiative. That way your $1000 goes much, much further and you don’t have to give $1000 to each candidate…
(Bumping this up to the top, adding a bit)
Are you disappointed in the results of the health care reform fight? Do you feel swamped by all the conservative/corporate “talking heads” on the right? I think progressives should work to reach the public and create demand for progressive policies. But to do this we need to build “progressive infrastructure” institutions that employ people to blog, write op-eds, appear on TV and radio, write books, and generally push for progressive solutions to our problems.
How do we build a movement that brings about change, instead of relying on politicians to make it happen? Electing Different People Won’t Make Much of a Difference. Go read this and donate some money to help make it happen. How much did you give to Obama’s campaign? Well that money just went up into the air for TV ads. Campaign ads do not change the public’s long-term thinking.
We have to change people’s minds. We have to reach out to the public and explain to them the benefits to them of a progressive approach. We have to create demand for progressive policies and candidates.
THAT will change the things that are happening in Washington.
While America has always been a place where a person could get rich, it used to be that you got rich a bit more slowly, and everyone benefited in the process. This is because we used to have very high tax rates at the top.
A person could do very well, but income that came in above a certain level was highly taxed and used to pay for the teachers, police, courts and roads that enabled businesses to thrive. Just how high were taxes? During America’s “golden years” of 1951-1963, tax rates were over 90 percent on income over $400,000. Then through the 1960s and 70s, they were 70 percent on income above $200,000.
. . . Back when it took time to make a fortune, business people had to rely on the health of the greater community to nurture their own enterprises. They had to think and act long-term. They had to carefully build solid businesses that satisfied their customers. They had to hold on to workers because their experience was valuable.
The irony is that Beck is only really opposed to big government when Republicans aren’t controlling it. For instance, he has no issues with allowing the government to torture prisoners and is supportive of police brutality. And those big government bailouts of the financial industry that Beck rails against on a regular basis? Back when George W. Bush was president, Beck actually chided Congress for not giving more money to rescue the banks.
So Beck isn’t against big government. Rather, he’s opposed to government action that helps the poor at the expense of the rich. For instance, have you ever seen a conservative oppose tax cuts in any form? Well, Glenn Beck does, but only if they’re being given to poor people. Indeed, when economist Jeff Frankel appeared on Beck’s show to advocate giving tax cuts “to low-income, working Americans,” Beck compared him to Josef Stalin and accused him of trying to “redistribute the wealth.”
Take a look at the Campaign for America’s Future blog, Blog for Our Future. There is a LOT there. Bookmark it.
Also, there is great thought-provoking stuff at the Commonweal Institute blog, Uncommon Denominator. Bookmark that, too.
And take a look at the names of the poeople posting at both of these sites – you’ll be surprised.
Finally, if you are in California you will want to check out the Speak Out California site!