Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nowadays, the anti-war movement, the justice & accountability movement, and the health care reform movement have to get by largely without the support of religious organizations and charismatic religious leaders.
Perhaps that's one reason why the Left has been so ineffectual at achieving its goals.
When the powers-that-be are confronted by the stern and undeniable moral outrage of religious leaders, they are shamed into taking action.
Short of such outrage, there is little leverage. The media and the politicians can ignore even mass protests unless the protesters are backed by a powerful moral message. Violent protests probably do more harm than good, since the establishment can point to the violence as a reason for suppressing the opposition. Indeed, the government regularly planted saboteurs among leftist groups to cause violence, as described in the article Current Comedy: 8/18/09: This is What Democracy Looks Like? and on wikipedia here.
Some people have suggested that progressive protesters need to be noisier and more threatening. They say: "Look at those right wing nutcases who disrupted town hall meetings! See how they've succeeded at changing minds, with their shouts, their lies, and their guns." But I question whether the right wing howlers have been all that successful and whether if the Left tried to mimic them we'd be as effective. I'm not sure we want to lower ourselves to their level. It might work. It might backfire. Sure, Fox News and the right wing media gave coverage to the howling protesters and credence to their views, but the rest of the news media pretty much saw through the propaganda.
A safer route would be to follow Gandhi and Martin Luther King and to use moral outrage as a lever with which to effect change.
But nowadays it seems that most religious folk are more concerned with brainless embryos and gay marriage than with torture, unjust war, economic injustice, corruption, and health care.
I do get email from a couple of progressive religious groups -- Faithful America and Catholics United -- but religious groups are not taking the lead in the progressive protest movements of our generation.
I'm not suggesting that progressives feign religious piety as a means of effecting change. Rather, I'm lamenting the lack of support by the religious community for our goals. Unjust war, torture, poverty, corruption, and unaffordable healthcare are nonpartisan evils. What would Jesus have supported?
Aside from the lack of support from religious folk, the current protest movements seem to lack powerful protest music, as discussed here: Where's the music?.
Another reason for the failure of protest movements is the lack of coordination. This topic was touched upon on just today in OpEdnews: You blame Obama, I blame You. I've written about this topic before: Funding and coordinating progressive news, A Plan to Enhance Progressive Coordination and Media Access, and Stopping the Circular Firing Squad: Can the Left Succeed without a Charismatic Leader?
Will the Left WORK TOGETHER and coordinate their activities and their protests and their fund-raising? There are SO many progressive groups competing for money and members. Too many, I fear. Daily I get requests for money from numerous progressive causes, including OpEdNews, PDA, DFA, MoveOn, environmental groups, and Faithful America. Obviously, the Right has more money. Corporations are legally required to maximize shareholders' value. Human greed is more powerful than human compassion, apparently.
We need to convince people that government does good, and can do better, and that progressive taxation is necessary to fund government. Otherwise, the conservative dream of defunding the left and drowning government in the bathtub will succeed.