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Enduring waves of staggering, bipartisan fiascos, progressives can hardly blame the absence of an impactful "populist movement" on the absence of golden opportunities. What could trigger more outrage than the tangle of multiple, self-induced military dead-ends, aggravated by multiple, self-generated economic implosions -- smacked down by years of anti-fixes? Behold: ham-fisted austerity, gratuitous tax reductions, deregulation rife with hidden costs, and unConstitutional privacy abuses. Not to mention, corrosive fracking, the XL Pipeline, reliance on dirty coal, and flagrant, abusive spying. If we only had dysfunctional government, filled with craven hypocrites, a progressive firestorm would no doubt fire up resistance.
Nor can activists miss clear-eyed, tested roadmaps. Hardly alone, veteran Jim Hightower just reminded the left, especially online, what it conspicuously undervalues: "to have a mass movement, we have to go to the masses." Hightower lays down assumptions that reformers distain at their peril:
Don't forget cultural shifts produce political change, not the other way around.
Building a people's movement takes the long view.
Expand the movement by connecting with [populist] movements that don't identify as progressive.
Don't dump [progressive] "talking points on every person we meet." Replace "issue-speak" with "core values" full of "personal stories that paint pictures in people's minds."
Squandering Golden Opportunities
These truisms reinforce my observations that too many on the left persist in dumping "issue-speak" along with overwrought hyperbole and sweeping declarations that offend the audience we should most engage. Must we hear from prominent voices unerring proclamations of done deals: the end of America, of electoral politics, of capitalism, the collapse of empire, even the end of the world? Must we demonize personalities, scorning individuals as magically both puppets and tyrants? Must we reduce complex conditions to morality plays between good and evil? Must we impugn all mass media as sellouts, hired mainly to obscure implausible conspiracy theories? Will hardline, leftwing dogma, however principled, persuade the vast majority of non-leftists to come aboard, even hear us out?
And yet alongside zealots are extraordinary, progressive voices unafraid to stir the pot and bolstered by heroic whistleblowers. Are not a handful of rational, humane, elected officials doing their best to educate on big issues? Did not a progressive, if idealistic Congressional caucus just publish people-driven budget, tax, and financials reforms? And yet, where is the concrete, real-world evidence the progressive left is gaining strength, amassing new converts (or regaining lost ones), achieving electoral leverage in battleground states or impacting the national dialogue? The evidence is conspicuous by its absence.