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Drinking the Sand (or How to Sell It Without Selling Out)

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"People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference." -The American President

There's been a lot of discussion on the left in the past couple of years about the way we market ourselves to the American people. The DLC actually speaks of it in exactly those terms as if the party or the candidate were a product that needs to be sold to the voters. They've used this tactic, with some success (but mostly failure), for some time now, but most of us who come from the more humble portions of the progressive movement don't think much of it.

The reason we don't think much of it is that the party and the candidate are not the products. Our ideas are the product.

The DLC doesn't get this. Ground troops in the progressive movement do.

You see, those of us who hack away at keyboards all day, make phone calls all day, write letters to representatives all day we don't assume that all of our work must be done within the confines of the status quo. If we did, we'd be called conservatives instead of progressives. So we spend time actually talking to other people, finding out how they think and why they vote the way they do. We spend time reading books about politics and history and philosophy. And we, apparently, have been able to learn a few things the Democratic leadership has not.

For instance, many of us have observed, time and time again, that many Democratic politicians have moved further to the right on issues like choice, gay rights, and gun control because they believe they can win over conservative voters by doing so. We've also watched this theory proven wrong, time and time again. We've told them it doesn't work. We've written articles, and books, and blog entries, and letters to the editor telling them that it doesn't work. Voters don't want to be placated they want something to believe in.

Inconsistency is one of the biggest problems amongst Democrats. Constant waffling over issues running the gamut from clean elections to welfare to war keep progressives from designing a solid platform based on ideas, not issues.

You see, conservative politicians know what they want. They want to cut social programs and public education altogether and pump all of our tax dollars into the military. They want the rich to get richer and to hell with the poor and the evaporating middle class. So what do they do? They can't tell the American people what they really want, so they create a rhetoric that allows them to accomplish all of these goals without actually stating them flat out. They stand up in front of crowds and talk about old fashioned family values, and one nation under Jesus, and they tell the devout poor that liberal teachers' unions are destroying our public schools and wouldn't it be wonderful if their kids didn't have to be indoctrinated by communist public school teachers? They tell the people fairy tales about vouchers and the American Dream.

They go on television and say God Bless America and talk about "changing the tone" in Washington, and it all sounds very folksy and inviting. President Bush stands at a podium on Capitol Hill and tells them that the American people are not going to ask for a "permission slip" to defend themselves, and they eat it up.

Conservatives simply hide their real agenda in order to appeal to voters. They package it as traditional, and inside the package is a cluster bomb made up of corporate welfare programs, environmental deregulation, and a general system of corruption that the voters of this fair nation would never elect.

Democrats, on the other hand, hide their real agenda because they are stupid. They assume that the people must be voting for conservatives because the people are becoming more and more conservative themselves. What they don't realize is that the people are drinking the sand because they don't know the difference. And in the absence of real leadership, they will choose that which appears more authentic.

You can't appear more authentic when you are copying your opponent. Duh.

The joy of being a progressive today is that the majority of the American people are on our side. When voters are polled on the issues, they come out more favorably toward progressive positions than toward conservative positions.

But we've spent so much time debunking the right and shouting about its claims versus its practices and pointing out when conservatives break the law that we haven't had any time to work on ourselves.

Let them hang themselves we don't have to do it for them. Certainly, adding fuel to the fire when necessary is only sensible, but this maniacal concentration on what the other side is doing gives them all the time in the world to get their act together and us no time at all to play catch-up.

We don't have to hide our agenda. We don't have to lie to the American people. We don't have to move to the right and we don't have to invoke God and we don't have to make them afraid and we don't have to give in.

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Katherine Brengle Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Katherine Brengle is a freelance writer and activist.
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