I’ve been drawn over here by buhdy’s diary at Daily Kos introducing the Manifesto Project, which is a laudable and long-overdue project. I look forward to participating in that effort. But who will the Manifesto address?
The conservative movement, which has been dominant in American politics for almost three decades, is dying before our eyes. This will create a vacuum in our politics which will be filled, but with what? Recycled, rancid corporatism from the usual suspects? Nativist racism and fundamentalist hatred? Progressivism is the only visible, sane alternative to become the next dominant philosophy of American politics, but we’ll have to be ready or else lose the chance.
So I have another question to raise along similar lines beside the Manifesto Project: How do we build a progressive movement? We in the Netroots are but one part of the progressive movement. Who are the others? How do we come together to build a coherent, strong, mature movement to inherit politics in the post-Bush era? Come below the fold if you’re interested in exploring further.
Traditional Democratic constituencies are the most obvious groups to include in a progressive movement. African Americans and Latinos, single women (and to a slightly lesser extent married women), the elderly and blue-collar workers are the heart of the residual New Deal coalition. Republicans have made inroads in these groups to greater or lesser extents, so we have to win them back with the power of our ideas and values.
Organized labor is a potent ingredient in a progressive movement. Labor leaders have their own agendas, but building the middle class, universal health care, labor rights and workplace safety, and retirement security form a foundation on which we can build a strong alliance. We saw James Hoffa make overtures to the Netroots in Chicago in August; we need to reciprocate.
Public interest groups in Washington and state capitals form a ready-made lobbying infrastructure for progressives. Organizations like the ACLU, Common Cause, Public Citizen, or CREW already exist and have lawyers, experts, connections with politicians and networks of donors already created. They tend to observe their own institutional imperatives, so stovepiping of efforts and territorial instincts must be overcome to bring them into a larger progressive effort. But they have many of the skills and connections we need to help our movement mature.
Elected officials cannot be overlooked. Not all Democrats are spineless cowards or sell-outs. Many fine progressive heroes are already in Congress, governorships and state houses. Many share most if not all of our views. They need to be nurtured, encouraged and supported. Above all, they need to be multiplied. But we must help them realize that they will be more successful as part of a larger movement than as individual actors in the Democratic party. Strength in numbers is an almost foreign concept in the “herding cats” party. This needs to change, and we have to make that change happen.
Lastly, Republicans should be recruited wherever possible. Groups like “sportsmen” (hunters and fishermen) share many of our environmental views, and can be attracted by health care and economic appeals. Christian voters have to be spoken to in the language of Jesus, not that of Dobson. Small business owners can be invited in with appeals to their interests with universal health care, trade and tax policy.
In order to create a strong, mature progressive movement we will need to identify all its components, identify the strengths of each, chart common ground and resolve differences, and learn how to use our strengths in coordinated ways to become powerful. The future of our country depends on the success of these efforts.