Progressive Strategy, or Thinking About How to Make World that Will Not Go Up in Flames Soon

While all UUs are certainly not politically progressive, I think it is fair to say that a bunch of us are. Thus, I imagine there are some of you out there interested in the sort of work my partner does with the Progressive Strategy Studies Project W. keeps me updated on what is going on out there as progressives fantasize, er, I mean think about the possibility of progressive politics being a viable movement (that does positive good, rather than simply mitigate harm) before the earth and all its people go up in flames, either literally or figuratively. The PSSP seeks to contribute to the construction of an effective grand strategy for building progressive power in the United States. I think it is key that here progressive means “left” and not center-left or center or almost-Republican-only-not-quite. W. recently pointed out a lovely and wonderful quote by Robert Reich to me that really touches upon this:

If you want to be a malleable politician, you campaign from the center. But if you want to be a leader, you define the center. You don’t rely on polls to tell you where to go. At best, polls tell you where people are, and it’s pointless to lead people to where they already are. The essence of political leadership is focusing the public’s attention on the hard issues that most would rather avoid or dismiss. We know the problems that need fixing. Centrism is bogus. There’s no well-defined consistent political center in America. (from Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America)

It seems like the future of progressive politics in general lies in the possibility of actual leaders who are willing to speak truth to power and not get all political-strategied out by people saying “Oooo, don’t be too radical. Don’t say anything that will scare X demographic or turn off Y group.” And then you get people like Kerry and Gore coming off as wishy-washy stiff nothings and we have G.W. Bush as our president. As the German saying goes, “Now you have your salad.”

That said, leadership toward more progressive (or at least less disastrous?) policy in the U.S. is not going to happen overnight. Leadership involves more than being good from the podium. We need to work at the grassroots level, talking to people about the reality of their lives. People are poor. Struggling. Have no health insurance. No safety net. There must be some way to work with this reality and help folks understand that it does not HAVE to be like this. I was always impressed with the way that Campus Crusade for Christ and like organizations managed to recruit LOTS of people to Jesus through kind, thoughtful, cheerful, outreach. There must be a way to do that sort of outreach, only not to (as Crusaders would say) to win over hearts for Jesus, but rather to win over people’s hearts to voting and leaning political toward leaders, parties, and policies that are in their own self-interest (health care, safety net, etc.), rather than guided by hot-button issues like abortion, GLBT issues, terrorism, etc.

So, the PSSP is in the progress of collecting and maping contemporary strategic thinking of the American left, in hopes of revealing strategic gaps or contradictions that can be pointed out and addressed. The project focuses on actual strategy. It cracks me up to read some “strategy” pieces that W. shows me where the strategy is something like “Win elections” or “get universal health care approved” or “convince people Republicans are bad.” These, my friends, are not strategies. For more on progressive strategy, visit the blog for the PSSP at
written by one of the most brilliant, savvy, smart, and cute political scientist out there (who also, ahem, happens to be my partner).

Peace out my fellow journeyers.

2 Responses to Progressive Strategy, or Thinking About How to Make World that Will Not Go Up in Flames Soon

  1. Mystical Seeker says:

    I became radicalized by the events of the last 5 or 6 years. My feeling is that both major parties are corrupted by corporate influence, and that we need radical solutions to the problems of war, inequality, poverty, and unemployment.

  2. Kevin says:

    The way that current politics are structure, every politician has tried to cater to the center until in office. Then, when in office, their true colors show.

    Politicians learn the art of speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

    Read All The King’s Men for a sense of comparison. An idealist, well-meaning, but utterly clueless politician taps into his inner rage and an inner circle of corruption to become a demogogue.

    I do not know if there’s anyway to reform the culture of corruption that exists on both sides of the line. Bismarck was right, “politics is like sausages. you’re rather not be around when both are being made”.

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