Liberals and progressives must build a new coalition for the 21st century. We will need to be proactive and forward thinking, if we hope to drive from power a conservative coalition that has dominated American politics since the late 1970’s. We must build an alliance that not only counters but reverses the destruction wrought by conservatives since the Reagan revolution began.
To build a coalition, however, we first must agree on things like platforms and agendas, and the left is well known for its disorganization – after all, it was Will Rogers who said, “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
This deficiency is derived directly from a lack of forward vision.
You see, progressives and liberals tend to be motivated by empathy for others, and they focus their compassion on individuals in the here & now, not in the far-off future. We very often rally around individual causes with great passion, embracing empathy in the present day, but we are less certain about what the plan should be moving forward.
Our collective vision for the future is fuzzy, unformed, and – to be brutally honest – overly idealistic.
Since we don’t have a liberal consensus to draw from, no set agenda, nor cohesive platform, the performance of Democratic incumbents – including Pres. Obama – inevitably tends to disappoint everyone across the political spectrum, left AND right. With no cohesive vision, Democrats govern from crisis to crisis, for better or worse. This short-sightedness is most apparent when one considers that the Democratic agenda, on the one hand, rarely reaches beyond the most recent humanitarian crisis, or beyond the next election cycle on the other. Without a shared vision that reaches beyond empathy in the immediate, we will continue to play second fiddle to the party with an agenda to promote.
From the Reagan revolution forward, conservatism has been guided by a philosophy that places reason below faith, instinct, intuition, hunches, and suspicions. They place appeals to logos (logic) below appeals to ethos or pathos (morality or emotion) when assessing the effectiveness of arguments. We should be the polar opposite of them in this regard.
However, a liberal counter-movement must not be merely the opposite of theirs in philosophical terms; we must apply that philosophy in our deeds and words, as individuals and as a group.
- We must not be mean and disdainful toward the dominant religion (Christianity), but we should promote religious tolerance instead – by practicing it, loudly.
- We must not stand in knee-jerk opposition to big business, corporations, and commerce, but we should endorse ethical standards of conduct and moral measures of accountability for those tax-avoiding, Cayman Island-account using, outsourcing corporate bad guys – but we must celebrate the upstanding corporate “citizens” whose merits presently go unsung – there must be some incentive for big business to play nice, after all.
- We must support military readiness overall, while sweeping the old Cold War’s Military-Industrial complex out of power.
- We must understand the actual origins, ideology, and intentions of today’s GOP – and I don’t believe many people really do understand these things.
We need to sweep this particular conservative coalition out of power – most especially in the American Midwest. But to succeed, we must adopt an attitude that hinges on our solemn duty to be better people, better citizens, and better stewards of a nation that has only temporarily been entrusted to our hands.
We need to issue a call for progressive renewal that speaks to the heart through reason, one that resonates in churches and community halls alike. We need to come together, to coalesce around a shared vision and a shared agenda.
What do we do besides protect those who cannot protect themselves, though? What does it mean to be a liberal or a progressive American these days? I believe we must show the nation what it means to be better people ALTOGETHER.
Written by Corey McLaughlin for Common Culture and The Big Slice.
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