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The Long Game For Progressives


The Long Game For Progressives

John Atcheson

Conservatives navigate using a polestar; Democrats steer by their hood ornament. As a result, conservatives set the agenda, while Democrats respond to it. Worse, conservatives shape polls, and Democrats are shaped by polls. Conservatives have been strategic. Democrats have—at best—been tactical. That’s been the story since Reagan.


“Get the money out of elections and politics.”

This was Atcheson’s third suggestion. Here is how to do it. Check out www.Represent.us.


This article juxtaposes “Conservatives” and “Democrats” as if they are mutually exclusive and in opposition to each other. What is the evidence for this assumption? “Conservative” is a political tendency. “Democrat” is a party that encompasses many political tendencies. The leadership of the Democratic party (apart from some quibbling over social issues) shares many points of agreement with “Conservatives”, especially when it comes to privatizing, deregulating, increasing coercive state power, warmaking, and wealth transfer to the rich.

That confusion aside, the overall thrust of the article is correct. Conservatives have built power. The Powell memo is an excellent example of their intent. They understand the power of movements and institutions, and they’ve thought strategically. Progressives have, generally speaking, obsessed over getting the “right” people elected without actually building a power base. Instead of thinking strategically, we think only as far ahead as the next election. We believe we should win because we are morally and factually right - but don’t invest in media and constructing the kinds of narratives that change other people’s minds.

Hence we are where we are.


Excellent article Mr Atcheson. It says it all. To the point:

“It seems inconceivable that Democrats are refusing to embrace this broader, values based approach to politics—or it would if you didn’t understand that they’re afraid of losing campaign contributions.”


I’ll never understand this “let’s play a grassroots long game around reforming the Democrats.”

They don’t want to be reformed. They have a model that works great for their need, which is fund-raising:

Accept losing with status quo hacks, shun winning with Bernie-style lefties,* keep the donation gravy train rolling.

If I cough up $27, I’ll make damn sure not a dime of it trickles to any Democrats.

*Bernie isn’t even a leftie where I’m concerned.


But if the Democratic Party would look beyond its hood ornament, and embrace a long-term, values-based strategy, it would pay big dividends to the Party, the people, and the country.

If they won’t, it’s time to abandon them to their own, self-inflicted demise, and buy back the country ourselves—“27 dollahs” at a time, of course.

Not quite. It’s LONG past time to abandon them. You can spot a lesser of two evils liberal or progressive by the bruises on their forehead from constantly being their heads against the wall as they support the Democratic party, again and again and again and again and again … and, yet, these are the very same people who belittle Trump voters for being so gullible. I’m also reminded of some of their recent comments I’ve seen about if you march with Nazis, you area a Nazi. Sorry, in the same vein, if you march with neoliberal, war-mongering, corporate cash loving Democrats, you are one, too. Time to make a stand and join others who recognize the Democrats for the phonies and swindlers they are.


Besides confusion of political labels unworthy of a freshman Government student, the author is apparently oblivious to one additional very important factor. “Democracy In Chains,” written by Duke historian Nancy McLean and released this June, details how economic dogma (there is no economic “theory”–I’m a card carrying economist) was rewritten over the period 1955-1990 to favor landed white males even more strongly than its 17th and 18th century predecessors, including the US Constitution.


Maybe progressives can start by defining the term. What does it mean? Just about every Democrat calls themselves progressive. Does the term mean anything other than a substitute for the term liberal? It appears that it is mostly used for that purpose. Does the term apply to foreign policy or just domestic policy?


Before he died, in the interval between VE and VJ days, FDR drew up a new Bill of Rights. Reflecting his singular vision and commanding a powerful political force such as never have been seen before or since, he posited that it is a citizen’s right to health care, food, adequate lodgings, a job and an education.

Had he lived, his Bill of Rights would have prevailed. Think how prosperous and happy a place America would be by now. Perhaps FDR can be our lodestar, his goals can be our strategic goals. We might as well reach for the stars


I agree and would add two other books for essential reading. MaClean does a great job but should be read as a follow-up for American Amnesia, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson and Dark Money by Jane Mayer. Together, these three books outline in detail how the strategy of the far right began and trace its history to the Trump election.


Are you sure some (most) of that Bill of Rights wasn’t ghostwritten by Eleanor Roosevelt?


If Democrats actually want to start winning (and this will take some time) then Atcheson’s got the blueprint.

Unfortunately, with most it seems that it’s about the money- and protecting their donor’s corrupt economic interest. That won’t change untill the current crop of Clintonites are ousted from the party leadersip, if not the party in its entirety.


More blame-the-victim bullshit. The rightward gallop is not the fault of the left. Corporations have been created in the US to capture money for the people who own them. That money has been used to create conservative beliefs through all forms of media and political action; and used as an interchangeable commodity with power. Both parties have been captured by that commodity, they collaborate to share power (however acrimonious they may be they each tell a different lie to enthrall half the electorate–at least, half of those that haven’t been eliminated). Until we free ourselves through massive peaceful revolution from its dominance we’ll only jump back and forth from right to far right, pushing it farther right every election.

Some of what Atcheson said seems useful, just like some of each of the 37 other blueprints I’ve read has seemed useful. Every one blamed leftists, environmentalists, big green groups, etc. None of them have really had any clue what the real problem was or how to solve the dire eco-psychological crisis we’re in.

This is better; many of the parts are in other documents here:

Emergency blueprint http://www.theclimatemobilization.org/blueprint_for_a_climate_emergency_movement
Leading the public into emergency mode http://theclimatepsychologist.com/leading-the-public-into-emergency-mode-a-new-strategy-for-the-climate-movement/


And that was the platform on which Bernie Sanders ran. Even FDR couldn’t nominated for President by the Democratic Party these days.


The central issue is elections. Until we have real elections instead of a farce nothing else can be accomplished. The candidates are pre-selected by the media and the party. You can almost always bet that the most conservative Democrat in the primary will be the only one getting positive media and support from the party. So in the General it will be Conservative against a Conservative. Whoever wins it will be bad for most Americans. The outcomes are predetermined by spoiling ballots, preset voting machines and allocation of resources. Then on voting day ballots are left uncounted and spoiled, machines are hacked, all kinds of vote counting fraud occurs.
Until we have real elections nothing else can work. Just protesting will not get anything without decent representatives. The strategies listed above may be as easy as the author claims,but without real elections it will not matter.
Nothing that works is simple and easy. We all have to learn exactly how elections work in each of our states, Then exactly who has to do what. Once you know who,you need to identify the money structure. Who is paying who for what. Once you know who your people are working for you can go after them
, One way or another, the people in charge of each state and county have to be forced to have real elections, or nothing good can ever be accomplished. Unless you think the people in there now are going to accomplish something good,in which case you are obviously insane.


What the author does not recognize, or at least, does not speak about, is the fact that the progressives and the people are in a Catch-22 situation. We cannot implement progressive legislation until the duopoly-oligarchy political power structure is changed. But we cannot do that until we implement progressive legislation.

In order to do that, we cannot play by their rules that prop up the duopoly. Another strategy is called for. What that strategy is must by created by all of us, and not just a few people at the top of a new political party. We need to create a People Led Democracy, from the local to the global.

What that will look like is anybody’s guess. But however it turns out, the people could not possibly do any worse than the duopoly-oligarchy, even if they tried. I think we are all in agreement about that. So right out of the gate, we have already achieved unanimous consensus.


I think your catch-22 is missing the fact that people can bypass the legislative process and put an initiative on the ballot directly in 26 states. I would start with an “Open debate” initiative that requires candidates to take part in debates with every candidate on the ballot or they would not get ballot access themselves.


This is how Amendment #64 in Colorado got on the ballot and won in 2012. More people even voted for it than did for Pres. Obama., (and yet Colorado loved Obama). Too bad all states do not. Those that do not need to fight for it. People said it could not be done, but we did the impossible through a ballot initiative, and tons of signatures.

1,291,771 votes in favor of Amendment 64
1,238,490 votes for Obama
53,281 fewer than the amendment.


How is that going to happen when the same Catch-22 applies to state governments as well?


It is true that we only have an initiative process in half the states so your catch-22 kind of applies in the others. But I am hopeful that progressive models can be establish that a catch on elsewhere when they are successful.