Plucking Their Strings

The left end of the blogosphere was mostly quiet tonight. And why shouldn’t it have been? As Mark Twain once observed, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” And lately, I must say our messages have been foolishly self-centered, at best.

Let’s be honest. Our “progressive” movement has had an insignificant impact on public affairs at best. Our causes: human rights, social justice, equality, and peace are only talked about, never actually made into solid policy. And should this be a shock? After all, what is a "progressive"? I'd imagine the dozens of answers to that question would be as diverse as the multitude of factions that call themselves "progressive." In fact, I'd say that Progressivism is not a movement at all. Rather, it is a plurality of narrow interests and radical politics that needed a word to replace "liberal". And as Adele Stevenson once remarked, "a liberal is one who had both feet firmly planted in the air."

The various sects of Progressivism -- which include “the deaniacs”, the Kucinichers , the elderly “new deal liberals”, the Socialists, environmentalists, pacifists and anarchists – have historically kept their goals self-centered, static, and uncompromising. This is a shame; if these sects could cooperate and support each other, they might be able to revolutionize our government. However, these sects won’t have that. Our bickerings usually come down to something like, “my issue first -- we need to save the seals, than we can concentrate on racial equality". As a result of this selfishness, our goal --- the movement – is forever exiled to highbrow books, “alternative” publications, and the local coffee shop debating societies. Meanwhile, the conservatives, as always, continue to find total unity around the pursuit of dollars. See the difference? Ask yourself, how powerful of a motivation is greed? Now ask yourself, “will reframing our message be enough to fight the interests that own our government”? I hope you see where I’m going with this.

Conservative philosopher Russell Kirk once wrote that Conservatism is "the negation of ideology". Indeed, what appears as conservative ideology to a progressive is actually the conservative's "populist" bait for the voters. The conservative is not concerned with abortion or gay-marriage, rather the conservative is interested in using those issues to gain votes. Indeed, as a general rule, stupid people are the easiest to control and reward. Thus, the backward message of pro-Life, anti-gay, "pro-bombing the browns" gets Republicans elected. Like moths to a porch-light, it draws the troves of racist weak-minded dolts to vote polls. Meanwhile, we progressives are still debating the finer points of environmental reform, and reaffirming our mutual hatred of Bush at Joe's Java.

Pompously, we play our intellectual violins; while the America we love continues to burn to the ground.

You see, the conservatives get elected. That’s why they are allowed to have their orgy-like festivals of tax breaks, war-spending and corporate handouts. That "family values" crap is just a reflection of their understand of businesss. You must always be sure to throw some table scraps to the fundementalist base. It keeps those dogs coming back; and it works, election after election.

This is a bleak reality for progressives. Our entire movement depends upon people being intelligent and good hearted -- and look where its gotten us: the prospect of the supreme court being controlled by rightwing ideologies, a Republican congress, and a "war president". So, I've dropped the dream of "waking people up". No more misguided campaigns to "raise awareness" for me. I've decided to cross over to the dark side.

Unless we Progressives can learn the "dark arts of Rove", we don't stand a chance. Its time that we learn to pluck the strings of greed, vanity, and stupidity in the electorate. But don't fret, we just have to change our message, not our ideals -- and god forbid one of us gets elected, we could exercise our power in the way we always knew we would have: to advance that which is true, just, and beautiful. Who said we have to keep our promises once elected? Perhaps we should take a queue from the Republicans on this one. Hell, if the Red America is as stupid as we constantly tell ourselves it is, what's keeping us from using them?