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Let's Stop Searching For A "Messiah" And Build A Movement

The Right puts its resources into long-term movement building ... and the Left puts theirs into candidates.
 
 
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After Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gave her rousing speech at the  New Populism Conference Thursday, she, of course, was asked if she was going to run for President. (The crowd  was chanting “Run, Elizabeth, Run!”)

Warren replied, “I am not running for president,” which prompted one hopeful progressive  to tweet, “Interesting choice of tense.”

This reminded me of this scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

In the scene, imagine that progressives chase Sen. Warren through the desert. Finally, she says, “I am not running for President, do you understand? Honestly!” A woman cries out, “Only the true candidate denies her candidacy.”

After lunch, the Communication Workers of America’s President Larry Cohen talked about the Democracy Initiative, “creating a common narrative setting the state for common collective action,” a new approach that comes out of labor and other progressive causes continually losing.

Cohen discussed the massive increase in the amount of corporate and billionaire money going into politics since Citizens United, and said “we have to be insane” if we are only going to be involved in electoral politics as a way to try to move forward on obtaining economic justice. Instead of politics, we have to build movements and the organizations that work with movements.

Speaking of how different progressive-aligned groups currently tend to compete for scarce resources and to move their own issues, often over and above working together to advance general goals, Cohen asked, “Can we put a little more into common ideas?”

Today’s situation necessitates common movement-building, Cohen said. (And, in fact, the promotion of a general progressive agenda would do more to advance the issues of all of the “silo” groups than what they are achieving on their own as conservatives dominate our politics.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also talked about the enormous amount of money the billionaire Koch brothers and others have put into right-wing politics and other efforts to push right-wing ideas.

Finally, Rev. William Barber II gave a moral vision, talking about a “fusion” movement of black, white and all types of people coming together to fight for the things regular people need. “The movement is about the moral fabric of our society,” he said, and “I don’t want people to go left or right, I want them to go deeper into who we are called to be.”

The Answer Is Movement-Building

The Koch brothers, other billionaires and corporate groups have been remarkably successful in pushing Congress to pass legislation that helps their interests while hurting the rest of us. How did they do it?

Last weekend the New York Times ran a story,  “Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network,” that looked at the origins of the Koch brothers’ shadowy network of front groups, think tanks and other organizations.

The key lies in a 1974 Charles Koch speech in which he said, “The most effective response was not political action, but investment in pro-capitalist research and educational programs” – in other words, institutions they built that reached the public to tell them about libertarian, anti-government philosophy. The Times quoted Koch as saying, “The development of a well-financed cadre of sound proponents of the free enterprise philosophy is the most critical need facing us today.”

The Kochs, other billionaires and the corporations put their money into think tanks, communication outlets, publishers, various media, etc. with a long-term plan to change the way people see things. This “apparatus” has pounded out corporate/conservative propaganda 24/7 for decades.

You can’t get away from it. The conservative movement rewards its friends and punishes, smears, intimidates, bullies, discredits and otherwise “neutralizes” its opponents. That is how they were able to get Congress to lower taxes on the rich and corporations, break unions, defund schools and the rest of the things that have made them so much money and wreaked havoc on the rest of us. The money was not for politicians who run for office today (not all of it, anyway); it was to build organizations to execute long-term strategies to get what they want tomorrow.

 
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