Excerpt: Twelve-Step Program for Progressive Victories

3. Recognize Our Weaknesses

Progressives often repeat the same strategies and behaviors no matter how often they fail. We think the facts are going to win arguments and elections. We intellectualize our positions. We can be shrill and find it difficult to compromise. We often do not provide a clear vision for the future. We’re better on the attack than when offering positive alternatives. It is time to stop and rethink many of our attitudes and strategies. In the big picture, by most measures — media, grassroots infrastructure, think tanks — progressives are far behind the right wing.

4. Accept What We Are Powerless to Change

For instance, ever since 9/11, a lot of Americans are susceptible to a politician playing to their fears, and there is not a lot we can do about that. Another reality we must accept is that many conservative fundamentalists will never agree with our values and our goals. Yet there is no doubt that a majority of Americans will be on our side if we clearly articulate our moral vision.

5. Know What We Believe In

The basic progressive vision is one of community, where people care about each other and not just themselves and act responsibly. George Lakoff argues that core progressive values are family values and include protection, fulfillment in life, fairness, freedom, opportunity, prosperity, service, and cooperation. His ten-word progressive mantra is “Stronger America, broad prosperity, better future, effective government, mutual responsibility.” This formulation may not be yours, but it is a good starting point. How would you articulate your vision and values?

6. Communicate a Positive Vision

It follows that if we know our values, we must put forth a positive message, a set of energizing ideas that will help us prepare and mobilize for the future. Attacking the opponents’ message often reinforces it. For example, when we use the conservatives’ language of “Social Security reform” or “tax relief,” even when criticizing it, we are reiterating its message. We need to communicate our message.

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