Progressive Idealism, continued . . .
In a previous post, I argued that rising incomes and increasingly liberal attitudes may move opinion and policy in a progressive direction in the United States. However, the Democratic victory in the 2018 election did not signal the start of a progressive “revolution”; it mostly reflected a predictable reaction to the unpopular policies of Trump and congressional Republicans. Any major progressive shift in policy will be hard fought and will likely take years to materialize.
Given the serious obstacles progressives face and the importance of the issues that confront us, it is critical for progressives to think carefully about how to maximize their chances for success. However, as I argued here, idealism is preventing progressives from thinking strategically about policy and politics. My goal is to persuade progressives that they can – must – be much more hard-nosed and strategic to achieve their goals. I will focus on two basic tools progressives can use to make progress in this difficult political environment – policy design and political persuasion.
To achieve their goals, progressives need to design policies that 1) will help win elections, or at least will not harm Democratic candidates, 2) will win over congressional allies who are not-so-progressive, or maybe even not-progressive-at-all, 3) will not trigger a backlash, 4) will withstand hostile scrutiny from the Supreme Court, and 5) are relatively immune from executive branch obstruction, because it is likely that the executive branch will fall under hostile Republican control on and off over at least the next decade, and 6) will actually achieve progressive goals if they are implemented successfully. (For a small example of a policy that may violate this final condition, see Peter Dorman here.) Designing policies to win over reluctant allies means, in part, taking into account the deep suspicion that most Americans have about the competence and fairness of government.
Winning elections and legislative allies on specific bills depends on persuasion as well as policy design. In the short run, progressives can win over voters and legislators in two ways. First, progressives can frame policies in terms of the values of those they are trying to persuade. This is an obvious point, and it would hardly be worth mentioning were it not for the fact that so much political communication violates this basic rule. (Conservatives violate this rule as well as progressives. See here.) Second, progressives can win over cross-pressured or conflicted voters simply by drawing attention to areas of agreement and downplaying areas of disagreement. In the current American context, I will argue that this means making elections about economic issues rather than social issues.
Persuasion and Value Change
In the medium term, progressives can also make progress by changing how people think in a deeper way – for example, by getting people to see that gay marriage is a just and fair institution, that trans people should be treated with respect, that marijuana should be legalized, or that racial disparities in criminal punishment are unjust. Critically, however, this kind of deeper value change takes time. Even the exceptionally rapid shifts in opinion on gay marriage and marijuana took decades (data from Pew):
This means that it is a mistake for politicians to use election campaigns to challenge prevailing values, or for progressive voters to force candidates in primaries to endorse controversial values that will cost them votes in general elections. Barry Goldwater may have nudged public opinion to the right in 1964, but he got crushed in the general election. Although there may be some room for opinion leadership in elections, by and large value change has to happen in civil society before it is reflected in election results – it is the job of activists, educators, religious leaders, etc., not political candidates.
Over the next few weeks I will give several examples to illustrate how idealistic thinking is leading some progressives astray, and what a more strategic approach to progressive politics and policy design would look like.
This post by Bill Fletcher was on Dissent Magazine’s site and I thought it was very good. It is less about socialism and more about the concepts of governing power and state power.
===In a previous post, I argued that rising incomes and increasingly liberal attitudes may move opinion and policy in a progressive direction in the United States===
I believe that some of the issues of the Democratic Party and the Left is the idea of progressive idealism. Since the beginning of the Obama presidency one of the critiques of the Dems is their unwillingness to fight back against the far right and Republicans in terms of messaging. They need to be out canvassing and promoting their progressive policies. Instead they seem to have too much blind faith in the proposed “increasing liberal attitudes of the voters”. The Dems seem to think by being pro immigration and pro diversity, a more diverse population will automatically translate to a Democratic majority. That may be wishful thinking.
That is why I liked Fletcher’s post above. Instead of the Dems having blind faith that in the future we will all be sitting in circles, holding hands, and singing “Don’t worry. Be Happy”, they need to realize that until the power status quo changes then nothing will change. And power will not be given up easily. It will be a long, militant, radical, maybe violent (see Hong Kong protests), struggle. I am not sure the Dems and the Left have the stomach for it. We”ll see.
Towards the end of the documentary Century of the Self it portrays that much of the radical protests of the late 60’s and early 70’s came to an end when the state clamped down in the confrontation at Kent State. Not willing to fight the state the new activists turned to “the personal is political” which has not worked. To hold on to power the state will use any means necessary. Will the Left?
When ever (!) are you academic progressives (as opposed to cab driver progressives like me) going to catch on the easy way to unionize the USA overnight — legislation that would mandate union cert/recert/decert elections at ever private work place on a regular schedule.
In the world I live in just about everybody would vote to unionize instantly: employees of fast food, big box stores [think Walmart with only 7% labor costs — double pay with no loss of sales — probably more sales as (b)former(/b) low wage earners flock to spend their new raises] gig truck delivery drivers, you name it, THEY WANT UNIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So when are you guys going to set aside your lofty goals and get down and support USA unions overnight????????????????
When you come up with something that would help unions organize. Your plan clearly does not do that in any way, shape or form.
“House Democrats Poised To Pass Major Labor Reforms Boosting Unions
Sure, the bill is D.O.A. in the Republican Senate, but progressives hope it puts down a marker on workers’ rights.
The House is set to vote Thursday on a sweeping plan to overhaul U.S. workplace law in a way that could grow union membership and rejuvenate an ailing labor movement.
With Democrats holding the chamber’s majority, the legislation ― called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act ― will likely pass but then face certain death in the GOP-controlled Senate. Even so, the bill could send a strong pro-union message to progressives and create a blueprint for ambitious labor reform if Democrats can reclaim all the levers of power in Washington.
Unions have been pressing the House’s leadership to move such a bill ever since Democrats took control of the chamber after the 2018 midterm elections ― a triumph fueled in part by labor’s electoral ground game. Some moderate Democrats from districts friendly to President Donald Trump may heed the business community’s call to vote against the measure, but House leaders are confident the bill will pass, especially with three Republican co-sponsors.
The plan would significantly increase the penalties for employers who try to bust unions; make it easier for workers to unionize after rounding up a majority of signatures in their workplace; weaken anti-union “right to work” laws; and expand workers’ rights to strike and boycott, among other major reforms. One of its top backers has been Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.”
That’s a start as opposed to your plan which clearly would decimate unions. Course, you never bothered to read the bill you constantly talk about.
This bill is an example of the “Persuasion and Value Change” Eric is talking about here. Lay the groundwork first.
We have been through this repeatedly. You have to be putting me on.
The PRO ACT will not have Walgreen’s and Target unionized next year and you know it. Sounds well intentioned but wont see the landscape covered with unions as long as organizing means you are fired and you will be. I ask you folks out there — not EMichael — would you really expect to be free to organize at any lower wage job under PRO. Of course not!
EMichael, I cannot imagine why you cannot imagine that (b)first(/b), you have to propose legislation that (b)EVERYBODY WANTS(/b), (b)then(/b), candidates can get elected to pass the legislation, (b)only then(/b) can you pass the legislation. See, first you run for office on it, then, you get elected, only then, you pass it into law.
You don’t go right from proposing the idea to passing it through today’s hostile legislature. I don’t think anybody else needs to be told this over and over — so exactly what is up with you? I expect another blow past reality answer just machined out.
Nothing will have Walgreen’s and Target unionized next year. Your idea would insure that Walgreen’s and Target would never, ever unionize. Your bill clearly states when elections are held. Tell me the last year Walgreen’s and Target had more than a 50% turnover in their workforce.
There is a good reason why that bill has no Dem co sponsors, it would decimate unions. Somehow you read elections on a regular basis and you run with it. You ignore when those elections will happen, and you also ignore some of the other parts of the bill that are more anti-labor.
There is a reason this bill is supported by the following groups, and it sure isn’t because it is pro labor.
“AFP joins a growing nationwide coalition of over 45 pro-employee organizations seeking greater job creation and freedoms for working Americans. In a July 13 letter to Congress, the coalition calls for the passage of the ERA, adding that the legislation would “allow American workers an unencumbered opportunity to make their voice heard on whether they wish to belong to a union.”
According to a 2016 report from the Heritage Foundation, just 6 percent of workers represented by a union nationwide actually voted for the union that represents them. The other 94 percent either voted against the union, or simply inherited a union that was voted in years ago. H.R. 2723 would ensure unions remain accountable to workers by requiring periodic recertification referendums after significant workforce turnover, asking workers if they wish to remain represented by their current union.
The letter also cites the growing number of union members who support the ERA. Some of the most influential members of the coalition include:
Heritage Action for America
Americans for Tax Reform
Americans for Constitutional Liberty
Concerned Veterans for America
National Black Chamber of Commerce
Center for Union Facts
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
American Conservative Union”
“Pro-employee orginations” my ass.
“Nothing will have Walgreen’s and Target unionized next year. Your idea would insure that Walgreen’s and Target would never, ever unionize. Your bill clearly states when elections are held. Tell me the last year Walgreen’s and Target had more than a 50% turnover in their workforce.”
I’m not even going to read the rest of this until I respond to the first paragraph — which you manage to put up almost instantly in response to my post — mischaractorizing it 180 degrees as always.
The bill with the 50% turnover trigger for recert/decert (not cert!) elections is the Republican bill — as I have pointed out over and over —
The bill I am proselytizing requiring regularly scheduled (every 3, 5 years?) cert/recert/decert elections is the SEIU’s Andrew Strom’s bill — as I keep pointing out as if you were new to the English language —
I don’t know what your motive is but as I said above, you’ve got to be putting me on.
There is one bill in that article that is linked. It is the one I am talking about.
Show me the bill you are talking about, since I see no other than this bill.
This is the only link in my initial comment above:
It is right at the end — you can’t miss it — nobody else could miss it anyway. Are you working from the other side of the Looking Glass? Say hello to Alice if you see her.
That link contained in this paragraph:
“Republicans in Congress have already proposed a bill that would require a new election in each unionized bargaining unit whenever, through turnover, expansion, or merger, a unit experiences at least 50 percent turnover. While no union would be happy about expending limited resources on regular retention elections, I think it would be hard to turn down a trade that would allow the 93% of workers who are unrepresented to have a chance to opt for unionization on a regular schedule.”
The word “bill” is a link and it leads to H.R.2723 – Employee Rights Act.
There is no other bill that is linked by that column. If you find one different (as you suggest), please just tell me its name and the number.
Wheels within wheels within wheels of convolutions.
The link to the Republican bill is inside the Strom article that I linked to. Strom is using it as a jump off from the Repub law which would only mandate recert/decert (not cert!) elections where there is a union already — to his much expanded SEIU favored idea of cert/recert/decert elections in every private workplace.
So how is advocating expanding cert elections in every private workplace on a regular schedule add up in your Alice in Wonderland mind to the Rebub bill?
We will never get democracy back without heavy (German level?) union density — and possibly with the help of sector wide labor agreements (a.k.a., centralized bargaining) — and we will never get unions back without regularly scheduled elections; only practical way to get past illegal management oppression.
Now, let’s see you turn that upside down. Can’t wait. Have to go shopping so you can make your next pull-inside-out comment uncontested for a short while. The more you distort the more I get to restate and clarify so have fun.
In other words, he has no bill. He has the thought of regularly scheduled elections (cert and recert)?
Fine, I’m in. Let me know when it appears.
Course, that does not excuse his attitude towards that Rep abortion of the labor movement. Somehow he thinks that recert process is a good one? One where there will be no funds for lobbying? Endorsing? One that only kicks in after a 50% turnover? And an election where to have a successful bid for a recert would mean more than half the employees(not voters, employees) would have to agree?
That’s an employer’s dream and nothing that should be used in any kind of pro labor column.
“Course, that does not excuse his attitude towards that Rep abortion of the labor movement. Somehow he thinks that recert process is a good one? One where there will be no funds for lobbying? Endorsing? One that only kicks in after a 50% turnover? And an election where to have a successful bid for a recert would mean more than half the employees(not voters, employees) would have to agree?
That’s an employer’s dream and nothing that should be used in any kind of pro labor column.”
That bill, which appears to be some sort of “proof” that there is bipartisan support for regularly scheduled union elections, is a horror. It would eliminate unions in short order.
The author does appear to be saying there is some sort of possibility of bipartisanship on this issue. That is a fantasy. Without all of the poison pills in that bill (none of which any union could allow), that bill would receive no Rep support.
This is a Dem issue, and without a trifecta in government, there is no chance of any pro labor bill being passed. There is more than 30 years of proof of that at the federal and state level.
Waste of time to even talk about Reps doing anything.
If on the other hand you were talking about “lobbying, endorsing or the vote tabulations” comment, they are all in that bill. I’d also take a look at the cosponsors of that bill and find out how many are from right to work states, which combined with this bill would strangle unions.
“The author does appear to be saying there is some sort of possibility of bipartisanship on this issue. That is a fantasy. Without all of the poison pills in that bill (none of which any union could allow), that bill would receive no Rep support.”
I refer you to the reply that says candidates have to run on the issue first — since it should get near universal support from working people at all levels (truck drivers, doctors) it should in turn elect the reps you need to pass it into law.
Since it will get almost universal approval at the ballot box the only thing keeping smart Dems (and Repubs) from adopting it is some kind of psychological block — some social instinct that it is not real if nobody is talking about it already; a self fulfilling prophecy that I am trying to break through with tens of thousands of email since I saw Strom’s article. Don’t know where he has been — waiting for somebody else to talk about it I suppose. He used to head SEIU — would think he could be the one to start the national conversation instead of writing a short piece and disappearing.
The idea is that regularly scheduled cert/recert/decert elections would be a knock-dead issue for Democrats anyway, just as a political proposition — would kill Trump’s chances of being re-elected, full stop. But, I guess, nobody will discuss it unless everybody is discussing it. Weird.
I guess I am getting cynical but I think the voting populace could care less about policy and just wants to be lied to over and over again. The GOP sells them one thing and then they do the other thing and yet they still win. Why? Because policy is too complex for the average person to understand and can be easily attacked. You know my advice to the left? Stop trying to be so sincere and lie your asses off to get elected and then do whatever you want later. No one can do a thing without power and as Trump proved to us, a liar can get elected. Tell the people you will cut taxes. Tell them they will get new jobs, Tell them you will close the borders. Tell them whatever the hell they want to hear but win baby, win.
How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
How many years must some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
And how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see – the answer
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Some men will not turn their head.
“The best election night celebration I’ve ever attended was in Alabama on December 12, 2017. I had been in Alabama for a week. One of the things I did was to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The irony of the thing was still ringing with history and the echoes of the truncheons. It was like the first time I walked Little Round Top, or the first time I wandered through Deeley Plaza. History comes to stay in some specific places like a haunt, quiet and suspended in time. The bridge was one of those places for me….
People there told me that it had been like that 15 years earlier, when Jones, then the U.S. Attorney for Northern Alabama, had won convictions of two men named Thomas Blanton, Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry. Blanton and Cherry had been part of the Ku Klux Klan terrorist cell that had bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, killing four young schoolgirls. Blanton and Cherry had been able to stay free because J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had buried the evidence against them. Shortly after Jones was appointed by President Bill Clinton, the government declassified the files that Hoover had buried. Jones moved on Cherry and Blanton and got them convicted. When the verdicts came down, people say, everybody hugged strangers that day, too.
So, when Doug Jones got up on Wednesday, and he explained why he would vote to convict Donald Trump and remove him from office, he did so in the knowledge that it was going to complicate a re-election campaign that already looked like a long pull up a gravel road. But, watching him, I went back to the bridge that day, and I heard the whisper of the courage that still stays in the unyielding iron. The Civil Rights Movement remains the cleanest and strongest current in our history and, sooner or later, everyone trying to do right by the republic feels the need to tap into it. I believe Doug Jones voted to convict Donald Trump, regardless of the obvious political peril, in part because he felt the familiar strength of that current carrying him toward the righteous shore.”