U.S. Sen. Al "Landslide" Franken kicked off a national meeting of progressive leaders in Duluth earlier this month with an opening declaration that "moral indignation is great!’’
Then he added, a little sheepishly and with his trademark perfect timing: “It’s just not very attractive. It's a lesson I've learned.”
His confession, about how his own indignation made his election closer than it should have been, drew knowing laughter from the crowd of about 200 think-tank directors, advocacy groups organizers, and Duluth citizens at a meeting sponsored by the A.H. Zeppa Foundation and directed by the Commonweal Institute, based in California.
And the Progressive Roundtable conference that followed was suffused with the theme that if there is to be a progressive renaissance, it needs to be animated by a spirit of constructive and practical problem-solving, piece-by-piece, and state-by-state.
Conservative columnist and cable news pundit Amanda Carpenter posted a telling observation on Twitter: "It's remarkable all Palin had to do is say death panels in a Facebook statement to make the President on down start talking about them."
The Daily Show has a snarkier take: "You know a sales pitch is in trouble when it starts with 'look you've got to trust me, we're not going to kill your grandparents.'"
They're both making an important point: the debate over health reform is playing out on the right's terms. The national discourse (if you can call it that) could very well have been about the benefits of a single-payer system, but aside from a sham vote to appease progressives, single-payer is considered anathema in the media and political establishment and instead Democrats are scrambling to respond to a barrage of rightwing talking points.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Commonweal Institute Announces Progressive Op-Ed Program
Summary: Commonweal Institute, a Northern California-based think tank, will produce and distribute weekly progressive op-ed columns, available for publication in print and online news outlets.
Menlo Park, California (June 16, 2009) – With the goal of providing an opportunity for local and national news outlets to publish opinion and commentary from a progressive political perspective, Commonweal Institute – a Northern California-based think tank – announced today it will produce and distribute weekly op-ed columns starting July 1, 2009.
Commonweal Institute Fellows, public intellectuals who have organically developed large audiences and authority in their field through their blogs, publications and academic work, will write the columns on a rotating basis.
Perhaps one of the reasons newspapers are seeing declining readership is that opinion pages often carry conservative and libertarian viewpoints that don't reflect the values of an increasingly progressive public.
|April 30, 2009|
The “Talking Politics with People Unlike Ourselves” workshop provides new tools for reaching the uncommitted, the wavering, and people unlike oneself. Workshop participants become more effective in talking with others and are better able to move them to action. They learn how to apply lessons from social psychology and personal experience in discussing politics with family members, neighbors, work colleagues, and/or strangers.
How did conservatives successfully define good government as limited government, fiscal responsibility as less government, and the common good as the private sector? The answer lies in the conservative movement’s ability to communicate their values and vision. The author explores the impact of a long-term vision statement, and the lack of one, on the ability of conservatives and progressives to communicate effectively. The criteria for writing a vision statement are presented, as well as a proposed progressive vision statement, “We Are Progressives.” It is then compared to the conservative vision statement, “Republican Principles,” in a side-by-side format. The lesson to be learned from the rise of conservatism is that a “clearly defined and consistent philosophy” is important to the success of a political movement.
Read the report here (pdf)
Here in the midst of another Presidential election season – or more precisely, on the upslope of another phase in the seemingly permanent wave-cycle of electoral politics – we are hearing a lot about the techniques of effective, or ineffective, political communication. The fate of candidates, parties, nations, seems to hinge on who best manages the alchemy of words and images; finds the right blend of theme, gesture, and utterance; marries the power of language with the aspirations of an audience; and, in today’s fashionable parlance, “frames” the issues in the most advantageous way.
The modern glut of information, combined with the erosion of the mainstream media's cultural authority, is directly related to the increasing difficulty we now face in figuring out what's true and what's not. There are many factors involved in this, but one of them has certainly been the established media's slowness in adapting to a quickly changing political and technological climate.