Defining the values that underlie and unite progressives became an urgent question in the early 21st Century. Progressives came to recognize that, to a great degree, our political choices emerge from our sense of cultural identity and our emotional responses to stories and images, not from ‘rational’ cost-benefit analyses.
In the early years of the 21st Century, the term “progressive” gained popularity in the media and among elites and voters, but there was little consensus as of 2008 regarding what progressive identification meant. Clarification of progressive values and political values is likely to become a matter of strategic importance to candidates and officeholders, particularly if the trend toward increasing progressive self-identification continues.
Valdis Krebs explores the behavior of voters, focusing on how social knowledge greatly affects voter choice. As he writes, "after controlling for personal attitudes and demographic membership, researchers found that the social networks, [which] voters are embedded in, exert powerful influences on their behavior." This is related with two other models of voter behavior. The first, the atomized model, has "the voting public [as] an aggregation of autonomous decision-makers, each making a decision based on personal rationale and/or emotion" while the second is the demographic voter, "here the voter is not viewed as isolated and autonomous, but as a member of a demographic group which can influence or predict the voter's choices."
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The American conservative movement has succeeded in moving public
attitudes steadily rightward over the last 30 years, with far-reaching
consequences for the country’s political
governance. This success has been achieved through a well-funded and well-coordinated
organizational infrastructure that follows a long-term, disciplined communications strategy.
In order for moderates and progressives to maximize the power of their own ideas and values,
and to compete effectively with the right wing over the coming decades, they must develop,
without delay, their own infrastructural capacity and practices. This paper suggests how to
Click here to read the pdf file.
This ground-breaking Commonweal Institute report by David C. Johnson and Leonard M. Salle analyzes in depth the conservative movement’s multi-pronged attack as a long-term, strategic process aimed at privatizing education. The report provides a detailed plan for how public education advocates can work with their allies to form a network of organizations and individuals - an infrastructure - that will be able get their messages to the broad public and increase political support for public education.
A notion widely accepted by the public is that medical malpractice awards have been rising dramatically in the United States, driving up the cost of healthcare and forcing physicians out of practice. This impression has been fostered by physician organizations, the hospital and insurance industries, and other groups favoring "tort reform" as a rationale for imposing legislative caps on medical malpractice verdicts.
This comprehensive report describes the conservative movement's goals and methods in its sustained, effective campaign to undermine the civil justice system. A network of seemingly-independent organizations is funded by a small cluster of conservative foundations, motivated both by an ideology interest in weakening constraints on the conduct of corporate entitities and a political agenda that seeks to limit trial lawyers' ability to contribute money to "the left". The so-called "tort reform" movement utilizes an extensive conservatve communications network to disseminate ideological messages to the public and political leaders. A coordinated, strategic communications and marketing campaign will be required to counter this assault on the civil justice system.
This is the beginning of Commonweal Institute's report "The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law" in HTML format (a series of cross-linked web pages).
You can also click here to read the entire report in PDF format.
"With Republicans in charge of much of Washington - and moving to put limits on litigation - the headquarters of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) could be described as a building under siege. [. . .] ATLA lobbyists are fighting a wave of legislation aimed at capping what juries can award, curbing class-action suits, and protecting individual industries from litigation. Similar bills are getting passed in states, and even attorneys themselves are piling on - filing petitions to limit plaintiff lawyers' fees.
Conclusion of "The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law"
This report has shown that the tort reform movement is part of a two-pronged effort to influence public opinion and gain political power. Industry tort-reform groups utilize "independent voices" -- PR agencies and phony "grass-roots" front groups that appear to be independent of the direct beneficiaries of "tort reform." Meanwhile, the Right has in place a tremendous ideological messaging infrastructure, working for the past 30 years to influence the public's underlying social and ideological attitudes on issues, including tort reform. They have been disciplined, strategic, and patient. They have focused substantial resources on changing the underlying political and social environment, rather than focusing only on single issues.
Proposal May Undermine Efforts to Improve the Quality of Education in California: Impact of Changing Class Size Reduction Program
This white paper is a Commonweal Institute study that shows how a short term effort to deal with the financial crisis in California, through legislation (AB 42) that would redefine classroom size reduction criteria, could have serious long-term consequence with regard to both quality of education and future costs.
Read the paper.