The Progressive Brand

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

In a provocative article over at Cognitive Policy Works, Sara Robinson raises the question: How do progressives tell the world what they believe in?

Every American over the age of ten knows what the GOP and the conservative movement stand for. Sing it with me now: low taxes, small government, strong defense, traditional families. See? You know the tune, and the harmony line, too.

OK, now: What do Democrats and progressives stand for?

Take your time. It’s a tough question.

Give up? So have most progressives. Even the movement’s most deeply committed members often have a hard time answering this one.

And that’s a problem. Specifically, it’s a branding problem. Conservatives have worked hard for the past 40 years to create a long-term brand identity for their ideas. Progressives haven’t. And that has made all the difference.

The article is a must read. It explains so well why are hardly a blip on the nation’s radar screen, and why our candidates have to campaign three times are hard as their GOP opponents. The article challenges us to define ourselves by naming our values.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing Republicans eating our lunch.  Even when they lose elections, they win.  Don’t believe me?  Think about Obama’s first two years in office.  Yeah, he’s the one living in the White House, but how many values did he have to sacrifice to accomplish anything he set out to do? Whatever happened to “we’re all in this together” and closing Guantanamo and not reducing the deficit on the backs of poor people? Tell me what, exactly, has Wall Street lost? What about the insurance industry?  The military/intelligence industry?

It’s not that we don’t have values, it’s that we can’t name them, so we can’t declare them inviolable. And when the chips are down, we back off, because we never said we wouldn’t.

So it becomes clear that, before we can bring people to our cause on more than an ad hoc basis — before we can get them to make the kinds of sacrifices and take the kinds of risks that we’ve seen most recently in Tunisia and Egypt — we need a rallying cry. We need to fill in the blank in the question that any Egyptian protestor could have answered: “I’m doing this because _________.”

There’s a strategy workgroup at Cognitive Policy Works that’s talking about this now. It’s a crucial first step in getting us where we need to go if we’re not going to turn over our security and autonomy and any hope of self-determination to the corporate capitalists in the top 1% of the financial pyramid that is our country’s economy.

Don’t wait to be invited. Your presence is wanted and your thoughts are just as important as anyone’s.

Other links of interest:

The Progressive Strategy Handbook

If They Can Do It, Why Can’t We?

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One Response to “The Progressive Brand”

  1. [...] with three distinct but complementary purposes, have surfaced over the last few weeks.  Last week I told you about Cognitive Policy Works, its Progressive Strategy Handbook, and the strategy group that is at work [...]

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