What future do you want?
If you have children or wish to someday, what world do you want them to grow up in? What will it look like? Really think about it.
Now, what are you picturing? I’m guessing that you’re not seeing power point slides, white papers, or catchy slogans on bumper stickers. So, why do so many progressives fall back to these bullet points when asked what they believe? Chanting “Resist” might be important, but it’s not a plan for the future.
The Path Forward
I grew up listening to conservative talk radio and watching Fox News. For as long as I can remember, the GOP ran on a single, coherent message: The Democrats are trying to destroy America. This message resonated with their audience.
In the span of a few years, the GOP took more than 1,000 seats from Democrats nationwide. More importantly, the GOP that rose from this wave was one far more right-wing than the party had been in the past.
As the Democrats regroup from these losses, it’s natural for them to look at the Republicans and try and imitate the tactics they used to gain power so effectively. But what worked for the GOP won’t work for the DNC, because resistance is only about fighting in the present while progressives want a better future.
American Conservativism believes that America can be great again while American Progressivism holds that Americas greatest moments are yet to come. The best of us acknowledge the triumphs and darker moments of the past, always with the eye towards building a better future.
What’s happening in this country right now IS terrible. We must resist the attempts to roll back protections our ancestors fought and died to protect. The fight against repealing the ACA, the Women’s March, and the Indivisible movement are powerful and vital.
I don’t want to minimize the work these groups are doing. They can, and already have prevented backward laws from being passed. Groups like Black Lives Matter or the LGBTQ+ movement helped bring civil rights abuses into the national conversation and forced many to confront them for the first time. This is a groundswell of activism that cannot be ignored. But, when we are victorious, what then? As progressives, there is no good enough, because we believe that we can always be better.
Together, our voices can help stop terrible legislation from becoming law. Organizations like Swing Left might help win seats in congress, maybe even help take back the majority. But if we achieve that, then what? It’s not enough to take back power, we have to do something with it. Resistance is powerful, but you can’t build a future only by fighting the past. What’s next?
Democrats came within striking distance of winning special elections in 2017, but they still lost every single one. The fact that these supposedly safe elections were so close cannot be overstated, but at the end of the day, losing by a hair is still losing.
The media is full of pundits offering opinions of positions the DNC should take if they want to “start winning again.” Some argue that the party needs to move further to the left while others advocate moving to the center. Some pundits claim that the party has to run in every district, or that they should focus their efforts on targeted swing districts.
I’m not going to argue for what strategy that I think is more valid than the others because I think that arguing strategy right now is the wrong way to fix the problem entirely.
A majority of Americans already agree with progressive positions. The problem is not getting people to adopt a progressive point of view. They already do, but too many don’t see the purpose in voting, or if they do, they don’t have faith in the Democratic Party.
The DNC has a well-deserved reputation for being calculating. They’ll hesitate to adopt a position, even on a civil right’s issue, until they think it’s “viable.” Then, once they feel an idea has a critical mass behind it, they’ll switch their platform and then chastise anyone who didn’t change before they did.
Think about how that looks from the outside. Yes, politicians have to win elections to pass laws, but the laws we want to pass shouldn’t just depend on what we think will get us elected. “We’ll say anything to win” is the slogan of populists, not reformers.
What is the Progressive Vision of the future? What are the core beliefs that guide it? Authenticity matters most for the disenfranchised. Democrats won’t get elected for witty tweetstorms, they’ll get elected because people think they’ll build a better future.
Start Talking About The Future Now
If Democrats are going to take back some seats in the house, let alone the 1,000+ they lost in state elections, they won’t do it because they have the best policy wonks, and they won’t win them all back on anger alone. The DNC has to give people a vision of the future to vote for instead of a resurgence of the past to prevent. What we need is more Hope, and less of stuff like this:
Another often-valid criticism of the DNC is that they take many of their voters for granted. In an effort to shore up their base, the GOP adopted new policies that women, minorities, and many others, find offensive. To them, “Have you seen the other guys” reads as “What choice do you have?” It assumes the support of these Americans, not because the DNC represents their interests, but because at least they’re not the RNC. The attitude is offensive.
Being better than the alternative is not good enough, and progressives should know that better than anyone else. Democrats need to stop expecting support and show why they deserve it.
Well-meaning Democrats might have wildly different things they care about. Good. Then let them make their positive case for their future and put it against their companions and let the voters decide. I can’t guarantee that it will be enough to win every election, but I can promise you it will win more races than inauthentic platforming ever will.
What do you believe, and what is your vision of the future? Forget the slogans and bullet points. Show people what you think, what you know we can become.
Since the election, I’ve spent a lot of time in disbelief, anger, and frustration. I don’t think that these feelings will go away anytime soon, but I’m getting tired of only looking to prevent a return to the past. Let’s build a future worth aspiring to.