Monday, November 15, 2010

Robinson is Wrong - The Progressive Brand is Clear

“Just when you think you have the answers, they change the questions.” Variation on an original quote from Rowdy Roddy Piper.


In an October 10, 2010 article from New Republic, Sarah Robinson, senior fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, argues that progressives are at an electoral disadvantage with conservatives because they don’t have a well-known brand. Methinks she just doesn’t understand what her own brand is.


Ms. Robinson cites three main reasons for not having a brand in the way that conservatives do. One is the old argument that Republican candidates have deep-pocketed corporate donors. Next she states Republicans have used the same old war cry of lower taxes, less government, etc., so the public knows what they represent, therefore it doesn’t demand much time or money to explain conservative views. Finally, she declares Republicans don’t need training on how to run a campaign or speak their views because she says they are in some way trained at the outset, essentially to follow the party line, so they know automatically what to do. She calls all of this “party branding.”


First, of course, I have to comment on her assertions. One, the Democrats are frequently better-funded than Republicans. Most liberals don’t want to count funding from unions and lawyers as deep-pocket contributors who demand a return from their donation investment. I call reason number one a draw.


She is essentially correct about her second point, that Republicans have a firm grip on what they believe in, and therefore they don’t have a tough time figuring out how to explain their views. One aside on this point however - the public likes new arguments. They get tired of the same old arguments over and over, no matter how correct they are. I would argue Republicans need new ways to argue their points so they sound fresh, instead of tired.


And finally, she implies conservatives are automatons; that we attend some sort of de facto training. Huh? What is she talking about on that one? Has she not been paying attention to the tea party and other discontents on the right side of the isle?


Anyway, she thinks progressives have no such branding, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage. As a result, she believes Democrats have to “brand” themselves.


Sounds plausible. Unfortunately, she is exactly wrong - progressives do have a brand. A very distinct brand. It is in the word - progressive. It means that they can’t stay stagnant, they need change, status quo is not okay, regardless as to whether the status quo is good or not.


In her article she states (unbelievably) “Talking about policies and programs doesn't do it: progressives (have) always been at our best when we speak from a place of strong moral authority, rooted deeply in a daring vision of the kind of world we'd like to create. If we can't envision that world clearly in our own minds, we certainly can't describe it with conviction to other people.” In my view this is spot-on. The amazing thing is that she actually nailed it so well, and yet still does not understand how ridiculous this viewpoint is. If you have the time, read her statement again - it is truly remarkable.


When we look at her words we get an accurate, concise statement of exactly what the progressive “brand” is. Consistent with Ms. Robinson’s statement, progressives paint themselves as


  1. Speaking from a place of strong moral authority (self -designated authority);
  2. A daring vision of the world they want to create that they can’t describe; and
  3. No policies or programs to speak of.


If as she says, they are at their best when they espouse these policies, no wonder they are a mess! I read this as meaning they think they know what is best for everyone even if they can’t articulate it, and they have a daring vision of the world floating by the deep abscesses of their minds which they can’t put their finger on. That scares the hell out of the rest of us. Remember Nancy Pelosi? “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” In other words, because of our high moral authority we can just dive into “daring” health care even if we don’t know what is waiting there for us.


Correspondingly, I have more than once had liberal friends say they agree Obamacare has serious flaws, but they deem it a starting point, as though government will improve it as time goes by. Even though history has shown that to be extremely unlikely, they still believe. They are willing to go to the “daring” world of government-run health care even if they don’t have a clue as to what will happen.


Sarah, I would submit the reason you can’t pin down or describe the vision in your mind of the world you want to create is because you are not actually moving towards something as opposed to moving away. It is obvious you don’t like the injustices of the world, but all you can do is flail away aimlessly at the symptoms because there are no perfect cures - a fact you refuse to accept. You do not like exceptionalism because it proves differences in the skill and ability of individuals; superiority of one individual or group over another.


So, Ms. Robinson, I respectfully submit progressives have, in fact, done an accurate job of branding themselves. That you can’t see it further illustrates the problem with the brand, not that the brand doesn’t exist. With that in mind, maybe I can help you. If you want to formally designate the progressive brand, it should be this-


“We hate the world and those people who do well within it, and will have none of it. Stick with us, and we will somehow figure out how to make it perfect. We don’t have any specifics at this time, but put your trust in us and all will be grand. We will tear down everything and everyone that is doing well, and when the dust settles, we are convinced that something good will pop up.”


I want to thank you for making exactly what you stand for so clear. Hopefully I have reciprocated by helping clear up some of the confusion in your own mind.


Click the link below to read Sarah Robinson’s article in full.


http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-cohn/78278/building-the-progressive-brand



Mercer Tyson StraightThinker.com

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