As I´ve been developing in posts preceding, following, and including A Proposal: The Politics of Kindness, the most powerful strategy Progressives could implement right now would be one which changes the narrative from partisan ideological warfare (which serves Conservatives by reducing the Progressive and Conservative agendas, in the eyes of the disengaged or “moderate” majority, to equal and opposite “extreme” ideologies) to a movement in opposition to no one and no generally accepted value, but rather only in support of Reason and Goodwill. There are many who already reject “Liberalism” or “Progressivism” as simply another strident ideological camp, who, however, long for greater implementation of Reason in service to Goodwill. There are many, as I´ve written before, who are sick of “politics,” but are hungry for “kindness.” The political movement that most successfully taps into such inchoate undercurrents (as the Tea Party has with other less attractive and powerful ones) will own the future.
To me, Progressivism is the desire to implement public policies that are defined by reason and goodwill. This contrasts with Tea Party Conservatives and other political fundamentalists (across the spectrum), who are driven by fear, anger, bigotry, and a matrix of fixed shallow beliefs. Neither the Tea Party Right nor their angriest counterparts on the Left can capture the “reason and goodwill” narrative, because whatever appeal they each may have for some, they are too far removed from Reason and Goodwill to successfully frame themselves within that narrative.
Too many Progressives, unfortunately, want to mimic the Tea Party “success” by copying the Tea Party emotional attitude (i.e., “anger”), which only serves to reduce Progressives to equal and opposite angry ideologues, trapping themselves in the narrative which serves the Right by erasing the substantive, procedural, and attitudinal differences between the Right and the Left which, in the long run, favor the Left (because reason and goodwill are more profoundly attractive forces than irrational belligerence, even though the latter´s more superficial attractiveness accounts for endless short bursts of historical tragedy).
Rather than being drawn into the narrative of competing angry, substantively opposed camps, Progressives (or some subset of Progressives) should advocate exclusively for a procedural commitment to seek out policies which apply reason in service to goodwill. Changing from a substantive to a procedural focus assists in changing the narrative, by advocating universal submission to a process which promotes fairly undeniably desirable virtues rather than being drawn exclusively into an issue-by-issue fight, which loses the narrative of the attractive virtues which inform the Progressive positions on those issues.
This movement, which I am tentatively calling ¨the Reason And Goodwill Alliance¨(RAGA), is not mutually exclusive of existing Progressive political advocacy. It complements rather than displaces current efforts, in two ways: 1) It “softens the ground” for increasing support of substantive progressive ideas and the candidates who are associated with them, and 2) it gains cross-over legitimacy by being contrasted to more strident Progressive activism and framed as a more reasonable “middle way,” much as the moderate and peaceful Civil Rights Movement enjoyed an increase in legitimacy by means of being contrasted to the militant Black Power movement.
If only 10% of current Progressive activists devoted 10% of the time, energy, passion, and money they currently invest in progressive advocacy to the kind of movement I am describing, it would be a groundswell. They would be joined by hordes of disaffected Moderates and Reagan Republicans who are comfortable neither with the irrationality nor belligerence of the Tea Party Right, and are looking for an attractive (or even merely acceptable) alternative toward which to flee.
Even so, despite the finalizing and legitimizing functions that “traditional” progressive activism provides, the optimal balance of human and material resources would favor RAGA, creating a new attractive “Middle” that would in reality be a less rancorous expression of an essentially Progressive agenda, replacing the current “Middle” which is defined by an equal repulsion of both perceived extremes.
The ideological soil and climate in which our social institutional flora grow is not fixed, but it is highly determinative of the species of institutions that flourish. The overwhelming attention that Progressive activists currently devote to planting, cultivating, pruning, and weeding their preferred institutional landscape leaves intact the contextually limiting reality of the ideological soil and climate. Investing effort in changing that context often appears too daunting, or too far removed from substantive goals, but, in reality, it is perhaps the easiest thing for activists to do (since it faces less opposition) and has the biggest substantive bang for the buck (since it affects, and to a large degree determines, all substantive battles). If we are truly committed to cultivating a different kind of social institutional landscape, as will most things, the preparatory groundwork is most crucial of all.