For The Trees

Who is our economy FOR, anyway?

About the Authors:
Dave Johnson
John Emerson
Richard Reich
Thomas Leavitt


Recent Posts:
Moved to Seeingtheforest.com
This Blog Has Moved
Democracy Arsenal
Thought Crimes
Think Progress
Bill Bradley Describes VRWC in NY Times Piece Toda...
Blog Change Coming Friday
How the Liberal Media Myth is Created
Interest Rates
Finally Leaving Blogger


BEST OF STF:

Dave's:

Articles not at STF:

The ATLA Speech on building a progressive infrastructure
Lowering the Bar
The Attack on Trial Lawyers and Tort Law
Who's Behind the Attack on Liberal Professors

On the Right and their communications infrastructure:

Why Republicans Win
Win or Lose
The "Conventional Wisdom" Machine
Some History of the Conservative Movement
HOW TO FIGHT BACK
An Amplifier Of Our Own
Don't Blame the Democrats
How They Do It 1 2 3 4
Getting Rolled

Other:

You're Gonna Get Drafted
Scalia and Self-Government
Who is Our Economy For?
Voting Machine Story Link Collection
What's Wrong with this Picture? (Voting Machines)
Like Meat in the Supermarket
Get Active
Thin Line 1 2 3
Fixing Social Security
Seeing the Forest I, II, III
"Incredibly Positive News"
The Breadth of It
The Republican Crony Club
Moon Bush
Ralph Nader is a Scab


John's Best Of:
Kerry Smear Page
Bandar Bush
9/11 Commission Report Damages Bush -- if you read it
Florida Goon Squad Intimidated the Supreme Court
The Use and Abuse of George Orwell
Zizka's Archives (John's previous identity)
Zizka Sampler


News Sources:
AlterNet
BuzzFlash
Common Dreams
Cursor
Drudge Retort
Information Clearing House
Smirking Chimp
TruthOut
What REALLY Happened

Links to Other Weblogs:




11/16/2002
 



Bad News if You are Unemployed

Go read House GOP to Unemployed - Drop Dead over at NathanNewman.org.


 



Must Be Brilliant!

I highly recommend everyone going to The Agora. A genius, obviously. :-)




11/15/2002
 



Politicized

Also posted at Stand Down:.

This new alert - warning of possible "spectacular" attacks inside the United States...

It used to be, I would worry about what might happen. I worried about going to Comdex last year because of anthrax. I worried about flying.

Now I think about whether the Bush people have been caught at something they're trying to distract us from. I wonder what advantage the Republicans are trying to gain. After going down a checklist like this, and then hearing that the Europeans are also worrying, THEN I start to worry that this one might be for real.

This is the consequence of Bush politicizing the war on terrorism. There were several phony terrorism alerts, each one coming immediately after some embarrassing revelation - like the Harken stories hitting the press. Remember when Ashcroft came on TV from Moscow to talk about "dirty bombs" and later we found out the guy had really been caught a month previously? Remember how the terrorist alerts STOPPED after the press started questioning the timing?

And then there was the war vote, timed exactly for the election...

So they have politicized the war on terrorism. The public cannot trust the government. Imagine the divisions at home if the Iraq adventure goes poorly. We're set up for a fall.


 



Gotta See

You've gotta see the picture at this website.


 



Take a Look

Take a look at Easter Lemming - Liberal News.


 



Something Cool

Here's something cool. And it's not about right-wingers or Bush or Republicans or corrupt corporations.


 



the watch

I like reading the watch.


 



Alternet

How many of you know about AlterNet?


 



Waldman Report

This piece, over at The Waldman Report, is good. He agrees with me, so he must be brilliant. "One of the messages of Cleland's loss is that it doesn't matter what a Democrat's ideology is - Cleland, after all, was a moderate who voted for Bush's tax cut and his Iraq resolution. Republicans are always going to call Democrats liberals and question their patriotism. If they'll do it to a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, they'll do it to anybody. "

Read down to where he writes,
What might have happened if Cleland had aired an ad like this?
"When his country called, Saxby Chambliss dodged the draft. Max Cleland volunteered - and came home an injured war hero. Now draft dodger Chambliss has the nerve to question Max Cleland's patriotism. Every time Chambliss does it, he spits in the eye of every Georgian who's served his country. Does draft dodger Saxby Chambliss have any shame?"



 



Yes, That's Exactly Right

As a matter of fact, yes, I do sit around and bitch about Republicans all day, every day.


 



Good For the Country

In a Washington Post interview President-Elect Gore says, ""I could have handled the whole thing differently," he told the Post Magazine, "and instead of making a concession speech, launched a four-year, rear-guard guerrilla campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Bush presidency and to mobilize for a rematch. And there was no shortage of advice to do that.""

Gore's right; that sort of thing is not good for the country. Gore puts Country over Party. Of course, this is exactly what the Republicans did when Clinton was elected. Then and now the leadership of the Republican Party has made it quite clear that they put Party over Country.

Update - I need to clear up some wording. I was referring to the preceding paragraph about launching a rear-guard guerilla campaign to undermine the presidency, not the preceding sentence about putting Country over Party, when I said "this is exactly what the Republicans did when Clinton was elected." The Republicans put the good of their party over the good of the country, and worked to undermine the Clinton presidency from day 1.


 



Noosphereblues

I was reading Noosphere Blues, which clued me in to a good Mike Finley piece, Talking John Birch Blues.


 



Taking Money Out of the Economy

This story today - the Bush Administration is "privatizing" 850,000 federal jobs. That's HALF the federal civilian workers. That's 850,000 people - how many families? - going from good union jobs with benefits and job security to low-wage, no-benefit, no-security positions (while the good stuff rises to a few rich people at the top.) They say it should save more than 30%.

And remember, Bush also changed the rules to allow corporations with a history of violating the law to bid for contracts.

Update - It's not half of all government jobs, it's the jobs that are not "inherently governmental." "Those jobs are defined as "commercial activities," like running cafeterias, making travel arrangements and other tasks that are routinely done in the private sector. The change would not apply to any policy-making or political job, or most managerial ones. There's a NYTimes story here.




11/14/2002
 



Which is More Important to Them?

There's the war on terror, and there's the war on gay's. Which is more important? If you're just USING the war on terror to obtain power, so you can do things like go after the gays, the choice is clear.

Remember hearing about the shortage of Arabic translators? NOTHING is as important as the right-wing agenda.


 



Stock Market Idiocy

Stocks are way up again. From this story, "Thursday's gains followed news that sales at the nation's retailers were flat in October, better than the 0.2 percent decline analysts expected."

Retail sales didn't go up. They just didn't drop as much as investors expected, so stocks go UP!
"People are looking for reasons to buy stocks, rather than sell them. When investor psychology changes, that is what happens. Two months ago nobody wanted to buy," said Michael Murphy, head trader for Wachovia Securities.
Here's more "upbeat" news today to send stocks even higher: Sprint PCS to Lay Off 1,600 Workers, Tokyo Stocks Tumble to New Lows Again, Credit Suisse Reports $1.4B Loss, Mall Retailers Earnings Slide, PG&E Reports Drop in Third Quarter, Greenspan Sees Economy 'Soft Patch', Sears Stock Tumbles on Downgrade, GE's Aura Rattled by Worries, Skepticism, AMD to Cut 15 Percent of Work Force, Argentina to Miss World Bank Payment, and my favorite, because I've been writing about the huge pension problem, Honeywell: $1.7 Billion Pension Deficit. And what is Honeywell putting in the pension plan to make up the deficit? ""We anticipate a substantial portion of any such contribution would consist of Honeywell stock," the company said."

We're in a stock bubble again. Watch out. And if you're expecting a pension from Honeywell ... uh ... well ... good luck.


 



It Isn't Working, So Do it More

Bush's plan for fixing the economy is to cut taxes for the rich and cut government spending. Got that? Redistributing the money upward while cutting programs that benefit the middle class and poor (and don't forget the people who will be laid off because of spending cuts).

Already working people pay a tax not paid by the rich - the "payroll tax" - and that money is currently being redistributed out to the very rich through tax cuts and debt interest payments. Most people don't understand about this tax - that it is ONLY paid by lower and middle-income people. And, to be repetitive, let me repeat, this is a tax that is paid by poor and middle-class people and redistributed to the rich. That's what Gore's "lockbox" was all about - preventing this money from being handed to the rich. When Rush says the rich pay most of the taxes, this tax is not part of the calculation, and never mind that the rich pay more because they have most of the income. (And, of course, the Democrats haven't been telling the public about this because it might upset the Donor Class.)

Republicans believe in "supply-side" economics - if you concentrate money at the top the rich will build factories, which will hire people and that will create demand for the goods the factories produce. The rich-worshippers say, "have you ever been given a job by a poor person?" We have a CONSUMER economy, but let's send the money up to the top so it can be put in offshore accounts, instead of distributing it out to the consumers. Right. I saw a comment the other day after a weblog entry - I forget where - that a nine-year-old can figure it out: "Daddy, you have three factories but only enough customers for two, so why would you build a fourth factory?"

We need policies that get more money into the hands of more people who will spend it on goods. That's called "demand-side" economics. It's redistributing the money from the top and spreading it out among the people. It is the opposite of concentrating the wealth at the top, and historically THIS is what has worked to help ailing economies. Companies hire when they have customers with money walking in the door.




11/13/2002
 



Another Part of their Strategy

I've been noticing that the Republicans have another strategy working. When the Democrats propose ANYTHING, they put together a package that wipes out something important to people, NAME IT the same as what the Democrats proposed, and then hammer the Democrats by saying, "But you proposed it in the first place!"

The rebate portion of the tax cuts was proposed by Democrats. Bush took it over, used it to hammer through the huge tax cuts for the rich, then even mailed out a campaign letter to the public announcing "his" tax rebates, and then the actual checks had the slogan of the Bush 2000 campaign printed on them!

The Fatherland Security was proposed by Democrats and Bush resisted. Then the Republicans put together a package of union-busting legislation AND used it to get rid of any threat of an independent investigation into 9/11. They hammered the Democrats with this all through the election.

The Iraq vote was a little more tricky than that. By announcing they would proceed to war without asking the Congress, they provoked Democrats (and others) into demanding a vote. So when they demanded the vote as part of the election campaign, they could hammer Democrats, saying they asked for it in the first place. Of course, the whole thing was a plan to get it placed in the election campaign.

It seems like the Democratic leadership just won't ever figure out that these Republicans are not the least bit interested in working with anyone else. ANY time they try to "work with" the Republicans they get hammered. The Republicans aren't even interested in governing. Only in accumulating power. How many times will Lucy have to pull away the football?


 



Commonweal Had a Problem

If you signed up for Commonweal Institute's newsletter before about 2:00 Wednesday they didn't get your request, so please sign up again.


 



Go See Maru

Maru has posted a MUST-SEE about Democrats bending over for the Republicans! The links are not working, so scroll to Wednesday Nov. 13, "Having learned nothing, Dems plan to fold on judicial nominees".




11/12/2002
 



Sold Out the Unions!

Two Senate Dems sold out the unions. Democrats John Breaux of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska voted with Bush

Daschle added to the betrayal, "Though Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat opposed to the department, may try to wage a filibuster against it, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle has said he would oppose any such delay." What? The REPUBLICANS filibustered this bill for months AND IT DIDN'T COST THEM A THING IN THE ELECTION! In fact, their tactics energized their base, and their base turned out to vote! Now it's the Democrats' opportunity to stand up for workers, and what does Daschle say? I take back what I said defending Daschle. DUMP HIM!

Additionally, "In addition, the new department would effectively be able to bypass civil service rules in promoting, firing and transferring workers, the aides said." This means patronage - only Republicans will get jobs in the government now. Democrats will be fired.

Maybe some recall petitions are in order here! Maybe if they started hearing from us maybe this stuff would stop.


 



More Job Cuts Coming

In the last couple of weeks a number of people I know have been laid off.

Anyway, from Financial Times today:
The Business Roundtable, an association of 150 CEOs whose companies employ over 10m workers, said a survey of its membership showed that 60 per cent were expecting to cut jobs next year against just 11 per cent who said employment in their companies would grow. More than 80 per cent said they expected to hold or cut capital expenditure over the coming year.
What, we're here with no paddle?

And the stock market will react by going up another 200 points.


 



The Path Out of the Bush

Let me write some more about the research that led me to hook up with the Commonweal Institute. My own path into this adventure was through the Clinton impeachment and what led up to it. If you followed the news closely, you started hearing that much of the anti-Clinton sleaze was coming from organizations financed by just ONE GUY – Richard Mellon Scaife.

After Hillary Clinton referred to the “vast right-wing conspiracy” articles began to appear documenting pieces of this web of organizations. The American Spectator, funded by Scaife, was the lead sleaze-spreader. The Federalist Society, funded by Scaife (and a few others), was supplying the worker bees. Ken Starr, of the Federalist Society, wanted to leave to take a University position funded by Scaife. Many of those employed by Starr were from the Federalist Society. Scaife money was bankrolling Paula Jones and her legal representatives. Etc...

Then I started noticing that Scaife and some others were behind a hell of a lot more than JUST the anti-Clinton effort. For example, from a 1998 Salon article about Scaife's anti-Clinton efforts, The man behind the mask:
"The victories we're celebrating today didn't begin last Tuesday," Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner Jr. told a meeting of supporters in 1994 just after the Republican sweep of the House of Representatives. "They started more than 20 years ago when Dick Scaife had the vision to see the need for a conservative intellectual movement in America. These organizations built the intellectual case that was necessary before political leaders like Newt Gingrich could translate their ideas into practical political alternatives."
I started looking into this on the web. But at that point it still seemed more like paranoid conspiracy theory stuff than something real. Then, earlier this year, I read David Brock’s book, Blinded By The Right. This book, written by the very journalist who had initiated the attacks on Clinton, talked about this web of organizations, some of the participants, and the money behind it. It was a revelation – it wasn’t just some paranoid fantasy, it was really happening! Here was confirmation that this web existed.

Blinded By The Right crystallized this in my mind. From talking to people about all of this I realize that I am not alone in this. The book brought it together for many people. It became real.

Please visit Commonweal’s information page and read some of what is there. This information takes a while to percolate, but then you start to see that there is a path back out of the Bush.


 



Why I Don't Use the Term "Conservative"

I don't use the term "conservative" to describe this current crop of right wingers. That's THEIR description of themselves. These people stole the term from the honest and honorable traditional conservatives, like John McCain, and then booted them out of their "movement." (Look what they did to McCain in South Carolina.)

These right-wingers are the same crowd that used to talk about "The Jew York Times" and the Jew Media." (I wrote about this in September.) They've learned to tone that stuff down but much of their nonsense really is largely the same crackpot message - "government schools are socialist," "ban the teaching of evolution and put prayer back in the schools," "we're a Christian Nation." Back then they were not called "conservatives." They were called the "far right" and the "ultra right" and the "Christian Right." In fact, in the 50's and 60's the originators of this movement, the John Birchers and Libertarians and Liberty Lobby types were known as the "kooks." Real, honest conservatives wanted nothing to do with them.

In fact, their very use of the word "conservative" shows how this movement works. The word "conservative" has positive connotations in the public's mind so these far-right ideologues took over the word, and used their bullying tactics to toss the old-fashioned conservatives out of the Republican Party. They needed a respectable cover for what they're up to.

Suppose they decided to describe themselves as "those-who-are-best-for-your-interests". I don't think I would be using that phrasing when referring to them. For the same reasons I don't use "conservative."

Perhaps the term "regressives" is the best description. Who was it that thought that up the other day?


 



The Commonweal Institute - "the Heritage Foundation of the Left"

Some time ago I wrote that I have taken a position at a public policy institute. I have been working with the Commonweal Institute , which I like to describe as “the Heritage Foundation of the Left.” I’ve been helping them get organized, get their new website up, and commence fundraising activities. Our hope is that we can raise sufficient seed money to launch the kind of PR and fundraising campaign that is required to develop the research and education institute and communications “engine” that is needed to start to bring the public back toward the center, and bring progressive and moderate voices back into the public “marketplace of ideas.”

The Nov. 5 election confirms just how bad things are.
Do I have to describe the problem? The far-right is now the government. Everywhere we turn – us “liberals” or “progressives” or “moderates,” or whatever we choose to call ourselves – we suffer heartbreaking setbacks. We see environmental protections removed, industries allowed to violate laws, women's health programs losing funding, huge tax cuts for the ultra-rich – resulting in less and less money available for education, health care and all kinds of other social necessities. The list goes on and on and seems to get worse every day.

An approach to this problem
One approach to doing something about it is to learn how the right did it – and then do that. So I’d like to write about the right-wing movement's campaign to move the public to the right. By examining how it was done we can learn how to counter it, and move the public and the country back into balance, back to the center – back to sanity. And then I’ll describe the Commonweal Institute’s plan to do something about it.

Part 1 – What has been happening to us
Part 2 – What Commonweal Institute plans to do about it (Scroll down about 250-300 paragraphs)

Part 1 – What has been happening to us


Research.
I hooked up with the Commonweal Institute because I’ve been doing research into how the right has been able to be so effective. The growth of this ideological movement didn’t happen by accident. The American public has been the target of an ongoing, deliberate, planned campaign to push them to the right. (The Commonweal Institute has put up a page of links to articles, reports and resources on this subject, at http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html.)

There really was a plan.
You have to look back a few decades to see how it started. In the early 1970’s a small group of wealthy far-right and Christian-right individuals, foundations and corporations began funding a few think tanks and a number of front organizations with the intention of building a “movement.” Over time, using tons of cash, the right has built up an “idea machine” whose “idea product” is aggressively marketed to the public through a number of communications channels. But it really comes back to just a small number of individuals, foundations and corporations providing the underlying funding and coordination for it all.

Here’s how the process works:
Their “think tanks” come up with studies and policy papers that have the appearance of scholarship. These are the “ideas.” (Unlike legitimate scholarship, the results of this process are designed and selected to support their ideological agenda.) This information is translated by marketing and psychology professionals into “popular language” – easy-to-understand language that resonates emotionally and culturally rather than logically – with help from polling, focus groups, interviewing and other modern marketing techniques. The resulting simplified, “popularized” phrasing is pumped out to the public through a multitude of channels, by “experts” and “scholars” employed by the think tanks or otherwise paid by the movement. It is picked up and repeated – amplified – by far-right outlets such as the Drudge Report, NewsMax, Rush Limbaugh, Washington Times, Fox News, and a multitude of right-wing columnists, pundits, authors and celebrities.

Communications engine.
When the right gets going with their “communications engine” it’s hard to avoid being exposed to whatever their message-of-the-day might be. It seems to come from every direction you turn. It isn’t hard to understand that almost all of the voices on AM radio, all day and night, are part of the right-wing network. But people are not aware how many of the commentators on TV, how many of the op-ed pieces or letters to the editor in newspapers, “sources” and experts in news stories, “studies” referred to in magazine articles, and books reviewed in the paper actually originate from and are predominately funded by just the few sources.

Examples of “idea product.”
Here are some examples of right-wing “idea product” that is aggressively repeated, moving the public to the right. Perhaps you have heard the messages “public schools are failing,” “taxes take money out of the economy” or “Social Security is going broke.” You have probably heard these repeated so many times by so many “experts” that you think they are true – established facts. “Everybody knows” these things. They have become “conventional wisdom.” But they’re not true. These messages were designed to prime the public to accept specific right-wing plans.

Politicians harvesting the results.
Over time the public becomes so inundated with the right-wing messaging – without hearing from opposing voices – that they come to believe what they are hearing. It is after this process that the right-wing politicians step in to harvest the results. Political candidates offering “solutions” to these widely-understood “problems” have an advantage over candidates who do not “offer alternatives.”

Without a capacity like that of the right wing to set the public agenda and frame the public debate, moderate and progressive politicians are at, and will remain at, a distinct disadvantage.

Long term strategy.
The right-wing movement follows a long-term strategy. Years before we heard about “vouchers" we started hearing that “public schools are failing.” This has been drummed into the public mind for so long that most people now believe that it’s a fact. After many years of this, along come the vouchers and other “competition” schemes. And the vouchers and other schemes are only steps along the road to the ultimate strategic goal – total privatization of schools. The right wingers say they want to get rid of “socialist schools” and they mean it.

Money, money, money.
In the 1990s this group of powerful right-wingers spent over $1 BILLION on this process. I’m not even talking about political contributions or 3rd-party issue ads. An incredible amount of money has gone into their efforts. Their think tanks and front organizations crank out these messages to such an extent that the far right now virtually monopolizes the nation’s “marketplace of ideas.”

And it hasn’t stopped. The largest right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation, will double its funding by the 2004 election. An additional $400 million will be pumped into over 500 other right wing groups influencing the public's views and perspectives on the key issues facing our nation.

That is a description of the process that has moved the public to the right over the last few decades. There is a lot of research available, detailing the establishment and financing of the movement, as well as the individuals, organizations, institutes and foundations involved. We have made available a collection of links at Commonweal Institute’s Information page, http://www.commonwealinstitute.org/information.html. I encourage everyone reading this to study these resources.

Understanding
Understanding what the right is doing and how they are doing it makes you less susceptible to it. Understanding seems to bring an immunity, you start to be able to spot the process at work. And understanding it helps you explain it to others. I strongly encourage you to take a look at the articles at Commonweal's information page, and refer others to this information. As more and more people understand what has been going on the right will be less and less effective.

It’s not just me.
Summing up this section, let me refer you to Scott Rosenberg’s Salon weblog, just the other day:
"What did the Republicans do in the 1970s? They went back to their roots and created institutions for the long-term. They spent money on think-tanks and local organizations and decided to build a new party from the ground up that appealed to conservatives. They elected Ronald Reagan in 1980, and the party they built then is the same party that Karl Rove is orchestrating today. The fringe-y think tanks of the '70s -- like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute -- now provide an endless supply of talking-head and op-ed support for right-wing policies. And, give them credit, they're just full of ideas."

Part 2 – What Commonweal Institute plans to do about it


What is Commonweal Institute going to do?
The smartass answer is, we’re going to do what the right-wing movement has done. We’re going to be a “Heritage Foundation of the Left.”

Here’s the Commonweal Institute blurb:
The Commonweal Institute is a multi-issue research and educational institute - a think tank - committed to advancing moderate and progressive principles through strategic marketing and aggressive communication of ideas. Our goals: to restore balance to the marketplace of ideas; to revitalize and reenergize the democratic process; to advance the values of fairness, justice, and opportunity and to help create a equitable society with sustainable economic development.
The Commonweal Institute is a "think tank" and "communications engine" that will use methods like those used to market everyday products—just like those that the right wing has used so effectively to dominate our nation’s marketplace of ideas. We are committed not only to developing ideas through the think tank part – the research and education institution part – of our concept, but also to advancing moderate and progressive principles through strategic marketing and aggressive communication of ideas. This is the communications engine part of the concept.

The Commonweal Institute will pursue a long term strategy. Our long-term goal is to move people’s underlying attitudes away from the right wing’s agenda and back to a moderate/progressive perspective.

A very important distinction.
Let me get one thing out of the way right now. When I say Commonweal Institute is going to “do what the right does,” I do NOT mean we are going to lie, deceive, mislead, trick and/or fool the public.

We progressives and moderates have a clear advantage in this battle of ideas. Put simply, our task is not to convince blue-collar workers to give up their Social Security, pensions, healthcare, environmental protections, worker protections and all the rest of the social benefits and protections we have built over the years so that some rich white guy can have a bigger jet. That’s what the right wing movement does. That’s why with all the billions spent and all the domination of the media they STILL can’t get past 50%, even after convincing most people not to even vote! We don’t have to lie, trick or otherwise fool the public to get them thinking our way.

Changing underlying attitudes takes work.
People respond best to stories that trigger an emotional response, using words that evoke images in the mind and metaphors that hook facts to their deeper feelings, giving them a sense of “Oh yeah, that's right.” Just like the right, we will use contemporary marketing and public relations techniques such as polling, interviewing and focus groups to identify the deeper concerns of target groups. We will “translate” the “idea product” of think tanks and organizations into this kind of specialized language.

Creating our own conventional wisdom.
Just as the right has repeated “public schools are failing” and “Social Security is going broke,” in order to lead people to their agenda, the Commonweal Institute will create honest conventional wisdom that reflects moderate and progressive principles.

Infrastructure.
The kind of organization we’re talking about creating with Commonweal Institute is “infrastructure.” This is the kind of organization that the right has built up. It does not necessarily support particular causes – it is “multi-issue.” The particular infrastructure need that Commonweal Institute will address is to change underlying public attitudes, by putting out a more general message to a wide mainstream audience. It will translate particular issues into a wider framework of understanding and communicate that perspective to a wide, mainstream audience.

Reaching a wide audience.
One of the methods the Commonweal Institute will use is to reach out to wide, diverse audiences, using multiple channels of communication. Commonweal will also target specific demographic groups with targeted messages. Commonweal’s channels of communication will include books, articles, columns, commentaries, letters to the editor, newsletters, on-line information, expert speakers, scholars, talk show guests, video clips, tapes, media training for activists and advertisements, as well as providing talking points and other ready-to-go materials for use by opinion leaders, candidates, public speakers, educators, activists and the general public.

While single-issue organizations offer similar resources for their issues, they tend to be financially dependant on regularly reaching out to their own base of supporters. Many have limited budgets and cannot reach as many as they would like. Fundraising is difficult and ongoing, and it makes sense to reach people who will tend to support your cause. It isn’t typically economical for single-issue organizations to spend the money to reach out to the mainstream general public. So out of necessity there is a lot of preaching to the converted. Also they tend more and more to be fighting shorter-term defensive battles, as they are under constant attack by the right-wing movement.

To reach out to wide general audiences, talking about a number of issues, you need a different kind of organization. We need to fund and develop infrastructure – a multi-issue research and communications engine. This is what Commonweal Institute is.

Return on investment.
Let’s say you support an organization that is working to protect the remaining California redwoods. Let’s say that this organization has spent $200,000 a year for 10 years, or $2 million. Now, after the November 5 election, let’s say that one Federalist Society judge gets a chance to make a ruling on logging, or the Bush Administration gets their “forest fire protection” initiative passed. Those redwoods are under immediate threat. How much of that $2 million is down the drain? This kind of loss is happening more and more, because progressives and moderates have not built up the kind of infrastructure that works to change the underlying attitudes that would have prevented the losses suffered on November 5, and would bring forth immediate public reaction to nonsense like “forest fire protection” that is clearly intended to benefit logging companies.

An organization like the Commonweal Institute will increase the return on investment for organizations working on particular causes.

It’s Not About Politicians.
It’s not enough just to support organizations that fight for individual issues, or politicians with attractive programs and political parties with good platforms. Politicians and parties follow where the people are. And it especially isn’t enough to talk to others who are just like ourselves—we need to reach out to others, to involve more people. We must expand the base of citizens who actively support progressive and moderate programs and principles. Bringing the public back home is a big task, one that moderate and progressive politicians and parties can’t handle alone.

It is important to understand that there is a distinction between the idea development & communication process, and the political process. We aren’t going to change the country by choosing better politicians – we’re going to have to change the public’s underlying attitudes and willingness to get involved. It is after the attitude change occurs that the politicians and political parties can step in – they reap the results from a public that is primed to accept their programs. If we can do this work to change underlying attitudes our politicians will have an easier job – running on issues that the public understands, with programs they are ready to accept, rather than trying to introduce and explain our issues as part of their campaigns.

Growing the base.
Another effect of changing underlying public attitudes toward the moderate/progressive perspective will be the growth of the base of support for moderate and progressive organizations and politicians. Environmental, social, health, and other types of organizations will see their own funding base increase. They will also have some of their burden reduced as government again picks up some of the load.

Some good news.
Lack of money is not what has been handicapping moderates and progressives. There is actually a lot of money available on the moderate/progressive side. It just hasn’t been used as effectively as the money poured into right-wing idea machine infrastructure.

Much of the philanthropic money of moderates and progressives is donated on a program basis – funding specific programs attempting to achieve specific results, lots of pilot programs – but not enough general support for ongoing operations and not enough discretionary money directed to specific programs. The right has provided general operating funding – money that can be used any way the organizations want – as long as it is spent to further the right-wing ideological movement, according to their specific long-term strategic goals. Moderate and progressive philanthropy needs to do much more of this.

Until this funding pattern changes, organizations like the Commonweal Institute will need to be funded by individual donors who understand the necessity of the task at hand and want to help out.

Whew!

OK, I wrote a lot here today. Let me sum up:

Please visit Commonweal Institute’s new website. There are four points on the front page, each leading to more info on that subject.

Please take a look at the collection of resources on Commonweal’s Information Page. No matter what else you take from this, learning about what the right-wing has been doing and telling others is one of the most effective ways to immunize yourself and combat their pervasive messaging!

And, of course, if you agree that it is time to work “to restore balance to the marketplace of ideas,” please help build the Commonweal Institute.

And please, leave a comment here about all of this by clicking on the word "Comment" just below this sentence.




11/10/2002
 



The Black Box

Has anyone heard what became of the "black box" flight recorder on Paul Wellstone's plane? The plane was legally required to carry one. Have they found it, and what did it show?


 



Petition to Fire Terry McAuliffe

Angry Democrats has a petition.


 



Dems Moving to the Right -- Should Check BuzzFlash Instead

The NY Times today has this analysis claiming that the Democrats lost so many races because "White Moderates" voted Republican. This is probably true, but what does it mean? Does it mean that Democrats need to move to the right to get votes?

My thinking on Democrats moving to the right in response:

  • The right currently dominates the channels of communication reaching most Americans, and therefore dominate the messaging most Americans receive.
  • Most Americans do not know what the Administration is DOING, only what they are SAYING. They have no idea of the radical right-wing changes taking place in our country's policies.
  • White moderates THINK that Republicans are moderates & Democrats are out-of-touch liberals, because that's what they are being messaged by the available information sources.
  • The Republicans will ALWAYS paint themselves as moderates, and Democrats as "extremist liberals," and will get away with it as long as they control the channels of communication.
  • As Democrats move to the right in response to this voting pattern it enables the Republicans to move FURTHER to the right.
  • This has allowed the Bush Administration to move much, much farther to the right than Reagan.
  • As the Democratic Party moves to the right the Democratic base is eroding - either to Greens or not voting - without growing the base from the middle/right toward which it is moving.
  • Using conventional media with conventional communications methods there is no way to reach most Americans and alter this cycle.

    My conclusion on Democrats moving to the right:
    Moving to the right does not improve Democratic prospects, erodes the Democratic base, and harms the country. Right-wing domination of communications channels allows the right to frame public perception of Democratic and Republican positions, so Democratic repositioning is worse than useless - it allows the Republicans to move ever further to the right in response. It also alienates those of us who are Democrats for reasons of principle.

    My thoughts on the communication channel problem:

  • In the 80's the right faced a similar problem (from its perspective) and devised different communication methods to reach the public. Their base learned where to find them. Talk radio, for example. Drudge. (Unfortunately these included bombastic ridicule, insults, accusations, lies, etc. Remember Newt's rise, on C-SPAN?)
  • The right's base grew as a result of being able to freely communicate their perspective through these new channels.
  • You can get good information on the web.
  • Those of us who are getting information on the web are getting very different information than what most Americans are getting.
  • Because of this most of us don't understand how different our understanding of events is from what most Americans are thinking.
  • Progressive ranks are growing as a result of the information available on the web.
  • People in possession of information makes a difference. They are able to inform and influence others.
  • The right effectively uses The Drudge Report as a centralized information distribution source from the right-wing perspective. (It used to be Limbaugh, but the Internet came along, so now Limbaugh is often repeating what's on Drudge.) If something appears on Drudge, you soon see it running through most communication channels.
  • We need to get as many people as possible checking a good centralized online news source for information that comes from our perspective.
  • From what I can find, BuzzFlash is the best online daily news source from our perspective. (Even with its odd name.)

    My suggestion for mitigating the right-wing domination of communications channels:
    We need to encourage everyone we know to check BuzzFlash daily. A centralized source of progressive-perspective news will unify us, give us a place to unify and grow our base, while receiving the information to influence others. (And then, of course, get them all reading weblogs as well.)




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