So many interesting things are being said about why the new progressive movement is, or is not, fucked. I hope I’m not violating some cosmic blog law by responding to comments with a fresh post. If I am, at least let it be said that I feel terrible about it.
All I can say is that these comments represent a very different idea of what our goals should be than mine. Which is fine; for the moment, we’re all facing in the same general direction. But I do think these sentiments – once again - reflect how enormously successful the conservative movement has been. It’s a matter of scale. Many people don’t realize or remember how radically and fundamentally Reagan changed the political horizon. It’s become a cliché to say that
6. But there’s still that lingering question of whether an ideology is even necessary for success. I can’t prove that it is. But I’ll say this. In the long term, politics only really changes because of passionate minorities. Only superficially is it affected by the average median swing voter. When passionate minorities take shape – sociologists call them social movements – they exert a powerful, gravitational force on the rest of the public.
Ordinary, day-to-day politics is about politicians and parties vying over who most faithfully embodies the electorate’s conventional wisdom. Social movements change the conventional wisdom. In fact, at any given moment, the conventional wisdom of the day is nothing more than a sedimented accretion of ideas that were once propagated by previous social movements. There are a limited number of social movements in U.S. history, but the main examples include the Republican/antislavery insurgency of the 1840’s-1850’s; the Populist movement, 1885-1896; the CIO organizing upsurge of 1935-38; the civil rights movement; and the conservative movement of the 1960’s.
We are living in an era whose conventional wisdom was largely scripted by that movement. And that will not fundamentally change unless a new social movement of some kind materializes. If it doesn’t, Mitt Romney might still lose in 2008 -- but I guarantee you another Mitt Romney will come along and win a few years later. And with just a touch of incompetence and a debt to his base, it will be more or less a repeat of the Bush years.
Here’s my point: There has never in history been such a thing as a genuine movement committed to pragmatism and throwing the bums out. It can only happen with an ideology, a creed.
No ideology, no movement. No movement, no change in conventional wisdom.
No change in conventional wisdom and we will be alternating between Bushism and Clintonism – between 2002 and 1997 -- for the rest of our lives.