Oregon Progressives: it's time to build our brand - not react to the other guys

By Brian Fuller of Portland, Oregon. Brian is a media consultant and film & video producer.

I had a drink with some friends yesterday and the conversation rolled around to a perennial Progressive question. It’s framed different ways,

“How forcefully should we argue back?”

“Democrats aren’t angry enough!”

“We have to take the fight to them!” And, of course,

“Democrats have no balls!”

But it always means the same thing, what is the right tone?

It’s an vital, if emotional argument, and we need to find our answer.. I earnestly believe that we must not succumb to the heady and consuming joy of hitting ‘em back, as much as we must maintain a strong tone of compassion and solution. Solutions aren’t shouted, they are explained.

Our brand isn’t tear it down, our brand is build it up: our people, our government, and our nation. Today’s Conservatives sincerely believe that there is no place for government, that human nature is so ugly, so selfish, that anytime we try to bind together and accomplish great things as a people through our government we are destined to fail.

We believe something different. We believe that the greatest things we have accomplished we have done as one people, as one nation and that historically government has always been a vital part of that mix. In the end what is democratic government but a formalized system by which we as a whole nation and as a whole people pursue great tasks, tasks too grand for individuals to achieve alone? This is not a story that can be told in a scream. This is not a story that can be heard by a choked and belittled listener. This is not the story of fear of the other, but internalizing that we, as Americans are the other: the immigrant, the minority, the gay, the misunderstood, the poor. Ours is the creative magic and heroic search for solutions that don’t require that some group be cut out or locked up. It is a story of compassion, and compassion is the only tone appropriate for such a story.

I have witnessed a number of Oregon Democrats’ town halls this season and the question of immigration always comes up. I have yet to hear one make a Compassion Argument about how these people, as people, should be treated. It’s as if we no longer believe that our words and our actions can change people’s minds, that all that is realistically left to us is to try to sidestep their fears and prejudices. It’s as if we no longer believe we can lead, only follow the polls, the fears and the emotional trail left by the political arsonists.

So today I challenge you, Oregon Progressive, if you are running for office or not, to pen a “Compassion Argument” for the top three issues before us. You don’t have to make it public, you don’t have to show it to anyone at all, just write it. Internalize it and ask yourself how you can lead from it, for this is where our tone- our story– begins. We are not finding the right mix, the right message or the right tone to compete with the fear narrative. Scary immigrants taking our jobs and robbing our homes, scary gays shredding the fabric of our society, scary poor folks sucking our wealth away and scary Progressives seeking to enslave us. Under the sarcastic smirk of the political arsonist this combustible toxin of emotions is setting our country aflame. Adding more emotional gas– even if our own brand– to this poisonous fire cannot be the answer. There is a brutal power to their fear narrative, to be sure, but there is the potential for greatness woven into ours.

We must forge a consensus among us of how to move the conversation to solutions, and rescue our country. It starts with finding the courage to believe that if we stand up and forcefully articulate our core beliefs with the passion and earnestness with which we experience them we can change minds, we can sooth fears and we can sow a new vision beyond group on group brutalization.

It grows when we force a new set of questions forward. Not “Who’s taking my job?” but “Why aren’t there enough jobs, and how do we fix it?” Not “Is gay marriage right or wrong?” but “Is there enough love in society to exclude any of it?” It is time to stop asking how we can cut government closer to the bone and start asking what capacities must government be granted to bind our economy back together into a working whole that serves and nurtures all Oregonians. We must forge new questions and ask them so often and so forcefully that they become the new metrics of political viability. So I ask you, Oregon Progressive, what are the three questions that an American or Oregonian should ask about any issue facing us? Write them down.

This consensus will drive Oregon forward when every part of our society and our state sees exactly how they are needed by the whole– and how every other group is also. This is our job. Here is where the thunder of our tone starts its low, deep rumble- with simply finding the courage to believe we can change minds with the power of our convictions. It is time for us to stop running from immigration, inclusion and government capacity and start asking the angry, or even the just plain scared constituents to ask new questions and from these questions to envision a different Oregon, a whole Oregon.

Progressive Oregonian, what additional powers could we give our government to bind our fortunes together again and allow all Oregonians to envision a new path forward? What about State Government (GASP!) “picking winners and losers” by adopting a specific type, even model of solar panel or tidal wave generator that it will promote and buy, that’s in-state manufacture it will subsidize, in order to guarantee investors and put Oregonians back to work? Could we find the courage to argue back against the conservative paradigm of “government intervention always bad”? We saw it work in the 30’s. And if we do muster this courage, might we dare to drive the national conversation by voicing options that were once tried, found to work and yet are now unspeakable? It all starts with your questions, your courage and above all, your compassion.

  • (Show?)

    "Dare to drive the national conversation"???

    Not only don't the Dem leadership want us to drive the conversation, they (or Gibbs, at least) thinks we all should be drug-tested for having voiced opinions such as the author of this piece describes!

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    Well, he's somewhat like George W. Bush

    Obama has (so far, in a year and a half) embraced the doctrine of indefinite detention (contravening law going all the way back to the Magna Carta); promised to close Guantanamo but uses Bagram for similar prurpose and has a Guantanamo-style facility planned to be located in Illinois; he has embraced a somewhat-modified military commissions system of injustice (note: under the Obama rules "evidence" which was procured under duress will be admitted, at the judge's discretion, in the case of the guy who was 15 years old when arrested); and, even above and beyond Bush, Obama claims the "right" to assassinate any person who happens to be located outside of the U.S.A.

    Also, Obama has been pushing free-trade style agreements with Colombia and Korea. And he has advocated that U.S. taxpayer money go to train high-tech workers in south Asia, who will stay in south Asia but work for U.S. corporations.

    Obama's EPA is lying to us about current conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil is not 75% gone. And he even enlisted his wife to go to the shore and beckon swimmers into the water.

    And we did get a new advisory about MTR mining in Appalachia, but it remains in the advisory stage- MTR continues.

    Oh, yeah- the wars. What Obama is doing in Iraq is exactly what GW Bush agreed to do- Bush signed the agreement of these terms of "withdrawal" (see the private-contractor buildup that will supplant the prtion of U.S. military that are being withdrawn).

    Afghanistan: what is Obama doing there that GWB wouldn't have done?

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    "portion of the U.S. military"

    And, oh yeah, sure, Obama was for awhile a bit peeved at Netanyahu, but the latest is that the U.S. is not attempting to pressure Israel into any settlement freeze as a precursor to negotiations and, also, lots of statements about how Israel truly desires peace (and, if you believe that...).

    And I believe the anti-Obama litany could easily continue. This is just what occurs off of the top of the head.

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    And, of course, the Obama Admin.'s support for the right-wing coup in Honduras and, also, appointment of Billzo/GWB as heads of the Haiti relief (Billzo forced Aristide to go along with the neoliberal IMF program and GWB kidnapped Aristide).

    And the upcoming, in November, Haitian elections, which will no doubt be recognized by the Obama Admin., disallow the majoritarian Lavalas Party from participation.

    "Hope & Change"

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