The Progressive Predicament
the bar to clear for public support seems to be asymmetrically higher for progressive agenda items than conservative agenda items. ... the political reality that less support is needed, say, to pass a tax cut for rich people or start a war than is needed to expand health care coverage or raise the minimum wage
how was George Bush so effective in passing legislation during his presidency when he never had more than 55 Republicans in the Senate?
He hasn't done this because he's a bad guy. In fact, he's a great guy. I think he's doing pretty much the best job he can. He's sold you out because he's not afraid of you. And really, if I may be so bold, he shouldn't be afraid of you. You don't know who really runs the show, and you're far too fickle and manipulable to count on.
The Right has built vast networks of think tanks, newspapers, periodicals, cable news channels, and political advocacy organizations to spread their finely tuned, well-honed messages. Their politicians may fail them, and their actual policies may be deeply unpopular, but their message machine nearly always works its magic to get them what they want, even when Democrats are in power.
That's partly because the American political Right never quits and never gives up. They know that organization is the key to their success, and they don't trust politicians to do their work for them. Democrats, on the other hand, get disappointed and quit when our politicians don't pan out the way we wanted. That's why we lose.
We are the only advanced industrial nation with a pronounced and persistent class skew to our rates of voter participation-a skew that persistently under-represents progressive views, and like any feature of the political system that has endured this long, there is nothing accidental, incidental, casual, or individual about this.
Sure it's specific individuals who are not voting, but their non-participation is not fundamentally a result of individual choice. They are responding rationally to the fact that their votes don't make a difference, that politicians don't listen to people like them, and that paying attention to politics only gets their hopes up in order to dash them--an extra helping of bitter disappointment that they really don't need in their lives.
It all comes down to the difference between corporations and people. Corporations are rich, they're totally amoral, they never take their eyes off the ball, and they don't get discouraged. People aren't like that. So a political movement that looks out for people is disadvantaged when it faces a political movement that looks out for corporations. This doesn't mean that people can't win, but they've got to face their disadvantages squarely.