Progressives will win if we remember that we need to back up our principles and actions with the proper narrative. Trump has been successful with a story devoid of principles. We will win by having both. Our product is believable. Our story is real and not dependent on smoke and mirrors.
This 2018 midterm election should show that a principled narrative can beat fear and the posture of a constant division.
Robert Reich's recent blog post lays out four principles that we must all support.
First: At the heart of this coalition must be deep and abiding commitment to the democratic principles of political equality, equal opportunity, and justice for all.These same ideals that animated many of us—both white and black Americans—to fight for civil rights and voting rights in the 1960s.
Second: Central to renewing our democracy is getting big money out of politics. For decades, the wealthy and corporations have flooded our political system with campaign contributions and lobbying dollars. In turn, Washington has rewritten the rules of the economy in their favor. This vicious cycle of money and politics funnels more and more wealth and power to those at the top.
Third: We have to ensure the economy works for all Americans, not just the wealthy and corporations. Since the 1980s, the wages and economic prospects of the typical American have gone nowhere. Nearly 80 percent now live paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks have grown less secure.
Addressing these economic hardships requires a bold agenda: a basic income, a jobs guarantee, Medicare-for-All, access to free public colleges and universities, stronger unions, and worker representation on corporate boards.
Fourth and finally: whether you voted for Bernie or Hillary or anybody else, we must put aside our differences. If we fail to do this, we are playing into the hands of those who seek to divide us. Trump and his enablers will continue to try to divide us, stoking racial divisions, stirring animosity, and breeding confusion and despair. We must not let them.
I recently read long a piece by Onnesha Roychoudhuri, a Brooklyn based writer, educator, and editor whose work has appeared in the Rolling Stone., titled "How to Reclaim the Narrative and Power in Post-Truth America" that everyone should read. She ended the piece with a few prescient paragraphs.
Roychoudhuri's first ending paragraph channeled Leonardo Boff's article "An organized people are the protagonists of a new society."
History is happening now and we are history’s actors. But only if we can turn our attention to each other, acknowledge the power we have, and step up to own it. There are millions of us who are fighting for the same things—and millions more who want the same things but call them by a different name. Yet we still seem to struggle to understand ourselves as a movement, we struggle to recognize and take responsibility for how powerful we are. The shape of our potential remains a dotted line describing the parameters of something we’re hesitant to inhabit and lay claim to.
She follows up by noting the error of an ineffective flawed narrative and she defines what it should be based on.
Part of this is about the anemic narratives on offer—about the marginalized, the ineffectual, and disorganized Left. For too long, we’ve accepted stories that disenfranchise us even when they fly in the face of facts, logic, and our shared reality. We have all come of age in a society that privileges white Americans— particularly straight, white, cisgender men. But this has become an increasingly odd dissonance with the reality of our population: Only 31 percent of Americans today are white men—and some fraction of them are more marginalized queer and transgender men.
The marginalized are now the majority, but our narratives around power haven’t kept up. As long as we continue to operate within the strictures of outdated narratives, we sacrifice our ability to recognize the reality of our power, our ability to produce reality, to live in the world we want (and need). History is full of narratives that correct this perspective, but these stories have been forgotten or given short shrift in textbooks. Even when they are presented, too often they’re shrouded in a tone of inevitability when the untold details speak of profound struggle and the necessity of “failed” efforts that preceded that “inevitable” turn.
What follows is an attempt to resurface stories that have gone missing, and to reckon with narratives that have been passed off as common sense when they’re anything but. These problematic narratives include a deeply flawed connotation of “objectivity” that has come to be dominant in the media and daily life; the perceived divide between the personal and political; the ineffectiveness of protest; and the conceit that we must always listen and respond to those in power. By holding these narratives up to the light, we see space for other possibilities. When we surface—and contribute—richer narratives, we see a different history and a different reality; one in which the stories of “marginalized” folks are, and always have been, at the heart of this country.
I wonder what kind of power we might find in recognizing the centrality of our stories.
The Right creates simple narratives based on platitudes and fallacies. Progressives must do the same but built on reality-based solutions for real problems. Here is a simple narrative from the article titled "The five issues Democrats and Progressives must push to win 2018 midterms" that is a good launching point.
Progressives must define their opponents first so that it is them who are on the defensive. Then, tell poor and middle-class America in a district-specific manner, what is in it for them. It must be clear to them what they expect out of voting for Democrats.
- Democrats will fix the health care issue once and for all with a single-payer Medicare for All system.
- Democrats will provide student loan relief.
- Democrats will provide need-based subsidized child care for anyone who wants to work.
- Democrats will decriminalize marijuana and treat drug use as the disease that it is.
- Democrats will make the criminal justice system live up to the "Justice is Blind" motto.
Those five bullet points expressed in different terms will work in every district in America. It appeals to millennials, people of color, all working class people, parents, and every demographic in between. Most importantly these bullet points afford Americans a path to self-sufficiency It frees them from aberrations in the economy that stunts innovation, the inability to start one's business, and the dependency and the enslavement to the corporation. One would hope that every Democrat who gets on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, HLN, or any other network would steer every topic to these bullet points.
Principles and an achievable narrative are what America is yearning for right now. Progressives have what it takes to fit the bill.