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A couple weeks ago I wrote a diary here entitled, "A New Progressive Nationalism for America," which argued that we should take George Lakoff's idea of framing (as presented in this article) and apply it in a direction on the Political Compass which doesn't get much love in the progressive blogosphere. Whereas the typical progressive values which frame progressively-termed debates would mostly consist of those related to and necessarily entangled with "empathy," "responsibility," and "community," my diary suggested that because of the New Radicalization among Republicans and the massive shift in the Overton Window, an alternative set of values could be used by progressives in other ares less receptive to the aforementioned ideals based around a kind of "pragmatic progressive nationalism" defined by the belief that American has the resources, the wealth, and the manpower to be #1 in the world in a number of categories that we're not and that we would take whatever solutions we could to ensure our place "at the top of the world." Although I personally ascribe to the ideals of John Lennon's philosophical masterpiece Imagine and that nationalism has ultimately got to go, I believe this is a doable and unexpected political strategy the left should employ to help begin to shift America to the left and downward from our current hard-right, authoritarian dystopia-headed position.

Now, before I go any further, I would like to address one more thing from that initial post: In the comments, there seemed to be a number of people who had a problem especially with the title, "progressive nationalism," because of some dear of invoking Nazi comparisons. And really, who can blame them?

If frames of reference are the game, associating your language even loosely with the Nazis, who still occupy such a mythic and taboo place in our society (if you thought Inglourious Basterds made some interesting historical edits, wait until you see Iron Sky), can hardly be called "playing the odds."

In that spirit, I'd like to rechristen this political strategy as "Pragmatic Progressivism," because it employs the same rhetorical strategy but with the spin that we will "take whatever steps necessary" to get the American people back on top -- in health care, life expectancy, education, crime, happiness, you name it.

Now, with those things cleared up, I hope you'll follow me below the gold to see how Elizabeth Warren has anything at all to do with this.

So, the connecting point for all this is George Lakoff. There has been a good few diaries on DKos referencing his article on Alternet (as linked to above) including my own. Having read it, I decided to buy his book, Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, and reading it, some things are becoming more clear to me, primary among them this passage:

Taxation is paying your dues, paying your member-ship fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it. You did not build the basketball court. Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won't be maintained and will fall apart. People who avoid taxes, like corporations that move to Bermuda, are not paying their due to their country. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer. It is traitorous to desert our country and not oay your dues.

Perhaps Bill Gates Sr. said it best. In arguing to keep the inheritance tax, he pointed out that he and Bill Jr. did not invent the Internet. They just used it--to make billions. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone. He used taxpayer infrastructure. He got rich on what other taxpayers had paid for: the banking system, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and the judicial system, where nine-tenths of cases involve corporate law. These taxpayer investments support companies and wealthy investors. There are no self-made men! They wealthy have gotten rich using what previous taxpayers  have paid for. They owe the taxpayers of this country a great deal and should be paying it back.

This passage and the argument surrounding it sound extremely similar to something we've been hearing recently and for the first time in a long time (and this book came out in 2004):

Transcript, as if you're not familiar with the video:

WARREN: There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
Wow! Only eight years after these ideas are published in this book by George Lakoff on how to set the national conversation along progressive tracks and we finally hear this kind of rhetoric that underlies our most dearly held values! And you wonder why conservatives say liberals cam't be efficient in government...

Well, beating ourselves up for not listening to this guys sooner won't do any good now. And frankly, it's not too late for this to be the winning progressive message. There's a reason this site exploded with cries of "Warren 2016" when her candidacy for Senate began. We progressives are moved by this declaration of our values, and we are grateful and relieved to finally see someone so articulate yet down-to-earth represent us as she expresses it.

But we cannot kid ourselves: Not everyone sees her this way. And it is our job as progressives to change that.

So while Ms. Warren enjoys a competitive race in liberal Massachusetts, what agenda can we push in the deep-red states that can compete with Republicans by taking away their votes with a system of values that isn't straightforwardly antithetical to their absolute-individual-freedom-at-all-cost/"authoritarian father" framing.

That is what Pragmatic Progressivism can be.

The argument goes something like this:

1. Our goal is to move the Overton Window to be more to the left and less authoritarian than it is presently.

2. To do so, we should frame the conversation in the terms described by Frank Lutz and utilized so well by Elizabeth Warren in areas where they are already sympathetic to liberals and Democrats (such as Massachusetts and California) and areas where independent moderates who have competing frames in their lives decide elections (such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Mexico, Florida, and others).

And the important one for Pragmatic Progressivism:
3. In areas that lean Republican or are deep red, we should focus our message not in these terms, which on their face appear to be an "opposite value system" to the one Republicans have successfully ingrained in these areas, but instead in the terms that America should be #1, and that progressivism means moving into a future where that is the case, and that we will take whatever steps necessary to ensure that we have the best health care, education, and quality of life, and that this is something that will benefit America's people and businesses alike.
So, it's not that this new Progressive Pragmatism has to be at ends with Elizabeth Warren's brand of progressivism, not at all. Lakoff also says in Don't Think of an Elephant that decades ago conservatives overcame their differences in their determination to make the things they agreed on happen. Dems have the upper hand right now in so many areas and with so many demographics. It would be wasteful to continue harping on the differences within the progressive community rather than embracing every possible path towards a more progressive United States, and that includes employing Pragmatic Progressivism in areas it would be particularly effective.

Let me know your thoughts, though I'm not sure how long I'll be here to answer, because my computer has a virus and I'm on my roommate's right now. Thanks!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "My great panacea for making society at once better and more enjoyable would be to cultivate greater sincerity." -- Frances Power Cobbe

    by Panacea Paola on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 04:45:37 PM PDT

  •  When you look at what Progressives advocate for, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobBlueMass, lcrp, fumie, marty marty

    it's not hard to see that we are the true Patriots in this Nation. We care about democracy, fairness, and helping one another out.
      We prize our freedoms, take our obligations as citizens seriously, and we care very much about the rule of Law, and the integrity of our electoral process.

      Conservatives generally, and extreme RWers in particular are so often guided by the principle of "I got mine, so you can go fuck yourself."

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 05:21:50 PM PDT

  •  Please do some research here on DKos (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angela Quattrano

    re: diaries discussing "Pragmatic Progressivism", etc.  Search is your friend.

    My personal foibles,  anytime I read "Overton Window" or John Lennon as as creator of a "philosophical masterpiece" of political acumen,  I just tune out. Now, if you had referenced Paul Kantner, I might have sat up!  Heh!

    This has nothing to do with Liz winning in Mass, imho.  No one will spend the time to understand the nuance that you seek to impart.  

    Do thank you for trying again....

    Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

    by EdMass on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 05:24:30 PM PDT

  •  Seems th Big Differences are Within the Democratic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chipoliwog, marty marty, quill

    party more than within the progressive community.

    The party is conservative. It opposes, either in principle or in practice for any foreseeable time, a laundry list of the policies from its own past that would stop the rich getting richer, and new policies essential to stop the atmosphere becoming more carbon loaded, among other things.

    For 35 years the conservative Democrats have been selling their policies to progressives as necessary to the path to a more progressive nation, all the while making it and the party more conservative. Those are the most important differences on the anti-Republican side, and framing is probably not the most important tool for accomplishing that.

    On the other hand where we have progressive candidates, and where we can grow a significant progressive movement willing to work independently of the party to create better candidates and reach out directly to voters, that's I think where these framing ideas will have their greatest value.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 05:53:29 PM PDT

  •  Fucking Ralph Nader and his voters (0+ / 0-)

    gave us W. Sometimes progressives need to fall in line, not fall in love.

  •  Tipped & Recommended (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marty marty

    I'm a devotee of Prof. Lakoff and I thank you for coalescing his work here.

    You've hit all the right themes. It just saddens me that many Democrats don't get this stuff.

    --Mr. President, you have to earn my vote every day. Not take it for granted. --

    by chipoliwog on Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 10:52:30 PM PDT

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