Most of the people in this country do not realize what is going on. For a variety of reasons, they do not understand why our economy has deteriorated. That should not be surprising, since the economy is a huge complex system, and most people can only see their own situation and that of family and friends. I don't think we can get real change until the majority of people understand that our economy has to be restructured. We are a long way from that. We can't stop the conservative movement or even replace most of the corporate Democrats with real progressives until a change in public perception happens.
How many people realize that the economy has a different structure than it did during the more broadly shared prosperity of the 50s and 60s? The economy has been financialized, increasing inequality and increasing vulnerability to financial crisis . The union movement has been decimated. Offshoring has workers competing with poor 3rd world peasants. Technology is not only eliminating unskilled labor, but increasingly is eliminating information handling jobs. Political and economic forces have been concentrating gains in the economy to the top 1%.
How much of this does the average person follow? The conservative movement has been spending an enormous effort to spread a different message. The average person needs a job. He is looking for a business to give it to him. So he thinks of criticism of business as harmful to his job prospects. Conservatives depict any attempt to change the economic trends as attacks on business that could cost people their job. If the government runs a deficit, that looks bad, so conservatives claim that the deficit causes job loss (at least if Democrats are in power). It is not easy to counter such simplistic and misleading or false claims with simple slogans, because reality is complex and messy.
I am convinced that there are ways to try to restructure the economy to restore economic gains to the average person. But as far as I can tell, most people do not believe that. If they did, conservatives would have a much harder time winning elections. Universal health care would be a great advance, but somehow the conservatives have convinced a lot of people that it is dangerous. A lot of them might think that Obamacare will somehow take away their employee health insurance and raise their taxes. Global warming is a theoretical abstraction to them, while the possibility of losing their job is much more immediate.
A lot of people still have something, and fear of losing what they have is greater than hope that they could something better.
How can people be persuaded to change their minds? I don't know. We probably have to constantly repeat the message that the conservative economy does not work for them. It will probably take years, just as it took years for the conservatives to wear down the New Deal consensus we had after World War II. I wish I was not so pessimistic by nature.
Some people want to change society by letting a catastrophe happen, such as the Great Depression, which will force people to start looking for new ways of doing things. In my opinion that is the strategy Ralph Nader was following in 2000. In a smaller way, it is the strategy of those who hope the Supreme Court overturns the ACA, which they think will somehow lead to single payer being adopted. Those who want to stand aside from reelecting Obama or supporting corporate Democrats are implicitly or explicitly following this strategy. This strategy is extraordinarily dangerous. Great suffering would happen. During the Great Depression, we were very lucky that we ended up with Franklin Roosevelt. Germany was not so lucky. In a crisis you could end up with Lincoln, or you could end up with Lenin or Napoleon.
So how do we start to turn around public perception of our economy and society, without waiting for a catastrophe do it?