In How to Turn Your Red State Blue, Christopher Hayes delivers a passionate call for progressives to focus on evangelism and persuasion.
Once upon a time, organizing meant more than coordinating e-mail petitions or hosting house parties to raise money and awareness. It meant something much closer to what we now think of as missionary work. A union would send an organizer into, say, a small mining town in Pennsylvania. He would reach out to the miners, get to know them and their families, and tell them what a union was and how it could help them. He would try to convince them to risk their livelihoods by banding together and demanding a safer workplace and better wages. This was difficult, often bloody work. But when it worked– and often it didn’t — it effected a transformation of the miners who joined the union. They now had a new identity. Even if they had joined solely for higher wages or a mine less likely to kill them, after suffering lockouts, harassment and possibly beatings, they would have an entirely new perspective on bosses and power. They would be more progressive.
This is what social movements at their best do. They pull back the curtain on power and expose its workings. They politicize those without political engagements by transforming personal grievances in the workplace, at home and in society into political issues. Before the labor movement, a dangerous workplace, low wages and arduously long workdays were just crappy things about a person’s life. Before feminism, stifling your personal ambitions in favor of doting on your husband was just a drawback to being a woman.
He offers some specific ideas about how to do this, including the idea of using economic issues like consumer debt and credit reform as the lever.
A movement for credit reform also has the potential to drive a wedge between cultural and fiscal conservatives, weakening the coalition of conservative interests while building the progressive ï¿½brandï¿½ by re-associating progressives with fairness, justice and populism. Thereï¿½s ample precedent. During his famous Cross of Gold speech in 1896, populist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who in many ways forged the 20th century Democratic Party, asked: ï¿½Upon which side will the Democratic Party fightï¿½upon the side of ï¿½the idle holders of idle capital,ï¿½ [i.e., the banks], or upon the side of ï¿½the struggling massesï¿½?ï¿½
Good, meaty stuff. He takes a while to get through the setup, but it’s well worth a read.