GOP victories in state house after state house and the resultant focus on austerity and social issues should be a wake-up call to progressives. Despite minor victories here and there, the progressive message is simply not resonating with enough Americans. Recent polls indicate that a majority of them do not support more regulation of the financial industry nor do they see the benefit of more stimulus to create jobs.  This is occurring despite the clear failures of trickle down and deregulation. Why aren’t the facts winning?


The facts aren’t winning because many Americans respond to their gut over gravitas and to ideology over ideas. While liberals point to charts and graphs, conservatives address insecurities and appeal to beliefs. While progressives are confident in their nuanced analyses, many Americans resent what they see as elitist snobs telling them what to do. Conservative messaging is simpler and repetitive. Progressives weaken their messaging with endless debate and fluctuating emphasis.


Although it may be hard for many to accept, the fact is that progressives are tone-deaf to a large segment of America. Liberals bask in the false comfort of hosannas from the choir as they condemn the wrong-headedness of the congregation next door. And therein lies the problem. The congregations, right and left, are not talking to one another; they are talking at one another. Labels and invective fly while the country remains bitterly divided and adrift in a sea of problems.


If progressives want to build sufficient consensus for real change, then they need to come down from their ivory towers of critique and complexity and start listening to the rest of America. All of the feel good occupations, the innovative ideas and the self-righteousness of the cause crash against the brass knuckles of the opposition. Progressives need to be open to simpler, powerful messaging that resonates more with the heart than the mind. They need to recognize that there are legitimate issues of concern for those on the right that cannot simply be dismissed out of hand as ignorance or overcome with punditry and charts and graphs. In short, progressives need to begin building bridges to those with whom they differ, instead of alienating them. They need to focus on people’s needs rather than their beliefs. And they need to realize that what they are doing now isn’t working.

5 Responses so far.

  1. Larry- So brilliantly stated I cannot begin to tell you how fervently I agree. I am a former conservative who has evolved to become quite moderate (even liberal?) on most issues. My question is how can I become part of the SOLUTION you so brilliantly point out? What specifically can I do that is constructive given this state of affairs??

  2. Larry R says:

    Thank you, Jim. I think the most immediate thing you can do is to press this point to political organizations, media pundits and candidates. You can do this directly and through social media like tweeting and email. Get on their blogs/websites and make the point that they have to do more than preach to the converted. They have to be sensitive to and address the needs and desires of the broader public. Also encourage others to do the same.

    We all want a simple answer to our national discord and dysfunction, but there isn’t one. I encourage you to read my book, America Adrift (the e-book is only $2.99 on Amazon) and encourage others to do so. If we can get enough people to advocate reconciliation- finding common ground and building bridges between our differences, we can unite this country and create consensus for real change. This country has come together before in moments of crisis and it can again. But we have to deal with the forces and conditions that are driving us apart before we can come together. That is why I wrote the book; to enumerate why we are where we are and what we can and must do to change the paradigm.

    Thank you for your comments and for caring about achieving real and inclusive change.

  3. gold price says:

    In rough strokes, I am laying out two theories of the atonement: substitutionary atonement and moral influence theory. The two theories have been contending for intellectual dominance in the Christian tradition since the high Middle Ages–with the substitution theory usually winning. Mainline Protestants have, in the last 100 years, moved back toward a Moral Influence theory of the cross–and I think that this shift has an impact–however overt or subtle–on their ethics. Anyway, I do think it is an interesting case of a real difference in theological traditions showing up in moral choices. BTW, a small number of evangelicals are moving toward moral/love theories of the atonement (away from substitution) and they are finding themselves in serious hot water for doing so.

  4. gold account says:

    “Reasonable” people do not often talk of fascism in the modern American state, but fascist tendencies from an earlier time in American history, properly understood, are rearing up among progressives again as President Obama amps up his heated rhetoric against free enterprise, conservatives, and the wealthy. While President Obama is not a part of what it happening, it is clear progressives, inspired by his agenda, have taken matters into their own hands to extremes we have not seen for a hundred years.

  5. Larry R says:

    I think you misconstrue progressive intent, Obama actions and fascism. If Obama were anti-capitalist he would not have backed the auto bailout with government financing, had the lowest enforcement level against Wall Street nor supported the big banks. Most progressives want to see a balance restored where wealth does not dominate politics as it does now, thanks in large measure to the Citizens United decision and the current electoral and lobbying process. No progressive person I am aware of would in any way endorse fascism nor are they anti-business. But they do recognize that unrestrained greed is what led to the financial crisis that almost destroyed our economy.

    I urge you to read the book and the history and facts it presents. If you are open-minded it may be of great interest and perspective.

    Thanks for your comments.