Renew California

Take a look at Renew California, our sister organization.
We have been blasted with conservative “market” propaganda for how many decades now? 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we have to hear about how “markets” are the best way to allocate services to meet human needs, how corporations are better and more efficient than government.
Here’s the thing. Markets are one-dollar-one-vote systems. Those with the dollars get the goods and services. And we are all seeing how that has been working out. Corporations are about a few people at the top making decisions and telling everyone else what to do. We’re seeing how that is working out, too.
Democracy is about one-person-one-vote. We all get equal rights, equal access, equal opportunity. Extra money doesn’t mean you get more votes. And democracy is about having open, transparent and accountable decision-making.
When We, the People are really the ones making the decisions we decide we want good jobs with good wages, food safety inspections, a clean environment, good schools and a modern infrastructure for our businesses — and regulations that make sure our businesses are not squashed by the power and wealth of huge multinational corporations.
Someone has to go out and tell the public about the difference, and why democracy is a better choice.
From the Renew California website:
Standing Up – Moving Forward
Right now, conservative extremists are defining the discussion. How can that be, when voters in California gave progressives the largest margin of victory in any state and progressives hold 60% of the state’s legislative seats and most of the seven state Constitutional offices?
It happens because the right-wing controls the message and the message is controlling the policy. It isn’t supposed to be like that. Progressives should control the message. We are here to fill that need.
Renew California recognizes the importance of reaching out to communities of color and religious groups that share values of social and environmental justice, fairness and opportunity.

Promoting Ideas

Danny Goldberg, former CEO of Air America, writes about the demise of the network, and how this contrasts with conservative talk radio. Excerpt,

“Conservatives believe in doing whatever it takes to promote their ideas. … In 1976 Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post and it has lost money every year since–the total loss estimated to be more than half a billion dollars.
In 1983, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon created the Washington Times, which has also lost money every year. Widely published reports place Moon’s losses at over $1 billion on the Times and other political media including a purchase of the venerable wire service UPI. These money-losing properties have put dozens of conservatively slanted stories onto the national radar screen, altered the framing of every important political issue and nurtured virtually every right-wing pundit who now thrives as a TV talking head.
More recently, Phillip Anschutz bought the money-losing Weekly Standard from Murdoch and announced plans to invest in more conservative media. Meanwhile his fellow billionaire and former Republican Treasury Secretary Pete Petersen started a digital news service called the Fiscal Times.”
He goes on to talk about the influence of talk radio,
“One-hundred-thirty-eight million people commute to and from work in automobiles, where they have no access to computer or TV screens. For around a third of them, or 48 million, AM talk radio is their entertainment of choice. Of the top 10 AM talk radio shows, nine are hosted by extreme conservatives, giving the right wing a captive audience of around 40 million listeners a week–at least seven times greater than the combined audiences of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.”
Also about how this helps boost the “Tea Party Movement”
“It was not preordained that all of the millions of people who identify with the Tea Party movement would believe the conservative narrative that the economic ills afflicting the middle class are the result of liberalism. But given that tens of millions of them had no alternative explanations or solutions, it is not surprising that conservative ideas and candidates are ascendant.”
And finally the key point,
“Instead, most of today’s progressives spent the last year talking to themselves while conservatives convinced millions of people that global warming is a hoax, that torture is required to keep America safe, that non-millionaires in Canada and Europe have worse health care than their American counterparts. The right wing could never have convinced 45 percent of Americans that the Democrats wanted “death panels” if their outreach was limited to Sarah Palin’s Facebook page and the three million people a night who watch Fox’s highest-rated shows.”
By and large, Progressives talk to each other, while conservatives talk to the public.  However, Speak Out California‘s mission is to reach out to the public through the Internet, op-eds, radio and TV interviews, speaking engagements and other means.  Other California progressive organizations have a mission of reaching people as well. Courage Campaign currently works primarily through the Internet.  Others, like Organizing for America/California and Democracy for America, work on voter engagement.
Until we persuade our legislative leaders that we’ve got their backs, they’re going to continue doing things–like capitulating to suspending the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other important state environmental laws that protect the public health and the beauty of natural resources.  There will be lots more capitulation this year as well, unfortunately, and from the top down. We’re already seeing it in the President’s sharp veering to the right after the Massachusetts election and we sense the same fear and uncertainty swelling in Sacramento.
Unless we put some resources into building a competitive messaging machine and create a megaphone that reaches out beyond our own ears, the state of California will continue to veer to the destructive “right” and we’ll all be blaming “left” politics for it.

In DC At Took Back America

I am in Washington, DC, attending the America’s Future Now!
conference.  This conference used to be called “Take Back America” but
they had to change the name.  I have been calling it “Took Back

First observation: the conference is much smaller this
year than last.  The economy is certainly part of the reason – many of
the attendees are local this year.  I flew here by cashing in miles,
not cash, and am sharing a room.  I have a media pass instead of paying
a conference fee.  Many of the people who are here from out of town are
representing organizations and not paying their own way.

think another reason attendance is down is because, to some extent, we
did Take Back America, so the urgency has dissipated.  I think it
didn’t need to be as urgent and doesn’t have to be there next time.  A
problem of progressive politics is that people get excited about
elections but not so much about getting ready for every next election
and the one after that.  Millions are raised at the last minute because
of the urgency of hard-fought campaigns, but little is donated to the
infrastructure and advance work that would save the same campaigns from
being hard fought and urgent in the first place.

If more work
were done between elections, elections would be so much easier to win. 
This is leverage – a small investment of time and resources now leads
to a large return later.  This investment includes money: a hundred
dollars given to progressive organizations today lays the groundwork
for passing progressive policies and electing progressive candidates

Here is what is good: the conference is advancing the cause of between-election-infrastructure creation.  We should have a conference or two like this in California!!


Public Still Trusts Corporations More Than Self-Government

Marketing works.  But we already knew that.  Big business has been marketing the idea that corporations making decisions for us is better than having government run by the people.  And a lot of people have bought into that idea.

But is it really better to be government by corporations?  In February I wrote,

After decades of anti-government speeches claiming that government holds back business, government takes money out of the economy and government is less efficient than corporations, people came to believe that, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is the problem, not the solution.”  This led to deregulation and budget cutbacks in all areas including education and infrastructure. 

If you think about it, government really is what We, the People want it to be.  In a democracy we jointly make decisions about the best way to manage our affairs.  So saying that corporations do things better is really an anti-democracy message.  What they are saying is that organizations run by a few wealthy elites telling everyone else what to do, with the benefits of everyone’s work mostly going to those few at the top, is a better way to manage society than to have everyone making the decisions and sharing in the results.

Just for fun, here is the video from that post again:

Here is more proof that marketing works:  A recent Gallup Poll of public trust of government vs corporations found that the public still would rather be governed by big corporations than by themselves.

Gallup’s recent update of its long-standing trend question on whether big business, big labor, or big government will be the biggest threat to the country in the future finds Americans still viewing big government as the most serious threat. However, compared to Gallup’s last pre-financial-crisis measurement in December 2006, more now see big business and fewer see big government as the greater threat.

Gallup’s results, graphically:

GallupGovtBusResults.gifMarketing works.  Especially when it is repeated over and over for decades, unopposed.  This blog reaches a moderate audience, but the message that government by the people is a good thing needs to reach people who don’t hear it very often, and only hear the marketed anti-government, anti-democracy message that is spread by the corporations.  Did you know that Speak Out California also provides speakers to talk to local groups across California and do radio and TV interviews discussing the benefits of government and democracy? Please contact us at to schedule a speaker for your event.

We Need To Tell The Public, Too

Here is something that you and I know to be true: progressive values and policies are better for people than conservative values and policies. 

Progressives believe that we’re all in this together and the community taking care of each other ends up working out better for everyone.  History also shows that this is how it turns out, every time.  Conservatives believe people should be on their own, in constant dog-eat-dog competition, with everyone looking out for themselves and only themselves.  History shows that this approach leads to disaster, every time.

You and I know this.  But the pubic-at-large doesn’t know our side of this argument, because we aren’t telling them.  While conservatives market their philosophy through every conceivable information channel there is very little outreach explaining the progressive side.  When you turn on the radio or the TV or read the newspapers you just don’t see or hear about the benefits of a progressive approach.  So the public-at-large is only hearing one side of the story — the conservative side — and they are hearing that side loudly and often.   

It so happens that marketing works, and polls show that the conservative marketing campaign brings results.  A 2007 Rasmussen poll, for example found that “41% of the voters think of themselves as conservative when it comes to the issues of taxes, government spending and the regulation of private business while 41% consider themselves to be moderates and 12% say they are liberal.”  A 2008 Battleground poll found that 59% of Americans consider themselves to be somewhat or very conservative and 36% say they are somewhat or very liberal.

So how do we reach the public?  We have to identify target audiences, build the channels that reach them, and talking the cultural language of each target group.  Yes, this is marketing talk.  And to accomplish this we need to build organizations that do this work.  Marketing works, and marketing science has evolved to become very effective.  Companies understand this and do it.  Conservatives understand this and do it.  Progressives need to understand this and do it.

Here is a key, key point and I want to stress it: This is not about election-oriented organizations.  This is about a long-term effort to change underlying public understanding and appreciation of progressive values.  This requires a different kind of approach and a different kind of organizational structure than winning each next election.  Election outcomes will certainly result from such an effort.  In fact, with a public that is pre-disposed to be want progressive candidates and policies instead of conservative ones, elections will be dramatically and lastingly affected.  This is why conservatives have built up a network of think tanks and advocacy organizations — hundreds of them — designed to change underlying public attitudes.  And this is why those polls I cites show they have had such great success.

At my personal blog I wrote a July, 2007 post titled, While Progressives Talk To Each Other, Conservatives Talk To The Public. That post ended with,

Progressives need to start reaching the general public with the truth as well as each other. We need to start working together to fund and build the organizational infrastructure to develop and test messaging, then coordinate the use of messaging, train speakers, employ pundits, develop media channels, etc.

Now, two years later we’re still largely talking to each other, especially here in California.  But there are some improvements nationally.  An organizational “progressive infrastructure” is growing up a bit, with the Center for American Progress, Media Matters and other organizations starting to show some strength.

But in California very little is getting done along these lines.  The Courage Campaign (go sign up) is one great organization and is gaining strength, boasting an email list of 400-700,000.  But even this is only about 2% of our population, and their netroots audience is predisposed to support progressive policies.  What they are doing is hugely important and a huge start.  But it is one organization when we need dozens, all funded and operating as different components of a cohesive progressive infrastructure. We need think tanks employing scores of experts to conduct the necessary research and come up with and test and refine the policies, wording and strategies to take the progressive message to the rest of the state.  We need to develop communication channels that reach into every single geographic and cultural community.  We need to train hundreds of public speakers that talk to every single group.  We need to develop relationships with interest organizations including hunting, sporting, creative arts, technology, and other kinds of clubs.  We need to get the writers reaching out of the blogs and into the newspapers and magazines and on television and radio. 

California Progress Report is a site that rounds up California political news, from a progressive perspective. Frank Russo left to take a staff position in the Assembly, and the site is now operated by the Consumer Federation of California Foundation.  This is an important component of infrastructure, but CFC is looking for funding to maintain and expand it. 

Calitics is California’s premier progressive community blog — and you should get an account there, join the community and add your two cents.   And you should take note of that “Donate” button in its right column.  

And, speaking of donating, please sign up for Speak Out California’s e-mail list.  And click here to donate and help us stay online.  It is your donations that keep us and all of these organizations in operation to help reach out and work to bring progressive policies to California!

Leave a comment and let me know which organizations, etc. I missed. 
California is a big, big state and changing public attitudes is a big, big job.  Conservatives launched their persuasion effort almost 40 years ago.  Isn’t it time we got started?   

Progressive Infrastructure To Renew The California Dream

Markos, in a post today about the state of progressive infrastructure compared to the right’s, Building machines,

[. . .] But that battle is no longer one-sided. Their machine may be bigger, but we have something. And that’s all we ever needed — a hint of a partisan progressive media machine, fed by research and investigative reporting from the likes of ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo, to begin delivering our message in the face of their vast media machine, as well as ineffective CW[conventional wisdom]-meisters like Maureen Dowd, Mark Halperin, and David Broder.

Look what we have been able to get done in this country with only the smallest, minimally-funded hint at an infrastructure of organizations and media outlets working to counter the right that has been built up since we started this fight. We fought back against the conservative machine and got the Democrats to start fighting back themselves. We took the Presidency, increased our numbers in the House and maybe, just maybe took enough senate seats to stop the filibusters.
Now, imagine what we could do if we actually started funding serious progressive infrastructure organizations and building an ecosystem in which our writers and advocates could actually make a living, sell enough books to start receiving advances, get paid reasonably to write articles, receive speaking fees from organizations and some of the things right-wing advocates take for granted… Imagine tens of thousands of young activists being trained every year. Imagine progressive non-profits having the budgets to pay people more than minimum wage and provide benefits and get things done. Sheesh.
Imagine what we could get done in California if we put together solid organizations that could reach out to all of the public and explain the benefits of progressive values and policies. I mean progressive policies like good, well-funded public schools and low-cost universities, a health care system that works for the people, help with child care, a transportation infrastructure that gets people where they want to go in a timely manner, energy alternatives that cost less and do not pollute and employment rules that bring us reasonable wages and benefits in good jobs that also give us time to have fulfillment in our lives. These are all possibilities, in fact these are all things that we were within reach of obtaining in California not too long ago. These are things thaqt we can dream about again.
Barack Obama was able to raise millions of dollars in small donations, and this has helped the country to start to restore democracy. We can do this in California, by sending $10 or $100 or more to help organizations like Speak Out California and others, and doing this as often as you can.
It is time for us to begin to renew the California Dream.

Why Building Progressive Infrastructure Matters So Much

On the same day that Barack Obama raised one million dollars in one minute for his campaign George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute announced that they will be closing their doors.
In the comments at the OpenLeft blog post, The Rockridge Era Ends, Paul Rosenberg wrote,

As If We Needed Any More Proof That Democrats STILL Don’t Get It!
This is really terrible news–not just because of the loss of Rockridge, as if that wasn’t bad enough, but because it shows so clearly that there is NO recognition of the need to build progressive infrastructure.
Just look at how many millions have been raised by the Presidential campaigns this cycle. And just a tiny fraction of it could have not just kept Rockridge afloat, but DOUBLED it in size. …

I want to say this about that:
Donating a dollar to a progressive infrastructure organization like Speak Out California today is like giving ten dollars to EACH progressive candidate in every local, state and nation race this November, two years later, and every election following.
Let me explain what I mean. Progressive infrastructure organizations like Speak Out California and Commonweal Institute and information outlets like California Progress Report and Calitics are working to help the public understand and appreciate what progressives are about. By explaining the benefits of a progressive approach they help build public acceptance of and demand for progressive policies and candidates — across the board. As more people understand why progressive solutions benefit them more than conservative proposals, they develop a lasting positive identification with the progressive “brand.” Then later, during the election cycle, they vote for progressive candidates — across the board.
This is how the conservatives have been so successful. They work year-round to convince people to identify as conservatives. (You’ve probably complained or heard people complain that that have managed to turn “liberal” into a bad word in people’s minds.) When election time comes around it’s as though all that their candidates have to do is point at the opponent and shout “liberal” to win. They ride a wave of nationally-advanced propaganda convincing people to support “tort reform” or “tax relief.” This has been going on for years, so at election time everything is laid out for them on a silver platter, with the public prepared and primed.
Progressive candidates, on the other hand, are generally on their own, starting from scratch for each election. Their general campaign begins in the late summer or fall, they have to decide what “issues” to run on, they have to develop a message from scratch, by themselves, and then they have to reach their voters from scratch. And they have to do all of this on their own in just a few months. No wonder conservatives, even with their awful “you’re on your own” philosophy, have managed to do so well and gain so much traction.
This is why building up a national progressive advocacy infrastructure would leverage all of those campaign donations and help us build a sustainable progressive majority. A few dollars to progressive advocacy organizations on any given TODAY builds long-term support for every progressive candidate on any given TOMORROW. It provides leverage — lowering the need for massive election-cycle funding.
The demise of Rockridge Institute demonstrates that the Democratic Party donor base hasn’t yet gotten that message. Instead, masses of money have to be raised for candidates at the very last minute — for example a million dollars in one minute, the day before the big Pennsylvania primary. And almost all of that money will just literally go up in the air to pay for TV ads that leave nothing behind to show for the money. They don’t build the brand, they don’t tell people about the benefits of progressive ideas, they don’t help other candidates… But almost nothing for the Rockridges and Speak Out California’s and Commonweal Institutes.
Please think about donating to help build a solid progressive infrastructure of organizations that will work year-round to help the public understand why progressive policies and candidate are better for them than the conservative solutions. This will help build a sustainable progressive majority in America. Please help these organizations grow. It’s about building a progressive ecosystem that benefits all of us.