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October 18, 2005

Substance over Tactics

David Sirota has an important article up at In These Times arguing that the militant anti-Bush movement is plagued by too much tactical partisan sophistication and not enough ideological substance. Obsessive focus on electoral strategies and "framing" media responses substitute for making the ideological case for progressive values to undecided voters.

Sirota is not arguing that political professionals shouldn't worry about such things, but that grassroots activists need to have a broader vision:

Partisanship is not ideology, and movements are not political parties - they are bigger than political parties, and shape those parties accordingly through pressure. As much as paid party hacks would argue otherwise, the most significant movements in American history did not emanate from the innards of the Democratic or Republican Party headquarters, and they did not come from groups of activists who put labels before substance: They spawned from millions of people committed to grassroots movements organized around ideas - movements which pushed both parties’ establishments to deal with given issues.
The rise of militant liberal Democrats as an active force in American politics is a fascinating phenomena of recent years, but Sirota is arguing that those activists need to rediscover a basic lesson of the abolitionists, feminist, civil rights and labor movements: pragmatism is what you do when you cut the deal, but you build support through passionate commitment to moral values and ideas.

Posted by Nathan at October 18, 2005 08:24 AM