In recent years my most consequential time is spent either reading or writing. Although I was never one, in retirement I live much the life of an academic. I tend to take a somewhat nerdy approach to politics. I like to think of it as scientific. Today I want to look at what I have come to believe to be the academic path forward for American progressives. This is not a part of the journey all of us must make. If it interests you please come along with me to explore it.
A few years ago I was chatting with a much younger friend who was doing his undergraduate work at one of America’s better schools. I asked him what he was majoring in and he replied, “PPE”. Naturally I asked what the acronym stood for and he informed me it was “Political Science, Philosophy and Economics.” Since his longer term plans included law school and he had a great political mind it made perfect sense. It seems that decades ago the three disciplines were always combined at the world’s great institutions of higher learning. In the aftermath of the 2016 election that makes even more sense to me and I suggest we add another; Sociology.
In order to win elections political operatives have to understand the voters. Adding philosophy, economics and sociology to political science gives you a pretty good reading of the voters’ pulse beats.
Among the thinkers in the electorate philosophy is huge. Many liberals will actually vote against proposals that would give them an advantage (in the short run) because they feel they are bad for the country or unfair to many of those among us. This is particularly true of the current younger generation (which I feel has the potential to rival my late father’s generation, a/k/a The Greatest Generation). My grandchildren and their brightest friends care very much about inequity and opportunity even if it means they have to work a bit harder or will make a few bucks less when they enter the labor market. They are just as concerned with doing well for society as they are with earning a paycheck; perhaps even more so.
Opportunity and learned values/prejudices are big determining factors when many others decide who to vote for. The Democrats just give my money to “those people” versus the Republicans just care about the rich, not my kind of people. Democrats are elites who look down on me and my people. My vote really isn’t secret and if “they” don’t like how I voted I will be punished. All politicians are crooks so why bother voting? Those “lessons” are passed down from generation to generation and have to be unlearned or they will be repeated. Remember, many in my generation were raised to be prejudice. Only education and real life experiences changed us. I know; I was one of them.
People still vote their pocket book and always will. You cannot ignore their economic realities and have long term success. You may get through a cycle or two doing so, but in the long run it is a losing strategy. Politics is a science but not one that exists in a vacuum. This is not an avenue every person needs to go down. You can donate and/or volunteer without ever having to consider any of these factors. If you are a candidate, strategist or campaign manager you ignore these factors at your own risk and in doing so greatly diminish your chances of electoral success.
This article is part of a series dealing with the path forward for progressives to start winning at the polls again.
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