We are in a unique time in our history and are abundantly aware of the crisis and the urgent need to make fundamental changes in our society and the world. Progressives will face immense challenges on the national, state, and local level in the coming years. We support the many efforts to resist the attacks on fundamental human rights of all people on earth, the threats to our environment, and the increase of power being placed in the hands of the wealthiest 1% and the corporations and media they control. While important, resistance is not a long-term approach that will bring about meaningful change.
We are committed to democracy and nonviolence, so our strategy must focus on winning over a majority of people in the U.S. and in any other country where spiritual progressives are hoping to build a world of love and justice to our worldview. Unfortunately, what we have discovered is that many people whose interests would be better served by liberal and progressive policies have been alienated by the failures of liberal and progressive movements to fight for fundamental as opposed to merely narrowly “realistic” changes, and by the way people in those movements have created a culture that makes many people feel disrespected.
We Have a Three-Stage Strategy
- Change the culture of the Left so that it becomes genuinely respectful and caring both to its own supporters and to the many people that have felt disrespected and demeaned by liberals and progressives.
- Reach out, in a spirit of reconciliation and empathy, to those who have historically supported the Right or who do not vote but are part of the disgruntled majority who feel misplaced and left out of our society or feel disrespected by the liberal and progressive forces. Help them come to see that liberals and progressives really do care about them, respect them even when they disagree with aspects of our agenda, and are interested in building long-term relationships with them.
- Once we have achieved these two goals, we then enter into a stage of political struggle to achieve through democratic processes the kinds of transformation of our society that we outline in our Path to a World of Love and Justice. If those struggles are shaped in part by the changes in parts 1 and 2 of this strategy, they have a very strong chance of achieving dramatic (and previously dismissed as “unrealistic) changes in our world within a decade or two.
This strategy will take many years to implement – think of a marathon instead of a sprint. The pull will be to jump to the second stage and try to reach those supporters who are not yet with us. The problem is that as long as the Left continues its discourse of demeaning the Right, nobody will be open to it. And if they do open their hearts and allow themselves to be vulnerable and trust, when the Left demeans them, they will shut their heart in response to the pain and it will be that much harder to get them to open their heart and trust again.
1. Change the Culture of the Left
There are three areas that we need to work on to transform the Left in order to be more attractive to those who support the Religious Right or did not vote but are not attracted to the Left and who are not racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc. Tens of millions of people didn’t vote in the 2016 election and they didn’t vote because they couldn’t stand either party. While we may understand why they are not attracted to the Right, why are they not attracted to the Left?
A. The Left Demeans Those Who Are Not Yet With Us
The Left puts down those who don’t agree with us. For example, in the 2016 Presidential campaign, Hillary called half of those people who supported Trump “a basket of deplorables.” This dismissal of tens of millions of people who voted for the Right has continued since the election. This has included the allegation that all those who voted for Trump are racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc. This is certainly true of some of the Trump supporters, but there have been many studies and interviews with Trump voters show that many supported Trump for quite different reasons, including feeling that the policies of the Democrats contributed to or cost them their jobs, or that they found parts of their lives filled with pain and tended to blame that pain on those in the liberal world who have promised them fundamental change and then delivered very little. People are not likely to be attracted to the Left as long as the Left continues to dismiss their pain and suffering and insults them while doing so.
The Left, in its understandable desire to address the needs and suffering of marginalized groups, dismisses the suffering of people who are not a member of a marginalized group (most prominently white people and men). This way of thinking puts many people on the defensive, particularly when people on the Left call almost everyone who is not part of one of the previously marginalized groups ‘privileged’. While many on the Left are willing to examine how their race and gender impact their experience and lived realities, others may not be inclined to do so, particularly when they do not experience themselves (even if they are male and white) as privileged. For example, most working class white people do not experience themselves as privileged. When the Left tells them that they are, they feel enraged because they too want to be seen and understood. Denying the pain in their lives and the failure of the society to provide them with recognition or a sense of being deeply appreciated for what they contribute to the world, leads many to despair. In the past decade many of those allegedly privileged white males have been slowly killing themselves by abusing alcohol and drugs. To read how those on the Right or Trump supporters experience this, please read this article.
60% of Americans say they go to church at least once a month and 70% of people say they believe in some version of God, yet the Left fails to integrate a spiritual or religious consciousness. Even worse, the Left is often dismissive of those who are religious or spiritual. Many liberals and progressives see all religions as completely misguided, rather than just restricting their critique to those religious practices that are in fact sexist, homophobic or racist, while validating those religious communities that are strongly affirming of the rights and value of women, gays and lesbians, refugees and people of color. Religiophobia on the Left is analogous to the socialism-phobia on the Right because they both take a real problem that has existed (namely the problems with religion and socialism as practiced in certain places) and generalize it to all forms of religion or socialism. What progressives often miss is the way that people are drawn to religious communities, even some that are sexist, racist, etc. because they are desperate for some form of connection to a community of caring people, and often find that easier to access in the religious world than in the Left or in the rest of the society. We correctly criticize the sexism, racism, homophjobia, etc. but we must learn how to separate those criticism from the reduction of people in these communities to a stereotype in which theya re seen as “nothing but” haters, when the reality is far more complex.
C. Absence of a Positive Vision
The Left largely focuses its energy on resisting what it is against rather than putting forth a positive vision of the world we seek to create. That is not because people on the Left don’t have a vision, it is just that they fail to articulate that vision and when they do, it is very narrow. Instead, they tend to split between the more “realistic” people, mostly described as “liberals,” who focus on short-term achievable goals and those who are not so tamed by the demand to be realistic and offer withering critiques of the society and the liberal reformers, but rarely seek to get people to understand or visualize the kind of world that most people would love to be part of if they had not already dismissed such a goal as impossible to reach.
We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives offer a positive vision of the world we want that begins with the promotion of a world based on a New Bottom Line. We then provide concrete proposals and strategies that give life to that vision in the form of the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution and the Global Marshall Plan.
Trying to change the culture of the Left is a long-term struggle. Once we change the above three shortcomings of the Left we can then begin to reach out to those on the Right (and those in the middle) who would be with us if we can change these three things.
2. Reach Across the Divide with an Empathy Tribe
Once we have begun to transform the Left, we can reach across the divide with humility and reconciliation to hear one another through empathic communication. We will seek to understand the fears and concerns of those with whom we do not agree and to share our fears and concerns as well. As people have a deeper understanding of each other, respect tends to grow, and people become open to hearing views that they had previously dismissed without serious consideration. This can be done in a variety of ways, including hosting local listening circles in homes, community centers, spiritual and religious communities and the like, as well as building a massive summer initiative for a summer of love, justice, and environmental awareness.
3. Democratically Transform the Society
Once we have transformed the Left and changed the perception of the Left, then we can actually begin to successfully implement the New Bottom Line, Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Global Marshall Plan. This is the stage where we will successfully elect truly progressive, visionary leaders committed to a world of love and justice.
There are several things we can and need to do at each stage of this process.
1. Create Local Love and Justice Groups to Spread this Vision and Support One Another
Before we can embark on this path, we first need to build an empathy tribe of thousands of people who can both empathically work within the Left to help them understand why and how the culture of the Left needs to change and who can then reach across the divide in a spirit of reconciliation to build bridges with those we judge and demean who are not yet with us.
We need Network of Spiritual Progressive chapters so people have communities of people with whom to do this kind of work because it will be difficult and you will be faced, over and over again, with people challenging you and saying this isn’t what we need to do and instead maintain that all we need to do is capture some more votes and get a few new people in office.
We need to support each other at every stage, overcome our self-blaming, work through our fears, setbacks, and disappointments, celebrate our successes and innovate ways to take our visionary politics into a world which will constantly be trying to convince it is not possible and we should narrow our focus to more narrow, realistic winnable goals.
2. Seek Endorsements of the NBL, ESRA and GMP
Seek endorsements of the New Bottom Line, Environmental and Social Justice Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Global Marshall Plan from every community organization, social change organization, social welfare organization, human rights and environmental organizations, religious and spiritual communities, cultural and sports figures, and eventually our city councils, state legislators and representatives to the U.S. Congress.
3. Initiatives in Support of the NBL, ESRA and GMP
Place initiatives on local and state-wide ballots in support of the New Bottom Line, Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Global Marshall Plan.
4. Run for Public Office
Run for public office and spread these ideas. For example, run for the school board and try to get the school board to integrate into its curriculum and functioning the New Bottom Line.
5. A Summer of Love, Justice and Environmental Awareness
We seek to encourage the creation of youth-oriented festivals throughout the U.S. in 2018 and beyond as opportunities for people to come to celebrate the liberal and progressive values, integrate the transformations in liberal and progressive consciousness that we seek to promote, and then do door-to-door outreach to present the face of a loving, caring, empathic progressive world which holds a clear vision of The Caring Society: Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth. This activity could have a profound impact not only the elections but on the subsequent redistricting that can take place in the State Legislatures of 2021. We will do this not as advocates for any particular party or candidate, but as a way of creating the preconditions for liberal and progressive ideas to be taken seriously by those who have moved far away from those ideas. There are many in the liberal and progressive world who are focused on those elections, but mostly without the recognition of the changes in the consciousness of the Left that is the necessary prerequisite to being truly effective in changing the dynamics that have led to the current triumph of reactionary forces seeking to dismantle government, undermine social services, and repeal the measures that have made some minimal progress toward protecting the environment. So, yes, we can imagine that liberal and progressive forces will again take control of federal and state governments. But they will not have a sufficient electoral strength to actually implement the kinds of dramatic changes that are needed such as, the elimination of money in politics, the requirement that corporations be socially and environmentally responsible, the implementation of a strategy of generosity in our relationship with the rest of the world rather than our current strategy of domination to gain ‘homeland security,’ or the implementation of global environmental policies sufficient to preserve the life support system of the planet. Liberals and progressives will find themselves, even though they’ve won small majorities, unable to legislate the kind of changes that are really needed, and that in turn will lead to a reliving of the past several decades in which people get excited about a candidate for change, only to find that that candidate, having won election, can’t really deliver the changes that are needed.