There’s a short-circuit in the political convictions of some progressive-minded voters these days.

While big majorities are making clear that they need and want bold, transformative changes in today’s rigged system, many of them are not voting that way in this year’s Democratic presidential primary elections. After 30 years of being knocked down and held down, nearly a majority of Americans now say our corporate-controlled economy needs “a complete overhaul” – yet “Go-slow-Joe” Biden, who supports only small, incremental tinkering with the corporate system, is getting many of their votes. Why?

One factor is the constant drumbeat by the mass media and the Democratic Party establishment that the progressive agenda is too radical, too hot… too democratic! They lie that while you might want strong progressive change, most do not, so Trump will win if you vote your true beliefs. This is just establishment fearmongering, pitting you against neighbors who actually agree with you. But it spreads a crisis of confidence in one’s own convictions.

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A second big factor is the subliminal pall of political pessimism that 30-plus-years of elitism, inequality, and unfairness has cast over our democracy. There’s a widespread sense (especially among young people) that transformative political change can’t happen. After all, folks constantly see Big Money, corporate lobbyists, right-wing Republicans, and weak-kneed Democrats combine to stiff the people’s will.

So the great challenge for the long-term progressive movement is not to convince a majority of people that our ideas and candidates are right for them. They already agree with that. Rather, the need is to defeat the debilitating force of cynicism by educating, organizing, and mobilizing around the myriad of everyday examples of grassroots people battling the bastards… and winning!

Biden Prevails, Even Though Voters Prefer Bernie’s Ideas,” The Nation, March 11, 2020.

Wealth Tax and Free College Get Poll Support. Democrats Worry It Won’t Last,” New York Times, July 21, 2019.

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