Early in the 2004 presidential race, candidate Dennis Kucinich was calling for an end to for-profit health care in the US.
I was alarmed, and sent an email to the campaign.
“Listing this as the head of Dennis’ priorities could very well damage our chances with moderate voters,” I wrote. “All things ‘socialized’ have been thoroughly demonized for decades. This is how the average American’s psyche works: ‘ending healthcare for profit=socialism=communism = enemy of America.’ My thought is that many people may not get beyond this sentence before tuning out.”
I was probably right about that.
Thank God no one listened.
At the time, Kucinich’s idea of ending for-profit health care was indeed radical – even to me.
Today, tens of millions of Americans easily discuss the idea. The fact that Kucinich and a few others initially had the courage to say the words gave other people the courage to say them, as well. Even if they were spoken in terms of derision (“Did you hear about that nutty Kucinich’s proposal to end for-profit healthcare?”), they still advanced the conversation (“I mean, how would such a crazy idea even work, anyway???”).
You may have noticed that America is in a pretty dire situation as a result of thirty-two years of conservative policy. Those policies have been carried forward under Democrats (so-called “Blue Dogs”) as well as Republicans.
You may also know that the solutions are entirely progressive in nature. You may know that regulating banks is a good thing; that legalizing drugs reduces drug use; that providing free college education is profitable for government and taxpayers; that ‘coddling’ criminals – actually addressing the issues at the heart of criminality – reduces crime; that the best way to defeat your sworn enemies is to stop attacking them.
If so, great for you! If you know all these things, you are among a tiny percentage of the population who does. The majority can’t even conceive of much of this – they’ve never heard it before. It isn’t real. It is, in fact, preposterous. Why wouldn’t the TV tell us these things if they were true?
The fact is that the corporate media is dedicated to maintaining the status quo. Progressive ideas – the ideas that made America great – are never heard by your average American.
My favorite example: The top marginal tax rate in the US presently is 35%. Where we’ve been, and where we need to go, is somewhere around 80%. That was the average rate we had in place for the entire fifty years prior to Reagan. That tax rate, in large part, created wealthy America.
But go pitch that to a neighbor who’s listening to TV news and the speeches of his Blue Dog Dem. He’s not going to understand or believe it. He’s never heard it before. Worse, e’s been programmed – very literally – to have an emotional reaction to the very idea of raising taxes, even one lousy percent.
It is going to take us many, many years to get over this programming.
The solution is to speak these ideas, repeatedly, until they become possible in the mind of the public. The best time to do that is during elections – and the best forum for it is as a primary challenger to your local Blue Dog Democrat.
You’ll be easily defeated. All the Blue Dog has to do is stand at the podium, look at you like you are a lunatic, and chuckle a lot. Voters have been pre-programmed to vote against their interests.
The point is that those in attendance will actually get to hear these ideas spoken. Some – perhaps even your Blue Dog Democrat – may think of them again at some point down the road. They may do so with derision. They may say, “That lunatic wants a 90% top tax rate! We can’t even get from 35% to 39%! 90% is impossible!”
But the solutions don’t care about your particular political reality. They remain the solutions. They don’t care how hard it is or how long it takes, any more than a mountain cares how long it takes you to climb it. They will remain the solutions if it takes us ten years, or twenty-five, to get there.
Seem impossible, given the social programming and powerful opposition?
Cast yourself back to 1960. Do you think, amidst the flaming carnage of the south, anyone would have believed we’d have a Civil Rights Act by 1965?
We’re not talking about politics. We’re talking about social transformation. People evolve. It takes time. It takes information and sustained, often painful effort.
We can fiddle around with failure forever, or we can begin to try to move the masses.
Our solutions are clear, they’re solid. They merely require a voice – the more, the louder, the sooner, the better.