Amidst the series of Bush Dog fueled Democratic capitulations in Congress that have become so regular it has become possible to organize around them several weeks ahead of time, it is important for progressive movement types to keep their eyes on the most important legislation and potential legislation facing our movement. No, I am not referring to Iraq or FISA, and to a somewhat lesser extent I am not referring to health care or clean energy either. Instead, I am referring to those key areas of legislation and Democratic Party behavior that have the potential to build progressivism itself. As Matt as discussed in recent length pieces such as Emergence Politics and Rush Limbaugh, and The Broken Market for Democratic Primaries, what progressives need are the creation and institutionalization of "positive feedback loops" that will make America a more progressive place, and thus make all other progressive policy more likely to be enacted.
What are these policies? Here is an incomplete list that I compiled this afternoon:
The Employee Free Choice Act, that would, ideally, increase union density and collective bargaining power in America. Union members are much more likely to support progressive economic policies, and to vote Democratic, than other non-union workers. This would effectively create an ideological shift within the American workplace that would favor progressives, as long as it came with union leadership willing to ramp up new organizing efforts.
Clean Election Laws. While I am well aware that Democrats have demonstrated an ability to surpass Republican fundraising in Presidential elections, the fact is that progressives will never be able to match corporate PAC money in all federal elections. Until some form of public financing removes this corporate advantage, progressives will always be at an influence disadvantage over Congress.
Reversing Corporate Media Consolidation. Using improved ownership regulation of American media to help destabilize the impact of the Republican Noise Machine, and create a more diverse, responsive national media, is another key progressive feedback loop.
Progressive Immigration Reform. Securing the ideological and partisan loyalties of expanding demographic groups in America is a pretty obvious key to long-term political success. This remains as true among Latinos and Asians in our current era as it was among Irish, Italian, and Slavic immigrants a century ago. Whoever captures emerging political markets is well-positioned for electoral and legislative success over the next few decades. One of the keys to pulling this off always starts with immigration policy and rhetoric that improve the lives of newcomers to America, and make them feel welcomed. Truly, a no-brainer for long-term progressive success.
Colonial Reform. Perhaps I am using overly provocative language to describe this one, but granting full congressional representation to those areas of America not current represented by full voting members in Congress would be a big step forward for progressives. This obviously includes anti-Republican strongholds in D.C. and Puerto Rico, but should also include territories like Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. These are not places that are particularly friendly to the values of the conservative movement, and granting them equal representation within their own country would expand progressive and Democratic power long-term.
Re-locating government spending. It isn't a secret that the conservative economy is fueled significantly by government hand-outs in the form of military industrial complex spending, reliance on oil companies, "faith based initiatives," and tax breaks / loopholes for corporations and the wealthy alike. De-funding the conservative economy, and re-locating spending in programs Americans won't want to give up, such as universal health care or cheaper, clean energy investment, would to at least some extent shift the economic balance of power away from conservatives and toward progressives.
Voting Reform. Same day voter registration, the end of felony disenfranchisement, and secure voting mechanisms will all help increase voter turnout in ways that favor progressives. When more minorities vote, more young people vote, more people have confidence in the vote, and it is easier to vote overall, the longstanding conservative tactic of voter suppression as a means of winning elections will be significantly reduced in effectiveness.
I am sure that there are more potential positive feedback loops for progressives than these, and if you have more I'd love to see them in the comments. The seven I list here are a mix of good government reforms, spending relocations, and shifts in control over ideological apparatuses that I think would undoubtedly make the country more progressives. This are the low-hanging positive feedback loops, so to speak. I am sure there are others, but I wanted to get these out there as a way of reminding progressives that no matter what the major issues of the day might be in the short term, there are fundamental goals we must always seek in order to build a more progressive America long term.