With 3 Days to Go, a Liberal Manifesto: Positive Messaging We Can Win With

It’s kind of fun watching the current incarnation of the Republican Party implode, although we’d be having more fun if it had happened a long time ago. 

The first thing we should plan to do if we win Tuesday is to take back the liberal name and wear it with pride. But more importantly, we have to change how we talk to people, starting with telling voters what we stand for. 

A few years ago, I came up with what I called a “Progressive Manifesto.” Of course, there were lot of complaints about the word “manifesto,” because so many “progressives” care more about what something is called than what it actually says, and the word “manifesto” seems to have been appropriated by serial killers and conspiracy nuts. 

Well, in addition to “liberal,” we also need to take back the term, “manifesto.”

Most voters have neither the time nor the inclination to be a news or political junkie. They want to be motivated to vote FOR someone or something. They don’t want to be called stupid, or “low information” (would you?) and they get their news from other people, not “the media.” They would like to know that the valuable time they will spend standing in line between jobs on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November will elect someone who will help make things better. They don’t care about details, they care about competence.

Voters are not motivated by anger and fear; they are repulsed by it. They want to feel hopeful and they want to make things better. And if we want a progressive society, we’ll need a progressive government to get there. That means winning elections. To win elections, we need to be positive, not negative. We need to stop trying to get people pissed off and get people hopeful. That means a new tack with our rhetoric.

This liberal manifesto can appeal to anyone. Our goals as liberals should always be easy to understand and follow. We want a majority of voters to follow our lead, which means we can’t speak of “moderates” and “centrists” as if such people are evil. When we use terms like these to express what it means to be a liberal, we can turn opinions of us around. 

A Liberal Manifesto – Positive Goals for a Better America

  • Everyone living in this country should be entitled to basic food and shelter, meaning a heated, comfortable space that is as safe as possible, and enough nutritious food to keep them and their family healthy.
  • Everyone living in this country should be entitled to have access to clean or safe drinking water, free of chemicals and contaminants.
  • Everyone living in this country should be entitled to the cleanest possible air to breathe.
  • Every attempt should be made to make all communities safe and secure, not just from crime, but from the negative effects of past activities and pollution.
  • Everyone living in this country should be entitled to basic protection from and recovery assistance for natural disasters.
  • Everyone living in this country should have a right to healthcare that meets their needs. No one living in this country should ever have to die or lose everything they have worked for because they happen to get sick or injured.
  • Everyone living in this country should have a reasonable expectation that all products sold in the marketplace meet minimal reasonable safety requirements.
  • To compete in the global marketplace, everyone living in this country should have the opportunity to do something great. Therefore, everyone should be entitled to a free, quality education that meets whatever they need to become a contributing member of society.
  • No one should ever have to incur high debt in order to get the education needed to become a productive, taxpaying citizen. Therefore, the cost of obtaining an education should be as close to free as possible.
  • American businesses make their fortunes from a highly educated populace. Therefore they should be willing to pay for it. Educators should be paid a fair wage, and they should never have to pay out-of-pocket for materials necessary to teach their students properly.
  • Every working person in the country should make at least enough money for their family to live well.
  • Corporations are fictional persons created for the purpose of protecting individual assets, and their rights should not receive greater than a real person.
  • Everyone living in this country should have equal opportunity, regardless of any subjective criteria, including skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or even disability.
  • People should be encouraged to work, by providing them with the means to work, such as accessible public transportation systems and free or affordable quality child care.
  • Every working person in this country should have the right and the support to unionize and collectively bargain with their employer in every state in the union. “Right to work” laws should actually feature the right to work.
  • Every worker has a right to expect a workplace that complies with all laws and rules regarding safety, and which puts worker safety above profit.
  • Every worker should expect to work a fair number of hours, be entitled to adequate medical and family leave to meet their needs, and a reasonable amount of paid time off every year.
  • Every worker should feel free to report issues about his employer or his company’s clients to authorities without fear of termination or harassment.
  • Everyone living in this country should have complete control over their own bodies; no one should ever be allowed to interfere with any medical decision between a doctor and patient.
  • Marriage is a social contract between two previously unrelated consenting adults, and should not be defined by anyone but the two people involved.
  • Everyone who is not a convicted felon should be entitled to exercise all of their basic civil rights. Period. No exceptions.
  • Though capitalism is currently our chosen economic system, the goal of any economic system should be to benefit everyone, not just the richest capitalists.
  • We should encourage truly free markets, which means markets in which anyone with a product or service, or an idea for improving a product or service, can enter the market freely, without interference, including interference from other market participants.
  • Because access to broadcast spectrum and cable bandwidth is naturally limited and owned by the people, license holders should once again be regulated to provide for “the public good.”
  • Taxes should be progressive, based on ability to pay. A 20% tax on $2 million per year does not have the same effect on quality of life as 20% on $50,000 per year.
  • Every commercial enterprise should be evaluated based on its effect on quality of life, not its ability to make a profit.
  • No corporation that makes a profit should ever get away with not paying taxes.
  • We need build out a high-functioning, reliable energy grid that uses renewable energy sources to the extent possible, regardless of whether or not it’s profitable. .
  • We should encourage energy conservation wherever possible.
  • We should transition away from burning things for energy, especially fossil fuels.
  • We should make every effort to maximize energy production using any combination of solar, wind, geothermal and tidal power because they will save us in the long run.
  • We should build fully functional, clean and reliable public transportation systems in every urban area in the country, as well as between urban areas, through an affordable, reliable high-speed rail system.
  • Everyone should have free or cheap high-speed Internet access, regardless of profit potential.
  • Everyone should have free or cheap access to a telephone line.
  • Not everything is a “free market.” We should nationalize those industries which have become necessary elements to maintaining our quality of life, but which have ceased to act as a “free market.”
  • Everything we manufacture and/or consume should be made from sustainable and/or renewable materials whenever possible.
  • All commerce should be conducted with an eye on maximum environmental benefit.
  • All companies whose business conduct results in environmental damage should be responsible for all costs associated with the cleanup.
  • Consumers should receive at least as much protection from businesses as businesses receive from consumers.
  • Since government is mandated by the Constitution to regulate commerce to make it fair for all players within that system, regardless of size, we should hold them to that mandate, including strict ethical requirements that put the public interest at a level equal to or above their stockholders’ interests.
  • All government spending should be evaluated for its benefit to society as a whole, not to the profits of a few.
  • Our approach to illegal drugs, should maximize access to treatment and minimize the negative effects on individuals and families.
  • Legal drugs should have to show many years of study before approval, and all advertising should be geared to doctors, not the public.
  • All politicians should understand that it is OUR government, not theirs, and that they have to act honorably in the conduct of their office.
  • Campaign finance laws should allow every individual to express support for his or her favorite candidate or issue, but no individual or group has more rights than any other individual or group, regardless of the size of their bank account.  No one’s support should be marginalized by any other entity.
  • All lobbyists should be held to the highest possible ethical standards.
  • Everyone in this country is entitled to a presumption of innocence and a public trial, including those no one likes.
  • The government always has to prove the guilt of anyone in its custody; no individual should ever have to prove innocence.
  • The United States should never, ever start a war.
  • The United States should never abuse or mistreat anyone in its care, including prisoners of war.
  • The United States should promote peace and democracy everywhere, but it shouldn’t dictate terms to any other country.

If we could adopt these universally, we would have just about every reasonable American on our side most of the time, which means we could dominate politically. And that has to be our goal.

If I have missed any, feel free to make recommendations in the comments.


Also published on Medium.

9 Comments

  • b.f. bayha says:

    Thanks for this manifesto, Mr. Shook

    Some thoughts.

    * Corporations are fictional persons created for the purpose of protecting individual assets, and their rights should not receive greater than a real person.
    — At no time is a corporate entity allowed to “speak” except in pro per, and never by proxy.

    *Every worker should expect to work a fair number of hours, be entitled to adequate medical and family leave to meet their needs, and a reasonable amount of paid time off every year.
    — Overtime worked is to be compensated at “time and a half” and compensatory time off in equal amount as the overtime worked shall be given before the end of the pay period.

    * No corporation that makes a profit should ever get away with not paying taxes.
    — If a corporate activity can’t make a reasonable profit without claiming to need tax relief, that activity should be made into a publically owned utility at the state or national level.

    * Campaign finance laws should allow every individual to express support for his or her favorite candidate or issue, but no individual or group has more rights than any other individual or group, regardless of the size of their bank account. No one’s support should be marginalized by any other entity.

    — If you can’t vote in an election, you don’t get to contribute or donate to that candidate or run ads for or against that candidate.
    — If you can’t vote on a ballot issue, you don’t get to run ads for or against that ballot issue, nor make donations or contributions to any group that is running ads.

    — No “news” source may knowingly lie or “spin” a story. Anything other than the full truth must only be aired an clearly labeled as opinion.

    imho, this one needs some clarity:
    * Everyone who is not a convicted felon should be entitled to exercise all of their basic civil rights. Period. No exceptions.
    Suggest this needs added in somehow?
    — after completion of their sentence

    Thanks for considering these points.

    • Milt Shook says:

      You seem to have missed the point of this piece. Simple, to the point and easy to understand. With your “additions,” you are showing why so few people see things our way, even though they really should. Like many liberals, you want to nitpick and you want everything to be too specific. if you would bother to read these without trying to “perfect” them, you would find that the vast majority of your suggestions are actually included in the manifesto. You just have to see them explicitly included, which, again, points to a serious problem with liberal/progressive messaging.

      • b.f. bayha says:

        I supposed the ‘point’ of this piece was to give a manifesto framework for readers to consider.
        I didn’t suppose it was being handed down from on high with readers required to admire it’s perfection. And no changes or improvements are going to be allowed.
        When Republicans do this, i don’t like it either.
        You have included a number of things i haven’t considered, but it is also true that you and i have not included things that are necessary.
        Very smart people can easily miss obvious things, and my “suggestions/additions” are things that, due to many discussions and observations, need to be spelled out, just as the many good points you’ve already included.
        Demanding people roll over and giving them only the option to agree and bow to your expertise isn’t going to win any friends to your cause.
        I mostly agree with things you write, but if i agreed with everything, there would be at least one problem in there somewhere.
        And that’s why your framework proposal for a manifesto isn’t “to the point” in it’s current form. It misses some fairly important points and i’ve tried to suggest some of them.
        I’ll be curious to see if you allow this to stay posted.
        It won’t matter as far as my reading your posts. I intentionally try to find those who’s thoughts are different than mine to stop from getting too much into the belief that i know it all.
        Keep up the good fight, Me. Shook.

        • Milt Shook says:

          You STILL don’t get it. It’s not a static list of proposals. It is a list of general positions we could take on certain issues that ANYONE could agree with. Your “suggestions” are not relevant because the point of the piece is not exactitude and precision. Your statement that your “suggestions/additions need to be spelled out” shows your basic misunderstanding of the piece. You seem to believe it’s an agenda, and it’s not. The PURPOSE is to state a position on an issue WITHOUT leaning in any direction.

          I don’t “demand” anyone agree with me. I only demand that they understand why progressive usually lose and work to fix it. You’re not there yet, no matter how smart you’ve convinced yourself you are.

  • davidcmoisan says:

    I would leave out the “even” in “Everyone deserves…even for people with disabilities”.

    Rights are rights. An attack on one’s rights is, to paraphrase NATO, an attack on everyone’s rights. And on mine.

    A lot of progressives have to be reminded of that, when they make their rallies inaccessible to the disabled, or when they ban straws and accuse us of killing sea turtles.

    • weavewright says:

      I agree with David about “even”, and with his comments about the broader implications of neglecting/ignoring accessibility.

      I’m going to read this another time or two to absorb it more fully; it’s dense, and I want to do it justice before I comment further. In the meantime , I’m tossing it onto my Facebook page to see what (if any) thoughts come back.

      • Milt Shook says:

        Again, the point is to get the “progressive movement” to stop nitpicking details and commit to overarching goals. The word “even” is a nit pick, and we have to get away from nitpicking and making our “message” too complicated. We are far too easily distracted by minutiae, which is a huge reason we don’t do better in the electorate.

    • b.f. bayha says:

      I also agree with David
      Imho, a very good and important point.

    • Milt Shook says:

      Again, the only people commenting on this nonsense are missing the point of the piece. It’s kind of like the unicorn progressives who are advocating for “Medicare for All.” That’s not the issue; the issue is universal healthcare. Keep the eyes on the prize, which is to build a majority we can carry with us into every election.

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