Rep. Eric Schneiderman on Transforming the Liberal Checklist. A good primer for all of us who are interested in furthering a movement, however, I thin
February 29, 2008

Rep. Eric Schneiderman on Transforming the Liberal Checklist. A good primer for all of us who are interested in furthering a movement, however, I think it also provides some insight as to why Barack Obama's campaign has swept up so many new voters and independent voters and surprised so many election prognosticators:

I respectfully suggest that if we want to move beyond short- term efforts to slow down the bone-crushing machinery of the contemporary conservative movement and begin to build a meaningful movement of our own, we need to expand the job descriptions of our elected officials. To do this, we must consider the two distinct aspects of our work: transactional politics and transformational politics.

Transactional politics is pretty straightforward. What's the best deal I can get on a gun-control or immigration-reform bill during this year's legislative session? What do I have to do to elect a good progressive ally in November? Transactional politics requires us to be pragmatic about current realities and the state of public opinion. It's all about getting the best result possible given the circumstances here and now.

Transformational politics is the work we do today to ensure that the deal we can get on gun control or immigration reform in a year--or five years, or twenty years--will be better than the deal we can get today. Transformational politics requires us to challenge the way people think about issues, opening their minds to better possibilities. It requires us to root out the assumptions about politics or economics or human nature that prevent us from embracing policies that will make our lives better. Transformational politics has been a critical element of American political life since Lincoln was advocating his "oft expressed belief that a leader should endeavor to transform, yet heed, public opinion."

The need for a renewed focus on transformational politics is obvious when we compare the success of the conservative movement over the past thirty years with the collapse of the American progressive coalition. The important thing about contemporary conservatives is not just that they won elections--it's how they won. They didn't win by changing their positions or rhetoric to move toward the voters--or where polls told them the voters were. They won by moving the voters closer to them, paving the way for the last decade of conservative hegemony.

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