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Strategy for a Movement

Like any other business, politics has a value chain – a set of activities that converts raw materials into finished products and then markets and distributes those products to customers in the marketplace.

Think of Nike. Nike buys raw materials like canvas and rubber, designs and manufactures shoes, develops “swoosh” and “Just Do It,” and then hires Michael Jordan as its spokesman. In politics, raw materials such as philosophical principles and economic and legal theories are transformed into specific policies which are translated into slogans and sound bites and then marketed and distributed to candidates or directly to voters. A philosophy about fairness and the dignity of work combined with an economic theory about labor markets may be turned into a specific policy to raise the minimum wage. Marketing experts translate the policy into a “Living Wage” campaign which is “sold” to voters either through the candidates (wholesale) or through ballot initiatives (retail). Voters then “buy” the product (elect the candidate or pass the ballot initiative).

Nike does not ask Michael Jordan to design the tennis shoes or to develop the “swoosh,” and those hoping to affect the political debate shouldn’t ask their elected leaders to do the equivalent in public policy. For years, the left/center-left searched endlessly for exactly the right Michael Jordan, but spent no time at all designing a better tennis shoe. To exert real influence over the country’s public policy, it is necessary to have the raw materials, the shoe, the “swoosh”, Michael Jordan . . . and everything in between.

But we cannot accomplish this broad strategy alone. To amplify progressive ideas and values, we depend on other like-minded organizations to help market and distribute our "finished products." The Practical Progressive lays out in great detail the progressive infrastructure that provides this distribution. Whether you're a casual activist or a policy expert, it is an indispensable resource.