How the Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People: A Tactical Manual for Pragmatic Progressives

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If we were to rely on what the pundits and politicians tell us, we would have to conclude that America is a deeply conservative nation. Americans, we hear constantly, detest government, demand lower taxes and the end of welfare, and favor the death penalty, prayer in school, and an absolute faith in the free market.

And yet Americans believe deeply in progressive ideas. In fact, progressivism has long been a powerful force in the American psyche. Consider that a mere generation ago the struggle for environmentally sound policies, for women's rights, and for racial equality were fringe movements. Today, open opposition to these core ideals would be political suicide.

Drawing on this wellspring of American progressivist tradition, John K. Wilson has penned an informal handbook for the pragmatic progressive. Wilson insists that the left must become more savvy in its rhetoric and stop preaching only to the converted. Progressives need to attack the tangible realities of the corporate welfare state, while explicitly acknowledging that "socialism is," as Wilson writes, "deader than Lenin."

Rather than attacking a "right-wing conspiracy," Wilson argues that the left needs one, too. Tracing how well-funded conservative pressure groups have wielded their influence and transformed the national agenda, Wilson outlines a similar approach for the left. Along the way, he exposes the faultlines of our poll- and money-driven form of politics, explodes the myth of "the liberal media," and demands that the left explicitly change its image.

Irreverent, practical, and urgently argued, How The Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People charts a way to translate progressive ideals into reality and reassert the core principles of the American left on the national stage.

Author Biography: John K. Wilson is the author of The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education and Newt Gingrich: Capitol Crimes and Misdemeanors.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Through a "tactical radicalism" consisting of new rhetoric and a more purposeful political agenda, the Left could beat the Right at its own game and put an end to the ascendancy of conservatism, argues Wilson (The Myth of Political Correctness). Americans largely agree with progressive goals, he says, as he discusses issues such as taxes, education, welfare, labor, school prayer, and affirmative action. A "big-tent left capable of mobilizing all its people," he writes, will allow progressive values to topple today's corporate dominance of our politics. While Wilson's points often seem facile will more letters to the editor really make such a large difference? his energy, optimism, and humor will cheer those who agree with him, particularly younger readers, whom he refers to hopefully as "Generation Left." An optional purchase. Robert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publisher's Weekly
With candor, humor, and pith, Wilson's How the Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People: A Tactical Manual for Pragmatic Profressives, upholds the premise that, first and foremost, the U.S. is a country founded on progressivism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814793626
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Series: Critical America Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

John K. Wilson is the author of The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education and Newt Gingrich: Capitol Crimes and Misdemeanors.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Progressive Majority: How the Left Got Left Behind 1
Ch. 1 The Death of Socialism 7
Sidebar: Labels for Leftists 8
Ch. 2 The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Why the Left-Wing Needs One, Too) 22
Sidebar: Going Negative 30
Sidebar: How to Get a Letter Published 36
Ch. 3 The Failure of Centrism and the Fall of the Democratic Party 42
Sidebar: Why Progressives Need Third Parties 44
Sidebar: The Class Distortion in American Elections 49
Ch. 4 Polls: The Circle of Lies 53
Sidebar: The Frozen Pizza Polls 59
Ch. 5 The Politics of Money: Campaign Financing and One Dollar, One Vote 60
Sidebar: Why Full Disclosure Isn't Enough 65
Ch. 6 The Myth of the Liberal Media: How the Press Attacks Progressives 75
Sidebar: Big Bird Votes Republican: The Myth of Leftist Public Broadcasting 76
Sidebar: The 1 Percent Advertising Tax 80
Sidebar: Corporate Television and False Controversies 84
Sidebar: Why We Need Public Broadcasting 93
Ch. 7 The Globalization Wars: How the Left Won (and Lost) the "Battle in Seattle" 110
Sidebar: Free Trade and Economic Liberty 114
Sidebar: Stopping Sweatshops on College Campuses 118
Ch. 8 Pragmatic Progressive 121
Sidebar: Right-Wing Nuts and Other Extremists 126
Ch. 9 Talking Tax Cuts: Lowering Taxes on the Poor 131
Sidebar: Favoring the Flat Tax 134
Sidebar: Raising the Minimum Wage 137
Ch. 10 Making Crime a Progressive Issue 143
Ch. 11 Winning the Culture Wars 161
Sidebar: Why Progressives Must Love Free Speech 163
Ch. 12 Equality for Every Child: Reforming Education 174
Sidebar: Universal Child Care 174
Sidebar: Attacking the SAT 177
Sidebar: Teaching Evolution 180
Sidebar: Supporting Prayer in Schools 182
Ch. 13 Fighting the Union Label: Labor on the Left 184
Ch. 14 The Race for Justice: Defending Affirmative Action 191
Sidebar: Reparations 192
Sidebar: Why Progressives Must Pay Attention to Race 200
Ch. 15 Universal Health Care 203
Ch. 16 Greener Politics: Progressives and the Environment 207
Sidebar: Animal Rights and the Hazards of Publicity 208
Ch. 17 Why We Need Welfare and How to Change It 213
Sidebar: Ending Class Warfare 216
Ch. 18 Ending Corporate Welfare as We Know It 220
Sidebar: The $500 Plan 221
Ch. 19 The Defense Industry: How to Protect America by Cutting the Military 232
Sidebar: Star Wars Follies 232
Sidebar: Progressives and the Good War: Why Military Intervention Is Wrong 235
Sidebar: Why We Need the United Nations 239
Ch. 20 Saving Social Security 241
Ch. 21 The Future of Progressives: Generation Left 249
About the Author 253
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