Why Progressives (Almost) Always Lose
Despite a few key victories, progressives have spent the past generation losing battle after battle. In considering top progressive priorities such as inequality, racial justice, climate change, the drug war, military spending, public transportation, and single-payer health care, it becomes clear that the left has achieved little, and that the nation has drifted dangerously to the right. Why? In this lecture, I argue that the failure of the left, while reflecting many factors, is at heart a failure of activists to pursue effective social justice strategies. It’s easy to blame political leaders, weak institutions and globalization, but progressive activists have the power to do a better job.
Aaron Belkin is a scholar/activist who played a leading role in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Since 1999, Belkin has served as founding director of the Palm Center, which the Advocate named as one of the most effective gay rights organizations in the nation. He designed and implemented much of the public education campaign that eroded popular support for military anti-gay discrimination, and when "don’t ask, don’t tell" was repealed, the president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund observed that, "this day never would have arrived (or it would have been a much longer wait) without the persistent, grinding work of the Michael Palm Center." Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley said of Belkin that, "Probably no single person deserves more credit for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’"