The progressive movement in the United States is moribund. To the extent that there is mass action by people who call themselves progressives — MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, etc. — there is little actual pressure for progress; the only pressure that exists is against only the worst excesses of neoconservatism. Where is the pressure to end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan?
Why are progressives celebrating the election of a president who calls for only a reduction of the occupation of Iraq — and even that reduction over a ridiculously long time frame? Why celebrate the election of a president who explicitly calls for intensifying the occupation of Afghanistan, and who makes bellicose, threatening statements towards Iran? Why celebrate the election of a president who responds to the economic crisis by appointing the people who caused the crisis to try to fix it? Why celebrate the election of a president who responds to the undermining of what little democracy we actually have by the Republican party by "reaching across the aisle" and promising cooperation with those who can just be labeled as actual traitors?
Are progressives just stupid? Well, yes, but that's not, I think, the cause of the problem. Conservatives are not just stupid, they're really fucking stupid, and batshit crazy as well, but despite these handicaps they've achieved remarkable success: They've run against peace and prosperity and actually won major victories. They've influenced the narrative so deeply that even now so-called progressives are happy with just a little bit less war and poverty, and decry anyone calling for more as naive and unrealistic.
Conservatives have done well because a substantial fraction of the ruling class has been throwing vast amounts of money to promote conservatism. Think tanks, pundits, columnists, school boards and local politicians, national politicians. The core strategy has been simple: promote a consistent ideology, and win where they can, but never compromise the core ideology to recover from a loss. Absent catastrophic conditions, this is an effective strategy for implementing an ideology; indeed this is the only effective strategy.
This strategy requires money. A lot of money. A lot more money than can be raised from the hoi polloi. Those conservative clergy — Rick Warren, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell — who depend on the support of ordinary people are small potatoes, bit players in the drama. They are powerful not just because they have a few million bucks fleeced from their sheeple, but rather because they are allied with a much more powerful general conservative movement funded by billions of dollars.
The liberal billionaires — those in a position to throw a significant amount of money at the progressive movement — are in a bind. On the one hand, I'm sure they can clearly see that the conservative movement is leading the world to a catastrophe — a catastrophe that is looming even now. On the other hand, how do they respond? To act progressively risks progressing right through towards socialism and a radical redistribution of wealth... their wealth. So they act only defensively... but no one has ever won a defensive war.
When I started this blog in 2007, I was disgusted with the progressive movement for their incompetence and cowardice. I'm now less disgusted (but no more inclined to cooperate). The progressive movement is ineffective simply because they don't have the massive funding the conservatives have. There's no selection process within the movement: money just doesn't flow to successful progressives.
Progressivism, socialism, communism... all of these movements require catastrophe. This is not to say that catastrophe must or should be engineered; even if such a thing were morally permissible (which it's not), progressives by definition lack the resources and economic ability to actively bring about a true catastrophe. But we see time and again that ruling-class based societies bring about their own catastrophes: depressions, wars, famines, plagues. Until the catastrophe strikes, progressives will always be marginalized; when catastrophe strikes, all the money and political power in the world cannot force back the reality that demands progress.