What do we stand for that our opponents don’t?
Well, Markos over at Daily Kos took a swing at it. Ezra Klein decried his attempt as pabulum. Matt Yglesias agreed, and went on to say that he was pretty disappointed in the results of the Prospect’s contest (as you may recall, I felt more or less the same way about ours):
Largely, as with the example Ezra takes down, the problem was that people didn’t even seem to understand the right kind of thing to be doing. What makes the conservative pitch work is that while it’s general enough to be broadly appealing, it’s specific enough that liberals will have to reject it. The submissions we got tended to either operate at an overly-broad level ("we’re for good things happening and against bad ones") or else to just be policy laundry-lists.
Kevin Drum agrees, and takes the bold step of actually trying to do better, trying to put concrete form to a few principles that are specific enough to have policy content, but broad enough to be appealing and serve as a jumping-off point or frame for future efforts.
Looking back in light of this discussion, the problem with most of the elevator pitches we got is that they were hopelessly broad and mushy. We can say we’re for "clean air and water" or "future generations," but then, who exactly is against those things? Nobody. What policies follow from them? It’s wide open.
Where’s the beef (er, tofu)? What will happen if environmentalists gain the political power to implement an agenda? Why should your elevator-mate work to make that happen?
Phrased that way, it occurs to me that it might be hopeless trying to find one pitch for "environmentalism," since there are so many different kinds, pushing for such different things. Perhaps "environmentalism" is a meaningless generalization and we should stop talking about it.
But I would prefer that it mean something — in particular, I would prefer that it mean what I mean by it. I would like to get rid of some of the old stereotypes about environmentalists and define a new sort.
So with that, I’ll bite the bullet and offer my own pitch:
Clean, renewable energy in abundance; prosperity without waste; equitable distribution of our shared resources; and preservation of our remaining natural heritage.
It ain’t perfect … but it’s only 21 words!
I’m not going to start another contest, but for those who have read through the discussion: Would you care to offer one of your own? Or thoughts on the matter?