'First, since we don't have a well-integrated sense of what our values are--we find it very hard to express what we stand for in any kind of inspiring, compelling way.'
Many progressives are ignorant. Ignorant of history, ignorant of political theory, ignorant of human nature... just plain ignorant. Being vague and dealing in vast generalities are in my experience almost invariably a cover for not knowing very much.
But this is really an insignificant factoid.
Progressivism has been immensely successful. So why don't progressives feel successful?
Progressivism has been vastly more successful in the real America of the last seventy years than conservatism, yet progressives still see themselves as weak and ineffectual. Despite changing America from a nation of free enterprise and tough individuality to one dominated by big business, big government, corparatism and dependency on state programs, progressives don't see themselves as successful.
And conversely, despite enormous amounts of evidence to the contrary, conservatives in America consider themselves successful, and their nation still evincing all the old pre-New Deal qualities. Go figure.
Indubitably, I could do a better job of summing up both the real 'accomplishments' and the real principles of progressivism than many progressives, but there is no question that they have transformed America.
The people with the real problem are American conservatives who don't see that vast swathes of what is around them was created by progressive policies. How much of US agriculture is subsidised by the Federal Government? Who owns US airports? Who owns most of the US airlines? How is the vast bulk of old age medical care provided in the US? How much of the United States is owned by one government agency or another? How much of US business is tied to government by very strong ties of 'lobbying' and other corrupt practises? How much of what goes on in the US is now directly or indirectly connected to government funding?
Because most elected representatives in the US have very low levels of knowledge or concern about wider issues of public policy, most of this has happened with very little or no resistance from the Republican party. In fact, large amounts of it were their work.
The US has a vast distance to travel if it ever chooses to go back to its pre-New Deal incarnation.
So why do progressives feel like failures? Why are they afraid the their brand is weak?
What progressives should be immensely proud of is that under the radar, without ever having a strong brand, they have transformed America into a stodgy, statist, corporatist monolith. That vast swathes of their policy are now the status quo. And that conservatives think they won!
There is the very first twinkling of recognition in the American people that their country became a progressive nightmare while they were busy with personal matters, a recognition prompted by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin mostly. But for now, most Americans are still asleep.
My advice- don't wake them up.