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How Progressives Can Recapture Seven Deeply Held American Values

February 28, 2020

In recent years, my work at the Face to Face project and beyond has largely involved seeking to identify common good values, policy ideas, messages, narratives and a coherent worldview that have the power to engage across lines of difference. I have also been cultivating an approach to social change that starts with humility, curiosity, deep listening, and an abiding faith in people. I have been privileged to listen to folks from many walks of life, who have helped deepen my understanding of what binds us and the very real ways we disagree. It has been a journey beyond our political crisis and into the deeper spiritual crisis we face.

About one year ago, I had the good fortune of connecting with Richard Kahlenberg from the Century Foundation, and together we embarked on a journey to explore what Robert F. Kennedy’s political coalition can teach us about progressive politics in our time. Rick has done extensive work studying RFK, and together we have spent countless days exploring different approaches for unearthing the values, worldview, and priorities of a broad cross-section of Americans.

Today, we’re excited to release the fruits of that labor, a co-authored report: How Progressives Can Recapture Seven Deeply Held American Values.

This report provides a thorough examination and analysis of the ways in which RFK managed to have crosscutting appeal, in part because he championed seven values that Americans cherish. Although the world has changed a great deal since 1968, evidence from polls, and our direct experience working with leading organizations on the ground, suggests that these basic values still animate millions of Americans, and it is our shared belief that progressives need to be comfortable talking about these seven values if they want to connect with voters in 2020.

The report was covered this week by Tom Edsall in The New York Times and is featured in a piece we wrote that appeared in The Nation yesterday.

I hope you will take the time to read our report, share your thoughts and reactions, and share it with others.

The report was informed by Rick’s extensive learnings about the RFK coalition of 50 years ago and the ways in which Kennedy was able to pull together a diverse group of working-class voters, coupled with my experiences being immersed in organizing, engaging, and working with white, working-class Americans. But we were also able to strengthen this endeavor thanks to about 40 thought leaders who joined us for a series of lunch briefings to hear about what we’ve been exploring and offer their wisdom and guidance for how to connect these learnings with today’s voters.

I’d love to hear your reactions to the report and hope you will consider sharing with your friends and colleagues. Here’s a handy tweet that outlines the seven values we cite:

What Progressives Can Learn from Bobby Kennedy to Build a Working-Class Coalition

  1. Punch up, never down at workers
  2. Represent the importance of family
  3. Embrace patriotism as a progressive ideal
  4. Respect Americans’ religious faith
  5. Underline the dignity of work
  6. Offer a moral vision beyond material benefits
  7. Emphasize the importance of rule of law

Check out the report here.


Simon Greer
Writing Fellow
Face to Face Project

Founder, Writing Fellow of Face to Face

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