The first four years draw to a close. And between a fractured and disjointed Democratic minority, obstructionist Republican lawmakers, and a campaign year of gridlock and Executive foot-dragging on long-since approved regulation, we don’t really have a lot to show for them.

Sure, one of the big cuffs has now been taken off—reelection—but the truth is, what we’ve seen from our “golden prophet” isn’t anything less than we should have expected. After all, the Left has been so hell-bent on finding a figurehead for the Progressive Cause, we kind of didn’t bother to firm up our identity, develop sound policy, or decide how best to disseminate it.

In other words, we found our spokesperson long before we had a product to sell, much less a path to market.

The Right, however, doesn’t have this problem. If there is one thing we know for sure, it is what plans and machinations will be cultivated when the Right plows in a new field of political power, be it Executive, Legislative, or Judicial. We all know what the platform of the Republican party is: supply side philosophy, tax cuts (with the bulk of the benefit going to corporations and the top 1%), deregulation of corporations and industry, reducing the scope and life of social programs, weakening environmental and consumer protections, and finding a way to manipulate policy for their own political gain. Why is it any surprise to us that policy on all of these fronts is already waiting in the hopper and springs to life the day they take office?

Take Wisconsin, for example. After winning the election, yet before taking office, the Walker administration was already announcing its plans to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees, an issue which barely saw the light of day throughout the campaign. And behind it stood a ponderous queue of long-dreamt policies— Voter ID, corporate tax cuts, wetlands degradation, mining deregulation, and a slashed budget aimed directly at the middle and lower classes—with a politically compliant Assembly and Senate chomping at the bit to pass them into law.

These policies were not advanced because of a great spokesperson with such adoring charisma that the public simply could not say “no” to him. They were quickly advanced because long before the Walker administration took power—nay, was even elected—these policies had already been firmly crafted by an admirably organized and well-funded conservative machine that only had to wait for an opportunity to bring them to life (read up on ALEC here and here if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

The truth is, it didn’t matter if it was Scott Walker, Scott Pippen, or Scott Baio on the Republican ticket; as long as he got 50%+1 of the votes those policies were going to be at the forefront of his agenda, regardless of if he said so in the campaign. And with a lucrative, corporate-owned media monopoly on television, radio, and print news actively censoring the issues and helping to promote the agenda, the skids were already greased in his favor.

Progressives need to take a couple of pages out of their book. Sure, it’s great we found a charismatic public speaker to put on the ballot, but what the hell did we expect him to do when he won? A spokesperson can’t spend his time researching or crafting policy; it’s his job to sell it! And with the media microphone muting his best efforts, his battle went from being merely uphill to Sisyphean.

So rather than putting all our money and effort wondering who the next face of the progressive movement will be, rather than spend our time crying over all of the ways in which we were disappointed by Democratic leaders, let’s direct those dollars and efforts to organizations that can build up our own hopper of progressive policy so that next time the nation elects a progressive, we won’t return to the policy kitchen and find the cupboard bare. We need to concentrate on supporting progressive think tanks, social research efforts, environmental science, and non-corporate media outlets so that we have an equally long queue of sharp, effective policy, and a way to promote it, from the first day our candidate takes office.

Having seen it work recently in state legislatures across the nation, and immediately after 9/11, we know how effective this strategy can be. Compared to the tiny ripples (if any) from Democratically controlled legislatures, the waves of the “Republican sweep” of 2010 were felt as suddenly and harshly as the swells of Hurricane Sandy. Democrats, caught weak and wide-eyed in the face of a terrifying surge of conservative policy, were quite literally awestruck by the depth, breadth, and speed of the impending political change that resulted.

That’s the tactic that progressives need to embrace. It doesn’t matter if “our guy” wins. It only matters what policy we get out of it, and everyone knows the first 100 days are the most effective. We squandered ours last time. Let’s not do it again.

Below is a list of progressive policy research organizations (a.k.a. “Think Tanks”) and alternative media outlets (some progressive, some just “not-coprorate”). Along with ignoring corporate-owned news media, supporting these organizations is the fastest way to develop and promote sound progressive policy. So the next time we find our shining face with an articulate voice, we can quickly give it something to talk about.

We got lucky this week, in a manner of speaking. This time around, the Right just couldn’t find their spokesperson, someone to sell their ideas. And thanks to some real doozies from the more archaic and misogynistic candidates on the Right, the scales tipped to the left…barely. I don’t feel very comfortable or confident with a mere 50% +1 of the vote. Do you?

Please research and consider these organizations. They sure could use your support.

Thinking about the future:
The Brookings Institution
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The Agenda Project
Urban Institute
Good Jobs First
Center for American Progress

Actual reporting on important stuff:
The Real News
Mother Jones
The Nation
The Progressive
Talking Points Memo