Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action)

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, March 29, 2010 15:35 EDT
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You’ve probably noticed and hopefully been intrigued by the change in the Pandagon banner and the new sidebar ad for a book called Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action). Now I’m ready to formally announce it. Yes, I have a new book out, and is indeed called Get Opinionated: A Progressive’s Guide to Finding Your Voice (and Taking a Little Action). And I’m really proud and excited about it.

My last book It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments was basically what it said it was, a comical look at various irritants in a feminist’s life, and how to cope and laugh about it. This book has a similar format—many short chapters on a variety of topics—but it’s a much different book. This book is about being a liberal/progressive. What does it mean? What do we believe? What do we want? I put forward a vision of liberalism, and like with the last book, it’s heavy on the jokes.

I put together the proposal during the election season, and as I wrote it, I thought one thing was for certain, which is that after November 2008, things were never going to be the same for liberals. Sitting at my desk in fall 2008, I thought two things: a) it seems there are a lot more self-identified liberals around now than there was 8 years ago! and b) our unity as a movement is deeply threatened by this upcoming election. The reason for both of these things can be summed up in one word: Bush. Bush was really good at destruction, taking out entire nations, and the worldwide economy as part of his path of destruction. He destroyed aggressively and passively, as in the case of New Orleans. But he did a great job at building up the liberal movement, especially online. It’s easy to be a liberal when that’s the word you use for the people that are against Bush. And perhaps if McCain won, we would have continued to hold together in opposition. But if Obama wins, I thought, we’re going to be faced with a scary prospect of being for something instead of just against something. Winning’s the hard part. You can’t just rest on your laurels. You have to have goals and the will to act on them. To make it worse, conservatives tend to be really energized, even more so than liberals, by being the opposition. Hating and pouting is their natural state, and we have to react by being even more strenuously for things. So I set out to write a book about being for things, and how there’s lots of things to be for. Quoting my intro:

What I do want you to take away from this book is not liberal dogma, but a belief that these various issues are intertwined, and that someone who comes to liberalism for issue X will do well to care about issues Y and Z as well. Don’t let people pigeonhole you! You may start off as a feminist, but there’s no reason not to add “environmentalist” to your list of interests. Liberal economics, anti-racism, secularism, and support for science—these seemingly disparate issues have more in common than they would seem to have at first blush, and they work together in interesting ways.

I go on to talk about how we need to stop letting the mainstream media use the term “values” to mean only conservative values, because liberals have values that we should advocate for.

Initially, I was worried that this was possibly too simplistic of a thesis. Then the health care debacle began, and I realized that no, in fact the idea of being for things was clearly so confusing to the Democrats that they needed to have someone walk in front of them with a big sign saying “this way” at all points in time. And who better for that job than we out in Liberal Land? Indeed, I’d say the eventual passage of the bill shows exactly how much power we have as a group when we start standing for things. The Democrats were willing to roll over on this one, people, and the only reason they took one final post-Scott Brown stab at passing a real bill into law was that liberals found our voice again and we made it clear that we’re not interested in voting for people who don’t know how to be for things. Realizing they had to answer to a constituency that wants them to be a lot more than Not Bush, the Democrats sucked it up and passed a bill. Is it a good enough bill? Hell no. But it’s a start. Which is more than we’d be getting if we didn’t take all that post-election energy and put it towards standing for things other than kicking Republican bums out.

A lot of this book is all about being for progress. I’m a big fan of the environment, ending the bullshit War on Terror and War on Drugs, gay rights, reproductive rights, and having a coherent philosophy about the economy that might prevent future disaster and could even encourage prosperity. I argue that the culture wars are extremely important, whether we like it or not, and we should be willing to fight them with an understanding that we are winning. I think there are a lot of people in this country, such as bureaucrats, that are unfairly maligned and need defenders, so I do that as well. And I think a big part of understanding American politics is understanding the players. And by that, I don’t mean the politicians and the pundits, but the ordinary people on the ground creating political views through their friendships, families, and internet interactions. So I start off the book looking at various political subcultures and what impact they have. Because it’s important, but also because I like making fun of people, including myself. And there’s lots of that going on, as well.

If you click through the links on this page to buy it through Amazon, it’s $10.85 (at least today). If you’re still on the fence, let me tempt you with some chapter titles:

Shooting Beer Cans For Freedom
The Homosexual Agenda Is Playing At My House
Free Market Health Care Is Writing a Check for the Pleasure of Being Told to Fuck Off
Me? Drugs? Never. I Get High On Opinions
This Place Sucks, and We Want A Rapture
Global Warming Is Not Controversial
Only One Side of the Abortion Debate Wants You to Get Laid

I’m also doing some readings, so whip out your calendars and come have some fun. For New Yorkers, I’m reading at Bluestockings at 8PM on April 7th, and at KGB Bar at 7PM on April 14th. For the Boston crew, I’m going to read at the Brattle Theater at 8PM on April 26th. The event is being held by the Boston Skeptics, so there will be lots of talk about pro-science liberalism. For DC dwellers, I’m reading at Busboys & Poets at 6:30 on May 11th.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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