The Do Nothing Strategy: An Expose of National Progressive Politics

| July 2003

If you feel frustrated and think Americans are losing ground on issues like the right to choose safe and legal abortion, environmental protection, electing more progressive women to public office and civil rights—you’re right. The reason: The Do Nothing Strategy that infects many national, progressive organizations today. The Do Nothing infection has broader implications for American democracy, liberty and justice because it allows right-wing viewpoints, by default, to dominate public policy.

The year was 1989. The U.S. Supreme Court had just decided the Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, returning the regulation of abortion to state legislatures across the country. At a meeting of the pro-choice coalition, Marylanders for the Right to Choose, the Chair of the group, an employee of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, began presenting The Do Nothing Strategy. She very carefully detailed how, in the face of potentially severe restrictions on abortion rights, those of us whose jobs were to defend reproductive choice, were going to achieve that end by actively doing nothing. Never mind that access to safe and legal abortion is critical to the lives and dignity of women or that limits on abortion could send us hurling backwards to a time when women risked their lives to get abortions.