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Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Are Powerful Voices for the Left

May 27th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Are Powerful Voices for the Left | Filed in 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders, Democrats

Sen. Bernie Sanders waves to supporters as he arrives to kick off his presidential campaign on May 26, 2015, in Burlington, Vermont.Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton may be the front-runner, but the tandem of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is offering liberals a powerful voice.

By Jamelle Bouie
LeftField at

Looking at the Democratic primary as a movie, a film critic might say that Sen. Bernie Sanders is a little “on-the-nose” as an antagonist to Hillary Clinton. He is her reverse. Where Hillary is well-known (and to many women, an icon), he is obscure. Where she embodies the establishment, he is on its outskirts, a self-identified “socialist” from the liberal enclave of Burlington, Vermont. Where she gives six-figure speeches, he is among the “poorest” members of the Senate with a net worth of roughly $460,000. She plans to run a $2 billion campaign; he hopes to raise $50 million.

And where Clinton is in the middle of the mainstream, Sanders has been an iconoclast for decades. As a House member, he co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, opposed both wars in Iraq, and voted against the Patriot Act. As a senator for Vermont since 2007, he’s criticized the bank bailouts, voted against Tim Geithner’s nomination for Treasury Secretary, and gave a nearly nine-hour speech against a partial extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Now, as a candidate in the Democratic nomination race, he’s an advocate for the left wing of the party. “I am not running against Hillary Clinton,” he said in a recent interview with the Washington Post. Instead, he’s launching a crusade—against inequality, against Wall Street, and against the “billionaire class” that he claims dominates American politics. “Billionaire families are now able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the candidates of their choice,” he says on his campaign website. “These people own most of the economy. Now they want to own our government as well.”

This is more than rhetoric. To Sanders, the economy isn’t just unequal, it’s rigged, with the richest Americans using their resources to tilt the board in their direction. “Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated today goes to the top 1 percent,” he said in a recent interview with CNBC’s John Harwood. “Top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much as wealth as the bottom 90 percent.” To reverse this “massive transfer of wealth” from the middle class to the very top, Sanders wants high tax rates (“If my memory is correct, when radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90 percent”) and substantial redistribution.

This agenda, and Sanders’ diagnosis, has real appeal in the Democratic Party. Seventy-one percent of Democrats want high taxes to fund programs for the poor, and 37 percent blame tax and economic policies for the gap between the rich and everyone else. As for the senator himself? Of the non-Clinton candidates in the Democratic primary, he’s the most popular, holding more support than Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee combined. Then again, this is a bit like being the best featherweight boxer in a ring with Mike Tyson. You are going to lose, and it will be painful.

Indeed, it’s hard to see how Sanders and his left-wing advocacy can pull Clinton to the left when, outside of debates, she can safely ignore his campaign.

If Sanders is pushing at Clinton from inside the primary, than Warren is doing the same from the outside.

The answer is twofold. First, Sanders is so distant from the Democratic establishment that he’s uninterested in traditional fundraising. This makes winning impossible, but it’s also an opportunity. Describing Clinton and others, Sanders told Harwood that “when you hustle money like that … you sit in restaurants where you’re spending … hundreds of dollars for dinner and so forth. That’s the world that you’re accustomed to, and that’s the worldview that you adopt. … I think that can isolate you—that type of wealth has the potential to isolate you from the reality of the world.”

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Iowa Working Families Summit Advances Push for Progressive Agenda

May 25th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Iowa Working Families Summit Advances Push for Progressive Agenda | Filed in 2016 Election, Organizing, safety net


By Emily Foster
Campaign for America’s Future

May 25, 2015 – While well-heeled conservatives watched Republican presidential candidates make their pitches for support in an Iowa convention hall at the GOP’s Lincoln Dinner on May 16, grassroots progressives gathered in a much less lavish college auditorium to discuss pressing issues for America’s struggling middle class.

The Iowa State Campus University in Ames, Iowa, was where people from more than 50 organizations (including co-sponsors of groups endorsing CAF’s Populism 2015 Platform) gathered for the Iowa Working Families Summit. The summit had a huge turnout of more than 600 people from all over the state. Their focus was on showing that progressive policies, such as investing in infrastructure, raising the minimum wage and strengthening labor unions, are the key path to American prosperity.

Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and vice president of the AFL-CIO, elaborated on the cohesive ideas shared at the conference by the participating groups, and said he has never seen a “better statewide effort” to advance ideas important to American workers. He also explained how important it was for the groups to “get out of the silos and into the streets.”

“It’s not just about the choices of our candidates” Cohen said when asked about the impact of the conference on the 2016 elections. “It’s also about how we’re building our agenda for the middle class.”

The keynote speaker – Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor (1993-1997) – noted that the U.S. economy has grown twice as large in the past 30 years, but wages for the middle class have gone “nowhere,” due to a political system that rewards the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

Essentially, we have an economy “that’s rigged against the average working people.”

Reich emphasized that Americans in the middle class need to “stand up together,” and rebuild the strength of the middle class through raising support for labor unions, education, and infrastructure.

Sue Dinsdale, executive director of the Iowa Citizen Action Network, said her organization plans to build on the ideas considered at this past weekend’s summit. Throughout the upcoming election cycle, the organization plans to “take the summit on the road – take ideas out into communities and towns throughout Iowa, and to organize similar events.”

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The Great Democratic Crack-Up of 2016

May 21st, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on The Great Democratic Crack-Up of 2016 | Filed in 2016 Election, Democrats, PDA

Rep. Edwards speaking to defend and expand Social Security

They may have a strong presidential candidate, but at every other level, the party’s politicians and activists are fighting to survive — and fighting with one another.

New York Times Magazine

MAY 12, 2015 – Maryland might seem a peculiar venue for a blood feud over the future of the Democratic Party. It is the second-bluest state in the United States, after Massachusetts, according to Gallup; its registered Democrats, more than 30 percent of whom are black, outnumber registered Republicans two to one. Maryland is home to an immense federal work force and is one of the states most economically dependent on the federal government. Its gun-control laws are among the strictest in the nation. In 2012, Maryland and Maine became the first states to ratify same-sex marriage by popular vote. Barack Obama’s statewide margin of victory was roughly 26 points in 2008 and 2012, the fifth highest in the United States. The last time the G.O.P. won control of the Maryland State Legislature was in 1897. So reliable is its party affiliation that, as a Democratic senator’s chief of staff puts it, “If Maryland ever becomes a jeopardy state, then the whole thing is gone.”
Continue reading the main story

This past March, when Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in United States Senate history, unexpectedly announced that she would not be seeking a sixth term in 2016, national progressive groups quickly threw their weight behind their dream candidate: Donna Edwards. A pugnacious former community organizer, Edwards is a four-term African-American congresswoman from Prince George’s County, one of the most affluent majority-black counties in the United States. But she wasn’t the favorite of establishment Democrats.

For them, the obvious choice to replace Mikulski was the seven-term congressman Chris Van Hollen, who is considered a progressive like Edwards, but has a reputation for coolheaded practicality and for working well with Republicans. Of the bills sponsored by Van Hollen in the previous session of Congress, 37 percent included at least one Republican co-sponsor. For Edwards, the corresponding figure was 0 percent. Where she is viewed as a warrior for liberal causes, he is seen as a conciliator, one whose let’s-sit-down-and-talk-this-over geniality led to his tenure as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2007 to 2011 and, thereafter, to his designation as the House Democrats’ point man on bipartisan budget discussions. As their lead negotiator, Van Hollen has immersed himself in the sort of legislative sausage-making that typically entails compromise, like his expressed willingness, in 2012, to consider restructuring Social Security as part of an overall deficit-reduction agreement. To progressives, this was nothing less than apostasy.

Though the Senate Democratic primary was a year away, the national groups supporting Edwards knew that Van Hollen would be viewed as the prohibitive front-runner if they didn’t define the stakes of the contest immediately. Three of these groups — the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America and Blue America — sent out a blizzard of fund-raising solicitations, petitions and emails to members and to the media, one of which hailed Edwards as “a true Elizabeth Warren Democrat,” referring to the U.S. senator from Massachusetts whose confrontational stances on economic issues have galvanized the left. Van Hollen received an altogether different reception. Within hours after he made his candidacy official on March 4, three other voices from the liberal wing of the party — MoveOn, Credo Action and Daily Kos, the website run by the activist Markos Moulitsas — openly questioned his progressive bona fides and implied that he was one of a breed of “corporate ‘New Democrats.’?” Moulitsas’s website declared that Van Hollen’s flexibility on Social Security amounted to “a major red flag,” making him “a candidate that may bargain away retirement security.” Edwards, meanwhile, entered the race pointedly pledging never to tamper with Social Security, “no ifs, ands, buts or willing-to-considers.”

Whichever Democratic candidate wins the primary next spring, he or she will be heavily favored to become the state’s next U.S. senator. Because of this, the Maryland contest is unlikely to hinge on which candidate can appeal to the broadest spectrum of voters on Election Day. Rather, it will be a fight over what a true Democrat should, and should not, be.

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Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Bid Represents a Long Tradition of American Socialism

May 5th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Bernie Sanders’s Presidential Bid Represents a Long Tradition of American Socialism | Filed in 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders, socialism

Long deployed by the right as an epithet, this form of left-wing populism is as American as apple pie.

By Peter Dreier
Progressive America Rising via American Prospect

Now that Bernie Sanders has entered the contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Americans are going to hearing a lot about socialism, because the 73-year old U.S. senator from Vermont describes himself as a “democratic socialist.”

“Ever since I was a kid I never liked to see people without money or connections get put down or pushed around,” Sanders explained in making his announcement. “When I came to Congress I tried to be a voice for people who did not have a voice—the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor. And that is what I will be doing as a candidate for president.”

We can expect the right-wing echo chamber—including Fox News hosts, Tea Party politicians, and Rush Limbaugh—to attack Sanders for espousing an ideology that they’ll likely describe as foreign, European, and un-American.

But Sanders’s views are in sync with a longstanding American socialist tradition. Throughout our history, some of the nation’s most influential activists and thinkers, such as Jane Addams, John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, and Gloria Steinem, embraced socialism.  

Of course, America’s right-wingers say there’s already a socialist in the White House. For the past seven years, Barack Obama’s opponents—the Republican Party, the Tea Party, the right-wing blogosphere, , and conservative media gurus like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh—labeled anything Obama proposed, including his modest health-care reforms and his efforts to restore regulations on Wall Street, as “socialism.”

In March 2009, two months after Obama took office, the ultra-conservative National Review put a picture of the new president on its cover over the headline, “Our Socialist Future.” In 2010, Newt Gingrich authored To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine. Stanley Kurtz, a regular contributor to conservative publications and frequent guest on Fox News, published Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.  These are only a few of the many right-wingers fulminating against Obama’s alleged socialist views.

Obama joked about this in his recent speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.  “I like Bernie. Bernie’s an interesting guy,” said Obama, referring to Sanders. “Apparently, some folks want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. We could get a third Obama term after all.”

President Franklin Roosevelt faced similar allegations. His conservative enemies, including some members of Congress, consistently called him a socialist. In a speech defending his New Deal goals, FDR said: “A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it ‘Fascism’, sometimes ‘Communism’, sometimes ‘Regimentation’, sometimes ‘Socialism’. But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.”

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Are We Paying Attention Yet? The Response Of Black Rage To Oppression Is Not Going Away

May 1st, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Are We Paying Attention Yet? The Response Of Black Rage To Oppression Is Not Going Away | Filed in Police Crimes, racism

“The longer we allow city officials and corporate oppressors to operate with impunity, the more we will see our communities devolve into chaos.”

By Jamala Rogers
Progressive America Rising via Black Commentator

Another U.S. city goes up in smoke. The rage and despair to conditions in black Bantustans has now bubbled over into the streets of Baltimore.

The city had been center stage after the horrific death of Freddy Gray at the hands of Baltimore police. After allegedly “making eye contact” with police, 25 year old Gray ended up in police custody with a severe spinal cord injury that later led to his death.

Gray’s death is part of a relentless and seemingly never ending string of police assaults on black citizens across the country. Almost daily, we are besieged with graphic videos of black people’s encounters with police. At one point, I advised my Facebook community not to repost these images as our people struggle with both the historical and contemporary symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  My suggestion was to post visuals of the perpetrators or of people organizing against state violence as the more healthy or inspiring alternatives.

Here in Ferguson, we have been in a joint healing and organizing mode since the murder of Mike Brown. I wish I could say that there have been no acts of police violence since the tragic August 9 shooting of the black teen. Sadly, that has not been the case. This means that in between organizing to address the systemic violence of police to black bodies, progressives and justice-seeking citizens have been organizing to address solutions to racist policing. We have also stepped up our efforts to get relief for the conditions in disenfranchised and marginalized communities where distrust and rage are brewing.

The injustices highlighted in the scathing report on the Ferguson Police Department by the Department of Justice can be ascribed to most cities. The longer we allow city officials and corporate oppressors to operate with impunity, the more we will see our communities devolve into chaos. It is a choice Dr. Martin Luther King posed to the nation in 1967 and it looks like we keeping choosing chaos.

As I did with the Ferguson uprising, I encourage people not to run to Baltimore now but to organize where you live. If you’re in an urban setting, your city has the same incendiary issues that we face in Ferguson and that the African American community is facing in Baltimore – failing schools, unemployment, police terrorism, etc. When organizers in Baltimore need our presence in their city, they will let us know. Read the rest of this entry »

Playing the Rightwing Populism Card

April 30th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Playing the Rightwing Populism Card | Filed in 2016 Election, GOP, racism, rightwing

Enter Scott Walker, Stage Right

Thomas B. Edsall
Progressive America Rising via New York Times

April 29, 2015 – As Scott Walker has transformed himself from a three-time statewide winner in blue-leaning Wisconsin to a hard-right Republican primary candidate, he has jumped to the head of the pack in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Walker’s re-creation of his political identity is a test of whether a Republican presidential candidate can win on the basis of decisive margins among whites (while getting crushed among minority voters).

Walker hopes to stand apart from Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor, and Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, who are both taking a more centrist approach. Walker intends to stake out the right side of the Republican spectrum and trump competitors for this niche like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Even as he shifts to the right, however, Walker, a preternaturally careful candidate, is avoiding any explicit suggestion that he is the champion of disaffected white voters. Still, key policy positions — particularly his changing stance on immigration and his attacks on public sector unions — reveal a thoughtfully directed appeal. In 2011, Walker successfully sponsored legislation repealing most collective bargaining rights for government employees. Walker’s anti-union initiative has made him a folk hero to conservatives concerned about what they see as the expanding power of government.

In a recent paper, “The Whiteness of Wisconsin’s Wages,” Dylan Bennett, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, and Hannah Walker, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Washington, argue that “Governor Walker and his allies activated the racial animus of white workers.”

Bennett and Walker contend that gutting the power of public sector unions serves as a vehicle to disempower African-American workers, “for whom the public sector is the single most important source of employment.”

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Paul Krugman Demolishes the ‘Zombie’ Ideas That Have Eaten Republican Brains

April 26th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Paul Krugman Demolishes the ‘Zombie’ Ideas That Have Eaten Republican Brains | Filed in 2016 Election, Budget Debates, safety net, Social Securiy


By Janet Allon
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet

April 24, 2015 – Paul Krugman has a little fun in his Friday column [3], using an extended zombie metaphor to express a rather serious point. The question the columnist seeks an answer to: why is it that Republicans and the right refuse to recognize the reality, evidence and facts that discredit their ideas? Must be something supernatural. Or more likely Koch and Adelson money. But more on that in a sec.

"Last week, a zombie went to New Hampshire and staked its claim to the Republican presidential nomination," Krugman begins. "Well, O.K., it was actually Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. But it’s pretty much the same thing."

Christie gave a speech [4] in New Hampshire once again positioning himself as a roll-up-your-shirtsleeves, tough fiscal conservative. But his ideas are largley, well, zombies. Things that are dead, but somehow refuse to acknowledge they are dead. Christie thought he was being so smart when he proposed that the minimum age for Social Secutiry and Medicare be raised to 69. Here is Krugman’s explanation of the problem with that oh-so-brave idea.

    This whole line of argument should have died in 2007, when the Social Security Administration issued a report showing that almost all the rise in life expectancy [5] has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers, who are precisely the Americans who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore, while lawyers and politicians may consider working into their late 60s no hardship, things look somewhat different to ordinary workers, many of whom still have to perform manual labor.

    And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. In fact, a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office [6] found that raising the Medicare age would save almost no money at all.

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How It Usually Works: Deconstructing a Media Police Coverup

April 9th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on How It Usually Works: Deconstructing a Media Police Coverup | Filed in Civil Rights, Media bias, Police Crimes

Media Had Already Bought Police’s Fantasy Version of Walter Scott Killing Before Video Surfaced

By Adam Johnson

FAIR via Alternet

April 8, 2015  – The New York Times (4/7/15 [3]) released a video of a black South Carolina man Walter Scott being shot, casually and without apparent mercy, eight times in the back by white police officer Michael T. Slager. The media’s outrage [4] after the video’s publication was righteous and swift. The state of South Carolina followed suit, filing murder charges [5] against Slager. Indeed, the video offers no ambiguity whatsoever:

Before this shocking video surfaced, however, most of the local press coverage, per usual [6], followed the police’s official narrative and amplified a storyline that, in retrospect, was entirely made up.

The Scott shooting, as Think Progress’s Judd Ledgum pointed out [7], provides unique insight into the way the police use inherent asymmetry of information to assert their narrative:

Between the time when he shot and killed Scott early Saturday morning and when charges were filed, Slager — using the both the police department and his attorney — was able to provide his “version” of the events.

He appeared well on his way to avoiding charges and pinning the blame on Scott.

Then a video, shot by an anonymous bystander, revealed exactly what happened [8].

In all police killings, one side–the victim–is, by definition, dead. So the “both sides” type of reporting we’re so often used to almost invariably becomes a one-sided airing of accounts, facts and selective details from the police side that the corporate media repeats without question. Indeed, Charleston’s local ABC affiliate would begin [9] their report with, what turned out to be, an outright lie:

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — A man involved in a traffic stop that turned into a physical altercation with a North Charleston police officer died Saturday after being shot by the officer.

But the New York Times video shows there was no “physical altercation.” There was someone being shot in the back eight times while trying to run away. The report would go on to mix up police assertion with fact again, seemingly inventing witnesses [10] who weren’t there:

Police and witnesses say Scott tried to run from Slager before turning to fight for the officer’s taser. It was during that scuffle that the officer fired his service weapon, fatally wounding Scott.

But what witnesses? I have asked the reporter, Greg Woods, to name the witnesses he documented; as of press time, he has not responded. Woods did not, in any of his reports, actually quote any witnesses saying they saw a “fight.” What appears to have happened is that Woods was told by police there were witnesses and he reported it, uncritically.

In another piece [11]–that, in fairness, did have interviews with the victim’s family–local CBS affiliate WCSC effectively handed the report over to North Charleston police for their uninterrupted retelling of events:

Slager deployed his taser weapon to detain the driver but was unsuccessful, Pryor said.

Police say an altercation then began between Slager and Scott, resulting in a fight for the officer’s taser.

During the fight, Scott gained control of the taser to use it against the officer who then fired his service weapon at the suspect, Pryor said.

While en route, the sergeant reported that he heard Slager say that he deployed his taser and was requesting for back up units, and seconds later reported “shots fired and the subject is down, he took my taser.”

We now know, by the sheer accident of someone filming the event, this narrative was false. We know Scott never “gained control” of a taser, and we know Scott only received medical attention from police minutes after they planted a weapon on him and handcuffed him as he lay dying. But the media, in an effort to report “both sides,” ends up transcribing the deceptive police report verbatim.

While providing an initial qualifier of “spokesman said,” NBC affiliate News 2, would do one better and go on [12]to drop this modifier altogether and simply report the police account as fact: (Continued)

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The Weak Link: Winning State Elections

April 7th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on The Weak Link: Winning State Elections | Filed in 2016 Election, rightwing, Voting Rights

By Gloria Totten

Campaign for America’s Future

April 7, 2015 – This has not been a positive year in state legislatures, and there’s a good chance that, for progressives, this may be the worst session in decades.

Wisconsin imposed “right-to-work.” Nevada suspended prevailing wage rules for school construction projects. South Dakota lowered the minimum wage by a dollar an hour for workers under age 18. Many states are slashing funds for public education and social services. Several are legalizing the carrying of guns on college campuses or abolishing the 80-year-old requirement of a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Utah brought back firing squads as a means of execution. Even the Indiana “religious liberty” battle didn’t have a happy ending: the law they passed is not a good one, it’s just less bad.

The reason for the states’ lunge to the right is clear—the GOP gained more than 300 state legislative seats in the 2014 elections. Republicans now control 69 of the 99 state legislative bodies in the U.S. (if we include Nebraska, where lawmakers are technically nonpartisan but effectively Republican), while Democrats control only 30. That’s the most legislative chambers Republicans have ever held.

Put another way, there are now 25 states where both the legislative and executive branches are entirely controlled by Republicans, if we include Nebraska and Alaska (where the governor ran as an independent but is effectively a Republican). In contrast, there are only seven states with a Democratic legislature and governor: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In four additional states (Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey), Democrats control the legislature but progress is stymied by a GOP governor.

It should be obvious that progressives desperately need to engineer a strong comeback in 2016. It’s not just that 150 million Americans living in GOP states are subject to regressive rule. The longer the right wing holds power, the more “gamechanger” policies they enact—like voter ID and union busting—designed to rig the electoral game for the long term. Even more important, it’s nearly impossible to take back the congressional redistricting process in 2021-22 unless we start winning state legislative seats in 2016. Progressives need to put in place strong incumbents who can withstand a difficult 2018 election cycle. It would be sheer folly to wait until 2020 to try to win back legislative chambers for reapportionment.

The old saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” In state politics, progressives have some very strong links indeed. Over the years, our movement has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in terrific policy research, excellent polling, and a lot of hardworking grassroots organizations and activists. But because of one glaring weak link, conservative majorities block good policies and enact bad ones. Progressive investments at the state level are stymied by a distinct lack of focus on winning elections there.

The good news is that our movement could do very well in 2016. We could conceivably move legislatures from split to Democratic control in seven states: Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. And we could possibly move legislatures from Republican to split control in eight others: Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin (although half of these are longshots). Read the rest of this entry »

Year-Round, Locally Based Precinct Organizing Is Essential for Moving the Democratic Party (Or Any Other Group) Leftward

March 22nd, 2015 by admin | Comments Off on Year-Round, Locally Based Precinct Organizing Is Essential for Moving the Democratic Party (Or Any Other Group) Leftward | Filed in Democrats, elections, Organizing, Voting Rights

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and his wife Loretta chat with precinct captain Joe Poelsterl

"The most important job I ever had was Precinct Captain." —Harry S Truman

By Meteor Blades
Progressive America Rising via DailyKOS

March 22, 2015 – In the past few months, starting shortly before Christmas, the founder of this blog has several times made comments about future elections that make me grind my molars.

He has said Democrats likely will win the elections of 2016, but we will lose in 2018 because "our voters" turn out for presidential elections but not in the midterms. He has said we will be stuck in this conundrum until we figure out how to change the dynamic.

I hate this message. Because Markos is right. And making him wrong will require lots of what used to be called shoe leather and what my grandfather called "organizational calluses." 

We are stuck in a rinse-repeat cycle in which a relatively large percentage of Democratic and Democrat-leaning voters turn out in presidential election years followed by a steep fall-off in said voters every midterm year. Nobody needs persuading that this has massive and massively damaging consequences for the progressive agenda and the vast number of rank-and-file Americans who would benefit if that agenda were turned into policy.

It’s true that the older, whiter, richer, more conservative, more male cohorts in America who turn out big in presidential years also don’t vote in as high of percentages in midterm elections. But their fall-off is not as precipitous. This Republican advantage is added to (and helps make possible) other right-wing advantages. Two of those: the impact of gerrymandering, which is analyzed here here by Jeff Singer using a Daily Kos-developed metric premised on the "median district"; and the impact of a move away from split-ticket voting, analyzed here by Steve Singiser.

These aren’t the only advantages for a Republican Party that has become increasingly right wing. For instance, young people when they do vote, are more likely to choose candidates who campaign for liberal rather than conservative policies. But young people are the least likely age cohort to be contacted to vote.

As we know all too well, chief among the right wing’s advantages is the deluge of money—much of it now delivered from secret sources, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court. While it’s not, of course, going to be true in every contest, overall the Democrats will never be able to outspend the Republicans. Plenty of examples show that money—even well-spent money—doesn’t always win a race. But it confers a big edge. So, to win more races, we need to engage in an asymmetric electoral approach. In blue states and red ones.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no silver bullet. Good candidates at every level of government for every office are a must. And we definitely have too few of those. Good policy ideas are crucial. We’ve got them, but it’s hard to get some elected Democrats to support them. Those are problems to be solved.

But year-round, locally based organizing in each of the nation’s 176,000 precincts is a crucial element for the future success of the Democratic Party. Not the party as we now know it, but one that is more progressive and more willing than it has been to fight vigorously for the economic, social, and environmental interests of the working classes that make up the vast majority of Americans. (Continued)

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