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

March 22nd, 2015 by admin | No Comments | 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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The Christian Right Still dominates the GOP — Is There Any End in Sight?

March 19th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, Fascism, GOP, rightwing

 

By Amanda Marcotte
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet

March 18, 2015 – In a recent interview on Fox, Christian right writer [3] James Robison went off on a rant about how Christian conservatives need to take over the government: “There are only 500 of you,” Robison said of Congress. “We can get rid of the whole bunch in one smooth swoop and we can really reroute the whole ship!”

He added that this takeover would cause "demons to shudder" and the "gates of hell to tremble," but what was really delusional about it was the idea that Congress is somehow devoid of Christians. In reality, 92% of Congress people identify [4] as Christian. More to the point, nearly every Republican, regardless of their sincerity in saying so, aligns with conservative Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, an affiliation reflected in their policy preferences. (One solitary Republican is Jewish.) The Christian right might not own all 535 members of Congress, but with Republicans in the majority, the Christian right is also in the majority.

And yet, as New York Times writer Jason Horowitz explained in a recent profile piece about evangelical organizer David Lane, Lane feels quite similarly: “For Mr. Lane, a onetime Bible salesman and self-described former “wild man,” connecting the pastors with two likely presidential candidates was more than a good day’s work. It was part of what he sees as his mission, which is to make evangelical Christians a decisive power in the Republican Party.”

Say what, said any reader who has cracked a newspaper, the New York Times or otherwise, in the past four decades. Making the Republican Party beholden to the Christian right is like making the sky blue or making cats stubborn. Can you really make something be what it already is?

That the evangelical right already controls the GOP shouldn’t really be in dispute. Not only do the Republicans do exactly as the Christian right tells them on every social issue, such as reproductive rights or gay rights, but Republicans also pay fealty to the Christian right by targeting Muslim countries with their hawkish posturing or using [5] Christian language to rationalize slashing the social safety net. If you were trying to come up with a quick-and-dirty description of the Republican Party, “coalition of corporate and patriarchal religious interests” would be it. (Continued)

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Conservatives May Control State Governments, But Progressives Are Rising

March 14th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, safety net, Voting Rights

By George Goehl, Ana María Archila, Fred Azcarate
Progressive America Rising via Common Dreams

March 13, 2015 – Progressive activists flooded the rotunda of the State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois as part of the ‘We Rise’ national day of action on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Photo: National People’s Action/flickr/cc)

In November, conservatives swept not only Congress, but a majority of statehouses. While gridlock in Washington is frustrating, the rightward lurch of statehouses could be devastating. Reveling in their newfound power, state lawmakers and their corporate allies are writing regressive policies that could hurt families by exacerbating inequality, further curtailing an already weakened democracy, and worsening an environmental crisis of global proportions.

From a law that would censor public university professors in Kansas to a governor who prohibits state officials from using the term “climate change” in Florida, ideologues in state capitols are wasting little time when it comes to enacting an extreme agenda. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Wisconsin officially enacted right to work legislation on Monday, a policy that’s shown to lower wages and benefits by weakening the power of unions. Missouri, New Mexico, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Illinois are all entertaining various versions of the law. In states like New York and Ohio, legislators are considering severe cuts to public education, while vastly expanding charter schools.

"We will continue rising to challenge corporate power and win the policies that put people and planet first – not last."

Of course, a look at key 2014 ballot initiatives shows voters held progressive values on issues like the minimum wage, paid sick days, and a millionaires tax. And just 36.4 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in 2014, meaning that there is surely a silent majority sitting on the sidelines.

The path to policies that put families first is not short, but a bold coalition across the country took an aggressive step forward this week.

On March 11th, under the banner “We Rise,” thousands of people joined more than 28 actions in 16 states to awaken that silent majority and call their legislators to account. A joint project of National People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, USAction and other allies across the country, the message of the day was simple: our cities and states belong to us, not big corporations and the wealthy. We can work together and push our legislators to enact an agenda that puts people and the planet before profits. And at each local action, leaders unveiled their proposals for what that agenda would look like in their cities and states.

In Minnesota, grassroots leaders are fighting for a proposal to re-enfranchise over 44,000 formerly incarcerated people. In Nevada, our allies are agitating for a $15 minimum wage. In Illinois, we are organizing for closing corporate tax loopholes and a financial transaction tax (a “LaSalle Street tax”) that would help plug the state’s budget hole. With each of these proposals, we are moving from defense to offense and changing the conversation about race, democracy and our economy.

We’ve seen over and over again in American history, change starts close to home – in our towns, cities and states. On March 11th, we saw a fresh reminder of the power of local change. Our families and communities are defining this new front in American public life, and we will continue rising to challenge corporate power and win the policies that put people and planet first – not last.

If November was a wave election, then this Spring will be a wave of bottom-up people power activism. (Continued)

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2016′s Untold Story: How The Election Could Bring A New Wave Of Progressive Warriors

March 10th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, PDA, safety net

 

While the presidential contest consumes much of our attention, down-ballot races could power a liberal revival

By Luke Brinker
Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

March 10, 2015 – As America marches inexorably toward a presidential election that will almost certainly feature another Clinton, possibly pitted against yet another Bush, a sense of resignation and fatalism has taken hold among many observers on both the progressive left and the anti-establishment right.

While Jeb and Hillary would trade barbs on such perennial wedges issues as abortion and same-sex marriage, and Clinton may be more supportive than Bush of what passes for a social safety net in this country — just don’t mind that bit about ending welfare as we knew it, and try not to focus on that pesky vote for bankruptcy “reform” — neither Wall Street-friendly candidate poses a threat to the plutocratic powers that be. Indeed, the masters of the universe can’t quite decide which of the two they’d prefer to see elected. Either way, they rest assured, they win.

Dispiriting as the coming national contest can be, however, it should not obscure one of the less-discussed dynamics of the 2016 elections: Across the country, a crop of unapologetically progressive candidates promises to infuse a new populist energy into the fight for the U.S. Senate, and may well transform the terms of debate within a Democratic Party that has spent the better part of the past three decades reconciling itself to the Reagan Revolution and embracing neoliberalism.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-The Elizabeth Warren Wing) is the latest progressive to toss her hat into the Senate ring, announcing today that she will seek the seat being vacated by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. Though she has served in Congress for six years now, Edwards is fundamentally an insurgent: The community activist won her seat after toppling a hawkish, centrist incumbent in the Democratic primary, and as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Populist Caucus, she’s been at the forefront of the effort to move the Democrats leftward on issues like austerity, a living wage, foreign policy, and civil liberties. Befitting her congressional service, Edwards plans to run as an unabashed progressive populist.

“The corporate interests are gonna come at me with all their money,” Edwards tells voters in her announcement video. “But if you’ll join me in this fight there’s no way we can’t win. and when I step into Barbara Mikulski’s shoes as your next senator, you’ll always know where I stand — with you.”

Edwards won’t enjoy a clear Democratic field: Fellow Rep. Chris Van Hollen has already launched his bid for Mikulski’s seat, and he has secured the backing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Though Van Hollen has put forth some worthy proposals on economic issues, he’s hardly the most progressive nominee Democrats could field in a race their candidate is almost certain to win: Liberals haven’t forgotten, for instance, that he backed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction framework, which would have cut Social Security benefits. Edwards, by contrast, supports Sen. Warren’s proposal to expand the program. The congresswoman has also staked out more civil libertarian positions than Van Hollen; whereas she supported the Amash-Conyers amendment to overhaul the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, Van Hollen voted against it.

While the Edwards-Van Hollen contest sets up a potentially epic clash, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold is unlikely to face any serious Democratic challengers as he vies to reclaim his old job next year. Feingold recently stepped down from his role as an African envoy for the State Department, stoking speculation that he’ll seek a rematch with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the man who ousted him in the 2010 Tea Party wave election. The former senator has done nothing to discourage such speculation, pointedly referring to his “once, current, and I hope future chief of staff” in his final State Department speech and planning a “listening tour” of his state.

Feingold’s return would mark a particularly sweet victory for progressives, whose 2010 defeat ranked among the most devastating blows for Democratic liberals. (Continued)

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Real-Life Frank Underwoods: Netflix, ‘House of Cards’ and Third Way

March 3rd, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Democrats, elections, safety net

 

By Richard Eskow
Progressive America Rising via Campaign for America’s Future

March 3, 2014 – Frank Underwood is known for deceiving people into acting against their own best interests. (We’ll miss you, President Walker.) Now we learn that this trait may extend to the series that features him.

The greatest betrayals on “House of Cards” can be found in the misleading arguments, presented as “truth,” that suggest that cutting “entitlements” is a necessity and raising taxes isn’t even an option.

The fact that Netflix has insisted upon heavy tax breaks for filming the show in Maryland may be merely coincidental. Here’s what’s not: We have learned that the series hired a leading “new Democrat” (read, “corporate Democrat”) as a consultant for the show’s most misleading episode.

The audience loves watching Frank Underwood deceive other characters. It’s less likely to appreciate being deceived itself, especially as some real-life Frank Underwoods are launching an attack against the party’s populist wing.

The Spoiler

If you’re like me, “House of Cards” has been a binge-watching guilty pleasure, a chance to set aside the burden of idealism for a dark but engaging worldview that is half Machiavelli and half telenovela.

But who knew that the show itself – not the characters, but the show – had a hidden agenda? It’s already taken on teachers. Now comes the anti-“entitlement” tirade from Frank Underwood in Episode One of the new season. Frank, despite his evil ways and means, has an ambitious dream, which is introduced during a lengthy scene in which he lectures his staff, and the audience, on some highly misleading “facts.”

How did that happen? How did the “AmericaWorks” fictional plot point come to be built on real-world lies?

Here’s a clue: Episode One’s credits list Jim Kessler as a consultant. Kessler is, as his IMDB biography notes, the co-founder of Third Way. That’s a Wall Street-funded, so-called “centrist” Democratic organization with a mission: to promote neoliberal economics and make the world safe (at least financially) for its wealthy patrons.

Third Way has consistently misrepresented the financial condition of Social Security, misdirected the public debate about Medicare, and generally promoted the socially liberal but fiscally conservative worldview of its patrons.

Kessler and co-founder Jon Cowan carefully tiptoed their way through the minefield of public opinion for years, pretending to be technocrats rather than de facto lobbyists for powerful interests. They finally lost their balance last year. When confronted with the rise of Elizabeth Warren and the populist wing of the Democratic Party, they lashed out at Sen. Warren with an intemperate Wall Street Journal op-ed. (Continued)

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How Class Struggle Emerges Under the Democratic Tent

March 2nd, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, Democrats, poverty, safety net, Wall Street

Centrist Dems Ready Strike against Warren Wing

By Kevin Cirilli
Progressive America Rising via The Hill

March 2, 2013 – Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

For months, moderate Democrats have kept silent as Sen. Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.  

But with the race for the White House set to begin, centrists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

"To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision," Peters said.

Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era.

Caught in the crossfire is the party’s likely nominee in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband took the party in a decisively centrist direction during his eight years in office. (Continued)

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The Dangerous Candidacy of Scott Walker

February 26th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, GOP, rightwing

By John Cassidy

Progressive America Rising via the New Yorker

Feb 24, 2015 – Let’s stipulate up front that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is an odious politician whose ascension to the Presidency would be a disaster.

Set aside, for a moment, his repeated refusal, in the past few days, to say whether he believes that President Obama loves America, or whether he believes that the President is a Christian, and look instead at Walker’s record running what used to be one of America’s more progressive states. Having cut taxes for the wealthy and stripped many of Wisconsin’s public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights, he is now preparing to sign a legislative bill that would cripple unions in the private sector. Many wealthy conservatives, such as the Koch brothers, who have funnelled a lot of money to groups supporting Walker, regard him as someone who’s turning his state into a showcase for what they want the rest of America to look like.

But just how threatening is he? If you’ve been following the political news during the past week, you may well have the impression that he’s stumbling in his campaign for the 2016 G.O.P. nomination. Among the political commentariat, the consensus of opinion is that Walker’s repeated refusal to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani’s incendiary comments about Obama, and his subsequent encounter with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Robert Costa, during which he appeared to question Obama’s religious faith and took some shots at the media for asking him silly questions, weren’t merely reprehensible: they were serious gaffes that raised questions about Walker’s political abilities.

It wasn’t just liberal columnists who piled on. In a column at the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis, who also writes for the Daily Caller, said that Walker’s comments raised the question of whether he “might not be ready for prime time on the national stage.” Lewis went on: “Conservatives should be worried that Walker hasn’t proven capable of navigating these land mines.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who is a former G.O.P. congressman, wrote at Politico: “Good candidates know how to make dumb questions look, well, dumb.”

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‘People Are Really Getting Angry’: How Bernie Sanders Just Electrified Iowa — And What It Means for 2016

February 24th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders, youth and students

At an under-the-radar town hall in Des Moines, Sanders had the crowd begging for more. Here’s why it matters

By Robert Leonard
Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

Feb 24, 2015 – DES MOINES — Bernie Sanders has neckties older than most of his audience at last Friday’s Drake University Town Hall in Des Moines. Yet the age differential didn’t matter. His college-age audience loved him. Organized by Drake progressive students, Sanders and his audience seemed to have a near telepathic connection. His issues are their issues, and if anything, they are more pissed off than he is.

Several Drake students set the stage for Sanders in brief topical introductions, laying waste to money in politics, Citizens United specifically, the reality and dangers of climate change, the importance of pay equity for women, immigration reform, and the crushing burden of the cost of college and debt. Then Bernie nailed it, touching on all of these topics and more.

Unlike the speeches at the recent Republican Iowa Freedom Summit, Sanders was long on ideas, and short on chest-thumping, fiery rhetoric. He also didn’t have an audience mostly old enough to vote when Ronald Reagan was running for president.

At first it was unclear who the bigger enemy of the people were to Sanders — the Kardashians or the Koch brothers.  The Kardashians, or rather our public fascination with them, represents America’s apathy. Sanders was clear that nothing progressive can happen until people start paying attention.  Sanders told his audience that Americans are getting screwed, and that we had better pay attention and get off our asses.

According to Sanders, our government is bought and paid for by the Koch brothers, and we are living in an oligarchy. He illustrated the point by reminding us of the recent announcement that the Kochs plan to spend $900 million on the next presidential election, when Obama and Romney each spent approximately $1 billion in 2012.  He feels that soon, they will have more power than either the Democratic or Republican parties, just because of their wealth and the leverage the 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision gave them and other billionaires.

The question and answer session took an interesting turn when a stocky young man with the voice of a broadcasting major asked Sanders, “Will you run for president in 2016?”

If he had asked, “Are you going to run…” Sanders might have responded differently. “I don’t know yet,” would have been a good answer. But since he was asked, “Will you run…” Sanders apparently heard it as a request for him to run. 

“That’s a good question that you’ve asked,” Sanders said.  “Let me throw it back to you… do you think there is the support in this country?” To which the young man replied, “ I think I do. I do. I think there is the support out there … people are really getting angry about this income inequality, climate change…we’re tired of it.”  (Continued)

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Americans Are Fleeing Religion and Republicans Are To Blame

February 18th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in GOP, rightwing

By Lisa Wade, PhD,

Progressive America Rising via Sociological Images

Over the past 40 years, Americans have become increasingly likely to deny an affiliation with a religion. The graph below shows that people with “no religious preference” rose from about 5% of the population in 1972 to about 20% today. Overall, however, Americans do not report a corresponding decline in the a belief in God, life after death, or other religious ideas. What’s going on?

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Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer — the guys who made the graph above — argue that the retreat from religious affiliation is essentially, a retreat from the political right. Religion has become strongly associated with conservative politics, so left-leaning people are choosing, instead, to identify as “spiritual but not religious.”

Here is some of their evidence. The data below represents the likelihood of rejecting a religious affiliation according to one’s political views. The more politically liberal one is, the more likely they have come to reject religion.

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Using fancy statistical analyses, they explain: “generational differences in belief add nothing to explaining the cohort differences in affiliation.” That is, people haven’t lost their faith, they just disagree with religious leaders and institutions.  Hout and Fischer conclude:

Once the American public began connecting organized religion to the conservative political agenda — a connection that Republican politicians, abortion activists, and religious leaders all encouraged — many political liberals and moderates who seldom or never attended services quit expressing a religious preference when survey interviewers asked about it.

Democrats have wondered how to break the association of the right with religion and claim a little bit of moral authority for themselves. It looks like they may not need to or, even, that having failed to do so has a surprise advantage.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Moral Mondays’ Barber Says America’s Political System Suffers From a ‘Heart Problem’

February 16th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

Saturday’s Moral Mondays march once again brought a multicultural crowd of thousands to Raleigh, N.C., protesting budget cuts and voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican Legislature.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and NAACP National President Cornell Brooks (far right) listen to the North Carolina NAACP’s the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak at the Moral Mondays march in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 14, 2015.

By David Swerdlick
The Root

Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 14: An African-American Muslim imam, Oliver Muhammad, offered the call to prayer; members of black Greek-letter fraternities served as event marshals; and as marchers in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement began their walk across downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital, Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Teresa Palmer announced—in Spanish—that “interpreters will be available at the intersection of Hargett and Fayetteville.”

It’s that kind of come-one, come-all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

And while the Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem or a right problem or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem. When money and greed and political hubris and pride and ego and beating your opponent become more important than working together to uplift humanity, we’ve got a heart problem.”

For the movement, the stakes haven’t changed.

Barber called on legislators to “fund Medicaid expansion, raise the minimum wage, index it with inflation—put it on the ballot and let the people vote,” as well as “restore cuts to public education,” reject “the attacks on women’s health and environmental protection, repeal the death penalty, reform the criminal-justice system,” enact “fair immigration reform, and respect the constitutional rights of all humanity, regardless of race, creed, color and sexuality.” (Continued)

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