Don’t Celebrate – Organize

by Phil Anderson

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Frederick Douglass 

“Don’t mourn – organize.” Joe Hill, labor activist 

We, thankfully, don’t have to mourn the last election. But the job is not done. Now is not the time to kick back and wait for the next election. This would be tempting and we all need a rest from politics. But, progressives must continue to oppose the destructive policies of Republicans and to push Democrats to do what is needed for people. Don’t celebrate – organize. 

 Democrats made some gains in the last election. Wisconsin elected a number of champions for the people including Tony Earl as Governor, and Mandela Barnes as Lt. Governor. Mandela is a rising star who could provide some much needed depth to the Democratic bench. Tammy Baldwin was re-elected to the U.S. Senate. In Northwest Wisconsin, Janet Bewley, Nick Milroy, and Beth Meyers won re-election. 

We can not rest on this success. In Wisconsin we still have a far right U.S Senator and a Trump sycophant representing the 7th congressional district. The state Senate and Assembly are still controlled by far right ideologues. They will continue to under-fund public schools and support policies that are destructive to working families, local communities, and the environment. 

As I discussed last week, Democrats need to use their limited power to lead on issues with broad public appeal. This will allow building a larger blue wave in 2020. Several grassroots groups have practical, detailed plans for the Democrats to use. Let’s look at what they suggest.
Wisconsin Citizen Action is a progressive non-profit organization with 42,000 members. They describe themselves as an “issue focused coalition of individuals and organizations committed to achieving social, economic, and environmental justice.” WCA does issue advocacy, research, lobbying, and political organizing. They have seven local organizing “cooperatives” across Wisconsin and are affiliated with over 100 other social justice, labor, and environmental organizations.

One of WCA’s projects is the “Rise Up Platform.” This is a bold, detailed legislative plan of action for a progressive Wisconsin. Written before the last election, it sets goals for a more democratic government, cleaner elections, protecting the environment, and improving the lives of all Wisconsin residents. It includes eight major issue areas: education, health care, a sustainable economy, environmental protection, justice system reform, election reform, immigration, and fair taxation. 

Here are a few of the goals they talk about:

• Guarantee and fund a world class education for everyone from preschool through college. 

• Achieve a full-employment, living wage economy in which racial, gender, and regional disparities in income and opportunity are eradicated. 

• Guarantee comprehensive medical care and move toward a universal public insurance program (Medicare for All). 

• Transition from an extractive, “take-make-dump” economy to a more prosperous and  sustainable “circular” economy. 

• Shift power back to the people, and away from the corporate and big money interests, by strengthening voting rights, eliminating gerrymandering, and making the public interest the driver of public policy. 

This plan suggests policy changes that could have broad support from liberals, conservatives, and independents across the state. Wisconsin Citizens Action’s members are 45% are Democrats, 34% Republicans and 17% independents so their plan does have broad support. You can read the whole plan at www.citizenactionwi.org/platform.

Indivisible is a political advocacy group created in reaction to Trump’s election. Indivisible is nationwide and has over a million members in local action groups. They work to resist the destructive policies of the current administration. They are partly responsible for the success of the blue wave. Indivisible has local groups in Duluth, Cloquet, Two Harbors, Solon Springs, and Ashland. Learn more at  https://indivisible.org.    

The Indivisible plan of action is called “Indivisible on Offense: A Practical Guide to the New, Democratic House” (https://indivisible.org/resource/indivisible-offense-introduction). This document says Democrats have been too reactive in the past. But now they have “agenda-setting power.” They can control what bills get acted on in the House. This power can shape the national discussion, focus press attention, and advance issues important to the public. 

Democrats have three options for using this power. They can pass “messaging bills” on  issues important to most people. Messaging bills provide an alternative vision for the country. Even if these bills don’t become law, they frame the debate and get Republicans “on record” about key issues. There is also “must pass” legislation like budgets and appropriations bills.  Democrats now have the power to influence what goes into these bills. They can force compromise and push for better spending priorities. Finally, Democrats can hold the administration accountable through oversight, investigations, and congressional-hearings. Using these tactics effectively can give voters solid reasons to support Democrats in 2020. 

For any of this to happen the public will have to stay involved. Democrats will need help stiffening their spines. Democrats in the House will be under pressure to cut deals and work with Trump. Historically Democrats have “caved” on many important issues and have not maintained party unity when it was needed. Indivisible says “Cutting deals is dangerous...it reinforces the idea that Trump is a normal president capable of governing...instead of a clear danger to our democracy.” Cutting deals could harm people and help Trump win re-election in 2020.

Democrats need to lead with bold, progressive initiatives that address the real needs of people. If they do this the blue wave can continue into 2020. With progressive majorities in the U.S. Senate and the Wisconsin legislature we can reverse the destructive policies of  Walker and Trump. Instead of being on the defensive, progressives can be proactive. Real progress can be made in building a better America. To ensure this happens we can not rest on our laurels. The struggle must continue.