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Monday, 21 April 2014 19:23

PDA History 2010 - Inside / Outside Strategy in Action

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2010: We hate to say we told you so, but....

PDA kicked off 2010 by launching the Brown Bag Lunch Vigil (BBLV)  movement in January. An expansion of our Healthcare NOT Warfare  campaign, BBLVs take our message to district offices of Congress  members. PDA members and others advocate for increased funding for  domestic needs. PDA and an expanding partnership have continued these  vigils--usually every third Wednesday.

PDA organized vigils at district offices of 22 members of the U.S. House on January 20th. By February 17th,  CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses  Association / National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice  joined in as we held vigils at 36 offices. Soon Jobs with Justice,  United for Peace & Justice, U.S. Labor Against the War, the New  Priorities Network, Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare, and Job  Party.us bolstered the BBLV effort. These vigils marked an exciting new  phase in PDA's grassroots inside/outside organizing strategies.

Also in January 2010, the stunning defeat by little-known Republican  Scott Brown over Martha Coakley in the special election for Ted  Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat sent shock waves through the  political establishment. This should have been a major wake-up call for  Democrats. Unfortunately, they hit the snooze button. PDA endorsed and  organized for U.S. Representative Michael Capuano in the special  primary, and clearly he would have made a far more formidable candidate  than Coakley.

The unexpected Republican victory undercut federal efforts on a wide  range of progressive and even moderate initiatives as most Democrats  took the wrong lessons from the defeat. Insiders failed to understand  that Coakley lost in large part because her efforts--and those of the  White House--were meek and ineffectual. They were too timid, not too  bold. The base in Massachusetts, feeling neglected and uninspired,  stayed home. This because the Obama-led efforts delivered a mixed  record--at best.

Leading into the 2010 mid-term elections, this pattern of weak  "compromise" or complete stalemate persisted nationally as public  frustration grew. The House managed to pass mild carbon restrictions,  centrist "public option" healthcare reform, some immigration legislation  and equality measures and other initiatives, but all were blocked by  filibuster or collapsed under failed leadership in the Senate. This lack  of progressive leadership and fear of the Tea Party froze American  politics.

Understanding the need for move progressives in Congress, PDA endorsed a  slate of seven highly qualified progressive candidates for the 2010  midterms. Tracy Emblem ran in California’s CD-50 against Francine Busby.  Marcy Winograd challenged Jane Harman in California’s CD-36 for the  second time. PDA also endorsed candidates Bill Hedricks (CA44), Jonathan  Tasini (NY15), Dr. David Gill (IL-15), David Segal (RI01), and Marleine  Bastien (FL17)—campaigned hard, but couldn’t overcome the money  machines on the right.

PDA's strong support for Marcy Winograd against Jane Harman brought us  into conflict with some of our friends on Capitol Hill, but for us there  were no second thoughts. Harman was a member of the Blue Dog caucus,  not a progressive in any meaningful way. She backed war budgets, and was  consistently and conspicuously absent from HR 676, the Kucinich  Amendment, and other single payer legislation. PDA values our inside  access, but we refuse to compromise on principle. Because of our  resolve, PDA has had a major and growing impact on the agenda of primary  elections on the federal level, as the inside part of our  inside/outside strategy is hitting its stride.

PDA kept up the street heat, working with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)--the  author of HR 676 The U.S. National Healthcare Act--at a community forum  entitled "Turning Hope Into Action." The event, held on Friday, March 20  at the Northampton High School, featured John Nichols of the Nation  Magazine as moderator.

In July 2010, the PDA community came together in Cleveland, Ohio, for  the Sixth PDA Grassroots Leadership Conference, where PDA history was  made. Leadership from across the country met in Issue Organizing Teams  (IOT) and restructured the monthly conference calls and outside work, as  well as committing to supporting the Brown Bag Lunch Vigils (BBLV) and  their focus on Healthcare NOT Warfare. We kept making the case to the  public and elected officials alike that the immoral and massive spending  on war and weapons prevents us from funding essential social programs.  Growing public dissatisfaction with the wars, widespread opposition to  attempts to slash Social Security and Medicare, and disappointment with  inadequate federal jobs programs confirmed once more that America  needs--and most Americans support--PDA's common sense solutions to the  economic and social crises.

August 2010 marked PDA's 6th anniversary. With the mid-term elections  bearing down, our progressive activists struggled to organize against a  right wing tide. One which became a tidal wave. By 2010, muddled  messaging and even outright hostility from the White House against "the  professional left" eclipsed our hopes for dynamic, progressive  leadership on issues like ending the wars, closing Gitmo, Medicare for  All, tax fairness, and more. Maintaining the struggle, PDA stepped up  our BBLVs, on-the-Hill lobbying, and other actions.

Our partnership with the California Nurses Association/Nation Nurses  United and Healthcare NOW! continued the work toward single  payer/Medicare for all at the federal and state levels. These campaigns  emphasized PDA's outside work with peace and justice organizations, and  increasingly with organized labor. Meanwhile, PDA worked behind the  scenes with our allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus  developing and backing legislation to end the wars and promote  progressive solutions. The White House, DNC and DCCC--the "professional  center"--should have listened to us. If only they had!

Flashback to 2004. Throughout the primary season, activists working with  the Kucinich and Dean campaigns--who later founded PDA-urged the  Democratic Party to heighten and clarify distinctions to win.  Specifically, we backed Kucinich (and in many cases Dean's) positions:  denouncing the wars, demanding social and economic justice, and seeking  accountability for Administration wrongdoing. The insiders ignored us,  and offered up a watered down platform and a Kerry/Edwards ticket that  failed to fire up the base or inspire undecided voters. The Republicans  claimed victory, and when the insiders walked away from the struggle to  expose election rigging in Ohio--led by PDA, the Green Party and most  effectively PDA Board Member Rep. John Conyers--that tainted verdict  went unchallenged. The Bush/Cheney Administration carried on, supported  by right wing majorities in the House and Senate.

The mistakes that led to defeat in 2004 returned the same results in  2010. Insider Democratic refusal to prosecute or publicize widespread  right-wing wrongdoing, along with muddled messaging and tepid, tentative  policy-making set the stage for Republican resurgence on the state and  local at the polls in 2010, leaving an all-too-grim political landscape.  In the aftermath of the mid-term electoral disaster, Nancy Pelosi was  forced to hand over the Speakers' gavel to John Boehner, and House  Democrats lost chairperson positions of every committee to extremists.

The Senate--already hobbled by the self-imposed need for 60 votes to  accomplish most tasks--found progress nearly impossible as the narrowed  Democratic majority remained riddled with right wing Blue Dogs. The  President's already limited agenda stalled, and newly empowered radicals  in the state unleashed blitzkrieg assaults on the basic rights and  well-being of working people, minorities, women, the elderly and  children. PDA--proven effective during the dark Bush/Cheney years--rose  to the challenge and remained effective even in the face of these  political reversals moving into 2011.

Read 1491 times Last modified on Monday, 21 April 2014 19:59

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