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.