While energy is high in resistance to Trump, the Progressive/Democratic/Labor alliance continues to struggle with the American electorate. Whether through flight to conservative alternatives, confusion about the link between progressive policy solutions and electing representatives that champion those solutions, or a complete misunderstanding of the un-electorate (those not voting because of lack of motivation) we are simply losing the organizing battles on the ground.
Is the answer doubling down on decades of ineffective micro-targeting, mobilizing, and messaging strategies? Do we organize for the long-term or mobilize for the short?
Organizing involves creating a systematic vehicle prepared to be put into action, whereas mobilizing involves putting an existing structure into action. The messaging wars and advocacy we engage in on each issue battle are an example of mobilization. We are hoping to get our base to activate around a narrow set of reactionary goals which, unfortunately, simply reinforces short-term thinking. Building organization, developing leaders, training citizen messengers, and creating an effective frame built on connecting personal values with progressive solutions is, on the other hand, a longer-term strategy to build the infrastructure needed to reframe progressive issues and strengthen the base for victory on a proactive agenda.
What is the answer then? The key starts with listening, that rarest of political strategy solutions. It continues with education about progressive solutions that link to what real people care about, are scared of, and are motivated by in their communities. Organize these people around solutions they want, organize them in their own communities to achieve real power (accountability, education, connection, representation) through leadership and advocacy development, organize them to mobilize themselves to change the political landscape. Then you can have the functioning infrastructure to deliver successful change.
How do we do this? Build organization over time and develop it in a way that allows for that structure to support itself and therefore be a stronger partner in issue battles, messaging, and electoral efforts over decades not just a few months at the end of an election cycle.
What will this kind of infrastructure get us? What will it do?
With a well-developed progressive field infrastructure we will be able to:
- Deliver issue framing based on local conversation about problems
- Connect progressive solutions to those problems to enhance buy-in and framing
- Connect those solutions with accountability for elected officials from the local up to the federal level
- Develop leaders who will be key messengers, candidates for office, accountability experts
- Engage in local, state, and federal issue battles in a more focused and targeted strategy
- Identify allies and build coalitions
- Educate elected officials: Identify and strengthen champions, move swing officials, frame opponents
- Educate the electorate
- Mobilize like-minded voters
- Elect progressives to a range of offices
- Take back state legislatures from conservative control
- Reshape boundaries for federal elections
- Deliver a functioning progressive majority
- WIN on our issues
“We must not be firecrackers that simply pop and burn out but pilot lights that burn and burn.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, former ADA National President