In recent months, the need to build progressive strength in cities, towns, counties and states across the country has become crystal clear. Conservative coordination across state lines has led to assaults on workers rights, voting rights and women’s rights, and only an energetic, well-coordinated progressive response has prevented far more extensive damage to our democracy.
Mississippi soundly defeated a ballot initiative to legalize “fetus personhood.” Maine saved same-day voter registration at the ballot box. As The Nation’s John Nichols has so brilliantly laid out in his new book Uprising, the people of Wisconsin employed an inside/outside strategy to fight back against a right-wing attack on workers’ rights. Dozens of towns and states have passed resolutions calling for the repeal of Citizens United.
Increasingly, citizens and progressive politicians have begun to win sensible reforms. There have been key wins on paid sick leave and the minimum wage—common sense reforms that benefit the 99 percent. Gay and lesbian equality has advanced at the state and local levels.
The spirit and urgency of Occupy has inspired organizations and activists to work more nimbly and collaboratively—and has reduced some of the turf war fights that often plague these efforts.
“People are now looking to do what the right has done so effectively—coordinating ideas, narratives, legislators and activists to really push in a progressive direction,” says New York City Councilman Brad Lander, co-chair of the council’s Progressive Caucus.
It was in that spirit earlier this month that Lander joined Seattle Councilman Nick Licata, Philadelphia Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and Chicago Alderman Joe Moore to convene a meeting in DC with other progressive municipal elected officials from across the country—and key progressive allies—to discuss the creation of a national network focused on local progressive action.
“There were also city council members from Los Angeles, Cleveland and smaller cities like Springfield, Massachusetts, and Pinecrest, Florida,” says Lander. “The legislators in the room were lead sponsors of an amazing array of progressive legislation—from responsible banking ordinances and local Community Reinvestment Act laws, to anti-blight and foreclosure laws, to paid sick days and a domestic worker bill of rights, to inclusionary zoning for affordable housing. And everyone had good thoughts on how to spread these ideas around the country.”
Part of spreading those ideas will involve working with existing organizations and networks, some of which were represented at the meeting, including New Bottom Line, Progressive States Network, Democratic Municipal Officials, PolicyLink, Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS, led by its director, Nation contributing editor Joel Rogers), Progressive Majority, Center for American Progress and the Working Families Party.