Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt of Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com.
Some 500 days into the Obama administration, the White House touts passage of its economic recovery program and health-care reform legislation and the expected approval of the financial reform bill. They are impressive accomplishments. Yet corporate lobbies and their minions in Congress significantly weakened each. Sure, we can’t expect the president to fix everything in a year. But, as I’ve argued before, if progressives are to alter the hostile political environment that arms the lobbies and forces President Obama—and, even more, fearful centrist Democrats in Congress—to shrink from bolder reforms, they must build and mobilize a broad reform movement that transcends left-right divisions.
Now, we have a compelling blueprint of just how to do that. A new book—"The DeMarco Factor: Transforming Public Will Into Political Power"—shows that that kind of organizing is no pipe dream. Written by Michael Pertschuk, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission and co-founder of the Advocacy Institute, the book focuses on the strategies and leadership of organizer Vincent DeMarco, who has waged successful advocacy campaigns in Maryland and Congress for 20 years.
DeMarco and his allies mobilized nonpartisan advocacy coalitions outside of the usual progressive groups and scored legislative victories over such potent corporate and ideological adversaries as the National Rifle Association, the tobacco lobby and conservative opponents (including Wal-Mart) of health-care expansion. Electing even the best-intentioned president and legislators will never be enough to achieve major policy change. DeMarco’s approach demands a parallel, long-term effort to elect people based on their commitment to vote for proposed legislation. That means waging campaigns that force candidates to sign concrete pledges of support for particular bills.
This approach often requires more than one election cycle, and it means waiting to lobby legislators until after broad coalitions have been formed and all members have helped shape the legislative objective, so that their commitment is strong, deep and lasting.
Read the rest of Katrina’s column at the WashingtonPost.com.