Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Progressives and Liberals, Movements and Political Parties – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on April 25, 2008

Cross-posted from my blog at Campaign for America’s Future.

Today I wrap up my series on Progressives and Liberals, Movements and Political Parties. In the first entry of the series, I explained what I think distinguishes progressives from modern American liberals, and the distinction to be made between a movement and the political party (or parties) through which it acts. In the second, I went into some detail on short and long term strategies, how we can use strategic campaigning to influence more Democratic candidates to run leftward, progressive campaigns.

Before I begin in earnest, I must point out that when I write about bringing the Progressive Party to all fifty states I mean we establish presences at the local level. The reason for this is one of practicality: you cannot hope to achieve tangible, lasting results by trying to build from the top down; the only way to build any structure is from the bottom up. An example of why this is important is the Green Party—members have tried to go national before they had solid state-level presences and infrastructures throughout the country, and a very damaging consequences has been that it has incurred the wrath of Democrats for the 2000 electoral disaster (unfairly, to be sure, but nevertheless Greens are held responsible). Trying to win a national-level campaign without first building the local and state infrastructures required is political suicide, not to mention foolish.

So the first step is to begin at the local level. Seek out and establish contact with like-minded progressives, and start holding meetings. First figure out if this is something you really want to devote your time and energy to, because if no chapter exists in your state you’ll be starting from scratch, and there is a certain level of commitment necessary to build a political party from the ground up. Once you’ve decided that you all are set on doing this, it’s time to establish a platform on which to run (for an example, see the aforementioned first entry in this series).

After that phase has been completed, you’ll need to both create a working set of party bylaws for your state or municipality and expand your network to other, like-minded progressives. As you grow in number, those bylaws are going to come in handy since no political party can function without the organizational structure. You’ll also want to make clear what your short and long term objectives are. As I wrote in the second entry of this series, you’ll want to focus on finding and running candidates in areas where Democrats don’t run, or where the Democrat is a corporate-conservative. Your best bet, of course, is to pick the former over the latter unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Why? Because the overall goal for the time being is to decrease the numbers of the GOP in political office, and influence the Democrats to shift leftward. Use your own judgment, however, as to how best to achieve this goal.

Finally, you need to find candidates. Running for political office is not for everyone. I don’t write this to knock everyone, but again, there is a certain level of commitment required and many people simply do not have the time, energy, or passion for politics. So finding someone who lives and breathes politics is vital. Once you find someone willing to take on this monumental task of running a political campaign, you need to raise money. Election laws are set up to eliminate people who can’t raise a set amount of funds. Speaking for myself, I think that blows, but there is a certain pragmatism to it; if you can’t convince a hundred people to donate fifty dollars, how do you expect to convince a thousand, or ten thousand?

That’s about all I can tell you here. The rest is up to you. If you would like more information, you could do a lot worse than to get in touch with the Vermont and Washington Progressives.

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