Something To Cheer About
November 10, 2005 - 11:17am ET
Yes, Tuesday's vote signaled a rejection of Bush, as candidates associated with him fell one by one. Read Ruy Teixeira's newest post on the "End of Bushism" for this kind of post mortem. But another story about Tuesday's elections bears attention: Progressive candidates, not mere Democrats, won big! <!--StartFragment -->Progressive Majority—which runs farm teams to recruit and nurture progressive candidates—declared Tuesday a "big win" for progressive values, as 66 percent of their candidates won in Washington state, Colorado and Arizona. And EMILY's List —which supports pro-choice women candidates—reports a record number of victories for EMILY’s List candidates in an off-year election.
<!--StartFragment -->Now, granted, many of these victories were for local contests—county councils and school boards—but we know that many of the progressive politicians who end up in Congress start small. For Progressive Majority, in particular, starting local is a strategic choice. Executive Director Gloria Totten noted in a recent American Prospect piece that this is how conservatives worked their way up the ladder to control the GOP:
<!--StartFragment -->Conservatives, first working outside the Republican Party and ultimately taking it over, have labored for more than 30 years to get where they are today: in control at all levels. They built powerful media and message enterprises to hone their ideas and make those ideas sound reasonable to mainstream Americans. They recruited “movement conservatives” to run for office, trained them to run effectively on a party-line agenda, and systematically fielded them in key state and local races that would nationalize this agenda and mobilize voters up and down the ticket.
Progressive Majority marshals talent and resources to give progressive candidates a leg up. Totten explains:
Ours is a strong and successful model for candidate recruitment. First, we identify every legislative opportunity available in the next election and begin aggressively recruiting progressive leaders to run in those races. Second, we train our candidates and their staff on how to run an effective race. Third, we provide each candidate with myriad political resources, including extensive one-on-one “coaching” on campaign planning, fund raising, message and communications, and more. Finally, we map out the state’s political plan through 2008 so the entire progressive community understands where the political opportunities lie.
Our results suggest that we’re on to something. In 2004, Progressive Majority was one of only two organizations to provide early support to Brian Weinstein, a candidate for the Washington state Senate. Our work in his race, and our advocacy within the progressive community, encouraged the state’s political players to coalesce around Weinstein’s candidacy. His victory, along with that of Craig Pridemore, whom we also supported, flipped control of the Senate in Olympia to Democrats, who went on to pass a record number of progressive bills this last legislative session.
As the contest of the millionaires in New Jersey this year reminded us, candidates with personal wealth or access to corporate backing dominate America's political landscape. The increasing prevalence of the "wealth primary" underscores the importance of projects like Progressive Majority and EMILY's List for giving regular people a fighting chance to win elected office.
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