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Proposal: A Two-Year Grassroots Plan

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Tamyrlin79 Donating Member (944 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 10:54 PM
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Proposal: A Two-Year Grassroots Plan
The following is a proposal for directing the energies of the progressive grassroots movement over the course of the next couple of years. Although the Bush Administration and the Republicans must also be opposed and we must defend ourselves on many fronts, this proposal focuses in on ways, primarily through initiative and referendum processes, in which the grassroots may go on the offensive in achieving progressive goals and campaigning for progressive values. I choose to place a lot of focus on state initiatives and referendums because they are grassroots, direct democracy provisions that allow us to go around the parties and established interests that oppose any progressive reform. Such procedures are what our forebearers in the First Progressive Movement left for us, and I say we use them to our collective benefit here in the Second.

My plan also places most emphasis on Election Reform and related questions, simply because this is ultimately the fundamental issue that must be dealt with before any other progressive reforms, like media reform, can be successfully instituted. Also, this is an issue around which a broad swath of Americans from various points on the political spectrum should be able to coalesce, particularly after Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

Year 1: 2005
The Year of Foundation

On the federal level, our time must be spent, for the most part, on the defensive, opposing electoral certification, protesting the inaugural, attacking the State of the Union, and denying Bush his legislative mandate. The first quarter should be spent putting all our efforts into playing defense while we plan and reorganize. During this time period a new Democratic Chair will be named. Organizations created or built during the 2004 election should reorganize themselves with a view towards a permanent, ongoing presence. Although we must keep up the pressure on the federal level, and resist the Bush Agenda, our main priorities should be focused on the state and local level, which is where we can have the most effect.

On the state level, the first quarter should be spent in Statehouses while they are meeting convincing legislators to propose progressive legislation, such as Voting Rights Acts, that require a verifiable paper trail and an audit system for all elections held in that state, and that require enough working, usable voting machines per capita per precinct to prevent long lines and guarantee a citizens right to a fair and speedy vote, that bar conflicts of interest by Secretaries of State or other officials in charge of elections, etc. Although our capacity for getting these bills passed will probably be quite limited, this does give us an excuse to get to know our legislators and let them know we are serious about election reform. Also, this gives our movement a good means of judging our legislators commitment to democracy. Those who actively oppose us should be targeted for removal during the next primary or general election held for the state. And, when we propose ballot initiatives in 2006, it makes it easy to justify the move by saying that we tried to get the legislature to act and they didn't (assuming they didn't).

The rest of 2005 should be spent revitalizing state parties and/or grassroots infrastructure, as well as building up our capacity for getting our message out to the public at large. Every state should seek to have a progressive presence that can organize events and act locally in preparation for the 2006 and the mid-term elections. Those states that have off-year elections during 2005 should consider being test cases for the initiative proposals planned for 2006. Also, progressive groups should pay particular attention to Secretary of State and other vote-administration-related elections held during the year and in 2006. Progressives are also urged to run for state and local office.

This is a year for building, for planning, for recruiting new members, for waking up those who are still asleep.

Year 2: 2006
The Year of Progress

The first part of this year should be spent collecting names to qualify ballot initiatives and referendums for state and local ballots in the fall. All of these initiatives should fall under a national campaign, tentatively titled the Count Every Vote Campaign or alternatively the Every Vote Counts Campaign. Such a campaign would be seen as a national reaction to the 2000 and 2004 elections, both of which were rife with irregularities. In this campaign, there should be two primary types of initiatives proposed:

1) Proportional Representation Initiatives: This initiative would be for a constitutional amendment that would require that the lower house of the state legislature be elected via proportional representation. This initiative is recommended for use in the Safe States, whether safely red or safely blue. In red states, this sort of initiative can be used to find/target progressive minded voters and build our national presence, and if the campaign passes it will demonstrate support for progressive reforms even within Republican strongholds. This will also "make every vote count" by allowing a non-majority party to also have representation in the legislature, making their vote also count, rather than what results in single-member district, winner-take-all systems. While we should pass this with an eye towards making the House of Representatives also elected by proportional representation, getting the lower houses in the legislatures proportional is a necessary first step and can help get the public at large more familiar with and more used to the idea at the federal level.

2) Verified Voting Initiatives: These initiatives would require that any electronic voting system have a verifiable paper trail and that any electronic or machine count be subject to independent audit. This sort of initiative is recommended for Swing States, where Republican chicanery has been evidenced in the past or is likely to occur in the future to have an electoral outcome in their favor. Could also be passed as part of an overall Voting Rights Act (see above) by the legislature. And states that pass such laws, whether swing or safe, should then focus on the Proportional Representation.Initiatives.

Although some may argue that we should spend all our time on verified voting, I disagree. While that is important and needs to be pursued in key states, we should do so strategically. Passing such initiatives in Red States will not help progressives win in those areas, nor is there much threat of Republican chicanery in democratic stronghold states. These initiatives are to protect the votes of progressive voters where we should be or have a decent chance at winning but arent as of now, ie. swing states. Clearly blue and clearly red states do not generally fit this criteria. While they should pass verified voting wherever possible, it should not be viewed as the highest priority there. It is also possible to put both initiatives on the ballot, but this also risks splitting our advertising money and lessening our chance of passing either. However, if a state has the resources, then by all means put both on the ballot.

Why Proportional Representation? In short, it helps progressives in safe states on both sides of the blue/red divide. First, it builds alliances between groups, whether Democrat, Third Party, or Republican, dissatisfied with the current lesser of two evils status quo, a two party duopoly that is itself a major impediment to any democratic reform or any reform at all. Think of using this as a means of cobbling together a Grand Progressive Alliance for electoral reform and going to the root of the problems in our political system. Second, it provides a way for people, particularly those in red states, to find and build lists of supporters and build up our coalition even in states where it is weakest. Third, blue states provide us with our best chance for any states to pass the initiative and could provide the entire nation with a model for future change as we go into the 08 election season. A strong showing on this will also give our 06 candidates a legislative mandate and it will give our candidates for 08 an issue to talk about and run on.

Fourth, verified voting initiatives alone will result in a single-issue examination by press and political analysts. You can see this dynamic in the recent gay marriage ballot initiatives. They were all about gay marriage, and so the political consequences were summed up as reflecting on that one single issue. The interpretation will then simply be that the public wants verifiable paper trail and a voting system they can trust. This is important, but it isnt the ultimate goal. If proportional representation issues are added to this and pass, or even fail but still with sizable support, then it will create a different political analysis. Taken together with verified voting, it demonstrates a popular will/mandate for electoral reform not just electoral redress. Also, any initiatives that pass will serve as models for future legislation and for other states to follow. This could build support in congress for the measures we want passed to protect the vote during the 2008 presidential campaign, especially if we are able to take back congress in 06.

Lastly, states where proportional representation passes will become havens for germinating third parties and giving them the opportunity to put forward proposals and gain credibility among the public. Areas where the two-party system is undermined are also more likely to be able to break through the current political logjam and institute the progressive reforms we advocate.

Of course, such initiatives as these not only help our cause, but they also help our candidates up and down the ticket in the midterm elections. In seeking to take back either house of congress in 2006, these initiatives can only help build momentum for our candidates and get out a progressive message. Furthermore, it distinguishes us from the Republicans by placing them in the untenable position of being against counting every vote and making every vote count, a win/win situation for progressives all around.
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