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November 27, 2006

Building a Progressive Majority in the Statehouses

The Progressive States Network today rolled out its legislative agenda for the 2007 session and is looking to promote it to the netroots and get activists to sign up as "citizen cosponsors."

Folks who sign up in each state will have a key role in making sure legislative bills pass -- by working with legislators and raising the profile of agenda items in the media. You can see the list of organizations signed up on task forces to help coordinate legislative campaigns in the states and provide the expertise and firepower to take on rightwing opposition.

Below the fold is the email we sent out to supporters today outlining the issues and strategy behind the agenda.

Building a Progressive Majority in the States

Today, the Progressive States Network is asking supporters across the country to sign up as citizen cosponsors of the Progressive States Agenda, as outlined in our new:

Building a Progressive Majority in the States:
Progressive States Policy Options Program

We are also asking people to forward a link to this Stateside Dispatch to friends to ask them to sign up on our

Citizen Cosponsor Page.

By becoming a citizen cosponsor, each person will receive updates on agenda items moving in their own state and in other states across the country. Citizen cosponsors will also play a key role in making sure legislative bills pass -- by working with legislators and raising the profile of agenda items in the media.

The Progressive States Agenda

This November, we saw voters taking the first steps to repudiate the rightwing ideology and institutions that have long dominated much of the political landscape in our states. For too long, we have seen rightwing politicians, backed by corporate money and by conservative think tanks, blocking communities from improving wages, impeding expansion of health care, and auctioning off public assets and public contracts to big monied interests.

But now we can build on the progressive victories of the recent election to work towards a progressive majority in all our states. On issue after issue of concern to working families, there are solid majorities of public in favor of enacting progressive policies. What we need is a coordinated strategy across states to highlight those issues that can broaden the coalition of progressive voters and reframe the debate across the nation about why it matters to working families that progressives hold office in our statehouses.

Although these are obviously not exhaustive of the issues that embody the progressive agenda, the following issues reflect where progressives can make some of the most serious political inroads in the present environment and for which the Progressives States Network will be providing technical and campaign support:

  • Wage Standards and Workplace Freedom— assuring that American workers receive a decent wage and the freedom of speech in the workplace to stand up for their own interests.
  • Balancing Work and Family- helping create a more family-friendly workplace and society through better family leave policies, sick days, support for child care, and access to contraception.
  • Health Care for All- extending health care coverage to all Americans, while helping cut costs for those currently receiving health coverage.
  • Smart Growth and Clean Jobs- promoting energy independence and job growth through new transit options, smart development to strengthen our communities, and new energy technologies.
  • Tax and Budget Reform- creating more equity and accountability in state tax systems, economic development subsidies and public contracts.
  • Clean and Fair Elections- reforming lobbying corruption, establishing public financing for elections, protecting voting rights, and election reforms like vote by mail to improve the voting process.
Supporting the Program

The policy options in the Progressive States Agenda are meant to be just that: a set of options that illustrate the values associated with each set of issues. Some are simple common-sense reforms while others are more ambitious, comprehensive policies, but all would make concrete improvements in the lives of working families and improve our communities. Each policy builds on the others to reinforce the progressive message. The idea is for citizen cosponsors to work with local legislators to promote those options most appropriate for the political environment and needs of their states.

As an organization, Progressive States will support the policy program by providing progressive legislators with both the technical and messaging support needed to enact those policies into law. Through partnerships with our citizen cosponsors, think tanks, national political partners, and local grassroots organizations, our goal is to build support for these state-specific legislative campaigns, while promoting a message continuity across multiple states that reinforces the progressive message nationally.

Our aim is to promote campaigns, including innovative online communication strategies, that generate a crescendo of interest that sweeps multiple states simultaneously and raises progressive issues to a political prominence that helps redefine state politics.

Promoting a Values Agenda to Challenge the Rightwing

Even with November's victories, progressives confront a political landscape shaped by a well-organized rightwing network that has worked for decades to establish political power in the states. In a February report, Governing the Nation From the Statehouses: The Rightwing Agenda in the States and How Progressives Can Fight Back, the Progressive States Network outlined how groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a range of other allied rightwing groups have hijacked public policy in the states. Tens of millions of dollars of rightwing corporate money has poured into local research think tanks and lobbying organizations to create an “echo chamber” around their issues.

Progressives have often failed to counter these wedge issues promoted by the corporate-backed conservative movement and de facto ceded what should be progressives voters to the opposition. A prime goal of the Progressive States Network is to assist progressive state leaders in taking on the rightwing directly and expanding support among many disaffected voting groups that should be supporting many progressive policies. As November election results show, a strong emphasis on progressive policies that such voters do support such as the minimum wage can lead to electoral gains for progressive candidates.

Our goal is also to work with our citizen cosponsors and legislative allies to build a narrative of values around this multi-issue agenda. The political power of any issue is that it expresses the values that connects that issue to peoples' lives and to other issues that also matter to them. In this way, a politician's support or opposition to any issue becomes symbolic of a larger connection to the interests, values and cultural worldview of a voter. Progressive States' goal is to help legislators promote these common values and issues that reinforce a narrative about improving the lives of their constituents. All of our policies start literally from where people live and work to promote a core progressive values narrative of Rewarding Work, Valuing Families, Strengthening Communities, Growing the Economy and Increasing Democracy in our society.

Building the Progressive States Network

To accomplish all of this, we need your help in recruiting additional Citizen Cosponsors to support our program state-by-state. Please forward this email or links to the Citizen Cosponsor page and our Building a Progressive Majority in the States agenda to friends, progressive email lists, blogs and other online resources to encourage others to join us.

Together we can build a new progressive majority in the states that supports working families and promotes a vision of social and economic justice for all Americans.

Posted by Nathan at November 27, 2006 03:12 PM