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August 22, 2005

Progressives Start to Get Organized

Last week I attended the formal launch of PLAN, the Progressive Legislative Action Network.  This is a new, very practical, national organization aimed at helping reform-minded legislators at the State level develop and pass a cohesive progressive agenda.  Dedicated to the proposition that progressives can make a difference at the state level at a time when the national agenda has been captured by right-wing extremists, PLAN will serve as a clearinghouse for ideas and provide information and staff as needed.  It is specifically aimed at serving as a counterbalance to the corporate-funded ALEC, the legislative network that has poured money for decades into efforts to influence both Republican and Democratic state legislators and other state elected officials to support corporate interests. 

This launch occurred in Seattle to take advantage of the annual National Conference of State Legislators meeting here last week. At least 300 state legislators, staff and other attendees from at least 40 states were in attendance.  We started with lunch, heard from the PLAN co-chairs David Sirota and Steve Doherty, and then Montana Governor Brian Scheitzer and Senator John Edwards.  The first panel was on “Jobs, Wages & Growth” and the second was on ”Legislative Strategies to Increase Voter Participation”.

As the afternoon went on, I recognized that they will be another important component of the new progressive infrastructure aimed at combating the entrenched party interests.  Progressive Majority helps find and train and support progressive candidates.  MoveOn, one of the sponsors of this launch, provides money and flexible grassroots support.   SEIU, another sponsor, and other progressive labor unions provide more organized financial and grassroots support.  PLAN will give legislators the resources to fight corporate interests to pass bills that address issues that affect regular folks, thus creating a cohesive progressive agenda in the states and combating the corruption that runs rampant through most of the country.

Andrew Villeneuve, over at NPI’s blog, wrote up a great overview of the afternoon launch session.  I’m going to focus on a couple of items that particularly struck me – the excitement of hearing and meeting Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana and the importance of the Apollo Alliance.

Before I delve into both those, I want to say that it was lovely to attend an event where bloggers got special treatment.  Those of us who identified ourselves as bloggers when we registered got special attention from the organizers, bloggers from the Montana blog “Left in the West”, and didn’t have to pay.  Andrew and I were there from the Seattle community and Kari Chisholm of Blue Oregon came up from Portland.  Bob Brigham was there from Swing State Project.  There were probably others as well that I didn’t get an opportunity to meet.   

As for Brian Schweitzer, he is star material, a breath of fresh air, every bit as compelling as Barach Obama, another more well-known shining hope.  Schweitzer is one of those politicians, like Reagan and like Clinton, who can tell stories that pull the listener in and make a point at the same time.   I felt sorry for Edwards, whose messages I always applaud, that he had to follow Schweitzer.  Edwards gave his current standard speech.  This one was on poverty, a great subject and one that we should be glad that someone continues to put in front of us.  It clarified how Schweitzer separates himself from other political speakers and why he is making such an impact on those who see him.


Schweitzer is someone who can help people see what he wants them to see, in this case that it is possible to retake a conservative state like Montana from the conservatives, it is possible and desirable to bring native Americans in to the state governing process, it is possible to become self-sufficient in energy production while providing jobs for rural Americans, and it is possible for state legislatures to do what is right and to fend off corporate corruption.

And Schweitzer wore jeans and cowboy boots with a sports jacket.  Very cool.

The other agenda item that really made me sit up was listening to Joel Rogers of the Apollo Alliance.  People had been telling me about the Apollo Alliance for about six months but I had not taken the time to really look at it.  Wow! This is, in high-tech business terms, the next big thing. 

These are my first reactions.  I’ll be writing more on the Apollo Alliance in the next couple of weeks as I dig more into it.  This proposed project, for want of a better word, is huge.  It is about making the U.S. energy independent, providing livable wage jobs for hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers, revitalizing our national infrastructure, and re-taking technical leadership in the world.  In the process, it combats the increasing differential between the corporate wealthy and the workers who enable that wealth.  Joel calls it “taking the high road”.

Were progressives to unite behind the Apollo Alliance and explain it to the electorate, we would not only take back state and national government, we would lay the groundwork for a sustainable economic future for this country, something that is otherwise likely to slip out of our grasp before we even know what happened. 

More on this later. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 22, 2005 at 08:01 AM in Policy | Permalink


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I saw the website for PLAN and I have to say I was truly stunned to see Willie Brown as a featured speaker for a "progressive" cause.

Willie Brown's tenure as Mayor of San Francisco was marked by some of the most blatant forms of corruption San Francisco has seen since the Gold Rush days. When the city was riding the dot com boom, Brown blew the city treasury hiring political hacks (3000 of them!) on the city payroll and giving away the city to the donors to his campaigns.

Now the city has lost a lot and Gavin Newsom has had to clean up the mess. Voters were so upset with Brown's failures they tossed out his Board of Supervisors and replaced them with a true-Progressive supermajority that began to undo his damage.

Now? Now Brown is working for Big Pharma, who is spending 50 million dollars to promote a phony answer to the cost of prescription drugs. And oh yes, they are also working to defeat the labor/progressive ballot measure that would bring true relief to California citizens.

Maybe they just had him on the site, I could not attend so I have no idea what went on. But any group that calls itself progressive who allies with someone so identified with special interests, corruption and the politics of "money talks" should do well to find better alternatives in the future.

Posted by: Greg Dewar | Aug 22, 2005 8:21:12 PM

I totally agree and had the same reaction when I saw the flyer. I was living in the Bay Area all during the Willie Brown years and wouldn't consider him a progressive either, more a perfect, albeit entertaining, symbol of the entrenched professional politicians. As it happens he was not at the conference. I have no idea why. He was replaced as MC by Jackie Spier, who does have pretty good progressive creditials as long-term legislator in the state.

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 22, 2005 10:36:56 PM

They said that Brown had to cancel because he had to speak at a funeral.

Posted by: Dean | Aug 23, 2005 11:32:51 AM

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