Road Ahead After 2004: Building a Broad Nonpartisan Alliance Against
Bush and the Far Right
By Carl Davidson
& Marilyn Katz
and the Progressive Caucus. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and
Barbara Lee (D-CA), Co-Chairs of the 54-member Progressive Caucus
in Congress, played a critical role in getting 125 votes against
the 2002 $87 Billion appropriation for the war in Iraq. As a presidential
candidate, Kucinich continued campaigning, long after it was clear
he would not win, mainly to build the mass base of the caucus and
continue the opposition to the war within the party. Immediately
after the Democratic Convention, Kucinich teamed up with a number
of Dean Campaign activists and other left progressives to support
the formation of a new organization, Progressive Democrats of America.
This organization already has key connections with activists from
the Green Party and other political independents outside the Democratic
Democrats like Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ann Richards of Texas and
many more, who committed to anti-war and anti-racist, pro-democracy
principles and actions, continued to argue within the party for
a more progressive, grass-roots based approach. Employing this outlook
is what gave Schakowsky vote tallies in the 70s instead of the 40s.
Their political wing within the party, while ignored by the DLC,
continues to show it knows how Democrats can win.
‘Meetups’ and the Internet. Organized by a
small core of internet-savvy progressive Democrats, Moveon.org gathered
millions of activists to its email lists. It brought in nearly $50
million in small donations to its PAC, which it distributed to Democratic
candidates independently of the national leadership of the party.
Through its decentralized network of local Moveon.org “meetups,”
it helped mobilize mass actions against the war and brought in an
estimated 400,000 new voters. The meetups are a new decentralized
form, facilitated by a central web site that enabled local supporters
of every candidate to find each other in local areas, and poll each
other to determine the time and place of local face-to-face meetings.
Every candidate and every issue had one, promoting a vast increase
in grassroots participation.
Actions in an Electoral Context. Early in 2004, over one
million protestors, mainly women, turned out for the DC “March
for Women’s Lives” aimed at the Bush Agenda. In August
2004, over 500,000 turned out for the United for Peace and Justice
“The World Still Says No to War” march, also aimed at
the Bush Agenda, at the GOP Convention in New York City. While not
officially endorsing Kerry, these were powerful events that fueled
the grassroots electoral insurgencies.
Coming Together (ACT) and other ‘527’ Groups.
Set up to conform with the new campaign finance laws, these groups
gave a way for traditional electoral players--trade unions, corporate
elites and wealthy individuals—to channel large sums of money
into campaign activity separately from regular party channels. ACT,
for example, received millions from George Soros, SEIU and the Teamsters.
Working in tandem with the League of Conservation Voters and others,
ACT was able to finance large volunteer organizations in the “battleground
states,” including fielding 40,000 ACT workers on Election
Day itself. While the right wing squawked about liberal 527 money,
in the end the conservative 527 groups still managed to get more
in total dollars than those aligned with liberal causes. In a backhanded
way, the 527s also revealed a weakness in the Democratic leadership.
As Benjamin explained:
Democrats have really lost touch with their base. In this campaign,
the ones who were out there going door to door for Kerry were
the 527 groups….While these organizations galvanized thousands
of activists, I witnessed a lot of duplicated efforts and wasted
money by bringing in a lot of volunteers from out of state. Whereas
when you look at the Republicans, they were more organized, united
under a `central command' in the party, and rooted in community
through church networks. The Republicans emphasized local volunteers.”
for Peace and against the Patriot Act. In a new development,
more than 190 city councils, including large urban centers and many
small ‘blue dots’ in seas of ‘red states,’
passed resolutions against the pending war in Iraq before it started.
Later, a similar number took a stand to change the worst anti-civil
liberties features of the Patriot Act. This helped establish a network
of local elected officials that found ways to work together with
those organizing voter registration drives and mass actions in the