The Road Ahead After 2004: Building a Broad Nonpartisan Alliance Against Bush and the Far Right
By Carl Davidson & Marilyn Katz

Kucinich 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 Party.

Leading independent 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.

Moveon.org, ‘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.

Mass 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.

America 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:

“The 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.”

Cities 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 streets. More >>


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