NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 17th, 2015

Netroots Nation panel tackles the question: How do we build progressive political power?

Wel­come to the sec­ond day of Net­roots Nation 2015! We’re kick­ing things off today with a anoth­er round of break­out ses­sions. I’m at a pan­el on build­ing pro­gres­sive polit­i­cal pow­er, mod­er­at­ed by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kei­th Elli­son (D‑MN). Net­roots Nation has a livestream for this pan­el, which we have embed­ded below:


This pan­el show­cased mut­li­ple per­spec­tives on how pro­gres­sives have lost polit­i­cal pow­er over the last forty years because of well-fund­ed and orga­nized con­ser­v­a­tive efforts. We start­ed the core con­tent of the ses­sion with a daunt­ing pre­sen­ta­tion by Nick Rathod for the State Inno­va­tion Exchange (SiX), which showed how much mon­ey these orga­ni­za­tions actu­al­ly have, and the num­ber of leg­is­la­tures pro­gres­sives have lost in these years.Building PP2

The pan­el then moved to Col­orado State Sen­a­tor Jessie Ulibar­ri, who talked about his expe­ri­ences inside the Col­orado leg­is­la­ture, and what’s need­ed to move towards bet­ter pol­i­cy and bet­ter can­di­dates, say­ing “[w]hat we need are folks who can authen­ti­cal­ly hold on to their val­ues, and be unapolo­getic about it.”

New York City Coun­cil Speak­er Melis­sa Mark-Viver­i­to spoke on the gains that the New York City has been able to make with a pro­gres­sive city coun­cil. This illu­mi­nat­ed as an exam­ple what Sen­a­tor Ulibar­ri said ear­li­er, that hav­ing a pro­gres­sive leg­isla­tive body allows you to set the rules and go on the offense for a bet­ter soci­ety. Even so, she talked about how the num­ber of women in office has been rolled back, and on this key issue there’s still much more work to do.

Michael Sargeant from the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leg­isla­tive Cam­paign Com­mit­tee has been the res­i­dent redis­trict­ing expert in pan­els both yes­ter­day and today, talked about how the DLCC works with local can­di­dates to make sure there’s a strong cam­paign which is adapt­able to the local area the can­di­date is run­ning, and how crit­i­cal this work will be to over­come the ger­ry­man­der­ing which emerged from Repub­li­can con­trol of state leg­is­la­tures after the last cen­sus.

Rep. Elli­son then asked the pan­elist how impor­tant an inside/outside strat­e­gy is, where grass­roots orga­niz­ers and elect­ed offi­cials work togeth­er to pass pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy. Every­one was in agree­ment, and Sen­a­tor Ulibar­ri talked about how it’s crit­i­cal for him, because he only has a part-time leg­isla­tive staff mem­ber to help him on issues, mean­ing that there just isn’t enough time in the day to coor­di­nate mov­ing pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy for­ward. If there was­n’t out­side orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als he can trust, then the work they are able to do is lim­it­ed.

We then moved to audi­ence ques­tions, where the pan­elists took mul­ti­ple ques­tions at the same and then weaved their way through the ques­tions. One of the most com­pelling state­ments were by Rep. Elli­son, who explained that the rea­son pro­gres­sives might not push pol­i­cy for­ward strong­ly is that many pro­gres­sives sus­pect peo­ple in pow­er, and thus when they have pow­er may be reluc­tant to use that pow­er to fur­ther pro­gres­sive goals.

It was a great pan­el, and there’s a lot more dis­cus­sion to be had on build­ing fund­ing and coor­di­na­tion between our move­ments. Next up, Eliz­a­beth War­ren’s keynote!

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