Streams

Opinion: Want to Be a Good Liberal? Get Active

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 03:13 PM

We hear conservatives jeering President Obama at every turn, but you don't hear an enthusiastic defense coming from the Left.  Liberals may be scared of the Republican hopefuls, but many are "meh" on the Democratic incumbent.

From a continuation on Bush security policies from indefinite detention to drone attacks, to a failure to pursue criminal charges against the executives that brought our economy to its knees, the Obama Administration has scored middling marks among its base supporters.

We see the GOP enthusiasm gap every primary day, but the Democratic enthusiasm gap is there as well.  And while the contraception-fearing conservatives are ensuring progressives will line-up behind the Obama re-election, it doesn't mean that's where their passion will be.

While the right-wing responds to its gap by casting about for a new savior (Christie! Daniels! Jeb!), the left-wing is organizing.  And we're not simply organizing for an Obama agenda -- we're organizing further, deeper and broader than the comfort level of the President's advisers.

Many of these campaigns were on display at RootsCamp this past weekend, an annual unconference of progressive organizers, produced by the New Organizing Institute (where I am a Senior Fellow).  NOI is also behind the Candidate Project, which has been previously showcased in these pages, an effort that has recruited nearly 8,000 progressives to run for office.  RootsCamp isn't only, or even chiefly, about candidates -- but about the organizers: folks who are picking fights all across the country to create a more equitable, more just country.

Folks like the people from Rebuild The Dream, who this week teamed up with Campaign for America's Future, Demos, Robert Reich, Thom Hartmann and others on a national teach-in on the US economy.  While the GOP voters are being forced to suffer through debates on earmarks and Planned Parenthood funding, progressives are getting an education in the deeper realities behind our economy, who and what nearly crashed it, and what can pull us forward with a system that works for all.

Check out the teach-in here:

 

Beyond learning about the economy, there are also ways for progressives to learn one approach to fixing it: direct action.  Inspired by examples as diverse as the people-powered impact of Arab Spring of last year to the Wisconsin uprising to the value of passive resistance in defeating the Keystone Pipeline, a coalition of progressive organizations is set to train 100,000 Americans in non-violent direct action.  The 99% Spring is a next step for the Occupy Wall Street autumn, giving the energy of the 99% new outlets and tools to create change -- as Forbes put it, America's "next social movement in America."

The Scott Walker recall is in full force.  Marriage Equality proponents and Dream Act organizers are pushing issues proactively, rather than waiting to come under assault.  While the progressive movement felt slow, even complacent, in the early years of the Obama Administration, the constellation of liberal organizations, activists and initiatives is now lit up with energy.

Maybe it's a reaction to the Tea Party.  Maybe it's a backlash against the right-wing rush of the Republican Debates.  Or maybe it's a response to the President himself.  Every conservative compromise he's made has disappointed us, but every time he's stood his ground, we've seen the value of organizing.  And, just as importantly, we've seen the value of organizing around and beyond him.

Labor icon Joe Hill famously instructed: "Don't Mourn, Organize."  While conservatives are mourning over which candidate they'll be stuck with, progressives are getting -- and pushing -- the message.  here are a few of those organizers …and why they organize:

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