Progressive Legislative Action Network Launches

The Progressive Legislative Action Network, the brainchild of David Sirota and others, will have its formal kickoff tomorrow, with a conference in Seattle. This is an ambitious project that seeks to reconstruct the national debate by better coordinating grassroots organizations state by state in order to pursue progressive agendas within states, rather than in Washington. Not surprisingly, Montana Democrats are playing an important role: When former state senator and lifelong Democrat Steve Doherty surveyed the field of politics during his career, he noticed that one team -- his team -- often seemed to be in retreat.

But the team has won some victories in Montana, and now Doherty and a handful of progressives with Montana roots are helping launch a group they hope will re-create that state-level success on many fronts.

"I think there is a recognition that we need to be doing something. We need to be moving the ball down the field," says Doherty, a Great Falls attorney. "We need to not be playing defense."

The group, co-chaired by Doherty, is the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN), but it's not a campaign group focused on elections.

Instead, the organizers of PLAN want to outline and promote policy changes that can be enacted by state legislatures, advancing a left-leaning agenda from the ground up.

From health care reforms to raising the minimum wage, PLAN intends to flesh out the proposals, provide the arguments and hand them off to sympathetic state lawmakers around the country.

"Washington (D.C.) is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America now," says David Sirota, a political writer and activist co-chairing PLAN with Doherty. "That is not necessarily the case in state legislatures. That's why state legislatures can be such an agent of change right now."

Here is how they describe themselves: The Progressive Legislative Action Network's mission is to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable and progressive state level actions. It will do so by providing coordinated research support for a network of State legislators, their staff's and constituencies, in order to equip them with coherent logistical and strategic advocacy tools necessary for advancing key progressive economic and social policies.

If states are the "laboratories of democracy," they are also the most important breeding ground for progressive policies that serve the interests of America's middle class. Each aspect of PLAN's name will pursue that goal:

PROGRESSIVE: First and foremost, PLAN is progressive -- we believe in equal opportunity for all citizens and protecting individual liberties. These beliefs have many different models in different states -- but they are all part of the progressive agenda that PLAN will work to support.

LEGISLATIVE: PLAN will focus on state policy. State policymakers and local grassroots membership organizations offer progressives an untapped resource to advance our shared agenda. First and foremost, PLAN will focus its energies on state legislators and legislatures, who often lack resources to effectively fight for the progressive agenda. We will also work with Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys General, and other state policymakers to bring progressive ideas to fruition.

ACTION: PLAN is not just about coming up with policies in a vacuum -- it is about making those policies a reality by working with locally-grown advocacy organizations to wage high-profile issue campaigns. The goal is not just good ideas -- it is policy victories.

NETWORK: If "all politics are local," then PLAN must work closely with the local organizations that are the keys to success. That means PLAN will spend considerable resources building coalitions of disparate progressive grassroots organizations at the state level who are critical to turning progressive policies into state law. Why re-invent the wheel by trying to build a whole new grassroots organization, when hundreds of local grassroots organizations already exist? PLAN will tap into this existing infrastructure and help these organizations effect change.

PLAN was founded by a group of current and former state legislators, some top political thinkers, and a few dedicated progressive donors.

I once commented that the main reason progressives seem generally shut out of the 2008 Presidential race is that for decades moderate and centrist groups have worked to build a deep bench of candidates within the Democratic Party. By comparison, over the same time period, progressives did almost nothing to build their power within the party. Organizations like PLAN indicate that is changing. If you are interested in helping out, you can contact PLAN here.

Tags: Activism (all tags)



I am not surprised at all that Montana is a big part of a progressive action. Montana gave 12,000 more votes to medical pot legalization than they gave to John Kerry. The Marlboro man is dying of cancer and John Kerry's right wing DLC Democrats are working with the GOP to keep relief out of his hands.
by aahpat 2005-08-15 08:36AM | 0 recs
More like...
The Libby (MT) man is dying of cancer from asbestos, and nobody is doing anything about it.
by chanupi 2005-08-15 08:44AM | 0 recs
The Progressive Bench
Interesting choice of words, Chris.  In the last few months, we created a 527 and website to develop the progressive "bench," which we call DemBench (  

We don't have ideological litmus tests, because we know that what works in New York may not work in Montana.  But we're trying to tap into the energy of netroots activists an channel their enthusiasm and support into the races for young candidates for state and local office.  Check it out.

by billfrick 2005-08-15 09:42AM | 0 recs
Re: The Progressive Bench
You should put BIOs on your site
by Parker 2005-08-15 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: The Progressive Bench
We don't have ideological litmus tests, because we know that what works in New York may not work in Montana

I find this interesting... this seems like regressive instead of progressive... Thank god Democrats didn't think this way 40 years ago regarding Civil rights... no state wanted it... but Democrats showed moral leadership and did it anyway because it was the RIGHT THING TO DO... sad to think that in the new millenium something as basic as the Civil Rights Admendment would NOT have a Champion... very sad indeed.

by Parker 2005-08-15 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: The Progressive Bench
I'm sorry - a site devoted to helping young progressives get elected is somehow regressive??  

We want winners and we are out there finding them and trying to help grow their careers.  I think that's pretty significant.

by billfrick 2005-08-15 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: The Progressive Bench
ideological litmus tests

What like DEMOCRACY????

This has become code for regressive policies.

by Parker 2005-08-15 11:06AM | 0 recs
great stuff
I just landed in Seattle for the kickoff. Matt Singer is also involved. Time for some offense...
by blogswarm 2005-08-15 10:18AM | 0 recs
Praise for PLAN
I'll be at the PLAN launch tomorrow. As a legislative staffer in Washington state, though we accomplished a lot on our progressive agenda this past session, we need groups like PLAN to help us combat the conservative agenda, and work with us for a better, more progressive future. Kudos to David Sirota and Steve Doherty and all those involved with PLAN. Right now, I understand PLAN is operating with one staffer who is rasing the money necessary to take back our country one state at a time. If you're able, please donate to the cause.
by Ken Camp 2005-08-15 06:35PM | 0 recs
Thanks for writing about the launch of PLAN.  I attended the conference in Seattle as a member of the Board and it was terrific.  Over 300 progressives participated, including 115 state legislators,  big shots like Sen. John Edwards, Gov. Brian Schweitzer and John Podesta and a host of liberal legislators and activists.  Everyone agreed it is time to give research and strategic support to state legislators to develop progressive issues and to enact those issues into law.  PLAN will have both a research and policy operation and an action and advocacy arm.  The goal of this one-two punch of analysis and action is to establish a cohesive network and support system for state legislators and to build a concerted movement dedicated to grassroots social and political change.  Let's face it.  The conservatives, through the American Legislative Exchange Council and other right-wing groups, have been doing this on their side for 30 years.  It is our turn now.
by JoeHoeffel 2005-08-18 12:00PM | 0 recs


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