Progressive Legislative Action Network Launches
by Chris Bowers, Mon Aug 15, 2005 at 07:15:47 AM EDT
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.