Progressive Majority (PM), the only progressive organization dedicated to the recruitment and support of candidates at the state and local level, is leading the effort to turn that protest into power. It has just launched Run for America, joining with partners such as Moveon.org, US Action, People for the American Way, Rebuild the Dream and the New Organizing Institute in an audacious drive to recruit, train and support 2,012 candidates in 2012 for state, local and national office. In barely two months, PM President Gloria Totten reports that more than 1,000 activists have signed up to run. The energy of Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street is finding its way into the electoral process.
Progressive Majority’s initiative is a good example of how movements transform politics. Now marking its 10th anniversary, PM has elected hundreds of progressives to office, helping to flip six state legislative bodies — from Washington to Minnesota — and some 40 local governments.
In 2010, while PM’s candidates fared better than most, progressives shared in the beating voters delivered to Democrats. Dismay at the rotten economy, enthusiasm among followers of the Tea Party and a deluge of conservative money swept through the elections. Republicans not only captured the House of Representatives, they picked up state legislatures, winning a total of 675 legislative seats, a tidal wave larger than any since 1938.
But Republicans mistook Tea Party passion for majority opinion. Led by Wisconsin’s Walker and Republican “young guns” in the House, they drove an extreme agenda, championing cuts in taxes for corporations and the wealthy while savaging investment in public education and public health, assaulting worker and women’s rights, and, since they knew this wasn’t a popular agenda, systematically working to make it harder for students, minorities, the poor, and blue-collar workers to vote.
Voters recoiled — opening space for Progressive Majority and its partners’ unprecedented effort for the 2012 elections. This isn’t just a partisan revival. Corporate interests and lobbies rent Democrats as well as Republicans.