Filed under: Progressive
The Roosevelt Institute works at engaging in a new form of progressive politics. Here, students and young adults are not asked to simply knock on doors during political campaigns, but they are asked for their ideas and their visions for the future.
Wait, you think students and young adults can’t make a difference? Check out Roosevelt’s 10 Ideas series to see what we’ve all come up with and stay tuned for more promotions of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and Pipeline.
But for now, what exactly is happening in the progressive world?
The politics I grew up with involved just that – knocking on doors. Do we need to go back and count how many hours were spent calling people, canvassing, flyering, and doing visibility on the Obama campaign or the Courtney campaign? Yes, hand-to-hand combat is great in participatory politics. Meeting the people and hearing their concerns is what’s supposed to get people elected. Although we all know that money comes into play quite a bit.
But what about my voice in the political debate? Yes, I am only 21. I’ve just finished my BA and MA in political science and I’m starting the law school journey. I don’t claim to have all of the answers or to even truly understand the issues we’re faced with as well as a policy analyst in the field of education or someone working at the Department of Education. Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a voice.
Roosevelt and other progressive organizations engaging in true policy debate, grassroots mobilizing, and building up youth supporters through engagement are exactly what the left needs in order to be successful against the right. But as Kazin points out, the mobilization of the left must go much further than what is currently being done. The left needs to mobilize for our true constituency – every day Americans. And in order to this, we must truly understand the issues that poor and middle class Americans are faced with. Working on policy issues in ivory towers or in closed off (and super air-conditioned) think tanks is simply not enough. You can have a strong policy idea, but if that idea doesn’t comport with what is truly needed in the community or is not supported by community leaders, that idea will fail.
Instead, the left must realize that when progressives achieved success in the past, whether at organizing unions or fighting for equal rights, they seldom bet their future on politicians. They fashioned their own institutions — unions, women’s groups, community and immigrant centers and a witty, anti-authoritarian press — in which they spoke up for themselves and for the interests of wage-earning Americans.
Today, such institutions are either absent or reeling. With unions embattled and on the decline, working people of all races lack a sturdy vehicle to articulate and fight for the vision of a more egalitarian society. Liberal universities, Web sites and non-governmental organizations cater mostly to a professional middle class and are more skillful at promoting social causes like legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the environment than demanding millions of new jobs that pay a living wage.
A reconnection with ordinary Americans is vital not just to defeating conservatives in 2012 and in elections to come. Without it, the left will remain unable to state clearly and passionately what a better country would look like and what it will take to get there. (Kazin, NYT)
So let’s reconnect with “ordinary Americans.” If we’re going to take a stab at America’s ills, we need to hear from you and we need to seek you out. Whether you’re a student struggling to pay back student loans while reading endless law casebooks, a single mother worried about the education of her children, or a family working to ensure that they can pay their mortgage next month, your struggles are our collective struggle. In order to make the public policy and governmental spheres responsible to the needs of everyday Americans, we first need to find out what those needs truly are and then organize around them.
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment