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Progressives to Dems: You Work For Us

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.dems28jan28,0,4218638.story

Real Progress Comes from Within! by Donna Edwards for TWFU, Tue Jan 23, 2007 at 03:45:34 PM EST

bumped – Matt I am a Democrat. I’m proud to be a Democrat. I couldn’t be happier that the Democrats control the House and Senate. But, I want a strong, progressive Democratic majority ruling the Congress, not a timid one that caves to corporate interests and avoids making real change. That’s one reason I am serving on the board of They Work For Us.

They Work for Us is a new organization comprised of progressive activists who are tired of being sold out by Democrats. Its board and supporters include some of the key players in the progressive movement, including leaders associated with the netroots, MoveOn.org, the American Association for Justice, several unions (Steelworkers, Painters, Teamsters and SEIU) and others with deep roots in the progressive community.

We all agree that if progressives don’t hold Democrats accountable for passing a progressive agenda, we’re not helping. In fact, we’re hurting our cause. Now, instead of just complaining when Democrats abandon basic principles, we can take action to keep them true to our shared goals.

We need our elected officials to be better, bolder and truer to who we are. Governing and legislating are a set of choices. Our elected officials make choices every day. And, when they make the wrong choices – protecting wealthy special interests over the basic needs of working families – their actions must be challenged, and they must feel real pressure to support a progressive agenda instead.

I know first-hand. I live in a congressional district whose representative in Congress consistently voted against the interests of his constituents. So I did something: I challenged him in the Democratic primary. I heard all the arguments why I shouldn’t run. I’d be hurting the party. I’d be draining resources away from the important races. The establishment in DC didn’t want to take on an incumbent – even one who consistently voted against their interests.

Well, that was an important race to me and to many of my friends and neighbors in Maryland’s 4th CD. I strongly believe we need to fight for what we care about. Sometimes those fights will be with Democrats who don’t support progressive values. Sometimes those fights will involve sharp public debate on issues and votes. And sometimes those fights will have to take place at the ballot box. Either way, those fights are worth it because only they will produce solid progressives in office.

Now that the Democrats are in the majority, we are all prepared to work with Members of Congress to make some real, tangible progress in Washington. However, when Democrats undermine that progress, progressives must be prepared to hold them accountable. That’s what They Work for Us will do. And, a separate new group, Working for US PAC, is prepared to work to replace Democrats who repeatedly vote against progressive principles with new Members who will support them.

In a post at Huffington Post (link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-rose nthal/they-work-for-us-and-we_b_39365.ht ml), my co-board member Steve Rosenthal explained how it will work:

While there are no “targets” yet we will carefully scrutinize congressional activity in the coming months. Our website, www.workingforuspac.org (Link: http://www.workingforuspac.org) will post information about the worst offenders, will establish “bloggers brain trust” for regular comments about members of congress and will ask our readers to nominate members who deserve “special attention.” TWFU and WFUPAC are not only going to name names, they’re going to take action. Serious action. TWFU will be communicating directly with constituents through direct mail, e-mail, the blogosphere and netroots to keep the pressure on Democrats to support a progressive legislative agenda. No bad vote will go unpunished. And WFUPAC will add its own voice, but with the distinct goal of making sure that offending Members of Congress face not only bad publicity back home, but also truly progressive primary challengers – well-funded, well-organized, well-prepared challengers.

It’s not that complicated, really. If Democrats in Congress don’t stand strong and fight for the goals we are supposed to share, then progressives need to agitate so they will, or work hard to replace them. We all know that effective grassroots activism can work legislative wonders. And, I can tell you that there is nothing like challenging an incumbent in what they see as a safe primary to capture their attention. But while it’s not that complicated, it just hasn’t been done enough. But that is about to change.

Real progress has to come from within our party. We know the Republicans and the moneyed powers are going to be in overdrive to undermine the progressive agenda. We expect that from them. But we can’t – and we won’t – tolerate it from within. And we don’t have to, because they work for US. Check out the PAC site here: www.workingforuspac.org and They Work for Us will be up with a website soon.

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