28 Apr

Taking the Resistance to the Ballot Box


More than a thousand progressive activists and organizers converged on Washington, D.C., for a three-day conference seeking to channel Trump-era activism into electoral politics.

The People’s Action founding convention, held from April 23 to April 25, featured Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and political commentator Van Jones, among others.

“The resistance is alive and well, beating back attacks on health care and more. Now we are electorializing the resistance—taking the energy of marches and town hall takeovers to the ballot box to elect truly progressive candidates,” George Goehl, co-director of People’s Action, said at the opening plenary.

According to its website, People’s Action, a coalition of 400 member groups created in 2016, has organized 330 actions to block repeal of the Affordable Care Act, mostly in congressional districts held by Republicans. They’ve also organized the #ResistTrumpTuesday effort and collaborted with in mobilizing and informing activists across the country.

Organizers said that at least seventy people at the convention committed to run for public office in the coming years as progressive seek to take back power from Republicans and rejuvenate the Democratic Party.

On Monday, Bernie Sanders fired-up the crowd with renewed calls for a “political revolution,” a hallmark of his 2016 presidential campaign.

“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, at a time when the Republican Party is going after poor people and women and working people in an unprecedented way, at a time when the Democratic Party is not paying the kind of attention to the needs of workers, you are doing exactly what has to be done,” Sanders said to cheers.

A recent poll shows that Sanders is by far the most popular politician in the country, with 57 percent of registered voters reporting they have a favorable opinion of the self-described Democratic Socialist.

Speaking on Face the Nation April 23, Sanders said “the model of the Democratic Party is failing,” and called for it to become “a grassroots party . . . which makes decisions from the bottom on up, a party which is more dependent on small donations than large donations.”

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released that same day appears to confirm Sanders’s critique: Two-thirds of Americans think the Democratic Party is out of touch with the country, more than half said the same of Trump (58 percent) and nearly two-thirds said Republicans are out of touch (62 percent).

On the conference’s closing day, more than 1,000 participants rallied in front of the White House to demand a budget that will benefit working class people. The Trump Administration has proposed substantial cuts to domestic programs, protesters pointed out, from safeguards for clean air and water to meals on wheels for the elderly and public housing, while boosting military spending. Twelve people were arrested.

“I’m speaking on behalf of the needy, not the greedy,” Georgia Morgan of Vocal New York told the crowd in front of the White House, before leading the crowd in a chant, “Housing is not a luxury, housing is a human right!”

After the White House action, dozens took a bus to the Heritage Foundation’s Capitol Hill offices, flooding the building’s lobby and demanding to speak to Jim DeMint, the group’s president. The leader of the rightwing think tank refused to meet.

At the convention, attendees voted to support an alternative budget proposal from the Congressional Black Caucus that would target tax loopholes benefiting the rich.

Representative Keith Ellison was the keynote speaker on the last day of the conference, at a town hall event focused on protecting Obamacare and advocating for universal health care. (The Minnesota congressman was defeated by Tom Perez in February’s election for the DNC chair, dampening progressive hopes for a party takeover by the Sanders wing.)

Ellison, who was made the DNC’s deputy chair, offered attendees words of encouragement and said there is a “new spirit in the Democratic Party.”

“I’m telling you everything you believe in is on the line right now,” he said, “and you need to be that leadership group that goes out across this country . . . and organize, organize, organize.”

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