Reflections on Steve Cobble, PDA Co-Founder and Political Director, who died on Friday February 26, 2021
Steve Cobble is an inspiration and a legendary champion for progress, both because of his countless accomplishments and because of how he achieved them. Always smiling, joking, and positive, Steve never took himself too seriously—even as he worked tirelessly on behalf of very serious campaigns and movements.
Steve co-founded Progressive Democrats of America in 2004, supporting his longtime friend Tim Carpenter. Steve helped Tim launch PDA’s successful “Run Bernie Run” campaign in 2013. Thanks to Tim and Steve, PDA was the first national organization to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for President, and helped convince Bernie to run for president as a Democrat.
Steve was Tim’s most trusted advisor. Their incredibly effective partnership began during Rev. Jesse Jackson’s historic presidential campaign, and continued into the Rainbow/Push efforts. Steve also worked with Tim and others co-founding and leading the anti-war organization AfterDowningStreet.org.
Steve was both a Political Director and a speechwriter for the National Rainbow Coalition, and he served as National Delegate Coordinator for Rev. Jackson’s 1988 campaign. Later, he directed the Keep Hope Alive PAC.
Steve provided essential advice and leadership to many presidential campaigns, from George McGovern’s to Dennis Kucinich’s—as well as too many state and local campaigns to list. All of these progressive leaders turned to Steve for several reasons, most of all his incomparable political and communications acumen, his unique ability to inspire and unite progressives, and his relentlessly optimistic personality.
All of these qualities are far too precious in politics. Finding them in any one person is almost unheard of. Yet Steve Cobble combined genius with humility and humor as few ever have.
Steve served as Director of the Arca Foundation, “a private grantmaking foundation dedicated to advancing equity, justice and human rights.” Arca provides needed support for efforts that “advance economic and racial justice, an inclusive democracy, human rights, and a clean environment.”
Steve personified Arca’s commitment to fostering “an engaged citizenry that has access to information and free expression.” Like Steve, Arca has long been a leading supporter of controversial but essential efforts others disregarded or disparaged.
Steve’s writing has appeared in the Nation, The Progressive, TomPaine.com, and several other magazines, websites, newspapers, and reports. He has appeared on television and radio shows including Inside Politics, the Thom Hartmann Show, the Laura Flanders Show, and the Real News.
Steve also made an inestimable impact as a scholar and teacher as an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), and as a Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Steve was called upon to provide election training for the African National Congress in South Africa in 1991.
Ordinarily, such an accomplished leader would exude a sense of entitlement, but not Steve. As comfortable with the homeless as in the White House, he always took time to listen, to respect, and to uplift those around him.
He was as quick with a joke as he was to offer sage advice and matchless analysis. He will be dearly missed and never replaced. If he were to hear this, he’d brush off all this praise and seek to credit others. That’s Steve Cobble.