Why PDA’s Liaison Program Is So Important Right Now
By Alan Minksy, Executive Director – Progressive Democrats of America
PDA’s Congressional Liaison Program Strengthens the Progressive Movement
Perhaps the most important question facing humanity in the early 21st century is whether we can achieve social justice, and do what’s necessary to combat the climate emergency, through a representative democratic political system like America’s.
In other words, is it possible to achieve progressive change through electoral politics?
We, at PDA, believe that transformative change is possible through the American political system, but only if we engage with the system both through elections and beyond them.
To win progressive victories we must engage with elected officials and the Democratic party – and participate in, and support, social movements. This is the core of PDA’s Inside/Outside Strategy.
When it comes to the “inside game,” we feel it is essential to remain active in-between elections.
We need to do what citizens are supposed to do in a representative democracy – and exactly what the American political status quo doesn’t want them to do – petition the Government through their elected officials. Almost nobody does this anymore other than paid lobbyists, to the great satisfaction of the economic and political elite. PDA intends to change this.
The PDA Congressional liaison program is designed specifically to influence Federal policy in a progressive direction – through direct constituent engagement with local congressional offices across the country. It is perhaps the most ambitious such project in the history of the American left; and we feel it suits this moment perfectly, as the grassroots progressive movement has unprecedented momentum.
Here’s how the liaison program works: every month, in every Democratically-held Congressional district in the country, a PDA liaison, who is a constituent in the district, will reach out to their elected representative and ask them to support a progressive piece of legislation being introduced in Congress. This will also happen simultaneously for every Democratic US Senator. Then, the following week, all PDA activists in the district, and the state will follow up with calls and letters in support of the same bill (or bills).
The following month, we will choose a different piece of progressive legislation and repeat the same process… and the month after that… and the month after that…
At the end of the year, PDA will publish a scorecard to show which Congresspeople and Senators supported the bills backed by PDA. Through this program, we will know which Democrats support progressive policies (which, the polls show, are overwhelmingly popular with Democratic voters); and which Democrats are more loyal to the interests of their wealthy donors. We will not be shy about trumpeting these results.
Here’s why this is so important at this moment. There are three competing ideologies vying for dominance in American politics. There are the reactionary/racist Republicans; then, from the Romney-wing of the GOP through the Moderate Democrats, are the neo-liberal corporatists; and now, following two almost-victorious Sanders campaigns and the rise of the Squad, there are the progressives.
Here is the paradox: the group with the most popular policies is the group with the fewest elected officials – that’s us, the progressives. Why? There are many factors, but mostly it’s the influence of money in politics, which corrupts the system in three ways: it discourages people without access to money from meddling in politics; it buys the loyalty of unethical politicians; and it is used to sow confusion among the general public about who supports their interests, and who is only pretending.
Here’s why things can change now: the Sanders campaigns, the 2020 Summer uprisings following the state murder of Geroge Floyd, the environmental movement, and the mere fact of the Trump presidency has inspired millions of Americans to become active in support of transformative social change. However, the change they seek requires action by elected officials; and we know the current slate of elected officials are not prone to make such changes. Therefore we have to revive that most atrophied of political strategies – it almost sounds like something from a bygone era – we need to petition our elected representatives. We need to do this in person. We need to do this systematically. We need to do this on behalf of the progressive agenda. We have an unprecedented opportunity as there are legions of people, who are looking for a way to maintain the momentum for transformative change.
Most elected Democrats in congress do not expect to be bothered by their constituents in between elections. And sadly, most constituents don’t follow the votes of their elected representatives. Our goal is to change both of these things. Our goal is accountability. Our goal is to have elected officials in sync with the politics of their constituents. Seems reasonable in a representative democracy.
Let’s ask our elected officials to support the policies supported by the majority of their constituents. Let’s ask them to support the progressive agenda. Let’s find out who is with us and who’s against us; and let’s transform the Democratic Party into a party for the people and the planet.
Let’s get to work! Let’s change the country and the world!