20. Pursue an amendment strategy

Many advocates work in states, cities and counties where there is no chance to enact progressive policy. The votes for equity and justice simply aren’t there.

In that case, your efforts have two purposes. The first is to educate policymakers, media, organizations, grasstops leaders and the general public about the merits of your policy. In future years, when it’s finally possible to enact your legislation, you’ll be ready. The second purpose is to raise the profile of your issue so that it can play a significant role in the public debate. This is especially useful when you’re promoting a popular measure—it helps create public demand.

Even if you are confident that the measure will go nowhere, have progressive policymakers introduce a high-impact measure and build a full-scale campaign around it. For example, to end government subsidies to rich corporations, guarantee Internet privacy, restrict predatory banking practices, protect people’s health insurance, address climate change, or make the tax system fairer.

As described in Chapter 15, generate as much media coverage as possible, including when the policy is introduced and when it is held up or killed in committee.

Then have a policymaker offer the measure as a floor amendment to your opponents’ legislation or to the budget. Force your opponents to vote against it in a recorded vote. That will give you one more high-impact news story, while also creating the conditions for that issue to help shape the broader political environment.

The main challenge when using this tactic is that many legislative bodies have rules about what amendments are “germane.” Most state legislatures have a “single-subject” rule. So you will need a parliamentary expert to help figure out when you can successfully force a public vote on such an amendment.

The point of an amendment strategy is to be bold. You need ideas that capture attention and, simultaneously, are fairly easy for the public to understand. Nothing incremental or compromised, nothing complex. Choose policies that create controversy, make news, energize the base, get everyone talking about progressive values, and demonstrate exactly what you stand for.